Final Results: 21 December 2013
We return to the ballroom with the top four couples all dressed in their outfits for their third dance - so that's Susanna and Kevin with the paso, Abbey and Aljaž with the quickstep, Natalie and Artem with the American smooth and Sophie and Brendan with That Charleston - but they're very much in the background, as the camera goes in close on the glitterball trophy. It sort of helps to see how naff the trophy looks. I mean, no one will ever believe that I don't take this show far too seriously, but at least moments like this occasionally puncture the cloud and remind me that it's just a silly dance-and-popularity contest where the winner gets a gaudy tchotchke and brief career boost. Tess reminds us that this is the first all-female final that Strictly has ever seen (I'd grumble about how long it took us to get there, but we've only had all-male finals twice, and in both cases it was due to only having a two-person final because a contestant had to pull out through injury at some point during the competition, and we've never had an all-male top four in any series). One couple is about to leave, and then the other three will battle it out to be champions. Eep, here we go.
After a truncated titles sequence that just features the four finalists (in the following order: Sophie, Natalie, Susanna, Abbey, just in case any conspiracy theorists particularly want to read anything into that), Bruce and Tess welcome us back to the studio and remind us that voting lines are currently frozen. The couple with the fewest votes so far is about to get the boot, and then the other three couples will dance one last time. Then before we get the results, there'll be a giant showdance from the cast of 2013 and a performance from Robbie Williams. This seems like as good a time as any to remind you all that recapping this show means that I have to sit through the Robbie Williams performance twice, so if you plan on criticising my efforts, that's fine, but please take into account the traumas I endure just to get this done.
Anyway, since this show does not care that my heart has been pounding hard enough to power a turbine since about halfway through Atlantits, we have to wait a little bit longer to learn who's finishing in fourth because first we must fit in the first of countless VTs. This one is recapping the first show for those who didn't bother to watch it but have apparently suddenly appeared all super-invested in the outcome. I'm really not sure we should be rewarding that sort of behaviour, but there you go. Moments of interst: Kimberley in the audience, Aljaž reminding Abbey not to forget about technique but also to have fun, Natalie looking exactly as nerve-ravaged as I imagine I would look in her position, Kevin telling Susanna he wants her to enjoy Every Single Second, the women all seeming to genuinely enjoy each other's company, which is nice. Susanna celebrates getting two 10s in her quickstep, Abbey can't celebrate her perfect waltz score because she's all-too-aware of needing to rush off and get changed for the next routine (heh, I guess you can take the girl out of modelling, etc etc), a shirtless Artem is impressed that Natalie's cha cha cha was a full eight points better than last time, Sophie thanks her "Captain Von Trapp", Susanna accepts that her fate is in the public's hands, Abbey says that she just wanted to have a ball in her showdance in case it was her last dance, Natalie thinks that the showdance was the most special thing she's ever done and she's so grateful to Artem, and Sophie's enjoyed the whole experience of Strictly.
Bruce and Tess have got their cue cards in their hands, so we know it's officially Time To Get Serious. Bruce says that they're all winners, which is always a difficult message to swallow when someone's about to be eliminated in fourth place. And that couple is...Sophie and Brendan. NOOOOOOOO! God dammit, the one thing I wanted from this final was to see Sophie's charleston again, and now I won't even get that. I had kind of seen this coming, though: I think Sophie suffered from a combination of an underwhelming showdance (in a year where no one's showdance was particularly disastrous, I think Sophie's might have ended up being the weakest purely because it didn't play to her strengths like the others' did) and the general impression I got that while the other three really seemed to be fighting to win, Sophie was giving off more of an aura of "just happy to have got this far". I guess people are less inclined to root for you if they're not even sure that you want it all that much. [I was so disappointed we didn't get Brendan on a wanting to win rampage. Not because it would have clinched it for them, just for the lulz - Rad]
To her credit, Sophie seems to have seen this coming as well and accepts her fate with a smile. And if you ever doubted that these four finalists really like and respect each other, Natalie stands back and applauds heartily (Artem's clearly taught her everything he knows) while Abbey and Susanna fling themselves at Sophie as she walks over to Bruce and Tess. Aww. That really makes me like every single one of them a little bit more. Sophie skips over to Tess, and everyone gets to their feet including the judges. Bruce says that he's sorry to lose them, and he thinks that in another year, they could've been winners. Again, a nice sentiment, though I'm doubting the credibility of it - I can't think of a single recent winner Sophie would've had a chance of toppling. Sophie implores Bruce not to say sorry, because she didn't come here to win, she came to have fun and the whole thing has been incredible. Tess asks Brendan if he's proud of Sophie (yes, this is truly a question that has gone unanswered all series in all of his eight-minute monologues) and Brendan says that he's had the best series and Sophie's been the best partner a guy could wish for. Sophie says that Brendan has been brilliant, and she's really happy - and she's going to do the charleston at the wrap party. WELL THAT'S NO BLOODY GOOD TO ME, IS IT? We see Sophie's best bits VT, which focuses a lot on her ballroom and her charleston and less so on her Latin, understandably. Back in the studio, Bruce thanks Sophie again, and Sophie thanks Bruce, and thanks everyone in general. Then there are hugs with all the other finalists and Sophie wishes them all to "have fun out there" and then she and Brendan skip up to the Tess Circle as Janet Ellis looks on, beaming with pride.
So here's our top three, then: Susanna and Kevin, Abbey and Aljaž and Natalie and Artem. Tess informs us that all the votes from earlier have been carried over, and now the lines are open once more for us to vote for our preferred winner. We're going in the same order as we were before, so Susanna and Kevin will dance first. Or ninth, depending on how you're doing the counting at home. First, we get to see Susanna's Strictly story. She tells us that she's loved every single second, and she was addicted to the experience immediately. She thinks that nothing will top her paso doble, because of the setting at BLACKPOOL and how it all just felt like the planets aligned for her and Kevin. Kevin says that you never know how you'll get on with the contestant you're paired with, but he and Susanna grew very close very quickly. He adds that Susanna has come from the beginning of being a complete non-dancer (RUBBISH, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT ABBEY WAS THE NON-DANCIEST DANCER OF ALL, EVERYONE ELSE WAS JUST TRYING TO HIDE A SECRET RINGER PAST!), just throwing herself around and being thrown by him, and has really progressed throughout the competition. Susanna points out that she's been at the top of the leaderboard and at the bottom, and her cha cha cha was a definite low point, but she's just got used to picking herself up and getting on with things. Both she and Kevin get a bit teary at the thought of it all being over, and Susanna thanks her family for all the love and support. Susanna's partner Dominic says that it's been wonderful for him and the kids to see the smile on Susanna's face throughout the whole process. Susanna says that being able to dance her favourite dance again means the world to her, and she feels it's right that the last dance they'll do together combines drama and emotion. And faces. Lots and lots of faces.
The music strikes up, Kevin flamenco-taps among the flames and Susanna curls her hands as their oh-so-memorable BLACKPOOL paso begins again. The slight problem with repeating a routine from BLACKPOOL in Elstree is that there just isn't as much space, so the routine looks a little bit cramped in the smaller studio. It's still a wonderful, dramatic routine though, and there are few things I have enjoyed this series more than the "COME ON THEN, I'LL 'AVE YER" look on Susanna's face as she and Kevin do the clapping section. I wasn't sure if we were going to get the giant red sheet flying over the top of them at the end, but we do, and then Susanna drops to the floor, and her last dance on Strictly is over. She remains there for a while, breathing heavily, as the crowd leap to their feet. Kevin stretches out a hand to her and she gets up, looking tired and relieved. [I love that dance. God bless her paso face and Kevin's ridiculous love of this one - Rad]
Len: "Paso doble? Pass the smelling salts!" That's one of those jokes that only really works in Len's voice. Well, I say "works". He thinks it was full of energy and attack, and he loved it. Bruno tells Susanna that she's a drama queen, and that's what this dance is all about. He thinks she was dancing for her life, and he loved it. Craig says that the shoulders tend to raise, the fingers were all wrong - NO, HE'S JOKING, HE LOVED IT. Darcey finishes by saying that Susanna came out on top in her last dance of the series.
Up in the Tess Circle, Susanna just seems completely spent - physically and emotionally. She's leaning on Kevin for support as she says what a privilege it was to get to do that dance again, and she can't believe that was the last one. Kevin, welling up, thanks her for an incredible series. Tess asks her how she feels about having a 1 in 3 chance of lifting the glitterball trophy, and Susanna says that the real prize for her has been getting to do the series at all, because it's been four months of bliss. Kevin agrees. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39, same as last time. Well, I guess Craig did say he thought Susanna would never be a 10-girl for him. Kevin says that they felt like this was their best dance, and that it's been an amazing series. Meanwhile Sophie is stood behind, still in her charleston outfit, and OH MY GOD STOP RUBBING IT IN, UNIVERSE.
Next it's time for Abbey's Strictly story: Abbey thinks it's been great from start to finish, and Aljaž says he couldn't have asked for a better partner for his first series. Abbey says that she didn't think she'd even make it through week one, because of THE NEHHHVES and the LACK OF DANCE EXPERIENCE (*twitch*). Her lowest ebb was being in the bottom two with her rumba in week six, and she feels honoured to be in the competition with all these people who she considers to be much better than she is. The high point was, of course, that salsa and the accompanying perfect score. Aljaž says that every day of rehearsals has felt so much fun that it didn't feel like work, and he and Abbey are going to be FRIENDS FOREVER. Peter Crouch and Sophia appear to say how proud they are of Abbey, and Abbey's nan Theresa says that she loves her so much that it makes her cry. Aww. Abbey can't believe how emotionally attached she's become to the show, and she's so sad because it's coming to an end. Her favourite dance of the series was the quickstep. [Why the HELL this one and not their beautiful Viennese Waltz? Their sexy rumba? Their lovely American Smooth? Madness. - Rad] She's chosen it because she's felt like she's been walking on sunshine (DO YOU SEE?) for the last three months, so it feels like a fitting way to end the show. Abbey's sad that it's going to end, and she wants to win it for Aljaž as the best thank you ever.
Hooray! The comically-oversized bucket and spade are back! Unfortunately, so is the gapping. I briefly got my hopes up at the beginning because for the first 20 bars or so it looked like they'd fixed it, and there was barely any light peeking through between Abbey's torso and Aljaž's. But as the dance goes on, unfortunately the gap reappears and grows wider, possibly even wider than it was first time around. That's a shame, because as much as I get annoyed by this show's narrative of Abbey as this total novice who couldn't dance a single step before she arrived, because I think it's exaggerated and unconvincing, one thing I have enjoyed about Abbey in the last week or so is how she really does seem to have learned a lot about technique over the course of the show. I was pleasantly surprised to see her on It Takes Two talking passionately and in detail about spotting her own mistakes and working to improve them. So part of me was really rooting for her to have sorted the gapping in this dance out because it would've served as an excellent coda to Abbey's actual journey of improvement on the show, and it's a shame it didn't happen on the night. It's also a shame for them that there's a clear error at the end, where Abbey goes into a leap and Aljaž doesn't, and it looks like Abbey lands on the hem of her skirt and skids along on it. I don't know whether that was a mistake on Aljaž's part, or whether they originally planned to have a jump there and took it out at the last minute, but it's fairly hard to miss. That said, Abbey retains her composure impressively throughout.
Again, the audience leap to their feet, and like Susanna, Abbey seems almost too exhausted to get up out of the deckchair. (What I wouldn't give for Alesha to still be a judge at this point, and to remind them that in her day the final was FIVE dances.) Bruno says that it was absolutely dazzing in its brilliance, and he thinks it's up there with the best quicksteps he's ever seen on Strictly. Craig thinks she was brave to reprise this one because he gave it a 7 the first time out - there was gapping, the chin was down, the frame was loose, and the arms were a mess - "but you've managed to correct just about all of those things, so congratulations". (That's the nearest we're going to get to any of the judges actually mentioning the gapping, by the way. But that's just the way things go in the final, I guess.) Darcey says that Abbey wasn't walking on sunshine, she FLOATED, and it was a seamless quickstep. Len tells her that she's top of the league with wonderful movement and great posture, but unfortunately there was that little snafu at the end, even if he's inclined to blame Aljaž for it rather than Abbey.
Abbey sprints up to the Tess Circle screaming "OH MY GAHD!" and Tess reminds her that it was her last dance of the series. Abbey says that she can't bear to think about being without it, and she thanks Aljaž for being so wonderful and making it all happen, and the public who voted and kept her in. (Except for in week six, but we won't talk about that.) Tess asks Aljaž how proud he is of Abbey, and he says that she's amazed him every single week, and he's so happy he got her for his first series on the pro. Tess asks what it would mean to win, and Aljaž grins "dancing on sunshine!", and Abbey says it would just be the most perfect ending to the most perfect experience she's ever had. She's just lucky to have made it to the final and she couldn't ask for more. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 38, a one point increase on last time.
Time for our final competitive dance of the series, from Natalie and Artem. Bruce informs us that he's been up and down those stairs 60 times over the course of the series. I don't know what he's complaining about, most of us would kill to have that level of cardio included in our day-to-day work. Natalie's Strictly story is about how she's a superfan: she's watched since the beginning and has always wanted to take part, and now she's in "the inner circle". Hee. Artem says that with Natalie he's been able to do whatever he wants, because she has no limitations. Apart from that week when she fainted and couldn't do her jive, which is Natalie's personal low point of the series - she's gutted that she never got to do it. (As am I - Artem released some low-res footage and it looks like it would have been awesome and would easily have swiped the highest-scoring jive honour away from Ashley.) [I am so gutted. This series was such a poor showing for jives so it needed it - Rad] Natalie says that Artem has always wanted the best and "hasn't let me get away with 'good enough'", and she's pleased that he saw something in her even if nobody else did. Artem admires her work ethic and says that it puts him to shame. Natalie says that he's a quiet man who doesn't speak much, but he expresses himself through dance. Natalie says that she's had so much support from her family and friends, and that this has given her the best feelings of her whole live. She says that she's never felt "more myself - it's a very rare gift we've been given." Hee, she's such a ham, I love her. They've chosen the American smooth, which Natalie says she picked because it felt like doing a scene from a film the first time they did it, and she really appreciated the magic of Artem's choreography. She sobs that she hopes the love she feels for it reaches through the screen and grabs people and captures them.
I don't know if Natalie is Doing The Acting at the start of the routine or if she just got caught up in this being her last dance on the show, but she looks close to tears as they begin. This reprisal feels like one in the eye for anyone who ever said that Natalie and Artem lacked chemistry because the routine absolutely sings with it - it's a well-chosen end for them because their obvious sadness at this being their last routine on the show together fits perfectly with the story of the dance. Particularly right at the end, where Natalie's face just comes alive with emotion and she practically flings herself at Artem. Much like as soon as the routine was over, I flung myself at the telephone yelling "THAT'S IT, I DON'T EVEN CARE THAT SHE'S GOT NO CHANCE OF WINNING, I AM VOTING FOR NATALIE BECAUSE HOW COULD I NOT AFTER THAT?!" That, for me, has just overtaken Sophie's charleston and Susanna's paso as dance of the series. I'm going to be watching that back and having feelings for years to come, I guarantee it. [Yes, it was lovely. And I think they'd be my top three of the series, too, with Abbey's VW a close fourth - Rad]
It's three for three on the standing ovation front, although Natalie at least finds the strength to get back to her feet a little quicker than Abbey and Susanna did, despite all her back problems. She and Artem make their way over to the judges with their arms around each other, and a shot of the Tess Circle shows Fiona and Deborah in tears. Craig declares that there's nothing finer than everything coming together - the music, the song, the dance, and Andrea's voice in that rendition (at which point Natalie turns and bows to the band, heh), and Natalie's dancing was even more spectacular. Darcey says that you can see how much Natalie loves that dance: "it just came out of your skin". Ew. Len reminds us that last time he gave it an 8 because there wasn't enough in hold, but that's more of a critique of Artem's choreography than Natalie's dance performance, so he watched only Natalie and the performance she gave was "beyond stunning". Hee, I can just imagine Kara Tointon at home throwing whatever she was drinking at the screen and screaming "oh, so NOW YOU'RE WILLING TO OVERLOOK IT, ARE YOU? WELL, ISN'T THAT JUST DANDY FOR ME?" Len says that it's been a great series, and that was a fitting dance to finish it. Finally, Bruno declares it "flawless, like a precious jewel that you want to keep with you for the rest of your life". He says that this was one of the highlights of any series he's judged, either here or in America.
A very emotional Natalie and Artem make their way up to the Tess Circle (in another lovely moment, Abbey pats a stray strand of hair back into place for Natalie as she arrives). In possibly the greatest moment of the entire series, Natalie says through sobs that she feels like she's "touched something divine, dancing with Artem". Tess giggles "What a lovely way to talk about Artem!", doing the full nudge-nudge-wink-wink at the camera as she does so. Artem says that words can't describe how he's feeling, and Natalie absolutely blew him away. Scores are in: Craig 10, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a perfect 40. (And while the tens have been chucked around with gay abandon tonight, I'm impressed that the judges only gave out three 40s across the whole night. I expected more.) Tess hands out tissues to both of them, Natalie giggles and everyone "awww"s at the two of them.
Fun fact interlude: Natalie has now overtaken Alesha as the contestant with the highest overall average score, with 36.8 to Alesha's 36.5. I'm sad that Alesha has finally been gazumped after hanging on to it for so long, but with all the DIRTY RINGERS they were casting it had to happen sooner or later, and Natalie seems as good a choice as anyone to inherit the mantle. Also, as I said on Twitter, frankly I'm impressed that Alesha managed to hang on to that record through three years of her own scoring. That's an achievement in itself.
Natalie & Artem - 39 + 40 + 40 = 119
Abbey & Aljaž - 40 + 38 + 38 = 116
Susanna & Kevin - 37 + 36 + 39 = 112
In further "stop being so adorable, you're making this very difficult" news, we return to see Abbey wiping tears off Natalie's face and checking to make sure her mascara hasn't run. We then get a recap of all of the evening's dances: Susanna's sprightly but sloppy quickstep, her cheesy as hell but entirely delicious showdance, and that epic paso; Abbey's sweet but basic waltz, the simultaneously dramatic and dull showdance, and the fun but gappy quickstep; Natalie's CHA CHA RASPUTIN, that amazing showdance that I couldn't 100 per cent commit myself to because of the fugly dress, and the American smooth that I really can't watch again or I'm going to need yet another box of tissues.
Tess tells us that we have 10 minutes left to vote and that it's been months of hard dance labour for the finalists (at which point Abbey and Natalie dissolve into giggles over some private joke). To fill time while everyone's waiting, there's a montage of Things That Happened This Year And Things That People Thought About Them, featuring BARROWMAN, the Krankies, Strictly alumnus Alex Jones, Emma Willis and Marvin Humes in their new role as hosts of The Voice UK, somebody who thinks Ben's rumba was "beautiful", a man saying that Julien seems "quite a character", someone lying that he was "pleasantly surprised" by Vanessa, a theatrical type reminding us that it's an "all-girl final", Mary Berry declaring herself firmly Team Susanna because she has such great rhythm and always looks gorgeous, Eamonn Holmes saying that he supported Susanna as per the Union of Breakfast Presenters stipuations, Lorraine Kelly thinks Natalie is brilliant, an adorable small boy likes Abbey, lots of people like Sophie and THE PAIN IS STILL RAW.
Back in the studio, Bruce suggests a break from all the tension, so we all stop for Robbie Williams. I wish I lived in a world where Robbie Williams didn't make me tense. He's singing 'Puttin' On The Ritz', poorly, but at the pros are there to distract us from his awfulness. Also, Pasha is in tails. LOOK, OKAY, I really didn't get much Pasha-time this year. I have to take it where I can get it. Meanwhile, Robbie Williams fails to get the entire way through the song without having the crowd sing bits of it to him. I think he really should be allocated some sort of performance-related pay system where he only gets paid for the bits of the song that he actually delivers.
Credit to the show's continuity monkeys for ensuring that Artem and Kevin are both absent from the Tess Circle when we cut back to it, on the basis that they were both featured in that clearly pre-recorded routine with Robbie. I mean, nobody believes it was live but I always appreciate commitment to the illusion of liveness. Then it's another highlights VT: everyone remembers the launch show fondly and all the excitement that accompanied it. The transition from the launch show to actually learning how to dance was less enjoyable for some people, such as Rachel and Patrick. Dave says that his knees were knocking as he walked down the stairs for the first live show (arguably the most rhythm his legs had all series). Ben liked all of the theme weeks (especially the lesser known "Nice Lie Down On The Floor Week"), while Fiona thinks the experience of being in BLACKPOOL will live with her forever. Deborah says that there are things in life that money can't buy, and the experience of doing Strictly is one of them. Tony appears to say that he did it for the older generation, and I can't bring myself to take that away from him. Ashley likens the whole experience to "jumping back into the past", Rachel says it's "every little girl's dream, in terms of the hair and costumes" (at which point the editors court accusations of homophobia by cutting to Julien talking about TEN THOUSAND CRRRRRRYSTALS). We're reminded that it really was a rum year for men with a revisit of Craig lauding Patrick as the best male dancer of the year (no offence, Patrick, but let's be real here). Everyone hated being eliminated, but being part of the show was wonderful. Deborah hopes the experience of being part of the show will stay with her, and she plans to keeeeeeeep dancing, as they say. Lots of people seem to have gained confidence from it - even Julien, who I find it hard to imagine particularly lacking that trait beforehand.
We return to the studio floor, where Tess confirms that the lines are now closed, and while the votes are being counted and verified, it's time for a special treat - oh yes, it's the Cast Of 2013 Lap Of Honour. They're dancing to Donna Summer's 'Last Dance', and it's nice to see that the celebrities are being featured a lot more than they were last year. Indeed, everyone gets their own little showcase spot, themed around their day job: Tony comes on with a golf club while the pros dance around him with clubs of their own, Vanessa has a microphone and headphones, Julien is on a red carpet being snapped by paparazzi Iveta and Karen (okay, that one's somewhat questionable), Deborah gets wheeled in in an armchair while Anton dances around her with a briefcase, Rachel spells out "Strictly" on a glittery version of the Countdown letters board, Dave revs up a stationary motorbike, Fiona emerges from some feathers clutching a cocktail glass (I have no problem believing that that is indeed Fiona's day job), a surprisingly overdressed (well, he's in a shirt and trousers) Ben chucks a glittery rugby ball, Mark just gets to be on the stage reprising his MC Hammer dance AND The Dinosaur (♥), Ashley flies in on the magic carpet again as one final slap in the face, and Patrick and Anya arrive in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car. Okay, so some of those day jobs were a bit of a reach, but come on: on the whole, that was awesome. Also, it's nice to see them all here and all enjoying themselves and doing their best, but it also makes me think that the right four couples definitely made the final. So that's good. [Me too but that was a nice little routine - Rad]
Tess is up in the Tess Circle with the three remaining finalists, and while we wait a bit longer for the result, it's time for a Christmas Special trailer, which basically suggests that there's going to be quite a lot of gurning and Pasha might get his chest out a little bit. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!
Then we're in the Tess Circle again with everyone who finished in positions 15 to 4. Dave reveals that he's still dancing (if you believe he ever started), and says he's more supple than he used to be. Deborah says she's missed all the sequins, and she's so impressed with the JOURNEY that the finalists have all been on. Mark has missed being part of the show and is very happy to be back, especially now he no longer has to feel nervous. Ben's glad to be back where it all started and to catch up with everyone. Vanessa has been bowled over by everyone this evening and lets slip that Fiona's been sobbing all night.
Tess reminds us that whoever wins tonight with join the Strictly Champion Hall Of Fame alongside all the previous winners, "some of whom are in the audience tonight!" (Shot of Chris Hollins and Louis Smith sat together, and Tom Chambers elsewhere all by himself. MAKES SENSE.) Tess announces that there have been six million votes tonight, and I promise you not all of them were from me. [I laughed so hard at that given the X Factor's less than two million votes last week. I mean, you shouldn't kick a dog when it's down but HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA - Rad] But before we find out who the winner is, the previous champs would like to weigh in, in VT form: Tom says that there is nothing on the planet like Strictly. Louis says that as soon as he got the call, he knew he wanted to do it. Alesha says that Strictly came along at a time when she really needed a pick-me-up, "and boy, did it pick me up." (I for one CANNOT CONTAIN my giddiness that Alesha isn't being airbrushed out of history despite having defected to ITV, especially since Craig gave that sniffy interview earlier this year about how she BETRAYED them all and none of them speak to her any more. Clearly someone on the show still likes her.) Kerplunk says that only those who have been on the dancefloor out there can possibly understand the terror. Ramps can still remember the adrenaline and fear that he felt when the music would come on. St Jill remembers throwing up a little bit in her mouth beforehand. Kara remembers thinking "what have I done?" (And if your response to that question wasn't "Artem", then your mind is much cleaner than mine is.) Harry points out that the reward is so much greater when something is that scary. Chris describes the experience as addictive. Jill and Alesha agree that the show does something strange to you that really sweeps you up into it. Kara adds that you start out thinking it's all a bit of fun and then you realise how much you don't want to go home. Everyone remembers how tense the atmosphere was on final night because you don't want it to end. Darren opines that "nobody remembers the runner-up". Everyone agrees that the moment in which you're waiting to find out if you're the winner is the tensest of all, and then they shout out your name, and you sort of cry and cheer and laugh all at once. And since it's an annual tradition, let's all just watch Alesha winning again.
I know it's not about that right now, but I had this conversation with several people on Twitter during the final, and I think it's worth saying again that I never stanned for anyone to win as hard as I stanned for Alesha, and I don't think I ever will. Just in terms of the sheer investment I had in someone as a dancer, and their JOURNEY, and how much I wanted her to win, and I also wanted her to win FOR HER, because she'd had such a shitty year leading up to it. I've had attachments to other contestants since then, of course, and rooted for them passionately, but it's never felt as personal as it did with Alesha. If she hadn't won, I don't know if I'd have bothered watching any further series. [She's still my favourite winner too and probably my favourite contestant ever- Rad]
Anyway, the VT is still going as the contestants talk about how the show stays with you, and people always want to talk to you about it on the street, and how they'll always be grateful to the show. Alesha says her life has become better since 2007, and she owes that to Strictly. (See? Told you.) Tom says that life is about experiences and making memories, and Strictly is one of the best.
Right, Tess and Bruce have got the cue cards, everyone. Bruce reminds us that there can only be one winner (but there can be two people in second place, apparently). The winners of Strictly Come Dancing 2013 are...
Abbey and Aljaž! Honestly, I think that's the first time in all my years of watching this show where I have been genuinely surprised by the winner. The closest I've ever been before was Kara beating Matt in series eight, but even then the bookies odds started to come in on her winning during the show. The bookies had Susanna out in front pretty much the whole way through, with Natalie edging out Abbey for second place after the third round, so I genuinely didn't see this coming at all. And as anyone who follows me on Twitter will know, I was angry in the wake of the result and declared Abbey "the worst winner ever" (yeah, not really one of my finest moments), but this is where writing this blog comes in incredibly handy, because it gives me a chance to re-evaluate the show a day later with a clear head. I had pretty much written Abbey off on the night, because the maths indicated that Susanna or Sophie must have been topping the vote for the last two weeks to stay clear of the Dread Dance Off, and once Sophie went out in fourth place I assumed Susanna had the whole thing locked. I allowed myself to think that Natalie maybe, just MAYBE, might edge it out after the American smooth, but I honestly never thought Abbey had a chance. Watching it back, however, I can start to see her appeal even if it never worked for me: she seemed like she was genuinely having fun all the way to the end, she had a sweet partnership with Aljaž, and she really was very good at ballroom (I remain unconvinced by her Latin, sadly). She's still my least favourite of the four finalists this year, and I'm still amazed that despite everything that I would've thought would count against her (blond and pretty, model, in the Dread Dance Off at the midway point despite being second-from-top on the leaderboard), she managed to turn it around and take the win. Ultimately I'm just going to have to chalk it up to one of those situations where someone who just never really clicked with me obviously struck a chord with a majority of voters. And that's fine. (Although come on, NATALIE WOZ ROBBED, etc.) [I am totally surprised she won but there are at least three or four past winners who were worse than her and I didn't really mind which of the four finalists won this year (although she was probably my least favourite of the four) as they've all had amazing dances and they've all had some clunkers - Rad]
Anyway, where were we? Abbey sinks to the floor in disbelief and then Aljaž sweeps her up into his arms. Natalie and Susanna are both applauding, both looking sad that they didn't win but happy for Abbey that she did, and again, that's fine. I'm not going to be one of those emotional fascists who says you must do Gracious Loser Face at all costs and never let on that you hoped it might be you. Abbey jumps up and down and screams, while Julien Macdonald suddenly leans in and hugs Abbey's mum in the audience, which is as hilarious as it is surreal. Bruce and Tess are frantically trying to get everyone in place for the final interviews but Abbey's too busy hugging Kevin. Tess manages to get Natalie and Artem onto their marks, and Natalie says that it's been an emotional night and the best experience of her life, and she's so grateful to everyone who's supported them. It's a little bit hard to hear her over Abbey's gleeful screaming, so Bruce attempts to calm her down and tell her that they just need to have a word with the runners-up. (Some corners of the internet have taken this as confirmation from the show that Susanna and Kevin finished second, but frankly I don't buy that - both Denise and Kimberley were "runners-up" last year. I'd imagine that Susanna probably did beat Natalie but I'm not about to take a casual remark from Bruce as cast-iron proof of it.) Susanna says she's going to miss it all, and echoes that the greatest prize for her was dancing with Kevin, so she felt like a winner every day.
Then we get to our champions: a breathless Abbey says that she can't believe this. Bruce asks her what Sophie's going to say, and Abbey says that she'll love the trophy, and it'll be going in her room. (Hang on, in one of her VTs earlier she said she was going to give it to Aljaž! Poor Aljaž - so close the glitterball only to have it yoinked from under his nose to go to an adorable small child instead. Some guys just can't catch a break.) Abbey giggles that she's so shocked to have won. Aljaž can't believe it either, and tearfully hugs Abbey, and thanks her for being "incredible". Peter Crouch looks on proudly from the audience. Bruce calls her "a pro now", and frankly if Abbey winning was all it took to never have her referred to as a glorious novice again, then it was probably worth it.
Bruce hands over the trophy (which does indeed have little plates on the bottom for each winner, though I hope this show is not so cheap that it can't make a new one each year, because I'd be super-pissed if I had a trophy and had to give it back). Bruce encourages Abbey to hold the trophy high, and calls her "Sophie" in the process. Oops. The rest of the contestants rush out to congratulate them - Sophie's there first, but steps on Aliona in the process and you can hear her squealing "ooh, sorry!" Hee. Tess offers one final round of congratulations to the champs, and Bruce thanks all the couples and the judges for another wonderful year, and Abbey and Aljaž have their victory dance to 'Dancing Queen'.
So it seems only right for me to thank you all for reading and giving us a reason to sit behind our laptops for hours every Sunday, typing out all sorts of nonsense, attempting running jokes that never really land and saying things about Pasha that frankly probably border on sexual harassment. You're all great, and we hope you'll join us next year for the 2014 series [in fact we'll see you sooner than that, for the Christmas special - Rad], which will hopefully be won by Natalie Lowe and her long-overdue RINGER. Well, a boy can dream.