Sunday, 22 December 2013

Dancing Queens

Final part one, December 21 2013 

Last week! The last man was vanquished! Tonight! A woman will ascend to the glittering heights of... lifting the glitterball! We open with a generic Latin type pro dance – in which Robin and James are both back, but there is sadly no sign of Natalie Lowe [on one hand I'm gutted that they kept promising she'd be able to return for pro dances when she ultimately couldn't, but on the other hand, if she had recovered sooner we would've been denied the glory of Aliona giving it the full "yeah well if you liked it then you should've put a ring on it, LOUISE RAINBOW" in the pro routines, so *scales gesture* - Steve] – and then to the strains of ‘I’m Every Woman’ our YEAR OF THE WOMAN contenders: Abbey, Natalie, Sophie and Susanna step out and have a little disco boogie.

Bruce and Tess enter – Daly dresswatch – some kind of horrific thing with white fringing and what looks like mirrored panelling on top. It’s kind of a Greece-meets-Vegas-via-Cleethorpes-Sunday-Market (shoutout to my man KFG) look. Still, in a series where she’s had her share of OK dresses, it’s good to know that some traditions are being upheld – and speaking of upheld, the Bruce leg grope gets an enormous eyeroll from Tess tonight.

In the audience: JELUS KARA OMG and Kimberley Walsh. YEAR OF THE WOMAN.

Bruce makes a gag about sexual harassment (of himself) and then takes a selfie of him and Tess – I wait for the punchline, but no, it seems he really did want to take a selfie. He then goes in for another Tess grope with a ‘come here my beauty’ and her face is even more ‘where the fuck is Claudia’ than usual. Our finalists enter with only Susanna and Natalie making any effort to shimmy to the theme tune. Susanna then gives the audience a huge clap, the big ham, and Sophie and Abbey copy her. EVIL DIRTY RINGAH BITCH Natalie does not.

Bruce introduces all the global pros and calls Brendan ‘Brenda’ in a total Monkseal shoutout and then he gets the crowd to shout ‘GRIMSBY’ lots when they introduce Kevin. I’m going back there this week and I fully expect to see the place festooned in Kevin banners and a giant statue of him (in his glasses, obviously) outside the Barge which is where he’s taken Karen Hauer for a lovely time, according to his Twitter. The last time I went to the Barge we drank ridiculously-named cocktail jugs full of cheap colourful booze (on offer at 2 for... something? IDK - we'd already drunk several pints and a couple of cocktail jugs in BOTH Wetherspoons at that point. It's a classy night out, Grimsby) , for it is that kind of sophisticated establishment. [I'm so glad you've been able to provide all this local colour for Kevin this year. I can only hope to return the favour should a pro from East Kent ever turn up. - Steve]

Kevin and Susanna are first to dance this week and they’re dancing the judges’ choice – their quickstep to ‘Good Morning’. Hooray for Susanna possibly recreating another SOFA! CRASH! , her signature move of the series. They got 33 last time and Darcey says they should be able to get some 10s this time – well, it’s a Strictly final, so ba’duh. This remains a fun and energetic routine and their footwork is better than last time, I think, although still not perfect, especially towards the start. Susanna’s arms aren’t quite extending far enough but she is giving it a good old gurn. And then they attempt the sofa jumping bit and actually succeed, which makes Kevin do a huge fist pump in triumph. Bruce thinks she did it perfectly and can’t wait to see what they do next. Craig says there was some gapping and her top line needed work, plus there was some issue with the feet but her performance was great. The camera cuts to Natasha Kaplinky looking ‘shit, don’t look at me, they might force me to come back and do another stupid dance where I look embarrassed the whole time like they did last year’.  Darcey says it was cheeky, sweet, fast and fun with no faux pas in the footwork.

They bound up to the Tess Circle where the old contestants are present. Susanna is pleased to have finally conquered a sofa. She was pleased not to let Kevin down this time, and Kevin says she was amazing. Scores: 8, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 37. [Darcey's scoring remains a mystery - "no faux pas" is worth a 9, and "it was perfect apart from one error" is a 10. God, I wish we could be rid of her. - Steve] Behind them are all the vanquished men. And lovely Pasha smiling down the camera just for us. Hi Pasha!

Abbey and Aljaž are next and Bruce makes an old joke to introduce them and basically makes it a political comment on BLAHDY BBC REPEATS OMG. You think this show is bad at repeating content, Bruce? I had to sit through X Factor last weekend where there so many recaps I swear the recaps were recapping the recaps. [And then we had to recap the recaps which recapped the recaps. I felt like I was in Inception. - Steve]

Abbey and Aljaž are repeating their waltz to ‘Kissing You’, which was Abbey’s favourite dance. They repeat the lie that Abbey ‘came from the dahnce guttah’ and Craig says this time she needs to get a 40 – no real hints about how to improve her technique, but I assume the answer to that is simply ‘turn up in a Strictly final’. Not that I’m complaining because I love their ballroom (but only the rumba from their Latin). It’s beautiful and all but reprising a waltz (or a cha cha) in the final is a bit… easy, no? [It did seem interesting to me that both Natalie and Abbey were reprising week one dances where the scope for improved technique and thus improved scores seemed limitless. - Steve]

Bruce welcomes our fabulous singers Davearch, and his wonderful orchestra for ‘the final time’. What, ever? Bruno says he’s experiencing everlasting love. A flirt to the last, and calls her a winner, regardless of the vote. Craig says he had a hunch about them in week one and was right, they were amazing. Abbey starts crying. Darcey says her top line is incredible and she hasn’t seen a celebrity achieve that before in this show. Len says the dance should be designated an area of natural beauty and no ‘girl celebrity’ in this show ‘and in America’ has had such a good top line. Obviously Benz Titz wins for the men. Bruce then says Abbey’s ‘bottom line’ is also nice, the filthmonger.

Tess welcomes them to the Tess Circle and I see Deborah and Mark. I’ve missed you both. And Tony – standing several feet away from Aliona. That restraining order she presumably got immediately after they left is clearly working wonders. Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for the first 40 of the final (oh come on, it’s hardly going to be the last). Tess says they got 32 last time so that shows a huge improvement. [No mention of the fact that she topped the leaderboard in week one with this dance, so they can continue the bizarre "Abbey is such a novice who's been on such a journey!" narrative. - Steve]

The third couple of the evening are Natalie and Artem. We’re reminded that last week they were actually good again after a few weeks of not being that great, but fat lot of use that was, as they ended up in the dance. The judges’ choice for them is the cha cha cha to ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ (ZOMG CONSPIRACY! JUDGES CHOOSING EASY DANCES FOR THEIR FAVOURITES!!1111!!! CALL OFCOM NOW!!111!!1). I really, really wish we could have seen their jive instead of them reprising this one. Still, Natalie is giving it lots of wink and it’s always nice to be reminded of Artem’s Ross Geller impression, I guess. [I think they just wanted to see if they could actually make him turn purple this time. - Steve] It’s fine, but it’s a cha cha and these two can do so much more - although now I’m thinking about how underwhelming Natalie’s journey has been overall – she’s such a fierce, crazy loon who is a talented ringah and should have wiped the floor with everyone, yet so few of her dances have wowed me. I blame Artem’s dedication to injury porn being greater than his dedication to the dahnce. And let’s face it, they should have done that fierce Proud Mary hair jive, because that would totally have been the best thing ever. A minute or so of swingamajig is no consolation. Sulk. [It's interesting - I almost feel like Natalie has been holding back to attempt to counteract the ringer accusations, which meant that a lot of her dances really didn't make the impact they could have made, so her journey was more like "gradually learning to release" - which doesn't really make for great television, but I loved her finally releasing and going Full Ringer for the final. It was totally worth it. - Steve]

The judges love it – Darcey says it was even cleaner than last time and Bruno says everything was flawless. Up in the Tess Circle Tess congratulates them on being in the final, whilst Ola glowers at Artem because she would have done so much more to try and be the first pro to win twice than he seems to have been bothering to do. [Eh, based on some of the Olagraphy she's been churning out this year, I doubt she's that fussed about winning again. - Steve] I wouldn’t worry Ola, Brendan’s got the tryhard thing licked. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for 39, an improvement on their previous 31.

The final couple to dance are Sophie and Brendan. Bruce decides to then do some filler showing us how hard it is to present and why he needs a week off every other week – it involves climbing up stairs to get his cue cards from a random pillar, apparently. He snipes that Tess does nothing but swan about in the ‘penthouse’. Except the weeks when she does your job. He gets the audience to agree that he works as hard as the dancers. Except that they turn up every week. And for both shows. AND some IT Takes Two. He then shouts ‘WELL TELL THE BBC’. Someone’s feeling a bit precious about tabloid headlines and Radio Times readers letters, aren’t they?

Sophie says Bruno is her favourite judge for giving her her first ten. Oh, Sophie, haven’t you learned what an old lush he is? He’ll get it out for anyone. Sophie wears very sparkly eye make-up to go into the judges’ chamber. The judges want them to do their Viennesse Waltz from week 10 and improve the top line. Now this is a dance I genuinely don’t object to seeing again as I really enjoyed it first time. However, I did not want to hear the singer murdering ‘My Favourite Things’ again. I have an ear owee. The dance remains lovely, but I think Sophie’s neck is still stuck too far out a lot of the time, not that the judges will care. It gets a standing ovation but not from Janet Ellis, who remains seated. Although she does cry.

Darcey says she looked more comfortable in hold than last time. Bruce says her neck was like an ostrich tonight. Not really a compliment, Bruce. Len says there were some lovely turns, pivots and fleckerls and the issue with her upper body is sorted out. Bruno says the ease of movement was gorgeous and she can spin his head. He says Cecil Beaton would be proud and he and Bruce get into a conflab about who he was. Craig says her posture let her down a bit but she and Brendan move together beautifully. Tess asks if she’s used to the spins and Sophie says yes. Brendan says she is beautiful to dance with and Sophie says ‘it could have been any of us’, indicating the other contestants. Why yes, a final four of Vanessa, Julien, Dave and Tony was always likely. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39.  Craig’s 9 gets booed. Oh, the Strictly final.

Leaderboard time!

Abbey and Aljaž 40
Natalie and Artem 39
Sophie and Brendan 39
Susanna and Kevin 37

Always with the leaderboard ties, this series. Tess implores everyone to vote. Yet again, I can’t (although I’d have been no use as I’d probably have given them one vote each given I’ve voted for all four of them over the two times I’ve actually voted). Showdance time! Tess reminds us that the first rule of showdance is that there are no rules in showdance. The second rule of showdance is that at least one of them will make you go ‘What. Was. THAT?’ and probably get awarded 40.

Susanna and Kevin are back and they’re sad to be leaving. Susanna bought him a toy robot because she’s trying to usurp Peter Crouch. They both blub a bit. Their show dance is to the Moulin Rouge version of ‘Your Song’ and Kevin’s in tails, whilst Susanna is in a white and sparkly ballgown with lace sides. There is a LOT of footwork-hiding dry ice. It is a very ballroom-inspired dance that is lovely and romantic with a crazily long lift and spin involving Susanna holding Kevin’s neck and nothing else - and some fireworks at the end. It’s quite lovely but rather sensible and therefore not really in the spirit of Strictly Showdance Crazy. Where’s the random hip-hop break? The gym ball? The bacofoil?

Len said it was great to stick with what you know, Bruno says it was lovely, glossy and glamorous and Kevin must have a neck of reinforced steel. Craig says it was lovely and he liked the gravity-defying spin. Darcey says it had ‘no wow factor’ but had sophistication. [Apparently not realising that "no wow factor is the biggest insult you can throw at a dance on this show. I suppose it stands to reason that Darcey can only critique harshly when she's not doing it on purpose. - Steve] Susanna says Kevin’s neck is the wow factor. And OK, it may not have been crazy exciting, but I’d agree that lift was pretty spectacular. It did lack a SOFA! CRASH! though, which is surely what we all wanted. Up in the Tess Circle, Susanna says she does want to dance her favourite dance again, but she wants to dance it with Kevin. I think that is the plan, Susanna. They thank each other for being wonderful. Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 36.

Abbey and Aljaž, we’re reminded, were the first couple to score a 40, even though it was for DISCO and that isn’t even a jahnre (unless they’re sneaking it in via the back door) so it DOESN’T COUNT. Guess what her VT is about? Her nehves at doing the showdance. She gives him a present of their day at the assault course. They call their dance ‘a paso, tango, thing’ which gives me fusion week flashback shivers (thank goodness that seems to have gone into the drawer of things we shall never mention again alongside rock’n’roll, Anton’s racism and Hayley Holt).

Abbey is wearing a gold slashed dress thing whilst Artem is wearing a leather waistcoat and has a painted on tattoo. They’re dancing to ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ and whilst I think Abbey, on form (i.e. not Latin), is possibly the best dancer of these four, this is largely a series of walking about bits, ugly face-pulling, posing and slightly awkward lifts and at once point so much dry ice you can’t see them at all. It’ll probably get a 40 though. [I liked the beginning, the end and the massive blasts of dry ice, but the middle was super-dull, I thought. - Steve]

Bruno screams ‘GET THE FIRE BRIGADE I’M BURNING THIS GIRL IS ON FIRE’ and then quotes a million more lyrics. He also mentions ‘I love rock’n’roll’. Shush, I thought we’d banished its memory. Craig loved the passion and the shapes they created. Darcey says she loved the intent but there was a bit she couldn’t see although ‘fortunately we’ve got a TV’. So have I, Darcey, didn’t mean I could see it. Len loved the mix of ballroom and Latin but thinks part of it were surplus to requirements. The audience boo and he snits ‘am I bovvered?’ Bruce declares them his favourites. See, I knew it was a bit rubbish. Tess declares it ‘possibly the most rock’n’roll routine on Strictly’. Pah. I saw Erin set fire to Richard Arnold last year. Scores: 9, 10, 9, 10 for a total of 38.

Natalie and Artem are excited about their showdance. The training footage does not look like their jive to me although it featurs some dicking about with canes. And a pole. BAN THIS SICK BBC FILTH. Natalie says the showdance could be the difference between fourth place and ‘being in the final three’. Such high ambition there Nat! (Or an awareness of where she probably is in the voting). She buys Artem a reindeer onesie as a present. [It's like she doesn't even want my vote, isn't it? - Steve]

They’re dancing to ‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ and Artem is wearing a lemon suit with a red waitcoat and Natalie, descending amind a tent on a pole, is dressed like a genie out of a lamp or something in green and gold. [I thought her costume looked like Hulk She-Ra. - Steve] Costume-wise, they look a hot, fried, mismatched mess. Dance-wise, they begin with a nice (if out of sync with each other) series of tap and quickstep moves and then there’s a bit with some canes, some nice trotting about and a few lifts, followed by them swinging around a pole, then some Charleston bits and a lift. It was nice and energetic and fun with a lot of variety in it but quite messy throughout and not much in hold. It didn’t really bring any new moves to the floor – and I still would have preferred to see their jive.

Craig says wow, it was magnificent and Darcey declares it fab-u-lous. She loved the tap dancing and the rhythm changes. Len calls it eye-popping, jaw-dropping, show-stopping and says the Brits like an underdog, but like justice more and if she’s not in the final three… Bruno says it was a Fred Astaire number and Bruce talks all over him like the professional he is. Bruno declares it a total smash and I wonder what they’re all seeing that I’m not, because I’m so far underwhelmed by all of these show dances, although Kevin and Susanna’s is probably my favourite (and I was expecting them to have a car crash of a show dance so I’m surprised how well it worked). Still, Brendan always brings something ludicrous to proceedings, right? Bruce then declares them his favourites as well. Natalie declares that dance the best moment of her life. Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 and Len begging for an 11 paddle. Well if you only used the 10 only when it was deserved and discovered paddles 1-6 you might not have such a problem, Len.

Sophie and Brendan are going to be dancing to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ (because Brendan is King of the 80s), which is the curse of reality shows, so this could be fun, especially as Brendan’s letting Sophie give him ideas. Their VT involves lots of falling over. She gives him a mini karaoke machine as a present. I bet it's all Madonna, all the time.

We start with Sophie sitting in a giant glitterball descending from the sky. She’s wearing pink sparkles and Brendan is dressed as Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. I briefly mourn for the 80s-tastic combo Brendan and Flavia would have made. Every dance would have been Dirty Dancing AND ALL THE BETTER FOR IT. Steve would disagree here, but he has never actually seen that film as far as I’m aware so his opinion on this matter is null and void. Sorry, Steve. [I've tried to watch it on several occasions and never lasted more than about half an hour before passing out from SHEER BOREDOM. - Steve] Many of the Latiny-disco-y moves are, indeed, lifted wholesale from Dirty Dancing here, although Sophie’s hips aren’t really all that and the short dress she’s wearing leaves nowhere to hide. There are some nice enough leg-splaying lifts and a good one where she spins upside down from his crotch. It’s a bit of a mess technically, and kind of rubbish, but it’s a lot of fun and endearing rubbish rather than Louis Smith's gymnastic whatever-it-was last year. [I feel like a Latin-based showdance for Sophie was always going to be a poor fit - I think they were attempting to prove that she can do Latin when really it proved that she can't, particularly. Still, I agree that it was fun to watch and that there were no legitimate car crashes in the showdance round this year, which is both reassuring and slightly disappointing. - Steve] 

Darcey declares it Heaven because she, like Brenda and Sophie and myself, is a woman over 30 who has watched a certain film too many times. Bruno likes to see Sophie having fun with her legs in the air, because he’s a perv. (Where’s Brendan, king of PURITY this week?) Craig and Len don’t get a say but there’s enough time for Bruce to declare them his favourites as well. Sophie hopes people at home think it a feelgood movie and it was like the end of the movie. If they get through, they’ll be performing THAT CHARLESTON. Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 35.

Leaderboard update:

Natalie and Artem 39 + 40 =79
Abbey and Aljaž 40 + 38 = 78
Sophie and Brendan 39 + 35 = 74
Susanna and Kevin 37 + 36 = 73

So that’s basically an inverse of the (alleged) voting leak from last week then. Tess reminds us to vote and that at the start of the results show one couple will leave and then the other three will continue dancing. We get a recap of the evening: Susanna defeating the sofa and spinning around in dry ice; Abbey being romantic (two Baz Luhrman film inspired dances back to back in this recap, by the way) and then stomping and posing, Natalie loving Russia and then tapping her way to a 40, Sophie going from prim Maria to dirty dancer.

We then get another VT reminding us that they’ve all loved dancing and would like to win and Natalie cries some more in it and declares it the most she’s 'ever lived' because she’s completely broken. And then we’re back in the studio and Natalie’s crying again. And we end, as is now traditional, with Bruce shouting at everyone that they’re doing things wrong.

Well, that was all a bit underwhelming, which is a shame as I like every single finalist this year. Still, the dances they’ve all chosen to reprise were enjoyable so part two can only be better, can’t it? Well, except for the bit where Robbie Wiliams turns up, anyway. Join Steve then to discover who wins!

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