Monday, 31 October 2016

She's outta love (also, the competition)

Week 6: Top 10 Results (Hallowe'en Week) - 30 October 2016

The show opens with another dry-ice drenched pro routine, this time to a slow, mournful arrangement of 'In The Air Tonight', starring Kevin and Karen as a young couple wandering around a haunted house where Kevin keeps trying to put the willies up his better half by pretending to be a ghost or a zombie, only to confront Actual Vampire Brendan who compels Karen to run towards him before sending Kevin off to sleep and biting Karen's neck. Karen desperately tries to free herself as Brendan's dark army appear, and there follows a desperate battle between Kevin and Brendan for Karen's virginal goodness (she's wearing a long white dress, you see), ultimately won by Brendan as Karen gets carried off by a load of demons in black lace-effect shirts waving red hankies and Kevin arrives just in time to find that Karen's been turned into a clock, or possibly lost her eternal soul to hell, or something. Anyway, Oti throws a red hanky at him and Kevin looks sad, THE END.

As if to demonstrate that the clock is indeed THE DIRECT GATEWAY TO HELL [as if Phil Collins wasn't cue enough - Rad], the next thing we see is Tess emerging from it. Scream! Fire rock salt at it! Draw a devil's trap on the floor! Claudia follows her out and seals the portal before Cthulhu can emerge and drive us all insane as we stare upon him, although after last night we've probably got less to lose than most people. Tess and Claudia encourage us to get ready to lose one more couple tonight, and the judges are re-introduced, all four of them in black this time, though Craig is wearing that evil-hand-on-the-shoulder red brooch that he's so fond of. Oh, and Craig and Darcey are both sporting devil horns - his red, hers black.

Behind the scenes recap: Laura jokes about having gone very subtle with the make-up this week, Greg grins that he's never been to a Hallowe'en party so this is a big deal for him, Claudia has also never dressed up for Hallowe'en before and is very excited about getting to be a witch, a fully made-up Ore stands next to Ed, who jokes that Ore isn't dressing up for Hallowe'en, Daisy giggles that she's afraid of herself right now, Judge Rinder says that going out there and dancing is so scary that it might as well be Hallowe'en every week, even the production staff in the gallery have been forced into silly costumes, and Len promises that the evening will be "spook-tacular". Judge Rinder loved getting a standing ovation and wishes he could get one every day, Daisy says that she's not very good at being tough but she's been trying really hard, Ore cringes that this is not the outfit to be wearing when you mess up because you already look daft, Brendan tells Anastacia that he liked her flicks and kicks even if nobody else did, Greg reassures Natalie that he loved the rumba and it was a brilliant dance, Danny is really frustrated that he went wrong, Ed and Katya appear to have developed a secret handshake, Louise still comes across as mildly sedated, Claudia is ecstatic and Laura and Giovanni are just screaming.

Back in the studio, Tess has the cue cards of doom and the following four couples are safe and through to next week: Judge Rinder and Oksana, Greg and Natalie, Ed and Katya, and Claudia and AJ. The first couple in the dance-off is...Daisy and Aljaž. Ooof. Daisy looks crestfallen (at least I think she does, it's hard to tell under all that make-up) but troops dutifully over to Tess, who is in full-on nauseating sympathetic baby-voice throughout, telling Daisy that she's so sowwy to see her here again and cooing "ooh, she's breathing deeply and very fast" like, could we not find somebody to do this job who can process actual human emotions? I really think a Speak Your Weight Machine would do a better job than Tess at this point. Daisy struggles to catch her breath but composes herself and says that she wants to give that dance more attack, and now she has a chance to do so. Bruno says he's stunned to see Daisy here again, and that she shouldn't change a thing. Because everything's working so well for her this far, with two consecutive appearances in the bottom two? I feel bad for Daisy, considering that even Anastacia managed a bottom two bounce in that week where she was briefly Anastacia The Injury Faker, Destroyer Of Dreams, Most Hated Woman In Britain. I think what might have hurt Daisy this week was that Ore and Danny, the two identified frontrunners, were in the bottom half of the leaderboard, leaving their fans to scramble wildly to keep them in the competition in a way they've not really had to so far, combined with the outraged fans (among whom I count myself) [and me, though I did also send a vote Daisy's way - Rad] who powervoted for Greg and Natalie because Craig made Natalie cry/because Greg has a smashing arse, so I think the spare votes that may have gone to Poor Daisy Who Was In The Bottom Two Last Week got hoovered up elsewhere, and with Laura both high enough on the leaderboard to be realistically out of danger and perceived generally to have had one of the best dances of the night, I suppose Daisy's return to the dance-off was inevitable. I mean I'm sure it's not much consolation to her but basically a load of reasonably unpredictable things happened at the same time and she was shit out of luck. Other than Anastacia still being in the competition and being easily beatable in a dance-off, I mean.

(Sidebar lol: leaving Danny and Ore - and their fans - to sweat it out until the second round of cue cards when we all know the other person in the bottom two is Anastacia, because come on.)

Up in the Clauditorium, Judge Rinder says that he just wants to get better each week, and the professionals work so hard to make them better each week. For someone who was so arch and off-message at the beginning of the series (remember when he didn't care about Blackpool?), he suddenly seems to have come over all earnest, doesn't he? Greg says that his confidence took a knock this week because he and Natalie put their heart and soul into this routine, and it was a blow then to get the same score that they got the week before (they actually got two points more, but I get the general point he's making), but he calls the public who voted for him "a wonderful bunch" and says he hopes everyone enjoyed it, because he and Natalie are both trying very hard. Claudia F is now back in gymnastics training for the British Championships in March, and she thinks it's going to get confusing but she'll be fine. Ed is really pleased not to have been bottom of the leaderboard this week, and thanks the costume and make-up people because Brendan isn't here at the moment. [Ooh, I bet Brendan was spitting feathers at that. Or whatever the vampire bat equivalent is - Rad]

Our musical interlude this week comes from Laura Mvula, who is covering 'Ready Or Not' by the Fugees for some reason. [Badly. I kind of want Laura Mvula to work cos she looks amazing and has a great name, but I have yet to encounter a song of hers I can stand, and this was a bloody racket and came without the hilarious/amazing rap breaks, so also completely pointless - Rad] She also appears to have brought her own dancers with her. That's not really in the spirit of things, Laura Mvula, especially in these tough times when poor Chloe has got nothing to do as it is. Still, it's a bit livelier than your average Strictly musical interlude and almost certainly more likely to confuse anyone over the age of about 50, and I'm all in favour of that.

Things I am less in favour of: Len's Lens, which is up next. We watch Len and Craig descending in their ghost train car in slo-mo, with Len saying that Craig is a veteran of flying in on things for Hallowe'en, but he's never done it before. After that, it's on to Claudia's footwork in her American smooth and, as I predicted yesterday, Len showing us what a three-step looks like. I'm getting the hang of this, guys! Darcey looks over Danny's stumble and slo-mo makes it abundantly clear just how hard Oti is yanking him upwards by the arms to keep him on-balance. It's not quite Natalie grabbing Scott Maslen by the neck in his American smooth, but it's still pretty good. Craig applauds Judge Rinder's knee walks and his toned-down facial expressions, then there follows some of the worst editing I have ever seen on BBC1 as Claudia (offscreen) says "thank you so much!" and audience applause is rapidly faded in while we remain on Craig's face and Claudia (still offscreen) throws to Bruno. No idea what was going on there, but it appears to have been held together with vinegar and brown paper. Bruno talks about Laura's tango, which is one of those routines that doesn't really benefit from being played in slow-motion, but Bruno stans for her all the same, bless him. Then we finish by laughing at Ed Balls' cha cha cha being replayed with his mic on, and listening to him going "Ooh! Ah! Ooh! Ah!", which frankly I could have done without. Forever.

Then it's back to Tess to find out exactly how long they're going to keep Ore and Danny waiting to hear they're safe. The following acts are through: Louise and Kevin, Ore and Joanne, Laura and Giovanni (who I think were starting to get quite worried despite everything) and of course Danny and Oti, leaving Anastacia and Brendan in the dance-off. "I knew that," says Anastacia matter-of-factly, and who among us didn't? Tess asks her what's going through her head right now, Anastacia says "that I didn't do kicks and flicks", and Tess tries to make a noise that a sympathetic person might make but misses by several thousand yards. Darcey tells Anastacia that she just needs to get her weight forward and get onto the balls of her feet, and get the retraction into the kicks. Yeah, I'm sure she'll manage that in the next five minutes.

The other four safe couples are up in the Clauditorium, and Laura giggles about poor Joanne being stuck sitting between her and Ore, the two biggest blubbers on the show. She says that everyone's so close this year, and everyone else is all "who's she again? I swear she wasn't here last week. Is it Will Young in a wig?" Ore's got the salsa next week, which he's pleased about because he doesn't have to wear that horrible facial hair any more. Wait until he finds out that the song he's been given is 'You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man' by The Beards. Danny tries to get philosophical about his mistakes, while Oti clearly needs a bit more time for closure. Louise is doing an Argentine tango next week and isn't quite sure what one of those is, but just gets a lot of sharp intakes of breath whenever anyone else talks about it.

After a suitably spooky plug for It Takes Two, both of the endangered couples are hovering on the edge of the Clauditorium. Anastacia says she's really excited about doing the dance again, and she's going to kick and flick her way through Meat Loaf, just like Len wants her to do. Brendan tells her - and also Daisy and Aljaž - to just go out there and do their best, lol he's so checked out already. As Anastacia and Brendan take their place on the floor, Daisy says she's going to try and be tougher and give it more shaping, and Aljaž says that she did the charleston so well in the dance-off last week, and she just needs to do the same with the paso. Tess does another big "awwwww!" and Claudia takes a big step away from her, and I like to think those two things are directly related.

Anastacia and Brendan and the Hoverboard reprise their jive, and Anastacia clearly is trying to put a bit more welly in the kicks and flicks, though I think that ends up making the whole thing a bit more lethargic than it was the first time round because she's focusing so hard on hoofing that she's not so light on her feet. After that, Daisy and Aljaž reprise their paso, and she's definitely sterner and more aloof this time round, so it's been a good week for people actually taking on board the judges' feedback in the dance-off - though the bit where Aljaž throws her through his legs at the end goes a bit wrong and she crashes on her arse rather awkwardly.

Craig says he wants to save the more powerful and best dance of the night, which came from Daisy and Aljaž. Darcey says that this was a hard choice to make, but she would like to save Daisy and Aljaž for their dance quality and performance. Bruno says that both contestants really put up a fierce fight, which he liked, but he would like to pick the couple who provided more content and quality, and that was Daisy and Aljaž. Len's opinion is surplus to requirements, but Len would have saved Daisy and Aljaž as well, he says.

So Daisy and Aljaž are through and Anastacia and Brendan are going home. Tess asks Anastacia what her highlight has been, and while Anastacia's getting her breath back Brendan fills by saying "don't say dancing with Gorka!" Heh. Anastacia gets a bit choked up and says that this was a place for her "to get to know my female" (that's no way to talk about Brendan) and tells everyone on the show that they are amazing, and Brendan is amazing for everything he's done for her. Then Anastacia sings "I'm not outta love! With Strictly UK, yeah!" I bet her poetry slams are quite something. Brendan says that the programme will miss Anastacia, and so will he. And so will I! I'm pleased that after a rather uncomfortable start to the competition she managed to stay in long enough to turn things around to the point where nobody cares about The Dance-Off That Wasn't any more and go out with at least two genuinely impressive dances under her belt (I know the quickstep was everyone's favourite but I did really love her rumba). They have a final dance to 'Moonlight Shadow', and the way that Daisy literally runs in to give Anastacia a big hug is rather lovely.

Reaction VTs: Danny thinks it doesn't get any easier, and says that he adored Anastacia, Claudia F says she was an amazing person who always looked after her, Judge Rinder says that she was "extraordinary" and it's very sad to see her go, Daisy is grateful to be here for another week, Greg thinks it's getting very difficult now we're down to nine couples, Louise is so happy to have survived another week, Ed is pleased to have done his best dance, Laura isn't sure what a samba is but she's got one next week, and Ore's so happy to get to keep this experience rolling on.

Next week: the remaining nine couples dance once more, we'll probably lose either Laura or Daisy, and the judges will almost certainly kick off about it. Rad will be here to guide you all through it.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Giving up the ghost

Week 6: Top 10 Perform (Hallowe'en Week) - 29 October 2016

Last week: honestly, let's just pretend it didn't happen, yes? We'll all be much happier that way. At least this week's episode is meant to be horrifying, because it's Hallowe'en! We open on a gloved hand reading a book of shadows entitled "Tales of Spookily Come Dancing", which would just be Nancy Dell'Olio's rumba over and over again if I were writing it, but instead it's a series of indifferently-acted vignettes where Anastacia is reunited with a mummified Brendan (apparently those reports of his death weren't premature after all), Danny brews something witchy in his cauldron only to be completely ignored by Oti (no change there then), Daisy floats around on a broomstick without touching the floor, Kevin turns up to training with Louise questionably-dressed (again, no change there), Giovanni is inexplicably repulsed by his own reflection, someone has superglued a doormat to Greg's face (I swear the werewolf make-up on this show gets worse every year) [Still bitter about last year's Beauty and the Beast 'makeover' TBH - Rad], Claudia runs around with a sheet over her head while AJ stands there with his hands in his pockets (something definitely sinister in this scenario because he's ignoring his own reflection), and Judge Rinder is hanging upside down from the training room ceiling while he sleeps (prove to me he doesn't do this every week as a matter of habit and then I may consider being scared), Ed lunges after Katya (looks like a standard cha cha cha to me) and Joanne just makes some cackling noises at the camera. Not to get all spoiler-y, but the VTs aren't going to get much better than this. Brace yourselves.

Titles! Whatever else may go wrong this year, we're at least guaranteed Gorka's beaming grin at the start of every show, and I am profoundly grateful for that.

We open with a big production number to 'You Spin Me Round' - now, it's my understanding that most of the big set-pieces are planned months in advance, so I don't know if they always planned to use this song or if they changed their plans last minute to pay tribute to Pete Burns (RIP), but either way I'm excited. (I suppose they can't plan the big Hallowe'en group number too far ahead anyway because it involves the celebs and they don't know who's going to be here. OR DO THEY?! /conspiracy) And I can't pretend to have known Pete intimately, but I like to think he'd have been pleased that one of the most sexually aggressive pop songs in history is being used to open a primetime BBC1 Saturday night family entertainment show. [I kind of assumed they might have had some of it prepared to another track and then changed the song as a tribute, but either way, lovely touch.  Also, obligatory FUCK OFF 2016 - Rad] ANYway, enough of my yammering: it's set on a ghost train where Craig and Len are (uncomfortably) riding together as Evil Brendan suddenly appears behind them and cackles, and Danny, Ed, Daisy and Ed lurch towards the car, zombie-style. (The effect is slightly hampered by Greg stumbling and looking down at his feet, bless him.) The car is lowered to the floor and the celebrities and pros set about dancing malevolently and scaring the bejesus out of Len and Craig. Make-up and costume triumphs: Louise and Kevin as Harley Quinn and the Joker, Greg's hair being sprayed white and proving that he will still be a handsome man when he starts going grey. Make-up and costume...non-triumphs: Pasha's gold suit (sorry Pasha), whatever the heck they've done to Ore and Joanne. Triumphs that have nothing to do with make-up or costume: Ed once again having no idea where he is or what he's doing, and Daisy not being able to stop laughing throughout. <3  Anyway, it ends with Bruno and Darcey sitting in the ghost train car and cackling, and I guess that's pretty scary if you think about it.

The "ghosts" of the show (yes, yes, very good) walk on, both dressed in black because it's Hallowe'en, though I suppose every day is Hallowe'en in Claudia's wardrobe. Claudia reminds us that Pete Burns is dead, and Tess sends the warm regards of everyone on the show to his family and friends, which is a nice touch. [Sniff.  Just IMAGINE if he'd been a contestant - Rad] The judges enter, and Bruno's got a long frock coat on which isn't so much Hallowe'en as Regency, Craig is covered in cobwebs, Darcey's got a blonde wig on and Len has a long red cape. Craig aside, there's a faint air of "will this do?" about all of them.

Time to welcome our Strictly stars: Louise and Kevin as Harley Quinn and the Joker (I know I've mentioned it before, but they both look superb - well done, Vicky Gill, Lisa Armstrong et al), Judge Rinder and Oksana as a moth and a butterfly (we'll get to that in due course), Claudia and AJ as...two people whose theme is not immediately obvious from their costumes so we'll come back to that, Ore and Joanne as... Evil Little Orphan Annie and a werewolf? (this is not going well for me so far), Daisy and Aljaž as Día de Muertos, Greg and Natalie as Sexy Cobweb-Covered Man With Grey Hair and His Third Wife Who Just Heard About His Heart Condition, Ed and Katya as Mad Scientist and Lab Assistant, Laura and Giovanni as Slutty Ghosts, Danny and Oti as Corpse Groom And Bride, and finally Anastacia and Brendan as Just A Coupla Bats.

Our first couple of tonight are Louise and Kevin, with their Hallowe'en charleston. Tess tells us that Louise is playing "super villain Harley Quinn from Batman", which will be important in about 30 seconds. In their VT, Kevin tells Louise how proud he was of her last week, but there were a few comments from the judges about her having plateaued, and how something needs to happen to give her a boost. Good job she's got notorious performance breakthrough dance the charleston this week then, eh? Tess's voiceover then tells us that in this dance Kevin and Louise will be "Batman's nemesis The Joker and his sidekick Harley Quinn" in this dance. Poor Harley Quinn: robbed of all agency in one short sentence. (I must admit I don't know that much about DC, but I read enough of the Suicide Squad coverage to know that you do not refer to Harley Quinn as "the Joker's sidekick" unless you want incensed fans in your mentions for days). Kevin tells Louise that the charleston is a chance to show "the crazy side of Louise". Personally I thought that was when she covered 'Stuck In The Middle With You', but there you go. (Speaking of which: the show underscores this segment with the original version of that song. Poor Louise.) Anyway, Kevin tries to show off Louise's crazy side by telling terrible jokes, and Louise just giggles and tells him that his jokes are stupid. I am...beginning to think that Louise's wild and crazy breakthrough may never actually happen and that she's just going to be nice and benign and mumsy and kind of unmemorable all the way up to the final for her inevitable runner-up finish.

They're dancing to what I'm assured is the Emeli Sandé version of 'Crazy In Love' (oh, okay, now I get why they're Harley Quinn and the Joker) and it's not as fast-paced as the rehearsal footage on It Takes Two led me to believe. Kevin's dancing it much harder than Louise is, as per, and her performance breakthrough only extends as far as gurning at the camera a bit more often than usual. She still dances it very well, but I was really hoping that this would be the week that Louise really popped and did an amazing memorable dance, and that didn't happen. I think time's running out on that score, and if it didn't happen with a wacky charleston, I'm not sure it ever will. They look great, it was fun, there was nothing particularly wrong with it, but I can't see the re-watch factor being terribly high. [It was fine, but it lacked the bite that something featuring  Harley Quinn should have.  Crossing my fingers Kevin Clifton's random bouts of paso genius strike again - Rad]

Tess crows that this routine gave us Louise's first lifts. Again, it probably speaks to the level of impact Louise has had so far that I didn't even realise she hadn't done any yet. Len says that Louise pushed herself "100 per cent" harder and she was "so animated". He drops a load of comic references to the Dandy, the Beano, and to Marvel, none of which are DC properties and indeed one of which is a direct rival, so well done Len. Bruno makes a series of sound effects and likens it to "Toni Basil and the Master Trickster stepping in and out of a Roy Lichtenstein painting", which is some impressive word salad there, thanks Bruno. He says that you don't see that at the Tate Modern but you see it on Strictly. (You do see this at MoMA in New York though, and I'd love to see that on Strictly.) Jamie winks at her from the audience. Craig thought it was too controlled, but he has to commend Louise on her detailed, clean lines, and the side-by-side section was amazing. Darcey says it was a "dazzling" charleston, and Louise pulled out all the stops tonight and it paid off. So...was that actually Louise's performance breakthrough after all, then? Blimey.

They cackle up to the Clauditorium, where Claudia brings our attention to how proud Jamie looked in the audience, and Louise says that Kevin's been working hard on her face all week. Er, phrasing. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. As ever, Kevin reacts like he's just won the lottery and Louise reacts like she's just won the fellowship award at the school prizegiving. This week's terms and conditions skit does not involve the terms and conditions at all, but rather a Scream-style phone call to Claudia announcing that "I'm waiting outside" and Claudia cheerily announcing that the pizza's here. The highlights of this section: everyone going mad for the arrival of the pizza except Louise who politely pays attention while Claudia reads out the terms and conditions (you can take the Nurding out of the woman, but you can't take the woman out of the nerding), also the fact that Kevin and AJ are the only dancers actually attempting to eat pizza.

Up next: Judge Rinder and Oksana. Tess tells us that they've been steadily improving (which is a bit of a reach - before last week, they'd scored 27 for three dances in a row) and they have a butterfly-themed paso this week. In his VT, the Judge says that getting an eight from Len meant the world to him because it shows that they really are getting better. I like the inference there that an eight from Darcey, which they also got last week, means absolutely diddly-squat. Oksana tells him that he's going to be a moth for this dance, and that "it's like a manly butterfly". I don't know what amuses me more: that Oksana thinks that's what a moth is, or that she thinks Judge Rinder doesn't know what a moth is. Rinder asks her if "a manly butterfly" isn't an oxymoron (#stopfemmeshaming) and then they go to Butterfly Paradise at London Zoo, where they identify a variety of species and Judge Rinder talks to a CGI butterfly about his routine for this week. Sometimes I think this is all building to a big reveal in the final week that Oksana was never there at all and that Rinder has spent the entire competition talking to himself.

They're dancing to 'Born This Way' by Lady Gaga, and it begins with Judge Rinder being lowered in on a harness while Oksana flits around inside a "cocoon". It's definitely dramatic and there are some nice lines, though he gets a little bit stuttery in places. Ideally I would've liked a little bit more attack on the walk sections which are far too gentle for my tastes, but the concept is great and he performs it with gusto. Also, I like that Oksana didn't feel obliged to do anything actually scary for Hallowe'en and just went for "camp as tits" instead.

When it's over, they make their way over to Tess and Judge Rinder gushes that he had so much fun doing that, and he was "trying to be butch, channeling my inner Craig". Ha. Bruno says that "he was born to dazzle, in his own unique way" and suggests that Rinder was "channeling Natalie Portman in Black Swan, when she goes berserk". He liked that there was a lot of paso in there, but the shaping got lost sometimes, possibly because of the wings. He liked the dragging too. Craig says that it was "all very Silence of the Lambs, darling" and the audience starts booing, at which Judge Rinder says "no, he means it as a compliment" - and it turns out he's right. Craig says that the double appels need to be driven into the ground more, but he liked the shaping and the knee walks and he thinks this was Judge Rinder's strongest performance to date. Darcey says that the paso is possibly the most theatrical of all the dances and she loved his aggression, but she would like him to control his pout a little bit more while he's dancing. She says she knows she will never get bored watching him, though. Len calls back to last week's eight and tells Judge Rinder "you deserved it, because you came out and you danced". Len's retiring soon, right? Tonight he thought Judge Rinder came out with aggression and good posture, and it was powerful and meaningful.

They flit up to the Clauditorium, and Judge Rinder says that he just wants to get better each week and he really cares about the judges' feedback, and also it's Oksana's birthday today. Bloody hell, is there anyone who hasn't had a birthday this series? Claudia says that Judge Rinder hasn't "gone down your scores" (snerk) and Judge Rinder says that he hopes they'll be generous, what with it being Oksana's birthday and all. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32. Judge Rinder is ecstatic to have finally broken the 30 barrier, and on Oksana's birthday no less.

Our third couple tonight is Claudia and AJ, doing an American smooth where she is a teenage witch who turns a frog into a handsome AJ. Okay, so that's what those costumes are. Claudia is now wearing a large witch's hat, and it amuses me that even if you measure right to the top of the hat, AJ is still taller than her. Claudia was pleased with how her samba went last week, and asks AJ if she's got any better since the beginning because she feels much more confident now, and AJ tells her that she's really starting to act and enjoy the dances more. It is unfortunate that this comment segues into possibly the worst-acted VT I have ever seen on this show that didn't involve Pasha, the basic concept of which is that AJ has bought Claudia a spellbook to make her successful at every dance, and all of the spells go "hilariously" wrong. "Shall we just stick to training?" asks Claudia at the end. YES PLEASE, GOD WOULDN'T THAT BE A NOVEL CONCEPT.

They're dancing to 'Black Magic' by Little Mix, a song that apparently gets away with suggesting roofying that boy you fancy is a good idea because Little Mix are Such Amazing Role Models For Young Women Just Like You. It's not an obvious choice for a foxtrot, but somehow the arrangement and the costuming and the dance all come together and just about work as a cohesive unit. Claudia's ballroom frame and posture have come on a long way since the start of the series, and the lifts are beautiful and elegant. It's just a shame that the actual foxtrot section is fairly dull (I know, a dull foxtrot, who could have foreseen), but I think this is the most I've enjoyed one of Claudia's dances so far. [Likewise.  Maybe the secret to overcoming wildly inappropriate song choice is to dress as a witch - worked for Frankie and now for  Claudia - RAD]

Tess remarks on Claudia's impressive core strength before handing over to Craig, who says that the footwork was very good indeed, and she maintained body contact throughout. He thought the whole thing was dynamic. Darcey thought the dismounts from all of the lifts were beautifully smooth, but just counsels Claudia to keep her eye level up when she comes out of hold. Len says it was "spellbinding" with lovely flow, and then goes on a rant about how sometimes the lifts get on his wick because they have nothing to do with the rest of the dance (oh good, now Len is complaining about the *legal* lifts as well), but these all complemented the dance beautifully and he was so pleased that AJ trusted Claudia enough to make her do a three-step, whatever one of those is, I'm sure we'll find out on Len's Lens tomorrow. Bruno finishes by saying that Claudia has lost her angular-ness and has become lyrical in her movements, and he hopes she maintains that.

Claudia grabs her broomstick and flies them up to the Clauditorium, where Claudia W points out that Claudia F's gymnastics coaches are in the audience tonight, and Claudia F says that "they are the reason why I'm here and achieving loads, because of them." Er, Claudia, hon? AJ is right there. Just saying. Scores: nines all round for a total of 36, tying Claudia's personal best.

Anastacia and Brendan are next, and in the VT Brendan says it was hard watching her dancing with Gorka last week because he missed being in the show (psst, Brendan, you're supposed to say "I missed dancing with you") but he was really chuffed with the performance that the two of them delivered. Anastacia tells Brendan that she was trying to get the best score she could because she wanted Brendan to come back (ie she didn't want to get eliminated the week he wasn't there), and Brendan says they're going to score even higher this week. With a jive. Good luck with that. Brendan trains Anastacia in various bat-like skills like night vision, supersonic hearing and hanging upside down, and Anastacia delivers her terrible pun of the week ("I hope I'm not going to be winging it on Saturday night") with aplomb. You know, when we finally lose Anastacia from the competition (and I can't imagine that moment is far away), I really will miss her ease with a VT, especially in this year where so many of the contestants can't even muster half a personality.

They're dancing to 'Bat Out Of Hell' and it begins with Brendan zooming up behind Anastacia on a Hoverboard Segway, and to be honest I think we could just end the entire show here because it's not going to get any better than that. There's dry ice everywhere and they're both camping it up royally, but it doesn't quite distract from the lumpen footwork, sadly. Still, I love the idea that Brendan looked in on Judge Rinder and Oksana rehearsing and scoffed "you think that's camp? I'll show you camp!" Oh, and for those of you who like people miming musical instruments on body parts, Anastacia pretends to do the keyboard solo on Brendan's shoulders. I like it a lot, but the jive itself isn't quite good enough or memorable enough for me to love it. It's a 10 for concept, without a shadow of a doubt, but maybe a five or a six for actual content.

Afterwards, Brendan thanks Gorka for filling in for him last week (Gorka can fill in for me any t--[YOU'VE BEEN WARNED ABOUT THIS BEFORE - Ed]) and Darcey says that Anastacia has clearly had a confidence boost after last week, and it was very strong and dynamic. She thinks the choreography was used well, but the technique was a bit lacking in the kick ball changes. Len says it was indeed like a meatloaf - there were tasty bits, but some ingredients that you're not quite sure about. He thought they sold it and they were having fun, but the kicks were a bit lacklustre. Bruno calls it "totally batty, borderline bonkers" and he thought Anastacia went a bit 'Proud Mary' at one point, but it wasn't quite as sharp as a jive should be. Craig finishes and says it was flat-footed and laboured and sluggish, at which point Tess squeals "sluggish?! She had the speed!", and does Tess really think anyone cares about her opinion? He thought Anastacia had a lovely smile, at least.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says that they worked really hard this week, and Brendan says that this routine actually came together very quickly for them. Brendan does his usual tribute to the costume and make-up team, and Anastacia says that her bat-mask was painstakingly put together by hand. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 25. Brendan turns around and shouts "Gorka! What are you doing next week?" Hee.

Over to Danny and Oti next, who are playing a couple getting married on Hallowe'en, and Tess completely falls over her intro, which is funnier than she's ever been when trying to be comic on purpose. In his VT, Danny says he was in two minds about the rumba last week but really enjoyed it on the night, and he couldn't believe the score. Oti says she's very proud of him. This week they have a foxtrot to 'Take Me To Church', a song written out of frustration at the Catholic church's stance on homosexuality. Spooky! Their VT is the obligatory "Oti makes Danny go through some scary shit in order to get to training" set-up, and I can't say that it's something Danny should be including on his acting showreel.

So there's an interesting gimmick at play in their routine: they're joined together at the waists by a length of red elastic, which I imagine is intended to symbolise the two of them being pulled together by supernatural forces. I don't dislike the idea, but I don't think it particularly adds anything to the performance that they couldn't have suggested with their bodies alone, and it probably hampers them more than it aids them in a few places. The routine starts strongly, but just as I was starting to think this was going to be one for the ages Danny starts to go wrong, and once he's gone wrong he struggles to get it back, with one section near the end being particularly ungainly. It's a real shame, because the atmosphere and the intent here are great, but the execution lets it down.

As soon as it's over Danny starts apologising profusely to Oti (nope, too late, it's the iron maiden for you this week Danny Mac) and as they head over to Tess she's all "What's that?! Were you whispering something in her ear then?!" Tess is Gretchen Wieners, isn't she? Len says that he's bewitched, bothered and bewildered: he was bewitched by the performance, bothered by the amount of mistakes, and bewildered by the "elastic appendage", the point of which he didn't quite see. He liked the sway though, and says that everyone makes mistakes and Danny shouldn't get too hung up on this. Bruno says they were going for hauntingly Gothic, operatic high drama, but ended up with a few dramas in the footwork, though the bits he got right were very good. Craig says it's sad because it could have been a 10 because he loved the concept (lol at the concept of Craig giving up his 10 in week six for anyone ever), so it's just a shame it all went wrong. Darcey finishes by saying that this is because Danny really stretches himself, and they made things very difficult for themselves with the elastic and all credit to them for making it work, but he just got off-balance in the end. Still, she liked it even with the mistakes. Tess is all "don't beat yourself up over the mistakes, it's a live show, it happens", and she should know.

Claudia's full of sympathy up in the Clauditorium, and Danny says that he completely lost himself at one point, but at least Oti managed to pull him back into position. I bet she did. He's glad they got through it and got to the end, though. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 30, which is Danny's lowest score so far in the competition, though he concedes it's still pretty good for a low score. [Also: their make-up, like everyone's pretty much, except Pasha's, was great tonight.  Except for one awkward camera angle that made it look like Oti had a big schlong heading towards her mouth... - Rad]

Time for a midway VT detailing what's still to come: Ore trying to master the swivel in the charleston, Laura realising how demanding the show is, Greg feeling much better about the rumba than he did about the cha cha cha, Ed saying that he's started to enjoy the Latin, and Daisy finding the paso doble to be very energetic.

Claudia's midway joke of the week: drinking an "elixir of youth" that she got from Ed Balls the mad scientist, and an old man in a long dark wig returning in her place. Laura and Giovanni are next, and commence with the "I missed you last week", "no I missed you last week" stuff and frankly do a better job of it than Brendan and Anastacia did, and Laura says it was horrible to watch the show at home and not be able to be a part of it. Given that she was in the dance-off in week three though, I think it's a sensation she should try to get used to. Giovanni tells her "it's a new week, it's a new dance, and you're feeling good". They start training for the tango, only for Laura to begin sensing a dark and foreboding presence in the training room. Is it a Georgia stan, out for blood? Apparently it's a hypnotic figure who compels Laura to dance with him, only to eventually be unmasked as...Anton! Well, it would explain a lot, wouldn't it.

They're dancing to 'Paint It Black' [Hooray for an actual appropriate tango song after two series of nonsense - Rad] and they've basically gone for full-on sexual filth wherever possible, and it...mostly works, actually. I wasn't a big fan of it the first time I saw it, and I maintain that Laura's frame is still pretty floppy, but on rewatch I'm starting to understand why people liked it: it's dramatic, it's intense, and this is the first time I've sensed actual chemistry between them on the dancefloor. I'm not sure how much of the vacant expression on Laura's face is Hallowe'en acting and how much of it is just Laura, but I think we can safely give her a pass on this one.

Laura tells Tess that it's great to be back, and she loved that routine. Tess says that Bruno is "Laura's biggest fan" (I'd actually forgotten that he keeps randomly giving her nines for no apparent reason), and Bruno says that they are the sexiest ghouls he's ever seen, and that it was a very sharp and precise routine, and he loved the little tease with the shoulder. Craig says that Laura's left hand was bothering him, but other than that? Uh-may-zing. Darcey loved the attack, the focus and the determination, and she really enjoyed the mix of sharp, snapping heads and "the feminine that you were able to give at the same time". She thinks it was Laura's best dance. Len thinks her footwork could've been more precise, but it was sharp, full of passion and they had great chemistry, and the Darcey is right: it was their best dance, without question.

A slightly shellshocked Laura and Giovanni make their way up to the Clauditorium, and Laura says she thinks the pain she's been through helped her to channel a serious face. She's always wanted to do a tango because she's seen them in the movies. Claudia makes the obligatory reference to Laura being a thoooperfan, and then the scores are in: nines all round for a total of 36. Laura's "wtf" reaction to this is pretty much the same as mine, though I suppose, on a night where the scores have been fairly generous, it's more or less within the overall curve.

Next, we have Ore and Joanne with another Hallowe'en charleston, where they'll be the owners of a grotesque sweetshop, and the sweets they'll be using in the dance will be real. Joanne congratulates Ore on all of his hard work last week that paid off in his waltz, and Ore gushes about getting 36 from the judges. Joanne asks Ore what the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of Hallowe'en is, and Ore is a better person than I because his response is not "you and Scott Mills getting eliminated". This is all a lead-in to establish that Joanne has taken him to a pumpkin farm to get him in the mood. For Hallowe'en, that is. They carve pumpkins, and I'm extremely distracted by Joanne's enormous knitted shawl-poncho thing.

Their music is 'I Want Candy', obviously, and once they get going it becomes clear that Ore hasn't quite mastered the swivel required for the charleston - the whole thing is a bit flyaway in the legs. They chuck marshmallows into the audience, and then there's a bit where Ore's meant to swing Joanne around while she kicks her legs but he doesn't grab her properly and she smacks to the ground rather awkwardly, but she gets up without missing a beat. Sadly it doesn't get much better from there: the side-by-side sections show up just how much the swivel doesn't come naturally to Ore, and his limbs just look very unnatural throughout. I'm so used to the charleston being a breakthrough dance for people who are struggling that it's kind of weird to see it from the other angle and watch one of the frontrunners really coming undone by it. Also these two have got the ugliest costumes of the night by a long way, and I feel bad for them. [One of the rare times where an ITT training narrative was followed through into the main show.  Sadly not in a good way though - RAD]

Craig says that Ore's supporting leg is the problem here, and his right foot never swivels. He thinks they should have spent more time on the swivel in training because that's the first thing you should get right before you do anything else. On the bright side, he thought the placement was good, as was the timing, although he did miss the lift and also screwed up one section. Darcey tells him it wasn't that bad (it was) and he shouldn't listen to Craig. She thought he did get out of sync at one point but he recovered quickly, and she thinks he has a natural spring in his step. Len says there was plenty of tricks in there, and plenty of treats - he was impressed by the intricacy of some of the steps, and while he thought there could've been more actual charleston in it (not much point telling these two that, Len, they won't have had a hand in it; you might just as well criticise them for the editing of the opening titles) but what charleston there was, he thought was terrific. Bruno calls him "a werewolf on a sugar high" and says that the creativity and the effort in there, and it was perfectly in sync until the botched lift, but he thought he recovered well.

They scramble up to the Clauditorium where Ore groans in frustration at it not having quite gone to plan, saying that he's never missed that lift in the whole time they've rehearsed it, and he apologises to Joanne for letting her down. Literally. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 8, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 32. I like Ore a lot, but no way was that nines. [I agree.  Also, I like Anastacia a lot, but no way was that 7s.  And Ed... The scoring is weird tonight - Rad]

Greg and Natalie next, with a rumba where Greg is an Edwardian gentleman meeting the ghost of his long-lost love. In their VT, they talk about how last week's cha cha cha was a bit of a let-down, and Greg says that he's incredibly thankful to have been given another chance to dance. Natalie takes Greg off to a big spooky house to train for his rumba, and Greg says "I can't wait to get inside and see what it's like!" Hmm, suddenly I've come over all faint. Can't imagine why. Natalie asks Greg to "think like a ghost", Greg pretends to have a couple of tricky bowel movements and then someone fades him out in the editing suite, until Natalie decides that Greg's having too much fun with all of this so she's going to turn this car around RIGHT NOW and be the ghost herself instead. Greg's dejected "awwww" is adorable.

They're dancing to 'Bring Me To Life' by Evanescence, which is a frankly ridiculous song choice for a rumba, but there you go. The Ghost Of Natalie gets flown in from the balcony as Edwardian Gentleman Greg (with his shirt unfastened, phwoar) suddenly sees her and rushes towards her and then they do one of the fastest rumbas I've ever seen, with no pose lasting for longer than half a second and both of them throwing themselves around with reckless abandon. It is somehow the gayest dance of the evening, on a night which lest we forget has featured Judge Rinder as a butterfly dancing a paso to 'Born This Way' by Lady Gaga. Greg isn't actually required to do an awful lot of dancing, but he makes a fine partner for Natalie living her best afterlife, he acts his little socks off throughout, and also his arse is looking spectacular again this week. Dance of the night for me, and probably the first dance of this series that I can see myself watching over and over again on YouTube. [It was kind of the spiritual heir to (and about as genre-pure as) Wuthering Heights, and I mean that in a good way.  Also, I was watching the show live for the first time all series so they got my first vote of the year - Rad]

Afterwards, Greg tells Tess that he absolutely loved this dance even though everyone told him he was going to hate the rumba, which just makes what's coming up even more heartbreaking. Darcey says she can see he gained confidence and enjoyed this because it's (wait for it) "a difficult dance for the man" - it was passionate and he produced some very nice, long lines. She would have loved to see more rumba content, but she loved the intensity between them and she loved "how you presented your lady". Fnar. Len says there's no doubting Greg's commitment, and he gives it everything every week. He adds that people have commented in the past on Greg's toes being turned in, and he can see that he's really been working on that because they were turned out for every forward basic, and there's definite improvement there. He thinks it was full of performance, but he would've liked a bit more hip action and technique, but it was great to watch. Bruno loved the Wuthering Heights-ness of it and the way Greg came out of his shell as a performer, but he needs a bit of WD40 on the hips. Craig finishes by saying that Natalie was protecting Greg on this dance with, and I'm going to quote this because I think it's the sort of thing you probably shouldn't say quite so dismissively if you don't want to piss off a sizeable chunk of your viewership, "wild, showstopping positions and lines that are all going to make the audience applaud and everything". He doesn't feel he can judge this dance as a rumba, because it was more of a showdance or a contemporary dance, but it wasn't anything to do with rumba, and had they done this in "showdance week" (YES PLEASE), it would have been a ten. He loved it, but he can't judge it as a rumba. Sidebar: Craig thought there was "definitely enough salsa" in Will's Bollywood-barely-masquerading-as-salsa earlier this year, and two years ago he gave a nine to this barefooted-contempowaft-game-of-musical-statues-nonsense in the guise of a rumba, so to say I find Craig's comments disingenuous is putting it mildly.

Everything seems fine at first as they make their way up to the Clauditorium with Greg telling Natalie just how much he loved that routine, but it appears that Craig has somehow managed to break Natalie Lowe, The World's Most Positive Person and by the time they get to the top of the stairs, she's crying because she thinks she's let Greg down. He gives her a big hug and tells her not to be silly, but Natalie's beating herself up, saying that Greg's worked so hard this week at balancing her and turning her and spinning her and dropping her (this sounds great, where can I sign up?), and he's brilliant and she's so proud of him. Greg's all "stop it, you'll make me cry next and that's Ore's job" and Claudia reassures Natalie that she definitely didn't let Greg down and that it was "much more exciting than a normal rumba, because they're very boring, is it bad that I say that out loud?" Ha! Meanwhile, as moved as I am by Natalie's anguish, it is very apparent during this section that Greg is dressing to the right, shall we say. Greg says that he loved performing that, and he's never done anything like it in his life before. Natalie says that she thought she could be a bit more creative, because it's Hallowe'en week. Well, yes, that is normally how it works but apparently Craig has other ideas this year. Anyway, the scores are in and Claudia suggests they ignore the first one: Craig 4, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 26 - more than last week, but still a disappointing score. Claudia asks everyone to cuddle Natalie, though Judge Rinder launches himself at Greg instead. Then again: you would, wouldn't you?

Our second-to-last couple of the week are Daisy and Aljaž with their Day Of The Dead-themed paso, and since I kicked up such a stink about cultural appropriation for Will's Bollywood salsa, I should probably do the same here. Ready? Boo, cultural appropriation. Right, there we go. Last week, Daisy ended up in the bottom two, which made her realise how much she wants to be here, and she's so grateful to get another bite of the cherry. After some early struggles in training, Daisy's confidence appears to be suffering, and she cries on Aljaž about how scared she was about being in the bottom two last week. She decides to relieve the pressure by going out on a little jolly with him, taking him to meet her little sister Betty for a spot of face-painting. Betty calls Aljaž "mate" which I find uproariously funny for reasons I can't quite pin down, and Daisy says that she feels like herself again now.

They're dancing to the Santa Esmerelda version of 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' and you can sort of see that this is a dance that's been giving Daisy trouble during the week as there's a little bit of hesitancy in her movement, and she isn't quite as assertive in it as perhaps she should be, but it's still a confident performance with some nice lines, and once she gets into it and starts to get over the nerves, I think she really does start to have fun with it.

Daisy's a little reluctant to get up from the floor at the end, and Tess asks her if she's all right once she gets over there, before completely ruining it by saying "I thought you were having a little conversation over there, I don't like missing out". Ever get the impression that there's a WhatsApp group for this show that pointedly doesn't include Tess? Len says he's never seen a female celebrity put the heel turns in the twist-turn before on the show, though he thought it was a bit hit-and-miss - sometimes she'd be full of aggression, other times she'd be loose and lacking authority. But overall he liked it. Bruno thinks there's plenty of life left in her yet, and says that she put so much flamenco into the routine, giving a true flavour of Spain (in a dance that originated in France, as Pasha told us on this week's It Takes Two), and he compliments the hair and make-up team on their excellent work. Craig loved all the detail in the arms and hands, but he'd like a bit more hyperextension. Finally, Darcey says she loves seeing the dramatic, strong Daisy, but she'd like to see a little bit more exaggeration in the body, because you need to make more effort if you're tall. Another one to add to the list of "hard dances for tall people", then?

In the Clauditorium, Daisy giggles about having to be all stern when her natural disposition is so smily. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 33, Daisy's highest score so far.

Finally, we have Ed and Katya, of course. In the VT, Ed laments that the only thing anyone's going to remember about his American smooth last week is because of the botched lift, and says to Katya that they're trying their hardest. I mean I imagine that Katya could probably try a little harder without this giant millstone around her neck, but it is what it is. In their VT, Katya fears that Ed has become a legit mad scientist, and it turns out that Ed has been trying to make a robot Craig to replace the real thing. Would've been better to replace Ed with a robot, to be honest, he'd move more naturally.

They're dancing the cha cha cha to 'Love Potion No.9', and praise be, there's actual hip movement here? It's actually half-decent? Admittedly there's a "by Ed Balls standards" caveat in there, but after the misfires of the last two weeks, it's quite an encouraging sight. It's all a bit skippy, and I could certainly do without the part where Ed rubs his crotch and then his chest, but it's nice to see him get all the way through a routine for the first time in a fortnight and have something to legitimately smile about afterwards.

Bruno declares it "toxic, addictive, horribly fabulous" and says that Ed went for the hip thrusts "like a jackhammer" and he thought it was a triumph. Tess asks Craig if he's going to be reaching for the two paddle again, and Craig says "it won't be a two, darling, that's for sure" and I briefly entertain the prospect of the fabled one paddle getting a re-airing. It seems unlikely, but a boy can dream. Craig thought Ed's bottom was moving spasmodically and convulsively, and he didn't know where it was going to go next, but at least it was moving on time. Darcey is very pleased that Ed is still here, and that she thinks she might be mad, but she loved it. She thought there was a lot of cha cha cha content in there, even if there wasn't a lot of straight legs. Len finishes by saying it wasn't super and it wasn't all that natural (I think Len just realised he's contractually obliged to say that every year and that he hadn't dropped it yet), but it was a lot of fun and Ed's best dance to date. Katya is thrilled to hear this.

Ed and Katya hop up to the Clauditorium, where Ed says that he loved that dance and even if Craig gives him a two again (dude, he just said he wouldn't, stop milking it), that wouldn't change how he feels. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno "it's probably never going to happen again" 8 for a total of 26. Your eyes are not deceiving you: Len and Bruno genuinely did give Ed Balls the same score they gave Danny Mac this week. That's scarier than anything the make-up team could've dreamt up.

The leaderboard, then:

1=. Claudia & AJ - 36
1=. Laura & Giovanni - 36
3. Louise & Kevin - 35
4. Daisy & Aljaz - 33
5=. Judge Rinder & Oksana - 32
5=. Ore & Joanne - 32
7. Danny & Oti - 30
8=. Greg & Natalie - 26
8=. Ed & Katya - 26
10. Anastacia & Brendan - 25

Some interesting things going on there: the first time Ed's not been bottom of a leaderboard that the public has voted on (technically Anastacia was bottom of the leaderboard in week two, but that was combined with week one for the overall score, which pushed Ed below her), plus frontrunners Ore and Danny both on the bottom half of the leaderboard, and Greg in the ignominious position of being tied with Ed Balls. I think there's going to be a lot of scrambling where the fanbases of Ore, Danny and Greg are concerned, so I think any number of people could be in the dance-off this week including Judge Rinder, Daisy again and maybe even Louise, though I would imagine that pretty much any scenario this week is going to result in Anastacia both in the dance-off and going home, apart from the still-fairly-unlikely scenario that she's there against Ed and they decide to judge based on overall potential or something.

Anyway, the results show should be interesting. Join us later to see who gets to send Anastacia home!

Friday, 28 October 2016

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

- Zoe's hair is looking very voluminous this week.
- Lesley can't watch herself back normally because she's too critical, but she made an exception for the charleston.
- Lesley is not above shouting across the studio to Ed that he "can't lift for toffee".
- Lesley wants to go to private dance classes now to "keep the thighs down".
- Lesley thinks she was hired to be the crap older woman, but people don't remember her extensive musical theatre background.  Is this the first time someone's wanted to be called a ringer?
- Zoe has noticed this series' CURSE OF THE TANGO, so this may now become a thing.
- Anton thinks tango stands alone among ballroom dances, because it doesn't 'swing' like the others, which makes it hard to do.
- Before the show, Ed thought the lifts would be good because they were 'safe'.
- The live show warm up guy was wearing a suit covered in bats last week, and it wasn't even Halloween week.
- It's still weird to hear the other cast members call Judge Rinder "Rob".
- Danny has a Hogwarts jumper.
- Tameka got emotional watching Anastacia dance with her man.
- Zoe still thinks Tomzilla's showdance is the best showdance ever.
- Camilla now lives in LA and has a life-coaching business and has lost most of her accent.
- Ian never stops talking about Zoe.
- Camilla thinks the black outfits for Daisy and Aljaž's charleston were a mistake as you couldn't really see their movements.
- Camilla thought for years that she would never be friends with the samba.
- Kevin and Natalie wear the most fake tan of all the pros.
- AJ has unanimously been decreed the most vain of all the pros and has been nicknamed "Mr Selfie".
- Ed only got his top half done in his first ever fake tan, despite Jeremy Vine's advice to, erm, go stark naked.
- Katya's got her voice back.
- Katya definitely didn't think Ed was going to drop her in any way, not at all.
- Ed did the lift "perfectly" the Friday before the live show... and it still looked like Katya nearly broke her neck. Stop this madness now! #savekatya #crashhelmetforkatya
- Ed didn't want to do any Latin before joining the show, but now quite likes it.
- Daisy and Aljaž have started wearing matching outfits, look out Janette...
- Daisy found being in the bottom two made her surprisingly calm.
- Aljaž doesn't like doing charlestons in the dance-off because the side-by-side sections are really exposing, and you can't cover up errors as easily as you can in ballroom or latin.
- Johnny Ball wanted to give Daisy a cuddle on Sunday when she was upset.
- Daisy is a big fan of Jenny Eclair.
- Aljaž thinks the paso is 'a perfect story for a man and a woman'.
- Meat Loaf's music is an excellent stimulant for plant growth.
- The random song choices of this series get ever weirder with the idea you can American Smooth to 'Black Magic' by Little Mix and Paso Doble to 'Born this Way'.
- Lady Gaga wrote 'Born This Way' in 10 minutes. You can kind of tell, tbh.
 Brendan loves playing a baddy and Janette likes playing dress-up.  Colour us shocked.
- Joanne is scared of the dark and people in masks, and as a result she doesn't like Hallowe'en much. (Also it's when Scott Mills got eliminated, which can't help.)
- Four Team GB Olympians will be dancing in the Children in Need special. Their pro partners will be Janette, Karen, Pasha and Neil. Yep, Chloe still hasn't got a celebrity. Seriously, what does Chloe have to do to get a break around here?
- Camilla thinks Ed's lifts in his American smooth before the neck-breaker were really good. We respectfully disagree.
- Gethin used to giggle every time Camilla got too close to him. Bless.
-  Camilla would like to see Judge Rinder’s energy and performance contained.  Good luck with that.
- Despite everything that happened during the cha cha cha, Natalie is still the world's most positive person.
Greg was trying to be positive in rehearsals last week and lying to Natalie that he liked the cha cha cha despite hating every moment.
Natalie thinks Greg will have to do the cha cha again in the future.  Is she anticipating getting to the final and that being judges’ choice?  Not sure how likely either of those things are, but bless her optimism.
- Greg has been submitting some of his own choreography for the rumba. This sounds impressive until you remember that the last person who we were told on It Takes Two was helping out with his own choreography was...Ed Balls.
Zoe thinks the American Smooth moves nicely into the rumba.  Something to do with love stories, which could surely be said of most dances?
Judge Rinder says his jive gave him a ‘twinkly eruption’.  Might want to see the doctor about that.
- Judge Rinder has been suffering for the one-handed cartwheel this week.
- Judge Rinder's paso face still needs some work.
- Oksana knew how much Rinder loved ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ so wanted to make sure he enjoyed the dance.
- Oksana thinks a moth is a male butterfly.
- The paso doble actually originated in France.
- Paso Doble is like dancing through quicksand.
- Brendan has some funky mint-green sneakers, as well as some neon-lime ones and a collection of pastel lilac clothing.
- Ian advocates everyone engaging in a bit of partner-swapping for a week to be invigorated.  Oo-err.
- Anastacia might put some jive into one of her shows. 'Or one kick, anyway.'
- Ian thinks Louise has a 'hip-hop background.'
- Laura sat at home with a friend and a Chinese takeaway watching last week's show - her friend had flown over from Ireland to watch the show live and sacrificed her visit to the show, awww.
- Giovanni might repurpose Laura's jive into her showdance if she makes the final.
- But she has the (curse of the) tango this week, so...
- Oti is definitely not filling Danny's routines with loads of Lenbait choreography, honest.
- Oti uses whatever props she can find to teach Danny how to dance: bananas, chairs, brooms...
- Oti and Danny's dance is 'a corpse wedding that turns dark'
- Despite thinking American Smooth (which is often based on foxtrot) is very similar to rumba, Zoe thinks foxtrot and rumba are very different.
- The Rolling Stones are one of Laura's all-time favourite bands, which explains the name of her dog.
- Ore can't swivel in his right foot.
- Judge Rinder appears to have a fake tan watch mark on his wrist.
- The British public didn't vote for Ian to dress as Zombie Streisand so they're dead to us.
- Ian would like to see Ed 'a little more aware of his body'.
- Ian doesn't really approve of AJ and Claudia doing an American Smooth based on the foxtrot given they did a thing approximating a foxtrot a couple of weeks ago.
- Lisa from Deuce thinks if you do spooky make-up, you don't need a costume for Halloween.  Chloe's face of truth suggests this is not correct.
- Oksana and 'Rob' will have wings in their costumes on Saturday.
- Kevin is still wearing hats.
- Louise's rumba had a habit of going rogue in rehearsals.
- Kevin isn't happy that the judges said they'd plateaued.  Louise remains tight-lipped.
- Kevin wouldn't want to be trapped in a lift with Craig but Louise would be happy to.
- Louise is pleased that the charleston is wearing Kevin out as much as it is her.
- Zoe is under the misapprehension that Claudia and AJ's samba was good.
- When Claudia was standing on the judges’ desk, her main thought was “don’t fart”.
- Claudia prefers to be on early so she can get her dance out of the way and enjoy watching everyone else.
- Bruno loves the speed.  According to AJ (ie don't come for us, lawyers!).
- AJ bought Claudia smellies for her birthday.
- Ore is most terrified before coming down the stairs at the start of the show.
- Claudia has never dressed up for Hallowe’en before.
- Russell Grant and Lisa Snowdon have matching sequinned shoes.
- Lisa Snowdon would prefer not to discuss Snowdance.
- Gorka calls Gethin “the beautiful one”. I SHIP IT.
- Anastacia feels like she has an advantage at Hallowe’en because she’s American.
- Anastacia can’t believe we don’t have candy corn here.
- Zoe has named Anastacia's imaginary dog 'Ruffles'.
- One of Brendan’s favourite dances he’s ever done on Strictly was ‘Time Warp’ with Michelle Williams. Quite right too.
- Craig is very sad that Tameka went out because he loved her personality.
- Craig thinks Halloween helps the celebrities overcome nerves because they don't look like themselves.
- In 2014, Craig liked Frankie Bridge’s green face so much that he suggested she keep it like that.
- Craig can't remember who he gave bad comments to, except for Judy Murray.
- It was Joanne's birthday this week and Ore bought her a Mr Tickle mug because she said that was what he looked like in the jive.
- Ore thinks the charleston is the hardest dance to learn.
- Karen Clifton thinks the best way to get your Hallowe’en party going is to wow your guests with a big entrance. Oh, so it’s that sort of party…
- Lisa Snowdon thinks the rumba is very similar to the cha cha.  
- Lisa Snowdon thinks she only got good at latin at the end of her series.
- Elaine Paige doesn’t want to say who’s going home, Russell Grant thinks Ed Balls in a roundabout way, Lisa Snowdon won’t be drawn.
- Daisy eats cereal in a mug for breakfast on her Elstree Studios days.

- Daisy’s grandma has been telling Aljaž off for doing illegal lifts.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Go Go Go Joseph

Week Five Results: Sunday 23rd October 2016

Last night! The series followed its best show yet with its worst, as mediocrity reigned and only Ore and Danny really emerged with anything like dignity, and if we’re really going to only have a two-horse race from hereon in, it’s going to be a very long stretch. [Possibly in the prison sense. - Steve]

We open with a pro-dance themed around Thoroughly Modern Millie, set in a department store named ‘Goodman’s’ and featuring Janette as the heroine. Joanne is nowhere to be seen (edit: apparently she was there but it must have been a blink-and-miss it thing as I saw it three times and didn't pick that up), which might seem curious, given that she is playing the lead in the UK tour of this musical, but I suppose that might have looked too much like product placement. It’s mostly a lovely routine, with lots of razzle-dazzle and excitement-with more props than might be to some people’s taste, but I think they're deployed well given it's a musical theatre number and that's the kind of thing you'd see on stage. It’s also the annual ‘let’s shift the judges in somewhere and pretend that they still care about anything approaching being dancers’ routine: Len is the grumpy proprietor; Darcey a shopper trying on furs; Bruno being fitted for a suit; Craig having his shoes shone. None of them actually dance, but it’s probably for the best.

Tess and Claudia enter through the store doors: Tess carrying lots of luxury bags, Claudia a 5p carrier bag full of groceries. Daly dress watch: red with some black trim. What Winkleman’s wearing: black. Tess seems to have lost a lot of the robot garb from ‘last night’. Either that or she’s been upgraded to Tessbot 4K, one of those synths from Humans.

Recap of last night during which, as is customary, I will only be recapping the points of new information: Claudia has never dressed for Halloween before; Judge Rinder and Claudia's performances are shown as having an entirely good response despite the latter being a car crash and the former gaining its fair share of criticism. I guess they're saving precious filler time for a Halloween promo VT in a bit.

First set of safety results: Louise and Kevin; Claudia and AJ; Ore and Joanne; Judge Rinder and Oksana. The first couple in the dance-off are Lesley and Anton. I knew they were trying to slow that train down last night but I didn't expect the wheels to come off so soon.

Tess 'aww your little face's Lesley and Lesley says she's disappointed but it's OK.  Len says it was a full-on, proper tango, which had some mistakes and they need to iron those out in the dance-off.

In the Clauditorium with the first set of saved celebrities. Claudia says it's become serious all of a sudden. I'm not surprised - with dance-offs and injuries, it's like the anti-dance equivalent of a serial killer is on the loose with the cast this year. Louise blands that you can never know you're safe; Claudia (W) reveals that Ore is playing a 'grotesque shopkeeper' next week; Judge Rinder does a speech about the glory of teachers, saying Oksana is his teacher and one of his former teachers is in the audience tonight. Claudia (F) is all 'how come they didn't make your ex teachers embarrass you in a VT then, huh'?

Time for our mystery special guest: and arriving in a time capsule from 1999 is LeAnn Rimes. The most notable thing about LeAnn Rimes (other than her singing about 'kissing a boy' at 34 years old, which is probably an arrestable offence and certainly not something she should be bragging about on a prime time BBC light entertainment show, given, well, the history of such shows) is that when I was at university, I knew someone who pretended he was engaged to her, even going to the lengths of setting up a '' type email address for her. See, catfishing was alive and well, even in the 90s. [That is amazing, I want the full story next time I see you please. - Steve] Anyway, the song's a bit drippy, and Oti and Gorka writhe about looking orgasmic throughout, Oti presumably dreaming of the glitterball the whole time and possibly praying that Ore is the next victim of this series' injury curse. [I had a dream that that happened earlier this week. Yes, I am now having Strictly Come Dancing stress dreams. - Steve]

Len's Lens opens with House of Pain 'Jump Around' and some unholy dancing from our favourite foursome. We focus on Judge Rinder's toe heel swivel, featuring no heel and no swivel. Len used to love this step when he was a kid, apparently, and then he disappears into the rabbithole of childhood anecdotes. Retire already! We then have a look at some nice footwork from Anastacia, a reminder that Greg is a GOLD MEDAL OLYMPIAN who has NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE and who turns his feet in so badly it looks like he'll trip over his own shoes. Not that one of your recappers has this issue or anything. [My dad walks exactly like that, but that's what a lifetime in the merchant navy can do to a person. - Steve] Then we look at Ed nearly killing Katya and Bruno salaciously going 'she could have banged her head on the floor' as if Katya probably hasn't enough PTSD from it already.

Final set of results. Safe: Ed and Katya (she looks more relieved about this than him); Danny and Oti; Anastacia (who screams in disbelief, then apologises) and Gorka - meaning the dance-off is going to feature two new couples - and Greg and Natalie, leaving Daisy and Aljaž to dance off.  

I don't know if this can count as a 'shock bottom two' given that Daisy was pretty mid-table, but it does mean that it's unlikely Lesley will survive and very likely that Daisy vs Laura is happening very soon. I do feel a little for Daisy here, as I suspect she'd not have hit the bottom just yet were Laura still here, and whilst I thought the public might keep Anton and Aljaž a little while longer, this week really could have seen anyone but Danny or Ore hitting the dance-off.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia relishes in Greg having hated the cha cha and he said his performance was nowhere near as good as many other people's so he's grateful to stay in. Claudia says Anastacia gave her favourite reaction ever, screaming and then saying sorry. Anastacia says she forgot there was a microphone there and then proceeds to tap it and give Claudia palpitations. Anastacia <3 Claudia tells Danny as it's Halloween, he can put his clothes on, next week. Danny, in the voice of a Victorian orphan being allowed one scrap from a rich man's table, asks 'can I?'

And now the moment we've all been waiting for! A VT promo for next week, in which the pros are all texting each other about it. AJ appears to text Jo that it can't be scarier than her scores last week, which... I think they maybe scripted those texts in the wrong order. Anyway, the crux is that they're playing jokes on their celebs, which mainly means wearing masks, shouting 'boo!' and dropping toy spiders on the floor. These pro dancers really haven't lived, have they?

With the dance-off couples now and Claudia asks if Lesley's excited about dancing again. Lesley says it's kind of nice to be able to try and get it right. Anton says if it was down to him, he'd have put her straight into the final (and missed out choreographing all those salsas and sambas and stuff). Daisy says she really loves Lesley and Aljaž says she did a great job last night and he's looking forward to her doing the same again.

Lesley and Anton's tango has fewer mistakes than the first time, but her shoulder and hand are still sticking out at very awkward angles and it remains quite clunky, with the height mismatch still hindering it somewhat. Still, she laughs exhilaratingly at the end, which is nice. Daisy and Aljaž's charleston seems quite lacking in energy and being in the bottom two seems to have shaken her - it's still mostly well-executed and she's clearly safe, but I still feel quite cold towards it as a dance.

Craig saves Daisy and Aljaž for precision and an improved performance - and finishing on time (I'm not sure what that means - can anyone enlighten me?) [she was behind the beat the first time they did it - Steve]; Darcey says she wouldn't want these two couples but saves Daisy and Aljaž for their dance being cleaner and higher quality. Bruno saves them as well for having the stronger dance in every aspect and Len says he would have agreed.

The two couples have a set of touching hugs and chats and when Lesley comes over to Tess, the audience whoop and give her a standing ovation (as we cut to Daisy in floods of tears). Lesley says she's loved dancing and working with Anton and it's been a lovely time. Anton thanks her for enriching his Strictly experience and pushing him to be more creative and being an absolute joy to work with. From something that seemed an unhappy pairing at the launch show, these two seem to really have clicked and it's been one of my favourite Anton pairings. They jig off to 'Right Back Where We Started From' and it takes forever for the rest of the couples to come on and send them off. Everyone is super tearful about her leaving in the post-show VTs, aww. Next week! Halloween! Louise says she was hoping to get through to Halloween. Sure Louise, you were really worried that wasn't happening. [Also nobody "just wants to get to Hallowe'en", I'm with Rinder on this one. - Steve] Join Steve then to see what fresh horrors await!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Going through the motions (ending up nowhere at all*)

Week 5 Performance Show: Saturday 22 October 2016

Last week! The official Danny vs Ore war kicked off with the former delivering a fantastic quickstep for 36 points and the latter another sacred holy jive for 39. Naga was comedically pushed into even uglier hair and makeup and, despite performing arguably her best routine of the series, forgot everything in the dance-off and left the competition, leaving Anastacia and Brendan to fight injury porn another day.

Cue titles! 

Tess and Claudia welcome us, Claudia wearing a velvety indigo dress, with Tess in black trousers and white top with a metallic silver belt, which would look quite nice were it not for the matching metal choker, overly straightened hair and bright red lipstick, which makes her resemble a robot more than a woman. ["Resemble" - Steve] Claudia is straight in with another serious public announcement – Brendan is ill and Gorka will be taking his place. [I feel very conflicted because obviously I feel bad for Brendan and hope he recovers soon, but on the other hand - yay! Lovely Gorka! - Steve]

The judges enter, Darcey wearing a bright yellow evening gown which I heartily approve of as there aren’t nearly enough of those in this world. But the most mesmerising thing is Bruno’s hair. It’s got these two little devil horn style curls sticking up and you’d think there’s no way that could be deliberate, except that we know that they have a big hair and make-up team on the show. Maybe he was late or something, or put a whoopee cushion on Lisa-from-Deuce's chair? [Maybe someone accidentally picked up the briefing sheet for next week's Hallowe'en special instead? - Steve]

Our couples now: Louise and Kevin; Judge Rinder and Oksana; Lesley and Anton; Claudia and AJ; Ore and Joanne; Daisy and Aljaž; Greg and Natalie; Ed and Katya; Danny and Oti; Anastacia and Gorka.  That… seems too few for this stage in proceedings. And indeed it is, for it’s time for our second very serious update: Laura has injured her ankle and can’t dance with Giovanni tonight and ‘more on that later’ because we have to string out the drama across the whole show. So by my count, that’s (at least) Anastacia, Tameka, Greg, Laura and Brendan who’ve sustained injuries/illnesses, and Katya sounded at death’s door on ITT yesterday. Come the final, it’ll just be Neil and Chloe performing infinite showdances at this rate.

First couple of the evening are Judge Rinder and Oksana.  He’s playing a GI and Tess calls him Oksana’s ‘little soldier’ – I’m not sure if that’s a sex joke, a suggestion Oksana is his mum or some icky combination of both.  Their VT trots out the standard working hard rhetoric where she comes to his ‘court’ (TV studio) where he charges her with filling his brain full of dance and sentences her to ’10 years in the Strictly dungeon’. [I thought that was the name of James and Ola's Ann Summers range? - Steve] Only the worst offenders like Cole and Du Beke have had longer sentences.

They are dancing the jive to ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and he’s wearing a glittery camo top slashed to the shaved-to-the-max midriff with very tight brown trousers and she’s in a khaki sparkly vest with camo hot pants. The Rinder faces are out in full force and he’s very bow legged – much like his cha cha, it’s kind of insane, in that it’s not bad in the lumpen and forgetful way – it’s very energetic and athletic and he seems to be remembering all the moves, but precision, sharpness and technique are not its keywords – and he loses balance a couple of times, although, to his credit, he keeps going. And somehow, possibly the limp wrists and odd ‘ssshhh’ motions he keeps making, it’s the campest one of his dances yet.

Tess lets him catch his breath while we welcome Dave Arch and co, and then asks Len if he was impressed, at which Len snaps back ‘WELL I CAN’T HEAR WHAT YOU SAID SO DON’T EXPECT ME TO ANSWER YOU’. Eventually we learn he was impressed and says Rinder puts the camp into bootcamp and it was like the history of jive – lindy, jitterbug, rock’n’roll, jive… aren’t they all from pretty much the same era? He compliments Rinder’s bum because it’s his final series so he’s going to praise the male posterior as much as he can. Bruno (whose hair also has a horrible flicky up bit at the back now) says his legs were so high he thought it was a can-can, then he expected him to fall on his butt when he twirled but the energy is eminently watchable. Craig says he likes that he dances with ‘tempestuous abandon’ [new drag name - Steve] but it was flat-footed and needed precise, although he loved the one-handed cartwheel and Tess does sub-Bruce ‘what?  Flat-footed?’ reaction comments. They really shouldn’t make her do that, it was bad when Bruce did it as he came off as being snappy and grouchy, whereas Tess just sounds insincere. We don’t need a ‘voice of the viewers against meen judges’, show, we really don’t. [And even if we do, Claudia's much better at it. - Steve] Darcey says it was full of tricks and the kicks were a bit high and wild but she loved it.

In the Clauditorium, Rinder gushes that he remembered the steps and we see his mum in the audience who is super glamorous. Scores: 6, 8, 8, 7 for a total of 29. He says it’s an improvement and Craig probably meant to give him a 7 but couldn’t find it under the table.

Claudia then says we have exciting news.  Could it be more injury porn?  The announcement of who is taking over from Len? No, it’s a really shit ventriloquist act to read the terms and conditions. There’s a reason I don’t watch Britain’s Got Talent, you know. Pack it in, show.

Lesley and Anton now.  Their VT centres on Lesley playing a fortune teller, so Anton pretends to be Clairvoyant and seeing their future: a glitterball, 4 tens, standing ovations from the judges and, most likely (and its first invocation of the series?): BLACKPOOL.

They are tango-ing to ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ and forgive me if I wander down a rabbit hole here, as I’ve just been reading Sofabet’s latest X Factor post, but I am wondering about the presentation of these two tonight and if there’s some subtle deramping going on – a VT that suggests many possible outcomes but the one Lesley is most excited by being BLACKPOOL, coupled with a sense that her journey is likely to end soon (focus on her doing better than expected, improving weekly – but presumably in a few weeks’ time she won’t be seen as up there with the frontrunners) and then this dance, which is a bit odd. There’s red and black theming, with Anton in some weird, comedic checked trousers, moody lighting and Lesley dressed as a comedy character but with a face like thunder. I wonder if they’ve been polling too close to the top and they’re trying to rein them in so they can leave around Blackpool week having had a lovely journey? Anyway, that aside, the dancing isn’t their best – her footwork is OK, but stuttering, and her arm is placed at a really weird angle, which I think is a height mismatch issue, and there’s this really awkward and ungainly lift at the start that’s a total mess. The ending isn’t bad though, with a nice drag lift and a dramatic Lesley flounce while Anton smashes her crystal ball. Oh, and Anton is wearing really weird, ghostly eyeshadow and it’s not even HALLOWEEN week yet.

Over with the judges and Bruno describes her as holding on to Anton for dear life. He says he loves her intensity but a lot of the steps were messed up.  She says ‘a couple of times’. He says it was too skippy and not gliding. Craig says it was too up and down rather than level, with poor shaping, especially her shoulder. Darcey enjoyed the amount of dance content as Anton gave everything and she ‘nearly achieved’ it but didn’t have the correct frame. Len says it was all there – steps, staccato, musicality, but there were some incidents along the way ‘but you’ll get that with Anton’ and both Len and Darcey finish with ‘well done’. See, subtle deramping rather than annihilation.

In the Clauditorium, Lesley says it’s hard to dance both with passion and accuracy. Scores: 5, 6, 7, 6 for a total of 24.

Greg and Natalie now, and the script declares ‘he’s been consistently good so far’ now he’s their gamma male for #yearoftheman following Will leaving. Natalie takes him to the Olympic stadium, which he calls ‘sacred ground’ and she presents him with a random plaque with a piece of track on, which is a little… odd. [I thought it was meant to be part of the track that he won his gold medal on, but a box full of sand would've been funnier. - Steve] [It was, but I was referring more to him being presented with it by Natalie via the medium of a Strictly VT rather than any kind of ceremony, or from anyone 'official'.  Also: did Mo and Jess get them? - Rad]

They’re cha cha cha-ing to ‘We Found Love’ and I really do like these two, but this is lousy. Greg’s elbows are awkwardly jutting out at random angles, he’s clomping around looking confused and gawd luv er, Natalie’s giving it all she can, but it is not good. Ugh, tonight suuuuucks so far.

Tess congratulates Dave Arch for playing dance music. Erm, isn’t it all technically dance music, Tess? If we’re being literal, anyway. Craig says one good thing was that he showed Natalie off, but otherwise it was stiff, pigeon-holed and naturally bow-legged, which makes him an Olympic champion but doesn’t suit this dance and the dance exposed all the things he can’t do. Darcey reminds him he’s ‘accomplished so much’ each week, but every week year a dance you can’t do and this was it. Len reminds us he’s an athlete on a journey who’s never danced before unlike all the other ringers in this show and he thinks Greg doesn’t like the cha cha cha much, and he made a mistake but covered it up (not well enough for it not to be pointed out). Bruno loves that he was framing Natalie, but thought he was too stiff and was over-attacking the dance and stomping, but ‘next time you do it’ (in the dance off?) [maybe in the final! They love a cha cha in the final... - Steve] it’ll be fabulous.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia holds his hand and says it was sweet that he apologised to Natalie at the end. Scores: 4, 6, 7 7 for a 24 that feels overmarked for me. Claudia says everyone was ‘what?’ at the four. That was my reaction to the 7, Claud. Sorry Greg.

Our new bottom two goddess, Anastacia, now, dancing with Gorka (poor Neil) as Brendan is ill. The VT does its bit for building up Gorka, who gets to say more than he did with Tameka and whom Anastacia calls her ‘Prince Charming’, so I’d say the omens are good for him returning next year.
They’re quickstepping to ‘My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)’ and she has a shorter blonde glamorous wig which looks nice, with an apricot dress that looks better than it did on ITT when the pink underskirt was on display without the apricot netting. He’s a dapper gent in a suit. Oh, and she’s walking an imaginary dog – like, not even a toy dog, just a lead. It’s weird, especially as the rest of the dance is super classical (indeed, it’s very American Smooth-esque). The lead ditched, they do some lovely benchography before getting in hold for a gentle quickstep that isn’t as taxing as some of the breakneck ones we saw last week, but it’s lovely in terms of its energy and you can tell she is having the time of her life – and even when she fudges some of the footwork and there’s a huge amount of gapping, she is giving it plenty of performance energy and FACE to compensate.

Tess notes Chicago is her home town and Anastacia says it is and her grandfather is in. Darcey says it was lovely and she was light on her feet, although she could have leaned out a little. Len says getting a new partner is like getting a new pair of shoes (Anastacia: ‘Awesome!’ Anastacia <3) and it was light and frivolous and her best dance. Bruno says a little bit of Spain does wonders for her and she was like ‘a little coquettish swinger’ (are swingers usually coquettish?  Doesn’t seem likely but maybe I’m just stereotyping). He notes that there was a lot of gapping, though, and Craig modifies his usual bus comment with ‘you could fell a tree through it’ – although other than that, he found it light and lovely. [Oh sure, THIS year the judges suddenly care about gapping in quicksteps. Where was this concern in 2013, eh? - Steve]

In the Clauditorium, Claudia calls Gorka a superhero and Anastacia says all the pros are amazing and tells Brendan to get busy so they can go to work next week. She’s not planning on being danced off, then. Scores: 7, 7, 8, 8 for a total of 30 and their highest. Claudia says it places her at the top of the leaderboard, but Anastacia points out it’s the beginning of the show (and close to half-way through!  Hooray for all the injuries!).

Kevin and Louise now, doing a rumba in the most romantic city in the world, which, Tess clarifies, is Paris, not Grimsby. Damn right. Grimsby’s a town, not a city. They then get a free trip to Paris because it’s ‘so important’ for their dance to see real Paris. With that logic, I’m looking forward to all those Halloween VTs set in graveyards, laboratories and the inside of Louise Rainbow’s brain. Louise also says the rumba is the hardest yet, as this series hovers between it being difficult FOR MEN as is traditional, and difficult full stop.

They’re dancing to a very slow version of ‘Always on My Mind’, because Elvis (/Pet Shop Boys) just screams ‘Paris’, with an Eiffel Tower model on stage. Now a rumba with these two was always going to be a hard sell as they’re both a bit cheesy and, unsurprisingly, Louise looks like she’s cringing throughout. It’s very chaste and her hips do not move AT ALL. The tasteful lighting and costumes (understated, grey, nice enough fit) almost cover a range of sins. But only almost, as yet another underwhelming dance underwhelms.

Len says it was a dance in France (wow) and calls her consistently good, but says she’s on a plateau and she needs a boost as others on a plateau (Danny?) are higher. [I love that. "Everyone's plateauing, but some are plateauing higher than others! Best series ever! So much talent!" - Steve] Bruno says it was distinguished, elegant and very chic, but he saw cultural references to An American in Paris, which he liked. Craig said it lacked excitement and danger, that her hips need accentuating more, but at least she got a free trip to Paris and she does have wonderful lyricism. Darcey chucks in a ‘boys are saying’ by saying Louise needs to push things more but then says she’s going in the right direction. So is she plateauing or improving, Darcey? And why am I looking for any kind of consistency in her critiques. 

In the Clauditorium, we give a shout out to Louise’s mother-in-law who’s been doing her bit for injury porn by having a hospital visit this week. Scores: 8, 8, 8, 9 for a-shit-everyone-is-crap-tonight-better-inflate-some-scores-fast 33.

Claudia previews Daisy dancing later to a song about body parts ‘which could be ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’’ – cueing a singalong that only Daisy gets right. I love her, she’s such an awkward teacher’s pet but in an endearing way. [Daisy is easily my favourite contestant personality-wise this year. She's such a dork, in a really great way. - Steve] Tess introduces Ed and Katya by saying he’s playing a hitchhiker and as she raises her thumb, she’s wearing some bizarre triangle hand bracelet thing to only further convince me she’s an android.

Ed and Katya are doing an ‘American Smooth Foxtrot’ and their training video reveals Katya wearing some bizarre black shoes with a white pattern on that looks like spiderwebs. Too early, Katya! They are dancing to ‘(Is This The Way To) Amarillo’, yet another song plucked from the 2016 Big Bumper Book of Inappropriate Foxtrot Choices’. Ed is a ‘hitchhiker’ but his ickle backpack, purple short-sleeved shirt and checked trousers make him look more like a schoolboy. The song doesn’t lend itself to elegant dancing so if he stomps, it’s only the natural footwork this track requires. They do manage a fairly impressive lift, which must really use a lot of Katya’s core strength to keep in the air. Then it falls apart with clumsy arms, Amarillo video dancing and a botched (tricky) lift, where he nearly drops her, then a tiny bit of foxtrot in hold, then he swings her round in a ‘wheee’ style, then it’s over, and then it isn’t, so they do the complex lift again, marginally more successfully.

Bruno says he was terrified Ed was going to drop Katya but he always takes them places, and there were moments of foxtrot where he showed he could do it and then bits that were too random.  Not sure if that’s Ed’s fault, Katya’s, or the show’s, though. Craig calls it the antithesis of smooth and he did four lifts, not three – but the three other than the failed one were good lifts. Darcey says he started well and he does have the strength for the lifts but it was a shame he didn’t recover from the failed lift.  She then tells him to come back ‘next year’ and then realises her mistake and ends up crying laughing. Len does a not-at-all-scripted, ‘the trouble with hitch-hiking is you get a dodgy lift’. He says there was a terrific section but it was a shame that the big moment went pear-shaped. So this week Len isn’t the arbiter of illegal lifts then?

Ed says he loved doing the lift and they invented it this week. He says he was going to dedicate the dance to Tony Christie and Peter Kay but after they did it, maybe not. Scores: 2, 6, 6, 4 for a total of 18. Claudia says he had his first spray tan last week and Ed says if he stays in, he’ll go ‘the full Jeremy Vine’, which is still several steps down from the ‘Kevin last week’ point on the Chigvintsev fake tan scale.

Ore and Joanne now. Last week, blessed jive bla bla bla. I mean, I really enjoyed that jive and I’m already sick of hearing about it. Going from that to a waltz is only likely to be a comedown, so instead, they go to the Team GB and Paralympics GB parade (which is interesting, as wouldn’t Claudia and Greg have actually been on that parade, yet Ore gets the VT? Mmmm-Hmmm. Ramp him like you ramped Ramps, show. Future rival Strictly contestants the Brownlees wish him luck).

Their waltz is to ‘I Will Always Love You’ (Whitney version) and the lighting is completely gorgeous – darkened room with golden specks like candle flames and white follow spots exploding into blue at the key change. It makes it seem very romantic and lovely, along with the nice outfits they’re in (Jo in a white dress with her hair looking amazing, Ore in a white shirt and tight-ish black trousers). There’s also a floor spin that may or may not double as an illegal lift. It looks gorgeous, but it’s hard to tell what is the dancing itself and what is all the stuff they’ve chucked around it. These two do have good chemistry, though, and it isn’t going to harm his frontrunner (joint) chances any.

Tess praises Andrea’s vocals – which were good, given that’s a song the band could have, well, you know. Craig says it worked really well and putting the song into 3/4 time also worked and there was beautiful swing and sway and wonderful storytelling.  Darcey praised how controlled and still it was in places although he needs to watch his right shoulder popping up. Len calls it quiet, calm and sophisticated and says the waltz is a big, flowing dance rather than a small, dainty one. He says his turning lock (I think?) got a bit sticky, but he’s an incredible dancer. Bruno says they look wonderful together and their chemistry and connection is outstanding (well, there’s no Giovanni and Laura this week, so we take our showmances where we can).

Ore says it’s been a difficult week and he’s been really nervous.  It’s a waltz love, calm down.  Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 36.

I have just realised that if Joanne wins this year, she’s more than likely getting a comedy contestant next year, isn’t she?  That’d be a shame, given how much better she’s been the last two weeks after ditching the props. [Unless you're one of those people who believes the Pro-Clifton Bias Conspiracy where ALL THE CLIFTONS GET ALL THE RINGERS ALL THE TIME. You know, like how Karen's only had two partners who could dance worth a damn in her five years on the show, and how Jo's partners for her first two years were Human Millstone Scott Mills and Literally Nobody. - Steve]

Daisy and Aljaž are my lulling-into-thinking-they’re-the-penultimate couple of the night (it’s always Claudia and AJ I forget). Their dance involves darkness so they eat a meal in the dark with horror-film infrared cam on). Louise got to go to Paris, what shizz is this?

So this is an unusual Charleston (to ‘Happy Feet’). We see everything in black but their hands and feet in white gloves. This could be revolutionary, or it could be full-on Dummy Dance in the list of misguided quirks this show chucks at us from time to time. Or it could just be a quick opening gimmick and then business as usual, because I can’t imagine we’ll get through a whole Charleston without the opportunity for gurning. Indeed, it only goes on for a couple of bars – they should maybe have attempted one thing in hold or one tricky move that way for maximum effect, but that might have been a tough ask. Other than that, it’s decent-Charleston-by-numbers. Daisy seems to be enjoying it but it lacks a little something for me – not entirely sure what. I like it (a lot better than AJ and Claudia’s), but I’m not madly wowed. [I like Daisy a lot, but it left me cold too. I think it was that the gimmick didn't particularly wow me, and that the black-and-white costuming that they needed for the gimmick but were then stuck with for the rest of the dance didn't flatter her at all, it just washed her out. - Steve]

Darcey says she loved the silent movie homage and thought it was well danced but she started flagging at the end and needs to tighten her core. Len’s critique is fucking boring. He liked it. Bruno loved it and says it was like Betty Boop coming back to life. Craig loved it other than a slightly late end. What is the world coming to when Darcey gives the most sensible critique?? Scores: four 8s, despite neither Len or Bruno giving them anything to improve on, for a total of 32.

And now our next thrilling instalment of ‘this cast is broken, can we get a refund?’ as Laura and Giovanni already recorded their VT so we can’t let all that komedy footage go to waste. We see them learning Giovanni’s ‘favourite’ dance, the jive and Laura grimacing through pain in her ankle. She says it was the dance she always wanted to learn, but then Ore did a practically perfect one last week and she’s a dance-off contender, so they decided to sit the week out and make people on the internet froth CONSPIRACY!! I assume, anyway. Giovanni, in his best black mourning suit, wishes her well.

Danny and Oti aren’t in the pimp slot which means they must be expecting something good from Claudia and AJ. Or else have felt they had to at least try and pretend the women this year have any chance. Also, Danny has BLOKE!RUMBA so ain’t no-one wanting to close a show out with that. Their VT? Rumba is like tightrope walking, in the same way that it is like a free trip to France.
They are dancing to ‘How Will I Know’, which is not a rumba song, it’s a pop-disco CLASSIC and Sam Smith’s done that balliding of good pop songs shizz that we stopped recapping the X Factor over (well that, and it being so far beyond parody. And each episode being three hours long, fifteen minutes of which was actual content). So, in other words, fuck this noise, however much I like these two. Egads, you’ve actually got me hoping Claudia and AJ will pull something amazing out of the bag, show. And who thinks to themselves every week that they’re really looking forward to Claudia and AJ? (Apart from Claudia’s babysitters and childminders and AJ’s wet nurse and whoever else they can drag out to infantalise them this week. I fully expect their final VTs to involve their pregnant mothers going to an ante-natal class teaching their foetuses the intricacies of the paso doble).

The singer switches the lyrics to ‘if you really love me’ not ‘if he really loves me’ #gaypanic.  Oh, the dancing? Quite nice, as bloke rumbas go, I suppose. Bit over-exaggerated and West-End (RINGER). His hips moved more than Louise’s, at least. [I really liked this one, but Danny's still dead boring, sorry. - Steve]

Len says it was a MASCULINE performance.  RAWR.  He did a step called the sliding doors that Len loved. Bruno says his hips are ready for action and the dance is DIFFICULT FOR MEN and he balanced things but was a little jagged and he’d like to see it again. Tess panics ‘but not in the dance-off!’ Craig says there was a bit too much energy in it and it felt like a ‘jazz dance’ more than a rumba. Darcey ‘agrees with the boys’ (which ones?  They all said different stuff) about his hips.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says Danny didn’t want to shave his chest (which is almost entirely out and has a small amount of hair centrally, to try and appeal both to those who like that and those who do not.  Smart move, wardrobe, although a bit close to sexual harassment) and he says they had an argument about it until they ‘ran out of buttons’. He wishes his nan a happy 82nd birthday. Wow, it’s grandparents’ day up in here. Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 35 and whilst this and Ore’s were good, it feels like they mainly got the scores so the week didn’t seem quite such a comedown from last week (see also: Louise).

Finally! Aww look, it’s ickle baby AJ and Claudia, look at their widdle faces! Pinch their cheeks! [NOT *THOSE* CHEEKS, DON'T GET US IN TROUBLE. - Steve] Claudia is shown struggling and AJ says she needs to loosen up her core and put aside her gymnastics training. That’s it – no comedy VT, no bringing out of cuddly toys and rattles.

Their samba to ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ opens with Claudia atop a flight of Perspex stairs from the judges’ table, and then sees them prancing about next to a huge glitterball. You can finally see why AJ was cast as, him being a Latin dancer, he seems so much more comfortable this week than in previous weeks – he’s quite mesmerising to watch, which I can’t say about his previous dances – but that does mean you’re looking at him rather than Claudia as is often the case with female pros and lacklustre male contestants, so it may or may not be a good distraction technique. It’s super-fast and she is really struggling to keep up with him and her arms are a godawful mess and there’s a really cool gymnastic-style underarm turn thing at the end which is probably the closest they could find to a show-stopping moment among this week’s slim pickings.

Bruno begins by praising the glitterball, always a good sign. He says there was so much stuff in there and ‘the girl’ had to do every step she might expect but he thought she was panicking and going ahead of the music. Craig says it was a bit frenetic and she was like a tornado and the bounce action suffered with the speed, but it was a brilliant endeavour. Darcey thinks she was over-pushed. It does seem like AJ wanted to show off what he could do rather than choreographing for his celebrity. Len says ‘the last couple and the party starts. Great.’ Yeah, that’s how I feel, too. He then says AJ sacrificed technique for speed by giving her too much to do and now I agree with Len and Darcey and feel a bit queasy.

Claudia (F) tells Claudia (W) that AJ makes her feel good about herself when she performs. Scores: 8, 7, 8, 9 for a total of 32 because it was clearly scripted to get 32 and Bruno had to inflate his score to counter Craig? IDK, the scoring tonight feels super perfunctory, like ‘what are the scores we should be seeing in week five?’ perfunctory.

Lacklustre Leaderboard:
1. Ore and Joanne - 36
2. Danny and Oti - 35
3. Louise and Kevin - 33
4=. Daisy and Aljaž - 32
4=. Claudia and AJ - 32
6. Anastacia and Gorka - 30
7. Judge Rinder and Oksana - 29
8=. Lesley and Anton - 24
8=. Greg and Natalie - 24
10. Ed and Katya - 18

With Laura out of the running, bottom two could be almost anyone except Ore and Danny tonight. I’m thinking it could be Anastacia vs Claudia or Greg but, other than the top two, I’d not be hugely surprised at anyone else dancing off. Join me tomorrow to see what happens!

*Bonus points if our readership is comprised as I think it is and you get the reference.