Sunday, 5 October 2014

Taking it to the Max

Top 15 (!) perform: Saturday 4 October 2014 

Last week, our fifteen couples danced for the first time and Steve had the luxury of seeing that spread over two weeks whereas I have the pleasure of sitting down for the full two-hour (plus, given all the pausing and rewinding these recaps involve) duration. I mean, that's like Shakespearian length. Or about half the length of the first half of the X Factor final. The pack had lots of bunching at the top and bottom last week, with the Clifton siblings occupying both the first and last places (along with Frankie and Scott). This weekend, one of our pairs will be leaving – cue a comedy VT where all the contestants fret about going home. Of note: Scott dreaming about his tea instead of dancing, Jake wondering ‘what would Max Branning do?’ Sleep with half the cast and then end up getting buried alive by his partner? (Don’t tell me Janette isn’t capable of that)

Cue titles! My favourite bits about the titles at the moment: Natalie owning everything, Iveta’s look of filthy determination, Joanne gurning for Grimsby. Tess and Claudia enter, again being walked down the stairs by male pros, which sadly looks like it’s a thing now. Daly dresswatch: white, OK, but with a couple of unpleasant cut out darts in the top part - but of more note is her losing a shoe and Claudia having to slip it back on like the prince in Cinderella, which gets the audience whooping like mad. Panto season starts here, folks. (What Winkleman’s Wearing: some maroon thing with a sort of curtain-y sleeve arrangement. At least it’s not the pink nonsense from last week, I guess, but I’m still disappointed that we don’t get to make ‘: black’ a running gag).

Tess’n’Claud ask if we want to see some brilliant dancing and hear some great live singing, and I wait for the punchline about watching, I dunno, not the X Factor (what the fuck is going on with the casting of that mess this year? Although I am pleased at the chances of yet another interchangeable brunette white bloke - or a band of seven interchangeable brunette white blokes plus a blond whose hair could always be dyed - winning), but something involving legitimately good singing and dancing. Anyway, no, turns out it’s the set up for a ‘but do we want to see someone leaving?’ ‘No’ ‘Ah but we have to’ interchange. Claudia feigns sadness. Tess don’t care, she's had years of this nonsense by now and standing on heels for two hours is a bit of a pain, let's face it.

Talking of things that are still ‘a thing’, it’s time to watch the judges waft on. Or rather, watch Bruno and Craig prance about whilst Len stomps to his seat and Darcey looks entirely uncomfortable. We welcome the stars: Jake and Janette, Pixie and Trent, Steve and Ola, Judy and Anton, Mark and Karen, Alison and Aljaž, Gregg and Aliona, Frankie and Kevin, Tim and Natalie, Caroline and Pasha, Simon and Kristina, Jennifer and Tristan, Scott and Joanne, Sunetra and Brendan and Thom and Iveta. That is a LOT of names – I’m not too sad one of them is going. Theme tune jig watch: Gregg is bopping excitedly, Alison is swaying half-heartedly. Everyone else: must get better.

We’re reminded of last week’s leaderboard, with saw Frankie and Kevin on top with 30, loads of 27s, loads of 18s, and Scott and Joanne in bottom place with 16. First up are Thom and Iveta. She’s got him in a Louis Smith-esque tight gym suit and apparently their routine will be set in a swimming pool for reasons that I’m sure won’t involve him ending up in speedos. Iveta knows her market.

Thom VTs that he’s nervous after last week and doesn’t want to let Iveta down. She says the salsa is more suited to his personality than the waltz. He unconvincingly says this will give him time to let loose – I can only assume he means his anatomy as his personality seems somewhat… lacking thus far. But maybe that’s just nerves.

Their salsa to ‘Hot Hot Hot’ has Thom as a sexy lifeguard, which, along with a pool tiled floor, is about as far as the storytelling goes. He is still a bit awkward and flat-footed and he gurns in a way that’s not entirely attractive or comfortable, but at least he can move his hips and there’s some ambitious vag-lift-ography (he nearly drops her, but as he’s holding her with one hand, I’ll let him off). It’s a bit clumsy, but as first Latin dances go, it’s not at all a bad start. No speedos, though. [I feel they were setting themselves up for a fall by dancing to that song. It's up there with doing a jive to 'I'm Still Standing' as far as Bad Strictly Ideas go. Although I did think Thom was significantly better this week, despite the bungled lift. - Steve]

Len says he was ‘popping buttons on a tight shirt’ and dancing on the edge. He implores Thom to come out like he’s The Face writing about Jason Donovan or something (/last century jokes). Bruno calls him easy on the eye and says he nearly blew the thermostat. Bruno says he had good intentions but didn’t always make it. Craig says the dance needs to be more fluid and it was a bit stop-starty with messy arms and the lift was underprepared, but he thought it was brave to attempt it and he loved the hips. Darcey says she wishes he’d been directing his hips at her but there was clearly someone in the audience he was directing them at. There’s then a slightly awkward bit where, with another celeb, we might get a cut to partner, but as I don’t think we’re aware of him having a current partner (are we? Steve is probably more up on the gossip than me) [I don't so much read articles about Thom Evans, I just look at the pictures - Steve] it sort of just results in Thom getting a bit flustered and saying he was directing them at you, honest, Darcey. Darcey is pleased he took risks because it is hard for a TALL MAN to move his hips. These poor tall people, is there anything they can do?

 They shimmy up to Casa Claudia Claudia’s Counselling Centre Claud 9 the newly rebranded Clauditorium (thanks to Pet Monkey on Digital Spy for that suggestion) where Thom thanks Pasha for giving him a hand in the lift and a million fans gnash their teeth at the lack of training footage of this incident. Won’t somebody please think of the gifs? [We'll always have fanfic. - Steve] Scores: 5, 7, 7, 6 for a total of 25. Iveta implores people to vote by pointing at Thom’s chest. Iveta <3  Claudia gets in on the Lukosiute love by insisting Iveta hold her hand throughout all the reading of the terms and conditions.

We rejoin Tess where she sits atop the steps Thom was on as a lifeguard perving on him with her binoculars.  Poor Tess, all those gunz she’ll no longer get to fondle.

Our second couple of the evening are Jennifer and Tristan.  Jennifer says she tends to hunch her shoulders when she’s nervous so she needs to watch that.  She found a red dress in her wardrobe which she wears to rehearsals, only she does so over a tight white top and the overall effect is that she looks like Brittany S Pierce at her thirty-year school reunion.  Tristan says Jenny is like the Tin Man (is it Jennifer or Jenny?  Can we get some consensus, please, show?).

They are waltzing to ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman’ and can I just take a moment to point out the hideousness that is Jennifer’s dress?  It’s some weird pink polyester thing that clings to her really unflatteringly and has a weird cut out bit at the back which fabric then drapes uncomfortably over and Tristan keeps catching his hand on. I thought ballroom was all supposed to be lovely gowns with flowing skirts, not something made out of bits of fabric Joanne found in the scraps bin at Cleethorpes Sunday Market. [So far, I am not at all convinced by the wardrobe department's attempts to dress either Jennifer or Caroline. - Steve] Dance-wise, it’s a first waltz, bit boring at first and then there are some moments where she clearly forgets her steps and Tristan has to push her back into place, and then she loses it a bit and it gets very clumsy and stilted, and you can see from her face that she knows it.

Bruno says she’s not quite hit a home run, but she’s definitely connected more emotionally.  Her technique let her down and she needs to relax her neck, but she’s going the right way.  Craig says her posture started OK but once she lost it, she struggled to get it back.  Darcey says she has a lot of improvement – it was more relaxed and cleaner and she could see what she was trying to do, but she’s getting there.  Len says the nerves got to her on the contra-check but then she did a nice spin, but he thought she was a bit too aware of where she was.

The other contestants cheer them back up to the Clauditorium where Jenny says she was ‘disgusted’ that she messed up and Claudia lies that nobody saw it.  Scores: 4, 5, 5, 5 for a total of 19.

Simon and Kristina next and Tess informs us that Simon has a seventeen year old daughter.  Holy shit, NOW WE ALL FEEL OLD. [PASS THE OIL OF OLAY! - Steve] Simon says he didn’t feel flat-footed last week but could see he was when watching it back.  Kristina says he was the best first dance she’s ever had in Strictly.  (Jason Dona-what-now?  32 points for their cha-cha in series nine, by the way.  Also, her quickstep with BARROWMAN got 37. Although that was Christmas so those are probably worth about 20 in real points).  Simon’s daughter comes in and tries to encourage him whilst also trying to be cool.  Teenagers, bless.

Their tango is to ‘Sing’ and you can just imagine how the Strictly singers attempting the chorus of that goes.  Simon is a bit static and stompy in places and his face is very ‘staring into the middle distance to give the effect of being moody’ but he is quite good at the posing parts of it.  Years of magazine photoshoots will at least give you the advantage there, you RINGER.

Craig says it didn’t set the world on fire and he wanted more drama, even though he had some sharp staccato moves.  Darcey calls it a slick performance and says Kristina has worked him hard although there were moments when he lost focus.  Len says he has a ‘queer’ left elbow and a ‘straight’ right leg.  Biphobia!  Bruno says he wants to see Simon’s animal magnetism and for Simon to give him the character of the dance – it’s not just a sequence of steps.

Up in the Clauditorium, Simon says this is the dance he wanted to learn and tells us his mum’s in the audience.  Scores: 5, 7, 7, 7 for a not-at-all-overmarked-honest 26 and a slightly relieved Kristina, who is clearly not ready to abandon her run for the glitterball just yet.

Claudia then tells us to prepare for Aljaž wanting to make love to Alison later in the show and we cut to Tess perhaps a little earlier than we should have, with Bruno video-bombing her cue.  If Bruce had been here there would have been all manner of strops here at the unprofessionalism of everyone, whereas Tess just giggles and continues, which is why I like her (she can’t tell a joke for toffee, mind).

Gregg and Aliona next.  Guess what, folks?  Gregg loves pudding and he tries to win Aliona over with a pavlova.  Would have been better if it had custard, Gregg. [I know, right? Rookie mistake. - Steve] She sticks a raspberry in cream and plants it on his head.

Gregg, dressed in chef’s whites (HE IS NOT A CHEF, PEOPLE), opens their Charleston to ‘Hey Good Lookin’ whilst Aliona sprays cream on a comedy prop cake and gives us the ‘Imma relish sticking this in his face in a bit’ look right down the camera as he whisks her away to the dancefloor.  He still can’t dance and is very clompy and uncomfortable, although he at least has a sense of the rhythm of this one and his timing isn’t too bad (better than Simon’s in places).  The lift is a bit ungainly and it ends with him shoving his own face in the cake rather than Aliona exacting her revenge.  So she then sprays him with cream straight from the can instead.  Aliona <3 <3 [I was convinced it was going to end with Gregg shoving it in Craig's face. It's so rare that Craig is not the punchline. - Steve]

Darcey says at least he got rid of the nerves and there was plenty of bounce but he needs to choose the direction he was kicking in as he looked like he was going to kick Aliona.  Len says Gregg dances like he cooks, chucking it all in and seeing what happens.  Bruno gets all excited about it being all over the place.  Gregg asks Craig if he’d have been happier making a MasterChef quarter final and Craig’s all LOLWUT I came second (/joint runner-up).  He says Gregg can at least do the double-hop, which is essential for the dance.  Gregg grabs the cake and they bound up to the Clauditorium where he dumps it with a bemused Pasha. [I'D DUMP IT WITH A BEMUSED PASH--actually, that doesn't sound sexy as much as it just sounds...wrong. Never mind. - Steve] Scores: 3, 5, 5, 5 for a total of 18.

Next are Alison and Aljaž and Alison looks lovely tonight with her hair slicked back and wearing red, which seems to really suit her.  Alison says her body isn’t really made for ballroom, but she’ll give it a go.  Their routine is basically around Alison being a dominatrix (/boss) and Aljaž her sub (/PA) and she milks the life out of this in the VT as well she might.

Their foxtrot is to ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’ and starts with Alison being mad at poor little Aljaz for being a bad, bad boy.  Ahem.  It’s a bit (i.e. a lot) too sexy and Latin-y for a foxtrot, and clearly playing to her strengths in using a lot of sass to cover up that she’s not that great in hold, but, you know, who cares about the foxtrot anyway? [WON’T SOMEONE THINK ABOUT THE PURITY OF THE DAHNCE? - Ed]

Len says it wasn’t so great in hold but she has a lot of personality, which Bruno concurs with.  Craig says she has a great attitude, there was some strong storytelling and her hip swings created a sonic boom.  Darcey loved seeing her in control even if she needed to travel more.  Scores: 5, 5, 6, 6 for a total of 22.  Claudia asks if she’s disappointed and Alison says she’s glad she got more than a 5.  Well, from a couple of judges.

Jake and Janette now.  Jake was surprised and pleased with their performance last week but worries they might have peaked too early.  Janette scares him by saying they have three lifts although the training footage looks quite impressive.

Their salsa is to ‘Mambo No 5’ and Jake’s really got a sense of rhythm (not NATURAL, obviously) and he can wiggle his hips well – putting Thom’s earlier performance so far in the shade it’s getting frostbite.  Janette has, for some reason, flung in an Ola Jordan knee slide, which is a bit of a waste, because Jake doesn’t need to do things like that to cover up inability.  Once that’s over they get into doing some impressive lifts and twirls – and I would not bet against Jake as a winner on this evidence. [If he can avoid the dreaded Scott Maslen Memorial Burnout, I think he's got it in the bag. But then I said that about Sophie this time last year, and look what happened there. - Steve] Tess loses all sense of Beeb neutrality and fangirls all over that dance saying how impressed she was and how she’s never seen a standing ovation like it (I pay no attention to SOs these days, the PURITY of them got lost several series ago, if it was ever there to begin with) – Darcey is also standing.  Tess thinks it’s incredible for a week two dance and I can’t argue with it, even if he is probably a DIRTY RINGER from stage school.

Bruno says ‘yes, a squillion times yes’ and calls it unashamed full-on fun times.  Craig says his hip action could crack coconuts and Darcey says it was one of the best salsas she’s seen in ages.  Len asks to be spanked gently with a wet shammy and that’s more than I ever wanted to know about his preferences thank you very much.  Jake humblebrags that ‘it went well’ up in the Clauditorium, although I’m not sure if it counts as a humblebrag as he does genuinely seem pretty down-to-earth.  Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 35.  I am not in any way suggesting 10s should have come out for it, but you can bet dances much worse than that will be receiving them later in the series. [FOR EXAMPLE. - Steve]

As if this show wasn’t long enough, we get a preview of all the couples coming up, because when you’ve got fifteen performances to get through, you just cry out for a bit of filler.  Tess says they’re opening up the Strictly dance floor ‘for the first time ever’ because this is a thing that never happened and you can nominate ‘heroes’ for it.  If it’s all ‘our brave boys’ and some mams, I will vomit. [Nominate meeeeeeeeeeeeee! - Steve]

Next up, Judy and Anton.  His Anton grimace accompanied by her face of ‘I will CUT you so help me God’ is a sight to behold.  Last week he went SCOTTISH themed and forced us all to listen to Mull of Kintyre (featuring BAGPIPES) and relive our Anton’s no-no-no-no-not-ever-not-ever-again fears and yet somehow he lives to fight another day.  Their VT involves them cha-cha-ing on the tennis court as a precursor to the giant sparkly tennis net on stage.  The story of their dance is Anton trying to impress a hard-nosed tennis bitch, then leaving her to shimmy about uncomfortably before subjecting her to some awkward business with a towel.  The dance has little content, although Judy’s long legs look like they could be put to some use with someone who can choreograph.  Maybe.  I’m trying to find a positive.  She looks so stilted and uncomfortable and terrified throughout and Anton appears to be doing little to help her, and it’s all very… awkward. [However, I loved that when she had to serve a tennis ball she actually hit the camera with it. Judy <3 - Steve]

Craig says her body is as tight as a newly string racquet – stiff and tense with a lot of timing and footwork issues.  Darcey lies that Judy has loosened up and gotten rid of the nerves and even Judy can see through that bullshit and then Darcey says she takes her music home on day one and that she knows it’s difficult and nerves take over.  WHAT EVEN WAS THAT, DARCEY??  You’re not nervous but the nerves took over?  I can’t even… Len lies that she was smiling – come on people, this is the mother of two Wimbledon champions, one of whom is hardly renowned for his chirpy nature, she doesn’t need this level of patronising.  Bruno calls it more ‘court 18 than centre court’ and tells her to keep practicing and work on sustaining a performance.  Up in the Clauditorium, Anton whines that they do practice.  Scores: 2, 5, 5, 5 for a total of 17.  Anton threatens to get his ‘knees’ out again.

Pasha and Caroline are next.  Last week they opened the show with Caroline wearing a golden mop, but they did well and ended up joint third with a bunch of other couples. They decide to pretend he’s Caroline’s ex-boyfriend in training, but as Caroline doesn’t appear to be running away from an army of rabid teenagers in footage, we can maybe assume it’s not *that* one.  Their tango is to ‘Blame it On The Night’ and Caroline’s hair is distractingly odd – it’s kind of swept up with loads of it hanging uncontrolled at the side and seems to be doing a bunch of its own steps.  The camera barely shows their feet so it’s hard to tell how she’s doing, although she has a better feel for drama than Simon and it’s less stilted and more fluid overall.  The ending is a bit clumsy where she shoves a prop suitcase at Pasha and seems to slip on the floor, but otherwise that seemed pretty enjoyable, especially as it was so fast.

Darcey says Caroline needs to watch her neck, but she can’t wait to see what Caroline can do, Len calls it a full-on routine, Bruno brings out ‘Flack attacks’ as a thing and says he responds to the way she puts her whole being into things.  Craig says he wouldn’t like to come across her in a dark alley but it was driven, aggressive and sharp.  Scores: 7, 7, 7, 8 for a total of 29.

Natalie and Tim are next and he thought he did OK last week even if the judging was harsh. He decides to ask his wife to dance which seems a little premature for a VT story but I guess his journey could well be nearing its end, so…

Their waltz is to ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and Natalie looks gorgeous in white and sparkle.  Tim seems to be taking it very seriously and whilst it isn’t the most elegant it could be, nor is it especially complicated, he acquits himself pretty well – at least compared to some of the others at the bottom of the pack.  He seems perhaps a bit short for Natalie, though, and struggles to stand fully straight at times.  Tim says he had so much fun with it.

Len says there was more rise and fall than an auctioneer’s gavel, snips that some of the judges might complain about his posture. Len, you’re a judge. Your job is to offer critique. If you notice an issue with his posture, you tell him that and offer advice on how to correct it. Seriously, fuck off Len. (DRINK!) Bruno says it was correct, straight, dignified and very endearing, but as the dance progresses, he seems to deflate a bit and his neck shrinks down, so he needs to maintain his strong opening throughout. Craig says it started beautifully and then went into a bow, but he needs to use straight legs then, he also points out his neck and shoulders hunched a bit at the end but he used the floor beautifully. Darcey, as we feel we need to point out every episode, the one whom people thought would use proper English, says ‘it’s true you could OF (and not could’ve, she accentuates the OF), you know, think about those shoulder blades sliding down the back, yeah?’ (at least we’ve lost the yah) and asks him to imagine someone holding them on a string.

Tim asks Claudia if she felt like crying and he and Natalie say they’ve done a lot of crying.  He calls her his star.  Aww.  Scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 for a respectable total of 23.  Claudia implores people to vote and Tim says ‘yes please’.  Aww.

Sunetra and Brendan are next and can we just take a moment’s silence for [CASUALTY SPOILER] poor old Jeff.  I mean he was always, always going to get killed on duty at some point, but still… *sniff*. [/SPOILER] Sunetra says their dance will have a Boy Meets Girl story.  If Brendan’s adding 'Waiting For a Star To Fall' to his list of 80s ballad dance hits, I’ll be more than happy. Well, until I hear the singers’ interpretation of it. 

Their cha cha is not to that, sadly, but to ‘Million Dollar Bill’. Sunetra is in white fringing that is at least a bit more subtle and manageable than what they gave Caroline last week.  She starts out a bit uncomfortably and self-consciously, but when she gets into it a bit more and relaxes, she moves with more fluidity and seems to enjoy it and put real personality and energy into it.  There are a couple of sloppy moments where Brendan appears to push her into remembering the steps, but as first Latin dances go, there have been a lot worse.

Sunetra is overcome with how much she enjoyed it.  Bruno says she has wonderful mobility on the top half but needs to really push through her legs as they weren’t as sharp and placed as they could be.  Craig says she has a natural all-round feel for the dance with good hip movement but the straightening of the legs needed work.  Darcey says she’s all woman and basically repeats Bruno’s comments.  Len says they might have to work on technique as they might have to do a rumba and Brendan’s all BRENDAN DON’T DO NO DIRTY FILTHY RUMBAS.

In the Clauditorium Sunetra is thrilled and Brendan says she didn’t put a foot wrong.  Scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 for a total of 26 and a sequinned shimmy of Sunetra’s dress.

Flagging yet?  Let’s hope not, because HERE BE MORE FILLER for you.  All this serves to do is remind me how many people we’ve still got to see.

Mark and Karen (given they’re the second Mark and Karen, can we call them MK2 please?) are next.  Their VT footage is set to Kylie’s ‘Me And You’ and I have to approve of whichever gay man is in charge of the training footage because that’s like the sixth Kylie song so far this series and we’re only on episode two. 

They’re dancing the American Smooth to ‘I’m Yours’ and Mark’s body is not especially smooth, and he seems a little ill-at-ease with either the cheesiness of the dance or the hideous outfit he’s been placed in (more Sunday market polyester, this time fashioned into uncomfortably tight trews and a top that looks lifted straight from Dancing on Ice).  His arms are very floppy, too.  It’s a shame they got this dance so early because I think he needs to get accustomed to ballroom before he can cope with something so schmaltzy.  He has decent enough rhythm and a good grasp of the steps – he just seems very uncommitted to it all and somewhat embarrassed, which means it ends up looking a bit sloppy.

Bruno says he was surprised by it and found it very uplifting despite a couple of footwork errors.  Craig says his arms have a life of their own when out of hold.  Bruno says they were good.  They weren’t.  Craig says it needs more finesse and fluidity.  Darcey says he creates great lines for Karen , and understand what she needs.  Mark says they called one move ‘the Darcey’ because she loves ballerina arms.  What with being a ballet dancer.  Len puns that he doesn’t know about The Only Way is Essex, the only way is onward and upward.  Thanks Len.

In the Clauditorium, Mark says he’s happy but went wrong a bit and his family and friends were distracting so he doesn’t want them coming again.  Scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 for a total of 27.  Hmm. [That was seriously overmarked. His posture was a mess. - Steve]

Scott and Joanne are the next couple.  Last week we learned that he can’t dance and that she can gurn in a manner not seen since the hallowed days of Hardy.  Their VT shows him struggling to get into the tango and phoning well-known dancer Nick Grimshaw for advice.  If that thing they did last week didn’t give us enough excuse for the Friends clips, this week goes for it even more, with a knowing nod to this, albeit delivered by Grimmy in a plastic tent. With Scott fully dressed. 

Their tango to ‘Stop’ (Spice Girls) [WHO THE HELL IS PICKING THESE TANGO SONGS?! - Steve] opens with them in two bedrooms, one pink, one blue, because Strictly has no truck with defining gender outside of clear binaries.  I always worry about a dance when the comedy staging takes up more than 50% of the dancefloor as it does here.  And when the music seems highly unsuitable for the genre. And when there’s a lot of faffing about before they get going (involving them preening themselves before their ‘date’). Scott’s tango face is effectively a constipated Blue Steel and he is pretty stompy, with Joanne letting him stand there whilst she does some kicking to detract from him.  It’s fortunately quite brief and less of a hot mess than whatever they did last week, and it’s not as bad as some of tonight’s offerings, but he’s never going to be a dancer. [I'm yet to be convinced that Joanne's ever going to be much of a choreographer. - Steve]

Darcey says something about needing to be ‘earthy’ whatever that means, and to keep in character rather than losing it and smiling.  Len says it was better than last week, but the tango is Radio 1 – loud, proud and full-on whilst this was a bit Radio 3.  Come on Len, the poor bloke’s probably already worried enough about being shipped out to Radio 2 without that thought.  Bruno says it was a bit weird and laboured.  Craig says his right hand was too high and his right foot is pigeon-toed and it lacked any sort of style, and it was a slight improvement on last week.  Scores: 4, 5, 6 (at which Joanne goes ‘huh?’ bless her), 5 for a total of 25.  Claudia uses a round of Spice Girls puns (to a chorus of groans) whilst imploring us to vote and then ends by karaoke-ing ‘Goodbye’ leading to a ‘Stop right now, thank you very much’ from Tess.  Is it me, or have the bad pun writers improved their game a bit this week?

Pixie and Trent are next and their VT involves Trent being Pixie’s PA.  This is much less convincing than when Alison and Aljaž did it a few minutes (/years) ago.  Their waltz is to ‘Come Away With Me’, which the singers don’t destroy, and Pixie looks lovely and glamorous in white, whilst Trent plays the role of a suitor who covers her up in a pashmina because she looks a bit cold.  It’s all quite lovely and romantic but with Pixie in white, Trent in brown and the lighting in autumnal colours, it all ends up seeing a bit beige and I am not sure I’ll remember it this time tomorrow – I can see ‘lovely but a bit forgettable’ being a theme with this pairing if they’re not careful.  Still, that won last year, so what do I know? [Also, they need to stop brushing Trent's hair back, because it makes him look like Bob Downe. - Steve]

Len says he lost himself for a moment, sort of, with a beautiful routine that was beautifully danced (apart from a head roll).  Bruno says she tickled him by going on the double time and doing some extra bits – in week two – DIRTY RINGAH.  Craig says they make a fantastic partnership and Darcey says there were some stunning parts.  In the Clauditorium, Pixie says she loves the variety of the dancezzzzz.  Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a joint-top (so far) total of 35. [FUCK OFF. No way was that anywhere near as accomplished as Jake's salsa. - Steve]

Claudia says the lines are almost open and I think we must be due Frankie and Kevin at last… and then she says there are two couples left and Tess reminds us about Steve and Ola.  Ah well.  Two isn’t so bad.  We can do it.  Cling to me, people.

Last week, Steve was relieved it went well.  This week, he’s stealing Gregg’s week one VT and showing us that he is dancing at home as well as in the studio.  I sense the comedy VTs coming sooner rather than later given how dull these things have been tonight.

Their cha-cha-cha is to ‘Treasure’ and the literal staging involves a big treasure chest and Steve as some kind of Indiana Jones-type person.  Ola is… Ola.  He doesn’t have the fluidity of movement of someone like Jake and looks very awkward, although he at least seems to get the pace right and can give good gurn when required.  He also thrusts a bit at the audience for good measure.  It ends with – what else – a patented Ola Jordan knee slide and him crashing into the chest. LOL.

Bruno is hysterical and says he has a great attitude but his footwork needed a lot of work.  Craig says it was like being in a terrible disco in Soho and his hips look like they’re made of MDF.  Tess says he hasn’t danced in public before.  Craig: ‘and maybe shouldn’t again’.  Ouch.  Darcey says it’s a shame he came out of sync but ‘not to worry about it’ because he was cheeky.  It’s attitudes like this that lead to Darren Gough and Chris Hollins, Bussell.  Len thought his footwork was a bit rubbish but he wants to see him next week.  Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia lies that cha-cha is hard and some of the dancers scoff at this.  Heh.  Scores: 3, 6, 6, 6 for a total of 21. Claudia asks us to vote if we want to see them last longer than a Latin Mayfly, or Ephemeroptera, which Steve says last about a day.  There’s our education for the day, folks.

The final couple of the night are Frankie and Kevin, who seems determined not to let his sister outdo him in the gurning stakes by pulling a big face down the camera.  Frankie is nervous because their good score last week has put the pressure on. Their Charleston is to ‘Happy Days’ meaning they’re going for a fifties theme. Or a fifties-as-seen-from-the-seventies theme. It’s fun and energetic although Kevin seems to be a bit too into it, and Frankie’s face says she’s clearly not as committed to the gurn as she needs to be.  It’s a little sloppy in a couple of places, especially in her footwork.  She also seems to get out of breath in a few parts – however, it’s a fast and enjoyable routine and as a week two performance, it shows that there is real potential for her to be a contender.

Craig declares the Charleston and Jive mash-up a bit weird and says he enjoyed it, but she could have made more of the Charleston goofiness and swivelled on her feet more.  Darcey enjoyed it but echoes the comments about her feet.  Len says it was a bit awkward with the rock’n’roll feel. (Let us not invoke the spectre of this series’ own Poochie, thanks).  Apparently next week is Movie Week because perish the thought we’d go three whole weeks without a theme week (and presumably Halloween will only be a couple of weeks later…) and ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.  I take back my comment about the pun writers from earlier.  Bruno likes the hybrid and thinks mixed up things are in fashion (no Bruno, let’s definitely not invoke any recollection that this ever happened).  Up in the Clauditorium, Frankie is trying to catch her breath.  Scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 for a total of 30.

We start to get a recap for votes and this is then cut off uncomfortably by another round of ‘I don’t wanna go home’ VTs.

Let’s have a look at the first leaderboard:
Jake and Jannette – 28+35=63
Pixie and Trent – 27+35=62
Frankie and Kevin – 30+30=60
Caroline and Pasha – 27+29=56
Simon and Kristina – 27+26=53
Mark and Karen – 24+27=51
Sunetra and Brendan – 24+26=50
Thom and Iveta – 23+25=48
Alison and Aljaž - 26+22=48
Steve and Ola - 26+21=47
Tim and Natalie – 18+23=41
Jennifer and Tristan – 18+19=37
Gregg and Aliona – 18+18=36
Scott and Joanne – 16+20=36
Judy and Anton – 18+17=35

Not so much bunching tonight, then.  Claudia declares voting open and implores people to vote whilst Pixie and Alison have an unlikely friendship in the background.  

We finally get a recap: Thom and Iveta being a bit hot and a bit not; Jennifer feeling like an un-naturally fabric clad woman; Simon being stiff; Gregg pretending to be a chef; Alison owning Aljaž’s arse (as you would); Jake reveal himself to be a super-ringer; Judy looking terrified of Anton Latin; Caroline’s hairography; Tim refraining from kicking; Sunetra eventually embracing her inner disco diva; Mark looking uncomfortable with tweeness; Scott wishing it would Stop; Pixie’s lovely beige waltz; Steve reclaiming the knee slide for team Jordan; Frankie’s breathless rock’n’roll Charleston.  

Tomorrow someone will be leaving and there’ll be some filler music from pointless jazz-lite hobbit Jamie Cullen and this show embraces Frozen about a year too late because of course it does.  Join me then!

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