Sunday, 23 November 2014

The sweetest hangover

Week 9: Top 8 Perform - 22 November 2014

Last week: BLACKPOOL! Most of the couples' dances delivered on the heightened level of expectation (although the judges were still overly generous with their scoring) apart from Sunetra and possibly Steve, and regrettably it was the final set for Judy, but at least she went out on a high - literally, as she dangled from a bunch of balloons way above the ballroom floor. As any Strictly scholar will tell you, this means we face BLACKPOOL hangover week, where the atmosphere sinks like Ian Waite in a showdance, everyone seems to take a giant step backward progress-wise, and the whole experience becomes incredibly depressing. So as you can imagine, I'm thrilled that this ended up being my week to do the recapping. Let's hope 2014 is the year that we buck the trend, right?

Conveniently, now that we've had a bit of a lady clearout (not a euphemism), the top eight is now evenly balanced on the gender front, and the opening VT brings this to our attention as the men and the women decide to have a dance-off to see who'll be waltzing off with the trophy. It's all very competitive and good-natured and utterly redundant because Aljaž arrives at the end and informs everyone that, as the reigning champion, the trophy is still his for another four weeks. I really hope that means Bloody Clancy hasn't had her grubby mitts on it all this time. That would make me feel so much better.

Titles! I miss Judy already.

We're live from BBC Elstree, and the big news on the presenting front is that Claudia's back! Obviously I'm sad that this means no more Zoe, because I think she's done a fantastic job of filling in over the last three weeks, but it's great to see Claudia back in the ballroom - and, of course, seeing her back presumably means her daughter is well on the road to recovery, which is wonderful. And Tess is visibly delighted to have Claudia back as well, so anything that humanises Tess can only be a good thing. [Tess was so sweet with Claudia tonight.  I loved Zoe but I don't want to break the TessClaudmance up.  Three presenters anyone? - Rad] Daly Dresswatch: simple white floor-length gown offset by a neckpiece that looks a bit like a centipede. What Winkleman's Wearing: simple black sequinned jumpsuit. No obvious clangers from wardrobe this week, although obviously we still haven't seen Caroline yet. There's a huge appreciative round of applause for Claudia's return, and you can see even at this point that she's only just keeping it together. In the audience: Mary Berry and Hairy Biker Dave, sitting together, presumably swapping recipe clippings.

Tess recaps the events of last week, while Claudia reminds us that it's a mere four weeks until the final (I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not ready to deal with Strictly being over just yet, so I'm just going to push that to the back of my mind). The judges sashay on once again, and there's a brief comic bit about Len being asleep and missing his cue, and all I'm going to say is that that's the sort of joke they used to make about Bruce, and then it started coming true, so be very careful with that one, show. Darcey is even less interested in her walk-on dance than usual, for those keeping score.

The stars of our show: Jake and Janette, Pixie and Trent, Steve and Ola, Mark and Karen, Frankie and Kevin, Caroline and Pasha, Simon and Kristina, and Sunetra and Brendan. Points of interest: Steve is dressed as an American football player and carrying a helmet, so presumably they've finally given him the protection he needs against VICIOUS BULLY OLA, Kevin appears to have been given James Jordan's old hair, and Caroline actually looks fine this week so perhaps wardrobe have finally forgiven her for whatever she did to upset them pre-series.

Steve and Ola are on first tonight, and their opening gag is how Steve has been annoying Craig with his sticking-up thumbs in recent weeks, so Tess asks him if he's got that problem under control now and Steve gives her a thumbs-up in response. It's sort of reassuring when you can see the punchline coming a mile away, especially when you realise it's not going to involve Tess actually having to say anything. Steve found the BLACKPOOL experience to be "magical", and Ola was worried that he would mess up the lifts - but unnecessarily, it turns out. Steve notices that, as the herd has thinned, he's generally found himself in the bottom third of the leaderboard (a quick stats run suggests that this has been in the case since week six, although obviously there's some room for debate as not all of these weeks have a number of contestants that's easily divisible by three etc). This week they have the jive, which is an absolutely brilliant dance to have when your ankles are totally fucked, so I suspect this might just be the week that the wheels fall off the Steve train. The dance has the theme of "American football and cheerleaders", because it says so in the script, so Ola takes Steve off to watch some cheerleaders practising and that's when I realise she's been STEALING HER CHOREOGRAPHY FROM THE CLOVERS! We can't enter this at regionals now! Quick, somebody call Sparky Polastri! Ola explains that the bounce and precision being displayed by these professional cheerleaders (off a floor which I notice is covered in gym mats, which is probably going to make lightness and bounce somewhat easier than the solid floor of a television studio) is what they need to do in their jive. Steve promises to bring it, but presumably it's already been broughten.

They're dancing to 'Little Bitty Pretty One' and the routine opens with Steve bursting through a screen and pretending to play American football. For a minute I think he's actually going to kick the ball at Ola (so much behind-the-scenes tension!) but he feints at the last second and starts jiving instead. There's really not a lot I can say about this routine that's positive - it's incredibly heavy and flat-footed, Steve's rhythm seems to be off, he seems to be on the wrong foot several times, his free arm is entirely shapeless, and there are several sections where he's either running around aimlessly or just standing there not doing much of anything. There are some well-executed lifts, though, and I suspect that most of the problems with this routine are down to Steve's knackered legs as much as anything. Blackpool hangover rating: three bottles of wine washed down with a dozen Jägerbombs.

Tess asks Steve and Ola if the number 10s on their uniform are intended as a hint to the judges. If so, I sense disappointment all-round. Len says that he was surprised by how well Steve did because he knows that he was under pressure this week and the jive is (wait for it) "a tough dance for big chaps"(*cough*), but he noticed a few problems, at which point the audience boos and Len does a face as he inevitably must, but he concludes that while this wasn't Steve's best, he at least gave it his best. Bruno says that Steve tackled the jive like a charging quarterback, but he kept slipping back into American time - "between five and eight hours behind". Craig found it stompy and flat-footed, and says that the timing at the beginning was atrocious. Darcey thinks the image suited him and he played it well, but "the boys are right" (sigh), he wasn't on top of the beat - though she thought he did a brilliant job of handling Ola in the lifts. Tess calls Darcey "the voice of reason", which just goes to show what a terrible state we've found ourselves in already.

Ola makes a great show of cheering all the way up to the Clauditorium, where Steve says it went in an absolute flash. Presumably he means "all sense of rhythm". Ola says that he did really well, because she knows how much he struggled this week. Claudia says that she loves Ola's face. Scores are in: Craig 4, Darcey 7, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 23. Steve and Ola look a little winded by Craig's score, but Steve good-naturedly says that it could well have been "fours across the board", so he'll take that.

Up next: Caroline and Pasha. We revisit the horror of Len saying that he would dive off the pier naked if Caroline was in the bottom two, which Caroline compounds by saying that it could have worked against them, because "a lot of people would like to see you naked, Len". Not being funny here, Flackers, but if I didn't get to see Thom Evans naked on the show this year, I am going to do everything within my power to make sure I don't have to see Len Goodman in the skinny. In this week's VT, Pasha asks Caroline to join him at the Savoy, where this week he will be playing the role of a smooth-talking bar steward. Pasha explains that this is to help get Caroline in the mood for her American smooth foxtrot (why do we have to keep calling it that these days? I blame Len, but then I blame Len for most things), to recapture the golden era of Hollywood where men were suave and the women were impeccably dressed. For some reason this makes me long for someone to do an American smooth inspired by the food poisoning scene from Bridesmaids. Now that's Hollywood glamour! Pasha even provides a swing band so they can practice, and Caroline says that she didn't realise quite how smooth Pasha really was. Dammit, did wardrobe make him wax again?

They're dancing to 'Mack The Knife', and unfortunately it seems that wardrobe hasn't quite finished derailing Caroline just yet, because despite a good start with an elegant lift, Caroline stands on the hem of her dress after landing and stumbles very noticeably. She recovers quickly and doesn't miss a beat, but throughout the rest of the routine you can see a hint of fear on her face because she knows that's going to count against her, and I think she's worried about getting through the rest of the routine without it happening a second time. It's a shame, because that's really the only thing wrong with the routine, which is a gorgeous piece of choreography from Pasha, danced beautifully by both of them. There's even a proper old-Hollywood bit at the end where they dance up some steps, followed by Caroline just dropping into Pasha's arms from the top step. Swoon. To hell with the stumble, I'm going to say that's my favourite of Caroline's dances by a mile, and probably in my top five for the whole series. Blackpool hangover rating: should've said no to that last G&T. [Stumble aside, that was AWESOME.  I love Caroline and Pasha so much.  - Rad]

Caroline, who has done a first-class job of keeping her composure throughout the routine, immediately needs to let all that emotion out at the end, and Pasha immediately pulls her into a hug to reassure her, which is sweet. Tess honks "DID YOU HAVE A LITTLE STUMBLE?" and Caroline admits that she nearly went right over. Bruno says that "the lady is the vamp" and says that the routine oozed sex appeal - he loved the choreography, and says it had elements of jazz and contemporary dance, adding that he would like to see that dance again because he enjoyed it so much. I think that's just superceded Len's naked threat for "judges' comment most likely to backfire", because in order for Caroline to do it again she'd either need to be in the bottom two tonight or make it to the top three, and sadly I think the former is more likely. Craig thinks she opened well until she almost fell, but she "made a great save" and got back into it. He thinks the routine was really good and classy. Darcey says that Caroline needed to be very brave to pull off a lot of those moves because they can easily go wrong, but she would say there are moments where the extensions of the legs and hands could stand to go a little bit further. Len says it was as smooth as a butter knife, but he would've liked a little bit more in the foxtrot hold, because: Len.

Caroline and Pasha walk up to the Clauditorium, and Caroline makes a point of carrying the hem of her dress to avoid any more embarrassing incidents. Her first words to Claudia are "what a wally!", which endears her to me immensely. Caroline explains that she was barely even moving, but she just trod on her dress and nearly landed on a lady in the audience, so she apologises to the woman in question for the near-miss. I bet the woman in the audience was just disappointed that it wasn't Pasha falling on her, I know I would've been. Scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 33. I feel bad for Caroline because without the stumble that would totally have been a Bruno 10. Claudia says that Anton was shouting "undermarked" and that a seven seems like a ridiculous score, but Caroline says it's fair because she fell.

On third tonight are Pixie and Trent, performing in the first half of the show for only the second time this series, and making her first appearance in The Death Slot. Tess teases that the routine will feature Pixie's first lifts of the competition, and it's kind of bizarre to think that in the Age Of Gilkison, someone can actually make it all the way to week nine while keeping at least one foot in contact with the ground at all times. I kind of want Pixie to win just for that alone. Last week's paso was amazing and landed Pixie at the (joint) top of the leaderboard, but she's still striving for the perfect score. In a throwback to the days when Pixie's schedule was BUSYBUSYSOBUSY, this week Pixie is going up to Edinburgh to do a couple of songs at an awards ceremony, so Trent comes along for the ride. Pixie sings without even bothering to take her coat off, possibly because she was JUST TOO BUSY, and meets a few of the winners, who are local people who've done great things for charity. Pixie tells us that charity is good, and Trent has a go at teaching one of the winners to dance.

They're dancing the charleston to 'Sparkling Diamonds' from Moulin Rouge!, making it the second week in a row to use a song from that soundtrack. Will we be working our way through the entire thing before the end of the series? Personally I can't wait for someone to do a quickstep to Jim Broadbent's cover of 'Like A Virgin'. [Mute the sound on Frankie and Kevin's tango and play the Green Fairy song over it and it'd probably make as much sense as a music choice - Rad] It's an interesting routine that fuses the charleston with Broadway, and Pixie and Trent ham it up royally. There are moments where Pixie's swivel looks more like plain old bowlegs, and the routine doesn't really feature enough Trent for my liking, but it's performed with so much energy and spirit that I still love it. I did see a fair bit of criticism online for this routine not being a proper charleston, to which I say a) the definition of a "proper charleston" on this show has been extremely loose on this show ever since the genre was first introduced, and b) I'm fairly certain that all of the charlestons on this show are choreographed by Bill Deamer anyway, so I don't see how this is Pixie or Trent's fault. Blackpool hangover rating: functioning alcoholic.

Craig thinks she danced with precision and exactitude, and an enormous amount of detail. "So much content!" says Tess, like somebody at a conference on the future of online journalism. Darcey is impressed at how many steps there were in the dance, and how Pixie still managed to nearly outshine Trent in the process. She would just like Pixie to throw herself into the lifts a little bit more. Len says he was out of breath just watching it, and it was full of razzle-dazzle. Bruno says that Pixie had "the explosive brilliance of a firework display", and as far as he's concerned, too much is never enough.

There's a very excited reception for them up in the Clauditorium, where Claudia says that Bruno couldn't help but stand up, which must be a good sign. Pixie: "He does stand up quite a lot though, doesn't he?" Ha! This was the dance that Pixie was most looking forward to doing, and she loved it. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 37.

After a preview of the five dances yet to come, Claudia joins Tess on the dancefloor, wearing a fez. Well, at least now we know what it would've looked like if the Eleventh Doctor had regenerated into a woman like certain sections of the fandom wanted him to. This is all in aid of next week's brand new theme, "around the world week". I was hoping that this meant every dance would be performed to this, but apparently it means that each dance will have a sensitive and nuanced and definitely in no way grossly stereotypical theme of different countries.

Up next are Mark and Karen, and Mark is still on a high from BLACKPOOL and Craig saying that he was starting to fall in love with him. This week Mark has been in Tenerife for his day job, filming Take Me Out: The Gossip. The whole theme of this VT is that Mark's work is keeping him BUSYBUSYSOBUSY [Mark Wright is a legitimate celebrity who in no way is famous because of TOWIE, OK? - Rad] and not leaving him enough time to rehearse. I mean, I don't wish to disparage the work of the television professionals working on it, but it's the spin-off series to Take Me Out. How long can it realistically take? Still, apparently it is an intensely demanding shoot that leaves Karen very little time to teach Mark the routine.

They're dancing their tango to One Republic's 'Love Runs Out', which is yet another questionable choice of tango music. Also, this means that now everybody remaining in the competition has danced the tango, so no more tangos for us unless someone decides to reprise theirs in the final. Mark's tango face is a bit "where did I leave my keys?", but the performance isn't too bad if they genuinely did have as little rehearsal time as they're claiming. It does feel like a lot of manufactured drama and no real content, but *insert TOWIE joke here*. Blackpool hangover rating: sick in a neighbour's garden on the way home.

Darcey likes the "strong, serious Mark" and says he brought the drama, and she loved the frown. Mark says he doesn't think he planned that. Darcey says that he tired in the second half, so the right shoulder started coming up and there were moments in the transitions where he needed more finesse. Len panics that he doesn't want to be too complimentary in case he turns Mark gay for him as well, but he liked the staccato and the intensity, though he agrees with Darcey that it got a bit frantic near the end. Bruno says that he thought Mark was a nice boy (excuse me while I go and curate a series of clips from The Only Way Is Essex that would debunk that theory easily) but he can be rough when he wants to. He says that at the end it got a bit like Caesar from Planet of the Apes, but it was a proper convincing tango, albeit with a few missteps. Craig thinks he leapt on Karen "like a feral dog with rabies", but it was full of testosterone and focus.

Claudia congratulates Karen on teaching Mark that routine in "eight seconds", and Mark says that he's normally a happy-go-lucky person, but he quite enjoyed being all moody for the tango. Claudia tries to get him to do his tango face again and he looks more like an anxious squirrel. Scores: eights all round for a total of 32. Claudia teases Jake getting his hips out again, which leads to a mini fiesta with Tristan playing the trumpet and Simon running around with a sign saying "Jake's hips".

Tess is sitting in the audience between Antony Costa and Mary Berry. Tess says that Frankie and Kevin are up next, doing a Viennese - "don't worry Mary, it's the waltz, not the biscuit", and Mary admits to being a fan of the waltz because it's the one dance she can do, albeit not very well. Tess hopes that this Viennese waltz will be light, crisp and without a soggy bottom in sight. "Just as it should be," says Mary, and Tess repeats this louder, because that's what Tess does. [And Antony Costa got completely ignored, as it should be - Rad]

Frankie enjoyed BLACKPOOL, particularly because it was a chance to redeem herself after messing up in the previous week. The VT for their Viennese waltz is the usual "ugh, I'm really dizzy" stuff, and Frankie panics that she'll either get disoriented during the live show or just projectile vomit everywhere. Kevin comes up with various suggestions for dealing with this, including not focusing on anything and closing her eyes, but Frankie doesn't find any of this to be useful. Oh my god, what if she spews all over Mary Berry? Think of the outrage in the Daily Mail.

They're dancing to 'What's New Pussycat?', and I don't think I'd realised what a maddeningly repetitive song that is until now. It's the sort of song they would play on a loop in hell. I'm surprised that years of performing it haven't prompted Tom Jones to snap entirely and go on a killing spree. Fortunately (or disappointingly, depending on your perspective), Frankie manages to make it through the entire routine without fainting, vomiting or blacking out, so the job's a good'un. Blackpool hangover rating: never ever ever drinking Lambrini again.

Frankie says to Tess that she "might need a sick bucket", but then I'm sure Tess has that effect on a lot of people. Len loved the fleckerl, and he loved the detail, like the way Frankie's hand was so light on Kevin's shoulder. Bruno purrs in appreciation, and he says that Frankie made it look easy and natural, and he thinks Craig will go into meltdown because there was nothing wrong with her hands or fingers. Craig agrees on that front, but says that she does need to watch for her right foot turning out. That said, he thought it was gorgeous. Darcey thinks Frankie's technique is clean and lovely, but there was some sickling of the feet - at which point Len and Bruno start muttering conspiratorially about ways they can get rid of those two on the end.

Up in the Clauditorium, Frankie points out that they always seem to leave the judges a little bit divided, and she rather likes that. Claudia reveals that the thing she loves about them is the way that they're always still practising before the results show, just in case they're in the dance-off. Obviously Claudia hasn't been here for the last three weeks, so I'm just going to assume she got that note from Zoe or Joanne or Wayne Bridge or Mollie and Una or Hot Greg The Floor Manager or somebody. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 38. Claudia: "That's your highest score, apart from Donny week, which we all know doesn't count." I will never tire of Donny shade. Claudia lists some Tom Jones songs in her own unique fashion while Ola brandishes a plush cat from the sidelines.

Next we have THE RETURN OF JAKE'S HIPS and Janette Manrara. Jake feels like BLACKPOOL was a comeback for him, and hopes that he can continue to bounce back from here. This week he decides to invite Janette to come and visit him on the set of EastEnders, where they catch Danny Dyer hanging out by the community centre learning his lines. Danny congratulates Jake on his "beautiful thing" of an American smooth and I'm sure you'll all support me when I say that the campaign for Danny Dyer for Strictly 2015 starts here. (Paired with Natalie, obviously. Just imagine!) Jake shows Janette where Max Branning's house is, but says that they can't go in because Max wouldn't like "your sort". Janette assumes he means "happy and sparkly", but I'm taking it to mean "of Cuban heritage", thus sowing the seeds for a "Max Branning is a massive racist" storyline to come at some point. Then they run into Natalie Cassidy outside the Queen Vic, who expresses fear about them having to do the samba, because it was one of her worst dances (it got the same score as her rock-and-roll, which I think tells you all you need to know).

They're dancing to 'Macarena', and while it's lovely to see Jake's hips back in action, the whole thing feels like a bit of a mess. It's very flaily, and I'm beginning to feel concerned that there's an issue with Janette's choreography where she just isn't giving Jake enough to do generally. That said, I think he does the samba steps that he's given well enough, he absolutely throws himself into it, butt-shimmies and all, and it's the campest thing I've seen on this show since Erin retired to have babies, so there's still a lot working in its favour. Oh, and it ends with Jake launching his crotch into Janette's face, if you like that sort of thing. Blackpool hangover rating: drank far too much, but at least remembered to line its stomach by eating first.

Bruno: "JACKO WACKO THE TWERKING WONDER." Quite. He says there were some sticky moments, but the less said about what happens under the judges' desk, the better. Craig didn't think the rolls went anywhere, but the shoulder shimmies were great "and your bottom went off like a jackhammer". Darcey comes over all giggly and calls Jake "a box of surprises", and openly laughs at his facial expressions, but thinks there was a lot of samba going on there. Len calls it "a wamba of a samba", which I'm fairly certain is not an actual thing, and says that what it lacked in technique, it made up for in fantastic dancing and spirit. [Loved it in all its weird glory, but can't help thinking I wished this had come before the salsa so that could get this score instead of missing tens because it was too early in the series to start chucking them about - Rad]

In the Clauditorium, Jake says it was so much fun, and he loved it. We're obviously running behind because that's all we have time for before the scores come in. Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 38. Jake's first tens of the series there, slightly undercut by one of them coming from Len who'd openly admitted to there being a lack of technique in the dance. Oh, Len. Claudia: "Coming up next - celebrities dance, the judges score." Anyone else think the show's scriptwriter has lost some of their passion for their work?

Our penultimate couple of the night are Sunetra and Brendan, with a routine set in a railway station. Sunetra was pleased to make it to BLACKPOOL last week, but it was tarnished slightly by being in the dance-off last week. Sunetra is pleased that she was up against Judy and was in no danger of going home the judges gave her another chance. Sunetra has the waltz this week, and talks about how it was a conversation with her son that inspired her to sign up for the show, because Noah said that he'd love to see her on Strictly. Sunetra goes to visit Noah at his school, and Noah's classmates have set up the assembly for that day to be like the Strictly studio. This certainly beats my school assemblies, which were more likely to take the form of a week of lectures about Hernán Cortés. [Get you!  Ours were basically just 'this week in notices'.  At secondary school I mean, unless your primary school was incredibly swanky - Rad]

They're dancing to 'Last Request' (bit ominous), which has been rather awkwardly transposed into waltz-time [it sounds fucking dreadful.  The waltz music this series is about as good as the tango music - Rad] and the first thing I notice in this dance is that Sunetra's outfit doesn't quite seem to fit properly because her dress is all bunched up under her ribs, which rather spoils the line of the dance when you see her from behind. Essentially with the dress and the song there's a lot working against Sunetra here, and that's compounded by a bit of a stumble in the middle and her ongoing collapsing-frame issues, but it's a pleasant enough routine. Blackpool hangover rating: maybe stick to the virgin cocktails next time.

Craig tells Sunetra that she's definitely better in hold, but her hand could be lighter on Brendan because she was performing a death grip at one point. Darcey thinks there was a great improvement here, but Sunetra came unstuck at times. Len liked the feel of it, and says that it was like a scene from Brief Encounter. He liked the rondé and the pivots, but it was a bit shaky and he noticed the stumble. Bruno compliments Sunetra on her improvement on her turns and body contact, but he cites her continued issues with her topline and wonders if it's because she's got "too much luggage in the carriage". Erp.

Sunetra tells Claudia that the whole experience that it was very magical. Brendan admits that there were stumbles out there, but Sunetra managed to pick herself up again and that's the important thing. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. Fun fact: Darcey gave that one point less than she gave Sunetra's samba. LolokaythenDarcey.

Closing the show we have Simon and Kristina. Things went rather well for them in BLACKPOOL and they got three 10s, and Simon's starting to feel the pressure again. The theme of their salsa is that Simon is a famous movie star, and Kristina is his biggest fan. The VT then segues into a fake trailer for the romantic comedy they star in together, but the entire concept of spoof trailers has been ruined forever for me by 30 Rock's peerless Martin Luther King Day trailer, so let's just move along.

They're dancing to 'Let's Hear It For The Boy' by Deniece Williams, which is a song that I love. [Ditto - Rad] Their salsa routine is lively, spirited and energetic, and a great routine to cap off a surprisingly good Blackpool hangover week. There are a few sloppy lifts, but Simon looks entirely comfortable throughout and really brings the routine to life. Blackpool hangover rating: designated driver, was on Red Bull all night.

They're both completely out of breath afterwards, and Darcey thinks Simon's like a different man now, looking completely relaxed in everything. She thinks that Simon maybe got overexcited at times (she's a fine one to talk) and that some of the basic moves got lost in the enthusiasm, but she thinks Simon came very close to repeating the excellence of last week's Argentine tango. Len says that sometimes the week after BLACKPOOL can be a bit flat (has he been reading my notes?), but this has been a fantastic night. He doesn't really mention anything specific about Simon, but I think it was implied. Bruno says that was footloose and fancy-free, just how a salsa should be. Craig loved the incredible armography. He says that Simon needs to get slightly more rotation in his hips, but he's come on in leaps and bounds.

Simon and Kristina scoot up to the Clauditorium, where Simon says he's starting to enjoy this all a lot more now. Claudia reminds us that Craig has never scored Simon higher than an eight, so I think we all know what's coming: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 36. After the jubilation at the score, things take an unexpected turn: Kristina tells Claudia that it's so good to have her back and Claudia, who's done an exemplary job of keeping herself together after that little wobble at the start of the show, suddenly mists up again and you can hear her voice cracking. After she finishes reading the numbers, Claudia sniffles that "it's bad if you're nice to me", at which point Simon puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder and Claudia swiftly informs him that "that includes being nice". I don't think anyone has ever been so grateful for the appearance of the judges' leaderboard just so poor Claudia can not have to be actually on screen while she fights the urge to cry.

1=. Frankie & Kevin - 38
1=. Jake & Janette - 38
3. Pixie & Trent - 37
4. Simon & Kristina - 36
5. Caroline & Pasha - 33
6. Mark & Karen - 32
7. Sunetra & Brendan - 30
8. Steve & Ola - 23

Looking at that leaderboard, I would think a Steve vs Sunetra dance-off is pretty much a given, but Caroline could be in danger as well. Performance recap: Steve's non-starter of a jive, Caroline's great-despite-the-stumble American smooth, Pixie's showgirl charleston, Mark's angry hamster tango, Frankie's vomit-free Viennese waltz, Jake's camp-as-a-row-of-tents samba, Sunetra's possible-last-hurrah waltz and Simon's fast and furious salsa.

And that's it! Claudia tells us that tomorrow night's results show will feature Barry Manilow singing twice, and a cops-and-robbers themed group routine (WITH SAME SEX COUPLES apparently) [As if Tess'n'Claud haven't been flying the flag for same sex dancing for ages already.  Also didn't the epic partner-swapping good Katya and Pasha v evil Brendan and Natalie series 9 pro dance already have same-sex dancing to no tabloid shocks? - Rad]. And also, someone will be going home, but let's not focus on that.

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