Sunday, 9 November 2014

Tie me up, tie me down

Week 7: Top 10 Perform - 8 November 2014

Last week: Everyone covered themselves in six inches of slap for Hallowe'en, and it was a week mostly dominated by the obvious frontrunners (Pixie, Frankie, Caroline), although Jake slipped a bit and Mark climbed a little further up the leaderboard while jiving all over my last nerve with his insistence that he Just Never Expected To Be Good At Any Of This. Over and over and over again. Meanwhile, Scott and Judy were in their usual spots at the bottom of the leaderboard, and the Great British Public finally ended our national nightmare and sent Scott home. Oh, and Frankie got the first Actual Ten of the series, and I really hope that the deliberate removal of Donny Osmond from this show's history means that he will never, never, never be invited back. Not even to be in the audience. The Donny shade continues a little in the intro, as the dancers have now been struck by Actual Ten Fever and everybody wants one, with Mark moaning orgasmically about "a ten from Len" (so that's why Mark is pretending to be a SPORTSMAN in his VT this week), and Trent fiendishly holds a ten paddle so high in the air that poor tiny Pixie can't reach it. "Who will be next?" asks The Voice Of Tess, and then of course we cut to the lolz of Anton suggesting that he and Judy will just have to settle for adding two fives together.

Titles! I probably should've known that Thom wouldn't last long in this competition when he couldn't even film a five-second sequence for the titles without looking utterly terrified. Then again, he did have Iveta crawling over his shoulder like a false widow spider, so maybe it was at least partially justified.

We're live from BBC Elstree (or "live from the BBC", as Alan puts it, because I guess once you've left Television Centre everything else is going to sound like a bit of a downgrade by comparison) and, because Claudia still has rather more important things on her mind than a dance competition, Zoe's back to join Tess for another week. Aljaž and Brendan are on male escort duties again (wait, that sounds wrong). Daly Dresswatch: a royal blue figure-hugging gown that fishtails out at the bottom, with little flesh-coloured accents. It's actually really nice if you discount the rather unfortunate arrow shape pointing directly to her hoo-hoo, and making her look a little bit like something you'd have to drive over for a speed boost on Mario Kart. What's On The Ball: a tight silver sequinned dress with sleeves that does look a little bit like something you might wear to do a sexy cosplay of that awful Torchwood episode. (What do you mean, 'I'll have to be more specific'? You know, that one.) Tess does her best sincere face as she tells us that Claudia can't be with us again tonight, and that everyone wishes her daughter a speedy recovery. Zoe provides a quick run-through of what happened last week, and then it's time for the judges to prance on. Special mention goes to Craig this week for doing the Alison Hammond Special for his entrance and just waggling his chest at the camera. Worryingly, Tess then has to do sincere-face a second time as she pays tribute to the audience members who have come from "Headley Court Defence Military Rehabilitation Centre". I don't wish to be pile on Tess, but a) it's "medical", not "military", b) she pauses after every other word which makes it sound very odd, and c) Tess does "sincere" about as well as she does "comedy". I mean, there's a reason she does light entertainment and not Newsnight.

And here come our ten remaining Strictly stars: Jake and Janette, Pixie and Trent, Steve and Ola (and if you don't spend the entirety of tonight's episode looking for any sense of strain in their relationship, you're a better person than I am), Judy and Anton, Mark and Karen, Alison and Aljaž, Frankie and Kevin, Caroline and Pasha, Simon and Kristina, and Sunetra and Brendan. Tess and Zoe remind us that next week is BLACKPOOL, which means we should expect to hear all the contestants telling us that they "just want to make it to BLACKPOOL" around a thousand times. In the first half-hour of the show alone. [Oh fuck.  I am on BLACKPOOL week, which is the third worst of all the weeks, after WEMBLEY week and the week before BLACKPOOL week, so, come to think of it, I guess I should be grateful you're recapping this one - Rad]

Simon and Kristina are opening the show this week. Last week's routine went quite well, apart from one moment where they missed grabbing each other's hands for a trick and Simon's face was instantly a picture of blind panic. However, they mustered up enough votes to avoid the dance-off, and now they're hoping they can stick around long enough to make it to BLACKPOOL. Since they're training in Manchester (which is only an hour's drive from BLACKPOOL!), Simon suggests that they go and visit his mum, possibly because going nuclear on the family option is generally a good tactic if you've exhausted all other methods of support. Simon's mum tells him that as long as he has self-belief he'll be fine, and Kristina tells us that she is SO WISE. Simon's mum says that it's a dream for her to see where he is "instead of where he could've been", which is the sort of quietly heartbreaking thing you don't really expect from a pre-performance VT where everyone's normally either cloyingly earnest or camping it up for laughs. Simon says that he hopes he can make his family proud this week.

They're dancing a quickstep to Bobby Darin's 'I Got Rhythm' (do we DRINK! for this? I mean, it's not "natural rhythm", but I feel like it's close enough) [Craig said he had natural rhythm in last week's Radio Times, so we can always count it for that - Rad], and it's good. Really good, actually. I think this is the most comfortable Simon has looked in weeks. His face is animated, but not in the exaggerated, slightly desperate way it was in his Viennese waltz, and Kristina has choreographed a gorgeously fluid old Hollywood-style routine that really showcases Simon at his best. It's also a very straightforward routine that doesn't rely on any props, which I'm sure will please the purists in the audience. There's a little bit of gapping near the end as Simon's stamina starts to flag, but aside from that, it's a very strong performance.

Len opens for the judges, and says "the quickstep isn't simple, Simon" (sigh) and refers to him as "a boy in Blue" (SIGH). He thinks Simon is destined to make it to BLACKPOOL, and then pulls a face and says "some of the others will talk about yer this-and-that". Yes, Len. That's called "judging". As head judge, we would expect you to be familiar with the idea. But because Len's given up on being constructive, he just admires Simon's energy and commitment instead. Bruno loved the pizzazz in the routine, and says it was great to see Simon just enjoying himself in the moment, but advises him to stretch his front leg when he does the slide movements, as it'll give him a much better line. And if anyone knows how to get a good line, it's Bruno. Craig says that Simon's head placement and posture could have been better, but he's improved and he flew around the floor, and "you are fast becoming a serious contender". For what, exactly? I mean, I agree that Simon did well this week, but he's fallen short in two votes out of five so far, so I'm really not convinced that his chances of winning are any greater than zero at this point. Darcey finishes by praising his entrance (ooer), and saying Simon made a very difficult dance look easy.

A delighted Simon and Kristina scamper up to the Ballcony where Zoe immediately tells everyone else that Simon's just set the bar for the rest of them, and wishes them luck. Heh. Zoe points out that there are only four male celebrities remaining ("you're like a little boyband!") and asks if they're all supporting each other, and Simon says that it's like a family there, irrespective of gender. He then gets a bit local radio and asks if he can just say one thing, and then turns to the camera and says "remember it's Remembrance Sunday everybody". O...kay. I mean, it's actually Saturday, but I get what you were going for there. [Whatever he was getting it it wasn't as clumsy as the X Factor doing Never Forget as a SERIOUS TRIBUTE TO OUR WAR DEAD.  The whole thing was a giant face palm.  Did nobody question that decision? - Rad] Zoe then basically outs herself as a reader of all the Strictly blogs by bringing up BLACKPOOL and saying "if you're playing the drinking game, good luck with that". I love Zoe. Can we keep her? She wants to know why it would be so special to dance in the Tower Ballroom, and Kristina says that it's a magnificent and unique place that she wants Simon to experience, and then adds that he's a northerner, so it would mean more to him. Yeah, that worked well for Craig Kelly. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 33. Simon's look of disbelief at the two nines is something quite magical: he actually rubs his eyes like he's a cartoon character. It's his highest score to date, even including Donny Osmond.

Caroline and Pasha have the unenviable task of following that one AND sitting in the death slots (every week so far, the bottom two has featured someone who was either second, third or fourth in the running order), so good luck to them. Caroline enjoyed her samba last week, but found it impossible to take Pasha seriously in his comedy wig. (I'd take Pasha seriously, etc etc.) She says that it was the first dance that she did without making a mistake. The last person to get excited about their previous dance being the first one not to include a mistake? Thom Evans, the week he went home. Just saying. Of course, Caroline still got some criticism because Craig thought the routine was too clean, and Caroline admits that perhaps they over-rehearsed it. This week they have the waltz, and as a "self-confessed tomboy" (is being a tomboy a crime?), she's worried that she's not elegant enough for it, so she invites her sister and her kids along to help bring out her "inner princess". Caroline asks for advice, and one of the kids says "don't tread on Pasha's toes", already offering better advice in five words than Darcey has managed in the last five weeks. Another kid blows a raspberry, and Caroline giggles "is that what princesses do?" I don't know, but I for one would definitely vote for Caroline if she spent the entirety of her waltz blowing raspberries at the judges. Then the oldest and most obviously articulate kid tells Caroline that all she needs is a tiara, and at this point I lose all focus because Pasha has got the other two sitting on his knees and Pasha and babies and asfdgdsrgsrdfgsrtsdfsdgts.

They're dancing to 'Three Times A Lady', and much like Simon's quickstep, it's also noteworthy for not drowning itself in theming or props. I think I actually...miss the props? Is this what Stockholm Syndrome feels like? It's a very sweet, elegant performance - possibly a tad saccharine although that might just be the music, and Caroline's emoting so hard that she looks like she's getting a migraine. It ends with a spin on one leg (sorry, tried to find the correct term but googling "flamingo dance move" just brought up lots of flamenco tutorials)  which would have been absolutely stunning if Caroline didn't get her heel caught in her dress and end up slamming her foot to the floor rather more rapidly than I imagine she intended to. Pasha shoots her a little wink at the end, and you know me well enough by now to know that I shall be going to my bunk and not returning for several minutes.

"No tomboy tonight, you are a lady!" says Tess, slightly undercutting the sentiment by pronouncing 'lady' like she's Emily Howard. Bruno says that they put him in the mood "for love! for dance! for romance!" He likes the honesty of her commitment to dance, but says that her shoulders do creep up sometimes, and he can see her trembling. Craig thought she was dancing it all on her toes, and her topline was a little bit blocky - "I don't know how to explain that, Bruno did try to explain that". Shade! But he loved the développé that she did, and the emotion of the dance. Darcey loved the pivot turns, but says there's room for improvement in the top line, and suggests that she could slide her lats down her back to open her shoulders. Len says that there was tension there, but the dance requires a lot of control - "it's like being on Len's Lens for the whole thing". Come on, Len, it wasn't that bad. He says that the rise and fall was lacking, but it all looked beautiful.

Up on the Ballcony, Zoe gives Caroline a hug and Pasha's all "where's mine"? OUTTA MY WAY EVERYBODY PASHA NEEDS A HUG! *attempts to run to Elstree, falls over coffee table and breaks ankle* Zoe asks if the wink at the end is Pasha's way of saying that she did well, and Caroline hesitantly says that yes, it could be that, or it could be "don't worry about anything". Heh. Zoe asks if Caroline's nieces gave her any tips, and Caroline's all " saw the VT, right?" Also, Caroline has history with Lionel Richie because apparently she was an extra in one of his videos. OMG RINGER! Zoe asks if it was 'Hello', and oh my god, Zoe, how old do you think Caroline actually is? Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31.

Jake and Janette are our third couple for this evening, doing a rumba set on board an ocean-faring vessel that has been around the world a few times. That seems fitting, since blokerumbas on this show are usually a load of old ship. Last week's paso got disappointing reviews, but Jake thinks the comments were fair. In rehearsals, Janette explains to Jake at length about how she's set their rumba on a ship, and since Remembrance Sunday is coming up, she thought it would be a nice idea to go on board an actual ship and meet some veterans. Jake, as is his wont, looks thoroughly bored but obliges nonetheless. A comedy VT ensues where they board HMS Belfast and Jake gets to sit in the captain's chair and says to Janette "get down below, I'm going to give some orders". The Strictly curse strikes again! Janette is sent down to the wheel while Jake shouts various nautical jargon at her. Janette is unimpressed. Then they do a bit of their rumba for the assembled officers, who all seem fairly impressed by it.

The band strike up 'Strangers In The Night' [Just me, or a bizarre rumba choice? - Rad] [after WESTLIFE PARTY RUMBA last year, all bets are off as far as I'm concerned - Steve], the floor is awash with dry ice, and Jake's rumba is...well, it's a blokerumba, so he really doesn't have a lot to do. His arm movements are all rather studied and placed, and while there is hip movement, it feels a bit more like Jake going "oh, I'd better move my hips now, this is a rumba" rather than emerging organically from the dance, if that's not too wanky a way of putting it. It's pleasant enough to watch, but he's a rather static frame for Janette to hang herself from. It's not particularly bad, and god knows I've seen enough terrible manrumbas on this show to know when one is truly excruciating, but I sort of hoped Jake was going to buck the trend for this dance, and he didn't really.

Tess asks Craig if that was a shipshape rumba, and Craig says that the hand-shaping was too flat and "spatulistic". He thought the whole dance was too safe and too subtle. Which is a fair comment, because god knows you'll never get anywhere being subtle on this show. He was hoping for more, and is slightly disappointed. Tess, of all people, starts on about how the rumba is a difficult dance for the male celebrities, and Darcey agrees with her, and says it's all about keeping the body moving constantly, and she thinks Jake achieved that. However, he's got to lift his head and his eyeline as much as possible, but she thinks he supported Janette very well. Len says that he doesn't think people realise what a hard dance this is for men, and honestly Len, if that's the case, it's because you and your colleagues have said that every fucking dance is hard for men, so at this point those words have lost all meaning. (Even worse: Tess going "mmhmm, really is" straight after this, like SHUT UP TESS NOBODY ASKED YOU.) He says that you're either going to look too starchy or LIKE A GREAT BIG POOF (I might be paraphrasing) and while it wasn't an exceptional dance, he came ahht and [insert Len macro here]. Bruno liked the character work, but the rumba needs to be continuous motion that never stops, much like Bruno himself, and he thought that Jake's hips were a little bit jagged. Tess asks if The Boss is happy. She is.

Up they go to the Ballcony, where Zoe introduces Jake as "#mumcrush" and asks us not to tell anyone. Oh Zoe, after that episode of It Takes Two last year where you announced how much you fancied Ashley Taylor Dawson when you thought you weren't on camera, this is just a drop in the ocean. Zoe says that everyone on the Ballcony was lost in the romance of the dance. Janette reiterates that she was happy with the dance, and Zoe says that we all missed Jake doing a "crazy, insane dance" before the show started, and while he always seems very cool on screen, he's got a cheeky side. Janette says that Jake is "a man of a million faces", it's just a coincidence that we mostly get to see the bored ones. Or something. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27, Jake's lowest score of the series so far.

Next up are Judy and Anton. Everything else about Judy Murray's VT this week is essentially just filler because ANDY MURRAY SHOWED UP TO TRAINING AT LAST! Since Andy keeps winning at the tennis and not having time to come to the show, Judy and Anton decided to bring the show to Andy. Just take it as a given for the rest of this paragraph that Andy Murray looks and sounds mortified at all times. Andy asks Judy how it's all going, and Judy admits that the dance is a bit fast for her this week. Andy: "Most of it's seemed a bit fast for you." He's such a bitch! <3 Andy says that he enjoys watching his mum dancing (clearly a lie, but bless him for trying) but it's hard to watch the judges criticising her. Then Anton makes Andy dance with Judy, and I think she actually tries to lead (Judy <3), and Anton watches and essentially reasons that having two left feet runs in the Murray family. Judy says it was great to see Andy, and she loves that he "and the rest of my family" (the other unimportant Murrays who have not won a Wimbledon Singles title and therefore will not be mentioned by name <3) are behind her on Saturday nights.

In arguably one of the only two fun or interesting musical choices of the evening (the other being Alison's), Judy and Anton are dancing the paso doble to The Clash's 'I Fought The Law'. Obviously this one is themed up the wazoo, because it's Anton, so it's a courtroom where Judy is of course Judge Judy, and Anton stands charged with the crime of "illegal lifting". All of a sudden I have a serious desire for somebody to do a routine - any routine at all - to Bananarama's 'Love In The First Degree'. As far as the dance goes, even as a fully paid-up member of the Judy Murray Appreciation Society, it's a hard one to defend: the movement is all a bit too gentle, the choreography isn't particularly exciting, there's a nice-but-illegal lift and Judy's paso face is basically "Angela Rippon looking mildly concerned". She gives it a great facial scrunch at the very end, but it's all a bit too-little-too-late by that point. (I still voted for Judy this week though, because I'm still struggling to find a favourite to devote myself to this year, and in the interim, I just find Judy's whole approach to the show so charming that I'd like to keep her around as long as possible.)

Darcey makes a feeble joke about a "hung jury" and that is not a joke I ever need to hear in relation to Anton Du Beke, especially after The Incident In Fiona Fullerton's Cha Cha Cha. Darcey softpedals that Judy is "such a physically strong lady" but it doesn't translate into her dancing when she needs it to. Len says "if stiffness was a crime, you'd get life" and dear god, I hope that is not another reference to Anton's penis. Len makes another crack about poor Anton getting put in prison during the routine even though he's "already done two months hard labour". Len hopes Judy makes it to BLACKPOOL, because he wants to see what it does to Craig. Bruno tells Judy that she's like a revolutionary outlaw, breaking all the rules and thereby "reimagining dance as we know it". Craig calls it pedestrian, pointing out that Judy just walked her way through it, and it would've been nice to see some shaping, "or even a bit of dancing". Heh.

Up in the Ballcony, Anton claims that this was a "contemporary fusion of paso doble walking with lifts". Sounds about right. Zoe asks Judy about Andy and his problem with how the judges treat his ma, and Judy says that now that he knows they're going to be "foul" to her, he turns the volume down at that point. There's another shout-out to Judy's mum Shirley who makes shortbread for everybody every week, and then the scores are in: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Len 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 18. When we cut back to the Ballcony, Zoe has a judge's wig on and shouts "it's all right, we can appeal!" Heh. Anton promises that if they get to BLACKPOOL, they'll do the entire routine in the air.

Next we have Sunetra and Brendan, who have a foxtrot this week. Sunetra says that opening the show last week was a big deal, and she feels the judges were very kind with their comments, but not so with their scores (girl, you got 27 for a pretty lumpen jive, if I were you I'd be very grateful for the bonus Hallowe'en points you probably got for it and brush it all under the carpet never to be spoken of again). Sunetra talks about being busy again in her VT, so much so that she never sees her friends any more, so she invites them to come and watch rehearsals. Her friends turn out to be her Casualty castmates Crystal Yu (Lily), Suzanne Packer (Tess) and Amanda Henderson (Robyn). You'd think Suzanne Packer might not be that excited by Strictly after seeing her brother go through it all in series three, but she manages to seem enthusiastic nonetheless. The trio tell Sunetra how amazing she is, and that's pretty much it.

The routine is to 'All Of Me' by John Legend, and they seem to have put Sunetra in a Mystic Meg wig for reasons I can't quite fathom. Obviously, she's much more comfortable being back in ballroom, but the whole thing doesn't quite add up for me. If I had to guess, I'd say it's a lack of rehearsal time starting to show, because Sunetra looks rather nervous and is sometimes a bit behind Brendan, which leads to some fairly atrocious gapping. Also there's a bit where Brendan shamelessly tries to recapture some Alison Hammond-in-the-dance-off magic by deliberately getting Sunetra's arm-hanky to cover his face, as though we couldn't see right through such tactics, Brendan Cole!

Len says that there were "a couple of incidents" occuring during the dance ("did they?" mugs Tess, unnecessarily), but he wants to see them in BLACKPOOL. Len's judging really is particularly content-free this evening, isn't it? Bruno says that when Sunetra gets it right, it's stunning, but she just kept going wrong and that took her out of it, so he recommends that if she goes wrong she should just keep going because "hardly anybody would notice". Gee, thanks Bruno. Craig says it's a shame, because that routine had the potential to floor everybody, and it's sad that it didn't quite deliver. Tess notes that Darcey is shaking her head. I don't think that's anything to do with what Craig's saying, Tess, I think she's just trying to fix that unsightly Kate Gosselin-style hairdo she's sporting this evening. Darcey says that Sunetra has "one of the best top lines", but THE BOYS ARE RIGHT, there were some moments where it got muddy. Brendan doesn't even bother trying to pretend it didn't happen, he just says that it's so frustrating when you go wrong.

Brendan practically drags Sunetra up to the Ballcony where Zoe gives her a hug and says "sometimes I feel like I shouldn't say any more". If only Tess felt that way. Sunetra says that she just enjoys getting it right, so it's disappointing for her to have messed up. Scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. Seems a tad generous to me.

After a brief preview of the five performances yet to come, it's time for Alison and Aljaž. Last week Alison was in the bottom two for the first time, so as tradition dictates, that means she gets a Comeback Charleston this week. Tess intros that Alison will be "dancing for joy" if she gets through to BLACKPOOL, and I hope to god that Joy isn't another guest judge they're thinking about hiring. Alison loved her American Smooth last week (rightly so, it was awesome) and she jokes that she thinks the judges secretly wanted to give her 9s). She says that it was horrible to be in the bottom two, and she has to do even better this week. We don't see much of her training, because Aljaž decides they've earned a bit of relaxation, so Alison, Alison's son Aiden, and Aljaž all go bowling together. Alison says it was a lovely bonding experience for Aljaž and Aiden, though it appears that Aljaž is a bit rubbish at bowling and Aiden isn't afraid to point it out. Aljaž wonders if he should stick to dancing. I'd say at least until someone offers him money for a celebrity bowling contest, yes. Maybe Alison could partner him that time?

They're both in top hats and carrying canes and dancing to 'Friend Like Me' from Aladdin. There's some good swivel in the early stages and the whole thing's a lot of fun to watch - it's more showboating than dance, admittedly, but at least it's different from the usual sort of showboating you get in a charleston. I don't remember seeing anyone else waving their boobs around like Ursula the Sea Witch like Alison does in this, anyway. It ends with a kiss on the lips, and Aljaž cheers loudly and throws his arms around Alison, even though I'd have thought she'd be the one celebrating in that scenario. [I loved it.  Even if it wasn't very dancey, they totally sold it to me on the performance and exuberance.  I want to be at a party with these two - Rad]

Bruno tells Alison that she's vivacious and has an affinity for slapstick, so the charleston is a good fit for her. The energy dipped a bit in the middle, but she picked it up at the end. Craig enjoyed it and found it very stylish and chic - it wasn't technically brilliant, but it was "most enjoyable". Darcey agrees that the charleston really suits her, and says that the improvement in Alison's strength is palpable, but she noticed Alison's right leg is stronger than her left, so she was getting more swivel of that one. Tess calls Len "Lenny", and I don't really want to think too much about that, and Len says "it was right up your alley, Ali". Alison thanks them for her comments and adds that for someone like her to be on a show like this is just wonderful, and I think she's taken last week's bottom two placing as a sign that her days are numbered, so she's treating every performance as a victory lap at this stage.

Up in the Ballcony, everyone's doing running steps as a tribute to Alison, and Zoe remarks that Aljaž is covered in lipstick, so Alison clearly went for it. Heh. Who could blame her? Alison says she feels stronger and fitter, and she's just happy to be here, because last week made her realise how important this show has become for her. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Zoe asks if Alison's disappointed with that six, and Alison says that she's still waiting for that eight that she hasn't had yet. Heh. Zoe dons a Kiss Me Kwik hat and uses it to get Aljaž to plant one on her. Understandable.

Next Tess introduces "Mark Hauer - sorry, Mark Wright and his partner Karen Hauer!" Please Tess, for the love of all that is holy don't give them any ideas about cutesy couple names, I'm sure they're both already hashtagging all their Twitter posts with #teammaren or #teamkark or #markrenwrigauer or something similarly awful. In his VT, Mark breathlessly recounts everything that happened last week in the manner of a five-year-old, all "and then I done a dance and it was really good and the judges said I done the bestest and I said 'better than samba?' and they said 'better than samba' and I was second on da leaderboard then I done a happycry and it was the BESTEST DAY OF MY WHOLE COMPLETE LIFE". This week Mark's drawn the waltz, and he's nervous because his recent successes have been in Latin and he's worried about going back to ballroom where he might not be as good, not that he ever believes he's any good, no sirree, he never expected to be good at dance, things like this just don't happen to little old Marky No Moves etc etc etc. Karen takes them off to Leyton Orient where Mark's brother Josh is a professional footballer, so they've come here today in the hope that Len will think Mark's a sportsman and give him a 10 so that they can learn about footwork from him. Then Karen and Mark muck about a bit playing football, and I'm kind of over "celebs take the pros off to do some sport" VTs because I've realised nothing will ever be as good as Katya playing rugby with Gavin Henson.

They're dancing to 'Weekend In New England' and Karen's in a sugary-pink dress, and something about the way Mark's been made-up and styled tonight really accents his chin and makes him look like Marti Pellow. Just putting that out there. Mark's grimacing a bit throughout and the whole thing is a bit hesitant, and I really could have done without all the leaves falling from the sky and the general intense level of sucrose surrounding this routine, but it's a decent enough waltz. Also, the cut to Simon on the Ballcony afterwards making animated "he smashed it!" gestures is perfect.

Tess asks Mark if he needs a tissue, ostensibly because they're making fun of his emotional incontinence, but possibly also because Tess is legitimately afraid he might be about to fire off another endless stream of wank. Sure enough: Mark says that it's SO HARD because when you're up on your toes you can feel your knees trembling, and he thought he was going to fall over. That's nice, dear, now sit down and have a biscuit. Tess asks Craig if Mark's dance melted his heart, and Craig says the performance was "certainly amorous" and he really enjoyed it. Darcey says that Mark is becoming a really expressive performer and she believed his sensitivity in that, but she watches him to watch his arm extensions because one time his hand was a bit hooked. Len found the swing and sway lacking, but the footwork was terrific, and once again talks about how hard it is for the MALE CELEBRITIES to learn how to do swing and sway anyway. Bruno says that Mark's got his wedding dance sorted.

On the way up to the Ballcony, Mark mutters to Karen that he really was trembling during that dance. Upon their arrival, Zoe humana-humanas that Mark looks very sexy in his waltz outfit and that Michelle Keegan is probably at home putting that on the pre-approved list for the wedding. Zoe asks Mark if he ever thought he'd get this far. Guess what? He didn't, no, not little old me, etc etc etc. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. I was bracing myself for that to get ridiculously overmarked and be top of the leaderboard, so I'm a little adrift now that it got...more or less what it deserved. Hmm.

Frankie and Kevin are next, and Tess explains that Frankie was busy in Spain with The Sats this week, so Kevin had to fly out there to join them and what a hardship that must have been. Kevin pulls his best "who, me?" face. Kevin's face is covering a multitude of sins for me this year. Frankie really enjoyed dancing as a witch last week because she got to be someone completely different (/someone a lot greener with a wig on). Then they got the first Actual Ten of the series and were very happy about it. Kevin heads out to Palma to train with Frankie, but if the comedy VT is to be taken seriously (wtf), they didn't really have much training time even then. Frankie actually cops to doing "a little bit of training". Waste of licence fee payers' money, etc etc. (Just kidding. Kevin is never a waste of licence payers' money.)

They're dancing the samba to 'La Bamba', and I think the wardrobe department's terrible grudge against Caroline may have temporarily migrated to Kevin, because he's wearing this loud patterned t-shirt and high-waisted red trousers, which looks like something my grandmother would have worn in the mid-90s. As we've come to expect from Frankie, it's a performance delivered with total confidence, but there are definitely moments where the lack of rehearsal time is apparent, like when she comes out of a spin section and isn't quite sure where Kevin's going to be to catch her. There's a lot of attitude, but maybe not as much bounce as I would've hoped for. That said, she's never anything less than entertaining to watch, and I'm starting to think that based on sheer consistency and effort she should probably win this year, which means she almost certainly won't.

Darcey thinks there was an "extraordinary amount of dance content" in there, but she could see a few places where Frankie came unstuck. She would've liked a bit more arch in the back for a sexier samba, but it was impressive. Len thought it was very fast, and though there were some incidents, he loved how quickly she recovered. Bruno loved the flavour, but thinks Frankie couldn't keep up with it all - normally Frankie is so precise and they've come to expect a "clinical" level of precision from her (presumably the same clinical level of precision that was wrong when Caroline did it in her samba last week? I'm so confused). Craig: "it's your worst dance yet". "What were you seeing?" asks a stunned Tess. "That," Craig replies. Well, lots of useful feedback for Frankie to work on there.

There's an actual fiesta going on in the Ballcony with Brendan delivering some solid whacks to a piñata (probably venting some of his frustration at his own decision to give Sophie Ellis-Bextor a Latin party showdance last year). Frankie cops to having made "loads of mistakes", and Zoe says to Kevin that "not many people could have carried off that outfit". I think most people would probably get carried off for wearing that outfit. Kevin says he wants to take Frankie to BLACKPOOL next week while Kristina idly swats at the piñata in the background. Hee. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 32.

Our last-but-one couple tonight is Pixie and Trent. Pixie would like to go to BLACKPOOL. She's got the foxtrot this week, which is the cue for an awkward segue where Pixie mentions that her grandfather used to go dancing all the time and the foxtrot was his favourite. "Would you like to meet him?" Pixie asks. "CHRIST NO NOT YOUR FAMILY AGAIN I mean, er, I'd love to," replies Trent. So they head to the Rivoli Ballroom in south-east London where Pixie's grandfather Charlie watches her and Trent run through their routine and says that her nan would've been very proud of her if she'd been there to see it, now who's this nice young man you're with, are the two of you courting, etc etc.

They're dancing to 'When I'm Sixty-Four' as a 1940s couple, where Pixie is busy with her mangle (ooer) until Trent distracts her with some laundry and makes her do a foxtrot instead. It's really nicely handled, both in the choreography and in the performing of it - there are side-by-side sections where the two of them are perfectly in sync. I'm really starting to enjoy the chemistry the two of them have together - it's not romantic, per se, but they just seem to have this connection when they dance that really works. I'm really warming to both of them - probably Trent more than Pixie, because she still seems a bit of a blank canvas, but I think they're turning out some of the best routines week-on-week, and I enjoy Trent's choreography so much at this point that I'll be really annoyed if he gets Anya-ed next year. It ends with Pixie chucking a basket of glittery washing over Trent and him drawling "COME AHNNN!" I love it. [I loved it too. These two are lovely together other than a couple of bland weeks early on - Rad]

Tess asks Pixie if she'll still be dancing when she's 64, and Pixie says she hopes so, with the air of someone who doesn't really have to worry about what she'll be like when she's 64 for a good while yet. Len says that he thought it was a lovely, charming dance, but Pixie sometimes gets too far on Trent's right side so sometimes her legs are way ahead of the rest of her. Bruno calls it "refreshingly original" as opposed to the usual Fred 'n' Ginge approach, and applauds the charm, wit and character of the dance. Trent takes this opportunity to say that they were "Pat and Marge", not Fred 'n' Ginge. Craig calls it "gorgeous". Darcey agrees and says that she loved the way they travelled across the floor, particularly the reverse attitude turn, which I think might be the same move that Caroline did earlier that I couldn't think of the correct name for. So there's that.

On the Ballcony, Pixie hopes Charlie liked it, and Trent says that Charlie gave him a few tips and he hopes that the ladies down the golf club are looking after him, then he winks. I love Trent so much. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 36. Unusual to see Len giving the lowest score of the bunch, and you better believe he twitches all over the place to make sure we know how he doesn't approve of that 10. Pixie thanks Trent for pushing her so hard on her technique, then Zoe reads out the voting numbers while doing a bit of mental arithmetic as a tribute to her dad.

Closing the night, we have Steve and Ola. Tess's intro is another variation on a tired theme, whereby she mentions that Steve has a black belt in judo and apparently this makes Craig run away for fear of getting beaten up, ho ho ho. In his VT, Steve bemoans forgetting the simplest steps in his charleston last week - but as he said to Ola afterwards, at least he didn't get the dangerous bits wrong. Well, not much. This week they have the Very Macho And Blokeish Paso [Although presumably it is still a hard dance for the poor men - Rad], and Steve thought he might be quite good at that because he's been doing martial arts all his life. Ola squeals that she'd love to go along and see him in action, but then Steve gets his ass pummelled (oh, not like that) in a sparring match. Ola encourages him to feel that paso fire, and he gets the upper hand at last, the end.

They're dancing to 'Use Somebody' by Kings of Leon, and for someone who's made such a big deal of how blokey and macho he is at all times, I'm surprised that Steve's paso feels so limp. He's dancing the majority of it with his face, but all his attempts at arm-shaping - in the first half, at least - are rather throwaway. The pacing seems to be off as well - there are a couple of moments where Steve and Ola seem to get ahead of themselves and have to wait a second or two for the next flourish in the music to do the next part of the choreography. Still, he's wearing a tiny matador jacket that doesn't actually fasten at the front, if you like that sort of thing.

Bruno screams "GREAT GUNS OF FIRE!" Oh don't mention guns, Bruno, you'll set Tess off. Bruno acts like Ola was in physical danger from all the power and attack in Steve's paso, but I didn't see any so this feels a bit pre-scripted to me. Craig says "well, you certainly killed the bull, darling". Tess asks Darcey if she was watching the footwork or if her eyes were slightly higher, and Darcey says that her eyes were slightly higher, clarifying that she was watching the upper body, but this sounds just as pervy and everyone laughs at her anyway. Hee. She thinks Steve is the right person for the dance, although "the boys are probably right" (only 'probably'? She's rebelling against her programming!), it could've done with more refinement, but Darcey loved it anyway. Len thinks it had the drama, but lacked the artistry.

Steve and Ola proceed to the Ballcony where Steve squeals that he loved it, and he was dancing his favourite dance to his favourite song in his favourite costume. I feel the need to question Steve's taste on a number of levels here. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 8, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 28. Steve's happy with those scores. I note that Ola has not really been asked for her opinion tonight. Can't think why.


1. Pixie & Trent - 36
2. Simon & Kristina - 33
3. Frankie & Kevin - 32
4=. Caroline & Pasha - 31
4=. Sunetra & Brendan - 31
4=. Mark & Karen - 31
7. Steve & Ola - 28
8=. Jake & Janette - 27
8=. Alison & Aljaž - 27
10. Judy & Anton - 18

It's an interesting one this week, particularly with that three-way tie for fourth place. Before tonight's show I would've had Simon down for the bottom two, but I think being in second probably puts him out of reach tonight. I'd assume this dooms Alison and Judy to the dance-off, but it will also be an interesting indicator of how strong Jake, Steve, Sunetra and Caroline's votes are, as well as how much Mark's comeback narrative has actually taken hold with the public. All I'm saying is, it could go any number of ways this week, and that's quite exciting.

Recap: Simon's jaunty quickstep, Caroline's lyrical waltz, Jake's blokerumba, Judy's barely legal paso doble, Sunetra's flawed foxtrot, Alison's jazzy charleston, Mark's sentimental waltz, Frankie's under-rehearsed but extravagantly performed samba, Pixie's throwback foxtrot, and Steve's pecs-out paso.

And that's it. Zoe and Tess encourage us to vote our favourite contestants through to BLACKPOOL, and tease an appearance from Katherine Jenkins in tomorrow night's results show. Oh goody.

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