Top 9 Results: 17 November 2013
Despite holding a degree in English Literature (joint-honours with Drama and Theatre Studies, if we're being precise about it), and making my living by putting words in a given order and using them to describe things, there are times in my life when my command of the English language feels woefully inadequate to truly describe how I feel. This is one of those times, because I just don't know enough superlatives to describe the opening number of the BLACKPOOL results show. It's being performed to 'Ballroom Blitz' and the theme is all of the professional dancers taking part in a ballroom competition, looking positively murderous in their steely determination to win at any cost. The director of this segment makes full use of the Tower Ballroom's cavernous ceiling to get some aerial shots that really capture the frenetic movement of the dance and in particular the women's costumes in a variety of lovely pastel shades. [It's also so frenzied I just kept rewatching to try and make out the random pro (and associate) pairings, which were very random indeed - Rad]
Oh, and it's not just the pros taking part either - we're officially at the stage of the competition now where the celebs are trusted with a part in the group dances, and Sophie, Susanna and Abbey lead the charge out onto the dancefloor, with Sophie in particular nailing the look of haughty disdain for her opponents (I know, who would've thought Sophie would be good at that?). They march over to reclaim their partners: Sophie yanks one woman (who I believe is Kevin's sister Joanne From Grimsby) away from Brendan by her hair, while Susanna unceremoniously defrocks the one who Kevin is dancing with. In possibly my favourite moment of the number (no mean feat), Fiona picks a fight with Iveta after catching her dancing with Anton (no offence Fiona, but my money's on Iveta in that particular brawl), then Mark briefly dances with Anton in the background. Eventually everyone meets up with their proper partner and dances crazily with them before realising that Len is lurking on the stage with the glitterball trophy and lurching towards him like dance zombies, ultimately climaxing in Len getting trampled underfoot but just managing to pass the glitterball into Darcey and Bruno's hands at the last moment. Hooray! BEST PRO DANCE EVER! (Or at least, the best one since the epicmazing Pasha/Katya/Brendan/Natalie Dance Battle Of Good And Evil back in series nine). I don't usually do this because normally I like to think my words do a passable job of capturing how good or bad something was, but I know I could never do justice to this routine, so here it is on YouTube if you want to watch it again:
Tess and Claudia arrive, both wearing Kiss Me Quick hats. The hat might actually be the most tasteful part of Tess's ensemble: she's wearing a bronze sequinned figure-hugging dress that does NOTHING for her figure whatsoever (the bow across her stomach is possibly the biggest mistake of the whole piece), while Claudia's in her usual shiny black number. They remind us all that we've had a marvellous weekend in BLACKPOOL, but the fun must end later because of Len's Lens. Sorry, that should read "because someone's going home". Also, there are performances from JLS and the possessor of the world's smuggest face, André Rieu.
First things first, it's time for a quick recap of last night, with extra added BLACKPOOL: Len gets dragged into the ballroom by a donkey, Susanna explains that BLACKPOOL hair and make-up is a little more cramped than it is in Elstree, somebody sprays Natalie's hair down and makes me wonder if it's somehow not a wig after all, Kevin poses with a stick of rock and some candyfloss, Natalie invades the mobile gallery and has a lot of fun manipulating all the switches JUST LIKE WHEN THE EVIL BITCH MANIPULATED POOR LOVELY TYRONE (they let her loose on the vision mixer and she awards someone 40/40, which probably still makes her a more restrained scorer than Len, Darcey or Bruno), Greg the hot floor manager is wrangling everyone into place as usual, and there's quite a lot of nervous gurning into the camera. Post-dance, Sophie giggles something about how much she was smiling during that quickstep, Anya is impressed by how receptive the audience was for their samba, Ben is over the moon with his score, Ashley thoroughly enjoyed his paso, Fiona cackles that she wants some champagne now, Alja picks Abbey up and jabbers "TENTENTENTENTEN!" adorably at her, Mark confirms that he really loved doing his jive, Susanna is still speechless about her three tens, and Natalie is just cackling as Artem skips around like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
So, let's check dem results then. In no particular order, the following couples are safe: Susanna and Kevin, Abbey and Alja, and Ashley and Ola. The first couple in the Dread Dance Off is Mark and Iveta, neither of whom looks especially surprised at this turn of events. Tess points out that this is a rotten thing to hapepn to Mark on his birthday, and he goodnaturedly shrugs it off. Darcey is asked what Mark can do to save himself at this point, and she tells him to do exactly what he did the first time round. That landed him at the bottom of the leaderboard. Thanks Darcey! Tess asks Mark how he feels, and he just chuckles that he's happy he gets to do it again. "Me too!" crows Tess. Oh Tess, I don't think you get to do it again. Although to be fair, there are so many extra dancers tonight, you could probably sneak in at the back and no one would notice. Not even in that outfit.
Then it's over to Claudia's Counselling Circle, where she gently goads Susanna about being a massive crybaby when those scores came in. Susanna says it's all down to Kevin. Claudia asks Kevin if it's the best night he's ever had, and he cautiously replies that it's the best night in BLACKPOOL he's ever had. No point in incurring Karen's rage unnecessarily, is there? Claudia makes Alja turn around again while she and Abbey squeal over her three tens, and Ola is very happy with how it all went. Well, that was brief.
Over to André Rieu, who will be smugly playing 'Music Of The Night' for our enjoyment. Also here for us to enjoy are Iveta and Anton, who deliver a smashing showcase waltz and naturally Iveta makes the most of several opportunities to show us her inner thigh area yet again. She even throws in a few Natalie Lowe head-rolls for good measure. When's Natalie back? Is it next week? I hope it's next week.
Then from the sublime to the ridiculous, it's time for Len's Lens. Claudia wants to begin with "SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY!!!!", which she calls her favourite group dance ever. Was she not watching the one that opened this show? Holy smokes, Claudia. Len's Lens has captured Darcey throwing some shapes in the background, which is quite funny. Then Len's Lens has filmed the junior ballroom dancers, which is a little creepy, as is Len's explanation of the rules about how they're not allowed to wear too much make-up these days. Next, Len's Lens would like to show us Susanne imitating the cape in her paso doble, and it would also like to give us a much clearer view of her bottom in the process. I'm sure the six straight men in this country who watch this show probably enjoyed that. After that, Darcey wants to talk about Ben's pressage and how he created a beautiful line with Kristina because of his GUNZ or something. Bruno wants to talk about Natalie's charleston and how she's reinvented the swivel. Claudia decides that they should all just clap Artem because of that. Then Len explains all the reasons why Abbey's quickstep was worth a ten, while his lens highlights all that gapping. I'm beginning to think you could fit the entirety of Susanna and Kevin's paso in the space between Abbey and Alja at certain points. Also, apparently Abbey screamed "WHEEE!" when she did a jump, which is easily the most endearing she's been all series.
With Len's Lens mercifully over for another week, it's over to Tess for the second batch of results. She says that "no one wants to face Mark & Iveta in the [Dread Dance Off]", though I'd imagine that Sophie might be thinking that she'd much rather be in this one than potentially up against Patrick or Abbey in a couple of weeks' time. Anyway, that's all academic because the following couples (in no particular order, of course) are safe: Patrick and Anya, Sophie and Brendan, Natalie and Artem, and Ben and Kristina, which leaves Fiona and Anton in the Dread Dance Off. Incidentally, the look on Kristina's face when they're down to the last two couples is terrifying - her mouth is twitching so hard that it looks like she's seconds away from going full Black Swan on everybody.
Tess asks Bruno what Fiona needs to do to survive the Dread Dance Off, and Bruno tells her that she must maintain focus and try not to disconnect with the music and fall behind like she did the first time round. Asked how she's feeling, Fiona launches into her goodbye speech about what a marvellous time she's had and how she didn't expect to get this far in the first place. Tess reminds her that it's not over yet, and Fiona's all "like fun it isn't".
Before we can determine who's outta here though, Claudia's chatting to the remaining saved couples. She begins by informing Natalie that she came back with a bang, and Natalie says that she loved it, before suddenly thinking of a joke and cries "a bang bang!" and cracks herself up. I love Natalie a little bit. Speaking of turning into a real live person, Patrick's also doing sterling work by giggling uncontrollably at the mention of the word "swallow". Then it's time for Brendan's obligatory well-meaning but enormously condescending oration, in which he refers to the pros as looking after their "little girls and little boys", at which point Sophie decides she's finally had enough and giggles "I'm 34, Brendan!" at him. I love their dynamic - him trying so hard to be the great charming magnanimous gentleman and Sophie hovering in the vicinity rolling her eyes at him. Claudia points out that this is Ben's second time at being left last to be declared safe, and that he'd specifically requested not to be in that position again. Ben says it's never easy not knowing if it's your last dance. Because Ben's level of investment in this competition so far is so intense. I mean, I'm sure he's enjoying it and everything, but I imagine if it all ended tomorrow he'd go back to getting his baps out on the cover of Gay Times and be quite happy about it.
Next we have a musical interlude from JLS. Aren't they supposed to be splitting up by now? This is the Letitia Dean's 40th birthday of band splits. GET ON WITH IT.
After that, there's a trail for It Takes Two in which Ian Waite plays Nick Kamen in a spoof of that Levi's advert. Inspired casting.
Claudia's with the two couples in jeopardy, and asks Iveta what her last-minute advice is for Mark - she tells him to do what he does best, and just have fun. Mark and Iveta head out to get ready, and while they're doing that, Fiona admits that she's not particularly surprised to be in the Dread Dance Off at this point, and she's had a lot of fun just getting this far.
Mark and Iveta reprise their jive first, and it's still a little flat-footed, but Mark's joy in the routine is palpable. I think he genuinely expects to be going home after this, and his thought process is something like "I get to do the jive, to Hairspray, which I love, in BLACKPOOL, for my final dance. Could be a lot worse." If that turns out to be his last dance, it is indeed a hell of a note to go out on. Far better than last week's rumba.
The Strictly elves hurriedly strike the set and line everything up for Fiona and Anton to reprise their American smooth. Interestingly, I get the feeling Fiona's approach is much the same as Mark's - I think she thinks she's going home and is just trying to enjoy the moment without thinking about what comes next. Unfortunately for her, she's doing a routine that requires slightly more precision than Mark's, and there are a few fumbles - though I'm pleased for her that she manages to do that final lift a second time, because to flub that closing moment would've really been a shame for her.
It's time for the judges to decide, and the first Dread Dance Off vote this series that could conceivably go either way. Craig votes to save Fiona and Anton. Darcey votes to save Mark and Iveta. Bruno votes to save Mark and Iveta. This means we have officially activated THE EMERGENCY LEN to deliver the casting vote. Len says that it's a very close thing, because he "gave them both eights the first time round". Maybe think about judging on a scale wider than three points then? However, he thinks one couple upped their game and another let the nerves get to them and caused a lot of mistakes, so he votes to save Mark and Iveta.
"CONGRATULATIONS, MARK AND IVETA, YOU'RE THROUGH TO NEXT WEEK!" bellows Tess. Indoor voice, Daly; I'm sure the acoustics in the Tower Ballroom are a bit different from Elstree, but I think the sound team have got you covered either way. Fiona says she can't thank the producers enough for asking her to take part, and it's like being a guest at the best party in the world. She adds that Anton "has been unbelievably patient, I honestly have a memory like a colander", and Anton tells her that "she is just a joy, every day I come in and I get to dance with you, you are truly lovely". Aww. A lovely, gracious exit from Fiona there. I mean, I can't pretend there wasn't a teeny bit of me hoping that she'd go full Jan Ravens on the way out, but this would definitely have been my second choice, so I'm happy with that. [She was very much on the brink... -Rad]
And that's BLACKPOOL for this year. Next week we're back in boring old London. How will we ever cope?