Saturday, 29 October 2011

Graveyard shift

Top 11/Hallowe'en Week: 29th October 2011

Last week: the show was both a sweet dream and a beautiful nightmare, as Chelsee overtook Jason at the top of the leaderboard at long last, while Flavia channeled Drowzee, the scariest of Pokémon, and ATE RUSSELL'S DREAMS NOM NOM NOM. Elsewhere, Len suggested that Nancy might be that rare type of dancer who functions better when flipped 180º on a vertical axis, Robbie crashed into a camera in a manner that turned out not to have been deliberate, Alex's rumba DEFINITELY HAD NO CHOREOGRAPHY PROBLEMS, Alesha doled out the first ten of the series (*pause for the obligatory grumbling that this inevitably provokes*) and Rory Bremner was eliminated, but at least Erin wasn't wearing anything terribly embarrassing when it happened.

Tonight, on the other hand, it's Hallowe'en, which means everyone is going to be the epitome of self-restraint, especially Jason. Oh, who am I kidding? It's going to be an utter hamfest of the level that even Pamela Stephenson might say "dial it down a bit, love". Poor Alex Jones has spent the last two or three weeks on the edge of her nerves anyway, so God only knows what they're planning to do to her this week. Possibly tie her to a chair with rats nibbling her toes, a tarantula sits on her face, and her eyes pinned open while Carol Vorderman's rumba plays in front of her on an Imax screen on a continuous loop.

Titles! I miss Katya.

We open with perhaps the best thing the show has done in a very long time: a massive Hallowe'en group dance. It begins with Alex, Holly and Bloody Lulu expressing frustration at their broken-down car, with Bloody Lulu's acting being exactly as awful as you'd expect if you saw those hideous "cholesterol challenge" adverts. I assume that Alex and Holly have specifically planned for this breakdown to happen and for Bloody Lulu to get eaten by bears, because that's the only reason I can think of why any sensible person (or indeed Alex Jones) would get into a car with Bloody Lulu in the first place. Holly runs up to some spooky looking gates and pulls the doorbell, at which point the theme from The Addams Family plays. In a wonderful touch, we cut to the judges looking straight ahead while doing the finger clicks, while five of the professional dancers pop up behind them in various degrees of fright wig. The gates open at which point we discover some excellent casting: Harry as Gomez, Nancy as Morticia (full marks to whoever made that call), Chelsee as Wednesday, Jason as Uncle Fester, Robbie as Cousin Itt, Audley as Lurch, Russell as Pugsley and Anita as Grandmama. If only Edwina were still here to take her rightful role as The Thing. Everyone hams their way around the dancefloor in a vaguely choreographed fashion, as if anyone's even interested in the dancing at this point, and Jason devours the scenery as is his wont. Interestingly, Russell is oddly restrained in this whole scenario. Deliberate character decision, or just a bit bored? You be the judge.

Then the floor is instantly cleared (spooky!) and ARGH OH MY GOD IT'S SO HORRIBLE MAKE IT STOP-- oh, my mistake, it's just Bruce and Tess. Daly Dresswatch: an asymmetrical off-the-shoulder sequinned black number that would be passable if not for the inexplicable bit of black rubber tubing around the top. Bruce launches into an overlong anecdote in which he's visited by a shrouded figure telling him it's time to cross over to the other side, the punchline being, of course, that Bruce is never going back to ITV. Shame, because they had a vacancy on The X Factor this week and everything. Just imagine how amazing special guest judge Bruce Forsyth would have been. No? Suit yourselves. Tess falls over her lines, and then it's time to meet the stars of our show: red devil (not Manchester United supporter, as far as I know) Russell Grant, somehow wearing even more make-up than last week, and his partner Flavia; Bloody Lulu pretending to be Christine from Phantom again and her partner Brendan; Chelsee Healy with her uncooperative dress (more on that later) and her partner Pasha Kovalev; Holly Valance and her partner Artem, who have come as Black Swan and regardless of the quality of the dance have already won my "best of the night" award entirely on a sartorial level; Audley Harrison and his partner An Orange Tree -- sorry, Natalie; Harry Judd, Drowning In Guyliner and his partner Aliona; Anita Dobson, who's come a bit early for Christmas Tree Decoration Week and her partner Robin, Robbie Savage as Michael Jackson and Ola as Limahl; Nancy Dell'Olio, auditioning for Sky Living's forthcoming remake of Ice Warriors and her partner Anton; Alex Jones and her partner Count Von Count (likely score for their routine this week: ONE AH AH AH!); and Jason Donovan and his partner Kristina, oddly anticlimactic in their rather nice sea-green outfits.

Bit of banter between Bruce and Len until we discover that Craig is missing, which brings us to the second best thing the show has done in a very long time: Craig being flown in from the ceiling on a broomstick, waving regally, while everyone boos. He's found his true calling in panto, that one. Bruce makes an obscene comment about the broomstick which is still less offensive than last week's Nancy joke, so we'll move on. Tess explains the scoring system once again, and Bruce warns that one couple is about to face a gruesome end. Future Head Judge Karen Hardy is joined by Adam Garcia in the commentary box, hopefully asking him lots of questions about Britannia High, all of them consisting simply of the word "WHY?" Karen's spooky Hallowe'en hair for this evening, incidentally, is far less terrifying than whatever she'd had done to it for It Takes Two on Tuesday.

Up first are Russell and Flavia with their samba, and Craig is still grasping his broomstick (not a euphemism) during their intro. I wonder if he'll be holding it all night. Russell enjoyed last week's routine and its Epic Storytelling That Bruno Interpreted Amazingly. There's a brief "OW MY KNEE" interlude in which I fail to discern the difference between Russell's "my joints are hurty" face and his "my acting is hammy" face. There follows some mild bollocks about their training room being haunted, which would have benefited hugely from the involvement of Yvette Fielding, but I suspect they ran out of money after that amazing opening number, to be honest.

Their routine is to a synth-tastic interpretation of Kylie's 'Better The Devil You Know' (full marks to Our Fabulous Singers Dave Arch, And His Wonderful Orchestra for a very faithful interpretation). They start out vamping behind some billowing bits of fabric with fans underneath them, one of which Flavia inadvertently tramples as she makes her way onto the dancefloor. There's not an awful lot to distinguish between this and Russell's samba, but I'm at least grateful that Flavia's started giving him actual routines to do that bear some resemblance to the brief, and not just the "WOO! SHIMMY! WOO! ON A PRIDE FLOAT!" crap that she did for his cha cha cha. I'm not entirely sure about the bit where she does a backbend and he drums on her stomach, incidentally. I think even Gary Rhodes using Future Head Judge Karen Hardy as an air keyboard was less cringeworthy. There are also some close-ups of Russell shaking his arse, which I can only assume is the "gruesome end" to which Bruce was referring earlier.

Bruce thanks the band, and for once it's deserved. There are no introductions for the judges this week, though special mention should go to Alesha's outfit, which has a terrifyingly huge ruffle on her left shoulder, possibly as insurance against Bruno touching her up this week. Seriously, that thing could take his eye out. Len thinks Russell caught his bum alight coming through the flame because he really started dancing tonight - there were a few mistakes, but he's got the feelgood factor. Alesha thinks Russell and Kylie are a perfect match, and that the samba really suits him. Bruno thinks he couldn't squeeze out more fun if he tried, but he went wrong quite a few times because there was actual content in the routine this week. Craig reckons the dancing let Russell down as the timing was out, but he has great double-bounce action.

They amble up to the Tess Circle, where Russell admits that he did get a lot of the steps wrong. Flavia tries to shush him, but he points out that the judges saw it: "darling, they're not daft." Heh. Flavia's going to kick his ass later for that little bout of sass. His knee's all strapped up, by the way, and he's going to be fine. Scores: Craig 4, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 22. Tess asks Russell what he makes of that four from Craig, and Russell says that he got too much wrong to warrant more than that, the "from Craig" part of that sentence remaining unspoken. He's happy with 22, that was the number of his first house in Wembley. Fascinating stuff, eh?

Chelsee and Pasha are next. Pasha with his hair all spiked up and the faintest hint of eyeliner are giving me all sorts of inappropriate feelings SO LET'S JUST MOVE ON QUICKLY. Chelsee explains that knowing that the judges enjoyed her performance last week was a confidence boost, but she's just going to take it dance by dance, week by week, and then she and Pasha say "step by step" at the same time, and squeal. These two are so cute together, it might actually break some sort of law. Chelsee's training footage is soundtracked by the B-52s' 'Rock Lobster', otherwise known as THE GREATEST SONG EVER RECORDED, so once again I take my hat off to the music editors on this show. Chelsee worries that the tango doesn't suit her because she's not seductive. For reasons that are never made entirely clear, Pasha then takes Chelsee off to a hall filled with small children wearing masks. I think the only point of this segment is that Pasha + cute kids = *ovaries exploding*, as far as I can tell. Hey, it works for me. Chelsee and Pasha dance for the children, and the children deliver their best Craig Revel Horwood impressions, because he's who they all want to be when they grow up, except one kid, who clearly wants to be Len. I mourn the lack of ambition in the youth of today.

Their tango is to 'Love Potion Number Nine' and involves Chelsee emerging from a cauldron after Pasha pours glitter all over her. The routine starts well - it's dynamic, full of attack and well-acted, and despite what Chelsee says, she's pretty good at being smouldering with Pasha. I also like that Pasha's able to choreograph a distinctly Hallowe'en-themed routine that's still recognisable as a ballroom dance, something that not everyone manages this evening. Unfortunately, just over halfway through things go a bit wrong and Chelsee has a slight wardrobe malfunction which distracts her quite a lot - we see her look down and hastily try to pull her dress up without breaking her flow or her hold, which she does just about manage, but at the end she's far too thrown by trying to sort out the slip to the point where the dance just gets away from her and she looks lost. I don't think there's ever any great danger of any real exposure - I think there's the barest outline of nipple, but that's it - but Chelsee's clearly greatly distressed by the whole thing and bursts into tears as soon as the routine's over.

They walk over to Bruce with Pasha valiantly trying to shield her from the cameras, and Bruce experiences a bit of confusion as to why she's crying - and when he finds out what happened, he pulls open his jacket and stands in front of her. Yes, thanks Bruce - I'm sure that exactly what Chelsee needs when she's just nip-slipped in front of ten million viewers is to have you flash her. Alesha tells Chelsee that she has nothing to cry about, because she covered it up so well (fnar) and it didn't distract from the dance at all. Except for the points where it totally did, but Chelsee's in such a state at this point, that I think Alesha telling her what she wants to hear is probably in her best interests on this occasion. Alesha adds that if anything she's raised her game from last week because it was clean, sharp and full of attack, and that she needs to leave with a smile because this partnership is working. Bruno calls her a "wicked little dancer" and says that of course she lost a bit of her footing with the wardrobe malfunction, but she did a great dance and showed great musicality. "It happens to everybody," Bruno insists. I bet it happens to Bruno more often than most, though. Craig would've liked to see it a bit more grounded through flexed knees, because she was on her toes too much. He adds that she coped quite well with the dress problem, but it was the cause of the dance being a bit of a mess at the end, though the routine was feisty and firey and everything they expect from her. Len thought it was a good dance, which could've been sharper near the end, but overall it was fabulous.

Chelsee makes her way up rather numbly to the Tess Circle, at which point Robin is on hand to give her a long red scarf, which I think must've been part of Anita's costume? Either that or someone from the wardrobe team handed it to him to give to her. Tess reassures Chelsee that we didn't see anything, but Chelsee's still completely mortified and not really up for talking. Pasha says he's very proud of her for the way she handled everything. Tess reminds Chelsee that she topped the leaderboard last week, and asks if she might do it again. Chelsee, uneasily: "No." This really wasn't any easier to watch a second time round - poor, poor Chelsee. [On the plus side, she has apparently now realised that her ridiculous breasts are too big for her. - Carrie] Scores are in: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 32. Chelsee's shocked that they scored her so highly, but she's "made up".

Audley and Natalie are our third couple of the evening. Last week, Audley's foxtrot gave Len an erection, and now we can officially never talk about that again, yes? Audley explains that he is a competitor and taking it all seriously, hoping to turn up each week and be better than last time. Which would be a marvellous idea, except...this week he's got the jive. In his VT, Natalie wishes him a happy birthday, and Audley states that even though it's his birthday, he's not going to be slacking and he is in fact working extra hard, which doesn't exactly correspond with the report on It Takes Two that they missed two and a half days of training this week, but whatevs. I guess he's just working extra hard in the time he actually had to rehearse, or something. Natalie reminds us that the jive will be a hard dance for Audley, but does not specify that this is because he is A Tall Person. Audle's wife and adorable daughter pay him a visit - his daughter is a dead-ringer for Raven-Symoné in her Cosby Show years, which makes it even funnier. They have a little dance together, and it is very cute.

Their routine is to the prologue from Little Shop Of Horrors and begins with Audley miming along to the piano while Natalie jives alone - perhaps a wise choice, because this is indeed not a good dance for Audley once he actually gets up and starts having a go himself. It's a shame, because he's clearly trying, but there's just too much of him to really make the jive a realistic possibility - he's energetic and enthusiastic, but his dancing is plodding and heavy and rather flat-footed. Natalie's choreographed a fun routine for them to do, though - again, it merits saying that she's one of the best choreographers that this show has in its arsenal, because she's kept it reasonably simple in accordance with Audley's skill level, but it's still visually interesting; they cover a lot of the floor and the routine itself is not noticeably repetitious. It ends with Natalie collapsing into a venus flytrap, which is an oddly sexual image that it's probably best we don't dwell upon too much.

Bruno thinks Audley got into the spirit of it - "big smile, great personality, terrible footwork". He reminds us that the jive is all about sharpness, and is a hard dance for anyone to do, especially A Tall Person, and he did his best. Craig says that Audley made "a gallant effort" but is physically unsuited to this dance, which was "cumbersome" - but he has a lovely smile. Len thought it had rhythm and good timing, and commends Audley for Having A Go. (I think you could clear the board on Strictly Bingo with the comments for this dance alone.) Alesha loved the concept, but thinks Craig and Bruno are right - it needed to be bouncier and light, and the kicks and flicks weren't there, but it was great to see him giving it his best.

Up in the Tess Circle, Natalie exclaims that it was "so much fun", and I love her for that - I think she genuinely does have a blast on this show, and I think she does her best to make sure her partner does as well. I know Audley's circling the drain at this point and has got probably a maximum of two weeks left, but it's to Natalie's credit that he made it this far at all, I think. Audley tells Tess that he enjoyed it, and Natalie reminds us that he had to go back to America this week, so they didn't have as much training time as they would've liked. Audley flashes his smile a bit more for Craig, and the scores are in: Craig 3, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. We finish on a joke about Audley hitting Craig, and I do wish they'd stop those, because that's the one thing about Audley I really don't like.

Alex and James are next, on at the front end of the show again. She's never been later than fourth in the running order, though I suppose she's never really produced the sort of dance worthy of building up to. Alex's VT recalls her terrible feedback from last week, and she resolves to just "get out of the catsuit and move on". James's systematic torture of Alex continues as he leaps out from behind some gym equipment wearing a Hallowe'en mask and scares the living shit out of her. My "Free The One Show One" campaign continues apace. In light of Alesha's recommendation to take more risks last week, James drags Alex off to do some abseiling. She has another breakdown as she scales down the wall, and shrieks "JAMES!" as he stands there laughing at her. What a prince. James then joins her halfway down the wall and starts throwing her around. She reacts to this as joyously as you would expect.

They're dancing a paso doble to 'Bring Me To Life', as vampiric princess Alex awakes on a slab and does a bit of passable skirt work before being joined by Count Von Count, and it all goes rather wrong. I mean, it's an improvement on last week because having a storyline to grab onto gives Alex a bit of life, but the routine's just sloppy and lacks timing and Alex looks pretty terrified throughout. There are a couple of individual nice moments, but they're swamped by things like Alex trying to do an appel a good two seconds before James does, and some generally clumsy footwork, as well as a sense of this being a triumph of fabric-waving over actual content.

Craig quite liked the Dracula theme and thought they played it extremely well - it was the total antithesis of last week and he almost found it erotic ("that probably says a lot more about me than about you"). Len was expecting a Hammer House Of Horrors, but liked the confidence with which Alex started, and he thought the dance had intensity, though there was too much "frock-wafting" for his taste. Alesha loved the beginning and Alex's risk-taking, she thought it was atmospheric and Alex had a breakthrough this week. Bruno likens it to Kate Bush and comments that Alex's strength has improved since last week, as she's linking her lines and being assertive.

Tess calls it "a dance resurrection", and Alex points out that there was room for improvement after last week. She says that she looked scared because James does the vampire thing so well, even though he's dressed like a six-year-old trick-or-treater, and James notes with some disdain that she finds it easier to get aggressive with him than romantic. Yes, I can't think of anything in their relationship as shown in the training footage that would suggest why this might be. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. For once, James has nothing to bitch about, and we are all eternally thankful.

Next up are Holly and Artem, and I am SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS ROUTINE I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU. If Lyn Scully runs on in the middle sobbing "where's my sweet girl?" and Holly snaps "SHE'S GONE!", then they've definitely got my vote. Holly recalls her Viennese waltz from last week and says that she enjoyed the prettiness of it, but she didn't think she quite pulled it off, and watching it back, she thought she looked like a dog's breakfast. Artem agrees that they're always missing something every week, and that Holly doesn't understand how good she can be. Their training footage does not address this, however, because they're too busy going to the fair. WOO! Specifically, they're going to Saw: The Ride at Thorpe Park, which appears to be one of those places where they keep you in pitch darkness and have jobbing actors scream in your face every couple of minutes. By far the scariest thing about this is that those poor souls probably trained at Rada. There's a bit of a skit at the end where Holly makes it out first, while Artem stands in a corner sobbing and Blair Witch-ing into the camera that if anyone finds this footage, he loves Kara and he wants Holly to know he's sorry that he never made it to rehearsals. On his exit, Artem gives it the full pantomime expression of horror, while Holly stands there with a bucket of candyfloss, offering the barest possible level of commitment to the comic shenanigans, which is one of many reasons why I love her.

Their routine is an American Smooth, in name if nothing else, and while there are probably those who were horrified at the liberties Artem took with the choreography this week, I actually really enjoyed it: there's enough in hold for it to pass as a ballroom dance, but the rest of it is all massively pretentious faux-ballet stylings and massive melodrama, which I'm eating up with a spoon. There's still a bit of a disconnect with Holly, in that I don't feel she's giving it her all, and one lift in particular just involves her sort of flopping in Artem's arms rather than holding herself with any particular intent, but she is slowly getting there on that front, and you could absolutely make the case that when the choreography is this overblown, it's better to underplay the actual dancing lest the whole thing look like...well, Jason Donovan.

Len says he wants the clocks to go back RIGHT NOW and not at 2am because he thought it was terrific. That's interesting: I would have bet the farm on Len absolutely hating that, but apparently he's in a good mood tonight. Well, at least until Aliona arrives, anyway. He would've liked to see more in hold, but on the whole it was terrific. Alesha thinks they look incredible and it's her favourite concept so far. She thought Holly's lines and shape were great and she loved the originality of it, and she thinks this is the dance that shows Holly as a contender. Bruno says that he thought this was going to be a mess, but that Holly produced a performance of great artistry, and her top lines were just exquisite. Craig thinks it was a high-risk and perilous concept, but Holly made it work. The audience has no idea whether they should be cheering this comment or not, but opt to do so anyway.

Up to the Tess Circle they fly, and Tess mistakenly attributes Craig's comments to Bruno, while Holly says that this has been her favourite dance so far, and that they've worked really hard this week. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35, the best score of the night so far. Holly begs us to vote in her usual curiously nonchalant way.

Nancy and Anton are next. Nancy makes no attempt whatsoever to look at the camera during their intro. Anton's hair has been streaked with white, and actually looks a lot better like that. I think he should just go the full Schofield and have done with it, to be honest. Nancy was disappointed with herself last Saturday, because she knew she could've done much better. This week they've got the rumba, and their routine involves a coffin, which Nancy insists must be "very sparkly, very Strictly" - so of course Anton obtains a rotten-looking wooden one to practice with instead. Cue Nancy arriving and dropping her expensive handbag on the floor in outrage. Say what you like about Nancy, but she sells these comic VTs like no one else does. Nancy interviews that if she doesn't get a luxury coffin on the night, then she is DUNZO.

Fortunately, they have indeed given her a sparkly prop coffin for the actual routine, from which she emerges, drinking from a sparkly wine glass. The routine is to 'Spooky' by Dusty Springfield, and Anton's made the brave/kamikaze* (delete as appropriate) decision to have Nancy open the routine by herself, so she vamps (she's a zombie, but she'll always be a vamp will our Nancy) to the front of the stage and do a strange sort of gyration while stroking her leg that somehow manages to be the least sexy thing since Len last talked about his private parts. It's enough to raise Zombie Anton from his undead slumber, however, and he joins her for a dance, which involves Nancy grabbing him by the neck and doing a spot of spontaneous vertical planking. There are some faintly passable sections but Nancy looks completely sleepy throughout, and Anton even chucks in that same bloody lift again, which is not only illegal (not that anyone even notices anymore) but also an indication that he is now creatively bankrupt as far as Nancy is concerned. He's done all he can, and he can do no more. It ends with Nancy shoving him into the coffin and sitting on the lid, which I think is at least one thing we can all relate to in this routine.

Anton complains about having yet another uncooperative feather boa to work with, and Bruce asks Nancy if she enjoyed that, which prompts another extensive monologue from Nancy. After she's eliminated, they're going to be able to shave at least an extra five minutes off the running time just for those. This one doesn't even add anything new, it's just a Rashomon-style retelling of her intro VT from inside the head of Nancy Dell'Olio. Alesha thinks Nancy is sexy, but she's a walking disaster: "your legs are so far apart, and that's not very feminine". Oh dear. She scolds Anton for the lift, which was "so unflattering" and says that they both should've stayed in the coffin. For one brief, beautiful moment I imagine Alesha getting her 1 paddle out and it being even more amazing than the time she unleashed her 2, but I suspect I'm destined to be disappointed. Alesha thinks the viewers at home will like it (I fucking loved it, it was hilarious), but she didn't. Bruno thinks she danced like the walking dead. Then, in possibly my favourite Bruno moment of the series so far, he calls her "the zombie of Bond Street", and sashays with his eyes rolling all over the place while moaning "designer gear! Designer gear!" Worth the license fee all by itself, that was. He advises her to listen to the music and concentrate, because she's got a great body, and she needs to use it with the music. Alesha notes that Anton is "looking so surprised" and cackles vigorously. Craig calls it "dance horriblis" and that the moment Nancy stepped out of "that sarcophagus" was the moment it all went horribly wrong, and he's getting bored of that lift, which is also illegal. Nancy interjects that the lift was "not my idea" and Anton's all "et tu, Nancy?" Len thinks that there were "moments of Mills and Boon, and moments of Meals on Wheels". I'll admit it: I laughed. It sounds better in Len's voice than it looks written down, unfortunately.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks Nancy if she wanted to nail the coffin shut with Anton in it, and Anton's disgusted that even Tess is turning on him now, while catching sight of his hair and mumbling that he's "never painting the ceiling again". Tess asks about the boa, and Nancy insists that it was no problem, while Anton grumbles that he's lost the will to live. Scores: Craig 2, Len 5, Alesha 3, Bruno 4 for a total of 14. Anton talks over Tess reading out the voting number, because he really doesn't want to stay in the competition any more.

Next are Harry and Aliona, and I hate myself for saying this, but DAMN he looks good with his eyes all My Chemical Romanced-up like that. Aliona can never resist the guyliner overdose on Hallowe'en week, can she? Last Saturday his dance was controversial (i.e. made Len scream like a banshee), but they got a ten, so: bothered. They've got a spooky tango for Hallowe'en, and they're dancing to 'Psycho Killer' by Talking Heads. Aliona wants Harry to bring out his dark side, so she digs out her family's Book Of Shadows (number of people surprised by the fact that black magic runs in Aliona's blood: precisely zero) and casts a spell to take Harry to "the scariest place in the UK". It was nice of Tess to let them film in her wardrobe, wasn't it? Being alongside all those horrific outfits leaves Aliona a trembling wreck, and drives Harry so completely insane that he mutates into a tangoing vampire. At least now we know that Tess's fashion disasters have actually been building up to a greater purpose over the years.

They start sat in thrones, holding baroque masks over their eyes and mirroring each other's movements, before getting up and taking hold while still holding those masks. For a moment I thought that Aliona had reached a new low and was planning for them to complete the whole routine with one hand each preoccupied with holding the masks up, but after the initial slightly fumbly attempt, the marks are quickly discarded. As you'd expect from Aliona, there's about twenty bars of faffing before they take hold again, but when they eventually do, it's very good - full of attitude and haughtiness, and with wonderful, deliberate movements. It ends with Vampire Harry sinking his fangs into Aliona before snapping her neck and returning to his throne as her corpse lies lifelessly on the floor, and if you follow Aliona on Twitter like I do, you know that she probably enjoyed that whole routine rather a lot. Possibly a little too much.

Bruno drools that it was intense, hypnotic and basically give him a boner. Craig thought it was full of intent and aggression and that the storytelling was fantastic; he would've liked to see more of it in hold, but the tango that was in there was done very well. Len begins to say that he agrees with Craig before realising that to ever admit such a thing would stick in his craw, so he stops short. He clarifies to Harry that he is not criticising him OR ALIONA HONEST, but when he watches a tango he wants to see more than eight bars in hold; it was sharp and together and very crisp, but he's from the world of ballroom and he wants to see more of it in hold - especially since when Harry's in hold, he's fantastic. If you can work out how that's not a criticism of Aliona, please send your answers on a postcard. Alesha agrees with Len, but she thinks Harry played it so well, and then launches into this lecture about how art is subjective. In reference to Aliona's Twilight-inspired tango. Amazing. She thinks it was a beautiful piece of dance, and calls them "the king and queen of tango tonight".

Up in the Tess Circle, Harry says that Aliona brought out his dark side this week by being really hardcore in training. Danny and Tom are in the audience tonight, and Tess asks if he thinks they could cut it in the ballroom. "Not a chance," Harry declares. Scores are in: Craig 8, Len 7, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Once again the internet erupts in outrage and demands that Alesha be permanently stripped of her 10 paddle, and also stripped of her womb just in case she later gives birth to anyone who feels they have the right to give full marks to something when evaluating it, heaven forbid. And of course, the fact that Len saw fit to give this one point less than whatever that mess was that Alex and James threw up goes unnoticed, because for some reason he's allowed to be as capricious as he likes with his scores while she isn't. (Personally, I didn't think it deserved a 10 either, but I'll defend Alesha's right to give whatever mark she damn well wants until I'm blue in the face. Especially since this year her critiques have actually been pretty decent and worth listening to, and she's actually demonstrated that she's grading on a full 1-10 scale (well, 2-10 so far, but still), which is more than Len or Bruno have done. And yes, in case you're wondering, I do have an entire series' worth of "give Alesha a bloody break" rants up my sleeve, so go ahead, punk. MAKE MY DAY.)

Phew. Right, where were we? Oh yes, Robbie and Limahl. Ola tells us that Robbie really got into his dance last week - to the extent that he overshot his knee slide at the end and crashed into the camera, which wasn't meant to happen. It also meant we didn't see the member of the production team giving him a red card, which was rather a shame. In training, Ola tells Robbie that he must face his worst nightmare this week: the make-under. I really hope they've got Jenny Frost and POD lined up for this. Sadly not: it involves Ola fitting him with a bald cap, painting his face white and sticking novelty denture in his mouth, as Daphne and Celeste's 'U.G.L.Y.' plays on the soundtrack. Eh, that'll do, I guess.

Their paso is to 'Bad' by Michael Jackson, if Robbie's outfit hadn't already made that abundantly clear (although why Ola has come dressed like that is still entirely a mystery), and involves an awful lot of pelvic thrusts, several of them directed straight at the judges. The actual paso parts of it aren't too bad, and there's a nifty floor sweep move with Ola, but the dance is a good 75% posturing, and most of the goodwill it builds up is removed by the end, which features Robbie leaping onto the judges' desk and thrusting his crotch into Craig's face. Fair play to them, though: Ola definitely delivered on her brief to provide a scary routine.

Craig opines that he could have done without "the lascivious hip thrusts, particularly the end one in my face". He thinks it needed more drive and to be power-led, and that there should have been more arching. But apart from that, it was amazing. Len thinks it was "disconcerting" to see all the thrusting, and he saw the Robbie, but thought that it needed to be more Savage. He thinks Robbie needs to work on getting his Latin up to the standard of his ballroom. Alesha is very much in favour of the thrusting and enjoyed the cape work, and she disagrees with the others, as she thought it had real intent throughout. Bruno thinks it was "Bad gone mental" and obsesses about the thrusts - "you know what you're good at now, don't you?" He then attempts to give a serious critique, but is rendered incapable of speech by laughter. It was only a matter of time.

Also rendered incoherent by laughter? Tess, although let's not pretend this is any great loss. She asks if there's more Savage to give, and Robbie hopes so. Scores: Craig 4, Len 7, Alesha 8 ("keeeeeeep thrusting!", heh), Bruno 7 for a total of 26.

Anita and Robin are next, and Anita says that she was worried she wasn't improving at the rate she needed to, but she got a real boost last week with four eights from the judges. "I've improved!" she squeals tearfully backstage. Anita's VT is as mental as ever, as she tries to release her inner devil (because her song is 'Devil Woman', you see). This involves telling herself to eat chocolate eclairs. Considering Anita is as thin as a rake, this seems not so much "devilish" as "entirely sensible". Still, she gets to prance around in a red costume a lot making stabbing gestures at Robin, although given Anita's general air of...precarious psychological balance, I'm not sure if this is what she was directed to do by the producers, or just something they caught her doing anyway and decided to make use of.

Anita snarls her way through her tango, and it's one of her better efforts, but there's a timidity to the whole thing which rather lets it down. If she put as much effort into her limbs as she's putting into her face, this might have been quite something, but it just falls short for me, I'm afraid. Still, she gets her steps right and seems to be enjoying herself, and any state in which Anita is not on the verge of tears is good with me.

Len liked it because there was lots of tango content (ALIONA!), although she lost her timing on a step called the chase. He thinks her posture is her weakest thing, and she needs to sort that out, but overall he liked it. Alesha thinks Anita is a fantastic actress and she loved the drama, but Anita needs to spend a bit of time perfecting her hold. Bruno never knew she could be so evil, and loves that she portrays every aspect of her character with every step, but he agrees with Alesha that Anita needs to work on her frame. Craig: "Acting: 10, Top Line: 3", which is a song that featured in the original workshop of A Chorus Line, I believe. He loved the routine, though.

Tess asks Anita how the nerves are this week, and gets a burst of babbling in response. I suppose that's as effective an answer as any. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha (having a bit of trouble turning her paddle around with that giant bow in the way) 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31.

Now from the "damn it, I forgot you were even here" corner, Bloody Lulu and Brendan. We're reminded of the nonsensical curse-of-the-samba storyline from last week, as well as Len's criticism of their dance as being repetitive. Brendan is not at all impressed with this. Bloody Lulu informs us that for her Hallowe'en routine she's channeling an old bat from hell, as if that isn't what she does every day of her wretched life. Brendan says that he's given her a serious challenge: being flown in like Widdy was last year. Bloody Lulu squeals that the harness is hurting her hoo-hoo, and that's quite enough of that, so let's just move on.

So we have a paso doble to AC/DC's 'Highway To Hell', in which Brendan has his hair all vertical and between that and the guyliner and the facelift haircut, he looks a bit like Logan Echolls. The camera is on Brendan while Bloody Lulu detaches from the harness, and then they do a bit of arm-swooping that isn't entirely synchronised. Some of the footwork is actually quite decent, but the wafting is half-hearted at best, and even with that eye-mask covering half her face, Bloody Lulu still can't quite hide that look that suggests she's not entirely sure what she's doing. To end, Brendan abandons Bloody Lulu by the band and runs around at the other end of the floor for a full ten seconds in which the camera entirely ignores Bloody Lulu's existence, because she's got to get back into her harness to be borne aloft again. I would actually be in favour of Bloody Lulu flying every week if it means we see less of her.

Bruno thought Bloody Lulu handled the tricks with panache, and he counted all the way through and she didn't lose her way tonight. Craig is quite partial to a bit of flying and loved the concept, particularly the theatrical exit, but he felt there was a battle for supremacy when they were in hold. "That's the paso doble, that's the whole idea, the fight," Bruno interjects, so Craig clarifies that it felt more like Bloody Lulu trying to catch up. Len thinks there were lots of tricks and quite a few treats, but the problem is that Bloody Lulu is a bit soft in the body, so she's too willowy and Brendan can't always use her properly, but it was entertaining and he loved it. Alesha, whose ruffle is now devouring her ears, thought it was an amazing entrance and she loved Bloody Lulu's determination.

Up in the Tess Circle, Brendan gives thanks to wardrobe and all the production crew for making tonight happen. Everyone applauds, though I can't help wondering if Chelsee is applauding wardrobe with slightly less enthusiasm than everyone else is. Bloody Lulu says that she prayed all week just to hear Bruno say that she didn't fuck up. I, on the other hand, was praying all week for Bloody Lulu to fuck off. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 29.

Closing the show again are Jason and Kristina with their quickstep. The VT really plays up his struggle from last week while Jason pretends that he genuinely believes himself to be in any danger of going home. His training is so exhausting that he asks Kristina for a quick five minute nap break, and yep, it's another dream sequence. Widdy appears at the foot of his bed (okay, maybe it's a nightmare sequence) and declares herself "the ghost of Strictly past", with advice for him: it's not necessary to show his chest hair. She then disappears, waiting for Gary Barlow to fall asleep so she can deliver the same words of wisdom to him. Next, Katya appears as the ghost of Strictly present (which is odd, considering she was eliminated two weeks ago, but anything that keeps Katya on my screen will not be overly questioned). She has wiser words than Widdy: "dance every dance as if it were your last. I should know." Heh, she really should. So, who's going to be the ghost of Strictly yet to come: Richard Madeley? Frankie from The Saturdays? Roxy Mitchell? No, it's, er, Joe Calzaghe. Who did the show two years ago. Yeah, I don't understand that either, but I'm guessing he was cheap and available. He insists that Kristina must make the final this year, or he'll have him to answer to. Jason awakes just as Kristina takes a "real-life" phone call from Joe Calzaghe, and Jason pulls this face.

His routine is to 'Bewitched' (sadly not to B*Witched, and no, I don't care that Zoe already made that joke on It Takes Two). Kristina is a witch (I'm not being misogynist, that's actually the part she's playing) who's controlling Jason's every move with her magic wand. I bet she wishes she'd been given that thing three years ago. She makes him dance for her, and then joins him. It's a fun, showy routine that makes you understand immediately why they saved it for last: even Jason's face this week is relaxed (well, as relaxed as it's likely to get). Nicely played.

It's standing ovation central, and after another ill-advised attempt at Craig reviving his Aussie accent, he thought the routine was fab-u-lous, but there were a couple of mistakes. Len snarls "so what if they've made a couple of mistakes? Some of them have done a tango and they haven't even done a tango and they get ten." Oh, Len. Imagine if you hadn't spent the last couple of years arbitrarily changing the rules depending on whether someone was tall/a sportsman/homosexual/partnered with a pro you dislike as well as throwing sevens at people just for making it through an entire routine without falling over in a shameless attempt to endear yourself to the public, then you might almost have a case here. Almost. He wants to reiterate what Brendan said and compliment all the dancing, make-up, props and wardrobe tonight, and he thinks Jason has been fantastic. Alesha thinks Jason was cute and charming throughout, and it was a brilliant routine. Bruno thinks it was "bewitchingly brilliant and slightly barmy", and declares Jason to be back on track.

Up in the Tess Circle, Jason bores on about having made mistakes, but that he chatted to Harry earlier about counting and how that really made a difference to him. THANKS JASON GREAT STORY. Tess says that this was the longest standing ovation they've had so far this series. Has she been up there with a stopwatch for all of them? I mean, I wouldn't put it past her, but still. Kristina does the nose wiggle one last time, Jason tells us that he's taking the kids trick-or-treating on Monday and that next week he'll be doing the rumba, if he's allowed to say that, and then the scores are in: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 37, the highest score of the series so far. Insert The Internet's usual outrage to Alesha giving a 10, insert Steve's usual paragraph of outrage about the outrage. (I could've actually gone through the motions in detail, but I've already done it once this week and I don't want to burn myself out, so let's just all agree to move on and meet back here next week for more of the same, yes?)

Leaderboard: Jason top, Holly second, Harry third, Chelsee fourth, Alex and Anita tied for fifth, then Lulu, then Robbie, then Russell, then Audley, and poor old Nancy at the bottom again. Audley/Nancy bottom two, anyone? I think so, though it's anyone's guess who goes.

The phone lines are open, and we recap Russell's sassy samba, Chelsee's titillating tango, Audley's junky jive, Alex's petrified paso, Holly's awesome American Smooth, Nancy's ridiculous rumba, Harry's terrific tango, Robbie's pugilistic paso, Anita's tremulous tango, Bloody Lulu's part-time paso and finally Jason's quintessential quickstep.

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? But the fun ends for someone tomorrow - but who (out of Audley and Nancy) will it be?

Results Show: 30th October

We open with a witches' brew! Ola, Katya, Kristina and Flavia pose around a cauldron, as the band strike up 'Somebody's Watching Me'. Pasha, Robin, James and Artem arrive dressed all nerd-like, wearing thick glasses and backpacks, and also still made up from their earlier routines, so Robin's all bleeding beneath the eyes and Artem's still deathly pale and it's all a bit wrong except for Pasha, but let's be perfectly honest: Nerd Pasha is so very hot that it's not like anyone's going to be focusing on anything else. The boys happen upon the cauldron, at which point the women reappear and dance around them, offering drinks from enchanted goblets. My favourite bit of the whole thing is the very tiny contented little burp that Artem does after drinking - it's barely even noticeable, but it's very funny. Unfortunately, these are not very inventive witches, and the only plan they have for the boys after bewitching them is to make them all dance a little Latin medley, and not to make out with each other or anything interesting like that. It ends on a good bit, where the witches return to the cauldron and disappear in a puff of smoke, to be replace by the judges, who all look rather confused. We then cut to the judges' table, where the witches are all sitting, grinning mischievously (if anyone's wondering, Aliona's in Craig's seat, Ola's in Len's, Kristina's in Alesha's and Katya's in Bruno's. Head Judge Ola Jordan! Make it happen, Strictly 2012!). Tess appears, voices her concern and clicks her fingers, returning the judges to her rightful place and banishing those tricksy witches.

Tess announces that this is a spooky start to our Hallowe'en results, but the scary season is about to claim its next victim. After a quick bit of banter with the judges, we then throw to Claudia, who's up in the gods as ever. She reminds us that "devilishly handsome boyband" The Wanted will be here later, as well as the ever-welcome Len's Lens, but first: time for a recap!

The opening number was of course epically amazing, and Len reflects that the entire evening was magic. Russell's samba was well-received, but contained a few mistakes. Backstage, he admits that he could've done it better, but hopes to go onwards and upwards. Chelsee had a wardrobe malfunction, and is still tearful backstage, as you might expect. Audley enjoyed his jive despite the rather tepid reviews, and announces that if we look at his feet, we're not going to be happy, as a general rule. I feel that way about everyone's feet, to be fair. Alex's paso was a mess, but got rave reviews. Holly and Artem did a bonkers Black Swan number, which was loved by everyone, even Len, and Holly declares this her favourite Hallowe'en ever. Nancy's rumba was declared "a walking disaster" by Alesha, and backstage Nancy opines that the judges are not fair. In a backstage interview, Len says that Harry is one of the best ballroom dancers he's ever seen, but the angry look on his face and the fact that he's having to lean against a wall for support suggests that this may have been a lone piece of positive feedback in the midst of many comments about THAT BLOODY ALIONA. Robbie was advised by Craig to lead a bit more, and he bitches backstage about being given a four. Anita did a mental tango that was still surprisingly tame, and the judges loved it, as did Anita herself. Bloody Lulu flew across the stage, and Len felt that what she lacked in technique, she made up for in entertainment. Jason and Kristina rounded the evening off with a rather lovely quickstep, and shot straight back to the top of the leaderboard. They were, understandably, quite pleased about this.

Time for the first batch of results. In no particular order, the following couples are definitely back next week: Bloody Lulu and Brendan, Alex and James, Jason and Kristina, Holly and Artem and Chelsee and Pasha. In the bottom two, however, are Audley and Natalie. Not really a huge surprise, even to the two of them.

Tess turns to Len for his feedback on how the jive is Hard For Tall People. Len says that he's disappointed to see Audley in the bottom two, but since the odds were not in his favour this week, he's not entirely surprised. For a nice change, Len makes the valid observation that sometimes you just get the wrong dance in the wrong week, and that's what happened here.

Claudia's with the five ecstatic saved couples, and turns to Alex first. She asks if she was alarmed or delighted that Craig found it erotic, and Alex decides that on the whole she was flattered. She says that she was worried it might all end, so she decided to dust herself off and give a good performance. Claudia gets distracted halfway through all this by the quality of Alex's eyelashes. Bloody Lulu says that she's still flying after the great feedback, and that she's very happy that Brendan did such a great job. Claudia says that Chelsee did brilliantly, and then she was in tears. "I feel a bit daft now," Chelsee mumbles. Pasha puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder as she explains that she was nervous this week, and just got really thrown when her dress started going wrong.

Time for a musical interlude from those champions of Lemon Or Cheese, The Wanted. It's the same song that they did on The X Factor the other week, and therefore every bit as lyrically suspect as it was then, rhyming "frightening" with "lightning" and all that. ['Knock on Wood' also rhymes "frightening" with "lightning", and that's AMAZING. - Carrie] Still, I like the fact that their awareness of the need for an Ugly One in every boyband is so keen that they've recruited three, just in case one of them leaves.

Once that's over, it's back up to Claudia in the gallery with the judges, which means it's time for Len's Lens. There is slo-mo footage of Len attempting to do the nose-wiggling thing from Bewitched. He explains that he wanted to do that before giving out his score, but unfortunately he didn't quite get the hang of it. Claudia points out that this didn't stop him from attempting it for 14 seconds. Len is disappointed that this didn't work even though he has "quite a big bugle". Len wants to talk about Alex and James, and how last week she got a hammering, but this week she came back with confidence and performed on her own. "You've got to risk it if you want the biscuit," he adds, "sagely". Bruno bursts into a bit of Kate Bush for good measure. Next, there's a surprise clip of Alesha pulling an "erp" face while watching one of the dances, God love her. Alesha wants to look at Holly and Artem's American Smooth, which she thinks was "really unique" (aargh) and original and that Holly really stepped up her game this week. Len agrees that the beauty of it was that it was effortless. Claudia asks why it wasn't a ten, and Len cites a lack of content, Alesha blames the lifts going on for too long, and Bruno and Craig point out the lack of correct attitude in the aforementioned lifts. We have, of course, close-ups of Len's and Craig's faces as Robbie leapt onto the desk. Craig looks horrified and hides behind his book, while Len appears to be having the time of his life. Everyone finds this HILARIOUS. Claudia asks about the musical performances, by which she means Russell's bongos and Audley's piano. Bruno calls the latter "Audley Gaga - 'I was born this way', go for it!" Heee. He thinks everyone had wonderful concepts and embraced the spirit of the night, even if they weren't technically the best dancers. It ends, as it always must, with a close-up of Russell Grant shaking his moneymaker. Sigh.

Time to find out who of the remaining dancers is in trouble. GOSH YES I WONDER. Surviving for another week are: Anita and Robin, Russell and Flavia, Harry and Aliona and Robbie and Ola, leaving Nancy and Anton in the bottom two. "Really?" says Nancy, sarcastically. Hee.

Tess reminds Bruno that it's Nancy's third time in the bottom two, but Bruno points out that she's also been saved by the public three times. He does understand her appeal since it's fun to see someone so beautiful looking so clueless on the dancefloor and wants to see her again, chiefly to see if she can get any worse. He likes the fact that she goes for it, even if she constantly fucks it up.

Time for a bit of a professional showcase, and this time it's an American Smooth starring Vincent and Flavia, Anton and Erin and Brendan and Natalie. The women all have arm-hankies made of cobwebs, which just seems to be a recipe for getting tangled if you ask me, and to make things even more complicated, they've got jellyfish dangling from them as well. It's a very pleasant routine, but I think I've been spoiled by the general insanity of the group numbers this weekend, because it doesn't quite measure up on the bonkersometer.

Afterwards, Claudia's with Audley and Nancy, and asks Audley if he has better dances in him if he stays. He says that he definitely thinks he's more of a ballroom man, but he did give it a try. Claudia turns to Nancy - "we keep meeting like this" - and asks if the rumba was the final nail in the coffin. "No," Nancy replies. Claudia asks if she enjoyed it. "To be in the coffin?" Nancy replies. Hee. Nancy adds that she needs to rewatch the performance: she thinks the judges were too mean to them, but she will know for sure when she watches it back. I'm going to miss her so much.

Time for the pre-exit VT. Nancy says that "nothing makes you more happy to realise that the people are laughing with you". With you, at you, it's totally the same thing. She wants to carry on. Audley is loving being part of Strictly because he gets to dance every day, and he's having so much fun that it doesn't feel like working. "Twinkletoes is not done yet," he finishes. Do you think they even bother making these for people like Jason and Harry?

We're back in the main studio with Tess, and someone's about to go home for good. The couple leaving us tonight is...Nancy and Anton. Nancy stoops to pick up a discarded earring from the floor, and in response to Tess's question about what she'll miss most, replies "Let me think about it, don't ask me now." Hee hee hee. She says that it's been a full-on experience, and then the other earring falls out. Honestly, even her exit is a work of improvised comic genius. Anton lobs the offending earrings away as Tess points out that we don't need any more wardrobe malfunctions. Nancy says that she's had a lot of fun and it's been an incredible experience, and she's learned dancing "...partly." Hee. Anton's going to miss Nancy the most, and calls her a superstar. He almost sounds sincere about it, or at least he does until Tess ushers him off quickly. So that's yer lot for this weekend. Claudia and Tess remind us that Jennifer Grey is standing in for Len next week, and 'Ghost Town' plays for Nancy and Anton's last dance, and he picks her up and twirls her around, but does not do That Lift for old time's sake.

That's it for this week - join Carrie next week for Jennifer Grey, who may or may not spend all her time crying. Lord knows she did on Dancing with the Stars. [Warning you now, I have a very limited Jennifer Grey threshold (even more limited when Derek Hough is next to her) and I'll be recapping on Tuesday night, so you'll probably hear my screams of frustration as I type. - Carrie] See you then!


Merseytart said...

But who was Alesha "erp"-ing at? I'm guessing Nancy, of course, but it would be nice to know. I'd love if it was Russell's arse wiggling.

Brilliant write up as per!

Katy said...

I loved len's comment after Chelsee's dance - something along the lines of: it was a wonderful job from the "pair of you"

Ah len... you couldn't script it!