We're straight into the much-hyped pro dance tonight where we learn that Iveta has got swag. As have Natalie, Aliona and Anya (hi Anya!), because they're glamorous robbers being chased by Keystone cop-like policemen, played by Anton, Tristan, Aljaž and Robin (meh). They're dancing to 'Rock This Town' by Stray Cats, and it's all very cartoony but it's clearly been designed to give Iveta as many opportunities to vamp right down the lens as possible, so that's good with me. Then we get the highly publicised bit where the girls dance in hold together and so do the boys, after which the entirety of western society crumbles because gays. And yes, that was our first example of same-sex couples dancing together in hold but as Rad has already pointed out, it really is nothing compared to the amazing Brendan/Natalie/Pasha/Katya libidinous bisexual quickstep/tango hybrid of 2011. Nothing at all. *fans self* Sorry Robin, I'm afraid I'm no more convinced that this show desperately needs you to be paired up with your hanger-on boyfriend than I was before this routine started.
Robin and Aljaž escort Tess and Claudia on, and Tess gushes that it's lovely to have Robin back. Anya is not mentioned. (#JUSTICE4ANYA) The judges are summoned on, and I'm pleased to see that Darcey's sorted out whatever strange backcombing thing she was doing with her hair during the performance show because it really wasn't working for me. Or her, for that matter. (Although by the end of this evening her hair has started to look a bit...Myra Hindley, so maybe it's not that much of an improvement.) Tess promises us two (two!) performances from Barry Manilow. Hold me.
The backstage VT begins with a weird skit where Craig randomly decides to hand his 10 paddle to Jake, who runs off screaming in ecstasy. Maybe he's just happy to have custody of it to prevent Craig from handing it out to any disco salsas again. All the contestants talk about how the pressure is racking up because there are fewer contestants left, and because BLACKPOOL raised everyone's expectations, and how nervous they all get on Saturday nights. Interesting things that we learn in this segment: Jake sleeps a lot, Pasha is more likely to touch you if he thinks you're nervous, Mark and Karen like to hold hands. It's not a particularly illuminating week, all things considered, but let's not pretend I haven't noted down that detail about Pasha just in case it comes in handy later.
Before we go over to Tess with the results, Claudia invites us to join her in the "very starry" front row where she's sitting next to Mary Berry and Hairy Dave Myers. (Hilariously, Claudia has her back turned to Antony Costa throughout this entire segment, and he is neither named nor spoken to at any point. Guess he just wasn't starry enough, poor guy.) Mary's favourite performance of the night was "lovely Frankie, looking so elegant", while Dave thinks that seeing Karen dance with Mark reminded him of himself occasionally. Well, that was worth it. Back to Tess and those ominous cue cards then. The following three couples are safe: Jake and Janette, Pixie and Trent, and Simon and Kristina. In the dance-off: Sunetra and Brendan again.
Tess, to Sunetra: "I'm so sorry you find yourself standing here again next to me." No comment. Sunetra says she's been in a dance-off before so another is no great shakes, and she liked this dance so that helps too. Asked for words of advice and/or encouragement, Craig tells Sunetra that she's a very talented dancer, and that she's had experience of being in the danger zone so she knows what to do. Also to hope that she's up against Steve because there's no way she's beating anyone else at this point. (I may have added that last bit.)
Meanwhile the three safe couples are up in the Clauditorium, where Jake is mutedly pleased about getting his first two tens for a dance that he loves. We get a sneak preview of what's in store for next week when Jake elaborates that for Around The World week he will be doing a Greek-themed Argentine tango to 'Zorba The Greek', and there will be plate-smashing. I mean, not that I want to encourage people to be lazy or anything, but is Argentina not "around the world" enough all by itself? Isn't this unnecessarily complicating the matter? [I look forward to the Ukrainian American Smooth and the Japanese Viennesse Waltz with delight - Rad] Claudia asks Pixie if she can cope with learning all these new dances, and Pixie says that she's loved getting to be a different character for every single dance. Simon agrees, and Claudia reveals that his dance will be Austrian-themed, and she hopes that he'll wear lederhosen. Simon vows to do anything for Claudia, possibly because he still feels a bit bad for making her cry earlier.
From there we go to our first Manilow of the night, and it is of course 'Copacabana', to which Karen and Kevin are cha-cha-cha-ing with gay abandon. It's impossible not to talk about what the hell has happened to Barry's face (not least to raise my counterargument to those people who claim that people only noticed what happened to Renee Zellweger's face because she's a woman), because he basically looks like Sid The Puppet from Buffy the Vampire Slayer now. Best not to ask who's got their hand up his-- [that's quite enough of that, thank you. - Ed] Barry sings a bit too cheerily for my taste, his casual chatty approach being a bit too glib for a song about murder, depression and alcoholism. Also, Barry drags up a girl from the audience and makes her dance with him, and it's pretty excruciating, but then so is whatever frenetic business Kevin and Karen are doing at that point anyway. [He also burbles something inaudible instead of 'the hardest part was the Havana' because apparently mild innuendo is too much for a show that employs Iveta and Kristina and has Vicky Gill make the men's trousers - Rad]
Afterwards, we return to the Clauditorium for Len's Lens. For our consideration: Jake's arse, Len informing us that a 10 is not a perfect score but "it's just better than a nine" (maybe don't give so many nines out then?), Darcey trying to twerk, how not to sickle one's foot, Simon gets "most improved", and poor Caroline's stumble being relived in slo-mo.
From there, we go back to Tess and her cards. I think she's just waiting for Mr Bun The Baker and then she's got a winning hand. Frankie and Kevin are safe (and he shouts "come on, Frankenstein!" yet again, because he still hasn't got the memo that it stopped being cute in about week three), as are Caroline and Pasha (both of whom seem extremely surprised not to be in the dance-off - I guess being on early, being mid-table and having That Fuck-up to contend with was probably giving them the heebie-jeebies). So that leaves Mark and Karen vs Steve and Ola to see who goes up against Sunetra and Brendan in the dance-off. Sadly Little Ol' Me Marky No Moves From Essex has had a lot of confidence boosts since the last time this happened, so while his face crumples a bit, he has to shove his fist over his eyes when he and Karen are declared safe to cover the fact that he is not even crying a little bit.
So Steve and Ola are in the dance-off, and trundle over to Tess. She points out that this is their first time in the dance-off, and Steve says that there's no shame in hitting the dance-off for the first time in week nine, especially now everyone's getting so good. He adds that he cheers the likes of Jake and Pixie on from the balcony, then realises that he's actually in a dance competition against them and realises how ludicrous the entire thing is. I wish we'd seen this side of Steve a bit earlier, because I rather like it. Tess asks if the dance-off is daunting, and Steve says that it is, but that it's also an opportunity for him to do that dance better, because he knows he can. Len agrees that Steve can do better in the dance off (possibly because it would be hard for him to do much worse) and pulls out the old "it's not the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog" routine. That as may be, but I think it might be time to call the RSPCA.
Happy times are being had in the Clauditorium, where Claudia amuses herself over how Karen spends the whole of the results reveal staring at the floor. Mark declares himself "astatic", and does one of his super-earnest lectures about how being told that you're safe is the greatest feeling in the world. Claudia, in a display of A-grade trolling, points out nonchalantly that Michelle Keegan is in the audience tonight, so is it actually a better feeling than when she agreed to marry him? Unsurprisingly, Mark retracts his statement. Claudia asks Frankie if she was still rehearsing before the results show in anticipation of being in the dance-off, and Frankie says that she was, and so was everyone else, "because we've seen the most random people in the bottom two, so you've just got to be prepared". Caroline says that she was still going over the trip in her head, and that sensation probably isn't going to leave her any time soon, but echoes Mark in saying that being declared safe and knowing you've definitely got at least one more week on the show is a lovely feeling.
Next: moar Manilow. Now, when people have been in the music industry for far too long and are so rich from their existing royalties that they basically never need to write a song ever again, they tend to pick stupid projects to stop themselves from getting bored, and one of those projects that happens for more often than it should is "duet with a dead person". That's what Manilow's doing here: duetting with Louis Armstrong on 'What A Wonderful World', and I find this whole issue hugely problematic because the dead person doesn't exactly get much of a say in the sound of the recording or indeed in whether they even want to participate or not. I can't help thinking what it would be like if I died and twenty years later someone turned me into a hologram and made me appear at the annual Conservative Party conference against my will or something, so sorry Bazza, I'm sure you mean well, but this whole thing makes me very uncomfortable and I don't wish to spend any more time on it, even if Aljaž and Joanne are dancing very prettily in front of the whole monstrosity. [What is worse is that BRUCE and bothersome Hobbit Jamie Cullum are
After a trailer for Around The World Week that sees Jake practising his Greek, Steve working on his Dutch, Caroline brushing up on Turkish, Pixie stumbling through Spanish, Simon presumably rehearsing German, Frankie doing a gee-golly-shucks American accent, Sunetra really going for it with her PORTHUGAYSE, and Mark speaking Cockney rhyming slang (like everyone does in Essex?). The punchline for each particular bit seems to be "ha ha, they got their words wrong", but none of the constructions they apparently come out with are especially funny in their own right, so let's move over to Danceoffville.
Claudia asks Steve how he plans to win this dance-off, and Steve talks about how Jake came up to him in BLACKPOOL last week and reminded him that none of them will ever get to experience this again (at least not until Strictly Come Dancing All-Stars: Heroes Vs Villains - coming soon to BBC One!). They head down to the floor, while Tess and Claudia turn to Sunetra, who says that this is a lovely waltz to go out on if it does indeed turn out to be the last one she does. (How many more waltzes was she planning to do, exactly? She's already done the Viennese one, so unless Brendan's got a Glaswegian waltz up his sleeve, perhaps, or a Bristolian one...) Brendan, who's so comically over this series, tells Sunetra that she did the waltz brilliantly the first time without even looking at her, and shrugs that making it to week nine is a perfectly respectable achievement. (I bet he never said that to Lisa Snowdon.)
Steve and Ola reprise their jive, and if anything it's actually worse second time around - his timing is all over the place and he gets even less bounce than he did before. Ola only just makes the final leap onto his shoulder this time as well. Sunetra and Brendan come on to hug them when they finish, and Sunetra tells him that she enjoyed watching that, which is sweet. (Unless she meant "because I can definitely beat that," perhaps.) Then they swap places, and Sunetra and Brendan do their waltz again - it's perhaps fractionally better than the first time, although it is still stuttery in places. Either way, it doesn't really need to be better than the first time they did it, it just needs to be better than Steve's jive, which it easily is.
So who gets to stay? Craig thought both couples were better second time around, but he would like to save Sunetra and Brendan. Darcey agrees that both couples improved, but on ability "and the guns", she'd like to save Steve and Ola. Yes, that is an actual thing that was said by an actual judge on this show, I swear I didn't make it up. I know I should be furious and calling Ofcom and demanding the reinstatement of Arlene Phillips (although LOL at the idea of bringing Arlene back to replace a judge who was drooling over the male contestants too much), but honestly this is the most entertaining Darcey has been in YEARS. (On an editorial level, however, I'm slightly frustrated because I was deliberately trying not to include Darcey's more lascivious comments yesterday about how attractive she's finding this year's men because I didn't want to come across as a misogynist for portraying the only female judge as dizzy and boy-crazy, and now I feel like I probably needn't have bothered.) [I think ALL the judges are boy crazy, although Bruno does spread his lust around to the women too - Rad] Bruno thinks one couple had much more elegance and grace, so he votes to save Sunetra and Brendan. That leaves Len to play his casting vote, and for a second I worry that Len will just look at Steve's outfit, assume he is a SPORTSMAN and save him, but fortunately Len saves Sunetra and Brendan for being "the better couple on tonight's performance".
Tess calls Steve "such a big part of this series" while sticking her hand all over his broad shoulders, and I think we know which big part of this series she's referring to. Steve says it was an incredible achievement for Ola to take someone who was "as bad as [he] was" and get him all the way to week nine. Ola thanks Steve for working so hard and giving her 150% in training. Then Steve gets a little bit drunk on the occasion and launches into a monologue about seeing Mark "blossom", seeing Jake's salsa, Sunetra's American smooth, Judy's foxtrot, Mark's charleston, and so on. I notice that he mentions Mark twice. I think Steve has a bit of a mancrush there. (Also, it's quite impressive if Steve was there to witness Judy's foxtrot, considering she...didn't do one. I'll just assume he meant her American smooth.) He says that Strictly is an incredibly uplifting experience. Particularly if you're Judy, who was uplifted for 90% of her time on the dancefloor.
Claudia reappears to remind us to tune in next week for Around The World Week, and then Steve and Ola dance out to 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me'. Then the ghosts at the feast tell us what an absolute gentleman Steve is, Frankie says that he's "full of so much knowledge, Sunetra is feeling conflicted because she really likes Steve but is happy she gets to stay in the competition, Caroline's excited because she has the charleston next week and that's the dance she's been looking forward to since the beginning, and Pixie just swirls around drunkenly. That seems as good a place as any to end it, so don't forget to join Rad next week for what I assume will be our last theme week of the series. At least, I hope it will. [Ha! There's still Two Dance Week, Swingamajig or whatever week, OUTRAGE shock!boot week, Finale week... - Rad]