Sunday, 11 December 2011

Four gone conclusion

Top 5: 10th December 2011

Last week: It was Movie(/Film) Week in the ballroom once again, and tens were handed out to Holly, Chelsee and Jason. Meanwhile, the producers got wind that the test audience had demanded a happy ending, so Robbie Savage was eliminated. Hooray!

Tonight, it's the semi-final, and everyone is very excited about this. It's double measures all round, as the couples will all be performing two dances, and once the results are in, two of them will be going home. It's amusing as soon as the producers finally capitulated and sorted out a contingency plan to prevent two-couple finals caused by people having to withdraw, people stopped actually withdrawing. Everybody is very keen to get to BLACKPOOL (that's BLACKPOOL, not WEMBLEY, hope you're keeping up), though presumably this year everyone's getting to dance there anyway because it's the final and they'll all be coming back for their encore performance, so hopefully that'll keep the "I JUST WANT TO DANCE IN BLACKPOOL" stuff to a minimum.

Titles! This year's top five, incidentally, are all in the first six showcase spots in the titles. Rory Bremner's the interloper, just in case anyone's wondering.

Live from Television Centre for the last time this series (possibly ever - when are they knocking it down?), we have a Bruce and we have a Tess. Daly Dresswatch: for one brief moment it looks like Tess's dress might not be that bad - true, the corset-style top does unflattering things to her boobs, but other than that, it's not too bad, and the skirt's inoffensive enough. Then you look closer and you realise she's got a bizarre mesh thing covering the rest of her lower half, and there is no legitimate reason on this earth for its existence.

Tess reminds us that two couples must depart before BLACKPOOL, and Bruce gets all nostalgic at the thought of not being in Television Centre next week, pointing out the spot where Russell rode the bull, where Robbie nosebutted the camera, and where Nancy Dell'Olio went wrong - the last of those points being the entire dancefloor. Wah-wah-waaaah. Poor Nancy. So robbed. So misunderstood. I note that McFly are sitting several rows back from the front this week. What gives?

Time to meet the stars of our show: Chelsee and Pasha, with Pasha looking very dashing in pinstripes; Holly and Artem, with Holly sporting a scarlet number that makes her boobs look like they mean business; Harry and Aliona, with Harry in a naval-themed outfit that gives me Feelings and wonder how Freudian this all is (my dad's a sailor, you see); Alex and James, with Alex sporting arm-hankies that are so vast I think they might actually be arm-napkins; and Jason and Kristina, with Kristina sporting only two-thirds of a skirt. Well, I guess now that Ola's out of the competition, someone had to take up the baton.

We've a lot to get through tonight, so there's no hanging about: just a quick intro reminding us that Karen will be joined by Fern Britton for the red button commentary this week, and then we get straight to business with Harry and Aliona. Last week, Harry was very nervous and also wearing a snood, which is never a good situation for any man to be in. He reminds us that despite getting generally good scores, they were still third-from-bottom on the leaderboard last week, so they were very relieved to be declared safe by the Tesselator. Aliona screamed loudly, Harry screamed inwardly because he's a very well-brought-up young man who doesn't believe in emotions.

In rehearsals, Aliona whacks Harry in the face. Oops. Harry tells us that he has the Charleston and the Viennese waltz this week, which are quite contrasting as dances go. Harry would very much like to get to BLACKPOOL, and would also like to win, but being a proper gent he wants everyone to do well. Their comedy VT for the week involves the fact that they are training in the same building as Chelsee and Pasha, so Harry dons camouflage gear, war paint and...a potted plant and goes to spy on them. He feeds back to Aliona using a walkie talkie (and does the static noises himself, bless him). Aliona's acting throughout this is, as always, that strange combination of hammy and wooden that has become her trademark, and Harry runs back to tell her that they've got practice to do. Well, that was edifying.

Their Charleston is to 'I'm Just Wild About Harry' (OIC WUT U DID THAR) and I don't know whether it's the band's performance or my lack of overall familiar with the song, it always this unpleasant to listen to? It doesn't take a dance savant to spot that the Charleston, given its gurncentricity, was always going to be Harry's weak spot, and while he dances the whole thing with impressive rubber-limbed precision, there's no denying that it's all a bit lifeless. I watched this at a Strictly semi-final party (yes, that is how cool I am) and the other people in attendance complained that this dance was "boring". I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but then my taste in Charlestons definitely errs towards the "accomplished, well-danced" end of the spectrum than the "just pull lots of silly faces and hope for the best" end. There are lots of ambitious lifts, some more successful than others, and the overall effect is pretty cute, but probably not a routine that'll be remembered in the long run.

Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers and the judges. Bruce cracks a misogynistic joke about how women read magazines rather than books (and that's not even the punchline), and Len cites the two things that he enjoyed about that routine as "Aliona's midriff and your talent." Poor Aliona - now reduced to nothing but a midriff in Len's eyes. He reminds us that he said "I'm just wild about Harry" himself a few weeks ago and nothing has changed (and presumably, his less-than-warm feelings towards Aliona haven't changed either) and Len thinks that if Harry's Viennese waltz is that good, then he'll be in BLACKPOOL next week. Bruce sends Harry up to the Tess Circle. Eh? Apparently no one else is getting a comment on this one. Are we running over time already? Blimey.

Tess asks Harry if he can believe he's one dance away from the final, and Harry does the "just happy to be here, ma'am" response. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Harry turns to hug Aliona and gives us all the benefit of how good his bum looks in those trousers. Any bets on how long it'll be before some magazine offers us the "how to get a bum like Harry's" diet and exercise plan? Tess says that with that score, Harry's set the standard for the evening, and asks the others if they're even more nervous than before now. As always whenever Tess spontaneously solicits opinions, a tumbleweed blows through the Tess Circle. Live television, ladies and gentlemen!

Up next are Alex and James. She reminds us of last week's DRESS MALFUNCTION that knocked her for six, though the judges were kind. Alex: "Love them, because it was a mess, and they could've really slated us." I genuinely enjoy Alex's unguarded honesty, especially considering James has spent the entire series trying to convince us that everything he's involved in is perfect. She was expecting the worst, so was very surprised to still be here. This week, they've got the waltz and the salsa. Alex says she's dancing to a song called '1-2-3-4' this week, so counting should be easy. I'm busy trying to work out if you can do a waltz to Feist or not until I realise that she actually means she's got '1-2-3' by Gloria Estefan for her salsa. Of course, the counting eludes her in the actual dancing. Alex explains that she and Robbie used to have an "us and them" mentality regarding the contestants they referred to as "the gladiators" (Jason, Harry, Holly and Chelsee) - but now it's just her. James tries to convince Alex that she can be a gladiator too, so they attack each other with those giant cotton bud things. Alex whoops James's arse. Rewind. Replay. Rewind. Slo-mo. Rewind. Enjoy. Honestly, I could watch that all day.

Alex's waltz is to '(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman' and there's a lovely smoothness to it that demonstrates that Alex's "journey" isn't entirely a construct of the show, and she really has improved a lot. She's lacking some tension in the upper half of her body, though, which leaves it feeling a bit limp in places. Still a very impressive effort though, and something that looks entirely at home in the semi-final, so well done Alex.

Alesha tells Alex that it's a shame that she doubted herself in the past, because dancing like that proves she deserves to be here. She wants Alex to be very proud of how far she's come. Bruno thinks she's the belle of the ball, with grace and lovely spins. He loved the face-to-face out of hold section, which is very difficult to do, and agrees with Alesha on Alex's considerable improvement. Craig thinks she lost her neck on occasion, raised one shoulder too much, missed some closings, but he agrees with the others and she has come a very long way in the competition. Len thinks she looked beautiful and danced beautiful(ly), and deserves to be here in the semi-final. Note that he doesn't say she deserves to get any further.

Tess asks Alex if (she feels like a) natural DANCER now, and Alex scoffs at this, saying it's all down to James's tiresome tireless hard work with her, and getting this far is a pleasant surprise for both of them. Tess asks if learning two dances has been harder, and Alex says that she's been trying to enjoy it in case it's her last week, and "hopefully the salsa's all right." At this, of course, she pulls a massive "ERP" face, bless her. Scores: Craig 7, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Hmm.

Chelsee and Pasha are our next couple. Chelsee is not quite sure how she managed to get this far, but is very excited all the same - she never expected to get a 10 from Len, and she thought she would go out in the first week. This week, she's got the paso doble and the American smooth. For some reason, Chelsee has the same VT as Harry, so she dons some overalls and a comedy fake nose and moustache to go and spy on him and Aliona, under the guise of maintenance. She "comically" mistakes him for Jason before dashing back to Pasha to practice more. This whole thing does make me feel like we're being conditioned to see Harry and Chelsee as the top two, though since that seems fairly likely to happen anyway, I'm not entirely sure why they're bothering.

They're dancing the American smooth to 'Time After Time', and consequently I spend the whole routine expecting them to do the full Romy and Michele and start rolling across the floor. They don't, sadly, but the routine is still lovely - lyrical, romantic, with lovely lines and genuinely believable chemistry between them. Pasha's even treated us to a spot of literal choreography for the "If you fall I will catch you" line, bless him. The attempt at a running split doesn't quite come off, but it ends with a lovely supported spin and a very warm reception from the audience.

Bruno tells Chelsee that she has a natural shine (that'll be the tan) and glows when she dances. He thinks she has a natural instinct for the phrasing of the music that many dancers take years to master. He's disappointed that she got stuck in the split, but otherwise it was excellent. Craig thinks her arms are exquisite and for a "vertically-challenged" person, she creates beautifully long lines. Chelsee isn't sure what that means, so Craig clarifies: "SHORT, darling." Heh. [Oh, Chelsee. I loved that Pasha was also very puzzled by the expression. At least he has an excuse. - Carrie] He wasn't so keen on the shoulder lift, which he thought was rather ugly, and some movements were rushed, and the bent leg on the drag split was "horrific", which Bruno objects to. Len says it was "like the Chelsee Flower Show", because she was in full bloom. He's been holding onto that one all series, hasn't he? Just waiting for the right time to use it, and now he's realised he's probably not going to get that perfect moment so he's just chucking it out there anyway. Oh Len.

Up to the Tess Circle they scamper, and Chelsee cops to having been nervous and shaking before the dance, and she's just loving the whole experience. Pasha calls Chelsee wonderful and a hard-worker. A clearly embarrassed Chelsee mumbles "thank you, Pash". D'awww. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha ("that was a first class performance, Chelsee") 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.

Tess throws back to Bruce, who is not ready. Live TV! Holly and Artem are next. Last week her paso was amazing, and boosted her out of the bottom two for the first time in two weeks. Holly: "I didn't think I'd ever get a 10. For anything in life." I find myself wondering what other abilities she's graded on using such a scale on a daily basis. Perhaps that's a matter best left to Holly and her bajillionaire boyfriend. This week she's got the Charleston and the Argentine tango, and is "just trying not to drop dead", and Artem points out enigmatically that they're not on the schedule that they're "supposed" to be on without ever explaining why, but he looks kind of annoyed about it. Meanwhile, Holly looks like she's been getting a bit upset at having to cope with learning two dances. Holly decides that the way ahead is sabotage, so she "greases" Harry's shoes, "switches" Alex's music for 'The Birdie Song', "snips" Chelsee's top straps (that's a little too on-the-nose for my liking) and "puts" itching powder in Jason's trousers. Of course, everyone just sees him twitching and spasming and doesn't notice anything different. Still, at least it's different to see a contestant actively embracing the villain edit. I love Holly.

Their Argentine tango is, per Wikipedia, to 'Por una Cabeza', and involves Holly predominantly sitting on a stool for the first 20 seconds or so. That's one way to get around learning two lots of steps, I suppose. When she eventually gets up, things improve, though her leg movements are a bit too sluggish for this dance - there's not enough of the attack behind them, which is a shame, because I thought from her skill in the paso that that would be the one thing she'd excel at here. It's not a particularly terrible performance, just a bit lacklustre.

Craig liked that it was quiet, controlled and seductive. He enjoyed Holly reacting to Artem's lead and thought it was gorgeous. Len says he doesn't normally love props (YOU DON'T SAY), but he thought that worked well, and he thinks that the standard of dancing overall tonight has been fantastic. Alesha loved the lines, leg extensions, lunges and all the other things beginning with L (seriously, who needs Arlene as Alesha alliterates appropriately and amazingly?) and says that Holly is still a real contender. Artem does the step-back-and-clap thing that he hasn't done much this year. Bruno loved the "beautiful, bad and dangerous" concept and is basically lascivious about everything.

They trot up to the Tess Circle and...hang on, is Alex wearing an overcoat? Like, the sort that flashers wear? She is. That looks...odd. I mean, I think most people are assuming it's all part of her costume for her salsa, but it's still not a nice thing to have to stand wearing in the Tess Circle for a long period of time. Especially since parts of her dress keep froofing out from underneath and making it look like she needs to make an urgent appointment with her bikini waxer. Anyway, where were we? Holly loves the Argentine Tango and is thrilled that she's still here and able to do it. She chats about how they're doing double the work in half the time and everyone's having a bit of a week of it. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.

Bruce misses his cue again. Oh dear. Next we have Jason and Kristina. Jason recalls how movie week "looked like it was going to be the perfect night", and then he landed in the bottom two. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Schadenfreude! Making the world a better place to be! Jason says that being in the bottom two wasn't nice. He has never come across more dad-like than he is right now: Jason's not angry with us, just very disappointed, and look how upset your mother is. Mum -- sorry, Kristina -- explains that she wasn't ready for her journey with Jason to be over, and that's why she was crying. Jason is pleased to have a second chance, and is determined to come back in the semis with a performance to be proud of. They've got the samba and the Argentine tango this week. Their VT is mainly training-focused, but derailed at the end when a "private detective" turns up with a dossier containing the other contestants' top-secret "progress reports". All of which, it seems, have no actual writing on them. PROP FAIL.

Their samba is to 'Blame It On The Boogie' and begins on the balcony at the top of the staircase - and as Jason skips his way over to the staircase, he slips and nearly tumbles. Again, the less forgiving side of my personality is a bit disappointed he didn't actually fall the whole way down the stairs, because that would have been funny, but I do generally draw the line at wishing actual physical harm on people, so let's all just pretend I never thought that. Deal? He's got good bounce action, but his timing seems continually off on the running promenades. Also - and I'm aware this is a costuming problem rather than Jason's fault - the fact that Kristina's skirt doesn't go the whole way around her waist just makes the "flapping the skirt" move look silly.

"Oh, what a couple you are," says Bruce, apparently talking to Kristina's tits. It was full of all the steps Len likes to see (I hope that includes "the one where Jason almost falls over") and he thought that Jason's bum was "going to town". Ewww. He points out the loss of timing and blames it on the boogie euphoria of the moment, but thinks it was a good job. Alesha thinks Jason would've been worried drawing the samba for the semi-final, but that he needn't have been, because he had fun and "captured the spirit" (drink!), though she agrees there were timing issues. Bruno liked to see Jason "bright and gay" (lolz), but that it's hard to get back on the timing in a dance like this when you lose it. He declares it "messy, but fun". Craig liked the energy, but thought there were some "awkward daddy dancing" moments. No one mentions him almost going arse-over-tit on the balcony, but I suppose that probably would've been quite difficult to see from where they were sitting. I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up on Len's Lens, mind.

Up in the Tess Circle, Jason takes a swig of water and hands the bottle back to Brendan. Tess asks how the dance was for him, and Jason bores that it's all about having fun at this point in the competition, and at this point he just wants to enjoy the time he has in the competition. Tess says that the audience didn't notice the timing issues. Speak for yourself, lady. Tess asks what we can expect from his Argentine tango. "He might kill me," Kristina replies. To be honest, I've got that sensation from a lot of Jason's dances. He looked like he was considering doing away with her at the end of the rumba, for starters. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 34. There is a muted response in the Tess Circle, and then Jason waves his bum at the camera. My coping strategy for this is to mentally replace it with Harry's bum. Much easier that way.

Halfway leaderboard: Harry at the top, Chelsee in second, Holly in third, and Alex and Jason tying for last place.

To kill some time, we now have a VT featuring "The Famous Five". I am using my expertise here as someone who read a lot of Enid Blytons as a child to deduce that Harry is Julian, Jason is Dick (ha!), Holly is George (though to be honest, the way they've made her up, she could just as easily be Aunt Fanny or indeed Uncle Quentin), Chelsee is Anne and Alex is Timmy the dog (hee, and also aww). Said VT "treats" us to the acting skills of Len Goodman Esq., as he goes to retrieve the Strictly glitterball only to discover that - horrors! - it's not where he usually keeps it, next to all those signed pictures of SPORTSMEN. He summons "five intrepid explorers" to come to his aid, and Harry (barely even needing to make his accent more plummy, which is quite funny in itself) asks what the devil is going on. The less said about Chelsee's attempt at RP, the better. Anyway, Len offers them a wonderful trip to BLACKPOOL if they can safely retrieve the trophy, and Holly declares it the perfect job for The Famous Five - at which point Brendan appears in his Rent-A-Pro suit of armour and suggests they make it The Super Six. He is sent packing. Alex suggests they start with Russell Grant, and the others pretend not to have understood, though whether this is a "talking dog" joke or yet another "LOL WELSH ACCENT" joke is never entirely clear.

Anyway (bloody hell, a VT that needs breaking up into paragraphs) they run off in search of him, and I spot that Harry and Jason have their shirts untucked, which I'm sure Julian and Dick would never do. Tsk. Also, Harry's outfit appears to involve TopMan chinos. Anyway, they find Russell Grant masturbating over a picture of Harry in the Strictly annual (or at least that would appear to be the implication), and he denies all knowledge of the crime, claiming that he has enough glittery balls in his life, or something. He suggests they try Craig, so they do. Craig is coveting something which he claims to be his "little secret" - and turns out to be his 10 paddle. Oh, all right: heh. He says that he hasn't seen the trophy since last year, at which point Alex suggests that maybe Kara has it. Once again, nobody can make out what Alex is saying, so Holly just gives her a bone. Alex doesn't seem terribly perturbed, she's probably used to being treated like this on The One Show all the time. They find "Kara" with the trophy, except it's not so much Kara as it is Brendan with an unconvincing wig and a small cut-out of Kara's face on a stick, at which point Artem bursts in, snatches it away, and tells Brendan he's not falling for that one again. Okay, I may have made that last bit up. And thus the trophy was rescued, and far too many of the audiences developed Feelings about Harry as a posh jailbait adventurer. Not that I was one of those people, obviously. [I genuinely seem to be the only Strictly watcher in the world who finds Harry entirely sexless. - Carrie]

Right, with that all over, time for dance number two from everyone. At this point in the competition, it's time for the judges to get together and discuss everyone's progress, so Bruce introduces the first such feature for "Harry and Ariona". Oh dear. Len thinks Harry is a semi-finalist if ever he saw one, and that Harry has the complete package. Alesha thought Harry would be good, but never realised how good. Bruno admires Harry's physique FROM A DANCE PERSPECTIVE, OKAY, as does Craig. Craig also likes Harry's rhythm, because he's a drummer. Len thinks Harry needs to maintain the level of his quickstep to make it to the final. Len bitches about the lack of drama in his Argentine tango again, and Alesha doesn't think he's a runaway winner. From there, we segue into Harry's Viennese waltz training, and Harry says that there's no room to fall into the bottom two this week, because the bottom two go home.

They're dancing to 'This Year's Love' and open with a Len-baiting fleckerl before swooping around the dancefloor beautifully. I genuinely can't find anything to fault in this whatsoever - it's right up there with the greats. I wonder if it's a coincidence that Aliona has curbed her desire for eccentric choreography as they've got closer to the trophy, or whether this was all a part of her plan to create a "journey" for someone who could've been perceived as a ringer. Either way, I feel like I should take my hat off to her, were I wearing one.

Alesha wonders why Harry's been hiding behind the drums for so many years [um, because he's the drummer, Leesh? - Carrie], because he's so talented, and that dance was exquisite. Bruno refers to the prince and the showgirl, and says that the romance unfolded perfectly with each step. He thinks Harry is "dancing royalty". Craig thought it was a slightly odd Viennese waltz because it was despondent and melancholy, which he thought was a very interesting take that he really enjoyed, but he'd like to see Harry move his head to the left a fraction more. Len loved the fleckerl, the natural turns, the reverse turns, the swing of the body and so on, and insists à la Henry VIII that Harry be taken to the Tower...Ballroom, in Blackpool.

Tess points out that this was his last shot at the title, and Harry says that this might well have been his last dance - and whatever happens, it will have been his last dance in TVC. He just wants to thank Aliona in case he gets eliminated, because she's worked so hard with him. Tess picks up on the "dancing royalty" comment and Dougie's recent I'm A Celebrity win (which Harry phrases as "Queen - sorry, King of the Jungle", and BOO Harry, that joke is beneath you) and wonders if there's any chance of a McFly double this year. Harry says that there are so many other great people here, that you just don't know. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39, securing Harry's spot at the top of the leaderboard this week.

Time to hear what the judges think about Alex and James. Mainly Alex, thankfully. Len thinks "good on 'er" for making it this far, and Craig thinks she lacked "genuine" confidence at the beginning of the competition. Bruno remembers Alex shining at Wembley with her tango (with Alesha adding "she didn't make -- well, it didn't seem like she made any mistakes", which: hee), but then the next week everything fell apart again on the Charleston. Bruno thinks that she's improved in the ballroom, but she's still to reluctant to use what she has in the Latin. Alesha thinks Alex's warmth and joyful personality is another reason she's been kept in. Len thinks Alex needs to prove to us all she belongs in the final. Back in training for her salsa, Alex is worried about the extra pressure brought about by the double elimination, but hopes that she'll have the confidence to make it to BLACKPOOL.

Alex sweeps the stage in her overcoat briefly before being overcome by the music and stripping off her coat to reveal a fancy sequinned dress underneath. I'm...not really sure what the point of that was. It didn't seem to have much of a story behind it. Still, it came from the mind of James Jordan and is therefore clearly BEYOND REPROACH so perhaps I shouldn't dwell on it. It's actually not that bad an attempt, especially for Alex - the timing's a bit questionable, but she's really selling it and having a good time. There's a worrying tabletop lift where we get an unwanted shot of her gusset, and after that it's a lot of armography. The footwork is not great, but again, such a step forward from where she started.

Bruno tells Alex she can scrub his floor any time. Fnar. He liked the arm passes and the holds, but when Alex is on her own, there are still moments of uncertainty that she needs to get past. "If you make it to BLACKPOOL, you really need to get there," he finishes, making me wonder if part of the score that week will depend on the contestants' skills at sorting their own transport. Craig thinks this routine was a big challenge for Alex, and perhaps a bit beyond her skill set, but he loves that she throws herself undeniably into it, and that's very much to be admired. Len thinks it was full of personality and gusto, and he thought her hips were very good. He thinks she comes out full bore (I thought that was Jason?) and giving it everything, however, in doing so she lost a bit of finesse. Alesha agrees with Len in that it was full-on and fun, but it did get messy. She wants Alex to be proud of how well she's done.

Up in the Tess Circle, Alex says she thought this might have been her last chance, so she just decided to go for it. James says that yesterday she was feeling very self-conscious about it and was actually in tears, but he's proud of her for giving it 100% out there. Tess asks how Alex would feel if it was her last dance. Alex gets as far as "it would be devastating, but--" before James decides that this is HIS QUESTION NOW and butts in "but you were brilliant, and if it's time to go it's time to go." Charming. Scores: Craig 7 (James: "He doesn't like you", like FUCK OFF), Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. James says that Craig doesn't like him, and he's taking it out on Alex, and FUCK OFF JAMES JORDAN. GOD. I don't care if this is all pantomime and if James is playing "the bitter one" or whatever, he is such an attention-hog and it's really getting on my tits.

Time to check in with Chelsee and Pasha again. Craig thinks that Chelsee's been a real surprise with her overall level of skill. Alesha didn't expect to see the level of technique that Chelsee has shown week after week, and Len says that he realised how good she was with her quickstep. Len tries to do a "GWORN CHELSEE" before realising that sounds like declaring allegiance to a football team beyond his beloved West Ham. Heh. Len thinks she's the revelation of the pack and a real firecracker, and also points out that Pasha has the confidence to let Chelsee repeatedly start a routine on her own - but wonders if Chelsee shares his confidence. Chelsee is very excited to be this close to the final, and just hopes she can do well this week and not disappoint the judges.

Their paso doble is to 'Malagueña' (again, I'm getting this from Wikipedia, don't shoot the messenger if it's wrong) and Chelsee experiences a prop malfunction early on when her flick of the fan that she's holding doesn't quite result it in it...well, fanning out. She corrects it manually, though, and very smoothly too, I might add. Somewhere during her first few moments in hold with Pasha, however, the fan gets squashed again and so when she starts flapping it during the routine it looks a bit odd. There's some very nice footwork and lovely arm-shaping throughout the performance, though to my mind there are a few points where she's lacking the necessary attack and everything feels placed rather than fierce. There's a little bit at the end too where she looks uncertain, like she's found herself in the wrong place, and it's a bit faltery. It's always hard to tell whether that genuinely means anything, but I did get that sense quite a bit during this routine, and I can only report it as I see it. By all means draw your own conclusion.

Chelsee jokes with Bruce about her "Pasha doble" and says that she absolutely loved that routine. Craig thinks it was "paso personified" and "AH-MAY-ZING". He thinks she was "gobsmackingly good". Len loved the mood, attitude and focus, and calls it fantastic. Alesha thinks Chelsee is performing like a true dancer, and thinks she deserves to be in the final. Bruno is fanning himself with his script and gets a bit carried away with talking about the "pressure" and the "steam". He loved the flamenco part of the routine and thinks her artistry is superb.

Pasha Doble head up to the Tess Circle, and Tess says that surely Chelsee is finding it easier to generate passion with Pasha now? "This dance I did, yeah," giggles Chelsee. Tess asks Chelsee if she's done enough to make the final three. Chelsee says she hopes so. Scores: 10s all round for a total of 40. I'm kind of surprised that this was the routine that prompted Craig to get his 10 out, for the reasons outlined above, but fair enough. It's also the first perfect score for a paso doble in Strictly history, so well done Chelsee. Chelsee is quivering, and thanks Pasha, who gives her a hug. Wow, a perfect score AND a hug from Pasha? BEST DAY EVER. While Tess is yammering on, Chelsee keeps fanning herself with the (closed) fan, so Pasha takes it from her, opens it out and starts fanning her face. Is he not just the most precious thing?

People are giggling behind Tess, because Bruce has got his glitterball 3D glasses on. I'm expecting a gag from this, but it appears to be "Bruce cannot read the autocue", which happens often enough without visual aids, so: eh. Len thinks Holly is a worthy semifinalist. Bruno thinks she rarely does mistakes and has excellent placement, but she "seems to switch off". I'm not sure she ever switches on, does she? Alesha thinks she spotted fire in her eyes during the foxtrot, and all the judges fondly remember the Black Swan-themed American Smooth. Lip service is paid to Holly's fine work in the week she danced with Brendan, and Len thinks that Holly needs to maintain her energy to make the final. Holly reminds us that her final dance is the Charleston, which is "tongue-in-cheek fun", i.e. not at all suited to someone like Holly, whose sense of humour is drier than Sauvignon Blanc. Nonetheless, she vows to come out with "fire and energy" in the hope of making it through.

Hmm. Their Charleston is to 'We Speak No Americano', and features Holly and Artem as DJs. The bit behind the decks is fair enough, and the opening 20 seconds or so of actual dancing are fine - indeed, Holly copes better with the inherent goofiness of the genre better than I thought she would. Then they break into a kick section in hold and her footwork starts to suffer a little bit, and shortly after that she loses place entirely and has to look at Artem to see what she's supposed to be doing. She never properly recovers from that, and it's a shame, because there are hints throughout that she totally has the skill to do this dance, and the choreography, while Aliona-levels of bonkers, is fun and unusual. I wonder if it would've made any difference if the running order had been switched and she could've done this one first - having to do the far more energetic dance second can't have helped her. Just to compound the mishaps, the end pose involves them running back behind the decks and putting their headphones on, and while Holly manages it fine, Artem's get all tangled. Holly looks a bit nauseous when it's all over, though whether that's exertion or realising how badly it went is up to the interpreter.

Len liked the modern interpretation eventually, and thought she had the lovely Charleston swivel, but thought the whole thing could've been slicker. Alesha liked the whole DJ Valance aspect of it, and points out that they're all exhausted by this point, and she wants to commend Holly for stepping out of her comfort zone. I mean, she didn't have much choice, that's just the way the draw fell, but whatever. Similarly, Bruno praises her for the interpretation (again, not really her work), but spotted some moments of hesitation here and there. Craig thanks Artem for taking such risks with his choreography, and loved the idea, though he only thought it was "sort of" danced well.

They head to the Tess Circle, where Artem pings his braces. Tess says that Holly conquered the Charleston, and Holly says that she didn't exactly conquer it, but at least she "didn't die at the end." Heh. Holly talks about how fun it was to do something modern, because she didn't think she could ever do the Charleston. During this, Artem has checked out so very much that he removes his glasses, rubs them on his shirt, blows on them, and then pops his finger through the frames to show that THERE WERE NO LENSES IN THEM AT ALL! Shocker, I know. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha ("come on!") 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Tess asks Holly if she wants to make the final. Holly, unconvincingly: "I'd love to have a go!" I think Holly would be more than happy to go home this week. She's made the semis, she can retire with her head held high.

Finally, we have Jason and Kristina. Len thinks Jason is a performer, and that's helped him make it this far. Alesha thinks he started really strong(ly). Len thinks Jason puts so much pressure on himself and makes himself go wrong. Bruno mentions the jive that wasn't, and how the pressure ruined it (or the fuck-up ruined it, depending on your perspective). There is talk about how the rumba is SO HARD FOR MEN, and more about how he's such a great performer. Len thinks Jason can't afford to keep making mistake, and must learn to relax. In training for the Argentine Tango, Jason talks about how much pressure there is on him. Oops. However, he's decided that he's just going to go out and have a good time this week.

They're dancing to 'Assassin's Tango', appropriately enough, and OH MY GOD SERIAL KILLER FACE SERIAL KILLER FACE SERIAL KILLER FACE. Seriously, why has no one on this show ever explained to Jason how it looks when he does that? Kristina is basically in her underwear with a trace amount of lace over the top, and the choreography for this whole routine is magnificent, but Jason's dancing, not so much. He's not really doing much more than act as a frame for Kristina to dance on, and the few occasions where he gets to dance by himself (e.g. slapping the backs of his heels) look sloppy. He even seems to stumble at one point, and when he lifts Kristina up high he's clearly struggling to keep his balance. It all makes me very uneasy, like I'm watching one of those public service "what would you do?" films that's going to chastise me at the end for watching impassively when I should have been dialling 999.

There's a standing ovation that Bruno and Alesha participate in, although he sits down long before she does. Alesha doesn't even wait for Bruce to give her the cue to start speaking (cue six more "SACK THAT DISRESPECTFUL COW" threads on Digital Spy, no doubt) and tells him that it was clean, sharp and built and built, and it was so aggressive. She then apologises to Bruce for getting overexcited, and starts cackling. Bruno says it was like watching "death by Kristina" ("death of Kristina", surely? I mean he tried to snap her neck halfway through). Craig thinks "that woman" should be on an assault charge. Hang on, was I watching this wrong? Because this is all getting far too victim-blamey for my taste. Len thinks that if you're going to do your best dance of the series, what better time than the semi-final. Er, the final?

They run up to the Tess Circle without waiting for the word from Bruce. Poor Bruce. First disrespected by Alesha, then by Jason and Kristina. Jason blahs that he feels very emotional about the whole experience, and that they've all worked very hard, and whoever makes it through to the final deserves it. Scores: 10s all round again for a total of 40. Seriously, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. I've seen some inexplicable perfect scores in my time, but this takes the cake, really and truly. James leans into the camera and gurns, and Jason collapses.

Leaderboard: Harry at the top, Chelsee close behind him, Jason close behind her, Holly less close behind them, and Alex even less close behind them.

The phone lines are open! Quick recap: Harry doing a spot of naval-gazing in his Charleston, and being robbed of a perfect score for his Viennese waltz, considering the guff they were handing them out for later; Alex and the attack of the arm napkins, followed by the salsa that was full of spice but had a funny texture; Chelsee's genuinely lovely Viennese waltz that was dogged by a few disappointing errors, and her Pasha Doble that apparently was not; Holly's study in scarlet of an Argentine tango, and her hip hop Charleston; and Jason's dad samba and ARGH SERIAL KILLER FACE MAKE IT STOP.

VT, about how much everyone wants to go to BLACKPOOL. As I said earlier, you will all be going regardless because everyone gets invited back for the final, so let's not waste time on this.

Two couples will be going in tomorrow night's results show, and I'd be very surprised if they weren't Holly and Artem and Alex and James, but you never know...

Results show

Just to keep us on our toes, there's a cold open this week, as the five remaining couples are all stood under the spotlight, as Tess tells us that only three of them will make it through to next week's final. I hope this was actually filmed at the same time they gave them the results, otherwise that's three times those poor blighters would've had to stand there in the glare before finding out who was going home.

Titles! The phone rings. I say "whoever that is can fuck right off". It turns out to be my dad. Oops. I disappear to my bedroom to take the call, mentally berate myself for being an ungrateful son, and thank the Lord for V+.

Lawks, we open with a mental pro paso to 'Paint It Black', which opens with Kristina in a pink leotard writhing around on the floor giving it the full Flavia as a giant swathe of fabric billows out behind her. She unhooks it from her midriff and it swoops back to reveal James, Robin and Artem, who do a spot of paso shaping before Kristina returns with Aliona and Ola, all carrying pink mini-capes of their own (this season's must-have, darling). This proves to be a bit of a misfire, as the capes turn into trains along the floor that double as convenient trip-hazards for the ladies. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely idea, just needed a smidge more thought given to the execution.

Tess appears in a scarlet sequinned number [looking like a sparkly postbox - Carrie] and reminds us that two couples are going home tonight. She reintroduces the judges. Alesha's hair is currently over both shoulders, instead of the usual one. It looks much nicer this way, and I would recommend she consider having it like that more often. Tess throws up to Claudia, who promises performances from Aloe Blacc and the Military Wives, but first, here's a recap.

Len tells us that it was the "best ever semi-final", but then he also thought that Lisa Snowdon was the greatest female dancer never to win Strictly, so forgive me for not necessarily taking him at his word. Harry's Charleston got a good reception, but they didn't have much time to celebrate because they had to go and get changed for the next dance - the Viennese waltz, which went down similarly well. Harry thinks they've done their best, and then giggles that he's repeating himself. I guess two dances a night will do that to a person. Imagine what effect it'll have on Jason. Alex was very nervous about her waltz, but got good reviews for it. Post-salsa, she's a bit teary-eyed and "overwhelmed by the whole thing". Len repeats the same "Chelsee Flower Show" joke that wasn't especially funny the first time, and there is very little actual backstage opinion from Chelsee. No idea why. Maybe getting the 40 rendered her incapable of speech, or invisible, or something. Holly is momentarily abandoned by Artem after her Argentine tango, and then he returns. Artem thinks things went well. Holly: "Well, we've got a Charleston, so don't get too excited." Heh. Indeed, the Charleston does not go so well, and Holly is very glad that it's over. Holly isn't sure if it'll be enough to keep her in. Jason loved his samba, which is good because I didn't, and then his Argentine tango was wretched and awful and somehow got 40, which Jason declares "pretty emotional stuff". Len looks forward to BLACKPOOL, where they do the dancing.

Time for our first performance of the evening: Aloe Blacc with 'I Need A Dollar'. I think this is one of those things where everybody knows the song but an awful lot of those people would struggle to tell you who it's by. [Never heard the song either. This year officially marks the year I became middle-aged. - Carrie] Anyway, he has Brendan and Natalie doing a cha-cha-cha in front of him, and Brendan is wearing a nasty hat, and Natalie is just generally being filth the whole time, so that's quite fun. Hmm. Having described it as a cha cha cha, and still being fairly certain that's what it is, they start doing samba rolls mid way through it, so I don't know. IT'S LATIN OKAY JUST LEAVE ME ALONE.

Claudia informs us that it's results time, so we go to Tess to discover who will be dancing in the BLACKPOOL ballroom next week. In no particular order, the first couple with a definite place in the final is... Chelsee and Pasha! Chelsee screams at record decibel level and thanks us all very much. Also going through to the final are...Harry and Aliona! He actually yells for once, and almost deafens Aliona in the process. Who's secured the last place in the final? We'll have to wait a little bit longer to find out, because the show's only ten minutes in.

Tess turns to Alesha for some advice for the finalists, and Alesha is very happy for Chelsee, without whom she thinks the final would be incomplete. She tells her to dig deep, get some sleep, eat some porridge, and work hard. She also slips in a "we did five in my day!" for good measure. Bruno says that Harry has everything it takes to become king of the ballroom, he just needs to maintain the momentum and nail it. Tess cracks the "we're all wild about Harry" joke again.

Claudia is up in the Tess Circle with the first two finalists. Chelsee is "gobsmacked" both to be in the final and to have scored the first 40 of the series. Claudia asks Pasha what we can expect from the showdance. "Funky," replies Pasha. Intriguing. Harry tells Claudia that it's been such an amazing experience, and he's over the moon to be in the final. He says that he's been to BLACKPOOL before, but never danced there, so he's very excited about that.

Time for an exhibition showdance? I think so: here are Craig Smith and Natalie Woolf. They're dancing to 'Happy' by Leona Lewis, and hopefully all the pros have been briefed that attempting to copy these two leads to disaster and is generally deeply discouraged. It's an amazing display of dance and general acrobatics, though it is fairly lift-heavy, so if you're a lift-denier it is perhaps not your cup of tea. [STRICTLY COME LIFTING! - Carrie]

Claudia, afterwards: "Len and I do that every year at the wrap party." I don't doubt it. It's time for Len's Lens, for the final time this series. We begin with a listen to Len during Harry's Charleston, shouting "WHORYEAH!" "GWARN MY BOY!" and things like that. It's very unsettling, though Len claims that reactions like that are exactly what the Charleston should be about. Then we go to Jason's dad dancing in his samba, and Craig thinks he was "on a complete and utter mission", though to precisely what I am unsure. Bruno wants to talk about Alex's amazing gusset-flashing tabletop lift, and says that the dismount was a bit dodgy, but the going up was splendid. THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID. Then we go to Claudia's suggestion for a Tulisa-style supergroup ready to take to the floor if anyone else drops out: Bruno and Alesha, swaying together, presumably during the "keeeeeeep dancing!" Bruno calls Alesha "absolutely gorgeous" and Craig tells her that he feels sorry for her, having to sit next to Bruno. This from the man who has to sit next to LEN, lest we forget.

Time for highlights of the series: Len's is Ola having a massive grump-on after being kicked out of the Swingathon. Craig: "She's turning into her husband." Heee. Alesha's pick of the series, which she claims she's been waiting three years for, is Alesha dancing on the judges' table at WEMBLEY and whacking her on the back of the head. Alesha: "Thank God for hair extensions." Hee. Craig's is a bit of a cheat because it's not really from the actual show: it's Bruce doing the jive with Holly when Artem was injured. Bruno's is Craig ("or the Wicked Witch Of The East") flying through the air at Wembley dressed as Brian May. Claudia has a clip that no one's seen before, and it's Bloody Lulu attempting to high five Brendan and missing by about six miles. Since this is our last Len's Lens, and Claudia's last show of the year, Len has a little surprise for Claudia. I say "Len", I mean "the VT team": it's a little mash-up of all of Claudia's reactions of "THE GRANT" set to a soundtrack of 'Dance Wiv Me'. I guess there were only so many of these segments they could do without resorting to the ol' standby, even when he hasn't been on the show for weeks.

Next we have a performance from Gareth Malone and The Military Wives, with Flavia and Vincent dancing in front of them. I'm afraid The Military Wives fall under my "very noble and charitable endeavour as long as you don't expect me to care" heading, so I shan't be dwelling on that, but Vincent and Flavia's dancing is lovely, and Gareth Malone is all sorts of adorable.

Time to head back to Tess, to find out who's being eliminated tonight. Tess builds up to announcing the first couple who will be going home, and people start yelling from the audience. Perhaps they're yelling supportive things, but the overall effect is of them clamouring for certain couples to be sent home, which is HORRIBLE and unwelcome. Take that sort of behaviour back to The X Factor, where it belongs. Anyway, the first couple leaving tonight is...Alex and James. Tess tells Alex she's been absolutely magnificent, and Alex says that she's had an incredible time, and will look back on this fondly when she's old and grey. She says that she and James have laughed 80% of the time, when he wasn't ignoring and berating her. Alex thanks James for performing miracles, and then James tries to act like a decent human being for a change and says that if there were a trophy for most improved, Alex would've won it. "Friends for life!" Tess screeches. I doubt it, somehow. I hear he and Pamela stopped speaking the second the tour was over. Exit VT: Alex's Strictly journey, from being awful, to being less awful, to being decent, even scraping a first place finish on the leaderboard along the way. Not too shabby, is it?

Alex and James step to one side while Tess prepares to reveal the other couple leaving us tonight. The audience start caterwauling because they're all feral beasts with no fucking decorum, and the couple leaving us is...Holly and Artem. Holly says that she's proud of being part of the most successful Strictly to date (ha!) and calls Artem the most brilliant choreographer she's ever witnessed in her life, adding that she's made beautiful new friends that she'll be taking with her. Artem says that he's very strict in rehearsals and doesn't compliment his partner as he should more often, but thanks Holly very much for everything. Aww. For someone who clearly didn't give a crap for 98% of this process, Holly seems genuinely moved now that she's actually going home. We see their highlights VT, wherein Holly describes the whole experience as "epic", and gets a little bit weepy in the corner of the screen watching it all. She enjoyed all of it, especially Wembley, despite feeling a bit like she was "at a dog show being paraded around the arena". She knows there's going to be a comedown after the whole thing's over.

Holly and Artem join Alex and James for their last dance as Tess squeals "real tears! Real tears!" She congratulates our three finalists - Chelsee and Pasha (Chelsee waving frantically like she's on All Star Family Fortunes), Harry and Aliona (Harry waving feebly with a faint sense of embarrassment, like someone he knows is on All Star Family Fortunes) and Jason and Kristina (SERIAL KILLER GLARE). They'll all be in BLACKPOOL next week, which will also be broadcast in 3D for the six people in the country who can actually receive that on their tellies, as well as in a few cinemas. Tess thanks Claudia for all her hard work, and 'The Winner Takes It All' plays, rather cruelly, for the departing couples. James and Artem very sweetly bear up Holly and Alex between them and spin them around as the other contestants come to bid them goodbye. I'm gutted because I had genuinely grown to love both Holly and Alex, but at least there are also two couples I love in the final, so I've not done too badly this year. See you next week for a blow-by-blow account of the final!


Kelly said...

I find Harry sexless too. He's the nice but boring guy your mum would want you to date, rather than the guy with a motorbike and leather jacket you actually fancy.

I'm on Team Chelsee for the final, lthough I expect Harry to walk it (not in the literal, matt di angelo sense).

Unknown said...

Ditto on the Harry thing. Nice boy, good rhythm, excellent HUMBLE, zero sex appeal.

But if my opinion changes in BLACKPOOL (not that I'm excited about getting tickets, you understand) I'll let you know.
Will even try and sneak a tweet from the ballroom, if I can get away with it.

Wonder if Rent-a-Pro will dance with me - I have to be better than Bloody Lulu, and I'm the same height...


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