Sunday, 9 October 2016

Box office numbers

Week 3: Top 14 Perform (Movie Week) - 8 October 2016

Voiceover Tess tells us that last week there were successes (Claudia, Lesley, Daisy, Laura, Ed, Greg, Tameka, Judge Rinder and Danny, if the clips shown under this are indicative) and setbacks (Naga, Will - whose presence in this list I find deeply surprising even if I personally didn't think his jive was up to much [I am commenting on Tuesday and now I am wondering about ALL THE REASONS - Rad] - Melvin, and everything surrounding Anastacia). Melvin was eliminated and the show would clearly prefer not to focus on the exact manner in which he was eliminated thank you please.

Now, it's Movie Week! So the stars of our show join Tess and Claudia for a mock film junket where they'll be talking about Strictly Come Dancing: The Movie and pretending to be pretentious arty types when of course we know they're absolutely nothing of the sort in real life, ha ha ha, no seriously don't shake my hand, we'll have to delay the entire production if I get sick, and for the love of god I ordered a pumpkin spice latte not this apple-cinnamon crap! You're fired! You'll never work in Borehamwood again! Where's Meredith? Someone call Meredith! I am out of here!

Titles. I think Daisy casually shoving Aljaž out of the shot is my favourite part of the sequence this year. What's yours? Tell us in the comments! (This is not a transparent plea for comments, I'm genuinely interested to hear.)

We open with a big group number soundtracked by the iconic movie tunes, beginning with 'The Sound Of Music' from, er, The Sound of Music, starring Natalie as Maria Rainer and Anastacia, Lesley and Tameka as the disapproving nuns and Louise, Ore, Claudia and Danny as the Von Trapp children, which is hilarious as a visual in a way I can't properly render in words, sorry. We then segue into the title track from Oklahoma!, featuring Ed and Greg as cowboys and honestly in giving us Cowboy Greg this show has given me everything I could possibly want from this evening and it's only been on for about four minutes. Good work, everyone. Oh, and Laura and Neil take on the roles of Laurey and Curly (I assume, I don't actually know Oklahoma! very well). Then it's on to The King And I starring Brendan in a bald cap as the King of Siam (and if you think this is the most cringeworthy piece of whitewashing we'll see tonight, boy have I got news for you) and Daisy as Anna Leonowens, and after that it's Carousel, which is a film I know even less about than Oklahoma!, but I can tell you that Will, Natalie, Naga and Judge Rinder play, erm, the main characters and then everyone assembles to take a bow. Blimey. Credit where it's due: even taking out of consideration all the choreography and costuming that went into it, that looks like it was a massive logistical exercise and something that took quite a while to film, so very well done to everyone involved on making it look so effortless, and also my commisserations to the studio audience who probably had to sit there with very numb bottoms for half an hour or so before the live show even started. (To those of you who wonder why I don't apply for live show tickets: this is why. I'm sure the atmosphere is lovely but I just couldn't handle the length of time you have to sit with no bathroom breaks or opportunities to stretch your legs.)

The dancers depart, and Tess and Claudia arrive. Tess is mostly in white with black accenting, and Claudia is entirely in black, and they've both gone for off-the-right-shoulder, which looks rather nice. Birds Of A Feather watch: both Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke are here tonight supporting Lesley, although Pauline will of course be nipping out after the show to vote for everyone. Tess tells us to expect action, drama and a little bit of romance, and Claudia points out that they will of course need the critics. Thanks guys! I'm so glad to know that you appreciate what we d--oh, you mean the judges. Fair enough. If Craig does his spins tonight, we don't get to see it because he's off camera the whole time apart from when his name's announced and when the four of them all come together at the end.

Claudia tells us that tonight the couples will be dancing to some of the best-known movie songs of all time (and also to 'A Thousand Years' from Twilight: Breaking Wind Part 1), and here they are: Louise and Kevin as Alex Owens and Nick Hurley, Judge Rinder and Oksana as Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Lesley and Anton as Hannah Brown and Don Hewes, Claudia and AJ as Blousey Brown and Bugsy Malone, Ore and Joanne as Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden, Daisy and Aljaž as Mary Poppins and Bert, Will and Karen as Jamal Malik and Latika (told you), Naga and Pasha as Claire Phelps (I guess?) and Ethan Hunt, Greg and Natalie as Robin of Locksley and Marian Dubois, Tameka and Gorka as Jenny Summers and Axel Foley, Ed and Katya as Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask and Tina Carlyle, Laura and Giovanni as Satine and Christian, Danny and Oti as Alejandro Murrieta and Elena Montero, and finally Anastacia and Brendan as Belladoraklutz Swan and Sparkles Cullen. There's a bit more engagement with the final sting of the music this week with Will and Karen getting their Bollywood wave on, Judge Rinder and Oksana actually doing a dip, and Louise giving us a high kick. Better, but we still want more. Step it up, guys.

No time to mess around (well, no more time to mess around), so it's over to Daisy and Aljaž to start the show with a Mary Poppins quickstep. Daisy says that she was really scared last week because it was an elimination week, but she really enjoyed the dance. She jokingly berates Aljaž for causing trouble last week with the illegal lift (despite acknowledging on It Takes Two during the week that not only was the lift knowingly illegal, but that it was meant to be even liftier and that she'd kind of fucked it up) and Aljaž is all "yup, no more of those". In training, Aljaž gives Daisy an umbrella and does a vague attempt at a Cockney accent, and Daisy tells him that she hopes his choreography is better than his Dick. Van Dyke. Daisy uses her newfound magical powers to tidy up their training room (is she available for domestic cleaning? I could really use the help) and Aljaž does his very best Adorable Surprise face right down the camera. I love Aljaž so much. Daisy says that the quickstep is very fast and complicated, but she's really enjoying it. Aljaž says it will be practically perfect in every way, of course.

They're dancing to 'A Spoonful Of Sugar', and they do a bit of schtick with Mary's bottomless handbag to start the routine off before bouncing into a light, energetic quickstep. The footwork is neat and the body contact is good (much better than Abbey Clancy's was, not that I'm still angry about that or anything) - my only real criticism is that Daisy's smile seems very 'locked in place' and it would be nice to see her just relax and enjoy it more, but I do appreciate that it's week three and there's plenty of time for that to happen. Also there's a bit where they come out of hold and Daisy seems to come to a rather jolting stop which suggests that she maybe needs to relax her arms slightly more, btu it's barely noticeable. Otherwise: yep, a very promising start to the show. And Aljaž is the most adorable Cockney chimney sweep around, but we all knew that, right. Spotted in the audience: Tom Chambers and his wife, who is not so new these days.

Tess thanks Dave Arch and the fabulous singers, and Len says that Daisy pulled a lot of stuff out of that bag, and she pulled out all the stops in that quickstep. He was looking for three things: hold, posture, and movement, and she delivered handsomely on all fronts. Bruno declares it: "supercalifragilisticespiwallidaisy" - bless him, he tried. Craig thought the charleston sections needed to be lighter and more precise, and her left shoulder was raised "by millimetres", but she followed Aljaž's lead brilliantly. Darcey thought it was the neatest footwork she's seen, but she has one tiny correction - Daisy's upper body needs to be a little more taut.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia says that Daisy clearly enjoyed being Mary Poppins, and Daisy totally dorks out over the whole thing. Aljaž says that quickstep is always hard, and to go out first is even harder, so "well done Mary". Hee. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31, one up from last week but still one shy of her personal best. Claudia enlists a Don Lafontaine impersonator to do the terms and conditions, and then asks him to do a romantic voice to explain when the lines will open. Well, I'm moist, don't know about you.

Claudia says that the couples with the lowest combined judges' scores and viewer votes will be in the dance-off, which is as fitting a segue as you can get to our next couple: Anastacia and Brendan, in the death slot, as I expected they would be this week. If you're wondering how the show is handling the whole matter of her being injured and not able to take part in the dance-off last week: still not great, really. They still don't discuss the nature of her injury (and I appreciate it's not really any of our business, but Anastacia herself has discussed it openly so it seems a bit odd to shy away from it now) and the expected 'visit to the doctor who gives her the all-clear to dance' bit takes place out of focus and with no testimony from the actual doctor, which does feel a bit like the show's just trying to briskly move on as fast as possible from the whole sorry situation without really explaining why Anastacia couldn't dance last week. Also, Brendan is not there for any of it, not that he necessarily should be, but I just feel like if the show was especially invested in this pair, he would have been. Imagine this scenario playing out with, say, Louise or Danny - I'd expect Kevin or Oti to go along for the medical all-clear. They're not going out of their way to do her any favours, put it that way. Anastacia thanks the universe for giving her the opportunity to try again, and they get on with their training. Brendan wants to focus on showing off the soft side of Anastacia, so let's see how that goes.

They're dancing the Viennese waltz to 'A Thousand Years' with lots of dry ice and it's very...nice? It's all danced a bit gingerly, which I can understand because the absolute last thing either of them wants or needs is to break Anastacia for a second week in a row, but the whole thing feels a bit wispy and insubstantial, and Anastacia keeps getting her free arm stuck getting in and out of hold. It's lovely to see her doing ballroom, and it's definitely her best dance of the three so far, but there's not a lot here to convince me it's enough to keep her out of the danger zone this week, considering everything working against her (public backlash, worst spot in the running order, song that put Kimberley Walsh in the bottom two last time they used it). Still, Brendan tells her it was beautiful, and Anastacia seems thrilled to have got through it.

Anastacia tells Tess how beautiful ballroom dancing is, and Bruno calls it "very very nice, very simple, very correct", which is pretty much the definition of damning with faint praise, and warns her not to lose balance coming out of the turns. And also gags on a mint while explaining it. Craig says that her shoulders were slightly up in places and she lost balance - he wanted it to be smoother, but he loves how she's come back with "an enormous sense of confidence". Darcey says it had "a beautiful quality" and that people forget how hard the Viennese waltz is, and tells Anastacia that she has a beautiful neck. Len says it was "quiet, understated and had a class about it", and compliments them on the reverse fleckerl - he's glad Anastacia is feeling better and dancing better. So yeah, generally positive comments but nothing terrible enthusiastic, is there?

Brendan ushers Anastacia up the stairs a bit like one might do with a labrador, and Anastacia talks a bit more about how she didn't really realise she was a girl until today. Brendan euphemistically says it's "been a very big week", but they really got involved in the story and the character. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27 - not quite her highest score, but probably the highest score she's been given on purpose, Craig.

Danny and Oti are third, and Tess still seems to be making her mind up on whether it's pronounced "mah-boo-say" or "mah-bew-say", so I shall be interested to follow this development across the series [possibly neither, I mean, it is Tess - Rad]. Danny really enjoyed his dance last week, and being joint-top of the leaderboard. He's very excited to be Zorro this week, so Oti takes him to the armoury of Hampton Court Palace to learn how to fence, which is the sort of thing you can afford to do with your training time when you're a massive ringer, I guess. Of course, Danny turns out to be naturally gifted at fencing too and defeats Oti when they spar together (lol she clearly lets him win), and tells us he's looking forward to dancing the paso and hopes he doesn't "get a zee...oro". No, I'm sorry, fire whoever wrote that joke. And do not give them a reference. It's the kindest way.

They're dancing to 'The Train/El Sombrero Blanco' and it's a very competent paso with some lovely shaping and more fantastic choreography from Oti - I'm so glad she's really getting a chance to show what she's capable of this year. My only real bugbear is that it's not that exciting - I'm used to getting a real thrill from the pasos, especially when the ringers do them, and this one is, despite the obvious skill involved, kind of forgettable. It's not going to be joining Susanna's or Anita's on my YouTube playlist, put it that way. It's not even my favourite Zorro-themed Movie Week paso doble (which is obviously Holly Valance's), which is a bit worrying.

Danny does the obligatory thank you to the people in costume and make-up for all their hard work, and Craig says that the timing, shaping and the lines were all excellent, calling it "a virtuoso performance". Darcey loved the body shaping - "for a guy to get the curves, the tuck". Clearly Darcey needs to watch more RuPaul's Drag Race. She thinks this is amazing for week three. Len calls him "Danny Mac, the gay blade", CALL OFCOM. He also praises Oti for including the coup de pique, which apparently one of Len's favourite steps. Bruno calls him "Danilo Banderas" (oh dear) and thinks it was everything a paso doble should be, particularly with the beautifully interwoven flamenco steps.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia says that she thought Janette's head was going to shoot off her shoulders while they were watching, and expresses her surprise that Craig used the word "excellent" so early in the competition. Danny says that Craig has clearly "got the wrong script", but he doesn't mind at all. Scores: nines all round for a total of 36 - the highest score of the series by a clear four points. Claudia encourages us to vote for Danny and Oti if we don't want him "to get his coati".

Lesley and Anton are next, dancing to 'A Couple Of Swells' from Easter Parade, which means they've been dressed as tramps. Poor Lesley - I assume she signed up for Strictly thinking it would be glamorous, and then they cover her in dirt and black out her front teeth. Lesley was very happy with how her cha cha cha went last week, and how her score went up from the week before - she hopes that this week it will go up again. Lesley is loving the quickstep and wants to nail her posture this week - this leads into a random bit where she talks about Anton needing to improve his flexibility and the two of them going off to do yoga, which Anton does in a suit and with false Bernie Clifton legs. I'm not sure what any of this has to do with quicksteps, tramps or Easter Parade, but there you go.

For the second week in a row, I'm amazed at how good Lesley's footwork is - she's really nimble and makes the quickstep look very easy, which I know it not to be from personal experience. Her frame's improved because I think they've given up on standard ballroom hold and settled for Lesley just grabbing onto Anton's upper arm to account for the height difference. It's a little bit skippy in places, and there is a fair bit of gapping, but it really is a very, very impressive performance all the same, and I'm thrilled to see Lesley giving these young whippersnappers a run for their money. [I loved this! Took me a while but I'm on board the Lesley train now - Rad]

Tess is all "all that comedy! Must have been in your element!" and Lesley's too out of breath to even reply (either that or she's just ignoring Tess as all right-thinking people eventually do). Darcey thinks Lesley should be on the floor after all that and is impressed by her fitness. She thinks it was fabulously cheeky and there was plenty of dance content all the way through, but the technique faltered a bit at times when she was struggling to keep up. Len says that there were lots of references to the film, which he loved, but it was blended with Propah Quickstep Content - he particularly liked the fishtail. Bruno loved the roleplay and the quirky character, but says that she went wrong every time she went into the far corner, weirdly. Craig thought the footwork wasn't always compact enough and it created a bit of gapping, but the energy and the characterisation was brilliant, and he hopes he can dance like that when he's Lesley's age "at 70".

Up they shamble to the Clauditorium, with Lesley repeatedly apologising to Anton for the mistakes. Lesley tells Claudia that she loves the quickstep because you just fly across the floor when you get the steps right, and Anton says that he hasn't had such a good week for as long as he can remember. Poor Katie. Scores Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27, Lesley's highest score yet. She's clearly still upset with herself for the mistakes, but I think the score has gone some way to lifting her spirits.

Following a preview of the next four dances, it's time for a bit of schtick. Claudia has a rummage in Daisy's Mary Poppins bag looking for a lipstick, disappears inside and emerges with a pineapple for Tess. These things get more surreal by the week, don't they? Up next are Will and Karen, with a "Bollywood salsa", and my heart's already sinking at this point, I don't know about yours. Last week Will really enjoyed his jive, but he went wrong in the side-by-side section, which was disappointing, and got a five from Craig as a result - but Karen informs us that "the only way is up from here". In training, Will wears a shiny blue hoodie and maroon harem pants, and dear god can we please just burn everything in his wardrobe and make him start from scratch? Karen tells us that not only does Will need to learn all the technicalities for the salsa (lol no he doesn't, not based on what's coming up) but he also needs to learn the intricacies of Bollywood dancing. Bollywood dancer Arshina Trivedi comes in to teach them how to dance Bollywood style, and Arshina tells them to make sure they extend the gestures right into their fingers. Will hopes he can bring some Bollywood to Borehamwood.

So obviously they're dancing to 'Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)' from Slumdog Millionaire, and I don't know about you guys but I can't wait to get some authentic Bollywood dancing from the guy from Berkshire and the woman from Venezuela to a song popularised by a woman born in Hawaii and raised in Kentucky. So obviously I could go on for several paragraphs about the awkward cultural appropriation here and how it's really not a good idea at all, but let's focus instead on the fact that this is not a salsa. There are a couple of basic salsa steps in there but 95 per cent of this routine is flat-out Bollywood. If you were to score it on the actual salsa content as presented, I don't see how you could go higher than a 2 or a 3 because there just isn't anything in there. I mean, seriously. Abbey Clancy is on the phone, furiously demanding her salsaless salsa back, that's how egregious this is. [I'm wondering if it's sneaking in a new genre for the future... But then I thought that about disco salsa, too - Rad]

Len tells Will that he's a terrific dancer, giving us a great performance level and a good quality of dance, but for him there wasn't enough salsa in there. He loved the dance, it was fun, but he would've liked "just a soupçon more of the salsa", because there were only about six or eight bars of it. Will mentally envisions Annabel fetching the shotgun and curtly informs Len that there were "24 counts of eight of salsa in there", ACTUALLY. Len shoots right back that it's "very nice of you to say that to me, Will, but most of them I didn't recognise" and then gets all now how about you have a nice cup of shut the fuck up HAHA JUST KIDDING not really cross me again and I will end you it's my last series I've got nothing to lose here sunshine. Bruno tries to get things back on track by saying "hooray for Bollywood!" and calling it "a salsa vindaloo", jesus Christ. He thought a lot of aspects of it reminded him of "Matthew Bourne contemporary". So not salsa, then? Craig thought there was definitely enough salsa in there for him, and he adored the mix, thinking it was brave of Will to attempt it. Darcey liked how effortlessly he got Karen into the lifts, and she loved the "interesting mix" of the two styles together.

Up in the Clauditorium, Will's all "NO I LOVE LEN AND I DIDN'T MEAN TO COME ACROSS DISRESPECTFUL, I CAN'T HELP MYSELF, I'M JUST PASSIONATE". Oh, is that it? I thought you were being petulant, myself. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. Will's highest score yet, though I can't bring myself to agree with it.

Next we have Naga and Pasha, with a Mission: Impossible-themed tango. Last week, Naga was pretty gutted by the judges' comments, but Pasha assures her that they were being constructive and she just has to push onwards. Naga's a big Mission: Impossible fan, and enjoying the tango. Unfortunately she gets lumbered with a sub-Jason Donovan VT where the theme tune follows her around everywhere she goes, forcing her to tango down the street and in the supermarket and whatnot, until it turns out it was Pasha with a boombox the whole time, and he would've got away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!

They start suspended above the dancefloor, being lowered to the floor in harnesses to steal a diamond. There's a close-up of the gem itself to give Pasha time to get Naga out of her harness, but by the time we cut back to them he's...still futzing with the belt and Naga's just sort of stood there trying to move her shoulders a bit in time to the music just so they're doing something, and then eventually Pasha frees her and she has to waft a torch around while he gets himself out, and the momentum's already gone before they've even started. I think this dance ought to be a good fit for Naga, and she looks more comfortable here than she has done in any dance so far, but she's far too light on her feet for a tango - it's all quite gentle and skippy where it should be serious and full of attack. She loses her balance in a few places too, but there's a good high kick in there and she just about keeps up with some fairly complex choreography. I think at this point we may have to admit defeat on Naga ever becoming much of a contender, but I'm seeing some improvement. Small improvement, but improvement nonetheless. I just wish she looked more confident out there. Nice Blue Steel straight down the camera from Pasha at the end though.

Tess honks straightaway that it took longer than expected to get out of the harness but they did a great job of catching up. Thanks Tess, I'm sure they're thrilled to have that pointed out right away. Bruno says that she definitely looks the part of the sultry, slinky superspy, but she's inconsistent - sometimes she pulls off a couple of great lines, and then she loses confidence. He thinks the potential is there, but Naga keeps losing focus - he wants her to believe in herself. Craig thought the footwork was sloppy and careless, and there needed to be stronger and more extreme lines, and she's not closing when she's meant to close - but he loved the concept and the drama. That's a bit like your friend in a play asking you what you thought of their acting and you saying how much you liked the sound design, isn't it? Darcey thinks Naga really suits playing a moody spy, but she needs Naga to focus more - she thinks it was a real improvement, though. Len says that he thinks it was Naga's best dance to date, but she needs to be crisper and sharper, and he liked the flexed knees - he thinks Naga's nerves are getting to her, and she's better than she thinks she is.

Claudia asks Naga if Len's right, and Naga says it was a lovely thing for him to say - it's very natural to be nervous and she battles with it, and Pasha dorks that "it's Mission: Possible actually". Heh. Claudia reminds us that Naga is also learning to perform as she's learning to dance, and the scores are in: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 25, which is Naga's highest score yet, and which she seems quite pleased by. I thought she was going to get a lower score than that, but I'm pleased that the judges have faith in her.

Judge Rinder and Oksana are next with a Flintstones-themed charleston. Last week, he relaxed into his routine and really had fun, though he still hasn't managed to impress Craig so Judge Rinder says that he should take Craig to "a happy farm". Is that like the one with loads of space to run around, and loads of animal friends, that my parents said they took our dog to that time I came home from school and she wasn't there any more? In training, Judge Rinder brings a giant picture of Fred Flintstone along with him and sets it up on an easel, and someone does a pretty poor Fred impression to capture the Judge's internal duologue with him. (Unfortunate: Rinder's wondering how to do Fred justice and Fred replies "do me justice?", which could also be mistaken for "do me, Justice!") He says that hearing Fred speak to him will definitely help his dancing, unless he really did spend the whole time having caveman sex fantasies in which case it probably won't.

They have a life-sized Flintstones car which Judge Rinder and Oksana have to carry to the centre of the dancefloor (in a straight line, of course, there's no getting that thing around the corner) and the routine opens with Rinder lifting Oksana into an assisted aerial cartwheel which he only just manages, and all those jokes on It Takes Two about how much it would cost if he dropped Oksana seemed a lot less funny for a second there. It's not too bad - it's energetic and a good outlet for Judge Rinder's faces, but he lacks some of the necessary swivel, and there's also a slight problem when they get to the section where they're meant to dance with a couple of clubs, because one of them fell out when they were carrying the car so Oksana just has to mime instead. There's an impressive forward hand-spring from Rinder as well, which I liked a lot. [And his wig made me think of someone, not sure who? Maybe Jim Carrey in some 'classic' goofy role? - Rad]

There's a quick cut to Anton applauding in the Clauditorium, which I like to think is just there to clarify that Judge Rinder's Fred Flinstone wig is entirely separate from Anton's tramp wig, even if they do look very alike. Tess says that he went from Fred Astaire last week to Fred Flintstone this week, which definitely makes a lot more sense than Bruno's "from Fred Astaire to FRED INSANE" comment last week. Judge Rinder admits that he forgot a few steps, but let's hear what the judges think. Craig says that all those "ghastly, gawping, doll-like facial expressions...actually came into their own" in this dance, though he has a bit of a tight swivel, he missed the timing on the first charleston section, and he misjudged (ha!) the sweep section of one of the lifts, forgetting to step over Oksana's leg - but he loved the energy and the handspring. Darcey thinks he's very cute as a caveman and Rinder's all "oh, Darcey, stop, stop!" She thinks he could do more swivel because he has a slightly flat left foot, but he never fails to provide a fabulous performance. Len says it was a U certificate - he entertained us and made us smile, but he made a few mistakes. That is...not how film classification works in this country, Len, but nice try. He likes Rinder's attitude though, because everyone makes mistakes and it's how you deal with them that matters. Darcey says he wasn't worried about the mistakes, she thinks he's cute. Judge Rinder then sets up the line of the night, turning to Oksana and saying "I'm sorry, Oksana, the Strictly curse." Ha! Bruno says it was like watching "Judge Neanderthal Gone Mental". Does Bruno just have a collection of films that no one else has ever seen or heard of? The timing went extinct at times, but the performance is always good.

Claudia tells Judge Rinder that she didn't see any mistakes, and that Darcey's comments clearly made him a bit giddy. Judge Rinder replies that he doesn't really know what the caveman response to that should be, and grunts down the camera for Darcey's benefit, following it up with a nice Cro-Magnon pout. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 27 - the same as last week, and "odd scoring" as Claudia puts it.

We're halfway there! Whoa-oh, livin' on a etc. Next up are Ore and Joanne, whose film for this week is Singin' In The Rain. Last week, Ore got to open the whole show, which he thought was pretty cool, but he's worried this week because he has to channel Gene Kelly and be effortlessly cool, which Ore doesn't think he's very good at. So Joanne takes him to the Olympic Park to wear sou'westers and practice dancing in the rain - oh my god, have they booked RUTH LORENZO?! Sadly not, Joanne's just found some of those fountains that spurt up from the pavement, which doesn't really count in my book, but I guess you have to fill airtime any way you can.

They're doing an American smooth foxtrot to 'Singin' In The Rain' and I actually really like this routine - there's a minimum amount of faffing and what faff there is does at least make sense within the overall concept of the routine. Ore's posture still needs a slight bit of work because there are moments when he's slightly hunched over, but he's very light on his feet here, and the whole routine really captures the whole classic Hollywood glamour thing, if you ignore the bit of umbrellography that rather unfortunately looks like he's masturbating. Also he still needs to sort his free arm out, but otherwise: lovely stuff.

Darcey says that Ore really captured the sophistication of the dance and took her breath away. She loved Joanne's choreography, but Ore's timing was brilliant on top of that. She tells him that Ore's "physical attributes"(?) are identical to Gene Kelly, and Ore starts to lose it a bit here. Len agrees, and tells Jo the routine was fantastic, and Ore interpreted it fantastically. It's a difficult task to deliver a dance like that which everyone knows, but there were lots of foxtrot references throughout and he was astounded by how good that was. Bruno thinks Gene Kelly would be proud, and they took all the right references but layered their own personalities on top. Craig thought he was leaning over Jo a little bit too much in hold, and he could be up on his toes a little bit more, but he thought the routine was absolutely outstanding.

Ore wipes his eyes again and goes up to join the others on the Clauditorium where Ore says it's been an emotional week because he knows how much Jo loves this song and this style of dance, and he really wanted to make her proud, and then his voice cracks again, and I have to chuckle because he's fake-cried a few times for comic effect already over the course of the series, so it is quite funny to see him actually losing it on live telly and not quite knowing what to do with himself. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Ore's highest score by eight points, and Jo's highest score by ten points. They're both crying now, and then Ore catches Tameka's eye and sees she's getting emotional as well, so Claudia drags her in and Tameka's like "no, no, it's not about me, it's not about me!" and then walks over and pulls Ore and Joanne into a hug with a heavily exaggerated sob, and everyone else just falls into the whole thing. I've seen people criticising Tameka for this, and I can understand why, but I kind of feel like in the moment, someone just turning the whole thing into a giant pisstake was exactly what Ore needed to get himself back together? Your mileage may vary, of course.

While everyone dries their eyes, there's a preview of what's to come from Louise, Laura, Greg, Claudia, Tameka and Ed. Then we return to the ballroom where Tess tells us to watch out for Claudia and AJ's Bugsy Malone-themed routine involving custard pies made with real cream. I think I can just about make out the sound of Aliona screaming "and real custard????" from her yacht in the Bahamas. This leads into a bit where Tess hopes there'll be some spare that she might be able to eat (lol like Tess eats) and Claudia coming into the frame with cream on her nose and cheeks (STEADY), saying that she "asked on behalf of both of us" but there was nothing left, and whining that she's so hungry. Then Claudia breaks, then Tess breaks, then Claudia actually spits cream onto Tess's face, and I'm sure fanfics have been written with far less inspiration.

Getting things back on track, we have Laura and Giovanni. Last week's waltz was very well-received, and Laura's pleased that she's improving so much already. This week they've got a salsa, which Laura points out is "very different to last week" - it's very fast, with lots of lifts, and it hurts. Giovanni is very keen for a spectacular spectacular beginning, so he's going to get Laura to fly in on a swing. Laura is worried about getting up into the air and back down to the ground and unhooking herself from the safety ropes, and probably even more so after watching Naga and Pasha earlier on.

They're dancing to 'Rhythm Of The Night' (no, not the good one, the other one) which the band seem to be playing in the wrong key at the beginning. It's energetic and fun, and it has a hell of a lot more salsa content in it than Will's did, but like so many of Laura's routines, it's just not terribly memorable. There's a fun bit where Giovanni runs up to apparently proposition Bruno, but generally I remember what went wrong with it (a shoulder lift where Laura almost loses her balance, the underarm spins where Laura almost crashes into him) and for all that we're being sold the whole sexxxy showmance angle with these two, I'm still not seeing masses of chemistry between them on the floor, as evidenced in the bit where Giovanni sticks his face into Laura's crotch while she gyrates her hips and both of them look as though they'd prefer to get this over with as soon as possible. [Curse of the wigs, I'm telling you.  I've decided it's going to be a thing.  You watch, come BLACKPOOL week, they'll all be making VTs about it - Rad]

Len says it was a bit on the raunchy side for him, he's not normally a big punter for it, but he thinks Laura is a terrific dancer, and she comes out and goes for it - but even the salsa needs elements of finesse, and he thinks they were great, and Laura will be here for ages. Bruno growls savagely at Laura and tells her that she has va-va-voom coming out of every pore. It was one of the hottest, sexiest salsas he's ever seen, and her energy was fantastic. Craig thought she threw a bit too much of everything into it and lost control, so it didn't look natural at all times, but he loved the series of spins they did. Darcey thinks she was popping isolations in every step, but there were moments that didn't quite work - she needs to get the preparations right for her lifts to make it look smoother, but it was good for week three.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia tells us that Laura has been saying "this feels weird! I miss the waltz!" all week, but that she threw herself at that routine and it was terrific. Laura says it means so much for Len to say how good she was, and Claudia points out that Laura's mum (in the audience) looks very proud. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 9 for a total of 30. Some very interesting scoring going on tonight. Also, that getting one point less than Will's not-salsa is verging on criminal. It's like marking down the kid who turns up to class on time, does the homework and reads the assignment carefully just because the other kid's Dad paid for everyone to go to Chessington World Of Adventures on the school trip.

Next we have Greg and Natalie, with their American smooth. Greg is a bit concerned that almost none of the feedback last week was about his dancing and instead it was about his bottom, but at least it gives him something to work on for this week. They've got the American smooth, which is a dance that Natalie loves and frequently excels at (yes, I know the American smooth was the one where Scott Maslen forgot half the routine and she had to literally grab him by the neck to drag him into position but that wasn't the fault of Natalie or the choreography, was it?) (bloody Maslen), and Greg and Natalie are both excited to have Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as their movie, so Natalie takes Greg off for some archery lessons. Greg does very well, getting nines and tens on his bullseye, so Natalie instructs him to replicate that in the ballroom.

The routine begins with Greg firing the world's slowest flaming arrow to light a torch and then carrying Natalie across the floor. It's hard to tell exactly how well he's got on with the bum-tucking this week because he's wearing a long jerkin that hides it for most of the dance (damn you, Vicky Gill!) but his hold has improved, and his posture has improved, and this is easily the most relaxed he's looked out there. Admittedly this routine is about 65% Force Of Natalie as she hurls herself fearlessly into a load of very impressive lifts, but Greg's dancing has definitely improved, which is lovely to see. (And he looks very handsome as Robin Hood, not that that's here nor there.)

Natalie's tearing up a little bit and tells us how hard Greg has worked this week, and Bruno tells Greg that he's not Prince of Thieves, he's Prince Charming - it was wonderful to watch, and he's very impressed to see Greg leading the dance so confidently. He's very pleasantly surprised at how well Greg is doing. Craig thought it lacked a bit of swing and sway, but that's the only thing that would've given it more style, but the storytelling from both of them was gorgeous, and he really loves this partnership. Darcey loved the beautiful smooth quality to it, and says that she couldn't even see his bottom under all the leather - Natalie interjects here and says he's been working very hard on it, and I'd definitely work very hard on--(THAT'S QUITE ENOUGH - the entire readership). However, Darcey thinks as impressive as the lifts were, they didn't have as much quality as the rest of the dance, and she would've liked to see them with less power. I think I get what she's getting at here - the lifts did overwhelm the rest of the routine a little bit. Anyway, she tells Greg that he ups his game every week. Len loved the chemistry and romance, and it had the perfect balance of in-hold and out-of-hold. And there was no sign of his bum either. WHY IS EVERYONE SAYING THAT LIKE IT'S A GOOD THING? Len calls it a bullseye. Not a "balls-eye", as I originally heard it.

They head triumphantly up to the Clauditorium where Greg says that he enjoyed that so much more than the tango, and Natalie has been very patient with him this week - things weren't going well on Tuesday, but they really turned it around. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32. Greg and Natalie are both thrilled with that - a six point increase on last week and a personal best.

Who's next? It's Claudia and AJ, still riding a wave after their well-received waltz from last week, although Claudia was a bit disappointed to only get a six from Craig. Still, as AJ points out, it's good motivation to impress him this week. Claudia cackles that maybe Craig can give her her first 10. In training, AJ declares that theirs is going to be the best charleston in Strictly history. To get into the Bugsy Malone mood, Claudia hits him in the face with custard pies repeatedly and laughs a lot. Then at the end, AJ is dripping with cream (I SAID STEADY) and gets his revenge by chucking a pie right in Claudia's face, much to her distress.

They're dancing to 'You Give A Little Love' and this style of dance is a good fit for Claudia because it allows her to be bright, agile and show off her gymnastic tricks - a good example coming right at the beginning of the dance where she leaps into an inverted split kick over AJ's shoulder that misses kicking him in the face by mere centimetres, and which has made me scream "JE-HE-HE-HE-SUS CHRIST!" every time I've watched it so far, even when I know it's coming. I really like these two, and this is a great routine, but I can't help noticing that for all the lightning-quick side-by-sides they pull out, any section that isn't full of kicks and swivel tends to hit a serious energy sag. It makes the whole thing feel very uneven. [This left me cold.  I don't know why, as I love me a good Charlestom and I can see how it was technically good and everything, but it just didn't set my heart racing at all - Rad]

It ends with Claudia pieing AJ in the face but good, and splattering the judges in the process. "He told me to hit him hard!" wails Claudia. Craig thinks it was technically brilliant, and Darcey thinks this was made for Claudia. Len thought it was a marvellous combination of clever choreography, slick tricks and slapstick, and Bruno loves that he's getting to see Claudia acting - he thinks she's a double threat.

They head up to the Clauditorium, AJ still wiping whipped cream out of his eyes - in fact, the point where he sees himself on one of the monitor for the first time and realises just how bad he got hit is pretty funny. Chloe very sweetly leans in to brush away the bit that's hanging over AJ's eyebrow and likely to drip in his eye at any moment, and Claudia W gives her a hand. Then Janette rushes in to try and help Claudia clean her hand off, and AJ valiantly offers up his sleeve and says "just wipe it on me". No, I'm sorry - normally that innuendo would be a slam-dunk, but AJ still seems too young for me to be making sex jokes, I just can't. Scores: nines all round for a total of 36. AJ tries to celebrate but nobody will hug him because he's covered in whipped cream. Aww, poor guy.

Tameka "and her partner Gorga Marquez" are next, and Tameka tells us how much fun she had pretending she was in a silent movie with her charleston last week, but waiting for the results was gruelling. Thankfully she survived to fight another day. This week she's got a tango, but she also has a pressing engagement in the form of the Inside Soap Awards, which she ties into the whole thing by calling them "the Oscars of the soap world", which they totally are. [Full disclosure: I work for Inside Soap so may be slightly biased.] Tameka won the Funniest Female award, and Gorka (looking very handsome in his suit) says that it was amazing to walk the red carpet with Tameka. Tameka says she hopes that winning the award will motivate her on Saturday night.

They're dancing to 'The Heat Is On' from Beverly Hills Cop, with Tameka as a police officer apprehending Gorka, who is a criminal in disguise as a cop. Yes, Gorka in a police uniform - it's a lovely image, isn't it? He can smack me with his nightstick any time, etc. As far as the routine goes, it's fine, although it doesn't feel a million miles away from her paso two weeks ago, there's a bit that I'm pretty sure is an illegal lift if Len is still caring about those this week, and Tameka accidentally knocks Gorka's hat off at one point, unless that was a deliberate choreographical homage to Caroline Flack, who knows? It ends with Gorka being apprehended and posing for his mugshot, and then presumably the entire LAPD deciding to let him off because he's so goshdarn cute.

Darcey loved the intent, the attack and the drama, but there were moments where she would've loved it to be more crisp and clipped in the transitions. Also, she needs to fix her top line. Len saw plenty of attack and intent, but her posture was quite poor. Bruno loves Tameka's commitment, and almost thought she was leading at times. Craig thinks her hand positioning was questionable and that was due to Tameka not keeping her elbows up, and she needs to create more of a V-shape (I'm sure Tameka can think of a few good V-shapes to do right now) but she covered the floor aggressively, which he liked.

They take it slowly on the way up to the Clauditorium because Tameka's a bit out of puff, and Tameka says it was a hard week this week, but Claudia reminds her that at least she won an award, and Tameka thanks everyone who voted for her if they're watching. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 28. A tad lower than last week, but still decent. Claudia tells us that Louise will be dancing to "fishdance" later, before putting a finger in her ear and correcting herself: "Flashdance". Another awkward live TV error from Claudia there. Thank goodness we have sharp-eyed journalists like those working the Saturday night shift at Mirror TV online to hold her to account, eh? (Also lol at them changing the headline from "awkward" to "brilliant" and hoping we'll think they were in on the joke. Nice try.)

Our penultimate couple of the night is Ed and Katya, who will doing a samba with a theme of The Mask. Katya tells Ed that he totally owned that floor last week, and Ed says that while it's great to be saved by the public, next time he's aiming not to be bottom of the leaderboard. Ed's a bit worried this week because he doesn't really know what a samba is, so Katya decides to help him get into character by bringing in a mask for him to wear so that he will not be Ed Balls any more. It's looks more like something the Green Lantern would wear than the Mask, but I guess they have to save the props budget for the live shows themselves. Ed does some fairly mortifying Jim Carrey impressions, let's just move on.

They're dancing the samba to 'Cuban Pete' and despite Ed throwing himself into the routine wholeheartedly, bless him, there's not much bounce to it. The whole thing is quite clumsy and yellow is really not Ed's colour (which I guess is why he didn't become a Liberal Democrat), but I can't help but smile at the level of commitment here. I don't mind a comedy contestant if they really are trying to dance to the best of their ability, and so far I think Ed is, so I'm fine with him sticking around for the time being.

The crowd clearly loves it, and Yvette Cooper looks like she can't quite believe what she just witnessed. Ed tells Tess that they were "schhhhhmokin" and...bless him. Len tells Ed that what's great is the anticipation of what's going to happen when he comes out. He also wants to congratulate Katya for not taking the easy option and actually giving Ed full routines to learn with proper content in them, even if he doesn't always manage it. Len thinks Ed isn't the best dancer, but he's the most fun. Bruno thinks "the Green Party" is having a resurgence, and he got a samba blowout rather than a samba bounce - it was "complete lunacy and totally wonderful". Craig "can't quite believe what I've just been witness to" - he thinks someone must have put something in his water. Probably Bruno. It was driven, but devoid of samba bounce, and he likes that Ed threw the technique out the window and sold it on personality. Ed: "I thought my bottafuego was not half bad?", and Len says that his botafogo was lovely, and he started with a volta too. Darcey giggles that it was 100 per cent crazy and fabulous. She thinks he really embodied the character, and she wants him to hold on to that throughout the competition.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia says that she loved watching Yvette Cooper's face throughout, which was a mixture of pride, admiration and the occasional bit of confusion. Claudia asks how Ed's kids are taking it, and he replies that they're quite embarrassed, and then does another Jim Carrey impression. I'm so pleased that he's loosening up after his stilted first couple of weeks, even if his kids probably aren't quite as thrilled. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 24, Ed's highest score yet. More Jim Carrey impressions.

And here we are with our last couple of the night, which is of course Louise and Kevin. Last Saturday's Viennese waltz put them at the joint-top of the leaderboard with Danny and Oti, and this week they've got a Flashdance-themed cha cha cha. Louise admits to doing the routine in her living room when she was about 12 - "some girls like princesses, I just liked a girl who was a welder who could really do some moves". Quite. So Kevin takes Louise to her living room to dance, at which point Louise's kids walk in and are suitably embarrassed. Her oldest kid looks uncannily like a young Arg from The Only Way Is Essex, only thinner. Louise says the routine is really fun, she just needs to forget about all the people watching at home.

They're dancing to 'Flashdance...What A Feeling' and it opens with Louise, alone, doing some of the classic movie choreography. She does look a bit hesitant and self-conscious out there on her own, and for a moment I worry that this might all be heading into Snowdance territory, but then Kevin arrives and we get into very respectable cha cha cha instead. Louise looks like she's having the most fun that she's had on the show so far with this routine, although still only about 50 per cent as much fun as Kevin's having. It's not the best routine of the night, but it's a good end to a good show, I think.

Bruno says it took him back into the eighties and he knew most of the steps, but all of the cha cha cha they put in was very good. He loves Louise's precise foot placement, and it's great for the judges to see what Louise is capable of. Craig loved the rhythm and timing, but there could be more hip action. Darcey thinks this really suited Louise, and she looked much more confident and in control here. Len says that you have to be sharp, crisp and clean in the cha cha cha and show rhythm, and it's a tricky job, but Louise really pulled it off - and in fact, he's had a fantastic night with all of the couples.

They sprint away to the Clauditorium, and Louise says that she forgets her routines all the time, but it's usually fine when she gets out there. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. A little stingy, if you ask me.

So let's check out that leaderboard, then:

1=. Danny & Oti - 36
1=. Claudia & AJ - 36
3. Ore & Joanne - 35
4. Greg & Natalie - 32
5=. Daisy & Aljaž - 31
5=. Will & Karen - 31
5=. Louise & Kevin - 31
8. Laura & Giovanni - 30
9. Tameka & Gorka - 28
10=. Anastacia & Brendan - 27
10=. Lesley & Anton - 27
10=. Judge Rinder & Oksana - 27
13. Naga & Pasha - 25
14. Ed & Katya - 24

The lines are open, and AJ's been cleaned up. After a quick recap of tonight's dances, everyone's on the dancefloor again, and Tess and Claudia remind us that two couples will face the dance-off - for real this time - on Sunday night's show. Also, Alfie Boe and Michael Ball will be there, if that's the sort of thing that you like.



Soph said...

Either Louise failing to do a fist bump or Laura's backdrop being made of weeping angels.
Wonderful job!

Matt Clemson said...

In the intro I'm rather fond of Tameka. Not the bulk of her intro stuff - not the process of her moving her hands to block Gorka - but her complete fixation on the camera right up until the last second where here eyes knowingly flick to him. Beautiful.

phoebephoebo .sydney said...

I'm not sure that you have to agonise too much about "cultural appropriation" of Bollywood dances and films given that many Bollywood films are themselves versions of Hollywood films and a few British novels as well.

phoebephoebo .sydney said...

Brendan balding up to play the King of Siam is perhaps more debateable, but I saw it as copying Yul Brynner more than any real idea we might have of what the original King looked like. But I could more easily accept cries of "cultural appropriation" on that than Will's salsa.

evenlittleragass said...

How did I not find this blog before now?! Thank you for making me look forward to watching Strictly (alongside three under 10s) a bitchin delight again!

Steven said...

phoebe.phoebo - If you think that my problem is with the "cultural appropriation" (hey, nice scare quotes!) of Bollywood films and dances, and indeed of bald people, then sadly you have misunderstood me entirely.

phoebephoebo .sydney said...

I didn’t put cultural appropriation into quotation marks to be snitty about the concept, it was just meant as a direct quote from your text- so apologies if that sounded off. And I like your blog, and always read all the Strictly ones; I’m not usually tone-deaf to such subtleties, but it seems I was here, so I went back and re-read it to try and see where I went wrong- but I still can’t see what your intent was beyond what I’d incorrectly inferred. However- explaining nuanced satire about complex issues can take longer than the original article to explain, so -no worries.

Steven said...

Sorry, I was needlessly snippy to you there - I clearly misread the tone of your comments, so I'm sorry for being rude. My problem was simply the whole "playing at being other races" aspect of it, with Will and Karen decked up in facial jewellery in an attempt to make them look "Indian". And while I wasn't keen on the idea of "Bollywood salsa" in any way, it might not have been so bad if they'd got an experienced Bollywood choreographer in to arrange it, rather than just using one of the existing team as they apparently did. As it was, it just left a bad taste in my mouth. That's it, really. I appreciate not everyone's going to agree with me on that one, but that's how I feel about it.

phoebephoebo .sydney said...

Many thanks for the reply- I wrote my initial comment too briefly to convey tone, so we're quits. :-)
I didn't realise the VT woman wasn't a proper Bollywood choreo'er, which certainly muddies the whole sacrificing the salsa because of the authentic Bollywood argument.
As for the facial jewellery- I've been to Indian weddings where my friends have been enthusiastic for me to join in wearing traditional dress and bindis, but I can see that maybe some other guests might have felt ambivalent about that. Either way- and at the risk of getting splinters up my arse from sitting on the fence- I can see both sides, but I personally feel it's not always done with a glib lack of awareness.

Julia Delbel said...

Been following this show since last year because of Gleb and now because of Oksana and am enjoying this series so far. Loving this blog too! Haha. And very glad Daisy didn't mess up too badly...guess the Mary Poppins curse only applies in our version (US, though I'm actually Canadian).

I'll try to give a better comment this week but cheers!