Sunday, 25 October 2015

Middling expectations

Week 5: Top 12 Perform - 24 October 2015

Last week! Gleb took his shirt off and possibly some other things happened, but my memory's a little fuzzy on everything else to be honest. The O'Donnell mafia turned out not to be quite the obsessive fanbase that we all assumed they would be, and after Daniel forgot most of his American smooth in a dance-off against Kirsty, he was released back into the wild. Also, Anton topped the leaderboard for the first time ever (/the first time since series seven, but let's not let actual facts diminish our narrative here) so our intro for this week's episode is all about the impossible happening: Carol not smiling, Gleb wearing a duffle coat, Giovanni not being A Hilarious Comedy Italian, Jeremy getting a 10 from Craig and Peter actually saying something sincere.

Titles! Gleb arriving late for his shot with Anita is still my favourite part of this year's sequence. I like to think it's because there was a mirror just by the entrance to the set and he got a bit distracted.

Tess and Claudia arrive, escorted down the stairs by Gleb and Tristan respectively, and our fashion correspondent reports that both of them actually look very nice this week: Tess is in a simple strapless hot pink floor-length gown that's very flattering (and also her hair looks amazing), and Claudia's in a straightforward black dress which has a slight tuxedo-effect around the cleavage but otherwise looks pretty great. Well done, wardrobe. I assume you're just easing us in before Hallowe'en next week, though.

Claudia welcomes the judges into the ballroom, though obviously in light of his knee operation from earlier this week, Len's already arrived and sitting behind the desk. He does manage some arm-wafting though, and Craig and Bruno twirl and cavort enough to make up for his absence during the entrance. Claudia asks Len how he's feeling, and he replies that he's feeling "absolutely chipper". I think he might still be a little bit 'jolly' from his medication, but we shall see if his good mood lasts for the whole show.

Our neat dozen Strictly stars are summoned to join us: Kellie and Kevin, Anita and Gleb, Katie and Anton (Anton has more chest on display than Gleb this week, God help us all), Ainsley and Natalie, Helen and Aljaž, Georgia and Giovanni, Jeremy and Karen, Jamelia and Tristan, Peter and Janette, Carol and Pasha, Jay and Aliona, and Kirsty and Brendan. Kellie and Kevin are definitely feeling the adrenaline this week because they're throwing some serious shapes during the final sting of the intro music.

Georgia and Giovanni are opening the show tonight (fun fact: Georgia and Giovanni are the only couple so far never to have been scheduled to perform in the second half of the show, unless you count them being tenth to perform overall in the opening weekend, which I don't because it was split over two separate episodes). Georgia was very happy with the reception for her quickstep last week and getting her first nine of the competition. This week they have the salsa, and it appears as though the Georgia/Giovanni cultural barrier is expanding to include me, because I don't have a clue what's going on here: in training Georgia says "I feel like a little sausage" (?!) and then Tess VOs "with our salsa sausage close to bursting point..." as though this is a thing that makes any sense whatsoever. It's going to be a long night, isn't it? Anyway, this is all a preamble to Georgia phoning her mum for some moral support, telling her the salsa is hard and that she wishes she could be there. Surprise! Georgia's mum and extended family turn up in sombreros (...the salsa isn't really Mexican, guys), some kids stand around looking confused but adorable, and Georgia now has the strength to carry on, etc. Meanwhile Giovanni is wearing a hoodie with "SICILY" on it just in case anyone forgot he's Italian.

In a pleasing throwback to the golden age of Strictly, they start as close to backstage as you can really get in this studio, i.e. hiding around the back of the staircase, before bounding out to the dance floor. That's worth at least two points right off the bat in my book. Also highly laudable: they're dancing to 'You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)' by Sylvester, and loyal readers will know that I'm not a huge fan of disco salsa (or indeed disco latin of any form), but I will make an exception here because this is an absolute tune. Performance-wise, Georgia does a decent job - I'd say her legs are a little bit more flyaway than I would like, and her dismounts from the lifts are a little shaky, but overall she handles it well. In terms of the choreography, there's too much literal disco in there, and there are sections where they're just kind of stood for a few seconds waiting for the next section to start, though I don't know entirely if the problem there is Giovanni's choreography or the two of them just getting a little bit ahead of themselves. Anyway, it's an encouraging start to the show: energetic, if a little light on salsa content.

Len calls it "a great show starter, and a bit of a show-stopper as well". He suggests that she change her name from Georgia May Foote to Georgia May Hip. I'm disappointed that no one's suggested changing her name to Georgia Will Foote yet. Bruno calls her "a gorgeous little scrumpet" (?) and says that her hips are like a bag of snakes. He asks where they came from, and Georgia replies "I dunno - me dad?", and now I wish I'd been paying more attention to whether Georgia's dad was in the VT or not. Bruno admired the ambition of the lifts, but points out the break in flow during the dismounts. Craig thought her legs were a bit uncontrolled in the walkover lift, and her preparation into and out of the lifts is poor - she stops dead, prepares, and then goes - but he loved the underarm turns. Darcey really wanted to join in and loved the clubbing feel. She thinks the others are being a bit harsh in their critiques of the lifts because the lifts are so daring, but they're only doing so because they know how good she can be, etc etc.

Georgia's entry to the Clauditorium is hampered when she gets snagged on someone's dress - I think it's either Janette's or Oti's, but it's hard to tell. Claudia wants to speak to Giovanni about watching his shoulder get dislocated on It Takes Two, but Giovanni assures her it's fine. Georgia says that she was a bit nervous going into the lifts for that reason, so I guess she does actually have a valid excuse for being slightly tentative and taking so long in her preparations. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31 - the same as last week. Claudia asks them if the seven was a bit harsh. They're both like "uhh, sure?" Claudia reads the terms and conditions while Brendan appears with a portable disco light, which even in this brief appearance feels like a better fit for him as a partner than Kirsty.

Dancing in the first of the DEATH SLOTS are Carol and Pasha. Eep. They were so pleased to get positive feedback and compliments last week for their paso, and Carol wants to continue to improve so she begs Pasha to go harder on her. I've had a few dreams like that. This week they have the Viennese waltz, and Carol keeps getting dizzy during training so Pasha takes her off to a theme park - Legoland Windsor, by the looks of it. (I'm disappointed - for a minute I thought they'd gone to Peppa Pig World and let's face it, that would have been so much funnier.) Pasha takes Carol on Mia's Riding Adventure all "yes, apparently spinning round is a thing that horses do, just go with it". They go on several more carousel type rides and Carol gets the giggles. Pasha asks her why she's laughing, and I think we all know it's not because she's in a comedy VT. As they leave, Pasha tells her that now they just need to work on top line, elegance, footwork, arm movement etc. Probably should have gone to Alton Towers for those.

They're dancing to Seal's 'I've Been Loving You Too Long', and while there's definite improvement in the quality of Carol's dancing since the series started, the whole thing is a little bit stuttery and she isn't committing to the mood of the piece quite as much as she did with the paso doble last week. They get through the whole thing without much in the way of incident - Carol does look a little bit dizzy by the end but there's no fainting or projectile vomiting into Darcey's lap, so I suppose we can call this one a succcess.

Bruno tells Carol that he can see she tried to put a lot of content into the routine, but she needs to work on her free hand because she was wafting it around like she was doing the dusting. He found it all a bit bland, and tells her that it's week five, she needs to be using her arms correctly, almost snitting "it's not rocket science at her", and actually gets booed for it - but the best part is when Tess goes to Craig next and he replies "that was nasty, Bruno", and Bruno actively recoils in shock before bursting out laughing and doing lots of "this guy!" faces. Craig's not actually that much more positive - he says that the arms lacked a bit of energy, and the turns were a bit wobbly and it felt Pasha was pushing her around some of the pivots, but she is improving and he can see light at the end of the tunnel. Darcey says that Pasha gave her lots of dance content and she didn't make any mistakes. She suggest that Carol should use her breath to gauge what she should be doing with her arms. Len says that Carol's had no dance training ever (possibly because she keeps getting dragged to theme parks instead) and while it wasn't the greatest performance ever, it was a very nice, stylish Viennese waltz. I feel like this blandly positive assessment of Carol's progress might be indicating that the show is happy for her to go now.

Up in the Clauditorium, Carol tells Claudia that she loved the routine and that Pasha is the best choreographer in the world, so Pasha of course immediately responds by telling Carol that it was all down to her, and she made it happen. Bless Pasha. He says she's improving, and he wants everyone to see that. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21 - one point down on last week. Carol says she's happy with the score, and she'll take on board all of the constructive criticism. I wish I had even a tenth of Carol's optimism.

Anita and Gleb are next, and dressed like villains of the week from an episode of Arrow so I'm all about this routine already. Anita says it was terrifying but great to open the show last week, and she's pleased to have a difficult dance like the samba out of the way. This week, Anita's mum has travelled down from Yorkshire to see how she's getting on in her tango training, and Rani Senior reveals that she had training when she was younger (RINGAH!) in classical Indian dancing. Anita brings her mum to meet Gleb, and Anita's mum gets properly into the spirit of things, doing a bit of Bollywood dancing with them both before watching Gleb and Anita do their tango. Anita's mum says she is "floating" watching her daughter dance. Aww. Anita's mum is awesome.

They're dancing to 'Sweet Disposition' by Temper Trap, and it's a bit of an unconventional tango. It starts with a bit of armography on a dais before they get into the routine proper, which also seems to include an illegal lift (it's hard to tell if it's a lift, per se, because it could theoretically be Anita doing a small jump and being caught by Gleb, but given how picky Len can be about lifts, it's a dangerous game to be playing). The more traditional tango aspects are very solid though, there's some lovely staccato movement and high kicks from Anita, and I really like the little section they do back on the dais at the very end. I honestly don't know what the judges are going to do with this though - they're either going to love it or hate it.

Craig loved the choreography - sharp, staccato, focused and full of power, though Anita lost balance at one point. Darcey thought it had a "very unusual, Star Trek, contemporary story". Yes, nothing more contemporary than Star Trek. She was very impressed with Anita's focus, because it was very impressive. Thanks Darcey! Tess tentatively approaches Len, because she knows how much he likes his ballroom to stay traditional, but Len assures her that he liked it - "I'm with it!" he insists - and he thinks Anita gave it some welly, and he liked the darkness, the crisp footwork and the heel leads. Anita is very grateful to have great feedback from Len. Bruno picks up Darcey's Star Trek theme and takes it for a canter on the horse of incomprehensibility, but he loved the arrogance of the routine and Anita's air of disdain.

Scotty beams Anita and Gleb up to the Clauditorium, where Anita giggles about being "queen of the Klingons" and Gleb thanks wardrobe for making them both look so great. Anita says that Gleb's choreography is incredible, but she's having to start from scratch every week and just try to do her best. Claudia points out that Anita is yet to break the 30 threshold and Anita says she just wants to keep going and make progress every week. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32, their highest score so far.

Peter and Janette are next, making their first appearance in the front end of the show, performance-wise. They've got a blokerumba this week, so watch out everyone. Janette says that the rumba is her favourite dance because it's so still and beautiful, and she wanted to take Peter to a photographic studio to take still pictures of him in the positions of the rumba to prove to him that he can do it. Or he could just watch the training footage on It Takes Two like everyone else? Peter's all "I don't know what's going to happen", like I'm fairly sure Peter Andre of all people knows what happens in a photographic studio. Janette says that she could point out in the photographs straight away what Peter needed to fix, and then Peter could do it correctly and again see what it was supposed to look like. Okay, fine, this VT might actually have been helpful. You win this time, Manrara!

Trigger warning: their blokerumba is to 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran, so you may experience the sort of uncontrollable nausea that Carol felt during training for her Viennese waltz. As expected, there isn't really a lot for Peter to do here other than walk around Janette while she does most of the heavy lifting because: blokerumba, but he does make some nice lines, and it's nice to see him doing something a bit more gentle than most of his routines have been so far. One bit of choreography that really doesn't work, however: Peter waving his hand over Janette's chest and her cavorting like he's trying to telekinetically pull her heart out. This is not romantic or sensual, it just looks like a low-budget episode of Charmed.

Tess tells us that the rumba is a hard dance for the male celebrities and oh my god, shut up Tess, nobody cares what you think. Peter makes the same "room-ba" joke that he made on It Takes Two with the same degree of success, and honestly of all the aspects of Peter's personality that I find aggravating and calculated, the constant dad jokes are the worst. WE GET IT, DUDE, YOU LOVE YOUR KIDS. Darcey tells Peter there was real tender love and care in the routine, but sometimes she feels he gets the dynamics wrong - he needs to be smooth and flowing, and not quite so snappish in his movements. She thinks he has a lot more to give. That's what I'm afraid of. Len tells us again that the rumba is so hard for the male celebrities (*pinches bridge of nose*) and he thinks it was pitched about right, though there were a few errant heel leads in there, and Peter was a bit stampy at times. Bruno tells Peter that he loves his commitment to the character, and he's really immersed into the routine, but he can be a bit clipped in his movement, and Bruno thinks that's because of his pop dancing background. Craig says it lacked a certain resistance and pressure through the floor, and salsa hips were creeping in, but he loved the way he presented Janette throughout the whole routine, and he thought the storytelling was fantastic.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia gets all excited about the way Peter responded to Len's critique by saying "it means a lot". Please don't encourage him, Claudia. Peter says that if they tell you something, you know they're right, because they're masters of their crafts. Then he points to the colour of his shirt and says "have you noticed I'm 'blue Peter' today?" #stoppeterandre2015. The scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. Peter "yes!"es all of the 7s a little too over-enthusiastically.

Brendan and Kirsty are next. Kirsty says she knew the paso was going to be a tough week and she had a feeling she was going to be in the dance-off, but she gave it her all the second time around and that's what she needs to do every week from now on. No mention is made of the fact that she mostly stayed around because Daniel fucked his dance-off up so badly, or that she spent so much of last week complaining about Brendan's choice of soundtrack. This week they have the Viennese waltz, and - well, let's take this quote from Brendan: "The Viennese waltz is a very soft, beautiful dance. Kirsty is not a soft dancer, we've established that, we know that, the judges are aware of it." SHADE. Also, given how badly she failed at the paso, I don't think it's exclusively "soft" dances that Kirsty has issues with. Kirsty says that there's no hiding place for error in the Viennese waltz, but Brendan believes that she can do it because she's a natural-born dancer. Their entire VT is about their week in training - fancy that. (Mind you, Brendan's daughter was ill this week, so I imagine that made his availability for VT LULZ somewhat limited.)

They're dancing to 'This Year's Love' (which I had in my head as being one of those songs that's massively overused but apparently only Harry and Aliona have used it before?) and Kirsty appears to have a giant cinnamon swirl on her head. They start up at the top of the stairs whirling around drunkenly and use a good 12 bars of the music to descend to the dancefloor, but when they get down there this is...actually...quite...good? I mean, it's not going to be remembered in the grand pantheon of classic Viennese waltzes in Strictly history but it goes where it's supposed to, Kirsty looks like she knows what she's doing for once, and aside from one or two stumbles it largely passes without incident. Hooray for clearing low bars!

Tess hoots that this is a dance that really suits Kirsty, and Len hems and haws for a while claiming that he was unsure quite how to appraise this one, though he doesn't go into specifics about exactly what he's torn between. Anyway, he says that it took Kirsty longer to get down the stairs than it would take him with his gammy knee and a crutch, but once they actually arrived, she really pulled it off. There were some lovely natural turns and pivots, and it was Kirsty's best dance by far. Bruno tells Kirsty that the difference in a week is unbelievable - for once she was at one with the music and her partner. Craig tells her she was actually dancing tonight, and that's good - but her left shoulder was creeping up, and he would've liked her hand to be a bit softer on Brendan's arm. Darcey says that she's definitely done enough to avoid the dance-off this week, and it was an extraordinary transformation. Tess says that Kirsty's been waiting to hear those words for such a long time and Kirsty's all "YES, FIVE WEEKS", showing us that brittle Kirsty is still buried in there somewhere.

Brendan says "well done, you!" (lol) as they make their way up to the Clauditorium - a lot faster than they made their way down the stairs a few minutes ago - and Kirsty says that she nearly cried because she loved the song (TAKE THAT, BONO!) and she loved the routine. Claudia says that this could be A Journey. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. Kirsty's highest score by a long way, and I honestly would never have imagined after her first few weeks that she'd ever be tied with Peter Andre on the leaderboard.

Bringing us to the halfway mark, we have Ainsley and Natalie who are doing a jive to 'Shake, Rattle And Roll'. Last week, Ainsley was pleased to get good compliments on his waltz and to survive to this week where he's going to strive for an 8. Oh, Ainsley. In training, Natalie tells him that the jive is all about stamina and co-ordination, so she's brought in a special surprise to help him with his training - a reaction test machine. Natalie makes him spend an afternoon doing this, and again I'm not sure this is entirely the best use of training time for a genre that Ainsley was always going to struggle with. Still, now make Lilia do it!

Now, you know I'm always here for a Natalie Lowe jive. in any shape or form, but this one was always going to be ill-fated I think. It brings out the worst of Ainsley's Quasimodo-esque tendencies, as well as his general habit of flailing about - the kicks section is all over the place, and the less said about the rubber-legged Elvis bit the better. I mean, it's a fun routine, but even with the most positive of outlooks I'd struggle to find much to say in favour of this on a technical level.

Bruno calls it "a very individual version of a jive" because he really couldn't tell what was a kick and what was a flick, but at least the timing was better. He points out that Ainsley's weight tends to go towards the back, and Ainsley says "it's a bit of a black thing". Fair enough. Craig calls it flat-footed and heavy with "too much of your own thing going on". Darcey says that Ainsley is here to entertain us, and that's what he does - though the character does sometimes overtake the dancing. She also calls the Elvis moment "very special", and that's certainly one word for it. Len says it was "a mix of the shake, rattle and roll and the Shake 'n' Vac". Len says that he started off time, and Darcey interrupts to say that he got back into it, and Len tells her he was about to say that. Well, I guess that's what happens when Darcey doesn't think the boys are right.

In the Clauditorium, Ainsley says that Len was absolutely right and Natalie's all "YOU'RE AMAZING! YOU'RE SO GREAT! YOU'VE IMPROVED SO MUCH! I'M SO PROUD OF YOU!" I for one would be very interested in hiring Natalie Lowe as my life coach. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. Natalie seems genuinely shocked by how low the score is.

After a brief teaser of the six couples yet to perform, Claudia joins Tess for her designated mid-point comedy bit. Tess introduces our next couple, Jamelia and Tristan, whose foxtrot will be themed around an outing in Central Park, including a horse-drawn carriage. Tess scoffs that of course they haven't got an actual horse in the studio, at which point the camera pulls back to show Claudia "struggling" with a large rein and saying that she didn't read that email, so what is she supposed to do with Sparkle now? It's a terrible joke, sure, but Claudia's commitment here is absolutely first-rate - there is genuine terror in her eyes. (Also I'm kind of relieved they didn't dress Gleb up as a centaur for this bit or something, I would put nothing past them right now.)

Last week, Jamelia's charleston went really well, and she was shocked to score 32. She says that she's going to do everything she can to maintain that, and then bursts out laughing as if she knows how utterly improbable it is. Tristan says that Jamelia is plagued with self-doubt when it comes to ballroom, so she's struggling this week. As a morale boost, Jamelia brings her adorable daughters along to training because it's half-term, and they watch her shyly. Seriously, I know it's early in the year and several people haven't even resorted to dragging their kids out yet, but Jamelia has pretty much got the "cutest offspring" award on lockdown.

They're dancing to 'Because You Loved Me' by Celine Dion, and there is an actual giant fuckoff carriage on the dancefloor, which doesn't seem like a particularly well thought-through idea. For the first 30 seconds or so it goes quite well - Jamelia actually seems quite comfortable, it all looks very elegant, I'm pleasantly surprised - but then there's a section where she seems to step off on the wrong foot and is visibly thrown by it, and she never really recovers after that. It's such a shame, because in keeping with this being "clearing low bars" week, this is the least offended I have ever been by Tristan's choreography. It ends, randomly, with them sitting at a table and Tristan popping out an engagement ring while Jamelia does a series of flick-book surprise faces. Okay.

As they walk over to Tess, she congratulates them on getting engaged, and then adds wryly "Tristan, your wife will be pleased". Oh, all right - heh. Craig tells Jamelia that it started well, but it all went wrong after the "assisted illegal lift", which basically ruined it. The illegal lift looked more like a jump to me, and certainly less of an illegal lift than whatever happened in Anita's tango, or Brendan lifting Kirsty down the last three steps in their Viennese waltz about 10 minutes ago, so I officially have no idea what even counts as a lift on this show any more. He tells her that she needs to bring her feet together at least once - it was like she'd just jumped off a horse. Darcey compliments Jamelia on the improvement in her top line and the general sense of glide, but it was a shame that she went wrong. She thinks Jamelia should be proud of the improvement in her ballroom, even with the mistakes. Len thinks Jamelia is more comfortable "with the Latin rhythms" and she gets a bit uptight when it comes to ballroom. Well, he would know. He thinks it's mostly a mental block, but she got through it despite the mistakes and he enjoyed it. Bruno agrees that the first half was pleasant and comforting "like a nice cup of Horlicks" (I assume Bruno tends to prefer his Horlicks Irish), but it was a shame that she went wrong after the jeté, and she just needs to learn to cover up her mistakes better and not look so spooked.

Tristan's mic is on all the way up to the Clauditorium so we hear Jamelia apologise profusely for fucking up and Tristan telling her that stuff like that happens and not to worry about it, because she did great, and she should focus on the positives. Jamelia gets a bit teary and tells Claudia that she just made a big mistake, but she enjoyed it, and the judges were absolutely right, so it's cool. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 7 (Jamelia pulls an amazing "lolwut" face at Tristan here), Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 26. Jamelia is pleasantly surprised by that. Claudia lists all the ways that we can get interact with the show online, and suggests this might cheer Jamelia up. Oh god, don't go below the line Jamelia, for all our sakes...

Katie and Leisure Suit Anton are next. Having done from dance disaster (latin) to top of the leaderboard (ballroom), they're hoping to maintain that standard this week. Anton says that their salsa is going to be hot and spicy, and Katie insists on taking him to a salsa club because she's a Strictly superfan and she knows how this VT is supposed to go. (Also, note who's taking charge here, that's a telling point isn't it?) They go salsa dancing, and Katie hopes to harness this energy in her routine on the night. That's it, that's all that happens.

They are salsaing to 'It Had Better Be Tonight' by Michael Bublé. Katie has her pins out and is giving it her all, and Anton is...also present. It's all a little bit wild - and drunk-looking, as per - but there's some good footwork going on from Katie, and this actually feels a bit more like a traditional salsa routine than Georgia's did. Anton, of course, bumbles through it making a virtue out of his own ineptness, and I swear if you asked a Strictly newcomer to look at this routine and ask which one is supposed to be the professional dancer, they probably wouldn't say Anton. It ends with one of the most awkward poses I've ever seen, but at least it ends.

Darcey says that this was difficult for Katie, it was fun and fast but it wasn't the right spice - it was messy in places, and she doesn't get into the ground in the way she should. She thinks Latin isn't Katie's strength. Len says that her cuban salsa was "good, but no cigar" - she didn't get her bum going, and the whole thing lacked control. He says that Katie's the opposite of Jamelia - Jamelia's awkward in ballroom and Katie's awkward in Latin. Bruno says that she went for it, but she lost the timing - the hips come from working the ground, so if Katie stays on her toes, she's not going to get the right movement going. Craig thought the armography was sticky, and she was falling out of the turns - she didn't even have the basic movement going, and it was a dreadful salsa. I love how everyone's pretending that it's Katie who has the problem with latin. Well, I say "love"...

In the Clauditorium, Claudia wonders if it was just that everyone's expectations were sky-high after last week. Katie thinks that's an excellent way of looking at it. Claudia says that Katie's eldest daughter Natasha is in the audience and solicits her opinion; Natasha holds up her fingers all "erm...10?" while looking like she wishes her seat were booby-trapped and primed to fire her right out of the room. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. Anton says that they've got a paso next week, which is barely even latin, he reckons. "Barely even latin" is a pretty good way of summing up all of Anton's latin, now that I think about it.

Jeremy and Karen are next. He admits that last week was pretty terrible, but says that he's hoping it's all just because he's enjoying himself so much in the competition. Sure, let's go with that. He and Karen claim to be fed up with getting 3s from Craig, and petition for him to have a 3½ paddle he can use. I'm not sure that would make any difference. This week they've got the waltz, and Jeremy fears that this one is really going to highlight any mistakes he makes. They're dancing to Elvis Costello's 'She', which is apparently a song that Jeremy really loves, and he gets a video message from Elvis Costello wishing him luck but also warning him not to take any unnecessary risks. Does "turning up" count?

This dance really highlights the height difference between the two of them, and despite Karen's best efforts to stretch her spine beyond all known medical limits, it doesn't really work. There's terrible gapping between them, Jeremy is gritting his teeth throughout, the section where he drags her across the floor makes her is inelegant at best, and his footwork is stuttery as a whole.

Len says he loves the effort that Jeremy puts into it, and the way he maintains his height - though it needed a bit more flair. Bruno says it was a waltz by the book - "a book that went out of publishing about 50 years ago BECAUSE THEY BURNED IT". I'm not sure Bruno fully understands how the publishing industry works. He says that Jeremy had a zombified grin, and he found it a bit lifeless - he wonders if Jeremy was getting into Hallowe'en character a week too early. Craig calls it "shapeless" and "ploddy" and it was a series of stilted pictures for him. Darcey loved the "charming smile", and says she's never seen somebody smile all the way through a waltz. Really? She advises him to soften his knees to produce that gliding effect, but she thinks it was, on the whole, not bad.

Off they go to an enthusiastic reception from the Clauditorium, where Claudia says that Len complimented Jeremy's technique, and Jeremy says that he was nervous about his top line this week, but thanks Karen for her choreography and her lessons. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Len 6, Bruno 4 for a total of 18. "Okay, fair enough" says Jeremy. Claudia informs Jeremy that he's number four on this week's "Lust List" in Grazia. Journalism!

Next? It's Helen and Aljaž. Helen enjoyed her salsa last week and says that the lift went better than it ever did in any of their rehearsals, so yay for that. This week they have a quickstep, and Helen's worried about having to run "like two reindeer trotting along". Aljaž brings a set of mini-hurdles into training to help Helen get used to skipping about and keeping her feet up. He gives her a gold medal just for getting to the end, isn't that exactly what's wrong with education these days, blah blah Daily Mail couldn't make it up and so on.

The theme for their quickstep (to the Supremes' 'You Can't Hurry Love') is that Helen is waiting for a train and Aljaž is trying to put the moves on her while she does so, even though she seems entirely uninterested. I suspect this scenario is less appealing when it happens in real life. The good: it's an energetic, lively routine that covers the whole floor and involves some incredibly nimble footwork from Helen, and also Aljaž's butt looks amazing in those trousers. The bad: Helen's rictus grin throughout, which is kind of terrifying.

Bruno tells her that they're on the fast track to the top. Craig calls it "fab-u-lous". Darcey tells Helen that she has beautiful detail and stunning transitions. Len thought there was a bit of gapping from time to time, but he loved her flicker (oo-er) and thought she was "right on track". Anyone else suspect that we're running a little short on time?

They skip up to the Clauditorium where Aljaž does a little spin of triumph/gives the viewers once last glimpse of his excellent butt. There's a man who knows his audience. Helen says she got really nervous before she went on, and she's just glad she did all of her steps in the right order. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Helen looks like she's about to have a coronary.

Jay and Aliona next. He appears to be morphing slowly into Brian McFadden - this is why we must remain eternally vigilant, friends do not let friends accidentally transform into ex-members of Westlife. Jay recalls the way in which his quickstep fell apart last week and says he doesn't want to mess it all up this time. To boost his morale, he meets up his former bandmate The Little One, and they play table tennis. The Little One says that he feels so proud of Jay and sobs every week while he watches him. Particularly last week, I imagine.

This week Jay and Aliona are doing a paso to Bon Jovi's 'It's My Life' (just once I want somebody to do a paso to Dr Alban's 'It's My Life'. Just once. Is that too much to ask?) and it's definitely a return to form after last week as he certainly remembers all of his steps. Personally, I would have liked a little more sharpness in the movement, as some of the gestures look a little unfinished, but it's nice to watch a dance with no real gimmicks and see it being done well. Looks like last week was just a blip, then.

There's a rapturous reception from the audience and Tess seems a little bit aroused by the whole thing so let's move on quickly. Craig says it could have had more menace, but there were great lines and control and great shaping - a great dance, generally. Darcey says Jay has the best male arms she's ever seen from a celebrity. Yes, but how was the dancing etc. Len rolls his eyes at this. Darcey tells Jay that her one criticism is that he needs to have attitude in this dance. I imagine he'll have Attitude around November, Darce, probably with his tits out. Len can't agree on the arms, he thinks they were good, but doesn't think we should be making a thing. He thinks Jay is the opposite of Samson, in that he's had his hair cut and gone from strength to strength. How does last week fit into that analogy though, Len? Bruno: "those are the bull's bollocks!" Darcey has her head in her hands at this point, and the audience is cackling, and Bruno's like "...what?" and Tess does her official apology for Bruno's language, at which point Bruno's all "oh, I'm sorry, did I say BOLLOCKS? I didn't shitting realise, fuck me, I feel like a right cunt now."

Jay and Aliona take the opportunity to make their way to the PG-13 safety of the Clauditorium where Jay says that he's happy to have arrested his decline (of one week, calm down everyone). Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno A BIG FUCKING 8 for a total of 33.

So that leaves Kellie and Kevin to close the show with their jive, in which they'll be playing secret agents. Kellie was very pleased with how last week went, but this week they're feeling the pressure after Jay doing the greatest jive in the history of everything ever (Jill who now?) and Jeremy doing "one of the most entertaining jives we've ever seen" (bokay) so they're just going to go bigger than ever. I'm kind of scared because Kevin goes quite big most weeks anyway. Once again, their VT is all about them spending a week training hard and not going off to the London Dungeon/a chicken farm/the white cliffs of Dover and everyone survives to tell the tale, so maybe we could have more of this in future please?

They're dancing to One Direction's mash-up of 'One Way Or Another' and 'Teenage Kicks', and the theming is kind of ridiculous here - they're both after a top secret briefcase and Kellie pretends to be part of the coat rack when Kevin turns up, good grief. And then the two rival secret agents jive together because rea--actually, there are no reasons. Kellie picks up the briefcase for a bit, and then puts it down in the middle of the dancefloor, and you'd think that all of those years on The Archers would have made her aware that terrible things can happen when you leave a briefcase somewhere it can easily be tripped over. I have to confess to feeling a bit let down by this routine - the training footage on It Takes Two made it look like this was really going to be impressive, and while it's not a bad performance by any means, it's completely dwarfed by the theming - it takes them ages to get going properly and at one point mid-routine the camera follows Kevin across the screen as he makes a dash for the briefcase and you can't even see what Kellie is doing at this point. She acquits herself well, but it's just not the barnstormer I was hoping for, and while I'm generally pretty laissez-faire when it comes to the use of props and themes, this is one occasion where I think there were too many distractions from what could have been a really good jive, and that's a shame.

Kellie walks and Kevin crawls over to the judges, where Darcey says they delivered all the goods - unbelievably fast, and with all the detail as well. She thinks it was an extraordinary jive. Len says the clocks go back later, but he'd like them to go back right now so he can see that again. The clocks go back by an hour, Len, so you'd also have to rewatch Jeremy, Jamelia, Katie, Ainsley... Bruno shouts something about attack and victory, and Craig says he would've liked more retraction in the legs, but he loved it. Tess calls them the dark horses of the competition, and I'm not sure you can really say that about a contestant who went to Sylvia Young and her professional partner who has never once been in the dance-off in his entire stint on this show, Tess.

Up in the Clauditorium, Kellie says that she knew this was Kevin's favourite dance (aren't they all his favourite dances at this point?) so she couldn't get it wrong. We're running behind thanks to Bruno and all of his swearing (that's what I'm blaming it on, anyway) so we go straight back to the judges for the scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Kellie's ecstatic and reaches out for Helen, presumably in some sort of "woo, joint top of the leaderboard" gesture. Or because theirs is the true Secret Strictly Sex Scandal of the year, your call.

Let's see that leaderboard:

1=. Helen & Aljaž - 35
1=. Kellie & Kevin - 35
3. Jay & Aliona - 33
4. Anita & Gleb - 32
5. Georgia & Giovanni - 31
6=. Peter & Janette - 29
6=. Kirsty & Brendan - 29
8. Jamelia & Tristan - 26
9=. Carol & Pasha - 21
9=. Ainsley & Natalie - 21
9=. Katie & Anton - 21
12. Jeremy & Karen - 18

Quite a few ties, there, particularly down the bottom. I think the judges need to get a bit more imaginative with their scoring. Claudia asks everyone to have their glowsticks ready for the lines opening, and Kellie flails about in the backgrond because she can't get hers to work, which is quite funny. After a recap of the night's performance, we're done for the night. Claudia reminds us that next week is Hallowe'en, and Tess teases a performance from Bryan Adams in tomorrow night's results show. I hope he does one of his Taylor Swift covers!


F a t i m a said...

1) She is by Charles Aznavour. Couldn't they have got him instead of cover act Elvis Costello
2) Imagine how bad Katie's dance would have been had she not gone to that Salsa Club
3) It's Ryan Adams who covered 1989, not Bryan. But we knew that didn't we ?

DeltaBlues said...

I've been watching Strictly for too long, because I can totally imagine a paso to Dr Allbran [sic].

Steven said...

1) I assume Charles Aznavour wouldn't have had quite the same impact since Jeremy probably hasn't been to see him in concert 23 times.
2) Imagine how bad Anton's dance would have been if they hadn't gone to that salsa club
3) thatsthejoke.jpg