Top 8: 24th November 2012
So, last week, then: the annual nightmare that is WEMBLEY. To be fair, it was slightly less shit than last year, but we still suffered from the usual problems of the dancefloor being far too big for most of the routines (particularly the ballroom ones), and the cameras trying to film everything from the rafters, so god help you if you were actually trying to, y'know, look at the footwork or anything. Although this worked out pretty well for Lisa, since Robin TROD ON HER FOOT and even Len's Lens didn't pick it up. (Okay, that's the last time I mention that, I promise.) Still, things worked out well for Denise and James who were top of the leaderboard for the third consecutive week with probably the best charleston in the history of this show, though sadly time ran out for Richard and Erin who were castaway on their desert island. Don't worry, it's fine: Erin found a volleyball lying on the beach and drew a face on it and called it Susan and Susan totally agrees that Austin Healey should have been saved over Lisa Snowdon in the dance-off, so in the island-verse Erin won series six. Really, she's much happier this way.
Anyway, eight couples remain and must troop back to boring old Television Centre after the excitement of WEMBLEY, and the show decides to celebrate this with an oh-so-topical pastiche of the opening titles from Friends. Presumably, since this is series ten, we're just a few episodes away from that hilarious storyline where Denise recruits Lisa to plan her wedding, only to discover that Lisa has secretly been an incorrigibly awful human being all this time and would rather her best friend have a miserable, disastrous wedding day than not get her own way at something. The laughs, they keep on coming! Still, I suppose it's a welcome distraction from whether Nicky and Kimberley are going to finally get together even though he slept with someone else while they were on a break 86 years ago. [Is this a cue for you to update your blog of the best Friends episodes ever? Hint Hint - Rad]
From there, we go to the actual title sequence. Lisa's hair in the titles looks much better than it has at any other point in the series. She really should speak to the make-up department about that. Then we're live in the studio with Bruce and Tess. Daly Dresswatch: not actually that terrible this week, she's wearing a silver halter-neck dress with an integrated black belt to cinch it in around the waist and some sort of ivy-like design over her boobs. If we're grading relatively here, considering some of her disastrous ensembles from this series, it's at least a seven or an eight.
Bruce appears somewhat disorientated; whether this is due to having been at Wembley last week or simply because Bruce is now 108 years old is a matter for the BBC medical advisers to determine. Bruce tells us that we've had two birthdays in the Strictly family this week: it was Kimberley's on Tuesday, and it's Bruno's on Sunday. (It was also Zoe's on Friday, but apparently she doesn't merit a mention. Poor Zoe.) Bruce, of course, thought he'd get them each a little something to mark the occasion, so he got Kimberley an angel cake because she's an angel, and he got Bruno a fruitcake, because HE IS A GAY. Well, at least this show gets its homophobia from the 1970s as well as its jokes. Perhaps they get a discount for bulk orders. (Bruce attempts to clarify that it's because Bruno is a nutty fruitcake, but that's not really how the joke was structured. Then again, I'm probably expecting too much from this show, aren't I?)
Shall we meet the stars of our show? Here they are: Kimberley and Pasha, Nicky and Karen, Michael and Natalie, Lisa and Robin, Louis and Flavia, Dani and Vincent, Denise and James and Victoria and Brendan. Everyone actually looks rather nicely turned-out tonight, so there's nothing for me to make fun of. Nice for them, unfortunate for me.
After a joke about the scantily-clad tricks the show hired last week for Denise's routine that doesn't really make any sense, Bruce continues to stumble over the autocue as he reminds us how the scoring works, while Tess informs us that Sara Cox will be joining Karen Hardy in Red Button Land this week. Up first this week are Dani and Vincent, and after a moderately amusing joke about Bruce going on the original 18-30 holiday in 1830 (subsequently ruined by Bruce pretending that 1830 was the departure time in 24-hour clock format), we get right down to business: Dani thinks that performing at Wembley was the biggest thing she's ever done. The show shows remarkable restraint here by not shoehorning its 95th "BECAUSE SHE'S SO SMALL!" joke in here. Don't get your hopes up, though - I'm fairly certain that's the only opportunity for a height-related gag they'll be missing before the end of the year. Dani says that getting four nines made her feel like one of the Spice Girls: presumably Emma Bunton, who was also frequently overmarked on this show. This week they've got a samba, which they're dancing to "'All The Single Ladies' by Beyoncé", and at this point my indifference to Dani Harmer crosses the line into active dislike, because if you can't get the title of that song right, you cannot expect to rely on my support. Dani relates to this song, because she too is a SINGLE LADY, and this segues into a comedy VT in which Dani goes speed-dating and all of her dates are Vincent. To be fair, I've been speed-dating before and I'm fairly certain all of my dates were Vincent as well. He gets around, does that one. Also, Vincent appears to be rehearsing in pleather trousers. I can't imagine Claudia approves of that.
So, the opening of the routine is properly ripped-off from the 'Single Ladies' dance, and part of me is hoping that they are just basically going to do the entire original dance rather than bothering to do any actual samba choreography. I doubt they'd be marked down for it, the way things are going. Dani does a pretty good job of it, to be fair, but given that she's a bit...stumpier than Beyoncé, it doesn't look quite as smooth when Dani does it. Eventually Vincent arrives and it turns into a hybrid of the 'Single Ladies' dance with a smattering of samba thrown in, and to be honest, the samba parts are where it falls flat for me. It's just all a bit too slow and placed for my taste, and it doesn't really have a lot of bounce. There's one point where it looks as though Dani's about to go into a floor spin, but she doesn't (I hate it when that happens, it's such a tease), and then in typical Dani and Vincent style, they end the song out of time with the music, though this time they're late rather than early.
They head over to Bruce, who introduces the judges and tells us that Craig said in the papers that he was thinking of taking a year off Strictly. There's a very loud cheer from Brendan up on the balcony, which makes all the other judges crack up and is frankly much funnier than the show's actual punchline, so let's just move right along. Len tells us that the samba is a party dance from Kuala Lumpur (or wherever it's from this week), and Dani got the party started with that routine. He thought it was brave of her to start on her own, and there was lots of basic stuff going on in the routine. That sounds like an insult, but apparently it's not. Bruno tells Dani that she won't be single for long, because he's going to put a ring on it. Yeah, I'm sure Bruno's very particular about what he puts his ring on. He thought the dance was charming, and bubblier than Babycham. He thinks it was well-placed, and she had amazing placement with great hip action and bounce. I honestly didn't see any of that. Craig thinks she's a hot dancer and he loved the bounce action and isolation, declaring it "a very tidy samba, darling". Darcey finishes off by saying "the boys are right" and every move was detailed and clean, and Dani's attitude and confidence are good, but she needs to finish off her arms in the running promenades.
Dani and Vincent scoot up to the Tess Circle, where Tess calls them her "tiny tidy dancers". I don't even know if I've got the energy to be angry at the show for doing this sort of shit every single week, especially when Dani and Vincent are so happy to enable it, but all the same I wish they'd give it a bloody rest. Dani tells Tess that the samba is a lot harder than it looks, and then they do a bit more Beyoncé dancing for her. Tess asks if they're hoping for a ten this week, and Dani very sensibly says that she'd love on, but she won't complain whatever the score is. And indeed, it's nines all round again for a total of 36 - which I think is a bit overmarked (I think it was closer to an eight than a nine, personally), but all the same is a very respectable score for the samba.
After Tess gets involved in another ill-advised dance breakdown (a breakdown in every possible sense of the word), it's time for Kimberley Walsh, "and her partner Pasha Krbbrbrfr", if Bruce is to be believed. I hadn't realised he was from Serbia. To mark Kimberley's birthday, Bruce tells her that the team all clubbed together to get her a strippogram, and if you don't know where this joke is going...well, I envy you. Bruce attempts a sexy dance, but gets completely tangled in the bead curtain (not a euphemism, thankfully) that's suddenly appeared across the stage, nearly garotting himself in the process. I was watching the show with some friends this week, and it was around this point where we all started discussing what would happen if Bruce actually died in the middle of something like this. I'm sure it's a discussion the show's insurers have to have on a fairly regular basis as well.
Anyway, thankfully Bruce gets no further than removing his bow-tie and undoing his top shirt button, and then we get straight into Kimberley's VT. Her samba at WEMBLEY went pretty well, and despite being left right to the very end, they made it safely through when the results were announced. This week they're dancing the tango, which Kimberley loves, but there's a slight problem in rehearsals: every time Pasha does tango-face at her, she bursts out laughing. Kimberley says that it's hard to be angry at Pasha, and she's worried that if she can't get that right on Saturday night, it could all fall apart.
They're dancing to 'When Doves Cry' (previously used by Rachel and Vincent for their Argentine tango in series six), and Kimberley's been given a hairdo that's not entirely flattering - everything's been scraped up onto the top of her head like a croissant. She's giving it full pout for this dance - probably a bit too much, because her chin is wrinkling - but there's some lovely staccato movement and head-snapping in it. Her posture seems a little loose, though - there are moments when it's very good, but as they move around, you can see it slipping every now and again. I'm impressed with her commitment to it all, though - she's courting some serious whiplash with those neck movements. [Whiplash is totally this year's addition to the SCD drinking game - Rad] There's a nice bit of choreography at the end too where Pasha lets go of Kimberley and she slides to the floor, curling around his leg as she does so.
As soon as it's over, Kimberley lets out the giggle that she's been struggling to contain throughout, and Bruce directs them to look at the standing ovation they've been gifted by the audience. Bruce mentions that two weeks ago, Tess introduced the singers by name and he thought that was a nice thing to do, so he's going to do it as well. In fact, he goes one better by naming most of the orchestra. I hope this turns into an extremely embittered game of one-upmanship that culiminates in Tess listing every single member of the production crew by name in the final.
Bruno calls Kimberley "an ultra-vixen with the killer attitude", and does an impression of Joan Collins in Dynasty. He loved the attitude, but the dance was brilliant too, and he thinks she's getting better and better, but thinks he might have spotted a slight wobble in the middle. Craig agrees that there was a wobble in the middle, but he loved the drama and the storytelling. We know how Craig likes his thumb-placement, so he was pleased to see Kimberley's thumb "tucked into the crack of his..." and then the audience starts laughing. Well, I'd quite like to tuck my thumb into Pasha's cr-- [THAT'S QUITE ENOUGH OF THAT. - TellyBitching Compliance Team] Anyway, he was going to say armpit, you dirty-minded rapscallions. He also thought her frame was a bit loose, but by this point everyone's still giggling and Bruce declares that it might be a good idea to move on now. Darcey loved the storytelling and Kimberley's pouty lady, as well as her top line and her attack. Len's been pulling a stress-face throughout everyone else's comments, so we know he's going to be at least a little bit critical, and while he agrees that he loved the story and the mood, he thought Kimberley's hold was a bit loose from time to time, and she never did any heel leads which meant her feet were flat throughout. The intensity was spot-on, though. Shortly before they exit, Bruce calls Pasha "Pasha Bolognese", thereby making this officially my least favourite running gag of the year. Yes, I like it even less than "Vincent struggles hilariously with English idioms". THINK ON THAT.
They hustle up to the Tess Circle, where Kimberley is very flattered to have had a standing ovation, and does the moody pout again for Tess. It's been a busy week for Kimberley, with Girls Aloud stuff and birthday stuff, so in order to get her training done, she's been taking Pasha with her and the rest of the group wherever she goes. Pasha deadpans that this was a "terrible, terrible experience", and then asks if he can spend next week with them as well. Bless. Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. That's the third week in a row Kimberley's scored 34 - I think she may be a little bit stuck in a rut at this point. Tess reads out the voting numbers, including a very strange reference to people being "a fan of the landline". [I am not, in fact, a fan of the landline. I leave mine unplugged unless I need to call an 08 something number - Rad]
Our third couple tonight are Victoria and Brendan, and GOOD GOD HOW HAVE I NOT NOTICED VICTORIA'S HAIR BEFORE NOW? That is some serious crimping going on there; she looks like a King Charles spaniel. In her VT, Victoria tries to put her best spin on the disastrous bicycle paso doble from WEMBLEY, and this week they've got the salsa to 'Candy' by Robbie Williams. Victoria openly admits that she does not have a good track record with Latin dances. If I were Victoria, I would have followed this up by saying "but I've set a lot of CYCLING TRACK RECORDS!" and pulled out my Olympic gold medals. Possibly kissing them for good measure as well. Brendan talks about how the salsa is all about confidence and showboating, and we see Victoria asking sarcastically "do you mean I'm not a sexy Latino dancer?" Okay...do you want to explain to her why she's definitely not a Latino dancer, or do I have to do it? Anyway, we'll deal with that later: Victoria reiterates that she knows her Latin skills have historically not shown her in the best light, but she's going to try and hope that it's enough on the night.
Brendan's choreographed Victoria a little solo moment on the stairs to start the dance off, but it might not have been the best idea, as she can barely even perform that with any great enthusiasm. Regrettably, the rest of the dance doesn't go much better - the underarm spin is inelegant, the side-by-side section is a mess, even the lifts are a bit sloppy. She does better than I would've expected with the armography sections, but she just can't seem to figure out what to do with her arms the rest of the time, and eight weeks in, she really ought to be a lot better than this by now. I know she's held up surprisingly well in the public vote thus far, but I think this might be the point where her support starts to crack. She's been an enjoyable presence to have on the show, I've liked having her around, but considering that last week even Victoria admitted she should've been in the dance-off, I think her time might have come this week.
There's a bit of business as Bruce hands out some candy to the judges to go with the song, except he messes it up by handing the wrong sweets to the wrong people - although he does at least manage to give the gobstopper to Craig, which was the punchline. Craig tells Victoria that the prop candy sticks had more fluidity to them than she did, and that's all the feedback he has to offer this week. Darcey was amazed that Victoria achieved all the "armography", and she thinks the lifts were great because of Victoria's "amazing core". Len thinks it was a bit light, and calls her "a light Victoria sponge" - he thought the lifts were good and clean, but it just needed a bit more oomph. Bruno calls Brendan "Brenda", because he's wearing pink (and also because he's been reading Monkseal) [With TXF clearly reading our blogs, and SCD clearly reading Monkseal I think it's time for our combined telly blogging DOMINATION to extend beyond Only Connect quarter finals, don't you? The YerFiyud panel? Angry Xtra Factor phone callers demanding Funsponge Borelow explain his entire existence? Those people who send in mental videos of themselves to It Takes Two? - Rad] and tells Victoria that she looked absolutely gorgeous - "when you stand still, you're fabulous". He thinks the rhythm wasn't there, and she needs to let herself go. He doesn't understand why, because she looks amazing, and she needs to use her body better, because her current performances defy belief. As my friend put it, that's tantamount to saying "it should literally be impossible for you to be this shit - how are you doing it?" Poor Victoria. To her credit, she just laughs and says that she tried, and Brendan ushers her up to the Tess Circle as quickly as possible.
When they get up there, Victoria is slightly hysterical and says that she's not sure whether to laugh or cry, so Tess quickly grabs her some tissues. I suspect they've had those on standby for Victoria all series. Victoria ends up just repeating that "it's tragic" and laughing to herself, while Brendan attempts to politely beg the public to put them out of their misery by pointing out how everyone left is much better than they are. Victoria manages to get herself together long enough to say that it's been really good fun and she's enjoyed trying to "shuffle around in the salsa". I think that sort of outlook might be part of the problem. Scores are in: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. Victoria laughs that it's an "all-time low", and then she and Brendan both realise at the same time that her cha cha cha was worse and have a good laugh about it. I'll say this for Victoria - despite her emotional incontinence, she does appear to at least have the ability to laugh at herself, which is a fairly good quality to have on a show like this.
Louis and Flavia are next, with Bruce reminding us that Louis was a "silver medallist in the Olympic". You know, that Olympic. In his VT, Louis explains that before going on last week, he felt "physically sick". As opposed to what - mentally sick? Despite lukewarm feedback from the judges, they were kept in by the public and now they're moving on to the paso doble, which they're dancing to 'Dirty Diana' by Michael Jackson. Louis is a big fan of Michael Jackson, and has spent most of the week doing the moonwalk according to his VT. That's pretty much it. I'm beginning to think he might not be that exciting as a human being.
Their paso has most of the same problems that Louis has faced week after week: Flavia's done some great choreography here, and for the most part he's executing it well, but his face just reads as a total blank, and he's not really delivering the sort of aggression you need for a paso doble. I know that so many people overplay the paso, and that's always fairly irritating, but it turns out that underplaying it isn't that great either. To be honest, the most interesting thing about it for me was seeing Bruce lurching through the audience in the final moments on his way to the stage.
Darcey tells Louis that he has it all to give, but she lost the storytelling this week: the man needs to be arrogant and dominant in the paso, and while he was clean and exact and precise, there just wasn't enough performance in it for her. Len says it's "not cupcakes and ice-cream, it's thunder and lightning" (o-kay...) and that while Louis had great lines, there was no attack or fire in it. Bruno agrees - Louis can produce beautiful shapes, but this is about blood and passion and killing and revenge, and this is meant to be a fight to the death. Louis is a bit unimpressed with the way things are going and mumbles something, so Bruce asks him what he was going to say, and Louis snits that with all this talk of blood, he wonders what time the show's going out because there will be children watching. Oh, Louis. I think it's a bit late for "won't somebody think of the children?" at this point. You have met Bruno before, right? Craig drawls "I think we might be live, darling" and tells Louis that if he wants to move up the leaderboard, he needs to learn to act the dances: "you can go no further with us unless you give yourself up". [Blimey. That tone is all a bit charismatic Christianity / AA meeting / Payday loan at 1800000% interest plus both kidneys and your first born - Rad] So there.
They exit toward the Tess Circle, where Tess says that the audience gave it a standing ovation, as if that means much at all these days. She asks Louis if he can give himself up to it, and Flavia tells Louis that the little moment of talking back to the judges was "the most vicious I've seen you all week". Louis thought he'd got into it, and Tess pulls out the "not a performer by trade" card, for what that's worth. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. "Interesting," says Flavia, in a tone of voice that implies that the judges might get the bloodshed they were craving once the cameras are switched off.
Next we have Lisa and Robin, and Bruce says that he loved their disco routine last week. To be fair, it's probably a lot easier for Bruce to enjoy Lisa's disco routines, because the benefit of advanced age is that he probably doesn't remember that each one is basically the same as the last one, only a little bit less good. Last week, Lisa was absurdly overmarked for a decidedly mediocre samba and then cried a lot about it. This week they've got the rumba, which they're dancing to 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' (Robin continuing to use this show like his own personal Divas Live concert ♥), and this leads us into a comedy VT about Lisa never leaving Robin alone because she's just such a hard worker, dammit. Although to be honest, it's mainly an excuse to show Robin getting undressed before getting in the shower, presumably since he's following the Artem plan of getting his tits out in case the dance isn't that impressive.
The routine is very West End, right down to Lisa starting the whole thing at her make-up table and the screen behind them projecting their names on a marquee. It's not that I don't appreciate Robin's innate sense of showmanship, but sometimes I'd just like him to dial it down a bit. In terms of the dance itself, it's not too bad - it's obviously not a natural fit for Lisa, but she acquits herself fairly well in it with some good shaping and, once the first 20 seconds are out of the way, a genuine attempt to underplay it. I could've done without the assisted pirouette at the end that made her look like a lawn sprinkler, though.
Len liked the detail of the dance, but found it unexciting overall, so he couldn't get excited about it. Tautologies ahoy! Bruno liked that it was understated, but he wanted something fierier, something more Norma Desmond. I can't believe Lisa finally managed to reign in the playing-to-the-back-row faces and now they're telling her to do more of it - it's Richard being told off for not being gay enough all over again. Bruno declares it "nice, but not overwhelming". Craig thought it was tempestuous and a bit aggressive, which lost the sensuality of the routine. He doesn't think it suited Lisa, but that she danced it well all things considered. Darcey agrees that it's hard to stay in the slow moves, and it must be tough for Lisa because she's so brilliant in the Latin (...which is the genre that rumba is classified under on this show, so well done Darcey).
They head up to the Tess Circle, with Lisa shaking her head. Tess asks what gives, and Lisa says that she was responding to the other couples telling her it was beautiful. Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we have the beginnings of a pity party here. Lisa says that she really enjoyed it and tried to find her "inner actress" in it (remind us again what your day job is, Lisa?) but the judges didn't see that. To be fair, I think we all saw Lisa's inner actress during last week's samba during those split lifts. Lisa says that they usually have a laugh but she wanted to bring the emotion tonight, and it's a shame that the judges didn't find that in it. I appreciate what she's trying to say here, but she is still coming across a little churlish. Tess asks Lisa what the reaction is like for her with people on the street, and apparently it's that everyone loves her everywhere she goes. Tess's response to this is essentially "cool story bro". Scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27.
Michael and Natalie are next. Last week they got an amazing response for their American smooth at WEMBLEY, and this week they've got the Argentine tango, where Natalie gets a little bit overexcited in rehearsals when describing how intimate they need to be. Things do not get off to the best of starts, so Michael arrives the following day dressed as a sweaty gaucho (you can practically hear Len creaming himself from here) and promising to take Natalie to Buenos Aires - the steakhouse, that is. LOLOLOLOLOL COMEDY VT!
They're dancing to 'Bust Your Windows' (previously used by Chris and Ola in series seven), and Natalie's got her hair up and an elongated fringe which actually really suits her. It's a shame she's wearing one of those ugly Argentine tango dresses with the long strands of fabric hanging between her legs which always look like an unnecessary trip hazard to me (can you imagine if they put Victoria in something like that?). Oh, right: the dance: well, Natalie is great, and Michael is trying his best, but he's a bit too gentlemanly in his manners for an intense, sexy dance like this. It's all rather polite.
Bruno tells Michael that the look of painful concentration on his face wasn't sexy, and looked like he was passing a kidney stone. He thought it was like a series of steps with no relationship between Michael and Natalie, and it lost all the fluidity and sexuality that it should've had. Craig thinks it lacked any resistance and lead, and that his adornments were very stiff. Fnar. He thought it was a good effort with great choreography, but it didn't all come together. Darcey says that Michael is such an attentive partner who works hard, but she didn't get the sense of the domineering man in the dance - though she admired the ease with which he lifted Natalie. Len opens by saying "I wish I had a stiff adornment" (EWWWW) and then protests that he was just repeating Craig when everyone reacts in horror. Darcey's response in particular is a treat: she sort of draws her hands across her breasts with a look of complete befuddlement on her face. I don't quite know what message she was trying to convey there, but she really made me laugh, so that's a point in her favour. Len says that the performance was lacking, but it was a full routine with great lifts and a lot of good stuff going on. He then, for some reason, has a go at Craig by saying that the man's supposed to lead every dance and why doesn't he comment on that more often? Well, perhaps it isn't always an issue, Len? Just a thought. Also, does the man really lead every dance, or is Len just discounting most of the Latin dances because he doesn't care about them? Len starts ranting about how "virtually none of the men lead any of the pro girls because they don't know how to." Well, perhaps as head judge you should be pointing that out, eh Len? Also, nice division of the genders into "men" and "girls", you ass. [I flirted with hating Darcey more for a few weeks but now she's settled in a bit and has been very funny drunk on Graham Norton's show I am fully back onto FUCK OFF LEN mode - Rad]
Up in the Tess Circle, Natalie explains that they came out of one turn a bit early, so they had to try to hold the rest of the routine back. Michael thinks it's an achievement to provoke an argument between Len and Craig - clearly, he didn't watch the last couple of series. He vows to keep trying his best, and says that having a week dancing with Natalie is always generally a good thing. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 6 for a total of 26. Tess: "Well, it's not your highest score, but it certainly isn't your lowest." I'm sure that sounded a lot more reassuring in her head.
Bruce hems and haws about whether the next couple is couple number seven (it is), and eventually introduces Nicky and Karen. Nicky and Karen talk extensively about how WEMBLEY was the greatest thing that ever happened to either of them, until that unfortunate incident with the bottom two. I'm glad this show isn't even bothering to pretend it doesn't record both shows on the one night any more. Karen talks about how being in the bottom two actually made Nicky look like he gave a shit for once, and Nicky agrees that he needs to nail his routine this week. Handily, he's got the charleston, which as Len keeps telling us requires no technical expertise of any sort. Every year, at least one contestant gets the obligatory "judged by a panel of children" VT, and this year Nicky's drawn the short straw as he brings various moppets from his family in. They're all pretty adorable, and mini-Len is every bit as informative as his grown-up equivalent. Mini-Craig is pretty sweet with his attempt at "disaster, darling", too.
Okay, first of all, the staging is amazing: there's a train heading towards us on the screen at the top of the stage, and they've projected railway lines onto the dancefloor, with Karen giving it Mabel Normand realness as she pretends to be tied to them. Nicky arrives and gives it some flaily Steamboat Willie action as he pulls a convenient lever that happens to stop the train instantly (physics? What's that?). Second of all, they're dancing to 'Doop' by Doop, and I can't believe it's taken four years for someone to actually use that for their charleston. It can't quite live up to that amazing beginning, but it's still a pretty good routine: Nicky's got some good swivel and manages to channel enough goofiness without turning it into a complete mugfest. His arms are still too spaghetti-like for me to declare it a complete success, but it's still his most enjoyable dance so far by a long shot.
Craig says it suited Nicky down to the ground, and it was his best routine yet. Darcey declares it "magic", and says that he looks like he's just come off the set of The Artist. Len thinks this was the no-stress express and he thinks Nicky will be in the top two this week after being in the bottom two last week. Bruno loved the character-driven slapstick, and he thinks Nicky never lost the charleston even when he went a bit hip-hop.
They giddily trip up to the Tess Circle, where Tess points out they've got a standing ovation, and Nicky deadpans "we didn't even know what that was like before - it's good, isn't it?" Heh. Tess says that they've both been practising all night long even up on the Tess Circle, and they chat about the adorable kids from the VT. Scores are in: nines all round for a total of 36. Probably a little bit overmarked, but I enjoyed it so much that I don't really care. [Me neither, and Nicky is my least favourite. I expected Karen to be good at the charleston after she was a bit 'goofy' in the first couple of shows, but was surprised he was also good - Rad] Nicky can't believe it, and asks Tess if this is in fact rehearsals rather than the real show. Heh.
To close the show, here are Denise and James. We're reminded that last week's WEMBLEY charleston was pretty epic, and got them three tens for their troubles - but as Denise points out, this means that there's a lot of pressure on her to live up to that from now on. They've got the American smooth this week, and in practising one of the lifts, there's a bit of miscommunication where James ducks away from Denise's arm but she doesn't realise and carries on with the lift, thereby falling flat on her arse. I don't think it's quite such a terrible fall as the show wants us to believe (and anyone who saw Something For The Weekend knows that Denise has experienced more than a few nasty slips in her career), but I like how they take pains to show how sympathetic James is by including him shouting "you idiot!" at the fallen Denise. Denise confirms that she's fine, and that she hopes it's knocked some sense into her. James says that the funny thing is, that wasn't even the dangerous lift - the one at the end is the real hazard. It's the same lift, incidentally, that went wrong with Ola during rehearsals very early in rehearsals and ended up with James getting a broken nose, so it's quite brave of James to even be attempting it with Denise in the first place. It involves Denise sliding up onto his shoulders and resting on his neck, and he admits that trying to learn it in four days is a big ask.
They're dancing to the Eva Cassidy version of 'Imagine', which I think might actually be worse than the original. Their dance is Viennese waltz-based, and I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that the lifts all go off without a hitch. It's a lovely, lyrical routine but coupled with the music choice, it's all just a little bit too saccharine for my tastes. [I thought it was lovely but with you on the music. I hate 'Imagine' as we all know - Rad]
After Bruce calls Denise "gutsy" for continuing with the routine despite that fall in rehearsals, Darcey informs her that she is a pleasure to watch, and it's extraordinary how effortless she makes those lifts look. Len describes it as "like the sea - wave after wave of effortless motion". He spotted a few foot issues, but overall he loved it. Bruno thought it was smooth and weightless like the finest silk, and thought that it was perfection. Craig tells James that his thumb was up on occasion, that his bottom was sticking out and that he lacked any rise and fall - but Denise was perfect. James makes a big show of being the bigger man by saying that his mum told him to be nice this year, so he's going to stay quiet. He'll just duff Craig up backstage later.
Up in the Tess Circle, Tess says she was nervous just watching those lifts, and James quips that he was nervous too. She says that it takes incredible skill to do those lifts, and James replies "it does, I'm very good". BANTERLOLS. When asked if they can top the three tens from last week, Denise says she's not sure if they can. Time to find out, because the scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 37. James then declares magnanimously that he and Denise did have a little muddle of the feet in one of the turns, so the judges were right not to give them 10s. He really is insufferable, isn't he? Ola must have the patience of a saint.
Everyone's danced now, so let's have a look at that leaderboard:
1st: Denise & James (37)
2nd: Dani & Vincent (36)
2nd: Nicky & Karen (36)
4th: Kimberley & Pasha (34)
5th: Louis & Flavia (27)
5th: Lisa & Robin (27)
7th: Michael & Natalie (26)
8th: Victoria & Brendan (21)
So that's it. I think it'd be a big surprise if Victoria escape the dance-off this week, so the big question is who'll be in it with her (and, inevitably, saved over her). I wouldn't rule out Kimberley - she was on early, got positive-but-faintly-critical feedback, and is in the middle of the table with two popular couples tied directly below her - but we might also be seeing Michael back there as well. Either way, it could be an interesting hint as to how the voting is likely to pan out for the rest of the series...