Friday, 30 October 2015

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Presenters wearing poppies season is officially upon us.
- Natalie has been crying a lot since Ainsley got eliminated.
- Ainsley’s jive was “more of a rock ’n’ roll”. Quite why Natalie thought this would be a good idea when the last time she danced a rock ’n’ roll was the week she comprehensively lost all chance of winning series seven is anyone’s guess.
- Ainsley seems to think Aliona’s name is “Leona”.
- There is a whole 'tanning day' in the Strictly week.
- The show has its own in-house physio.
- Hot Greg’s job is to get everybody on the floor. (*coquettish giggle*)
- Hot Greg has a calendar out in time for Christmas. (Not really, this was just one of Zoe’s jokes, but if we’re pure of heart and we truly believe we can MAKE IT HAPPEN.)
- Aliona has been making Jay do press-ups because he’s not wew buff like Harry.
- Jay’s mum has become a bit of a celebrity and now she can’t go to the shops without his Auntie Helen there for protection.
- Halloween is Zoe's favourite week of the series.  
- Joanne has idiosyncratic names for the “headography” in ballroom when she teaches it to children. This is not a huge surprise.
- Joanne thinks Jamelia is an 'amazing Latin dancer' because she did a good Charleston.  Mmmm, bokay.
- Jeremy is blaming Elvis Costello for Bruno finding his waltz dull and old-fashioned.
- Karen is not convinced by Jeremy’s impression of her accent.
- Kellie and Kevin’s top-secret briefcase contained a banana, a stapler, a couple of post-it notes and a sparkly pen. Allegedly.
- According to Jamelia, the sadness of being in the dance-off only lasts about half an hour, and then you’re just happy that you’re still in the competition.
- Tristan thinks you can't worry about how well anyone else is doing.  In a competition.
- Tristan thinks that being called a “cheerleader” is emasculating. Someone needs to watch Bring It On, doesn’t he?
- Tristan put the (illegal?) lift into the foxtrot because Celine Dion’s ‘Because You Love Me’ is so boring and he wanted to perk it up a bit.
- The legs in jive need to operate like a yo-yo going up and down.
- Kristina was very jealous of Kellie’s hat on Saturday.
- Joanne and Kristina are both pretty good at Choreography Corner. Karen Hardy should watch out.
- It’s hard to jive at 10:30pm.
- 'My first, my last, My Keverything' is a great caption.
- Zoe will be temporarily taking over the role of Linda Carter in EastEnders to give Kellie some time to rehearse. (Not true, but wouldn’t it be great?)
- Related to that, Kevin has been playing Mick Carter for her in rehearsals while she runs her lines.
- It's hard to teach Kellie to walk.
-Anton gets jealous when the other pros don't pick him as their favourite.
- If Kevin weren’t a dancer, he’d be a pro wrestler. Joanne would be playing Glinda in Wicked, and Tristan would be a fireman.
- After his leather ensemble last week, Gleb has been likened to Guy of Gisborne and Ross Poldark.
- Arlene still watches the show.
- Anita is happy to wear skimpy clothes because she doesn't normally get the chance.
- Anita is being Maleficent for Hallowe’en week, and in her head this means she’s Angelina Jolie.
- Gleb likes to talk about clothes.
- Katie is ballet-trained, meaning 'Poor Anton' has a DIRTY RINGAH.
- Some of the training rooms have been decked out with Halloween bunting, but mainly the ones in church and school halls rather than actual gyms, presumably because gym managers are fun sponges.
- Just when you thought Russell Grant was over... he's BAAAACK.  Halloween week indeed.
- Peter had no idea who he was trying to be in the rumba.
- Janette doesn't get competitive with the other pros.  What is it with these new-ish pros and their lack of raw determination?
- Peter has never heard of Burn The Floor.
- Janette and Karen Clifton have a playfight while speaking Spanish to each other before every show begins.
- Georgia did six spins in a row on Saturday and then went into the lift.
- Georgia and Giovanni don't yet know if they're getting prop guns for their Ghostbusters dance.
- Jamelia and Tristan are trying to recreate the magic of TIME WARP because the show is clearly bereft of new ideas.
- Hair pieces get glued, stapled and sewn into the stars' hair to keep them in.  Ouch.
- Anita will be wearing a head piece made of chicken wire, covered in felt, covered in hair.
- Natalie has taken up modelling for the make-up team since exiting the show.
- Doing the rumba with Pasha is getting Carol all hot and bothered. As it would.
- Pasha does not remember being called “Carlos” by Zoe last year when he wore the curly wig for Hallowe’en. Neither do we, tbh.
- Michael Flatley is giving up dance to paint and do “some television work”.
- Pasha trying to do Irish dancing is adorable.
- Helen didn't understand the quickstep, even while dancing it.
- Helen and Aljaž have the most points overall from the judges, with 157.  Jay and Aliona and Kellie and Kevin are joint second with 153.
- Aljaž has been in the dance-off on Hallowe’en every year since he joined the show.
- Helen doesn't think the samba makes sense.
- Doing latin and shaking her hips makes Helen feel “the most British I have ever felt”.
- Tristan doesn't want to be sent home in a week where you look dodgy, but would be happy to go home in Halloween gear.  Riiiiight.
- Jamelia ducked out of the apple bobbing contest because she thought it 'unhygienic'.  Instead, Tristan beat Kevin.
- Marian Keyes thinks rumba is horrible and is 'the dance of a dysfunctional relationship' rather than the dance of love.
- Marian Keyes thinks Jamelia and Tristan should end their dance by both saying 'I'm knackered'.
- Matt Flint from So You Think You Can Dance is still choreographing the group routines.
- The theme of the group dance this week will be 'celebs crash Brendan and Natalie's wedding'.  Someone call OK magazine, quick!
- There is some SAME SEX DANCING in the group dance.
- Gleb cares not for choreography in group dances and thinks you should just freestyle it.
- Brendan thinks the dance-off changed Kirsty's mentality and made her more determined.
- Kirsty doesn't expect to win.  What is it with all these people and no drive this year?
- Kirsty really, really loves lifts now.
- It’s quite difficult to mummify someone on live TV using only toilet paper.
- Kirsty's dress for this weekend was made originally for someone else in a different week. BUT WHOM AND WHEN? We may never know.
- Anton has been at the bottom of the leaderboard on Hallowe’en three times.
- Vicky Gill hasn't been watching ITT this week, given she thinks Anita's theme is a 'surprise'.
- Ladies love Jeremy.
- Jay is not currently planning to give up singing for a full-time dance career.
- The Wanted are technically “on hiatus”, not disbanded.
- The first record Jay bought was ‘Ignition’ by R Kelly.
- Louie Spence thinks Anita needs to be more precise to get to the top of the leaderboard.
- Marian Keyes is disappointed in Gleb's accent because he doesn't sound like Pasha.
- Katie has the best legs Louie Spence has seen on Strictly.
- Anita Dobson thinks Carol and Jeremy are in danger; Louie Spence thinks Carol; Marian Keyes thinks Carol as well.  Anita is excited about Aliona and Jay; Louie Kirsty and Marian Jeremy.
- Georgia and Giovanni WILL be getting prop guns after all.  Huzzah!
- Nancy Dell'Olio's rumba is the lowest scoring dance in the history of Strictly Hallowe'en weeks, which just goes to show how unjust this world is.
- Jack Pack must be stopped immediately.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Swing low, sweet Harriott

Week 5: Top 12 Results - 25 October 2015

We open the show with the hotly anticipated pro charleston number. Those of you who were excited about the thought of it being set in a swimming pool should bear in mind that it was conceived as a kind of Busby Berkeley tribute, so all of the men are in stripey t-shirts and high-waisted trousers, so this will sadly not be your chance to see Gleb/Aljaž/Pasha etc flexing in their Speedos. Sorry. The band is playing an aggressively clipped version of 'The Sun Has Got His Hat On' as well, just to make this all a rather tooth-itching experience. Points of interest: Oti, Joanne and Natalie play with some giant balls, Brendan apparently breaks his neck doing a swan dive onto a hardwood floor, Kristina gets to be the girl who twirls in the overhead shot.

Claudia and Tess arrive, and both look very well turned-out yet again: Tess is wearing a sea-blue a-line dress with capped sleeves, and Claudia has paired a pencil skirt with a white lace top. Tess tells us that while the clocks have gone back, the sun is always shining on Strictly. (Quite brave to include that in a pre-recorded show, what if there had been an apocalypse and we hadn't turned the clocks back after all?) Claudia welcomes the judges back to the room, and I for one am surprised to see that Bruno hasn't had a giant Elastoplast clamped over his gob in the break between shows just in case he decides to get ribald again. I know they can edit it out in this one, but you would think they'd prefer not to take any risks. Len is spared the walk on again, of course, and tells Claudia and Tess that his knee is doing well, and in fact the other one has "come out in sympathy with it". What a distressing mental image.

We then proceed to a recap of last night including all the stuff you didn't see, apart from the head of BBC One Compliance tearing strips off Bruno. Jamelia says she feels like a lottery winner to still be in the competition, and Helen admits that after the last three eliminations were an all-male affair, there's a definite sense of fear among the women that it will be one of them this week. Kellie hopes it won't be her. Jay's getting some last-minute alterations to his costume, Jeremy's doing some last-minute rehearsal for his waltz, Anita hopes to "tango the tango out of the tango", Darcey Shinings her head through the curtain to wish everybody luck. After their salsa, Giovanni throws himself through the studio door with such enthusiasm that he loses his balance and almost topples over, much to Georgia's squeaky alarm. Kirsty is very excited to have had such positive feedback. Anita does a little song and dance to celebrate getting all of the 8s. Katie wanted to prove she could do latin this week, and isn't quite sure what else she can do. I wonder when the warranty on Anton runs out; can she take him back and get a replacement? Even store credit would do at this point. Carol is pleased that Craig came to her defence, but Pasha points out that he still gave her a 4. Kellie and Kevin both do a bit of "no, you're the greatest!" and that brings us right back up to date.

After a quick reminder of the leaderboard, Tess has the cue cards of doom and is ready to reveal who is staying and who is going. In no particular order, the following five couples are definitely safe and through to next week: Helen and Aljaž, Carol and Pasha (both of whom look very surprised, as well they might), Jay and Aliona, Jeremy and Karen, and Anita and Gleb. The first couple in the dance-off is...Jamelia and Tristan, and she looks pretty resigned to this turn of events. They walk over to Tess, who tells them she's sorry to see them here again, and Jamelia replies "me too". Heh. Jamelia says that she's gutted, but she believes she deserves to be in the dance-off after her fucked-up foxtrot, so she's just going to give it her best this time. Len says that Jamelia doesn't deserve to be here, because there were many couples below her on the leaderboard, so that should give her confidence. Yes, the confidence of someone who knows the public doesn't much care for them. Len goes on to say that Tristan's a fantastic ballroom dancer (citation needed), so she should rely on him, and come out and enjoy herself.

Five safe couples WITH THE POWER TO ROCK YOU are with Claudia, and Helen is still in disbelief about receiving three nines earlier. In an endearing detour, it turns out that Carol is a total Bryan Adams stan and thinks he's "the bees' knees" and "has more talent in his pinky than...many others". They do a bit where Carol pretends she slips Bryan Adams lyrics into her weather reports (I hope this is a running gag amongst weather reporters, and that Tomasz Schafernaker is going to have all these allusions to Slipknot in Weather For The Week Ahead tonight), and Claudia asks her if she's going to be all right when he performs. "No," says Carol.

Bryan Adams himself then performs 'Brand New Day', and he's sounding a little bit tired, to be honest. I've got a cold, I can sympathise. Pasha and Ola join him to do a bit of paso in front of the band, and Pasha has his arms out, which has been far too rare an occurrence this year. Don't mind me, I'm just going to stare at Pasha's arms until the song's over.

Ahh, that was nice.

Afterwards, Claudia's up in her usual stomping ground ready for Len's Lens, except this week it must happen without Len himself, because he can't make it up the stairs on his new knee yet. He has, however, franchised out the Lens itself for use in locations where he is not present. Darcey wants to have another look at Helen's quickstep and opens by saying "this is quite beautiful" just as Aljaž's bottom comes into shot. This is literally the most accurate Darcey has ever been about anything. Unfortunately, the section that they're slo-moing, while it does indeed demonstrate the skill of Helen's transitions between movements, also highlights the BIG HONKING GAP between her and Aljaž at that particular point in the routine. Sorry, but I didn't let Clancy get away with it, I can't start turning a blind eye just because this time it's someone I actually like doing it. (Lol I would absolutely do that, who am I kidding.) Craig wants another look at Georgia's lifts, which are more acrobatic than dance, and says that Georgia's landings were rather wobbly, though he concedes that the lifts themselves are difficult. Darcey demonstrates how you need to land with one leg forward to prepare yourself for the next move. This is...strangely helpful. Bruno is asked what was so wrong with Katie's latin, and he says that she's very up on her toes, which is great for ballroom but poor for latin which is much earthier, and ends up throwing her timing off. STOP MAKING SENSE, ALL OF YOU, THERE IS NO FUN HERE FOR ME. Then Claudia wants to know about Jamelia and the art of covering up mistakes - Bruno says that you mustn't go "derp, what have I done" but rather hold yourself there and then pick up the next step. Craig says it's a real shame that she made the mistake so obvious, because she was doing really well up to that point. And there a most informative Len's Lens comes to an end.

It's back over to Tess now for the second batch of results, and these five couples are safe: Kellie and Kevin, Peter and Janette, Georgia and Giovanni, Kirsty and Brendan, and Katie and Anton, which leaves Ainsley and Natalie as the other couple in the dance-off tonight. Ainsley doesn't look too surprised to be there, and says he feels "a bit gutted", but he's always happy to have another chance to dance with Natalie. Craig says that he doesn't want to lose the entertainment factor that Ainsley brings - he just needs to sharpen up and point his toes, and if he can just do that once, then he's in with a chance. Natalie, bless her, is all "just once? He can totally do that!"

Up in the Clauditorium, Kirsty is very grateful to the voters for keeping her around and letting her have another week. Peter says that unless you're actually there with these people and seeing them working, you won't know just how hard they have it. Georgia tells us she'll be doing a tango to 'Ghostbusters' next week, and she's going to have to be serious. She does an early demo of her tango face, which is actually quite passable.

There's a quick preview of Hallowe'en, in which a few of the celebs get spooked by their partners running in wearing masks just when they're in the middle of doing their eerie VT. Some (Kellie, Carol) have the wind put up them more than others (Peter). Katie, of course, prefers Anton with his mask on.

Tess and Claudia are with both dance-off bound couples, and Jamelia says that she is disappointed to be here again, but she did make a huge mistake, so it's fair enough. She's hoping this is a chance to correct where she went wrong before. Tristan tells her to remember that she's done it right more times than she's done it wrong, so she should just smile and enjoy it. They have a little giggle, and make their way down to the comically oversized carriage that I'm sure the tech crew were delighted to have to lug back out of the cupboard. Meanwhile, Ainsley says that he's worked very hard and he loves the wonderful people who are here - "it's such a happy home to be in" - and Natalie's been so great with him. Natalie reminds Ainsley that he's the epitome of Strictly, because he's not a trained dancer but he puts smiles on faces and makes her proud every week.

Jamelia and Tristan reprise their foxtrot, and as far as I can tell she doesn't make any actual mistakes this time around, but it just feels a bit lifeless - I think messing it up the first time really knocked what little confidence she had in ballroom, and she's far too much in her head at this point, worrying too much about getting it right and not just allowing herself to get lost in the dance. Then Ainsley and Natalie go through their jive again, and it has all of the energy that it had the first time, and also all of the precision that it had the first time, i.e. none.

It's over to the judges to decide who gets a stay of execution: Craig thinks Jamelia and Tristan danced the best of both couples, and votes to save them. Darcey enjoyed both performances, but votes to save Jamelia and Tristan. Bruno thinks the couple that danced the best should say, and that's Jamelia and Tristan. So Ainsley and Natalie are out, and Len says that he would also have voted to save Jamelia - who is now having another little cry about Ainsley having to go home.

Ainsley says that he's had an amazing time and he's sad that it can't continue - and he's sad for Natalie that he couldn't take her further in the competition. Hey, she got a whole week more than she had last year, don't be so hard on yourself. Natalie tells Ainsley he's one of the loveliest men she's ever met, he's a real gentleman and he's been a dream to work with. Ainsley and Natalie take the dancefloor for their last dance to 'Go Your Own Way', and the rest of the dances swoop down upon him.

In the week's post-mortem, Katie says that Ainsley is a complete star, Carol says that he's fun and gregarious, Kirsty says that they're all so close that it's hard to watch anyone go home, Jamelia's glad that she got to stay, and Kellie's pleased to still be here as well. Anita is thrilled that she still gets to dance with superstar Gleb, and Peter and Janette are looking forward to Hallowe'en, though Peter can't resist going "hello we'en!" and waving down the camera, seriously how can we stop him. Helen says that Hallowe'en was where she wanted to get to (sure it is), and Jay says that he's excited to learn a new dance every week. Jeremy thinks there's nowhere for him to go but up, and Georgia and Giovanni give us one last tango face each to close out the show.

That's it for another week - Rad will be here to bring you the thrills, spills and chills of Hallowe'en week, and in the meantime I'll be starting up the "Ringer For Natalie 2016" campaign. I know we do this every year, but I've got a good feeling about it this time...

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!

Friday, 23 October 2015

This week, on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Will Young’s acting still isn’t up to much.
- Kristina doesn’t take milk or sugar in her tea.
- Daniel’s elimination means he gets to see his granddaughter in Tenerife in November.
- All of this year’s celebs are besties, so don’t you go believing the tabloids.
- Kellie thinks when this is all over they should still all get together on a Saturday night and dress up.
- Gok Wan is happy to spell heck as 'eck but still ensures he puts a 'g' on blooming.  Zoe, however, opts for the reverse ('bloomin' heck') when reading it out.
- Joan Collins is a Jay fan.
- Ainsley got swept away in the music of the waltz.
- Ainsley's impressions and accents are as bad as Peter Andre's.
- Natalie does not like it when Ainsley goes off to practise on his own.
- Ainsley thinks all TEH MENZ are leaving because they aren't leading the women enough. FEMINISM GONE TOO FAR.
- Ainsley and Natalie get the same scores on alternate weeks: 20s (red tomatoes) alternating with 26s (green peppers).
- 20 eights were given out on Saturday.
- People at home take Karen Hardy seriously.  As I say to my students: provide evidence for that assertion, please.
- Karen Hardy thinks the pros are hiding the celebrities' weaknesses with their choreography.  She uses Jeremy and Karen to illustrate this point. Mmm-hmm.
- Karen Hardy thinks Jamelia is her 'quiet slow burner' (props for not falling into the dark horse trap.  Although: quiet?)
- Katie loved the Viennesse Waltz despite all the spins.  Sadist.
- Anton told Dave Arch to speed the music up, and he also increased the pivots in the dance as they rehearsed, and when they danced for real they ended up doing even more because Anton got lost with his timings.
- Katie’s daughter (the one who called Anton tragic) now thinks she is a “legend” for topping the leaderboard.
- Anton remembers being top of the leaderboard with Lesley in series one, but not being top with Patsy or Laila. He probably hopes we've forgotten about them too.
- Kevin gets nervous before every performance but tries not to let his partners notice.
- Discos (or discothèques if you’re fancy) first started in Paris during World War II.
- Jamelia’s Irish accent is…not good.
- Karen Hardy isn’t much of a singer, and neither is Ian Waite.
- Kirsty didn’t put a foot wrong in her paso doble, either in the original performance or in the dance-off. According to Kirsty, anyway.
- Anita’s getting quite bored of seeing Gleb with his clothes off. (The liar.)
- Anita and Gleb have “quite an intense relationship”.
- Anita having a rage fit is just the most adorable thing.
- Peter thinks ‘Rock With You’ is probably the greatest Michael Jackson song ever.
- Ian Waite thinks nobody is going to have a standout dance this weekend (then again, he once said Chelsea Healey’s quickstep was going to be shit so take that with a pinch of salt).
- Jay’s had another haircut already. Hot damn those are some powerful follicles.
- Aliona thinks caping is “a boys’ thing”. YEAH YOU HEARD HER KELLY BROOK.
- Anita thinks she and Gleb should be Tom and Jerry for Hallowe’en. Gleb thinks they should be dinosaurs.
- Pasha is quite keen for Carol to do the weather with a paso face.
- Vicky Gill’s definition of “daywear” is perhaps not quite the same as yours or mine.
- Katie and Anton will be doing their first lifts this weekend.
- Karen stole the Jeremy-running-around-in-a-circle-on-the-floor thing from Grease, not The Simpsons.
- The aforementioned move made a hole in Jeremy’s shoe, which was apparently the first time wardrobe have ever had such an issue.
- “Foot reader” is an actual thing. And you thought the experts’ job titles on The Great British Bake Off sounded made-up.
- Mark Feehily from Westlife is now going by “Markus” and looks…weird nowadays.
- Giovanni dislocated his shoulder in training this week. It popped back of its own accord.
- Georgia doesn’t know who sang ‘Le Freak’.
- Giovanni doesn’t know how to do the hustle.
- The best positions to perform in at the Night Of 100 Stars are first and last.
- One of Ian Waite’s old dance rivals knew Aljaz when they were kids.
- Chris Hollins is now 2st heavier than he was in 2009.
- Due to a Freudian slip, it seems Jodie Kidd thinks Kirsty has been awful so far.
- John Partridge thinks nobody wants to look at the man during a paso because it’s all about the woman swishing her skirt.
- Peter thinks Len’s name is super-fitting because he is a GOOD MAN, and that rumba is funny because IT SOUNDS A BIT LIKE ROOM. (Delete ur account Peter.)
- Janette thinks Peter delivers “literally 150% of his heart, body and soul” on the dance floor. Dancers and maths, eh?
- Janette and Aljaz stood Peter up for dinner.
- There was a section on Friday’s section “interviewing” the props. The props had googly eyes added to them. There is a possibility that this whole “60-minute show” thing wasn’t fully thought through.
- Last year Mark Wright wanted everything tighter, smaller and sexier. Costume-wise, just to clarify.
- In one of the camera rehearsals for the salsa, Aljaz dropped Helen during the lift at the end. Oops.
- Daniel would sing lullabies for the rest of the cast.
- If you think that Strictly uses silly, unprofessional gimmicks to jazz up its dances, one of the dancers at Night Of 100 Stars was actually dressed as The Mask.
- Lisa Maxwell doesn’t understand how you can overdone on a dance show.
- Doing a rumba with Ian Waite was one of the worst experiences of Jodie Kidd’s life.
- Jodie Kidd thinks Jamelia is going home this weekend, John Partridge thinks Kirsty, and Lisa Maxwell thinks Carol.
- DangerMouse and Penfold have been doing The Strictly. They’re the only ones.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Daniel O'Done for

Week 4: Top 13 Results - 19 October 2015

We open with a pro 80s-themed dance, which is set in that bit of the 80s where there was a 50s revival going on, which is true to the period, but looks at the same time like a bit of a weird mash up of styles. For some reason, there’s also a giant pool table in the middle of the dancefloor which gets in the way a bit and the guys dance to 'Wild Boys' with pool cues (some more convincingly than others...) before the women come out in ra-ra skirts to 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'. Joanne in particular is in her element, which doesn’t seem especially surprising. There’s an extra male dancer and I’m no good on the surplus dancers, so I’m not sure if it's one of the regulars or not, but I’m sure Steve will know. [It was Neil Jones. He sometimes favourites my tweets! - Steve] In terms of the routine itself, it’s a bit of a mishmash of pop and sub-Latin. And, for some reason, Brendan is relegated to the position of a barman and Kristina and Ola are the waitresses. Poor veteran pros. Anton, meanwhile, is the random drunk staggering about at the back of the bar. I can’t help but think Katie’s been giving him a few lessons. It’s all quite fun, in a slightly pointless way. 

Tess and Claudia emerge from behind the bar (who can blame them?) and Claudia is in a badly-fitted 80s mullet wig, with a boxy pink and black spotted jacket that’s super period appropriate. Tess is wearing a black skirt with white sparkly top and has her hair up, which looks pretty nice, although it may just be because she is standing next to Claudia dressed as an unholy mash up of every 80s middle-aged woman there ever was, and has probably drunk the bar dry of Mirage (or Taboo - which one are you?). The judges then come on and do some approximation of that thing which we will not name.

Claudia and Tess remind us what we have coming up, including music from Will Young and the joy of Len's lens. Recap of last night: Oti has decided to be the backstage host this week, which makes Joanne’s presence on the show even more superfluous than usual. Points of note: Daniel and Kristina’s and Jay and Aliona’s dances looked much worse in the recaps than in the show themselves, with the cameras choosing to focus on mistakes. The same is also true of Kirsty and Brendan, whilst Jeremy and Karen are getting the clear comedy edit. By contrast, the five couples at the top of the leaderboard are edited to look amazing, somewhat unsurprisingly.

Tess reminds us of the leaderboard, and the rare occurrence of an Anton top placing. First set of results and safe are: Peter and Janette; Anita and Gleb; Jeremy and Karen (and the audience go entirely mental at this, should that be any indication of popularity); Katie and Anton; Ainsley and Natalie. She is incredibly excited at this news. Bless her. The first couple in the dance off? Daniel and Kristina, which I have to say is a bit of a shock. His eyes betray only the very slightest amount of disappointment. I guess his fan base isn’t quite as dedicated as we all thought it would be. I didn’t expect his fan army to flame out this early and thought he’d be one of those that the show would have to force out in a John Sergeant Memorial panic kind of way, but I guess that is Jeremy (and maybe Carol). Craig tells him he has fantastic musicality that he can use as a strong base and that he needs to let loosen a bit more in the dance off which could get him through.

Up in the Clauditorium with the safe couples now, and Ainsley says he wasn’t sure whether or not he’d be in the dance off but he did mentally prepare for it and he is so excited that people voted for them and they’ll be there next week. Katie says she really liked last night. Claudia says it's the second time in 12 years that Anton has been top of the leaderboard, which is not true, according to Steve’s stats, nor, indeed, those of results bible Ultimate Strictly. Oh well, what are stats to get in the way of an Anton redemption arc? (Until his next Latin, obviously)

Will Young is here to perform his new single 'Joy'. [Can I go? - Joy] It’s a slightly uncomfortable staging arrangement, with a load of random balloons and balls behind him, and him standing awkwardly around a microphone, waiting for the dancers to come on and save him from all the attention. The song is fine, and upbeat kind of number about feeling joy, at which the pros whirl around gleefully, Gleb pulling out some contemporary dance wafting that's even more wafty than usual (does that mean we are to dread his rumba?). Will Young himself even gets to have a go at dancing with the female pros and I trust that when his casting is announced for Strictly 2016 or 17, we will get the inevitable ringer complaints because of this. [Given his resistance to doing Eurovision, I imagine Strictly's still a way off. - Steve] In the final chorus, some balloons descend from the sky, and the dancers have to negotiate them, kicking them out of the way rather than stomping on them. Will Young looks like he enjoyed himself anyway, so that’s all very nice.

Time for the judges to recap the evening’s events. By the way, Darcey is wearing a red lacy dress, and Craig a velvet jacket with a natty tie. Len is in boring black tie, and Bruno is in a suit with a coloured tie. For those that care about such things. Len's lens focuses first on Jay and Aliona and we see Jay’s head rolling all over the place. Must be the weight of all that hair. The next couple highlighted are Ainsley and Natalie. We get told how hard waltz is (yawn), with a focus on Ainsley’s frame. Claudia asks Craig about spotting and he says this is to control your turns and taking a point of focus as you whip your head around. We see Anita, and he says she has several points of focus, rather than leading with her head. Craig demonstrates coming a point of focus by staring into the camera and twirling round and nearly falling over, thus perhaps demonstrating that it’s not all that easy. Claudia asks Bruno about his opinions on the two Pasos. He says that the girls have to be particularly powerful and use a lot of artistry and demonstrates the smooth but strong movements needed. He says it’s the dance that needs the most clear and specific moves. He says Kirsty’s hands look too much like the Terminator’s than a dancer's and he says Carol throws hers away, and doesn’t finish the moves with them. Bits of that were actually vaguely informative. Note: not so much the bits with the head judge.

The next set of safety results. Safe are: Helen and Aljaž; Kellie and Kevin; Georgia and Giovanni; Jamelia and Tristan; Jay and Aliona; Carol and Pasha. Which means, unsurprisingly, that Kirsty and Brendan are in the dance off. Given they’ve been circling this possibility since the start, they are not especially surprised by this turn of events either. Tess asks Kirsty if she’ll bring more attack to the dance off and Kirsty says you should do everything she can and try her best. I’ve only just noticed how weird Kirsty’s Paso hair looks: it’s kind of like a longtailed piranha, or that time Pink had a mohawk, yet with various plaits in it.  Either way, it looks like it’s about to come off her head and attack something. [Probably Brendan for his choice of music. - Steve]

In the Clauditorium, Jamelia is overjoyed to be staying; Kellie says she had a great time and her grandparents would have loved it. We can only assume the others are pleased to be safe, because they are not asked for their thoughts. Instead, we have a trailer for It Takes Two, featuring Zoe in the control room watching the highlights. Funnily enough, Robin Windsor does not feature in any of these highlights.

Tess and Claudia are with the two dance-off couples. Daniel says he’s really enjoying learning the dances, but performance is difficult and he loves his fans and he loves God and he loves his mummy and daddy and the little boys and girls and rabbits and bears and ponies and stop look and listen when you cross the road and don’t forget to recycle and back when he was a lad delivering Hovis he always wanted to be on Strictly and meet that Tess Daly even though she hadn't been born yet and did you know… Eventually Claudia manages to persuade Kristina to say something so that they can be dispatched to get ready. Kirsty starts crying as they talk to her and she thanks Brendan for being patient and amazing and talks about how she’s learned so much, and basically gives a full on leaving speech, so presumably she has absolutely no expectation of staying tonight, and has just started to care. She then says she would love to stay, but clearly her face is resigned to the probability that she won’t be. Brendan says he wanted to go out and dance her best and that this will be had time to shine. Weirdly, he talks about selves, so I’m wondering if he also wants Daniel to do well, or if he perceives Kirsty as two separate personalities.

Daniel and Kristina are first to dance.  Daniel looks like he’s enjoying this, although there are more than a few fumbles and one really uncomfortable -looking dragging of Kristina across the floor. I don’t know whether it’s just lost its charm upon repeat viewing, or whether it is actually much, much worse than the first time, but it does seem pretty scrappy. [It was a lot worse. He basically forgot half the routine. - Steve]

Kirsty looks pretty tired and her and Brendan’s dance seems pretty laboured and their arms are all over the place. I have to say, this is not one of the best dance-offs I’ve seen this series and both couples seem slightly worse second time round than in the original show. I’d say this has slightly fewer mistakes in it than Daniel and Kristina’s dance off did, but it’s still a sloppy mess in large part.

It’s time for the judges’ verdict. Craig says one couple did well and one couple made a lot of mistakes, so he’s going to save Kirsty and Brendan. Darcey also saves them, without giving a reason. Bruno keeps the couple that committed less (fewer, Bruno) mistakes: Kirsty and Brendan. That seems fair, on the first show, I would say Daniel and Kristina were much stronger, but they really screwed up the dance off. [Well, Daniel did. I'm not sure we can lay much blame at Kristina's door, she's only one woman. - Steve] Len would also have sent them home. Tess says they’ll not forget his Danny Zuko or his captain, and there really going to miss him. Daniel thanks everybody, Kristina, his fans, his paperboy, the lady from the corner shop and so on. He also says Kristina was really nice and not like the nasty stories, bless her. She actually cries and says how wonderful he was to work with. Weirdly, I think this was actually quite a successful partnership, who’d have thought it?

They dance off to 'Careless Whisper' and a standing ovation (this dance looks actually much better than many of the dances he actually performed on the show), leaving the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers to worry about the future of the men and cry that strictly is probably rigged in favour of the women, clearly ignoring Peter and Jay’s obvious potential trajectories and the fact that, for some reason, they cast a couple of male ringers and a load of middle-aged fodder compared to a solid swathe of 30-40 something women destined to be mid-late pack.

Post show chat:  Everybody loves Daniel and Brendan thinks what he and Kirsty did was a dance of perfection. Oh, sorry, he meant Perfection, which would explain why it was all jolty and all over the place. (Also: do click on that link, and tell me what merry hell THAT iteration of the game is about? Dinosaurs and flowers?!)

Next week: I'm out of the country and leaving Steve to do this all by himself, so do drop by and keep him company!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sometimes cheesy guys do finish first

Week 4: Top 13 Perform - 18 October 2015

Last week! That jive! (No, not that one. Or that one.) Also, the first of our theme weeks (but unlikely to be the last) as everyone went to the movies and Anthony and Oti were kicked out for throwing popcorn everywhere (/having a bad shoulder).

Tonight! They still haven’t let ‘the Strictly’ die, at least going by the continuity announcer. It’s almost as if what a couple of strangers bitch about on the Internet doesn’t matter to these people, isn’t it?

We then have a very random pre-credits VT about how all the celebrities are wanted for crimes against dance or something, yet Anton is nowhere to be seen, so presumably he’s gotten away with it yet again. [Presumably due to an absence of pesky kids. - Steve] Cue credits! Jay really did look different before he morphed into Bri/yan McFadden and Michael Ball’s love child didn’t he?

Tess and Claudia arrive on the arms of Kevin and Aljaž. Daly Dresswatch: black, with some odd slips cut through it and patched up with lace. Put it this way, if you presented that on the Sewing Bee, you’d be in danger of going home, unless the judges were having one of their random weeks where they praise things that are clearly awful for being ‘genius’. What Winkleman’s wearing: a nice enough black/navy all in one, would slightly uncomfortable shoulder pads in the capped sleeves that make it slightly strange. Oh well, they’d been doing great for a couple of weeks, they can have one bad one. The judges then enter, doing the stupid thing which we will not dignify by giving it a name. I heard it’s a bit like Poltergeist and if you say it in the mirror three times…

We welcome our stars: Kellie and Kevin; Anita and Gleb; Daniel and Kristina; Katie and Anton; Ainsley and Natalie; Helen and Aljaž; Georgia and Giovanni; Jamelia and Tristan; Peter and Janette; Carol and Pasha; Jay and Aliona; Brendan and Kirsty. Still a fair bit of bopping to the theme tune, well done everyone. I’m intrigued by some of the outfits we’ve got on display for a non-themed week: Daniel and Kristina as flight attendants, Helen as a naughty nurse, Pasha as a Matador, Jamelia without the electric shock hair that they’ve been doing for her.

The first couple of the evening are Anita and Gleb. We relive the ‘Gleb Special’ from last week and he seems very pleased with it, despite its entirely random nature. This week, we are reminded of the Children in Need roots of the show as they go to a fund raising event, full of people wearing Pudsey bear hats. This week it’s Countryfile that Anita is the presenter of, and the sponsored event is some sort of walk around the park and then they try and teach everyone the samba, but fail.

They are dancing to 'Hips Don’t Lie', and we open with Anita standing above a big speaker, whilst Gleb acts as a DJ. Then there’s quite an exciting jump into his arms, which they both just about pull off and Anita does a decent job of shimmying the samba. However, have what I can only describe as a reverse Gleb special, where he does some weird crablike movement on his back, before he stops pissing about and start actually doing the dance. God knows what’s going on with him, but I can see more spats with the judges. Oh how exciting I can’t wait. Overall, this is quite a fun routine once Gleb stops mucking about. It has a lot of sass and sexiness, and although Anita sometimes is pulling funny faces, it kind of fits with the mood of the dance and it’s not too off-putting. She could probably go a little bit further with hip wiggles, and there were a couple of places where it looks like they fumbled, but she’s clearly a capable mover and she looks nice with the hair extensions they’ve given her. In a move for more populism, Gleb opens his shirt as well.

Tess thanks the singers, naming them each again, and then Dave Arch as an afterthought. Someone’s contract renegotiations went better than someone else’s.

Len says that it took some getting started, but once they got going they coped well. He says she could have been a bit sharper in her feet and there was one bit where she went wrong, but overall it was a good dance. Tess asks if it’s a party he’d like Bruno would like to gatecrash and he says he usually likes to come late to the party (why are we not surprised?), and it was starting to warm up, but there were some places where she got a bit tangled and it stilted the dance a little bit, so it ended a bit on and off. Anita says she was having the time of her life. Craig says he can see what Bruno was saying and she did need more spotting technique, but her isolation was excellent and he loves that she just comes out and goes for it. Darcey says her determination and focus really show and she’s worked very hard on the isolations. She says they are missing a flow but she was distracted by Gleb (oh, Darcey).

In the Clauditorium, Claudia has covered up with a silky blue shirt like Gleb. To be honest, it’s better than the shoulder pad thing she had going on earlier. Scores: six, seven, seven, seven for a total of 27. Anita calls that a solid score. Claudia then rips her shirt open to read the terms and conditions, mocking Gleb, before he returns the mocking by ripping his own fully off and dragging Claudia into a three-way sandwich with him and Anita. Not wanting to miss any of the action, Brendan turns up with a pile of sausages. God I thought that this week’s Apprentice was full of filth.

Daniel and Kristina are next and Tess makes some comment about them being an air steward and pilot, and then offering cashew nuts to the two women sitting either side of her. I think that was meant to be some kind of a joke? Who knows, Tess humour is a surreal beast at best.

The VT, replete with random Tess commentary exclaiming "I can’t wait to see what Daniel is going to fly", sees him flying in a plane simulator. That looks like a hell of a lot of fun. I mean, it does nothing for dance preparation, but it was probably still more useful VT than 50% of them.

There are dancing an American Smooth to 'Fly Me To The Moon'. I can’t believe that they chose this song and only had them dressing as airline crew, not astronauts. Strictly costumers, what were you thinking? The aeroplane theme is fairly brief, really just their costumes and them arriving with suitcases, the rest of the time it’s a fairly lovely old school number, and Daniel even manages a half smile throughout, which suggests that he is probably absolutely loving it, as am I, well, a bit. Although it might not be the most ambitiously choreographed routine ever, Kristina always brings it in her American Smooths, because she really has that Hollywood glamour thing down pat, and so she sells it by virtue of her performance and movements, that more than makes up for any deficiencies in Daniel’s footwork (he does a much better job than I would have imagined he could) although, I have to admit I was watching her rather than him, which is probably not the point. Still, she's Ms Charisma [Kharisma? - Steve] and he's... Daniel. There are even a few lifts that he manages to pull off successfully. Again, not extravagant lifts, but a decent job.

Bruno says it had some mid routine turbulence, although I didn’t really see that. It was perhaps a little unspectacular, but it kept going. His next comment makes more sense, in that he calls it premium economy, i.e. it was solid, but didn’t contain many surprises or much sparkle. Craig says that Daniel has great musicality, but he needs to take more risks and put more swing and sway into his movements as there are a little straightforward. Tess prompts him to acknowledge that the lifts were great and he says that’s true. Darcey says it was seamless in terms of the lifts and they all worked, but he could use the music more to calm his nerves and feel what’s going on with it. Len says Daniel is too worried that he might go wrong and he needs to go through it a bit more, rather than holding back, but he loves watching him because he has a charm about him. Ah, I thought it was quite sweet, given how well blokes of a certain age do (or not) on the show.

In the Clauditorium, Kristina talks about how Daniel can do it and how much she is proud of him. I am actually weirdly loving this pairing. I thought she might have not built into it as much as she does with younger partners, but she seems pretty happy overall. Perhaps she’s just heard about the size of his fan base. Scores: five, six, six, six for a total of 23. Daniel says he was happy and even if he goes home, he’s proud - plus he knows how to fly home now. Bless. Claudia then makes a very surreal joke about a Georgia dancing with a guitar with no handle turning out to be a harp. Who knows?

Kirsty and Brendan are the third couple of the evening. Last week, they drew the short straw and had to dress up as dogs, so pretty much anything they do this week will be more dignified. As they are dancing the paso doble this week, their VT centres around Brendan forcing Kirsty to make him paella. I think that’s bordering on domestic abuse, but I suppose it’s still better than James Jordan and Georgia.

There are dancing to U2's 'Beautiful Day', which is pretty much the least appropriate paso music I’ve heard on this show in a long time (almost as ridiculous as the tango music they used last year). Because of the music choice, the dance doesn’t really look that much like a Paso either. There just isn’t enough staccato in it and instead it’s a bit of a parade of whirling and gurning. Some of the jumps and turns look quite good, although for much of the dance, Kirsty is looking at Brendan desperately to make sure that they’re doing it right. It ends with a very strange pose in which she curls herself around his ankle. Brendan gives one of his ‘good girl’s at the end, in full dog training mode, so I guess it went at least partly to plan. I blame the song choosers for that as much as anything, though, because it was just weird. [Brendan has since admitted on Twitter he chose the song himself. OH BRENDAN. - Steve]

Craig says it had as much shape as a broomstick. When she was in his arms, the shaping appeared, but disappeared when they danced on their own. He says he can see that she was really trying though and he appreciates it. Darcey says her increased confidence are showing and there was a physical physicality to this stance. Oh, Darcey. Len says it was like a paella, tasty in places but with some 'funny bits floating abaht'. Bruno says there wasn’t enough shaping, which is true, but the music didn’t lend itself to that, so she was always on to a losing streak with it. Kirsty also points out how inappropriate the song was, although by saying it’s not an aggressive song, rather than the fact that it’s a completely stupid choice for Paso, which it was.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia points out that it’s a difficult balance because it requires you to be aggressive and soft in different places. Brendan says she had the right energy and focus on her head, which was a massive improvement. Kirsty says she is enjoying it more and it isn’t as hard as it was at the beginning. Scores: four, six, six, five for a total of 21. Kirsty says it’s the same as last week. Brendan says no, sadly not. I love how invested she is in her scores! In the background, Jeremy looks sad. Such a camera whore.

Georgia and Giovanni are next. Last week they managed to dance to that god-awful new Bond theme and that, in itself, is probably a cause for celebration. This week, Giovanni decides that Georgia needs to put more bounce in her step, so he takes her trampolining. Unsurprisingly, she is super excited at this, and the place he takes her to is so flipping bizarre-looking. It’s like this whole sea of trampolines rising up to the wall. I guess this is the thing, but I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. (Look, I come from Grimsby, I’m culturally backwards, okay?)

Their quickstep is to ‘Reach’, and, for some reason unbeknownst to anyone, they are angels or something. She starts sitting on a cloud with a harp, before he Gabriels his way over to her to take her for a dance. No, no idea. It takes a while for the dance to get into proper quickstep, starting out as just a generic ballroom twirling, but once it does it’s quite fun. Then Georgia starts to lose the rhythm and it starts to look really messy and uncomfortable, although they never stop, which is at least something. After the side-by-side bit, which is okay, they return to hold and it’s more coordinated, but I think the song is probably just a little bit too fast for somebody at this stage of the competition to cope with, and it showed in her lack of precision - although she did really well to keep up with it and not let the mistakes show too much overall. Then somebody opens party poppers all over the stage and they get practically strangled by them.

Darcey says she is a dream to watch and the dance was sweet, crisp and light and really suited them. She says she’s pleased that Georgia was working on making sure she didn’t break her neck. I would hope so, Darcey. She says she gave an incredibly impressive performance. Len says she did lose her neck near the end, but he brings out from drab to fab comments, which I’m guessing is referring to the song choice more than anything else. He’s pleased that she kept the contact throughout and enjoyed some of the moves between different steps. In the audience, Jake Wood stares at them with a look that I can’t understand, but probably means, ‘wait until your Greekentine tango’. Or ‘I know you really killed Lucy’. Or something. So inscrutable. Bruno says she has to maintain performance, energy and steps all the way through, but it was still a good performance. Craig praises her for flying around the floor but says her top line could have been quieter and that she should smile in the dance because she had a face of thunder throughout it [someone accidentally picked up the script he was supposed to use for Carol - Steve], but he liked it very very much.

They arrive on the Clauditorium full of glee, and Giovanni says he just wanted to do a basic thing to please Len. Scores: seven, seven, nine, eight for a total of 31.

The next couple of the evening are Jeremy and Karen. Last week, they did Charleston-thingy and it was kind of well-received, except by Craig, of course. And Steve, who couldn’t fathom what it was meant to be. Cue a comedy VT in their prep for the jive, as Karen takes Jeremy to a swimming pool in Victorian bathing gear to prepare for their 1930s routine and makes him kick underwater. No, I have no idea what that was all about. However, Karen looked just like Andy Pandy, so that’s… something? [Say what you like about this show but no fetish is too niche to go uncatered-for. - Steve]

They are dancing to ‘Splish Splash’ by Bobby Darin. And we open with Karen pulling open the shower curtain to reveal a fully closed Jeremy showering in invisible water. It still makes more sense narratively than that library themed thing they did last week. He clearly has enthusiasm, but is lacking a great deal in the precision of the movement. However, as we all know, jive is hard for tall people, so we shouldn’t be surprised, should we? It kind of does its thing for a while and there is then some very ill-advised floor movement/breakdancing/I don’t know what. They get up again, for some ill-advised air guitar and some scary pelvic thrusts and it’s obviously not great, but he does have an okay sense of rhythm, despite his kindliness and general and coordination. Quite fun music for the jive, though, I’ll give it that.

Len says he’s consistently not the best dancer, but he is the most fun to watch. In the audience, Dave Myers glares daggers at him for stealing his shtick. Bruno calls him an artist of questionable technique he manages to put things together in an unusual way to make him up there with Tracey Emlyn. Has she got a contract with all this year’s reality shows or something? Craig says it was like watching a stork that had been struck by lightning, and this causes Karen to break out into hysterics. Darcey says she finds it quite inspiring and this makes Karen even more hysterical. She says he makes a dance his own, and the whole audience laugh at this. She reminds us it’s difficult with his legs and his feet were sloppy, but he was entertaining. In the Clauditorium, Jeremy says he’s never appeared on TV in a shower cap before. Karen says she loves that he makes her smile. Scores: three, six, six, five for a total of 20.

Kellie and Kevin are next, and it appears that neither Tess nor the scriptwriters have ever seen an episode of EastEnders, because they make a joke about the routine being based on Kellie’s grandparents’ wedding, and how this is nothing like an EastEnders wedding, because in an EastEnders wedding, the bride runs off with the best man and there’s a punch-up in the car park. I have been watching EastEnders for a large part of its 30 years on air and I don’t recall ever seeing a car park in the vicinity of Albert square - and whilst many a wedding has ended in disaster, I’m struggling to put my finger on one where the bride has run off with the best man. BBC in-house promotions, huh? [All EastEnders weddings now end with the entire bridal party getting shivved by Bobby Beale, fact. - Steve] Speaking of in-house promotions, I paused my DVR at the stills of them in the credits, to notice that they are surrounded by what looked to be Weeping Angels. Brrr.

Last week, they did a hilarious charleston with a Star Wars theme, which is one of the weirdest, but most fun dances I’ve seen on this show. This week they have the foxtrot and Kellie says the song Dream A Little Dream reminds her of her grandparents, who met at a dance. She then shows Kevin cine footage of her grandparents. Hey, it’s a new take on baby wars at any rate.

It has a very sweet opening, all coyness and hesitancy, and well controlled. I’m not sure the super rolled up hair does much for Kelly, and Kevin’s waistcoat is way too tight [his trousers, however, are not too tight because they never can be - Steve], both of which slightly detract from proceedings, but the tone of the dance is generally quite sweet. Her skirt covers her knees, but it looks to me as though they’re not bending quite as sharply as they could be, and the choreography is possibly a little simple in places, although I suppose for the first dance theme that makes sense. Overall, it was a sweet little thing, but probably not that memorable or spectacular. I liked it though.

Tess said she made the foxtrot look really easy, which is true, that or the choreography. Bruno said it had a really retro feel and it was like watching a BBC Four documentary. Okay, Bruno. Craig says he loved her finger placement and thought it was confident, clean and smooth. Darcey again compliments the confidence, but reminds her to extend her neck. Len says it was lovely. Tess congratulates them on being on a bit of a roll, and they scoot up to the Clauditorium, where Kellie promptly loses her shit, which is quite funny after watching a very restrained dance. Scores: eight, eight, eight, eight for a total of 32, which Kellie can’t quite believe. Kevin unbuttons his waistcoat, to reveal that his shirt and trousers are similarly tight.

Jamelia and Tristan are next and dancing to a song by Paula Abdul, who, Tess tells us, is Jamelia’s all-time favourite singer. That… reveals quite a lot about her persona. They are dancing the charleston to 'Straight Up'. I can’t imagine. However, they do get a lovely video call from Paula and her dog hoping that Jamelia is the strong and confident woman Paula knows she is (i.e., she has no idea). Paula Abdul for Strictly 2016, anyone? The rehearsal footage doesn’t show a great deal of promise, so they could be goners this week unless the performance is a lot better.

They open by playing on a Test Your Love machine, where they’re not receiving a hot result. The arrangement of the music to fit charleston rhythm is quite weird, but in a way works. The execution of the dance is much better than the rehearsal footage led me to believe, as Jamelia (wearing a black bobbed wig, rather than the electrified hair she had the last two weeks) seems to be really enjoying herself in the performance and the lack of precision needed suits her more than some of the other dances. There’s a decent backward roll over Tristan as well. The choreography isn’t the most exciting we’ve ever seen in Charleston, mainly relying on a few moves, rather than using a range. However, what it lacked in ambition it made up for in competence, as it was easily her best dance of the series. [Also the first one that wasn't choreographed by Tristan. *sips tea* - Steve]

Craig said he liked the Josephine Baker birdy flap step and her swivel action and thought she’d come into her own with that dance. Darcey says her stamina has really improved and it was really stylish. Len says it was her best to dance (with knobs on, because his mind is a place of nothing but filth). Bruno compliments her for improving so much. Claudia tells Paula Abdul that her dog looks like a gremlin. Guessing dark Lord (our Claud) is a cat person? Scores: eight, eight, eight, eight for a total of 32. Now, I enjoyed that, don’t get me wrong, but it got 32 and Anita and Gleb’s much more ambitious charleston routine didn’t come close to that (even with the mistakes, it had a lot more going on).  Hey ho, such as the way of Strictly, and I’m really pleased for Jamelia that she did well, so I’ll let it slide.

We then cut to a random skit where Aljaž pretends to be a doctor checking Claudia’s chest and Tess says he’s not really a doctor to which Claudia says she’s not really a patient. Somewhere, some men’s rights activists are up in arms about this, I’m sure. [On the DS forums, probably, they were already fumin' over that thing with Gleb and the handcuffs the other week. - Steve]

Next: Jay and Aliona. We are reminded of last week, where they danced the best dance ever (that doesn’t get 40). This week, Aliona is taking him to his old school where he is welcomed by a bunch of girls with a single A4 paper sign saying "welcome Jay and Aliona". Nice pushing out of the boat there, school. They then speak to a very small number of children in an assembly hall. For some reason, a handful of them aren’t wearing school uniform. I hope they all got detention.

Their quickstep is to 'My Generation' and opens with them both as sexy graduates taking a selfie. There’s no colour on the robes, I guess Strictly University hasn’t got a very good contract with Ede and Ravenscroft. The dance starts out of hold for a while, and the side-by-side bits look quite fun. Jay’s hair has grown massively yet again, by next week it’s going to be back to its week one length at this rate. However, once they get into hold, the dance loses a little something. Jay tends to veer into just running around in a circle for parts of it, rather than really concentrating on the steps. Then there’s a slip, although he manages to recover from it okay. Going on this and last week’s evidence, I suspect he is probably one of those dancers who feels more comfortable out of hold than in it, which is going to prove very interesting when they do the rumba. Good song choice though.

Darcey said it was a shame that he made a mistake and Jay nods. She says she got really excited when he started off because she thought this would be his dance again like last week, but the mistakes were sad, although he did compose himself when he made them. She says Aliona did give him a very challenging piece of choreography and he thinks he’ll come back stronger next week. Len says again that it was a shame, but these things happen and it was a fast dance. However, he thought his feet tried to do more than his brain could handle. Ouch. He says if he’s going to do ballroom again (if?) he needs to watch his placement. Bruno says in theory it should have been a barnstormer, but there were issues, including his bum and his take off, because it comes out like he’s like a gazelle in flight, but then crash lands. Craig says there were just too many mistakes, sadly.

As they arrive in the Clauditorium, his hair looks like it’s about to mutate into an overflowing forest. Aliona looks up at it and scowls. I think he might be a reverse Samson. Aliona says he had it down in rehearsals, it was just one of those things that it went wrong on the day. Scores: five, seven, six, seven for a total of 25. Claudia says he seemed pretty happy with those scores and asks if he thought it would be worse. He says yes, even five seemed solid and he couldn’t believe he got seven. There’s a lot of hugging and kissing between him and Aliona. Start those Digital Spy threads now! (Who am I kidding, they probably started before the show even began)

Carol and Pasha now. Pasha is dressed as a Matador, whilst Carol has a black doily slapped all over her head, making her look a little bit like Servalan from Blake’s 7. Last week, Carol was excited to be opening the show, but then they got the judges’ comments. She just wants the judges to say she’s made an improvement. Oh Carol, don’t you know that’s how your reality storyline is going to go? You will make an improvement and then have a dignified exit. Such is the way of dancers with your narrative arc. In preparation for their paso, Pasha takes her to a flamenco club and he does his best comedy VT face as she goes missing from him to get up and dance with the dance on stage. The best part is when he tries to tell her that she did an amazing job. Pasha’s commitment to comedy VTs remains adorable.

They’ve gone with more traditional Paso music this week (sadly, though, it’s Espana Cani yet again-the fifth time it’s been used). Pasha is in traditional Matador garb, with Carol in a black dress with gold fringing, that suits her. She does a reasonable job at keeping the mood of the dance in her face, although her shaping is somewhat imprecise and not strong enough for the dance. However, her movements and pace are much improved. I think part of the problem is that it’s difficult to take her seriously as a Paso dancer when she’s that smiley whether woman off the telly. Overall, I think she acquitted herself quite well. Who would have thought that Paso would be her breakthrough dance? [If you'd told me at the start of the series that Carol Kirkwood would do a better paso than Kirsty Gallacher, I'd have told you to get out of town, but here we are. - Steve]

Tess is stunned that Carol actually did well. Len says her personality is a bit too sunny for the Paso, but she got out there and into character and went for it, so well done. Bruno says it needs more passion and aggression, and her face looks more like it had a toothache. To Carol, that’s basically her 'the world is caving in' face, I would expect. Bruno says she needs to be more sexy and make it clear that she wants Pasha and she’s going to get him. Poor Rachel Riley. Craig says it’s the first time he’s seen her body really engaging in dance and it showed a different side to her. He thought there were tensions in her body where there needed to be but she needs to work on her hands and put more shaping incident, however well done. Darcey really enjoyed it and said her storytelling was clear. There is times where she needs to shape and empower her body more, but more dancing will give a stronger core she needs.

Claudia says that when Len was being critical, Gleb shouted "no, that’s not right". Bless. In the background, Oti sees the cameras on her so claps for it. Scores: five, six, six, five for a total of 22. I probably would have given that sixes all round (yes, I know that’s not how judging works), but a decent showing for them.

Ainsley and Natalie next. Last week they had a disco penguin cha cha and ended up in the bottom two, as well you might if you had something that bizarre. Ainsley said he was glad to be in the dance off because he had another opportunity to put his dance right, and he’s excited to be doing the waltz because it’s another part of the journey. In training, Natalie puts a device on him that looks a bit like bike handlebars, to get his frame correct. This makes for a comedy VT, in which he can’t eat or get through doors, so has to rely on Natalie force-feeding him berries. Ainsley decides he wants the frame sewing into his jacket on Saturday. Heh.

They are dancing to 'What A Wonderful World', and that the lighting is all pink and flowery and romantic, to aid the mood. This appears to be the night for quite sweet and romantic dances, because this is another of those. At one point, a load of glitter foil flows around them like the silver and gold tokens on The Crystal Maze, but that doesn’t faze them and they keep going. Probably for the best, if they’d caught the tokens, the best they could have hoped for would have been a paragliding weekend or something.

Bruno says he could really see the concentration in Ainsley’s footwork but he has to be careful not to look like he’s directing traffic and make sure that he has a real flow in his lines. Craig said his frame was really good at the start, although it went a bit towards the end as they termed, but he enjoyed it overall. Darcey says she enjoyed it as well and he has a real charm that showed he thought about complementing Natalie. The boys are right (drink) that he needs to relax and shoulders and neck. Len says when you get fearful you can shrugging your shoulders, so he needs to concentrate on dealing with that, and that’s to hold never changes no matter what dance you’re doing, so you need to keep on it. However, he thinks the waltz eliminates any mistakes, and didn’t see any. In the Clauditorium, they’re both very happy. Scores: six, seven, seven, six for a total of 26.

Helen and Aljaž are next, even though I was sure this show should be over by now. They are both dressed in naughty doctors and nurses outfits-you know, the kind that looked nothing like the outfits real doctors or nurses were. [Helen looks like she is cosplaying Sexy Nurse Joy From The Pokémon Anime and I LIVE for it. - Steve] Their VT focuses on Helen’s fear of lifts, so he decides to take up The Shard (insert pun here). He greets her at the top of the lift with a sign saying she faced the biggest lift in Britain and she says that’s not the kind of lift she’s scared of. Oh God, comedy VTs. [Seriously. That wouldn't have been worth it even if Aljaž had been shirtless. - Steve]

They open in a very similar position to the medical themed Charleston Louis and Flavia did, with one by a screen and one on a desk. They’re dancing the salsa to 'Dr Beat' and soon Helen removes her nursey hat and Aljaž his doctor coat, so that’s the end of the theme. She just doesn’t look sexy enough to pull off this dance, as she has quite a cute grin throughout. However, her frame isn’t bad at all, and they attempt some interesting lifts. It’s all slightly undermined by her face saying less ‘look at the good party time I’m having’ and more ‘how ridiculous do I look?’ Still, she has a point. And then they end with a very impressive move where Aljaž flips over his arm and catches her under it that seems to defy the laws of physics somehow.

Craig says he’d like to see her earth the grind a little bit more. Keep your kinks to yourself, Revel Horwood. However, he thinks is an incredible dancer. She looks like she’s about to have a full-scale panic attack at this. Darcey says well done on the last left and its fab to see a naughty side to Helen. She says if Helen wants more confidence in lifts, she has to get more plié and bend near her knees. Len tells us he’s having a knee op, but he wants to go to their hospital so that Aljaž can fling him around and he will be back next week, but we will be seeing his crutch. Eww. Bruno loved it, because of course he did.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia points out that Helen is covered in bruises. Glamorous. Helen says they’ve laughed all the way through the week and it’s been her favourite week so far. Apparently they play characters each week: Aljaž is always called Roger, whilst Helen’s changes each week – Lolita (erm…… #familyfriendly #postyewtree), Marilyn... Scores: eight, eight, eight, eight for a total of 32. I see Katie behind them and realise that, not only have we got one more dance to go, there must be more than that, otherwise Katie and Anton would be getting ready to dance. Bugger.

For some reason, when I forget a couple, it’s always these two: Peter and Janette. Tess reminds us that Peter has been at the top of the leaderboard a lot, but last time Jay beat him. Year of the man! Last week they did a ridiculous pirate paso so pretty much anything this week is going to be an improvement. Hey you guys, guess what? Peter’s been busy! Oh how I love that narrative. His wife comes to training because it’s the only way she’ll get to see him. Boring VT is boring.

What isn’t boring is that they’re dancing the Tango to 'Blue Monday'. I’m not sure how appropriate the music is for the dance, but I still like the fact that this song is being used for something. I’m sure Steve will pop up here to remind me of some obscure week three dance by a long forgotten contender that used this music. [Nope, I got nothin'. - Steve] There is some fun with a table and playing cards at the start and halfway through, which is one of the best uses of a prop table in a few years (no, I don’t count Robin and Deborah’s prop table as being used well) but other than that, Peter doesn’t really seem to have this dance down. His movements are a bit sloppy and his face is over-earnest (of course it is, it’s Peter Andre), and he seems to make a few mistakes. I mean, it’s more competent than, say, Jeremy could manage, but it feels quite sloppy and under-rehearsed overall.

Tess says 'Blue Monday' is her and Claudia’s favourite song of all time. Romantic! Darcey says the beginning was brilliant and that Janette uses him to his best in the choreography. She liked the staccato and thinks his eyes really sell the dance. Len said it had plenty of snapping it which he uses as upon to relate to the cards they were playing, rather than a comment on the dance. He says sometimes Peter has a tendency to over dance, but he didn’t do that tonight.  He says Peter had a couple of dodgy weeks, but is back. Bruno says although there were some mistakes, he still liked the drive that Peter has. Craig says it was sharp, there was great staccato and it was everything they wanted. I guess, like with a few dances this series, I’m just missing something here. I genuinely loved the bits at the table, but the rest of it I could take or leave.

In the Clauditorium, Peter shouts out his beautiful wife and his brother, who’s wearing a hat, presumably in tribute to The Man in the Hat, whom he slightly resembles. Scores: eight, eight, eight, eight for a total of 32. That’s a lot of 32s tonight. Claudia tells in their joint top of the leaderboard with some other couples. Peter gives her a hug and then he says he forgot she doesn't like hugs, to which Claudia replies that no, she just doesn't like humans. Seems legit.

Claudia tells us that, finally, we have one couple left to dance. It’s Anton and Katie, and his attire suggests it’s ballroom, so that’s presumably going to go well for them unlike Latin. Katie says she hopes their cha cha last week was their blip. Oh, Katie, have you never seen Anton’s Latin? If you think a cha-cha was bad, just wait until you get a samba or a salsa. This week she brings her daughters to training. Her older daughter confirms that she has embarrassed them, but she says it’s exciting to watch them on TV every week. She says they looked quite stiff in their rehearsals. Katie’s older daughter then dances with Anton and Katie and her younger daughter give them both tens. Anton says that’s the first 10 he’s had in strictly. The older daughter looks at him witheringly and says ‘tragic’. Katie’s elder daughter for head judge please.

They are dancing the Viennese waltz to 'If I Can Dream', and it's actually kind of insane in its whirliness. We don’t get to see much of Katie’s footwork to tell how she’s doing, although I would feel remarkably sick if I would being spun round at that pace. By the spins at the end, she looks like it’s a bit too much for her as well. However, I think it was a brave choice and then to go for something that fast and I think she did a good job, from what the camera would let me see.

Len says he didn’t think should be able to pull it off because there was so much in it, and he watches the hands so much, because sometimes they cling, but she kept it light and it was a lot better than last week. Bruno says the ladies definitely made for turning. He says it’s an incredible turnaround from last week. What, a master ballroom dancer who sucks at Latin pulls out a terrible cha-cha but a good waltz? Colour me shocked. Craig says she did really well to manage such a demanding dance in just a week, and Darcey says it was incredible.

In the Clauditorium, Katie says it’s the nicest set of comments ever. Scores: eight, nine, eight, eight for a total of 33. Is this the first time Anton has ever topped the leaderboard? [Nope - he last topped the leaderboard in week four with Laila Rouass in series 7, and he topped it previously with Lesley and Patsy as well. - Steve] It may well be the last. I still don’t think he has a chance of winning, because: Latin, but if he does, at least it will put that god-awful will Anton ever win storyline to bed and kill it for ever and ever. And maybe he will retire.  Also: I miss Erin.

Shall we have a leaderboard?

Katie and Anton 33
Kellie and Kevin 32
Jamelia and Tristan 32
Helen and Aljaž 32
Peter and Janette 32
Georgia and Giovanni 31
Anita and Gleb 27
Ainsley and Natalie 26
Jay and Aliona 25
Daniel and Kristina 23
Carol and Pasha 22
Kirsty and Brendan 21
Jeremy and Karen 20

So, that’s an interesting turn of events, with a few people’s scores being turned completely on their heads and a four-way pile up to second place. I think it’s going to be difficult to call the bottom two this week, but I’d be very surprised if Kirsty and Brendan weren’t in it. There’s a recap, and we still have far too many couples in the game to be recapping the recaps.  See you tomorrow for Will Young and someone going home!