Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Thom to say goodbye

Week 5: Top 12 Results - 26 October 2014

Ballroom aficionados look away now: we start with a group number from the professionals, and it's a hoedown to 'Cotton Eye Joe'. Now, I like a man in a plaid shirt as much as the next person, and I can't pretend for a second that it isn't completely adorable for Aljaž to dance the entire routine while chewing on a strand of hay, and I'd have to be blind not to appreciate the value of Kevin and Tristan in tight jeans, but...this is still Strictly Come Dancing, right? And it's not Nashville week or anything? (Although that would be amazing, if they are looking for themes for next year.) It just all seems like a very random idea, even if we were braced for the concept by watching Zoe rehearse the routine on It Takes Two during the week. I warm to the concept halfway through when the song mashes into 'Timber' by Pitbull and Ke$ha, but then I wonder why they couldn't have just done the whole thing to that. Also, this routine was apparently choreographed by MATTFLINTMANIA!, if you're missing him. I'm not, but there you go. [I am fearing hoedown as new dance being introduced by stealth because I assume it's on DWTS.  I assume lots of things about DWTS having never seen it.  It's become this mythical entity of Bristol Palin and theme tune weeks and FKIN DONNY - Rad]

Tess and Claudia enter wearing stetsons, and the lasso guy who kept appearing and doing tricks during the pro number loops them up and drags them across the stage. Tess introduces him as Jimmy Johnson, just as he's leaving (more on this later). Daly Dresswatch: a white jumpsuit with silver decorations around the midriff and a hint of cameltoe. What Winkleman's Wearing: a straightforward black dress with a raised white neck. Tess and Claudia welcome the judges back to the stage, all of whom are wearing stetsons and performing some line-dancing steps, although as always some commit to the concept more than others (I'm sure it will shock you to learn that Craig and Bruno are more invested in this idea than Darcey or Len). Tess introduces them as "the good, the bad, the ugly, and Darcey". I love that Darcey is now essentially the Zoidberg of this particular ensemble. Tess teases the upcoming appearance of Culture Club performing 'Karma Chameleon', which Tess claims is the first single she ever bought. Claudia says that hers was 'Agadoo'. The kids in the audience, meanwhile, are all like "people actually used to buy songs?" [Ah, it's the look my students give me when I talk about records how quaint grandma - Rad]

As always, the results themselves are preceded by a recap of the performance show (imagine how it might feel to have one of those!), now with 100 per cent more Bruno in a golf cart. Points of interest: Kevin and Aljaž in their hoedown outfits with their arms around each other's shoulders (if there isn't slashfic of this already on the internet somewhere then Rule 34 is completely useless), Hot Greg The Floor Manager massaging Steve's shoulders (see above), Kevin videobombing Mark, the word "businesslike" being randomly edited out of the middle of Bruno's comments to Jake (perhaps because it didn't sound as complimentary as Bruno probably intended it to?) and Karen screaming some more about getting a nine.

Before we go to Tess with the results, Claudia's in the audience to chat to the friends and family of this year's contestants. Well, specifically Barbara Windsor (who appears to be growing a spare Boris Johnson in the back of her head) and Jamie Murray. Babs tells Claud that she's known Jake for 20 years and he's a "wonderful, sweet, lovely guy who doesn't get into any of the gossip", and nobody could believe it when they saw dem hips moving. Jamie says his mum is doing brilliantly and having a great time. Claudia: "How sad would you and her be if she left tonight?" Jamie: "I think she'd be more sad than I would." DAYUM. (Fortunately Judy has a healthy sense of humour and is positively hooting at this from her spot on the stage.)

Right, results then. The following five couples are safe and guaranteed a spot in next week's show: Pixie and Trent, Steve and Ola, Sunetra and Brendan, Caroline and Pasha, and Scott and Joanne. The first couple in the dance off is...Thom and Iveta. There's a moderate amount of horror from the studio audience, befitting the revelation that that nice boy who seemed to be doing quite well but you didn't actually care about that much might be going home. Len tells Tess that it's "nonsensical" for Thom to be in the bottom two, since there are "loads" worse than him. Actual number of people who Len scored lower than he did Thom: three. Len of course then goes into his usual rant about people thinking that everyone in the middle of the table is safe and doesn't bother to vote for them, as if this isn't a thing that's been happening for the last two weeks. (Also, let me tell you, you don't get a chance to forget that mid-table is a dangerous position if you follow Deborah Meaden on Twitter, because she really does like to remind people about that.) Len says that Thom's being in the bottom two is "undeserved". Thom says that of course nobody wants to be in this position, but it's a very strong field this year and everyone was great last night, so he's just going to give the dance off his best shot. "We'll do it better, yeah?" Iveta chirps. They've plastered on grins to save face, but they're both clearly a bit gutted that they're not more popular with the public.

The saved couples are up in the Clauditorium, where Claudia says that seeing Scott and Joanne react with shock every time they're saved is her favourite thing. (Personally I'm getting a little bored of it, because they're both so OTT about it. Looking shocked and grateful is one thing, but squealing "REALLY? REALLY?" like Joanne did this week is taking things a bit far for my taste.) Sunetra tells Claudia that she gets her lines muddled at Casualty because she's thinking about Strictly and the other day she said "a possible fatal oversway" instead of "a possible fatal aneurysm". I wouldn't worry, Sunetra - if James Jordan lasted his entire tenure on this show without murdering one of his partners for fucking up, I'm sure Brendan won't do it either.

Then: Culture Club! Boy George has a moustache these days. He's sounding a little underpowered on the vocal front as well - if the backing vocalists weren't there, I'm not sure 'Karma Chameleon' would've had a bridge at all. Then when the chorus kicks in, Kevin and Karen and Aliona and Tristan come out to dance a severely frenetic jive. Seriously, if you though Kevin was looking to take someone's eye out during the promenade section of Frankie's foxtrot, wait until you see this.

After that: Len's Lens. The first item on the agenda is Thom's free arm, which was on his hip most of the time in his cha cha cha. Len wants us to know that he's not saying it was a bad routine, but Thom's free arm should probably have been doing something else. Darcey is enlisted to talk about Mark and Karen, and Darcey's all WOW THE BATUCADAS ARE BRILLIANT LOOK HOW HE'S SELLING IT okay fine it's actually supposed to be turned out and he's not actually doing that at all BUT STILL SUCH WOW FOR TRYING. Thanks Darcey. Craig talks a bit about Pixie's skill with isolation, so if the pop career continues to falter, at least she can be an electrician. Also, we get to see Bruno rolling his eyes at Craig at one point. Also, even though Len's Lens is only supposed to work on Saturdays, there's a brief clip of tonight's show, where apparently right after the camera cut away from Jimmy Johnson saying goodbye to Tess and Claudia, he turned around and tripped over a haybale. I'm not going to say "so staged" or anything but in slow motion it does look kind of deliberate. Here endeth Len's Lens.

Over to Tess to see who Thom and Iveta will be facing in the dance off. In no particular order, these five couples are safe: Jake and Janette, Frankie and Kevin (he calls her "Frankenstein" as they celebrate, which: okay), Alison and Aljaž (she squeals that she definitely thought she was going this week), Judy and Anton, and Mark and Karen. Leaving Mark until very last is brilliantly cruel of the producers because he's clearly on his last nerve throughout this section and bursts into tears when Simon and Kristina are told that they are the ones who'll be in the dance off.

Tess asks Darcey if she's shocked to see Simon here again, and Darcey is once again outraged even though...I mean, once it's happened one time, is it really that much of a shock when it happens again? Anyway, she doesn't think she should be there because he's improved so much over the last two weeks. Tess asks them if they're disappointed, and Simon's all "eh, the public want what they want, I'm not going to cry about it, Mark." Or something.

Up in the Clauditorium, Mark is still sobbing like an actual child. He gasps that he can't actually speak, and oh god, the Mark Wright Comeback Narrative Train is going to be unbearable, isn't it? (Not that I have anything against Mark in particular, but I can see the producers really getting behind him now it's clear that it doesn't actually require much prodding to break him. I have this strange feeling he's going to start getting Clancy Marks for the next few weeks, just to make his inevitable departure that much more resonant.) To cheer Mark up, Claudia asks Judy which Hollywood superstar she channels when she's dancing. The answer is "Sharon Stone", and Mark does indeed laugh, because the idea that Sharon Stone is a Hollywood superstar is hilarious. Mark manages to regain the power of speech long enough to claim that he has some sort of PTSD from being in the bottom two last week, and croaks out a thank you to the people that voted for him. Then Claudia asks Frankie and Jake if they're shocked by who's in the bottom two, and Jake says that the last three weeks have demonstrated that nobody is safe, although I feel pretty confident that Jake, Caroline, Pixie and Frankie are probably safe for a good few weeks yet. [I'm not sure about that.  I reckon at least one (probably a woman after manageddon) will be an actual SHOCK!  BOTTOM TWO! within the next three weeks, betcha - Rad]

Trailer for Hallowe'en week: the celebrities recall some of the judges' harsher comments and run off screaming. Eh.

Dance off time, and Tess and Claudia are both up on the balcony with the two couples who are in jeopardy. Thom tells Claudia that he's not really shocked to be here because everyone else is so good, but he's bonded with everyone here and thinks Simon's amazing, so whatever happens tonight, he's made a true friend. Simon, under his breath: "I wanted to say that first!" Ha! Most likeable Simon has been all series, right there. Simon shoots a "love you, man" at Thom and winks at him (seriously, Rule 34, don't let me down here) and Thom and Iveta are sent down to get into position, but each of them insist on hugging both Simon and Kristina first. Aww. I know Thom does come across a bit like the sort of well-meaning sap who thinks that everyone they've ever met is their best friend, but there does seem to be a real camaraderie among the cast this year, and they do all seem to like each other very much. [I love it.  I'm such a sap for when reality show contestants get on well with each other.  I even think Big Brother 4 was more sweet than boring - Rad] As Thom and Iveta head down to the dancefloor, Tess asks Simon how he's feeling, and Simon says he's still got butterflies, but this was his favourite dance so he's happy he gets another chance to perform it.

Thom and Iveta reprise their cha cha, and ugh, it didn't even occur to me to register that this meant we'd have to listen to 'It's My Party' again. Thom and Iveta are both giving it all they've got, and I think Thom's timing is slightly better second time around, but his footwork is still a bit on the heavy side. When it's over, Iveta gives Thom a hug and a little pat on the back, and then shoots him a "well, we've done all we can" smile which is rather sweet. Then Simon and Kristina reprise their Viennese waltz, and Kristina's going even more overboard than she did the first time around. At least Simon's smile looks a little more 'relaxed and genuine' this time as opposed to the sort of 'fixed and terrified' way it looked before. It is definitely a tough one to call - neither one is perfect, but neither one made any obvious mistakes either.

Over to the judges: Craig says it's a nasty one because he likes both couples equally for different reasons, but he's voting to save Thom and Iveta. Darcey "[doesn't] think we should choose between these two lovely gentlemen". It is your job, Darcey, now suck it up and get on with it. She votes to save Thom and Iveta as well. Bruno says he wants to save both of them because they're good in different ways, but the most polished dance off performance came from Simon and Kristina, so he's voting to save them. Len has the casting vote for the first time this series, and says that you could probably watch both performances again and come to an entirely different conclusion, but he was looking for the most precise footwork, so he's voting to save Simon and Kristina, which means Thom and Iveta are out. They both look stunned, but Thom recovers a little faster than Iveta and awkwardly walks over to give Simon and Kristina a hug.

(Incidentally, there was a rumour on the Digital Spy forums from someone in attendance that Darcey was actually crying at this point. She does look a little bit upset, but I can't see any actual tears - and also the mercenary TV producer inside me thinks that if you had footage of Darcey actually crying about the outcome of a dance off you'd be an idiot not to use it, so I don't know if I'm entirely convinced that this actually happened, but I love the idea so much that I can't help but mention it here anyway.)

Thom says that the whole experience exceeded all of his expectations (a cynic might say perhaps not his expectations of how far he would get, but I don't really want to be that guy right now) - he says that everyone involved in the show does such a fantastic job and makes you feel so confident and it's a joy to be here. He thanks Iveta for being so patient with him, and says that she couldn't have worked harder or given him better choreography. Iveta says that "she wasn't ready for this speech this early" (no, I'm not crying, it's just really dusty in my eyes right now) but she thinks Thom has changed so much "in every single department" and it was a joy to be there to see it happen. She adds that she loved how much Thom was enjoying it, because dancing isn't a job to her, it's her lifestyle and it's her love, "so to see someone else falling in love for the same thing, it was like butter to my heart". I wonder briefly if that's an idiom that lost something in translation from Lithuanian, but whatever the reason, I immediately resolve to add it to my lexicon. Iveta goes on to say that she's loved meeting Thom and he's such a wonderful person, at which point he begs her to stop. Heh.

Thom and Iveta have their last dance to 'I Try' by Macy Gray, and Simon is properly crying with red eyes and everything, and Caroline has her arm around him. It does all seem very solemn, with people lining up to give Thom and Iveta huge, disbelieving hugs. To my immeasurable distress, the show cuts away to the "after the event" VT right as Pasha is going in to hug Thom and seriously WHY WOULD YOU NOT LET ME WATCH THAT? God, it's like this show doesn't even know its audience. (Come on, Rule 34.) VT summary: Alison can't believe Thom won't be around any more, Jake thinks that was a tough choice for the judges and it's only going to get harder each week, Frankie says that everyone thinks they're going home every week, Pixie's excited for her Hallowe'en dance, as are Steve and Sunetra.

So, if you'll grant me the indulgence of editorialising at the end, where did it all go wrong for Thom? As a hunky sportsman with a boyband past, I think a lot of us assumed at the beginning that he'd be a ringer, possibly even the one everyone else needed to beat. But somehow the contestant he was on paper just didn't translate on screen. I don't think he necessarily did anything wrong, just that he took a little bit too long to warm up. [Plus also the Kurse of Kristina which I am convinced is a thing - Rad] I think a lot of viewer allegiances are formed very early on, and Thom did himself no favours by establishing himself in the opening weeks as a mediocre dancer with very little personality. He did develop both as a dancer and as a personality over subsequent weeks, but his persona seemed to essentially boil down to "nice polite man who is always thanking everybody and seems to be gradually improving week-on-week", which is all very nice but doesn't exactly scream "compelling reality TV narrative". You could even argue that Steve was already filling the same niche by that point, and doing it better. I think it was too little too late in Thom's case - by the time he'd got himself into competition mode, everyone else had already got there before him and staked their claim for the voters' affections, so while people might well have liked Thom well enough, he probably wasn't a favourite to that many people.

The sad thing is, as disappointed that I am that he went out this early (because, even taking the fact that I find him immensely attractive out of the equation, I did like him and Iveta as a partnership and I did think Thom had a lot of potential as a dancer), I can't even particularly argue that it was shocking or unfair. He probably did deserve his placing in this week's leaderboard - he just got extremely unlucky that he had a below-par week when nearly everyone else had a pretty good one. Personally I would've saved him over Simon in the dance off, if only for the reason that it seems pretty clear at this point that viewers flat out aren't interested in voting for Simon, whereas this was only Thom's first slip and he still had potential to rebound - but as I said, it was a very close dance off and it really could have gone either way. Really, as sad as I am to lose Thom, I'm even sadder to lose Iveta, especially before we even got to Halloween. I was really looking forward to seeing what the brains behind the spaceman paso doble had in store this year.

Anyway, I'm going to go and have a lot of feelings with my collection of Dieux Du Stade calendars. Rad will be here next week for Hallowe'en, and I'll be back in two weeks when I might just have recovered. Hopefully.


Lucy McBride said...

Absolutely live for this blog, makes my week! Also, with regards to the barn dance, this website has some pretty cute shots (if you catch my drift...)

Steven said...

Oh my. Thanks for that!