Monday, 27 October 2014

Samba enchanted evening

Week 5: Top 12 Perform - 25 October 2014

Last week: the top 13 took on a non-theme week for a change (and yes, "what the fuck is Donny Osmond doing here?" counts as a theme). Some people did well, others not so well, and there was an OMG SHOCK DANCE-OFF for the second week running after another mid-table bloke who'd done an only-okay routine in an early performance slot ended up dancing for survival. Luckily for Mark (for 'twas he), he was up against Tim Wonnacott, and even though I'd have chosen Tim's (well, Natalie's) paso a hundred times over Mark's bland quickstep, the judges voted to grant Mark a stay of execution, and so we lost Tim. More importantly, we also lost Natalie. I try not to use emoticons in recaps, but I feel it's justified here: :(

This week, even though it's another theme week, the opening VT has decided it's "back to school" week (at the start of half-term, thumbs up to whoever was behind that particular piece of scheduling) for the celebs this week, so we have all of the contestants as the pupils with varying degrees of dedication (Jake's the sarky one at the back, Thom's the dedicated student, Caroline's writing lines on the blackboard) and the pros as their demanding teachers (particularly Pasha, Janette, Karen and Iveta, although it's times like this when I really miss Erin, because she would have been absolutely terrifying). It goes without saying that if Pasha had been my teacher at school, my attention would have been diverted away from the matter at hand every time he turned around to write on the blackboard. (Yes, the blackboard. I am quite old and I went to a school that hadn't even embraced the whiteboard yet, never mind anything more modern than that.)

Titles! Sunetra really did used to have her elbow in some weird places before Brendan taught her how to stand in hold properly.

In the ballroom, Claudia and Tess are escorted in by Aljaž and Kevin, and it gives me no pleasure to say that neither of them is looking their finest this week. By which I mean the boys: Aljaž's hair is all slicked back and oily-looking, while Kevin is wearing a maroon suit that wouldn't out of place on Quentin Crisp. All I can say is: Pasha had better be picking up the slack this week. In terms of Daly Dresswatch and What Winkleman's Wearing, I think this might be the first time in Strictly history that Claudia's outfit is far, far more alarming than Tess's: Tess is wearing an ankle-length red dress with a black belt and black lace at the top, while Claudia is wearing a giant black gown with slashed sleeves that looks like she's turned up in her Elvira costume a week too early. What on earth did Claudia do to upset Vicky Gill?

Claudia and Tess introduce the judges (Claudia refers to them as "the four who score", which I rather like) and Bruno, Darcey, Len and Craig make their entrance. Interestingly, Craig's the only one who's even remotely interested in showing off and twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom as he takes to the stage at this point: the other three just do a bit of half-hearted vogueing and then tromp off to their seats. Following the judges, as they inevitably much, are our remaining Strictly stars: Jake and Janette, Pixie and Trent, Steve and Ola, Judy and Anton, Mark and Karen, Alison and Aljaž, Frankie and Kevin, Caroline and Pasha, Simon and Kristina, Scott and Joanne, Sunetra and Brendan, and Thom and Iveta. Clearly aware that Aljaž and Kevin are poorly attired this week, Pasha and Thom have both opted to get the girls out. In an ideal world I would just freezeframe that and stay here forever, but sadly this recap won't write itself.

Tess reminds us yet again of last week's SHOCKITY SHOCKING DANCE OFF and how it just goes to show you that nobody is safe. I mean, yes, both Mark and Simon were in the dance-off earlier than I expected them to be, but in both cases it happened after disappointing performances in the first half of the show that left them mid-table at best, so pardon me if I still don't seem entirely shocked by it. I'd say we're a week or two away from the point where we usually see someone plummeting into the bottom two from a comfortable second- or third-place position on the leaderboard, and that maybe all involved should save the pearl-clutching until it happens to Frankie, Caroline, Pixie or Jake. (I'd be very surprised if it happened to Jake.)

Anyway, shall we? Jake and Janette are up first this week. Tess says that since they needed to be nimble for their quickstep, Jake suggested that the he and Janette go for a spar, "unfortunately for Janette he didn't mean the sort of spa where you can have a body wrap and a sauna." I'd say that's fairly unfortunate for all of us, because exhibit A:

[RIP Lucy Beale.]

Part of me was hoping that, in the grand tradition of comedy VTs, Jake would actually be taking Janette to Spar and they'd spend the afternoon buying ready meals, Twixs and a copy of We Love Pop magazine, but then I remembered that the last supermarket-related comedy VT I can recall was Jason Donovan twatting around Tesco in a sombrero, so perhaps it's best we never tap that well ever again.

Last week's jive went quite well (apart from the Pamela Stephenson-esque stumble in the middle) and Jake admits that it's as much of a surprise to him as it is to everyone else that he's so good at this dancing lark, but points out that one of the benefits so far has been that people in the street call him "Jake" now, whereas before they were probably shouting "BRANNING SCUM I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU!" He smiles bashfully and says that he's quite enjoying being recognised for his own achievements and not just for bedding every woman in the E20 postal area. It turns out that going sparring was actually Janette's idea anyway, and I mean it's not like I'm looking for Tess Daly's introductory anecdotes to be so robust and well-considered that they could be used as GCSE set texts, but it would be nice if the show itself could go more than a minute without directly contradicting them. They get into the boxing ring together and bounce around a bit, and then do a quickstep in their headguards and boxing gloves, which is still probably 100% less silly than anything anyone had to wear for Movie Week.

They're dancing to 'I'm Still Standing', and...eesh. I mean, I know that coming up with new song choices every week must be difficult, but I feel like there are some that are so intrinsically associated with a particular dance when it comes to Strictly that they really shouldn't ever be used again. I'm more than happy to entertain a debate on which ones qualify for canonisation, but I'd say for starters that 'I'm Still Standing', 'Crazy In Love', 'Hot Hot Hot' and 'You Do Something To Me' should be off-limits in future. The story is that Jake and Janette are commuters who literally bump into each other at "Walford Station" (first of all, it's Walford East, and second of all, let's not kid ourselves that anyone in Albert Square needs to walk further than 100 metres to get to their place of work) and decide to quickstep their way through their anger issues. Janette makes a slightly questionable choreographic decision by opening with a section that is weirdly languid and not the sort of thing I picture when I think of a quickstep, but it does then pick up into a much more fast-paced routine. It's a little skippy in places and Jake's frame's a little loose, but you couldn't squeeze a butter knife between them and on an entirely superficial level I love the happy-puppy look Jake gets on his face whenever he has to do something that's light in tone like this is. Happily, it does not end with thousands of angry District Line users pummelling Jake and Janette to death for preventing them from catching the next available train to Fulham Broadway.

The audience (including Babs Windsor) are on their feet in rapt applause, and Tess welcomes Dave Arch and his incredible orCHEStra (weird emphasis there) while Jake tries to stop hyperventilating. Len tells them that it's "light, bright, fun and fast - everything that the Underground isn't". He admired their footwork and the heel leads, although he noticed that Jake occasionally lost his hold. Bruno praises their body contact and says that the judges are always looking for that (really? REALLY?), but adds that Jake needs to watch his top line. Craig thinks the hold "wasn't too bad", but he thought that sometimes Jake was letting his frame do the dancing, and says that Jake's right foot sometimes turns out more than the left - but he's only being picky because Jake is so good. Darcey closes by saying that the boys are right (IMAGINE THAT!) but she was very impressed with how hard Jake was working, but she encourages him not to show the effort in his shoulders.

Up in the Clauditorium, Jake says that it's a privilege to go first, and he feels very honoured to open the show. Janette says that the judges were right to pick up on Jake's issues with his frame, but she's very happy with the positive comments they did get. Claudia tells us that Jake's adorable kids have got their own leaderboard at home (which I'm pretty positive we've seen before, but I can't remember whether it was here or on It Takes Two) to earn him a few extra DILF points with the viewers at home, and then it's time for the scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. Claudia asks Jake if he's disappointed with the seven, and Jake's like "are you nuts, lady? I'm not saying that on camera."

Next up are Sunetra and Brendan with their Viennese waltz. Tess asks Bruno to explain what one of those might be, presumably for the benefit of the few audience members who think it's a type of biscuit. In her VT, Sunetra says that she's very happy with how her salsa went, and she's always very grateful when she gets to stay in another week. They're dancing to 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' by Cilla Black, and I cry "theft!" because that's what I was going to dance my Viennese waltz to, goddammit. Oh well, at least I have a back-up plan ('÷' by Aly & AJ, or possibly 'Boom Bang A Bang' by Bloody Lulu) [I'm after something similar to Anyone Who Had a Heart with Anyone by Roxette - Rad], but just don't expect me to react so calmly if anyone beats me to using Laura Branigan's 'Self Control' for their paso doble. Anyway, back to Sunetra and Brendan: Sunetra is finding all the spinning rather difficult, so Brendan takes her off to a children's playground for acclimatisation training for centrifugal force. Brendan spins Sunetra round and round on the roundabout (while Dead Or Alive's 'You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)' plays on the soundtrack, and you know how much I love my on-the-nose soundtrack choices) and she tries to focus on different points, and also not to projectile vomit in his face. She manages it. Just.

Sunetra's given us some excellent ballroom so far, and this is another one to add to her collection: it's sweetly acted and elegantly danced, although she does start to turn green a little bit towards the end, so maybe she could've used a few more sessions with the roundabout, but perhaps Brendan was getting restless and wanted to go on the slides and swings?

Tess says that she felt dizzy just watching it (I imagine Tess feels dizzy in most scenarios) and Bruno says that Bruno is such a good driver, "like the Lewis Hamilton of ballroom", because he disguises Sunetra's habit of raising her shoulders so well, but Bruno notices nonetheless that she's still doing it. Craig loved the double spin into hold, but warns Sunetra not to look down at her feet when doing turns out of hold. Darcey says that Sunetra is clearly happiest when she's in hold, and says that doing turns with your arms up like Sunetra did is hard even for professionals. Finally Len says that it was terrific - he loved the precision and poise and of course the fleckerl.

They bounce up to the Clauditorium, buoyed by the positive feedback, and Claudia asks if it's true that Sunetra watches herself back on Sunday and has no memory of doing the dance? Sunetra confirms that this is indeed true, and I'd imagine she's probably going to have even less memory of doing this one thanks to the head trauma she received from all those spins. Brendan says that he can't take credit for the choreography because that was all down to Anya Garnis (hi Anya! We miss you!) and then the scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. Claudia reminds us that Sunetra has a very busy schedule at Casualty and can only train for about 20 minutes a week, and I love that they've basically decided at this point that no one was buying the "Pixie Lott is very busy and important" narrative so they've just moved it over to Sunetra, who can actually back it up.

Up next we have Scott and Joanne, dancing the charleston. Because Scott is playing a photographer in the dance (oy), Tess does a bit of business where she pretends to take a picture of the judges but only if Craig actually smiles. It succeeds not because of Tess, but because Craig can't actually keep up the sternface as long as they need him to without bursting into a fit of the giggles. In his VT, Scott says that he felt like he was progressing until last week, but now he feels like he's back at square one. Oh Scott, that's unfair: you actually got more points in week one than you did last week, so this is more like square minus-one. Scott says that it's demoralising to hear comments like Craig's from last week when he's put so many hours into his training. Their gimmick for this week is that Joanne follows Scott everywhere so they can rehearse whenever he has a spare minute, although I'm sure that the second she heard S Club 7 were reuniting she'd have been down to Radio 1 before you could say "hoochie mamas show your nanas" anyway.

They're dancing to 'Flash, Bang, Wallop', with Scott as a photographer and previously stated, and Joanne as some sort of smirking débutante. The sort of character you could imagine getting one snarky line in Downton Abbey before being cleft in half by Lady Mary. It's a routine that embraces all of the worst of the charleston's excesses: character over content, winking at the camera, throwing in any old shit if it stops you having to actually dance for a few seconds (I swear on my life at one point they are on the floor doing the dance to 'Oops Upside Your Head') [The whole VT had me thinking Joanne had spent too long at the Roadrunner disco - Grimsby represent - as a kid and made me afraid of this dance even before I saw it - Rad]. Scott is trying, but there's no swivel there at all, and there's a cringeworthy moment where Joanne slides through his legs and can't quite get herself back on her feet in time, so a bit that was clearly meant to transition into a showy left ends up merely leading into Scott vaguely picking Joanne off the floor and dangling her for a few seconds before putting her down again. It's just all very regrettable from start to finish.

Craig opens for the judges, saying it was "positively hellacious", that it lacked swivel, his feet never came together, and even a three-year-old could have done it better - but he put some personality into it and it's his best dance to date. I'm not even sure I'd give it that much credit, but maybe they're just trying to avoid spurring people into righteous sympathy voting. Darcey says that he "weirdly pulled this off", and ends up just advising Scott to work on strengthening his core because there's probably not much else you can say at this point. Len says it was fun and entertaining, and he loves that Scott always comes out and tries no matter how much grief he gets. He's being quite well paid to do that, Len. Bruno says that Scott's dance skills are "unique, undefinable and definitely unforgettable", and suggests that Scott could be the love child of Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant. Ho boy, here comes my lunch again.

Recharged by lukewarm praise, Scott sprints up to the Clauditorium where Claudia tells us that Scott's dad and boyfriend are in the audience and will be very proud, and then tells us all that it was Joanne's birthday yesterday and she'd probably like four 10s from the judges. "That would be nice," says an unconvinced Joanne. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Len 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 19. Scott reassures us that he's "loving it" (sure, you definitely don't look like you would rather be keeping an electric chair warm between occupants or anything) and wants to make it through to Hallowe'en week. So that's Scott not going anywhere yet then.

Up next, we have Thom and Iveta. Thom gives a little half-hearted shoulder shimmy when he hears their names. Bless him, he is trying to be a bit more present, little by little. Thom was very pleased with his foxtrot last week because it was the first time he didn't make a mistake. He was also pleased to have his brother in the audience, because they're very close. This week he's got the cha cha cha, and Thom decides it's time to actually introduce Iveta to his brother Max. Iveta becomes the envy of every man who's ever bought a copy of Attitude by sitting between the two of them and asking them questions like who's the better rugby player, have you always been competitive, which one's the top, etc etc. Iveta makes them arm wrestle, just for her personal enjoyment, and Thom wins. Then she decides to see who the better dancer is, and the pair of giant goobers do the routine to *NSYNC's 'Bye Bye Bye' for her, and then they high-five each other afterwards. Neither one looks remotely embarrassed about this, in fact they look quite proud of it, and that only makes me love these dorks even more. Max says that he's very proud of everything Thom's achieved so far and encourages him to keep going. I love how "awkward visits with the family" seems to be a running gag for this year, what with Trent considering faking the death of a loved one to get out of an evening with the Lotts, and now Iveta sitting between Thom and his brother and starting to wonder if she is in fact surplus to requirements. To the dancefloor!

Their cha cha cha is to 'It's My Party' by Jessie J (ugh), and it's another sign of how much Thom's improved since the early weeks. His dancing may still not be terribly precise, but in terms of sheer presence and performance he's like a different person at this point. There's a lot of grinding and pelvic thrusting which is all very nice, but there are some moments where it doesn't feel like Iveta has given Thom all that much to do - or at least she hasn't taught him properly how to gloss over it if he hasn't got much to do. Also it could do with a bit more hip movement. But it does end with a bit where Iveta does a back bend over Thom's knee and it looks like fireworks are shooting out of her mimsy, and I'm always down for that.

The audience are on their feet again, and Tess tells Thom that he's improved so much. Darcey tells him that she could see him slightly overwhelmed at the beginning, but he warmed into it - which is impressive because the cha cha cha is a very technical dance (*twitch*) and it's even harder for the boys (*twitch twitch*) [Is there a single sodding dance that isn't hard for TEH MENZ?  Is there anything women are allowed to find hard? - Rad], but he upped his performance and came out with plenty of energy. Len says that he felt Thom didn't quite know what to do with his arms, and his feet occasionally lacked conviction, but having said that, he came out and performed it strongly and gave it lots of hip action. Bruno calls him "the toyboy for any occasion, he goes with everything!" Oh Bruno, that's no way to talk about Kelly Brook. Bruno says that Thom's personality keeps expanding over the last few weeks and he's coming alive, and that this was a good performance, but sometimes his feet weren't quite right and it looks more like a salsa-samba-disco. So I think what Bruno's saying is that if Thom were Abbey Clancy he'd be getting 10s right now. Craig thought it was pigeon-toed and that Thom needs to have a straighter leg, but he thinks Thom's rhythm is very good and he's "quite marvellous at grinding".

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia tells us that Thom's mum Sally is here from Portugal, and Thom waves to his mum and then, without missing a beat, tells Claudia she looks lovely. Claudia melts into a puddle of goo. Thom admits that he messed up a few steps, but that he's just trying to up his performance level every week, and hopes he'll get another chance to dance. Claudia tells us that Thom's not competitive with any of the other dancers, just with himself. Thom says that he's always been that way, and I imagine that approach didn't sit well with the rest of his rugby team. Scores are in: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Hmm. Considering he's in THE DEATH SLOT (there's always been at least one couple in the dance off every week who performed somewhere between second and fourth), I'm worried a score like that might put him in danger.

Frankie and Kevin are next, and I should probably warn you: IMPENDING CUTE ALERT. (And I don't mean Kevin.) (Well, maybe I do a bit.) Frankie's pleased that she did well again last week, because she was really "unconfident" about her cha cha cha, but still got 32 for it. This week they have the foxtrot, but let's not waste our time with trivialities like dancing when we have COOT to deal with, because Frankie's husband Wayne has brought their son Parker along to rehearsals. Parker is adorable. And not just in that "all babies are cute" way, but in the "has a brilliantly expressive face and is just generally precious" way. Parker plays with a balloon and crawls around the training room with a big grin on his face and seriously WHY WILL MY BBC ID NOT LET ME VOTE FOR PARKER?

Over to Frankie and Kevin's foxtrot, to 'Daydream Believer'. Now, let me be clear: I love Kevin. I think Kevin is great. I don't always agree with all of his decisions, but I think his instincts on what will work well for his partner are generally pretty on point. So it pains me to say that I...don't really like this routine. It's not the dancing because Frankie is as polished as ever, and keeps up with him every step of the way. It's just the theming, where they're a couple having a picnic under a rainbow and they're so impossibly in love that they just start skipping across the room It's too sweet. It's saccharine. It's twee. And there's a bit where they just zip across the length of the dancefloor waving their arms like they're trying to attract passing helicopters and Kevin has his face all scrunched up and CALM DOWN, KEVIN. I like Frankie, and I like Kevin, but I don't like this. (Kevin's arse looks cracking as always, though, so it's not all bad.) It ends, and Kevin exclaims "that was awesome!", so maybe I'm on my own here.

Tess coos over Series 12 Breakout Star Parker Bridge and suggest he's a future Strictly star in the making. Maybe he can be the youngest pro ever? He can't be any worse than Jared Murillo, etc. (Poor Jared. I think he gets more stick than he necessarily deserves, but he was also the easiest punchline there, and sometimes you just have to go with what life gives you.) Tess points out that this is Frankie's first ballroom dance since week one, and Len says he's really missed seeing her in ballroom - she had lovely fluid movement throughout, but she just needs to work harder on getting her upper body away from Kevin. Kevin: "She's only human, Len!" Bruno liked the contrast of the coyness of the opening and the showbiz mid-section, and he liked the foxtrot content, but he wants Frankie to arch her back a bit more. Craig thought the opening was sweet and it was a very wholesome performance, but agrees that Frankie needs to push her top line. Darcey says that "the boys are right" (sigh), Frankie looks too comfortable in her top line. Hang on, didn't Jake look too uncomfortable in his? Where exactly is the perfect mid-point? I'm so confused.

Naturally, the hot topic of conversation in the Clauditorium is Series 12 Breakout Star Parker Bridge, and Claudia volunteers the entire rest of the cast for babysitting duty. Frankie, with the weariness of someone who's there for all of the moments of her child's life and not just the telegenic ones, says they can have him whenever they like. Kevin says that he's tried eating cheese and onion crisps to make Frankie arch her back more, but it turns out she quite likes them. Scores: 8s all round, again, for a total of 32, again.

Alison and Aljaž are up next, and Tess comments that Alison's having a wonderful time on the show, before saying that nudge-nudge-wink-wink Alison's been living the life of Riley. Oh god, we all know what's coming, don't we? Look, just stay with me - nobody try to break away, nobody try to be a hero, and we'll get through this together. Alison loved doing her samba last week, and Aljaž loved how they got the party started. Alison confesses that she's feeling quite fatigued, and she wasn't expecting to get this tired, so Aljaž tells her he's going to bring in a previous contestant for a pep talk. Yep, it's Lisa Riley, whose start-well-and-then-totally-flatline narrative Alison has been following so closely. Lisa says that her aches and pains just made her work harder, and gives Alison some tips on how to achieve that proper ballroom stance. Good grief, technical advice from Lisa Riley. Presumably this is the first of a series of masterclasses; the others include:
  • Learn To Samba The Widdy Way!
  • Accepting Your Elimination Gracefully With Jan Ravens
  • Scott Maslen's Stamina For Success
  • Tess Daly's Guide To Landing A Punchline
  • A Comprehensive Approach To Latin American Choreography With Anton Du Beke
Alison and Aljaž are dancing the tango this week; I'm not familiar with the song but Wikipedia assures me it's 'Addicted To You' by Avicii. I'm not really a fan of this "club music for tangos" approach this year (Caroline and Pasha were similarly afflicted), and as much as I enjoy Alison, I'm starting to question whether she's ever likely to improve that much. There's some good acting going on here, and in general I'm fine with most things that are going on above the waist (the hold could do with being a little firmer, but it's not her greatest problem by a long stretch), but her footwork is just not delivering, in this number particularly. [I agree.  I love Alison but I really don't know if she has anywhere to go - Rad]

Afterwards, Alison has a bit of a giggle with Tess about how they've both turned up in red tonight, and Tess congratulates Alison on managing a good tango face after saying all week that she was struggling with it. Bruno says he can see the effort that she's putting in, and she changed her whole persona, and that's all stuff that he loves, but she needs to be much sharper in her movements. Craig thought it lacked drama and was very soft around the ages, and she took forever to get into hold. Alison says that she listens to Craig and she takes on board everything he says. Darcey says that it does need to be crisper and cleaner, but Alison did look in control of it, and she did love the storytelling. Len tells Alison not to take on board what Craig says, because "it'll set you back weeks". He agrees that it took a while to get started, but he thinks Aljaž is getting the best out of Alison, and he thought there was actually some drama going on.

Claudia asks Alison if she enjoyed this new persona, and Alison said she found it hard to be cold with Aljaž because she wanted to hug him straight away. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 23. Claudia declares that the judges always get strict in week five. This time last year they gave out six nines in the first two performances alone, so I'm not entirely convinced by that.

After a brief trailer of dances yet to come, it's time to return to Tess on the dancefloor, where Claudia suddenly appears behind her with a sheet over her head going "WOOOOOO!" and Tess has to remind her that Hallowe'en is in fact next week [Which means it's my turn for a theme week o yay.  Still, better Hallowe'en than Movie week or FUCKING BLACKPOOL SLASH WEMBLEY - Rad]. Again, it's Claudia's commitment that sells this: I for one was deeply moved by the plight of Ballroom Ghost and found myself empathising with him or her. Claudia returns with some plastic fangs, while Tess introduces Mark and Karen. Or at least attempts to, while Claudia removes the fangs from her mouth and tries to insert them into Tess's, screaming "put them in!" How much Claudia/Tess fanfic is there on AO3 right now, does anyone know? Not as much as there should be, I'm guessing.

Last week, of course, Mark was in the dance-off and everyone huffed about how he "shouldn't have been there". In training, Karen is worried that he's lost his confidence, so she takes him out clubbing in Essex to have a dance off of their own with his mates. Mark has some TOP BANTZ WIV MATEZ (which basically amounts to "you're good but you're no Thom Evans", and I really think Mark's mates could try harder than that) [Are his mates from the OWIE as well, or just some randoms? - Rad] and as the dance-off intensifies, Mark admits that he "even pulled the worm out". Well, that'll probably get you a 10 from Bruno. Mark says that he's feeling better now and he's just going to give it his best shot on Saturday.

They're dancing to 'That's The Way (I Like It)' by KC And The Sunshine Band, and Mark starts atop the judges desk, shaking his ass but not really moving his hips all that much. Karen arrives and vamps like mad, rivalling Kristina, Kevin and Iveta this week for the position of "professional dancer determined to make this dance happen by sheer force of will if nothing else". It's a much better performance than Mark's quickstep from last week, and he seems to be enjoying it, but it suffers from a lot of the standard Bloke Latin problems in that the hips aren't really going anywhere, it's all a bit placed and deliberate, and there's not as much bounce action as I would like. Also, his trouser legs are really flappy and I'm finding that really offputting, but I accept that might just be a problem for me alone. Mark attempts some batucadas, and all credit to him for having a go, but again the hips are a bit too static for me to be impressed. To conclude: it's a good routine, danced with energy, and a significant rebound from last week, but not really as impressive as everyone's about to pretend it is. [Also, as much as I quite liked it, I think the show should really get to grips with the fact that neither Karen or Mark were ever likely to get the public vote, even less so when paired, so them hitting bottom two - which I expect them to do again next week TBH - was hardly a surprise - Rad]

Craig says that he "could've done without all the vulgar gyration" (which he seemed to like when Thom was doing it 20 minutes ago, but Craig seems to veer between old maid and horndog as and when it suits him). He says that the samba is really difficult for male celebs (sigh) but Mark did it brilliantly. He loved the shimmies and the tricks, but thought it needed a bit more bounce. Darcey slurs that Mark's hips know how to party, and says that he was "stuck in the Seventies". I only watched The Only Way Is Essex for about two series, but most of the men in it seemed a good five or so decades behind the times, at least in terms of Joey Essex's fashion sense and Mario Falcone's attitude towards women. Len thinks Mark did exactly what he had to do post-dance off: come back the next week and do your best dance. Bruno says he now understands why Brazilians are huge in Essex and offers up a heartfelt "well done" for the actual dancing.

In the Clauditorium, Mark says that being in the dance off last week was "like the last day of the best holiday of your life". What, even better than Marbs? Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 33. Karen's reaction to Darcey's score is priceless - it's equal parts shock (I thought this might have been the first nine she'd ever actually received on the show, given the general standard of her celebrity partners, but I checked back and Nicky Byrne got 36 for his charleston) and utter incomprehension. I imagine my face must have looked pretty similar: go home, Darcey, you are drunk. Karen's lost for words when the total score comes up, and Mark rather sweetly tells her that she should be proud because it was her routine.

And speaking of previous victims of a lacklustre public vote, it's time for Simon and Kristina. After mounting a successful charleston-based comeback last week, Simon's feeling a bit better this week. He's drawn the Viennese waltz this week, but because he's off on tour with Blue again, Kristina is "worried" (for VT purposes) that they won't have enough training time. Oddly enough, they reach the exact same conclusion that Frankie and Kevin reached when faced with the exact same problem: Kristina goes to practice with him at the concert venue. Simon gets a bit of stick from the backstage crew, and Antony Costa tries to attract the attention of casting agents by doing a Bruno impression. The boys in Blue say that, all things considered, they think Simon's doing very well with his training.

They're dancing to 'Somebody To Love', and the floor is awash with dry ice, so good luck any diehard ballroom analysts looking out to see if he's doing heel leads or not. Kristina earns my ire by becoming the latest Janey-come-lately to steal The Patented Natalie Lowe Head Roll to use for her own ends, and as for the rest of the routine, it's a bit limp, and when the smoke eventually clears, Simon's footwork looks rather skippy to my eyes.

Darcey says that Simon became an "elegant, suave gentleman" and was impressed with the improvement in his posture, but would've liked it to be smoother across the floor. Len says that Simon did look classy, but he didn't find the performance overly classy - it was hectic at times, and it lacked the lyrical movement that Len was looking for. But it's a hard dance (egad) and Simon did well with his frame. Bruno says that if Simon does the dance again, he needs to learn not to bounce on the count of one. Craig tells Simon that his right thumb was up, and then grimly states the the others have said it all. Tess Daly, Room-Reader Extraordinaire: "Oh, well if that's his only complaint from the picky one, that's not bad!

Claudia says that she saw Simon telling Zoe on It Takes Two that this is his favourite dance, and Simon says that where he's from, they don't get to do this. Claudia: "Where are you from?" Simon: "...Manchester?" Claudia tries to get a bit playful with this, saying that she asked in case it's a special place that's allergic to the waltz, but Simon's not really in the mood for banter, because he's from Moss Side and is actually being quite earnest here about not having that many opportunities in his life as far as ballroom dancing goes. She comes across as condescending, he comes across as chippy, it's not a great moment for anyone involved, so let's just move on. Claudia asks Kristina if she thought it was skippy, and Kristina bats away the question by saying that she just enjoyed the routine so much. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 28. Simon says that he's happy with that score, and admits he was expecting lower. Claudia does her deadpan delivery of some Queen song titles while reading the terms and conditions because that's a thing that she does brilliantly. Tess then picks things up with a dropped Queen song of her own and...oh look, is that the time, I really must be going.

Judy and Anton are next with their charleston. Tess calls it "a rubber dance" and points out that Jamie Murray is in the audience tonight. If I know anything about the Murray offspring, they won't want to think about their mother and rubbers in any context. Judy enjoyed last week's tango, and says that getting a four from Craig was the highest score she's ever had from him. Her goal is to get a little bit better each week, she says. Judy's concerned about getting the facial expressions right for her charleston, so she and Anton act out some silent movie scenarios in which she once again proves herself to be surprisingly deft, comedically. If Dance Judy ever learns to be as much fun as VT Judy, she could be unstoppable.

They're dancing to 'Varsity Drag', sitting in a rowing boat, and Anton is in cricket whites for reasons that are never clearly explained. If, like me, you thought of "rigor mortis" Judy doing a charleston and were expecting a trainwreck, then I can only report that she's...actually not that bad. I mean, I can't pretend there's any swivel in here at all, but she's surprisingly supple considering how rigid she's been in all of her other dances. More to the point, she finally looks like she's actually having fun out there. She and Anton aren't in sync for very much of it, but she's just so game throughout and giving it so much energy that I'm really quite pleasantly surprised here. At the end, we cut to the Clauditorium where, if her frantically-waving arms are anything to go by, Sunetra really enjoyed that. I knew I liked her.

Len thinks she's "gone a little bit back this week - not much, just a little bit", but he likes to see her smiling and having fun. Bruno is laughing hysterically and says that it was like the Titanic of charlestons - it was all going so well until they hit the iceberg at the end. Please Bruno, don't talk of the Titanic in Anton's presence - I've already lived through this once and have no desire to repeat it. Craig was worried that Judy would be as wooden as the oars, but he's pleased to see some life in her at long last - there was some good polka action, but there was no swivel and the timing was atrocious. Darcey says that it was wonderful to see her get so involved in the performance, but it was a shame she got out of rhythm in a few places.

Judy gets possibly the best reception of anyone all series up in the Clauditorium, and Claudia makes an intriguingly cryptic comment about how the judges didn't see the rehearsal. Anton does yer typical Anton and claims that they planned to be out of sync with each other all along, because all the other charlestons are done in the right rhythm and it's dull. Judy says that she's having a great time, and everyone cheers Judy for bringing in shortbread, then Judy tells us that there's been a bit of role-reversal because Jamie is now coaching her and telling her which videos to watch on YouTube. Hopefully there weren't any awkward moments where he accidentally emailed her the wrong link. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Len 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 18. "Undermarked!" cries Brendan, and honestly, any universe in which that got less than Scott's charleston is waist-deep in some sort of Illuminati bullshit, because COME ON. [Word.  I mean, it wasn't great, but it was kind of enjoyable and her best dance by miles, and way better than Scott's. - Rad]

Next up are Caroline and Pasha and Pasha's chest. Tess tells us that they're doing the paso doble this week, which is a very theetrical (sic) dance that requires lots of acting. So for this week's VT, Pasha takes Caroline to the Dominion Theatre in London's West End (and if you want to know something really soppy about me, right outside that theatre is where Chris and I met on our very first date) (to clarify, we weren't going to see We Will Rock You, which is what was on there at the time, it was just a convenient central location to meet where neither of us was likely to get lost) for Caroline to learn how to project her emotions. Yep, that's right: Pasha is teaching Caroline to act. Pasha. Teaching acting. I really should have added that to the list of unlikely masterclasses earlier, shouldn't I? Anyway, Pasha really gets into the role by wearing a black turtleneck and looking like a total pseud, and if you haven't already added "Pretentious Artist Pasha" to your mental list of Dress-Me-Up Pasha accessories, then you're a better person than I am. Anyway, where were we?

Oh, right: the paso doble. They're dancing to 'Live And Let Die', and I can tell Caroline's doing a good job because Pasha's got his chest out and I'm still managing to look at her at least 60 per cent of the time. It's very dramatic and Caroline does the shaping beautifully, even managing a paso face that doesn't make her look psychotic.

Bruno loved the passion and the drama and the feline quality to her movements. "I think I'm turning!" he declares. God, when is Bruno ever not turning? Craig agrees that it was heady and powerful and they used every accent in the music to their advantage. Darcey feigns being struck dumb by Caroline's talent, but let's be honest: it's Darcey, so an inability to form a coherent sentence is unlikely to take anyone by surprise. She does manage to go full yah long enough to inform Caroline that her flamenco arms were "SO YUMMY". Len says he would've liked a bit more shaping on the cape and on the twist turns, but it was a fantastic performance.

Claudia gets all proud teacher with Caroline up in the Clauditorium, addressing Pasha directly to discuss how Caroline doesn't realise just how good she is. Caroline says that she loved it, and she really has to thank Pasha for being the best teacher ever, and Pasha says in turn that it's easy to work with Caroline. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 34, knocking Mark and Karen off the top of the leaderboard.

The penultimate couple performing are Steve and Ola. Steve loved the salsa last week because he got to be all dramatic and show off his guns in the lifts. However, all four judges picked him up on his lack of hip action. None of that is relevant this week anyway because they're doing a waltz. As it's their first time doing a proper slow routine, Ola takes him to a tea dance to learn how to be appropriately refined. Steve talks to a selection of ladies at the tea dance to find out how it feels to be led by someone who knows what they're doing. Do I detect a hint of wistfulness in his voice? I'm sure Ola could have called in a favour from James if Steve really wanted to know. Steve dances with the patrons of the tea dance, and everyone seems to enjoy it. There really wasn't much of a story there, to be honest.

They're dancing to 'I Wonder Why' by Curtis Stigers. It starts with a bit of that "in hold but with the man basically spooning the woman" positioning that everyone seems so fond of these days and evolves into some pretty cheesy but essentially sweet and well-delivered choreography. And because it's an Ola Jordan ballroom routine, you'd better believe there are pivots. Oh boy, are there pivots.

Craig loved seeing a gentle, soft side to Steve, but reminds him to get his thumbs down when he's out of hold. Darcey wasn't expecting Steve to master that "grace and elepha--elegance" (oh Darcey) of the waltz, never mind the romance. She's also impressed that he's worked very hard on controlling his core, and she thinks Steve led Ola around the floor effortlessly. Len loved the footwork, but he thought Steve crunched in a bit too much in the pivots. Finally, Bruno says that Steve has become a romantic lead and he's done a "proper, no gimmick waltz". He's also pleased that Ola's got Steve's shoulders under control this week.

Claudia tells Steve that after Craig's comments, he "looked like a three-year-old about to eat a massive chocolate cake". Doesn't Steve kind of always look like that, though? Steve says that he wasn't sure what to expect because this routine was so very different from everything he's done before. He praises Ola for her choreography, and she tells him well done for his delivery of it. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 30.

Closing the night are Pixie and Trent. Pixie loved doing her rumba last week, and we get to relive her little sob at the end in washed-out tones all over again. This week they've got the samba, and Trent has cast Pixie as a singer in a café, so Pixie decides to take Trent along to an open mic night where she sings 'Copacabana' by herself and then makes Trent duet on 'Stay With Me'. Trent looks about as comfortable singing as he did meeting her family. It's quite fun at this point how Trent has such a laid-back relaxed attitude in training but always becomes so very self-conscious when they ask him to do anything even remotely cheesy for comedy VT purposes. I can't wait to see how he copes with Hallowe'en week.

They're dancing to 'I Yi Yi Yi Yi (I Like You Very Much)', and Pixie opens by shaking her maracas. This isn't an innuendo; she is literally shaking her maracas. However, then she puts the instruments down and starts shaking her more metaphorical maracas. I may not be Pixie's greatest fan, but I really like this routine - I think it works for her because she can just camp it up massively and really go to town on it, so she looks probably the most relaxed and comfortable she's looked all series. And beyond that, it just seems to be a good natural fit for her as a style of dance anyway - she takes to all the samba rolls and the double-bounce like she's been doing it all her life. (Feel free to have your ringer conversation at this point.) There are a couple of points where the bouncing is a little jerky, but other than that, this is a great routine. Arguably the first routine of Pixie's that I can see myself voluntarily rewatching once the series is over.

Darcey says that Pixie was like a new-age Carmen Miranda, and she loved how Pixie didn't hold back. Len says that it was a proper carnival dance full of fun and energy, and they were both terrific. Bruno says that she's ending the night on a high with a high-camp extravaganza. Or at least she will do when he takes her off down G-A-Y afterwards. Craig says of her shimmies at the beginning that he's "never seen beading move so fast". He says that her isolation was excellent, and the whole number was amazing.

As they trot up the stairs to the Clauditorum, Pixie's babbling excitedly: something about how she "didn't even know what was going on" but she's not really miced properly so I can't make out the whole thing. Claudia wants to have a closer look at the outfit, and asks Pixie if it was terrifying to close the show. Pixie agrees that it was, and repeats that she doesn't really know what just happened. Claudia: "It happened. That's all you need to know." Heh. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. "I yi yi yi yi like it!" declares Trent. Bless.


1. Pixie & Trent - 35
2. Caroline & Pasha - 34
3. Mark & Karen - 33
4. Frankie & Kevin - 32
5. Jake & Janette - 31
6=. Sunetra & Brendan - 30
6=. Steve & Ola - 30
8. Simon & Kristina - 28
9. Thom & Iveta - 27
10. Alison & Aljaž - 23
11. Scott & Joanne - 19
12. Judy & Anton - 18

So obviously since this recap is later than usual being posted, we all know what the result was this week, but I don't like to cross the timelines so I shall just post my actual prediction that I made on Twitter at this point during Saturday's show and leave it at that.

Claudia gets everyone to declare the voting lines open together, which backfires slightly when Alison is a little quick off the mark. Quick reminder, anyone? Jake's sprightly quickstep. Sunetra's graceful Viennese waltz. Scott's hot mess charleston. Thom's slightly stilted cha cha. Frankie's sugary quickstep. Alison's atmospheric but sloppy tango. Mark's comeback samba. Simon's underrehearsed Viennese waltz. Judy's surprisingly spry charleston. Caroline's dynamic paso (and Pasha's exposed chest). Steve's schmaltzy but sweet waltz. Pixie's show-stopping samba.

Tess teases an appearance from Culture Club in this week's results show, as well as the professional dancers having the hoedown that we saw Zoe rehearsing on It Takes Two. We'll bring you all of that as soon as possible - hopefully tomorrow, assuming that still gives me time to work, sleep and eat.

1 comment:

Penny said...

I think Claudia was veering perilously close to "Where are you really from?" With Simon.