Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dob be gone to me

Top 7: 26th November 2011

Last week: BLACKPOOL WEMBLEY! It was the biggest ever Strictly on record and raised lots of money for charity, which is of course to be applauded, but it was also kind of epically rubbish and involved almost everyone getting a bit dwarfed by their surroundings, to the point where Alex Jones managed to top the leaderboard. Alex Jones! I mean, I like her and everything, but that's just madness. Meanwhile, in the greatest result of the series so far, people finally tired of Russell Grant's aggressive humility and obnoxious need to be the centre of attention at all times, and invited him to climb back into that fucking cannon and fire himself right out of the competition. Hooray British public! Incidentally, the music editors - excelling themselves as always - choose to soundtrack this turn of event with Cee-Lo Green's 'Forget You', showing Russell peeking through Flavia's legs on "forget you" and the upside down Flavia on "forget her too". I laugh at this for two solid minutes, and make a mental note to send them a Christmas present this year to thank them for all the joy they've given me.

This week: the Duchess of Cornwall turned up and apparently knew stuff about the show, which is lovely, and now "the magnificent seven" (oh dear) are coming out with "all guns blazing". They've got two dances this week, except one of them is the swing-a-thon, so it's more like one-and-a-half, if that. Shots of rehearsal footage (hey, remember that?) are shown to illustrate how excited/scared everyone is of the impending high-octane dance-off, and as always, Holly looks like she couldn't give less of a shit if she were constipated. Hooray for Holly!

Titles! Can we cut Russell Grant out of these as well please?

We're back in Television Centre, thank GOD, and we have a Bruce and also a Tess. Daly Dresswatch: bizarre, quite frankly. There's a pink halter top that just about reaches the underside of her boobs, and then the rest of her is covered up in a navy blue floor-length skirt accessorised with a gold belt. None of these things are particularly offensive in their own right, but as an ensemble it doesn't work in the slightest. Bruce barks at the audience to be seated, so that he can insist they all get up again at the end of every performance later. Tess opines that Wembley was "great", and Bruce cracks a laboured and unfunny joke. It's nice that things are back to normal, isn't it?

Bruce and Tess remind us that each couple dances twice tonight, and Tess giggles excitedly as she predicts that it "could be carnage". This is about the most invested in the show Tess has ever sounded, and it happens at a time when she's hoping for disaster and injury. I think this is a side of Tess I could get on board with, you know. Time to meet the stars of our show, then: Chelsee and Pasha, the latter of whom is in a velvet smoking jacket and doing funny things to me already; Holly and Artem, in another red-and-black colour scheme which could be an attempt to recapture the glory days of their jive; Harry and Aliona, in a light-blue/dark-blue/red colour scheme that does neither of them any favours, to be honest; Anita and Rent-A-Pro Brendan Cole; Robbie and Ola's Boobs (seriously, they are ready to take someone's eye out tonight); Alex and James, dressed as pistachio-flavour ice-cream; and Jason and Kristina, giving me new and fertile ground on which to test my "never trust a man dressed in white" theory.

As Bruce and Tess read out the rules once more, I'm struck by the idea that Tess's styling, in both the hair and costume areas, is intended to suggest Beyoncé this week. Maybe it's just the way she's standing. Either way, I don't think it quite works, but it's nice that they had a go, at least. Tess informs us that Karen Hardy is joined by Sara Cox this week. Typical - the one week I'd actually be quite interested to hear the guest commenter's opinions (what? I love Sara Cox, sue me) is the week I wasn't actually at home to watch the show live. Life can be so cruel.

Our first couple for the week is Anita and Brendan. Bruce explains that Robin is injured and that is why Brendan's here, before running through a long and complicated explanation of Brendan's history of coupling on the show this year, which would've been funnier if he hadn't been quite so obviously peering at the autocue throughout. In her VT, Anita recalls how joyous it was to have 6000 people cheering her on last week at WEMBLEY, and how she thought "you're never going to get this opportunity again", perhaps sharing the opinion of many viewers that she was likely to have been eliminated last week. However, like Elton John, St Jill of Halfpenny, Harry Judd, Our Fabulous Singers Dave Arch, And His Wonderful Orchestra, she's still standing, better than she ever did. Whether she's dancing better than she ever did, on the other hand, we're yet to discover. This week, Robin's dead or ill or something, and that's cue for a comic-style section in which Professional Dancer and Superhero Brendan Cole is summoned to the rescue of poor desperate Anita so that she may continue to dance. He rehearses in a suit of armour, which leads me to suspect that it's not actually Brendan at all, but that Russell Grant secretly poisoned Robin's foot and staged this whole thing just so he could sneak back onto the show in disguise. Give it up, Russell, you know you'll just give yourself away the second you insist on thanking THE WONDERFUL MAKE-UP TEAM WHO HAVE JUST BEEN SO WONDERFUL AND SUPPORTIVE TO LITTLE OLD ME. Meanwhile, Anita reminds us that the Duchess of Cornwall came to visit and called her an inspiration to older women. Apparently the DoC (that's what I'm calling her now) scored everyone's rehearsals, and gave them all nines. Somewhere in the USA, Jennifer Grey is clearly not watching any of this, but no doubt internally cackling at the idea that she's somehow managed to be the more discerning guest judge of the series. Anita vows to do her best for Robin, and sends him get well soon wishes.

She and Brendan are dancing the cha-cha-cha to 'Uptown Girl'. Rhythmically it's good, but there's not a lot of bounce in Anita's footwork. It may be for this reason that the whole dance just feels a little bit lifeless - the energy is lacking, and frequently the top half of Anita's body feels like a bit of an afterthought, there's not enough definition in her free arm, and while Brendan is giving it a suitable amount of Brendanity, the whole thing just comes off a bit muddled. Obviously I appreciate that it's hard to dance with a new partner, and probably even harder for Anita than it was for Holly, because I think Anita was probably far more invested in (a) the competition and (b) her partner than Holly ever was, but all the same, this is a let-down, sadly. Brendan's microphone is live at the end, so we hear him screaming "well done you!" the second it ends, which is sweet.

A woman behind Bruce steadfastly refuses to participate in the standing ovation, which amuses me. Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers and orchestra, as well as the judges. Bruce reminds us that last week we witnessed Len dancing with Craig, and tells Len it was very funny, before pulling out a card and reading to Craig that "you need to work on your heel leads and your arm placement, darling." Somehow the use of the card made that at least twice as funny. Len commends Brendan on coming to Anita's rescue, and says that he loved the routine and that it was full of content, saying that she coped well with the solo actions, but she needs to straighten her legs more in order to get better hip action. Alesha, whose hair is looking excellent this week, though the abundance of purple eyeshadow is making her look kind of sleepy, says that she has similar issues with this routine to those she had last week: it was a bit messy in places, and she's still not sure if Anita's embodying the spirit of it all through her body rather than her face, but it was "pleasant" and had "lots of basic steps". That's Alesha-speak for "I loathed it", isn't it? GIVE IT A TWO, ALESHA, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO! Bruno liked the liveliness of it and the abundance of content, as well as the chemistry of Brendan. "Brendan goes with everything," he purrs, as though he's wondering how well Brendan might go with Bruno later. He agrees that she needs to stretch the back of her legs in order to get more precision. Craig thinks it lacked pressure on the balls of the feet and a lack of sharpness in her finishes, as well as no true dynamic, but he thought she had fantastic turns. Bruno disagrees with the critical parts of this and starts chatting to someone behind him, asking what they think. Oh Bruno, you adorable weirdo. Bruce tells Brendan that he's "irreplaceable", and dispatches them up to the Tess Circle. Which, incidentally, is located to the left, to the left.

Anita says it's been an amazing week, and thanks Brendan for helping out. She gives us a Robin Status Update, saying that he's much better, but just frustrated not to be here. Tess asks Brendan about tactics for the swingathon, and Brendan says that anything goes. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. Tess reads out a "message" (i.e. tweet) from Robin: "I'm so overwhelmingly proud of Anita, that was FABULOUS, it's so hard being this side of the TV." I notice that Erin, Anton, Natalie and Katya are all visible in the background. Intriguing.

Next are Holly and Artem. Bruce tells a terrible joke, Holly rolls her eyes and shakes her head at it. British public, I despair of you: how could you let this woman be in the bottom two? We NEED HER. In possibly the finest work the music editors have done all year, Holly's VT is soundtracked with Transvision Vamp's 'Baby I Don't Care'. [This was amazing. - Carrie] She needs to cover that for her alleged upcoming third studio album. Hey, it worked for Jennifer Ellison. Holly says that hearing about her lack of commitment every week is getting frustrating (credit to her for saying this without laughing out loud) and that being in the bottom two last week made it "an exciting night". Artem says that she needs to get over trying to be safe, and in training, tells her to "go full-out this time, please." Holly, groaning: "That was my full-out." Heeheehee. Holly wonders why she can't let go. I'm surprised they don't get eminent psychologist Dr Pamela Stephenson in to help her through this...oh no, wait, I'm totally not. Obviously, this VT has been far too focused on actual rehearsal, and we can't have that, so it's LOLZ TIME! Holly pretends to have been very hurt by "this time in high school" (committing to "internal anguish" about as much as she committed to "devastated to being in the bottom two") and we flash back to a school disco where Holly was a nerd who danced crazily, and Artem (in school uniform, looking attractive in an entirely inappropriate way) refused to dance with her for that reason. Then we go back to rehearsals, impressively quickly, and Holly expresses her "hope" that the judges see her committing to the foxtrot this week.

They're dancing to 'Mamma Knows Best' by overexposed annoyance Jessie J, and making the vampiest entrance in the show's history. It's lovely, but the problem is that it is the build-up to a foxtrot, and foxtrots are boring. Artem's done his best to make it choreographically interesting, with a partial neck-drop that leads into a kick section and stuff like that, but it's still a foxtrot. Still, Holly has actually delivered on her promise to look like she actually remembers where she is this week - who knew? Afterwards, Bruce asks Artem how he is, and Artem says he's great, with Holly adding "he's doing really well", which makes it sound like she's the one teaching him to dance and cracks me up all over again.

Alesha thought it was seductive, demure and alluring, and while she wasn't sure the song would work with this style of dance, but Holly owned it. Bruce calls her a "sassy teaser", and loved that she went from vamping to restrained intensity in the routine, giving him everything he wanted to see. Craig was concerned by the music too, finding it detrimental, but he thought the routine was fantastic. Len says "there was a time that I was a bit of a funketeer" (LOL NO) and that the bit of foxtrot she did was good, but what your eyes were seeing and what your ears were hearing didn't really match up. I love that the feedback for this dance was largely "I liked it, but please don't let Jessie J ruin our show ever again." I must admit, as much as I'm hoping The Voice UK will break the BBC's poor track record with adapted formats (Fame Academy, So You Think You Can Dance, etc), knowing that she'll be there throughout going "MORE ATTENTION? DON'T MIND IF I DO! (IT LIKE A MAN DEM MAN DEM ETC)" all the way through is worrying me a lot. [I have no idea who Jessie J is. I'm middle-aged and proud of it. - Carrie]

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks Holly if she felt she had a point to prove after last week's trip to the bottom two. That was pretty much the whole point of her VT, Tess. Pay attention. Holly says that she just wanted to let go and do as she was told for once, and she thinks she did; Artem concurs. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Holly is very happy with that. Tess brings up the whole "seven people left" thing again and asks who feels lucky tonight, gesturing behind her. No one responds, and Holly finds this hilarious.

Next, we have Alex and James - on in the first half of the show again. Actually-quite-good Brucie joke ahoy: "Alex is desperate to get through to next week. I said, 'is that because you want to be one step nearer the final?' She said, 'no, it'll be my turn to dance with Brendan.'" Alex found Wembley nerve-wracking but a great experience, and was amazed by the comments she got from Craig, and when the nines started coming out, she thought she was going to pass out. This week, she's got the charleston, which she's been keen to do ever since signing up for the competition, but training does not seem to be going brilliantly. "The dream dance is turning into a bit of a nightmare," admits Alex. She explains that her arms and legs are (unintentionally) moving in different directions, and that it's a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time - and to prove her point, she attempts to do just that and fails. Oh, Alex. You're hopeless, but darn it if you haven't completely won me over on this show. The VT ends, without a comedy skit in sight. Blimey.

They're dancing to 'Me And My Baby' from Chicago. There's a lot of business involving bowler hats at the beginning. The actual dancing is interesting, because while the charleston is obviously supposed to be all about the rubber limbs, Alex's Olive Oyl-style flailing somehow manages to still not quite be precise enough to look good. James suggests that his bag of charleston choreography tricks is rather limited by pulling out a lift remarkably similar to one that he did with Pamela Stephenson last year, where Alex goes over his shoulders and holds onto his back, upside-down, with her legs in the air. Dismounting from this proves to be a particular challenge for Alex. Then, bizarrely, she and James put on new hats from nearby hatstands, at which point Hat No. 2 possesses Alex and makes her really quite good at the charleston. I don't entirely understand it. Unfortunately, after about thirty seconds, this hat is discarded too and swapped for a top hat, at which point Alex loses all of her skills again. Is there a number I can call to vote for Hat No. 2? I think it's earned a next place in next week's competition.

Bruno thinks it had a goofy, vaudevillian feel to it, though he thought Alex lost timing on her swivel. Saucy. Craig felt Alex took a step backwards tonight, because her precision and finishes went out the window. He doesn't think she properly understood the dance and the way that everything needs to be exaggerated. Len thought it was fun and entertaining with a lot going on, though he agrees that it was lacking in detail. Alesha loved the quirkiness of it and thinks the charleston could've been made for a personality like Alex's. She adds that she's loving the partnership that Alex and James have developed.

They skip up to the Tess Circle, where Alex says that she loved it and would happily do it all over again. James pulls a positively Len-worthy face in response to Craig's criticism of it as "mediocre" and bitches about how everyone else likes them, so it's obviously just Craig who needs to get a sense of humour. *IRONY KLAXON SOUNDS* Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. James thinks it was better than the score it got, because obviously he's entirely impartial in this scenario, and reminds us that he's "a very honest person". I must be further estranged from the truth than Rebekah Brooks (POLITICAL SATIRE!) then, because if anything I thought the judges were being generous. That routine was about one-third of a good charleston, at the absolute most.

Next we have Robbie and Ola. Another half-way decent Brucie joke: Robbie's considering doing Who Do You Think You Are?, because I likes the idea of a whole show devoted to looking at his roots. Hey, I promised that I'd only recap the gags if they were funny, and I think the scriptwriters were on form tonight, so I'm just being a man of my word. I'm like James Jordan; I can't help being real. Last week, Robbie felt like Robbie Williams (by which I assume he means bloated, prone to embarrassing himself on stage, and inexplicably keen on Jonathan Wilkes). He gave his performance last week everything, and says that his next target is BLACKPOOL. Good grief, are we BLACKPOOL-ing already? When just last week you were telling WEMBLEY that it was the one? You are such a player, Robert William Savage. This week, rather than training, Robbie and Ola went to visit his parents, because his father is ill so they can't make it down to the show every week. Robbie's mum is over the moon to see him dancing, and says that she was quite the dancer in her day, but not so much any more. It is established that Robbie's relationship with his mum is one in which he is a sarky git and she slaps his arm every time he gives her cheek. Sounds familiar.

They're dancing the samba to 'You Sexy Thing'. We get a very early indication that this routine is not going to be very good when it opens with Robbie standing in one place, vaguely wafting his arms and hips about while Ola cavorts around him. That's how you know Ola's inspiration for this routine was "will this do?" [Honestly, I hadn't listened to much of the VT and it took me a good 45 seconds to work out this was supposed to be a samba. - Carrie] His grasp of the rhythm of the routine is pretty good, but the dancing itself is pretty feeble - arm placement is poor, bounce is minimal, hips are static. The highlight of the routine by far is during one of the running promenades where Robbie grabs Ola's boob instead of her hip, and without batting an eyelid or missing a beat, she removes his hand and places it firmly where it is supposed to be. For a second I wondered if it was intentional, given the song they're dancing to, but somehow I imagine it would've been played far more obviously for laughs if that had been the case. It all goes downhill from there, as Robbie pulls off his trousers to reveal a pair of football shorts. Laaaaaaaame. [Oh, Ola and her gimmicks. - Carrie]

They wander over to Bruce, and Robbie hollers something to the effect of "I GRABBED YOUR BOOB!" into Ola's ear, thinking he's being far quieter than he actually is. Bruce - paying attention for once - asks what he said, and Ola is all "NOTHING, HE SAID NOTHING" very very quickly. Heeeeee. Craig is not looking impressed, and says that the bounce was way too exaggerated but at least it was there. He says that Robbie's fingers still look like they belong in a ten-pin bowling hall (Craig is from the 1950s, apparently) and that the ending was insane and served no purpose. Len calls it a "shamba" - there was a lot of good samba content in there, but they had to ruin it with all the faffing at the end. Up in the Tess Circle, Aliona prepares to launch herself at him until she realises that, on this occasion, he's directing that criticism at someone else. Alesha likes that Robbie is relaxed and having fun, and there were some nice moments in the dance and he was entertaining. Bruno makes sordid underwear comments, and says that it was a rather heavy samba, and suggests that Robbie makes a better stripper than dancer.

They run up to the Tess Circle where Robbie readjusts his shorts. On live, primetime BBC1. Robbie attempts to crack a joke about Ola deserving better scores than the judges gave her - clearly an attempt to riff on James's whining earlier, but since no scores have been given out yet, and Robbie's comic timing is about as subtle as his performing, it falls completely flat. Scores: Craig 5, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 6 for a total of 25. "Oh dear," says Ola. Tess, in a rare display of skilled deadpan, says, "Someone behind me just said 'great hand placement' - don't know what they're talking about." Then she ruins it by honking "NO, YOU MOVED IT AWAY OLA, WELL DONE!" Oh, Tess. You were doing so well.

Chelsee and PASHA! are next. Pasha waves to us with one eyebrow. Brucie joke: refers to his ability to get an erection, and therefore is DEFINITELY not getting recapped. Chelsee was joint-top last week at Wembley (with Alex, but still...) and doesn't think she deserved to be there, but is happy to accept it if that's what the judges are offering. This week they've got the Argentine Tango, which Chelsee fears is "cheesy" and not her at all. Pasha worries that she sees him more brotherly, and not "that hot guy that she's lusting after". This would make Chelsee the only straight woman in the country who feels this way, if it were true. Chelsee assures us that it's not Pasha's fault, she's just not a passionate person. Clearly reading my mind, she attempts to console Pasha: "I'm probably the only girl that don't want you though, Pash, if that makes you feel any better." Heh. Then, hideous VT in which Pasha attempts to become the man of her dreams. It demeans us all, so I'm going to gloss right over it.

Wikipedia informs me that they are dancing to 'Una Musica Brutal'. Their set is an odd combo of Scott Maslen's jive door and one of Holly Valance's Viennese waltz lampposts. It's a bit of a disappointing performance, actually - Chelsee's balance seems a little off in several places, and some of the ganchos are a bit limp. There are some nice pivots, though, and some decent footwork. Shame that Chelsee's looking at her feet through so much of it.

Brucie calls her a "little gem" and invites Len to give her some feedback. Len thinks it was good, but wonders why someone who purports to be an actress struggles so much to generate passion for the purposes of a routine - "you don't have to elope with the guy." Chelsee does not know that this word means. "You don't have to marry him," Alesha supplies, helpfully. Len is a douche about Chelsee not knowing what elope means, but says that it was the best dance of the night, but he wanted to see more intensity. Alesha thinks it was technically strong and sharp, but she wants her to lose her inhibitions, because she thinks that will take Chelsee to the next level. Bruno calls her "a goody goody little girl", and likes her precision and shaping, but he wants her to be "badder" and demonstrates on poor Alesha once again, who has taken to actively pulling away from him when he starts doing this. After finishing his critique of Chelsee, he apologises to Alesha, and she says she's used to it. Craig says that the A-frame was missing, but it was a difficult routine and Chelsee coped brilliantly.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks Chelsee if she's got it in her to badder. Chelsee: "Of course I can be badder, I just don't know if I could do it on telly." HAHAHAHAHA! Amazing. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. She and Pasha crack up about what she just said, and it's adorable.

Our penultimate couple of the evening are Jason and Kristina. Brucie joke: not worth transcribing (we were doing so well, too). Last week: Jason's intended Halfpenny-beating jive didn't quite come off and he ended up on the wrong leg. He's gutted about letting the side down. His training VT opens with him breathing on the camera and sketching a J into it. Can I be the first to say "EW"? He explains that the charleston is all about smiling and getting the facial expressions right. Oh God, this means we're on a non-stop train to Gurning Junction, aren't we? Kristina says that Jason really needs to sell the dance, which segues into our Obnoxious Jason Comedy VT Of The Week, where he's playing a cheese home-shopping salesman trying to...sell the charleston. This might be the worst VT ever. I think it actually gave me the clap.

They're dancing to 'Yes Sir, That's My Baby''s not good. Kristina appears to be doing pretty much all the charleston parts of it, and Jason just gurns in the background and joins in occasionally. In the midst of all this, the two of them are pulling some of the most terrifying faces this side of NOT TAKE MIRROR! It just feels like Kristina choreographed two separate charlestons, and they're doing one each - there's nothing particularly wrong with either of them, but they don't work side by side. Mind you, I'm always a harsh judge on the charleston, because I always rate it in comparison to the greatest charleston ever (and if you think that is a link to Chris Hollins, you don't know me at all), and inevitably most other routines are found wanting.

Bruno found it high energy and exuberant, and he was impressed with the expressions - "nobody can accuse you of using Botox" - though there was a tiny mistake. Bruce, apparently getting a bit confused: "Okay, Jason? ...And Kristina. Now, then: Craig?" Craig was willing it to be perfect but then there was "that disastrous kick section". He thought it was a real charleston, though. Len has nothing to add that Craig and Bruno haven't already said. Alesha loved the character and energy, and compliments Jason on all of his hard work paying off.

Up in the Tess Circle, Jason says that he really enjoyed it. Tess hilariously refers to the routine as "character acting" and Jason gets all thespian about how that's the greatest place to start. Yeah, I'm sure that served him well on Echo Beach. Tess asks what they have up their sleeves for movie week, and the answer is "MOAR CHARACTERISATION." Dear God. Scores are in: nines all round for a total of 36.

Our final couple of the evening are Harry and Aliona. Last week, Wembley was scary and exhilarating, but now he thinks they'll have to pull out all the stops to succeed with only seven couples left. In training, Harry points out that the quickstep has lots of different rhythms, and how it's hard to get back together if you lose your place. In order to test his footwork and rhythm, Aliona takes him to play on one of those giant electronic piano keyboards that you jump around on. See, it's little things like this which make me warm to her, because I would LOVE THAT. They start out with 'Chopsticks', and then Aliona challenges him to play their song for this week, 'Don't Get Me Wrong' by the Pretenders. Harry decides instead to just tit around and do acrobatics, as you would in this scenario. Then we see him drumming with his feet. My hatred of feet is well-documented, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't find this quite impressive.

The good news is that Aliona has delivered on her promise from It Takes Two this week to give Harry a solid quickstep entirely in hold (apart from the last five seconds, but I'll allow her that much) with no weird gimmicks. Hooray! They cover the floor impressively, there are lots of complicated, intricate steps, and the whole thing is both well-controlled and natural-looking. Harry's gritting his teeth a bit too much, but apart from that, it's pretty flawless. This one might just be a game-changer.

There's what appears to be a unanimous standing ovation, and Craig opens for the judges by saying that Harry has a lazy left foot (Bruno does an epic facepalm at this), saying that it's strangely sickled and pigeon-toed, but that's the only thing he could find wrong with it. Len loved the sway of it, and says that he thinks that the highest mark he's given Harry all series is an eight, but he might just get a nine tonight. Alesha says that her favourite moment as a judge is being able to just sit back and enjoy the show, which is what Harry gave her tonight. Bruno loved the assurance, polish and detail, and he loved the sway. Bruce compliments Aliona for her work, and on this occasion I think it's richly deserved.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks if he's picturing the glitterball trophy, and Harry does the very diplomatic "not at all, taking it week-by-week, everyone else is so good, just happy to be here" answer. Tess asks if they've got enough energy left for the swingathon. Harry, panting: "Hopefully. It's in a few minutes, isn't it?" Heh. This is the night where it really doesn't pay to be on last, I suppose. Scores are in: Craig 9, Len: "Sorry Harry, no 9. It's a 10 from me!" (Aliona screams, as well she might), Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. It's the highest score of the series, and Harry says that Aliona's amazing. James Jordan, Official Score Adjudicator, says that it's a "deserved" score. THANKS FOR THAT, JAMES, GLAD YOU APPROVE. Tess ushers Harry and Aliona off to get changed for the swingathon. James tackles Robbie, apparently a little over-keen.

Pre-Swingathon-VT: Len explains that swing is basically a fast energetic jive with a bit of lindyhop and jitterbug mixed in. They'll be looking for couples who can give a real high-energy performance and maintain it from the start to the end. He confirms that there are no rules (like anyone apart from Craig would bother enforcing them even if there were) and they just need to go out there and wow the judges. Alex points out that if you have no rhythm, you can just push someone over. The first couple kicked off will get an extra 1 point, the second couple will get 2, and so on until the last couple standing get an extra 7 points. James and Brendan vow to double-team the others.

Bruce and Tess run through the scores again, and Len advises the couples to get into their own areas and really focus, keeping the energy high throughout. Tess explains that she's filling because Harry and Aliona aren't quite ready (professional!) and asks Bruno how hard it is to maintain the intensity with 14 people on the floor. Bruno says that it's like a catfight, and you can't allow yourself to get distracted and lose your timing. "You have to stand out for the right reasons - it's ruthless!" he assures us.

Everyone heads out onto the floor to dance to 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', and these things are always hell to recap, but I'll do my best. Early signs: Holly is already not caring in the slightest, Jason has already fallen out of sync with Kristina, Alex and James and Robbie and Ola are preferring to rely on lifts and showboating. The first couple kicked out is...Robbie and Ola. Anita does a handstand into a lift, which is quite impressive, Holly and Artem seem to be sticking to a fairly repetitive set of moves, Aliona is peering through Harry's legs but not singing "mashed potato" as far as I can tell. The second couple kicked out is Anita and Brendan. Holly's just laughing at this point. The third couple kicked off is Holly and Artem. Jason and Kristina seem to be getting muddled, Chelsee does a lift, Harry does some sort of backflip. Jason and Kristina are kicked off in fourth position. Harry and Aliona are leaping all over the place, Alex looks as though she's getting a bit tired, and Alex and James are the next couple to leave, so it's between Chelsee and Pasha and Harry and Aliona for the top spot. Both are giving it a damn good go, but Harry and Aliona choose this moment to unleash some pretty nice jive steps, so Chelsee and Pasha are booted off, and Harry and Aliona win. They celebrate with an air cartwheel, an assisted backflip and a regular cartwheel. Aliona is very excited, Harry is very exhausted, bless him.

Craig says that they had impressive stamina and athleticism that impressed the judges. Alesha says that it wasn't so much that there was anything wrong with Robbie and Ola that caused them to go out first, but that everyone was doing so well and not everyone can stand out.

Shall we look at the leaderboard, then? It looks a little bit (actually, a lot) like this:

First place: Harry and Aliona (39 + 7 = 46)
Second place: Chelsee and Pasha (35 + 6 =41)
Third place: Jason and Kristina (36+ 4 = 40)
Fourth place: Holly and Artem (34 + 3 = 37)
Fifth place: Alex and James (29 + 5 = 34)
Sixth place: Anita and Brendan (30 + 2 = 32)
Seventh place: Robbie and Ola (25 + 1 = 26)

Well, at least this year it actually made a difference to some of the rankings. Unlike last year.

The phone lines are now open! Recap: Anita being a girl who will soon be going uptown, that being the general direction of home, Jessie J ruining everyone's life during Holly's quickstep, Hat No. 2 providing sterling support to Alex's charleston, Robbie's Samba of Wandering Hands, Chelsee getting both a dance lesson and a vocabulary lesson, Jason and Kristina instructing us to NOT TAKE MIRROR!, and Harry and Aliona finally winning Len over.

Bruce trips over his words while reminding us that next Saturday will be Movie Night, but not everyone will get that far. Someone's going home tomorrow, but who will it be?

Results: 27th November 2011

We open with a pro dance, naturally, to Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep', otherwise known as her only bearable song, and even then only when it's anyone other than Adele singing it. It involves Pasha and Katya (in white) and Brendan and Natalie (in black), doing something that's a mix between an American smooth and a tango as best I can tell, and basically being filthy with each other. I swear at one point Pasha actually licks Natalie's cheek. Anyway, it's highly enjoyable.

Tess arrives in a dark sequinned dress that's a little on the mumsy side and reminds us that there was a swingathon last night in addition to everything else that happened. She introduces the judges, as well as Claudia, who reminds us that we have Len's Lens to look forward to, as well as Cee-Lo Green and a Viennese waltz from Anton and Erin.

Time for a recap, to the strains of 'Moog-Like Jagger'. Anita and Brendan gave us their cha-cha-cha and seemed fairly chuffed with how it went backstage. Anita thinks Brendan is her knight in shining armour, though the armour is probably getting less shiny every time he gets it out, to be honest. Holly got good notes for her foxtrot if we don't count the music, and Len admits that he was determined not to like it because Jessie J is hideous, but he couldn't help him. James stropped out after Craig's comments, claiming that Craig is WRONG about her taking a giant step back and Alex insists she didn't make any mistakes. No, you just didn't do it very well, dear. Len doesn't understand why Robbie had to take his trousers off. Len thinks Chelsee could've easily been a 10, though Chelsee seems happy enough to have been given 9s. Pasha asks Chelsee if she wants to go and practise passion. I WILL IF SHE DOESN'T WANT TO, PASHA. Jason sings 'The One And Only' after his comments from the judges, and paws at the camera like a mad thing. Len thinks Harry was brilliant, and Aliona is chuffed to have earned the first 39 of the series, while Harry is too pooped to speak. Then there was the swingathon, in which seven couples danced and no one could see much of what was going on, but it was fun enough and Harry and Aliona won it.

Tess has got the results in her hands, so it's time to reveal who is safe this week. In no particular order, those couples are: Harry and Aliona, Chelsee and Pasha and Jason and Kristina. The first couple landing in this week's bottom two is...Holly and Artem. "AGAIN?" hoots Holly. Hee.

Tess asks Bruno if he's disappointed to see her in the bottom two again. "BITTERLY!" spits Bruno. He says that it was one of the best performances she's ever given, and she had to put sequences into it (probably not personally) that were very difficult because it was not a traditional song. He points out that she did what they asked for, and what more can you ask for? Indeed.

Claudia is joined by the three safe couples. First she would like to discuss the swingathon with Harry, and asks him how difficult it was. Harry says it was exhausting, but a lot of fun, and he thinks everyone will agree. Probably not Robbie and Ola, Harry. He says that "last night" was an amazing night, and he hopes that he and Aliona can continue it. Claudia asks Chelsee what they've got for movie week, and they've got Shrek, which she has never seen before, so Claudia insists that Chelsee come round to her house and they'll get the DVD out. Claudia warns her that Shrek's wife has a green face and funny ears, but Chelsee says that as long as she's still a princess, she doesn't mind. Heh. Then we turn to Jason and he earnests about the JOURNEY and Claudia cuts him off, having presumably sensed the viewing audience falling asleep at the very mention of the word. This is why Claudia earns the big bucks.

Time for a musical performance: it's Cee-Lo Green, singing 'Anyway'. Is this an actual single that's out? I know he caused all manner of confusion when he went on The X Factor a month or so ago and sang a song that wasn't his new single. Wikipedia says that this is indeed his new single. Phew! Confusion averted! Anyway (lol pun not intended), this is of limited interest since he's brought his own dancers, so there's not very much about it that's particularly Strictly Come Dancing, so I vote we just move on. All in favour? Jolly good.

Once that's over, it's time for...yes, you've guessed it, Len's Lens. We always hope they'll forget, but to no avail. We begin with further talk of Rent-A-Pro Brendan Cole, who was singing along to the chorus of 'Uptown Girl'. Not that badly, under the circumstances, but the judges hoot anyway. Len, inspired by this, gives us a little chorus of "I'm just wild about Harry" and says that Harry kept his hold and beautiful posture throughout the dance and created lovely lines. He thinks it was a fast, full-on quickstep with great control, and it definitely deserved a 10...Craig. I think we all saw that coming, didn't we? Like Len's scoring is entirely above reproach and never ever based on petty personal idiosyncrasies. Talk then turns to Holly, and Alesha is dismayed to see her in the bottom two, because she thinks Holly raised her game this week and actually listened to the judges, so she doesn't deserve to be in the danger zone. Craig wants to discuss Chelsee, and he says that her ganchos were beautiful, but the A-frame that was the problem. He thinks she needs to throw caution to the wind and allow her legs to have more freedom. Bruno and Alesha protest that, bearing all of this in mind, it was still one of the best routines. Bruno's looking at Alex's dance, and he thinks she had a great time, likening the swimming section of the routine to Finding Nemo. I think Alex is Dory. Alesha suggests that Alex was undermarked, which Claudia agrees with, and see above for my thoughts on that. Bruno explains what was wrong with the routine, and Craig chips in with "swivel, darling". Well, that's just RUDE. Claudia would like to talk to us all about Ola Jordan and how she is an amazing woman, normally so mild-mannered and polite, but then the video shows us how she was absolutely LIVID when asked to leave the floor during the swingathon. Her face in slo-mo is an absolute picture.

Claudia reminds us that next week is Movie Week. Time for a comedy trail? Oh, I think so. A throaty-voiced announcer reminds us that 14 celebrities started out on the competition, but now only seven remain. Oh God, maths - it's like The X Factor. There are some parodies for our enjoyment - Harry is lecturing Chelsee on how the first rule of Dance Club is that you don't talk about Dance Club (because your friends will think you're a sissy), only to discover that she's already texted everyone in her phone book about it; Alex and Anita plot to steal the trophy, Indiana Jones-style, and are chased by a giant rolling glitterball. I think that should form part of the next group dance - just stick that in the middle of the floor, set it rolling, and tell everyone you'll deduct 10 points from their score if they get squashed by it. Now that's good television. Meanwhile, Holly and Jason send up The Matrix, with a reasonably good punchline where Jason discovers that he's not The One, he's just going to get scored 1, repeatedly. However, this segment loses points for not having Alesha be the one holding up the 1 paddle. Finally, Robbie as Luke Skywalker faces off against Darth Vader, who's inviting him to leave Ola behind and team up with him instead. I'm sure I can't be the only person who was expecting Brendan to be the one in the costume, can I? As it happens, it's Craig, who tells Robbie that he's his father, and Robbie screams. There's an odd tag at the end of this where Craig tells Robbie he was only joking, and he's actually his brother, not his father. Is that...worse? I don't get it.

Time to return to Tess to find out which of the three couples remaining is also safe. She confirms that Alex and James are safe, and through to next week, leaving us with just Robbie and Ola and Anita and Brendan awaiting their fates. The couple in the bottom two is...Anita and Brendan. The curse of the first struck hard this week, didn't it?

Tess would like Alesha's opinions on whether having a new partner might have contributed to Anita being in the bottom two. Alesha thinks no, but that adjusting to a new partner probably doesn't help matters, and calls Anita "adorable" and various other faintly patronising things. Tess asks Len if he's excited about movie night, and Len is very much so, because movie night last year was one of his highlights, and he can't wait for it to happen again because it provides an extra dimension to the dancing. And as we all know, there's nothing Len likes more than a non-traditional approach to the presentation of dance.

After that, we have Anton and Erin dancing a Viennese waltz to 'Mr Bojangles'. Oh my God, they're getting Bojangled! They're definitely getting eliminated this week! Anyway, it's a pleasant routine, very crowd-pleasing, and that's just about all there is to say about it.

Claudia's with the bottom two couples, and she's sorry that Holly's here for her second time in the bottom two. It's actually the second time in the bottom two for everyone here, Claudia. Even Brendan. Holly says that being here is not her favourite feeling in the world, but if she goes out, she's going out on a pretty good dance, and she's made some great mates here. She's also pleased to have had nice comments from Craig, because those are not common. Anita says that she's had a wonderful opportunity to dance with Robin and Brendan, and obviously she'd be sad if she got eliminated tonight, but she's just glad she signed up in the first place. Sad VT time: Anita loves training with Robin, and just wanted to push herself as far as she could. She thinks that making it two-thirds of the way through is "not bad" for "an old bird", and if it's her time to go, she will do so graciously. Fair enough. Holly thinks her journey has been epic, with all the partner-changing and injuries. She's not ready to go home yet, because she's so close to the end, and she'll be "devastated" if she has to go home.

Time for Tess to reveal who's going home. Len commented on the appalling music which had no relevance to Holly's dance, and Bruno thought Anita had plenty of fuel in the tank. The couple leaving us tonight is...Anita and Brendan. Poor Brendan, eliminated twice. Anita takes it far better than I ever thought she would, smiling graciously just as she promised. Everyone gets to their feet for her, and Anita bobs her head at them meekly. Tess asks if it's tough for her not to have him by her side, but says that they have Robin on the phone right now. Robin's eerie echoey voice is beamed in, and he tells her that she's incredible, and he's sorry he couldn't be there with her tonight. She's been one of the most enthusiastic people he's ever met, and he's going to miss her. Aww. Anita says that Robin made this a humourous, enjoyable, fun, wonderful learning experience for her, and she's very grateful. She also interrupts Tess (always a good thing) to say thank you to Brendan for stepping in and allowing her to compete this week. As promised, this was a classy exit, so well done Anita.

That's it! Claudia reappears, and Tess reminds us that it's Movie Week again next week, and Anita and Brendan take their final dance to 'Dance Away The Heartache' by Roxy Music. There are lots of hugs, and Holly is kind enough to console Brendan on his second elimination of the series. And we're done! Join Carrie next week for Movie (/Film) Week! I don't know about you, but I'm hoping for Robbie and Ola to do a Human Centipede-based routine.


ros said...

I do love Holly too, but a little part of me wishes she had gone out the week she danced with Brendan. Eliminated three times in one series would have been quite something.

Rad said...

Yeah but that band-hopping fella from X Factor got eliminated at least three times so Brendan would have a way to go to beat him.

Steve said...

I bet that's the shock twist the new producer has lined up for series 10 - Brendan gets eliminated every week, but always finds a way to come back in, and ultimately wins the whole thing. It's the ultimate underdog victory!

jaljen said...

Brendan might have to partner HARRY to win it. But I'm game! Hell, yes.