Top 7 Results - 1 December 2013
Hmm, did nobody get the memo about the early rehearsal today? Because we open with Janette arriving, wearing a leotard and walking through the empty studio - so empty that there isn't even an audience there. However, the band are playing a plaintive arrangement of 'Fame', so Janette takes the opportunity to start pirouetting, and then suddenly the rest of the female pros are there, the lights come up and the audience - suddenly present - cheer and applaud. I'd say it was a neat trick for Strictly to make its audience disappear like that, but The X Factor has been doing it for weeks. *slide trombone* This is a much better opening number than the confusing nonsense of last week's results show, and it's good to see that some sensible pro pairings have been restored - Pasha's back with Anya, for starters, and long may that last. Also, Robin is still away, and thanks to Brendan's Twitter feed I now know that the gentleman standing in for him is Patrick Helm, who seems delightful and is welcome back absolutely any time. Anton, bless him, looks a bit lost at the general Broadway-ness of the routine. Janette's front and centre for most of it, and gets to be the showcased pro in the elaborate lifts. It's nice to see her getting star billing for once, since I feel like she got a raw deal this series - out early on in her first year, and partnered with a very loud celebrity who she didn't stand much of a chance of being heard around. Anyway, this routine demonstrates that Janette can be totally magnetic and charming - I don't know what her odds are of being invited back next year (and I'd prefer not to have to think about such things for as long as possible, though I see the annual tiresome "ZOMG THE JORDANS MIGHT NOT GET ASKED BACK!!!" story is already doing the rounds), but I'd like to see what she could do given a slightly more favourable scenario. [I would expect she'll be back. She has also been pretty prominent on ITT and in other pro dances. In fact, I'd expect all this year's new dancers to be asked back- Rad]
Tess and Claudia turn up in headbands and legwarmers, seeming greatly distressed to have missed all the excitement. Both are in what the colour settings on my TV would suggest is navy blue (you might say black, and you might well be right, who knows?) and both look entirely acceptable, silly accessories notwithstanding. Coming up later: Alfie Boe, singing 'Bring Him Home' from Les Misérables, and also Len's Lens. But first: the behind-the-scenes version of last night.
Of note: Pasha looks dashing in a top hat, Susanna lived all of our dreams by giving Pasha a kiss, Sophie went for a wander on the balcony and in the band area, Len did a fairly dodgy rendition of Saturday Night Fever in the corridors that almost made Abbey's 10s look justifiable by comparison (CALM DOWN I SAID ALMOST), Mark wiggled his lion tail for everyone, Greg the hot floor manager got a bit sad that nobody listens to him any more (though I imagine if he saw this blog he'd be alarmed at just how much we listen to him. And look at him), Sophie tried to invent "freestyle week" as though that isn't exactly what most of these theme weeks are already ABBEY AND ALJAŽ, then Sophie declared Musicals Week "the best week ever" anyway.
In terms of Additional Dance Reaction: Patrick loved doing his charleston and hopes that came through; a still-weepy Natalie really enjoyed doing her American smooth; Mark enjoyed his lovely comments and score and is thrilled that everything went to plan; Brendan told Sophie she nailed it and Sophie announced that she'd had fun out there; Abbey is "in shock" and "gobsmacked" over her score (YOU'RE TELLING ME); Ashley is happy that Ola thought he was really good this week; Susanna's had a great time all week doing this number. The comments weren't very interesting this week, were they? Also, Len refers to Abbey and Aljaž's score as the "first 40 of the season", so prepare for many more in its wake.
Back in the studio, Tess declares the following two couples safe in no particular order: Abbey and Alja, and Patrick and Anya. No real surprises there, given the leaderboard placings. Even less of a surprise is the revelation of the first couple in the Dread Dance Off: Mark and Iveta. They're expecting it, they're amused, it's all fine. Tess greets them with a "here we go again!" and Iveta responds with a little "curses!" arm-swipe like a cartoon villain. So Ivetamazing, right to the end. Tess asks Bruno what Mark can do to save himself, and Bruno says that Mark's performance level can never be faulted, but he needs to find the "elusive samba bounce that we didn't quite see". I saw more samba bounce in Mark's samba than I saw salsa in Abbey's effing salsa, that much I do know. Mark's all "eh, I'll do my best, but come on, we all know I'm off now."
Meanwhile, Claudia's Counselling Circle is looking a little sparse at this stage in the competition. There is some discussion of Anya's expressive face when they were declared safe. Claudia asks Patrick if anything could be better for him than it is right now, and Patrick says that he can't say anything because he's so overwhelmed. Anya says that they're just going to have to take one dance at a time next week when contending with their next full routine and the swingaschlong. Claudia reminds us that Abbey's dance scored 40 (*seethes*) and she says that she never expected to get full marks, especially among such tough competition.
Next, singing 'Bring Him Home', it's The Face Of Boe. And also The Rest Of Boe. He's accompanied by Kevin and Karen doing a showcase rumba, which is all very nice but they're both overacting it a little bit in the face. I think maybe Kevin's spent slightly too long around Susanna.
Speaking of things that have been around for too long: it's Len's Lens! This week we begin by laughing at Craig twirling his way on at the start of the show. Claudia attempts to defend the level of foxtrot content in Natalie's American smooth and Len's having none of it: "I just like to see a little bit more of the foxtrot". SAID NOBODY EVER. Darcey talks more about how Ashley's rumba (WHICH IS A HARD DANCE FOR A MAN) was fluid without being feminine, and everything was directed at his partner (just like Anton's etc etc). Bruno goes on again about how your attention is drawn to Abbey even though there are two professional dancers around her, not acknowledging that a) Alja most likely choreographed the routine with that specific effect in mind, b) she's wearing an eye-catching red dress, and c) SHE'S THE CELEBRITY CONTESTANT WE HAVE FOLLOWED FOR TEN WEEKS AND WE HAVE NO INVESTMENT IN THE OTHER TWO WHATSOEVER. This is some serious Snowdoning going on right here. Claudia wonders why Craig wasn't happier about awarding a 10. If Claudia thinks his face looked angry at that point, she should've seen mine. Craig's asked if he should've given Patrick and Anya more marks, and Craig says no, of course and explains that it was flat-footed and he overspun Anya on one of the lifts, at which point the other three start going "UGH MY GOD YOU'RE SO PICKY", as though they hadn't all said last week they were going to stop letting things go and start getting really technical. Bruno says that Craig is being unfair. His comment might have more merit if he didn't have a 10 paddle superglued to his head. Len reminds us that the SCHLONGAMAJONG that returns next week involves all the couples dancing together, being eliminated one by one, and being awarded points according to how long they last. Everyone gets excited about how much difference this can make, even though the only effect the ramalamadingdong had in series nine was to move Chelsee from third to second (and Jason vice versa) and in series eight what little difference it made was negated by a second round of individual dances afterwards. SO WORTHWHILE. [But if its return means Fusion week is dead, I'll take it - Rad]
After that, it's back to Tess and the remaining couples. The remaining safe spots are taken by (in no particular order) Sophie and Brendan, Natalie and Artem and Susanna and Kevin, leaving Ashley and Ola to take the other spot in the Dread Dance Off. So if nothing else, we've learned this week that some people are definitely voting for Natalie. Which is nice. Craig tells Ashley to work on getting "even the slightest amount" more hip action into his rumba, which would pretty much secure him everyone's vote, even though he'd have to pretty much fall flat on his face in the first 10 seconds and remain there for the rest of the routine for Mark to survive again this week. Frankly, I think even then they'd probably still save Ashley.
Back to Claudia's Counselling Circle, where Sophie says that she had been thinking that she wouldn't mind being in the Dread Dance Off because she liked her routine so much and would happily have danced it again, but suddenly changed her mind when they were all stood under the spotlights. Heh. Claudia asks Natalie how delighted she is to be through, and Natalie says that Saturday was the best night of her life, and she's thrilled to be dancing again. Asked how she'll cope with two dances next week, Susanna says she hopes she'll manage, and acknowledges that her dance didn't go so well, and thanks the people who voted for her nonetheless.
Obligatory It Takes Two trailer. Zoe struts along to 'Staying Alive' and does some Saturday Night Fever moves. [And looked pretty darn foxy in the shirt/trousers/heels combo and that's not something I ever thought could be said about la Ball - not that she's ugly, but she's a sweet/pretty kind of attractive, not a sexy kind - Rad] Let's hope this is entirely coincidental, and not an attempt at subtextually propping Abbey up even further.
Dread Dance Off time. Mark vows to bounce - or at least, to try to. Claudia asks Ashley if he's gutted to be in the Dread Dance Off, and Ashley says yes, but it is what it is. He doesn't sound thrilled about going back up on that carpet, if truth be told. [I don't blame him - that was an incident form waiting to happen if you ask me - Rad] He promises to bring the hip action this time.
Mark and Iveta reprise their Simba samba. As ever, they give it a good go - they definitely know it's their last outing this time and are just enjoying the routine. The bit at the end where Mark spins a crouching Iveta on the spot goes a bit wrong, not that it's likely to make much difference at this stage. The reprisal of Ashley and Ola's rumba is ruined slightly by the camera lingering on Ashley for too long after he lands on the carpet, so we can see him unbuckling his safety belt. There's not masses of evidence of increased hip movement, but again: as if it matters. It's an entirely solid reprisal and more than enough to guarantee their safety.
Time for the formalities: Craig votes to save Ashley and Ola. As does Darcey. And Bruno makes three. Mark seems relieved to be going home. Len confirms that he would've voted to save Ashley and Ola as well. Mark and Iveta get a standing ovation from the crowd for services to sheer determination and enthusiasm. Mark thanks Iveta for being a fantastic teacher, as well as his wife and kids for supporting him and everyone involved with the show. Iveta says that this was her first season on the show (poor Johnny Ball) and Mark made it so special and memorable for her, and he is her family now and they will stay in touch OR ELSE. Aww. I really am going to miss both of them. I genuinely thought Mark felt like a bit of an afterthought contestant at first, considering how he was treated on the launch show, but he and Iveta produced some of my favourite routines of the series, and I hope Iveta has cemented her invite back for next year based on what she pulled off in this partnership. Mark and Iveta have their final dance to 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life', and their time on the show comes to an end.
So that's it for Musicals Week. Next week it's No Bruce Week (again) and the return of the schlongadong. Well, God gives one hand and takes with the other, I suppose. Join Rad for an extensive examination of it all next week.