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 yet...in 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!