So, you might have noticed that it's not exactly been a banner year for The X Factor. The Strictly producers certainly have, since they decide to open this year's final with some snippets of the mass of positive press coverage their competition has had this year, with just a few of them mentioning how this show has beaten out its normally unbeatable ratings rival on several occasions. Hooray for Strictly! I'm particularly pleased they included that Radio Times cover that was devoted to how Russell Grant was the best thing ever to happen to the show, which came out two days after he got voted off. Tee hee hee. We are treated to a montage of madness from the series (my verdict: far too much Russell, not nearly enough Nancy) as Len opines that this line-up is the BEST EVER, as he does every year. It's as much a tradition as Craig withholding his ten until the last possible moment, or indeed Alesha being the first judge to award one. The Voice of Tess calls it "a golden year" (all right, let's not get carried away) and reminds us that we had
Now just three "gladiators" (they really are running away with that theme, aren't they?) remain: Harry, Chelsee and Jason. They've all been dolled up in Gladiator-wear for intro VT purposes, and of course Harry has chosen to violate all manner of the Coliseum's health and safety regulations by not wearing a breastplate and instead giving us all a good look at his nipples again. Chelsee and Jason are a little more covered up, for reasons of taste and decency. Funny how that works. They've been dancing for 99 days and nights, we are told, and survived 11 eliminations, vanquishing 10 rivals. Now, I don't want to start this recap on quite such a strand of negativity, but there's some dodgy maths going on here, because unless you reinstate someone, you can't have 11 eliminations but only get rid of 10 people. You could make a case for them simply having got the numbers the wrong way round (if you count Alex and Holly's eliminations as one giant elimination, since they went in the same episode, the numbers work out), but I don't think that's what they're doing, because we see a grid of 10 contestants being eliminated one by one on the screen, and one couple is missing. Guess which one. Go on, guess. That's right: Russell and Flavia. Tess concludes the sentence "...and fired The Grant into space." So we're actually counting Russell Grant's elimination as entirely separate from everyone else's, and worthy of special mention? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, GET OVER IT ALREADY. He only finished eighth, he can't have been that bloody popular. Tess reminds us that the judges have relinquished their power (we see a shot of them all dropping their ten paddles onto the desk, and I wonder how difficult it was to get Alesha to let go of hers. I can only assume they bribed her with some lovely booze) as we see some of their more negative feedback, and now it's down to our votes alone to decide who gets the glitterball this year in BLACKPOOL. This is the grand final - Strictly Come Dancing 2011 AD! Y'know, because of the whole gladiator thing. Although given the endearingly antiquated nature of this show, perhaps they just wanted to be sure we all knew what era we're in.
Titles! I can barely even remember Dan Lobb's existence. One last time: RINGER FOR KATYA NEXT YEAR PLEASE. [Katya and Pasha are doing their own tour next year. We can go, yes? - Carrie] [It's an evening of dance AND CONVERSATION. Just try to keep me away. - Steve] There's even a special BLACKPOOL remix at the very end, singling out the three finalists, which is quite a nice touch.
So, remember what whole gladiator theme in the intro? Yeah, it's bleeding into the opening pro dance. The six male pro dancers (minus Pasha, for obvious reasons) are in their best battle attire, and everyone except Anton and Vincent has got their chest out. Anton I can understand, but I feel a bit sorry for Vincent. Anyway, they mince their way through an amusingly fey swordfight to 'Living On A Prayer' before Natalie, Katya, Ola, Erin and Flavia appear, all with their midriffs out, to cavort enticingly. Then James, Anton and Robin reappear, brandishing nets at their celeb partners, because apparently this is how they paso-ed in Roman times. Katya is stuck at the back for nearly the whole routine. Poor Katya - she really got a raw deal this year, didn't she? Still, at least she got that amazing bisexual showdance with Natalie, Pasha and Brendan that will live on forever in brilliance and infamy. The whole thing comes to a climax as Artem, Brendan and Vincent reappear, drawing the three finalists behind them in chariots. Amazing. Artem has Harry and Aliona, and Harry has his nipples out (make the most of them, they'll be disappointingly covered-up for most of the evening. This is the downside of doing your finale in The North, it's far too cold to leave your hotties unclothed), while Brendan has Jason (mostly covered up, thankfully) and Kristina, and Vincent draws Chelsee and Pasha (Pasha has his nips out, but see above re: their general scarcity this evening). I have to say, that was one hell of an entrance. Camp as hell, of course, but this is still Strictly Come Dancing when all is said and done.
Now we have a Bruce, and we have a Tess. Daly Dresswatch: SO VERY CLOSE. If you only ever saw Tess shot in close-up this evening, you'd think she'd excelled herself, because as long as you only see from her thighs upwards, she's wearing a lovely silver sequinned dress that is actually a very flattering fit. Unfortunately, the second they cut to a long shot you'll see that from the thighs downwards, she's wearing some sort of hideous beige floor-length petticoat. Why? They welcome us to the show, and for the benefit of the six people actually watching in 3D, make a joke about how amazing it is to see such an iconic monument on that all-important z-axis. Not the Blackpool Tower, of course, but Bruce's chin. Bruce reminds us that the judges' scores are just for our guidance this evening, and Tess explains that the first two dances of the evening for each couple will be a reprise of the judges' favourite of all their dances from the series, and then that all-important showdance, and that the phone lines will be opening after everybody has danced once. The couple with the fewest votes will be eliminated at the start of the results show tonight at 9pm, while the other two will do two more dances. Red button viewers can, of course, join Karen in the commentary box with Strictly "guru" Jimi Mistry. I hate it when people describe actors or singers using their film or song titles, even if they are trying to make a pun-based endorsement out of them (even so, Jimi Mistry finished 10th. Michelle Williams lasted longer than he did). I mean, say Tilda Swinton were in Karen's Korner this week (unlikely, I realise, but just go with me here), would you refer to her as a Strictly thumbsucker? A Strictly adaptation? A Strictly we need to talk about Kevin? No. So just don't do it at all, eh?
Right, on we go. Harry and Aliona are going first, and judging from the outfits, they're reprising their quickstep. Rather than "here they are in training", we'll be finding out what the show has meant to Harry. He says that he's very happy to be in the final, and has been smiling all week. He found the semi-final quite stressful, but at least he got to do his Charleston first, which meant that he got the more uptempo number out of the way early on. Holly Valance is like "yeah, NO KIDDING". He felt more relaxed going into his Viennese waltz, and then found himself in the final. He was terrified of doing his first dance, and Aliona says that she wasn't sure about him at first: "he came into the training room pigeon-toed, and I thought 'oh, bless'." Hee! I'm surprised to say it, but Aliona's really grown on me this year. I mean, she's still no Natalie/Katya/Erin personality-wise, or a Natalie/Katya/Kristina choreography-wise, but she's working her way up to mid-pack, which is better than nothing, right? [Pfft. Aliona remains the worst. And poor Ola, her role in Harry's dance training utterly ignored. - Carrie] [I rewatched Harry's Children in Need paso as I was writing this up. I realise they probably didn't have much time to train for it, but on a technical level it really wasn't impressive. I'm not sure how much credit for his training Ola realistically deserves. - Steve] Aliona decided that she had to get his personality out. And by personality, she means "vagina". Harry reminds us that he is a drummer and is therefore given to hiding behind stuff, and wasn't sure if he could get out there and perform. His highlight was getting three tens for his quickstep, and he feels very lucky to have been part of the show. The McFly boys offer their opinions: Danny says that they all laughed at him to start with, and then realised he was actually quite good. Dougie likens it to having a kid and watching him play football for the first time. Ooh, MANLY SIMILE IS MANLY. Asked if he'd do it again, Harry replies: "It's genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that's why you can't do it again." Personally I'd say it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because you can't do it again, but potatoes, puhtahtoes.
Their quickstep is, of course, to 'Don't Get Me Wrong'. I absolutely love the choreography for this, and think it's a sign of Aliona FINALLY getting the hang of this show, but I don't think he's dancing it quite as well as he did first time out. His balance seems a little off near the beginning, and there's a skipping section partway through which just feels a bit rough around the edges. Nothing ruinous, but enough that if I were scoring it, it would be a nine rather than a ten. That's not to detract from all the achievements of this dance, mind, because I will forever be in awe of the energy and technique that Harry's shown both times he's performed it. And (spoiler) we'll see over the course of the evening that all three reprised dances aren't quite as good the second time round, so it's by no means a fault unique to Harry.
Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers, Dave Arch, and his wonderful wonderful orchestra. Wow - comma in the right place and everything! I mean, if I were being really pernickety I'd want another comma between the two wonderfuls, but I probably shouldn't push my luck. Bruce jokes that he's promised to buy all the judges a drink after the show. I'd rather hoped he'd buy Alesha one beforehand. DRUNK ALESHA FOR HEAD JUDGE. Len opens the comments with "throughout history, there have been epic battles", and I don't know about you, but whenever someone opens a sentence with "throughout history", my heart sinks. Anyway, Harry's ballroom battle is akin to a Trafalgar or a Waterloo, because they all involved his guns blazing, or something. Mmm. Harry's guns. Sorry, where was I? Alesha congratulates Harry on making the final, and says that his quickstep is one of her favourites from the series, adding that he maximised the floor space here in BLACKPOOL and gave the competition a very strong start. Bruno tells Harry that he conquered BLACKPOOL with a quickstep of timeless elegance. But what did Craig make of it? He reminds us that he didn't like Harry's lazy left foot last time, but he seems to have improved that, so Craig absolutely loved it.
Over in the Tess Circle JESUS CHRIST WHAT IS ANITA DOBSON WEARING. That is far too much pink for any one person to be wearing at one time. She looks like a Snowth. Tess tells Harry he laid down the gauntlet and asked if it felt good, and Harry says that everyone's been telling him to enjoy himself all day because it's his last chance, and he really did enjoy himself, so thank you to everyone who said that. Such lovely manners. Tess asks him to describe the atmosphere here in BLACKPOOL, and Harry encourages us to take the best night of the series and multiply it by ten. Speaking of which, here are the scores: tens all round for a total of 40.
Harry and Aliona scarper off to get changed for their showdance, and it's time for Jason and Kristina to reprise their tango. What does Strictly mean to Jason? Something stultifyingly earnest, no doubt. Jason feels that a little bit of magic happened for him in the semi-final, and he wasn't expecting to get full marks for his Argentine tango. Well, at least that puts him on the same page as the audience. He'd describe the show as the most incredible ride of your life - he started amazingly, and was pleased that his kids weren't embarrassed for him to drop them off at the school gates (judging from the little we saw of his kids on It Takes Two this week, I think that might have been the first time) - but everything came tumbling down for him during the paso doble. Still, Jason spins this as the highs meaning more when you've had the terrible lows and the creamy middles. The music editors line up Green Day's 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)', and since they've done such stellar work all series, I can only assume they know the proper title of that song and are using it on purpose. Jason says something weird about how usually when nice things happen in his life he's been single, but this time he had his family around him. Bokay then. His kids reappear, and are very proud of him. "He didn't really dance before he was in the show," says Daughter Donovan. He was in the West End doing Priscilla, pet, he must have at least been doing a bit. Kristina says that Jason is the hardest-working person she's ever known. Oh my God - more so than John Sergeant? More so than Goldie? Say it ain't so! She gets all verklempt and says that win or lose, this has been a wonderful experience. Jason drones that he's exceeded his own expectations and will always be proud of that.
They repeat their tango to 'I Will Survive', complete with giant pink feather fans. I fear for the people watching in 3D, as Jason's variety of tango faces are terrifying enough on regular television. It's an utter campfest, as you'd expect (controversial opinion: I think Jason's done a much better job at delivering a camp routine than Russell ever did, but then that's perhaps because Jason had other wells to draw from and was able to use that card sparingly) and Bruno is up on his feet and loving it. His posture in the sections in hold is not great, though. Of the three repeat performances in the first half of the final, I think this was the one that came closest to recapturing its original glory, though even this one didn't quite make it.
Alesha shushes Bruno and tells him to behave. Heh. She tells Jason that he really excelled in this dance, and Kristina's clever choreography showcased Jason's personality. She likes the rarity of seeing a joyful, upbeat tango. Bruno thinks Jason's excelled, and calls it a tango with spilt personalities, arguing that half the time Jason was like Hugh Jackman in Wolverine and the other half, he was like a disco diva. Still, he loved it. Bruce asks Bruno if he wants one of his pills. Oh Bruce. I think Bruno always wants one of his pills. Craig thinks Jason's bottom was sticking out a lot, and the chasses were a bit skippy, but it was a fantastic number and he loved it. He thinks Jason's made it this far through determination and "good old-fashioned hard work". Len tells Jason that he's survived "14 weeks" of blood, sweat and tears. Except the competition's only been going for 12 weeks - 11 if you don't count the one we're currently in the middle of. Maybe Len's counting from the launch show, or using a special Len calendar. Who knows? He says that Jason's giving the other two a run for his money despite being old and withered, or something like that.
Back in the Tess Circle, Tess congratulates him on making it this far, and Jason thanks everyone who's allowed him to do so. He says that sharing it with Kristina has made it all very special, and seeing his kids watching was even better. Tess cuts him off before he can talk too much about the importance of impressing his kids. Heh. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10 (still doing that awful "from Len, a 10" business), Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 38. There are boos for the nines, and yet on Twitter there were complaints about all the tens. Which basically demonstrates that you can't please everyone. I know, it's a shocker, isn't it?
Next we have Chelsee and Pasha reprising their jive, and...oh dear. I mean, I know they weren't going to have time to give Pasha the full Shrek make-up job tonight (or to be more accurate, they weren't going to have time to remove it), but this strange no-man's-land they've gone for instead is somehow even worse. Basically he's got two Shrek ears stuck to the side of his head, and then they let a small child scrawl around the outside of his face with a yellow highlighter pen. Poor Pasha. I can only assume they do these things to him lest his hotness prove too maddening for the people at home and we all break out in some sort of sex riot. Joke about how Chelsee is NORTHERN and COMMON, and then we get her journey VT. The one thing that strikes me right away is that she's had the best hair journey of anyone on the whole show: going from that unpleasant blonde job she was sporting at the launch and in the early weeks to the sleek dark hair she's sporting now: undeniable upgrade. Her semi-final was nerve-wracking, but she got a perfect score for her paso, and she never expected to make the final. She admits that a lot of people didn't know who she was when the series started - and indeed many of them still don't - adding that people expected her to struggle with the waltz because it is elegant and she is not, but she's pleased to have found her elegant side. Her quickstep was a highlight - getting four nines and being at the top of the leaderboard. She talks about how Pasha is lovely and genuine, and Pasha talks about how Chelsee is brilliant without knowing it. Chelsee: "I love my Pash-Pash." And if that didn't make you go "awww", then you have a HEART OF STONE, my friend. A heart of stone. She feels like she's grown up a lot throughout the competition - if not in size, then she's grown within. Pasha hopes she's learned to believe in herself. Chelsee says that winning would mean a lot to her because she'd make her family so proud, and Chelsee's mum says that she's done amazing(ly) and it's a dream come true. She mentions Chelsee's dad, who is dead, but does it in a matter-of-fact way that doesn't seem gratuitous, so I hope The X Factor is taking notes. Chelsee promises to treasure the experience forever.
They're repeating their jive to 'I'm A Believer', and somehow it's even more energetic than it was the first time, and every bit as endearing. Sadly, the curse of the repeat dance strikes Chelsee too, and her footwork is a little bit messy at times and some of her kicks aren't so well-defined. It's just such an enjoyable routine, though. I'm welling up a little bit just watching it now. Should I admit that? Oh well, too late now. Also, well done to Chelsee and Pasha for improving on the original in one aspect: last time out they didn't quite get the end-of-dance frog-kissing set piece right and Pasha ended up kissing its forehead rather than its lips, but this time they get it absolutely bang-on. They drop the frog as they hug each other excitedly, and before they head over to Bruce, Pasha picks the frog back up and puts it back on the tree stump with a little "stay!" gesture that is both adorable and hilarious. Seriously: what did we do before we had a Pasha?
Bruno tells Chelsee that was a "premium-grade jive of eye-popping vibrancy". Craig calls it "a complete and utter bundle of joy to watch". Len says that seeing someone like Chelsee come from having no dance experience to delivering a jive as good as that gives him as much pleasure as judging the world championships, which is actually very sweet as long as you don't dwell on the inherent fame-dropping in there. Alesha says that Chelsee is adorable, and that's her favourite jive of the series.
Tess tells Chelsee that she has a one-in-three chance of winning the show [that's NOT HOW COMPETITIONS WORK, Daly - Carrie], and asks her if she finally believes she can dance. Chelsee does, hooray! Bet Claudia's gutted she missed that after all her weeks of priming. Chelsee thanks Pasha and says she wouldn't be able to dance without him. She says that this is the best night of her life, and she feels she's danced her way through the nerves. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Tess reminds us that the scores are just for guidance while Pasha gives us the eye - down the wrong camera. Bless.
Halfway leaderboard: Harry at the top, Chelsee second, and Jason at the bottom, though there's only one point between each set of couples, and the judges' scores count for nothing tonight anyway. Tess declares the lines open from now until 8:30pm, and reminds us of all the numbers.
We need a little bit of filler here, so Tess chats to some of the 2011 alumni: Audley, Bloody Lulu, Anita and Russell. As always, Russell takes the invitation to speak and runs for miles with it, yet saying almost nothing of any interest or substance the whole time. Anita thinks it's going to be so close tonight, and expresses her love for all the finalists. Tess asks Audley how they're going to cope with doing four dances tonight - like he's going to know - and he does a bit of X Factor-style maths for us before advising them all to keep their composure, saying that they all looked great in their first dances, so he's sure they'll do fine. Bloody Lulu is asked about the upcoming group dance, and she tells us to ignore that and focus on the actual finalists. Surprisingly sound advice from Bloody Lulu there.
Everybody finished with their costume changes? Jolly good, on with the showdances then. Harry and Aliona are going first again, so let's have a look at their training. Actual training, mind, not a comedy VT. Harry explains that it's a chance to let go and do some crazy lifts because there are no rules. They've got a 50s rock 'n' roll song, and they're planning to be "quite rebellious". Only quite, mind - so middle class, bless him. Aliona kicks Harry in the face a few more times, and Harry vows to nail it just in case it's the last dance they do on the show.
They're dancing to 'Great Balls Of Fire', and Harry removes a leather jacket to reveal a red shirt open to the waist. Hannah and I believe Aliona's outfit has changed entirely from the one we were shown on It Takes Two, from a dress to a sort of bra-top and some unflattering leggings, in a seeming tribute to BixMix. I'm assuming, given the amount of lifting involved, the original dress was deemed to be impractical and/or indecent. Let's face it, it wouldn't be the first time. Anyway, let's move on from matters sartorial and discuss the dance itself. It's fine, but not that great - as is often the case with male celebrities who are in good physical shape, it's a lot of lifts and not an awful lot else. There's a bit of cha cha cha, a bit of jive, but by and large it's mainly lifting. Some of the lifts are genuinely very good, some of them less so. Halfway through Aliona removes Harry's shirt sleeves to get his guns out, and it ends with Harry doing some actual drumming on an actual drum kit. A nice idea, but (a) not dancing and (b) not especially well thought-out, because the drum kit is up with the band and they did most of the dancing at the other end of the stage, so Harry and Aliona have to run across the floor just to finish the dance, and as we all know, running is not dancing.
Len says that if Harry were a stick of Blackpool rock, he'd have "talent" written all the way through him. He thought that one of the lifts near the end was a bit sticky, but other than that it was all very impressive. Alesha loved the concept, she thought the jiving was fabulous and the lifts verging on dangerous - and she liked seeing him back behind the drums, having expressed concern the other week that he's spent too long behind them. Women, eh? *Waits for Carrie to punch me in my stupid sexist face.* [I think Alesha's drunk again. - Carrie] Bruno was impressed by the strength and physicality, and loved the mix of jive and rock 'n' roll, though there was a tiny incident in one of the lifts. Still, Bruno has apologised to Harry for that, and explained that he was just drunk and that it will never happen again. *Rimshot.* Craig agrees with Len that Harry is absurdly talented, and though he thought the transitions could've been smoother, overall he thought it was fantastic.
In the Tess Circle, Harry says that he loved it. Tess asks if he ever anticipated doing a spot of drumming as part of the show, and Harry says that he thought at some point he'd probably have to give it a quick go. Tess suggests it could be a new direction for McFly. At this point Harry notices Aliona's lipstick mark on his cheek that's been there since midway through the routine and gets a bit embarrassed. Heh. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 37. In case that was his last dance, Harry wants to thank Aliona because "without her, I'm nothing - I'm just a hopeless drummer." Poor Ola. As Tess gives out the voting details, Aliona thanks him and Harry mumbles "seriously." Aww.
Jason and Kristina, anyone? Jason explains in their intro VT that their routine will be all about showbiz. Their rehearsal footage is blighted with the dread hand of comedy once more, as Jason smashes through a door with "THE RULES" graffito-painted on it, and Jason smashes a glitterball while Kristina protests. I love that in Aliona, Kristina and Pasha, we have the three pros in the final who are the worst actors as far as these things go. Maybe that's why the business is being kept to a bare minimum. Jason vows that this is his last opportunity to pull it out of the bag.
They're dancing to 'Dancin' Fool' from Copacabana, and Kristina is wearing a suit, though this is no dummy dance, thankfully. They do a bit of Broadway-style hoofing with canes, during which they're appallingly out of synch, then there are some lifts, and then Kristina removes her suit to reveal a hot pink gown. I think that was the best mid-dance costume change of the series, not that there's much competition. I guess this is why we leave the quick changes to the pros. Jason, of course, just takes off his jacket. From there they burst into a spot of quickstep and some more lifts, before more clothes come off as Kristina goes down to a boob tube and miniskirt and Jason..removes his tie. Heh. There are a couple of mis-steps but only very minor ones, and for entertainment and energy, I think Jason's steaming ahead of Harry in the showdance stakes.
Alesha tells Jason that if this were a marathon he would've won already - she loved the cane, the suits, the lifts and the quicksteps, and declares that a show dance. Not a showdance, but a show dance. Bruno goes one further and calls it more than a showdance: "it was a showbiz spectacular!" He tells them they should open on Broadway tomorrow (still no love for the West End?) and break box office records. Craig calls it ferocious and full-on and makes the usual joke about Kristina needing to be restrained. Len tells Jason that he's a showman and this is a showdance, so that's the perfect combination.
They skip back to the Tess Circle, where Jason says that it's great to be able to use all the elements of your personality, and he thinks Kristina got the choreography just right. Tess asks what it would mean to his kids if he comes home with the glitterball trophy, and Jason dad-jokes that they'll be in bed by then. Scores: 10s all round for a total of 40. Kristina's increasingly scrunchy face of joy as each consecutive top score comes out is a thing of brilliance.
Finally, we have Chelsee and her Pash-Pash. Their VT is about how "there isn't no rules" (per Chelsee) and how they're getting off on being naughty. Chelsee admits to being scared about all the tricks they'll have to do, and she gets a bit weepy in rehearsal, so Pasha tries to buck her up. Chelsee says that this could be the last dance she ever does, which sounds inadvertently morbid, so she's going to give it her all and have fun.
They're dancing to the disco version of 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls, and Chelsee does a sexy shimmy up some steps to the top of a small podium, only to lose her balance a little bit when she gets to the top. Not the best of starts, really. Then Pasha arrives, disappointing me by wearing a white suit (seriously, I'm sure I've said this before, but NEVER trust a man in a white suit) and Chelsee climbs onto him, wraps her ankles around his neck, and he twirls without holding on to her. That is a brain injury just waiting to happen. As much as it pains me to say it, most of the lifts in this showdance are a bit sloppy, though the overall disco aspect of it is fine. In general, though, I'd say Jason's was my favourite of the three showdances. I would say that this would be the fourth year running that my least favourite finalist has done the showdance I liked best, but I'm not actually sure I can make a case for liking Pamela Stephenson less than Matt Baker. (Also, I would just like to stress that I loathed Tom Chambers' showdance, but up against Rachel Stevens' hugely disappointing best-of medley and of course the Irrepressible Snowdance, it was obviously the best of a very weak field.)
Bruno likens Chelsee to Sasha Fierce, and says it was hot and beautiful, but there were a few moments where she nearly lost it - though she covered it up well. Craig loved all the lifts, particularly the lobster claw one that you normally see ON ICE, and says that the whole competition is so close that it's impossible to call. Len liked the elements of hustle in there, and what saddens him is that one of these couples will be gone in just over an hour, but he thinks everyone has given their all. Alesha loved that Chelsee was set free, and she thinks that Chelsee dances with her heart and people can feel that.
Back in the Tess Circle, Tess calls Chelsee "baby Beyoncé, for one night only". Chelsee says that she loved the lifts. Pasha adds that he did too, and Chelsee is all "I know YOU did". Hee. Tess points out to Pasha that Chelsee made it look easy, and Pasha duhs "that's the whole point" right back at her. HA! Tess asks Chelsee if her mum and nan would be proud if she brought home the trophy, and Chelsee very sensibly says they're proud of her anyway for getting this far in the first place. Scores: nines all round for a total of 36.
Leaderboard: Jason and Kristina are at the top, with Harry and Aliona second, and Chelsee and Pasha at the bottom. Of course, being in the top spot after two dances in the final is not always the safest place to be: just ask Pamela Stephenson. Or Ricky Whittle. Or Lisa Snowdon. Or Zoe Ball.
Those are all of our dances for the first half, so let's recap: Harry's no-longer-lazily-left-footed quickstep and his cartwheeling showdance, guest-starring Harry's Nipples; Jason's super-camp tango and his super-camp showdance (bless); and Chelsee's 45%-less-Shrek jive and disco-liftin' showdance.
Oh sweet montage, come and take us to the halfway mark: Chelsee says that winning would mean the world to her, and knowing that she's got some of the British public behind her ("some", bless her) is such an overwhelming feeling - she never thought this many people would support her, and she's very grateful. Harry has learned not to be so conscious of what people think, and just to embrace things (yes, I endorse this idea, especially if those things include me) and take up a challenge. He feels blessed to have been a part of this. Jason never believed he could make the finals, and thanks his family for their support - "when I'm up, they're up with me, when I'm down, they're supporting me."
So that's it, for now at least. Bruce and Tess remind us of the logistic details of voting, and tell us to get to it. But who will be kicked out at 9pm? Join me...right below, as it happens.
So, my boyfriend and I having spent the previous hour or so frantically voting for both Harry and Chelsee between us and running up a phone bill about the size of the Christmas Radio Times, and now it's time to return to the ballroom. Harry and Aliona, Jason and Kristina and Chelsee and Pasha are all lined up in their outfits for their scheduled third dances - but of course one couple will never get to perform it. The voice of Tess declares that we're just one hour away from declaring the champion - this is the final!
New, abridged titles, just featuring the three finalists this time. And of course dear old BLACKPOOL as a backdrop.
Daly Dresswatch: Tess has changed into another frock that looks fine up close but not from a distance. She must have a whole wardrobe full of them. It's a black lace number over a flesh-coloured underlay, which is fine until you look at the lower half and realise it's a mullet-dress. Bruce welcomes us back, and Tess reminds us that the phone lines are frozen. They tease the filler that's been lined up to pad out time before the winner is crowned, including the return of all the eliminated couples in a special exhibition number, and an unwelcome performance from the bothersome Jessie J, who apparently wasn't content with being the less-good half of a duet in
Before all that, though, we have a recap of the earlier show. A lot of people run around backstage squealing about being nervous. Harry got excited about his first 40 for his quickstep, Jason was very pleased with his tango, and Chelsee is nervous but excited about the showdance. Speaking of which, Harry's was a bit dull and lifty, but got broadly favourable reviews, and he reminded us that it's now up to the public whether he gets to stay on in the competition. Jason and Kristina brought out a fun and mad routine, and Jason grins that he's aged a lot in the last three hours, but it's been perhaps the most special night of his life. Chelsee feels like she's given it her all, Kristina says that if this is her last dance, she'll feel very proud, and Harry says that he's got two more dances left in him, so he just hopes he'll get the chance to do them.
From there, we're back to the ballroom to discover the couple finishing in third place is...Jason and Kristina. They smile and hug, and I suspect they were anticipating this, even if they were hoping it wouldn't happen this way. They work their way through the other two couples for the obligatory hugs, congratulations and consolations, before joining Bruce and Tess at the side of the room. Bruce tells them he's been dreading this moment all day because he knew he'd feel the same whichever couple it was. He thinks they're all winners tonight. Except two of them. Jason says that this has been the most incredible experience in his life, apart from his wife and kids, and he'd like to thank the public who voted for him, and his family, and last but not least, he'd like to thank Kristina for her patience, her focus, her talent and her vision. Kristina's a bit choked up, and while I wasn't the biggest Jason fan, it was great to see what Kristina could do when she was given a capable partner for a change.
We see his Strictly journey, from facing his fears to blossoming in the early rounds, the obligatory "I expected to go out in week one", Jason feels like a different human being, and loves having people giving him shivers by telling him he was good. The judges give them a standing ovation as Jason and Kristina head back to the Tess Circle to join the rest of the eliminated couples. It's now down to Harry and Aliona vs Chelsee and Pasha. Tess assures us that all of our existing votes have been carried over, but the lines are now open once more and it's time to vote vote vote. (At this point, I declared myself happy with either one as a winner and refused to vote any more, because I would've just felt too guilty to pick one over the other. I'm such a sap.) As Tess reads out the voting numbers, Chelsee mutters something to Pasha which looks a lot like "I'm shitting myself" (disclaimer: I have no training in lip-reading; for all I know, it could equally have been "I fancy some chips").
Bruce stumbles over the announcement that both couples have two more dances to do - a dance that they have never done before, and their favourite dance of the whole series. Harry and Aliona will be first, once again, and they're doing an American smooth. Harry admits he's going to miss training, and Aliona smooshes him, saying "who wouldn't miss a face like that?" Harry says that they know each other very well now, having spent every day together for the past four months, and Aliona says that when it's all over she'll have no one to giggle at. Harry lists his highlights of his time on the show, which - worryingly - all seem to involve the comedy VTs, whether it's playing Danny Zuko to Aliona's Pink Lady (fnar), being Robin Hood in lurid green tights, and being an uptight 1920s gentleman learning how to woo a lady. If it should work out that they win the whole thing, it'd be the perfect ending for them, he reckons. Aliona says that he's a sweet, caring guy and she's going to miss him. We see them thanking their training room as they leave for the last time to head to BLACKPOOL. I think they definitely need some time apart after that.
Their American smooth is to 'Can't Help Falling In Love', and very sensibly, they've decided to base it on the Viennese waltz. I genuinely adore one of the lifts into it - where Aliona just gently leaps at Harry and he catches her on his forearm, before they join hands and he twirls her around. It's very simple (aesthetically, I mean, I'm sure it's very difficult to actually perform) but very effective. There's a little stuttery bit in the middle where he seems to lose the rhythm very slightly, but apart from that, it's gorgeous - danced incredibly close together, very passionate, very tender. The last lift, where Aliona inverts herself over his shoulder and then rest on his back in a sort of cross position while Harry supports her arms, is a little inelegant-looking, I suppose.
The crowd goes wild, and we go to the judges: Len says that he loved Harry's Viennese waltz before, and with the added elements now where they can do lifts and part company, they've turned a great dance into an unbelievable one. Alesha thinks Harry is an accomplished dancer and a true talent. Bruno tells Harry that this is the perfect fit for his charms, and calls him "Your highness" again. He does know he's not actually Prince Harry, right? Craig: "Well, if it wasn't the final, darling, there's a plethora of things I could say about your hands, but I loved it." Bizarrely, Bruce berates Harry for not doing that dance earlier, and sends him off to the Tess Circle, where Tess tells Harry that there's many a lady at home who can't help falling in love with him. Yes, Tess, it's just the ladies. Heteronormativist. (Ugh, that cover is ruined for me by the mention of Mario from The Only Way Is Essex. Why do people find him attractive? I don't care how good you think he looks with his shirt off, he is such a misogynist prick. I mean, I'm not a fan of Lucy but every time they were on screen together I just kept screaming at her to RUN AWAY FROM THE BAD BAD MAN.) Tess asks Harry what he'd like to say to the people at home who voted for him, and Harry talks a lot about how humbling it all is. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 (with the last three all competing to see who can sound the most like a revving engine. I think Alesha wins) for a total of 39. Also: well done Aliona for finally learning what an American smooth is meant to look like.
Now we have a rumba from Chelsee and Pasha. In her VT, Chelsee admits that she's going to miss the buzz of show days and the whole backstage atmosphere. She's also going to miss training with Pasha, because it's been like hanging out with a mate (those ever-witty editors choose to play this remark over a shot of Chelsee running after Pasha and attempting to squeeze his bum, thereby making us all wonder if this is what Chelsee normally does when she's hanging out with her mates). Pasha says that she's like a little sister to him now. Sorry, Chelsee/Pasha shippers, looks like it's not happening. You'll just have to make do with Kara and Artem. Chelsee says that her highlight was getting painted up as Princess Fiona for her Shrek-themed jive: "I think a lot of people didn't even think I had make-up on, either." Heh. Chelsee says that she's sad to think that the rumba will be the last new dance she learns with Pasha, and it's very upsetting to think about not seeing "my Pasha" every day. Pasha says that Chelsee is one of a kind, and it was so much fun working with her.
Their rumba is to 'Because Of You' by Kelly Clarkson, which is an A+ song choice, first and foremost. Things start well enough: there's some lovely shaping, some good rumba walks, and they're both selling the hell out of the emotional aspect of the dance. They've implemented some running splits, almost as if to make up for the ones that didn't quite go to plan during her American smooth last week, though unfortunately this is where things start to go wrong a little bit for me. The next section is very quick, and Chelsee seems to have been caught off-balance so she's rather unsteady, and then there's a back-and-forth bit where she seems slightly hesitant. Also, much as I hate to hate on the wardrobe department yet again, whoever decided it was a good idea to attach one end of a strip of fabric to the top of her dress and the other end to her arm is a fool, because it keeps ending up getting draped over her face and stopping her from being able to see, which can't help matters. I think the sudden rush of tempo near the end of the song throws her as well, because Pasha's choreographed a lot of very quick movements in there as well, and she struggles a bit to place her movements properly. I know there was a lot of love for this rumba on Twitter at the time and a lot of people saying it deserved top marks, but I'm afraid I couldn't quite get on board with it. I think the nerves just got to her a little bit on this one. It's still a great rumba, maybe even the best rumba of the series, just not a perfect one from my perspective.
Afterwards, Bruce is bawling "but why did you leave him?" Because it's a rumba, Bruce. About 80% of the rumbas on this show end like that. Chelsee jokes that she'd had enough. Alesha tells Chelsee that she puts her heart and soul into every dance, and that she's been a joy to watch throughout the series. Bruno tells her she "nailed that rumba" and acted it like a movie star. Craig thought it was "absolutely magnificent". Len says that the rumba "is like Len's Lens - because it's so slow, everything is magnified." Yes, Len, I'm sure that's exactly what the inventors of the rumba were thinking when they created it. However, even Len's Rumba Lens didn't reveal anything he didn't like. Chelsee is very glad she got to perform this dance.
They run back to the Tess Circle where Tess tells Chelsee that she pulled it out of the bag and made it to the final two. Chelsee says she can't express her gratitude to the people who voted for her, and that knowing people like her means a lot to her. I really hope this has actually given Chelsee a bit of a self-esteem boost, because it worries me when she says things like that. Learn to love yourself, Chelsee! It's the greatest love of all! Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39.
Chelsee and Pasha depart to get changed for their last dance, and then to fill a bit more time, we have a VT to remind us all of how the series panned out. We started with Eggwina groping Vincent and getting eliminated for her trouble. Then Dan Lobb chucked Katya around "like a bag of cement", according to Bruno, and naturally the viewing public did not take kindly to this display of disrespect to the almighty Katya, and voted to send him packing. After four weeks, the Latin curse came for Rory and eliminated him after his cha cha cha - but at least Erin wasn't wearing anything too embarrassing this time. Regrettably, Nancy Dell'Olio was given her marching orders at Hallowe'en despite her clearly brilliant zombie rumba. We had to put up with Bloody Lulu for six whole weeks before the public finally saw sense and dispatched her after an uninspiring tango. Having clung on through even more appearances in the bottom two than Nancy, Audley went next after a particularly static cha cha cha. After eight weeks of aggressive humility and more ham than Pamela Stephenson during a particularly frenzied game of Pass The Pigs, the voting public took pity on me and sent Russell Grant home after he and Flavia decided that being fired out of a cannon was more important than dancing. Anita Dobson managed a creditably long stay in the competition despite being a little bit shaky, but the Plucky Older Lady vote could only carry her so far, and she was eliminated in week nine while poor Robin was at home nursing an infected foot, leaving Brendan with the dubious honour of being the first pro to suffer two eliminations in the same series. Robbie Savage, meanwhile, lingered like a particularly eggy fart and spent the entire time whining that Craig was being SO MEAN to him, but after ten weeks even his supporters had had enough. Alex gradually evolved into a dancer, hopefully not as a result of James's attempts to torture her into brilliance, and Holly's I'm-too-wealthy-to-give-a-shit indifference proved surprisingly endearing, but lamentably they couldn't quite hang on for the final and were both eliminated in joint-fourth place.
Now, you might think this would all segue into the Triumphant Return Exhibition Dance, Possibly Featuring Paloma Faith, but you'd be wrong. Instead, they're all still in the Tess Circle. Tess asks Alex if she's feeling withdrawal symptoms, and Alex says that it feels like someone chopped her right leg off. Fortunately, James did that for real in week three of training, so she's used to the sensation by now. Tess asks Robbie if the welcome is different when you're dancing in BLACKPOOL rather than playing football, and he says that he thinks whenever he's played football here he's lost, but he feels that tonight they're all winners. Rory feels lucky to even be here, because the standard of dance has been so high, and he's very excited to be dancing in 3D. Nancy says that she has "a few signature moves", and suggests we might see them again.
Bruce, sounding like a man reading an autocue at gunpoint, says that this has been an incredible year for our next guest star: J-J-J-Jessie J. She's here singing 'Price Tag' and dressed as Rita Repulsa, sadly without Moon Head or Coconut Man. I assume that since it's not about the money, money, money, she will of course have waived her appearance fee. Actually, I hope she waived her appearance fee either the way, because this is unpleasant. How unfortunate that this woman is judging The Voice UK. I feel it's an interesting comment that last year, Paloma Faith seemed happy enough to combine her performance with the lap of honour dance from the eliminated couples, whereas Jessie J has brought her own dancers. Actually, I hope everyone just collectively refused to dance next to the Mystic Meg of Pop because she's so fucking annoying. Anyway, Jessie J continues to make sounds that no one would ever want to hear, and it goes on far too long, but eventually it ends. Hooray!
Once the abomination is vanquished, it's time for the final competitive dances of the series, as Harry and Chelsee each pick their favourite dance to repeat. Harry and Aliona (or Elna, as Bruce calls her) are up first, and they've chosen their Argentine tango. I loved this first time around and, in a pleasing break from this evening's tradition, it's every bit as good second time around. Honestly, if Len tries to claim that it lacks "intensity" this time, I'm going to use this evening's magical 3D broadcast powers to reach into the telly and clock him.
Bruno calls Harry sharp and cutting, like a steel blade, and he loved the repressed lust bubbling underneath. IT'S NOT FOR YOU, BRUNO, CALM DOWN. Craig says that, like the nation, he has fallen for Harry too. Len reminds us that last time he was a crotchety bastard, and despite nothing being different this time, he likes this routine now. At least he's learned his lesson from giving Kara's American smooth a 7 in last year's final. A 7! I still can't think about it without getting angry. Alesha loves it even more than last time, and thinks it was a perfect choice for the final.
To the Tess Circle they go, and Harry says that he feels much more relaxed, having already done three dances, and he just wanted to enjoy it because it was his last dance on the show. Tess reminds him that it's his last dance with Aliona, so he gives her a hug, and then Tess little-girls that Craig's in love with him. Scores: 10s all round for a perfect 40.
For their final dance of the series, Chelsee and Pasha have also made an excellent choice and decided to resurrect their quickstep. I think this was the moment where people really started to see Chelsee as a contender, so yep, no complaints here. It's another great reprisal too: full of energy, technically brilliant, and just wonderful to watch. I think it was at this point I just started wailing "can't they both win?" Honestly, I've never been so torn between the final two ever before.
Craig simply repeats his comment from last time: "first-class, darling". Len thinks it could be his favourite dance as well. Alesha tells Chelsee it was a great dress, a great song, and a great dance. Bruno calls it "a great finale for the greatest season." Series, Bruno, not season. You're not in America now.
Back in the Tess Circle, Tess asks Chelsee if this is still her favourite dance. Yes, says Chelsee, but she also loves the rumba and just about everything ever, so it was quite a tough call. Tess reminds Chelsee that this is her final dance with Pasha, and Chelsee's getting a bit emotional as she thanks Pasha for helping her to become a dancer. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Aw, I was really hoping for a 40 there, but sadly it was not to be.
Final leaderboard: Harry at the top, and Chelsee below, with just three points separating them overall. A few dances may have missed the mark here and there, but overall, it's been a damn good final, hasn't it? A video recap of all the performances of the night (minus Jason's), and you'll forgive me if I just skip over this at this point, won't you? Thanks folks.
Bit of filler, anyone? Here's what we all loved about the series, apparently. Lorraine Kelly talks about how it's the only programme she knows that entertains four generations of women. Some women talk about how they like Jason Donovan. Another lady talks about Russell and "Flabbia", possibly sending poor Flavia straight to the gym. A butcher laughs at Bloody Lulu's lack of poker face in the launch show. People talk in terms of various grossness about how much they fancy the contestants. "I think the older ladies have done us proud this year," says someone who clearly hasn't watched a single second. Holly's Black Swan American smooth gets some good reviews, as does Brendan's performance as Rent-A-Pro. People pretend that both Robbie Savage and
When we return, Tess tells us that the lines have closed, so we mustn't call now unless we particularly want to be charged for no real reason - and if that's the case, then there are plenty of estate agents out there more than willing to perform that honour. Thank you, I'll be here all week! (No, seriously, at this rate I actually might be here all week.) While the final counts are being tallied, it's finally time to welcome back all of this year's also-rans.
They're all dancing to 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'. We open with Ola, Erin, Katya, Anita and Bloody Lulu on the steps, looking bored - although to be fair, Erin's looked like that all series. Robbie does a knee-slide and a pelvic thrust, which is a whole world of DO NOT WANT, and Dan Lobb follows him with a...handspring? Something like that, anyway. Rory enters and has to do Latin hips again, poor man, before Brendan and Robin run in to pick up their ladies, and swing them about a bit. I might have been cheering for Robin to "accidentally" use the twirling Anita to kick Bloody Lulu in the head. Might. Edwina and Vincent reprise a bit of their cha cha cha, and it's still fairly inept. Anton summons Nancy out of a glittery coffin and she hops into his arms, and they do their trademark backdrop-lift-thing. Then all the couples form a line and do some cha cha cha steps, with Russell Fucking Grant at the front, naturally. The camera runs along the line until we get to the foot of the steps, where Holly and Artem and Alex and James get their own special "we only left last week" showcase spot. Then Dan and Vincent swing Bloody Lulu back and forth in their arms, Anton and Audley swing Anita, and Robbie and Rory swing Russell HA HA LOLZ RUSSELL IS A GAY AND THAT IS LIKE BEING A WOMAN. From there, it all degenerates into a bit of a free for all, and then everyone circles around the room while Anton, Robin and Artem hold Russell up in the air again. As much as I've enjoyed the final, at this point I am counting down the seconds to the end of the series just so that they can stop reminding me how innately hilarious Russell is and how everybody loves him. Especially since when they all start doing the same choreography again, he's a good two beats behind every one else. Seriously, I swear to God, EVEN NANCY DELL'OLIO IS GETTING THIS BIT RIGHT AND RUSSELL GRANT IS FUCKING IT UP. Mercifully, it ends shortly after that.
Time for one last VT before the result, I think. Chelsee talks about how Strictly is the best thing she's ever done a little bit more, and how a lot of people were judging her at the start based on appearances, but she feels encouraged at having changed a few people's minds. She loves her relationship with Pasha and how they have a laugh together, and she's proud of herself and it feels nice to be liked, again, some more. Harry has very much enjoyed his experience on the show, more so than he expected. He admits to having dreaded it before he realised what an opportunity it was, and he thinks Aliona deserves all the credit for bringing out the dancer in him.
And there they are, in the centre of the ballroom floor, the glitterball trophy within touching distance. Chelsee's looking nervous, sketching out the floor with her feet. There's a cute moment where Harry and Chelsee both mouth "good luck" to each other at pretty much the same time, and then Chelsee goes to say something else and Bruce starts talking, so Harry gives her a sort of "what was that? Oh, never mind, tell me later" gesture. Heh. Tess tells us that we've been voting in our millions, and now it's the moment of truth.
The winners of Strictly Come Dancing 2011 are...
...Harry and Aliona! Both reactions are lovely here - Harry can't actually believe it for a second, and then reaches out and grabs Aliona and lifts her up, while Chelsee instantly reaches out to him to say well done before Pasha grabs her too and pulls her into a big hug. Nicely played by everyone, I thought. The McFly boys storm the stage and start jumping up and down and grabbing Harry - it all happens very quickly, but there's at least one other guy also running around, who I assume is a friend of Harry's. Bruce starts shouting "get off the floor! Get off the floor!" and it's not easy to tell if he's play-acting his "crotchety old man" schtick or if it's genuine. Bruce starts complaining to Aliona about the kids these days (there's a sitcom waiting to happen) while Harry hugs Chelsee and then Pasha. Mmm, Harry hugging Pasha. Sorry. Everything gets a bit muddled here, as it frequently does - Tess tries to drag Chelsee and Pasha onto their marks so they can give their graceful concession speeches, but Chelsee's busy kissing Harry and Aliona again, and is generally just looking a bit overwhelmed, so Tess just gets us all to clap for them and sends them off to join the others. I feel a bit bad that they didn't get a little moment for themselves after doing so well, but I guess those are the breaks on live television.
Bruce asks Harry how it feels to be the champion, and Harry apologises for the trouble his friends caused. One last time: such lovely manners. Bruce tells Harry he's got a dancing career now, if he wants it. Yes, because that's what happened to all the other winners of this show. I hear Tom Chambers is in Cirque du Soleil these days, and Chris Hollins is working with Twyla Tharp. [To be fair to Chambers, much as I hate to be, he is starring in Top Hat, soon heading to the West End, with a Strallen. They are the Fred'n'Ginge de nos jours. - Carrie] Harry sensibly ignores this and opts to thank everyone that has "supported Aliona and I at home". Oh, Harry. You were doing so well, and then you let the middle-class side down with that last-minute grammar lapse. Your parents will never be able to show their faces at the country club again. He thanks everyone who's worked on the show, past, present and future, and says how honoured he is to have been a part of the "best show on TV". He thanks Aliona again for getting him through it, and Bruce presents them with the trophy, which they bear aloft, just as a prop cannon shoots a streamer right into Tess's face. Hee. The other couples run on to the floor to congratulate the winner and runner-up, though not before Chelsee and Harry have hugged again. Nancy makes a beeline for Chelsee, which is rather sweet. The men lift Harry onto their shoulders, as men do in these situations, and then Aliona's up there as well. Bruce and Tess thank us all for watching, and remind us to watch the Christmas special. The band strike up 'The Best' and Harry and Aliona get their moment in the spotlight, as Brendan makes his way from one side of the crowd to the other to give Pasha a hug - and who could blame him? Most people seem to be paired up one way or another, but Bloody Lulu is on her own. Heh. The judges get in there as well, and Len and Bruno both make a point of hugging Harry, and then we're out.
And that's it for this series! Thank you so much for reading - we've loved having you, and we hope you've enjoyed the recaps. All being well, we'll find some time over the festive season to recap the Christmas special, and then we'll see you all back here in September 2012 to begin Susanna Reid's inevitable journey to victory. Until then, goodbye!