Sunday, 24 September 2017

Me and Debbie McGee

Week 1: Top 15 Perform - 23 September 2017

Are you sitting comfortably? No, seriously: are you? Because we have a behemoth of a show to get through now that they've canned the whole idea of a soft Friday night launch - we have 15 couples waiting to dance, a group number about to happen, and a whole lot of judging that boosts the show's running time up to a buttock-bruising 2h20m. I'm going to do my best to recap it in as much detail as possible, but I may have to be slightly more succinct than usual because (a) I already have RSI-related issues and I don't want to aggravate them [Hey, get Dragon and we can confuse the world together with random voice typos! - Rad] and (b) I don't want to still be sitting here recapping this episode on Remembrance Sunday.

So: at the launch show 15 celebs got ready to begin their Strictly Journey, and because this year's schedule is a little different, they only had two weeks to get ready for opening night. We see a montage of our contestants in their day jobs slowly becoming "Strictlified" - Rev Richard Coles dusting glitter off a Bible, Jonnie Peacock sprinting right into the training room, and so on. We also see them suffering the rigours of training (one example of which is Joe McFadden pouring water all over himself, and let's just say if they wanted to make that a regular segment on It Takes Two this year I wouldn't exactly be opposed to it) and getting fitted for their costumes (one example of which is Davood Ghadami standing there shirtless and flexing his guns and let's just say that if they wanted to make that a regular segment on It Takes Two etc etc). Tonight, they take to the ballroom floor for the first time - so let's get on with it!

All-new titles! Which I completely forgot to pay attention to when I watched this last night, but the points of interest are: Simon Rimmer being one of those people who can dance so little at the beginning of the process that he barely moves, Susan Calman's segment continuing her theme of "I love Kevin so much that he's going to move into my house and I will love him and squish him and I will call him George", Oti just dancing right across the front of Jonnie like she's the celeb of the partnership, Debbie McGee sitting on Giovanni's lap (yes, give me dat showmance), Dianne stroking Rev. Richard Coles' head in a faintly unsettling manner, Mollie King looking slightly uncomfortable at doing a leg-pop thing with AJ, Gemma Atkinson getting the (coveted?) end slot, and Neil and Chloe getting the "yes, we're still here" bit right before the glitterball appears [They just reused last year's footage as well, didn't they?  Poor the Chloe and the Neil - Rad].

We open with a pro routine to 'You Got The Love' (Florence + The Machine version, because there is no god). It begins with Oti in a billowing white dress, snoozing on her sofa but then rising into the air presumably through The Transformative Power Of Dahnce, and while airborne she finds a similarly ethereal-looking Giovanni, who takes her hand and they float above...New York, I think, for some reason? I dunno, it's a lot of skyscrapers assembled in a grid fashion so I'm going with New York. They then get lowered into the ballroom where all of the other pros are wearing maroon suits (men) and floaty pink dresses (women). This is normally the point where I might slow-mo my way through to look at who's partnering who and whether there is anything Interesting and Political we may be able to infer from it, but let me remind you: 2h20m. We do not have time for that tonight. Perhaps in a week or two. Anyway, just in case you were thinking the colour scheme is unfair singling Oti and Giovanni out like that, halfway through the men take off all their jackets to reveal white shirts underneath like Giovanni's, and the women do some clever tearaway thing with their dresses to make them white like Oti's. Bafta for Vicky Gill already, I think? That was quick. Glitter explodes across the floor, people think about throwing their hands up in the air but know that they can count on you, and then it ends.

Through the power of television, the ballroom empties and Tess and Claudia arrive. Tess is wearing a purplish floor length very sequinny dress [I LOVED this.  Reminds me of some of my favourite nail polishes - polish-geek Rad], and Claudia's in a black romper suit with white trims around the pockets and across the top. A decent effort from wardrobe so far, let's hope this is the herald of things to come. They remind us that the couples have had two weeks of intensive training to get ready for tonight, and then introduce the judges: Darcey, Bruno, Craig and extra special new head judge Shirley Ballas. Sadly that amazing section from the launch show where Shirley did an entire cha cha cha all by herself has now been axed, and now she just trots on flinging her skirt about a bit. That's a shame, that was the best bit of the launch episode. Ah well, time constraints, I suppose. Or perhaps they just worried she was making everyone else look bad.

So shall we meet our Strictly stars then? Here they are: TV presenter Ruth Langsford (sporting some nifty hair extensions) and her partner Anton Du Beke, EastEnders star Davood Ghadami and his partner Nadiya Bychkova, pop star Mollie King and her partner AJ Pritchard, "star of stage and screen" Brian Conley and his partner Amy Dowden, actress Chizzy Akudolu and her partner Pasha Kovalev, presenter of Sunday Brunch Simon Rimmer [I don't even like Simon much and feel sorry for him that he doesn't get to be a chef - Rad] and his partner Karen Clifton, entertainer and radio broadcaster Debbie McGee and her partner Giovanni Pernice, singer Aston Merrygold and his partner Janette Manrara, actress and radio presenter Gemma Atkinson and her partner Aljaž Skorjanec, vicar and broadcaster the Reverend Richard Coles and his partner Dianne Buswell, presenter and newsreader Charlotte Hawkins and her partner Brendan Cole, from Holby City Joe McFadden and his partner Katya Jones, comedian and presenter Susan Calman and her partner Kevin Clifton, Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock and his partner Oti Mabuse, and finally singer and theatre star Alexandra Burke and her partner Gorka Márquez. Phew. And if you want to know who's really throwing themselves into the shimmy at the end of all this, let's just say that Debbie McGee is setting the benchmark that everyone else needs to live up to.

Tess reminds us that one of these people will be our champion come December, and Claudia reminds us that there is no public vote this week but the judges will still be scoring, and those will count towards next week's leaderboard positions. Tasked with the honour of starting the whole series off are Gemma and Aljaž. Fun fact: for a while there was a trend of the first couple to dance on the opening night always making the final, and indeed that was true for series one to six (plus series 12 and 13). However, other celebrities who have opened a series include Rav Wilding, Fern Britton and Laura Whitmore, so don't necessarily take this as a sign to put a bet on Gemma Atkinson running away with the whole thing. But it might be. Who knows?

As it's opening week, the good news is that we'll largely [but not largely enough - Rad has had a long week] be spared the comedy VTs in favour of launch night flashbacks and studies of how well those first few weeks of training went. Gemma says that she was thrilled to get Aljaž and she really wants to learn and graft but she also wants to enjoy it and everyone has said to her that she'll enjoy it with Aljaž. Especially Janette, who said this with a theatrical wink as she left the hotel room door ajar and went to set up the video camera. Possibly. Aljaž says he loves Gemma's determination. They start training, and Gemma is very excited to have the cha cha cha, because that's a feeling that people experience in week one. It's when they get excited about the cha cha cha in week seven that you need to start worrying about them. Gemma says that she needs to channel her inner sexy, confident woman for this dance, so she's going to bring out her J-Lo: "Gemma from the block in Bury". Because Gemma is down-to-earth and northern, just in case anyone had forgotten this. Aljaž says that it's important to get the hang of the technique early on, but right now Gemma's struggling to match the technique with the speed of the music so he's just going to drill it into her. The technique, I mean. Aljaž goes to see Gemma presenting her breakfast show on Key 103, where he gets grilled by her co-presenters but remains adorable and puppyish at all times. They do a little preview for everyone at the radio station, because if there's one thing that works brilliantly on the radio, it's dance.

Showtime! They're dancing to a song I don't recognise, which is apparently 'There's Nothing Holding Me Back' by Shawn Mendes, the world's most generic-looking popstar. The good news: Aljaž is wearing Those White Trousers already, so anyone who watches this show specifically for the butts already knows they haven't wasted their time. Gemma's a little bit jerky to start off with, which I think is probably some sort of nerves/adrenaline combo that's making it hard for her to let it all flow, but once she gets into hold she seems more confident and the movements get a lot smoother. My main problem with this is that I think she's focusing so intently on remembering the routine that she's not really remembering to perform it, but again, that's a mindset I can understand when it's opening night so I'm not going to judge her too harshly for it. (Yes, I am getting soft in my old age, thank you for noticing.) Gemma's jubilant when it's all over, and Janette whoops from the Clauditorium.

Apparently all the Len-isms have been allocated to Tess in his absence because she tells Gemma that there was nothing holding her back. She asks Gemma how it was to go first, and Gemma says it was nerve-wracking but she's pleased that she can just chill now it's over. Tess introduces the fabulous singers (Hayley, Lance, Andrea and Tommy, they're all still here) and head judge Shirley opens for the judges, telling Gemma that she brought her cheeky cha cha cha and that her rotations were good, but she'd like Gemma to work on standing on a straight leg for the rotations because that will ricochet into the rest of her body and improve her confidence. Blimey, constructive criticism from the head judge. What a time to be alive! Bruno tells Gemma she was like an "Amazonian catwalk queen", but warns her to be careful with her foot placement, because if she gets it right she'll extend her legs properly. Craig tells her that it was blocky and square and she needs to work on her free arm, and it was all a little bit on the heavy side. Darcey finishes by congratulating her for being first on and breaking the ice (love to be congratulated for something I had literally no control over), and she thinks it was cheeky and flirty and she produced the goods.

Gemma gets a hero's welcome in the Clauditorium, and she tells Claudia that she really enjoyed it, despite the nerves. There's not much time for chit chat tonight, so the scores are already in: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 6 for a total of 20. I'm quite surprised by how low that is, but also pleased that the judges are actually scoring like it's week one for once. 20 feels low due to score inflation, but surely that's the sort of score you should be getting for a first dance? Anyway, Aljaž says that he was expecting 1s, which I'm sure Gemma is thrilled about. Claudia congratulates her on being top of the leaderboard.

Brian and Amy are next, and they will be doing the "tango-tango" [that's just a reference to Brian's tan, surely? - Rad], according to Tess. Tess says that Brian has been entertaining the nation for four decades (your mileage may vary on this) while Brian frets about being the oldest man in the competition this year. New pro Amy introduces herself as the current British Latin champion, and says that she's going to have to make sure that Brian stops talking and focuses on the dancing. I'm all in favour of that. Brian turns up to training in an "Eat Sleep Strictly" t-shirt, and Amy explains that the tango will be difficult for him because it's a serious dance. Unfortunately they decide to solve this by going for "laughter yoga", I'm not going to dignify that by recapping it. Sorry. Take it up with my line manager.

They're dancing to 'Temptation' by Heaven 17, and the theme of the dance is Amy as a magic shoe retailer who sells Brian a pair of magic dancing shoes. IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS IMMORTAL SOUL. Or something. To be honest, she might have done better to sell him a magic jacket because, and I can say this as someone who has now had 23 full hours of improvers' level ballroom and latin lessons (none of them tango, admittedly, but shhh), his topline is a state. Brian's tango face is of the "squashed hamster" variety and I think he's using it as a cover for trying very hard to remember where he's meant to go. It's a little bit soft for a tango - Brian hasn't really got that snap and staccato style of movement down, but Amy is vamping the hell out of it so I'm hoping she'll at least cover the cracks until he's up to scratch.

Tess tells Brian that his "facial choreography" was on point. Tess, don't. Bruno loved "the intensity, the drama, the tragedy...almost" and tells Brian to send the shoes back to the cobbler because he needs to glide through the tango steps like a prowling panther. Craig thought Brian's posture was poor and he didn't create the V-shape needed for this dance, and he didn't believe Brian was really driving the dance. Plus, Brian exhibited Craig's pet hate: the splayed hand on the back. Darcey says that the intent was there and the timing was very good, but "the boys are right" (hopefully we'll get less of this now that there are fewer boys), Brian needs to soften those knees and stalk it. Shirley loved his character and thought the five-step was impressive and he was great in promenade, and it was good that he attempted a contra check. Note "attempted". Anyway, Brian's happy enough and gives Shirley the prop rose that he was carrying.

Up in the Clauditorium, Brian gives all the credit to Amy and says that he's so chuffed because that's the first time they've actually got it right. Claudia to Amy: "you look, honestly, twelve-and-a-half, the biggest smile, so strict, in the training, but in a lovely way". Take a breath, Claud. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 4, Shirley 4 "with plenty of room for growth, though", Bruno 5 for a total of 16. Claudia announces the Brian has the cha cha cha next week, and then makes a gag about Brendan's plums.

Next we have Alexandra and Gorka, with a romantic waltz. Alexandra says that the Strictly experience so far has been a lot of emotions in one go: she's excited but scared but also really happy to be here. Based on what I remember from her days on The X Factor, this seems like fairly standard practice for Alexandra. Thinking back to the launch show, she says "as soon as I found out I had Gorka, I literally flung all of my body weight onto him". And who wouldn't? Gorka is similarly happy because Alexandra is "full of energy [...] very much similar to myself". It is quickly established that Alexandra is a ball of energy in training, so Gorka attempts to ban her from drinking coffee [Gorka, hun, that's not the coffee, it's all Alexandra - Rad],   Alexandra says that the song she's dancing to is one that her mum always made her sing and she's feeling quite emotional about it (and I'm impressed by the restraint of the show that they're not highlighting the fact that Alexandra's mum died recently and trying to turn this into a big tribute to her dead mum or anything). Gorka says that he's proud of Alexandra because she has turned out an elegant and sophisticated waltz, although Alexandra is still drinking lots of coffee, lolz. Aww, they're letting Gorka talk this year! I don't know whether that's because his English is better than it was this time last year (although that does appear to be true), or whether it's just that Alexandra lets him get a word in more often than Tameka ever did.

They're dancing to '(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman' and there's a lot of wafting a silk scarf around, but there's a lovely, elegant waltz underneath it all. Alexandra's a very delicate, careful dancer but she sells a routine brilliantly. Her technique seems very strong, and the chemistry between her and Gorka is sizzling already. And for those of you wondering: yes, Gorka's arse is absolutely every bit as magical as it was last year.

Alexandra gets a little bit emotional at the end and Tess calls her "honey" (or "hunny", probably) about six times. Craig tells her that she needs a longer neckline in hold and her shoulders sometimes raise up, and she also lost body contact on occasion, but there are some positives coming up - her arms are so expressive and she has such a great feel for the music which made it lovely to watch. Darcey loved Alexandra's musicality and her breathing through the music, and she's really excited to see what else Alexandra can bring. Shirley says that Alexandra is a "true feeler" - she could see the dance meant something to her, and Shirley got caught up in the emotion of it all. She thinks Alexandra is going to be a frontrunner based on this, so she suggests that Alexandra works on her base technique (and actually gives a specific example of how to do a chassé properly and where Alexandra was going slightly wrong with it - god, Shirley is brilliant and long may she reign) [agreed... on the personality and critiques anyway.  Some of the scoring tonight is a bit... unusual - Rad] to improve her ballroom in future. Bruno says that she makes him feel so good, and strokes Shirley's boobs as a result. Steady, Bruno. He thinks Alexandra has a natural artistry that puts her in touch with the feeling of the song. He wants her to stay being an artist, because that's what counts.

Claudia diplomatically says that Alexandra has "had a hard time" and asks if she's okay, which Alexandra says she is. Alexandra gets a bit teary and says that her brother and her auntie are here. (As much as I think it's wise not to dwell too heavily on the recent death of Alexandra's mum, I can't help thinking that all of this must read incredibly strangely for any audience members who don't actually know it happened.) Gorka tells her she was amazing, and Claudia reminds her that Shirley said she was a frontrunner, even though she's only seen three people dance. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Shirley 6, Bruno 7 for a total of 24. Claudia tells Alexandra that she's top of the leaderboard, and Alexandra giggles. She thanks Gorka and tells him that she's very grateful.

Simon and Karen are next. Simon says that his recipe for success is that he's going to work hard and enjoy every single minute of it. He adds that he "genuinely can't dance", and that he's not above bringing food in as a bribe if necessary. Karen says that she expects Simon to be on his game. They're doing a paso doble, which Simon is pleased about because it's a "strong, masculine dance", none of this airy-fairy nonsense, no sirree. Simon invites Karen along to his restaurant, at which point it turns into a mini episode of Celebrity MasterChef where he plonks her in the kitchen and puts her to work. Actually I wouldn't be surprised to see Karen on that show next year, I really missed them having a Strictly pro on there this year - by which I mean I missed Natalie trying to murder John Torode with chilli and Gleb just standing there spending five hours making a Russian biscuit while Cherry Healey has to single-handedly make meat and veggie mains for 80 people.

They're dancing to 'Song 2' and it begins with Simon standing on a box, apparently building up to him making a superhuman leap in time with the first 'woo-hoo'...except he does a little bunny-hop to the ground instead [the only bit I liked was Karen pretending to ham it up whilst not being able to disguise the 'I'm so sorry you have to watch this' in her eyes - Rad] have to say, the fact that this dance is already not meeting my fairly low expectations is quite worrying. There are elements with some promise - Simon handles the promenading sections fairly well - but also elements that are deeply troubling, like the point where Simon doesn't have anything to do other than stand there and clap and he can't even do that in time with the music. It's a little bit soft and skippy, and it's hard to ignore the fact that there's not masses of actual dance content (compared to "walking around with a serious face on" content), but again, for a first week dance, it's a decent enough performance [I thought it was a hot fried mess but giving a new-to-dancing celeb a paso in week one was unfair - Rad]. It'll be interesting to see how Simon fares when he's given a dance where he has to focus on technique rather than performance, though.

Simon's very out of breath at the end and says that he's had a very busy week but Karen's been amazing. Darcey starts with "um, well, um" which isn't the best of starts - she liked that it was powerful, but the power isn't injected properly into Simon's body. She wants him to shape the dance more. Shirley says he came across with determination - the paso is a marching dance and he definitely looks better in closed hold, but he needs to rrrrrrotate his body more. Yeah, she rolls her Rs. I love it. Bruno thinks it looked like he was having a tantrum and stomping around like he was crushing cockroaches - it's all very rough and it needs to be refined. Bruno: "You have to bring artistry to it, not just whack it in the face and hope for the best." Karen: "But that's the way I like it." Well, that's all we have time for on this week's episode of At Home With The Cliftons, join us next week when Karen handcuffs Kevin to the oven door wearing nothing but a thong and then nips upstairs to put on her sexy nurse's uniform just as Joanne pops round to borrow some cat food WITH HILARIOUS CONSEQUENCES. Craig says there was a lot of just standing there and mean stomping with no Spanish lines or anything, so it did lack a lot of shaping.

Everyone's singing 'Song 2' as Simon runs up to the Clauditorium, and Claudia asks Simon if it's true that his daughter Flo has gone to university and ditched her surname in case he embarrasses her. I love the idea of a university student being all "no, just call me by my first name", but not as much as I love the idea of a human being having the name Flo Rimmer. Claudia makes everyone wave to Flo. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 17. Simon says he agrees with the judges, and that he felt like "a stomping Lego man" out there. He's got the waltz next week.

Who's next? Charlotte and Brendan, that's who. They'll be giving us our first foxtrot of the series, so Tess asks Shirley what she's looking for from one of those. The answer is beautiful gliding, some nice rolling in the feet and a beautiful frame. Also for it not to be deathly boring, oh no wait, maybe that was just me. In her VT, Charlotte says she's nervous about the whole Strictly experience but thinks that Brendan is a safe pair of hands. Brendan is pleased because she's tall, beautiful and elegant - everything he wanted in a partner. (Wow, no wonder he didn't get on with Bloody Lulu.) Charlotte's thrilled to get going with some proper training, and invites Brendan down to Good Morning Britain. I'm afraid I will not be reporting any of what happens there due to Piers Morgan-related contamination. Sorry, but I just can't risk exposing myself to that. Anyway, Charlotte reckons the foxtrot should be easy after those early mornings.

They're dancing to 'The Best Is Yet To Come', which is always a good message to send out there in the opening week. I remember Charlotte being fairly noteworthy for looking rather lost and awkward in the big opening group dance two weeks ago, so I'm pleased to report that intensive one-to-one training clearly agrees with her because she looks much more comfortable now and this is actually a very credible foxtrot for a newbie. She's got some good sultriness going on and there's a lightness of touch to the whole thing that works very well. Her topline needs strengthening a little bit, but she's very elegant in hold and in the side-by-side section as well. I'm not quite sure about the end pose where Brendan just sort of dumps her on the judges' desk, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this routine and it'd be fun to have Charlotte as a valid dark horse candidate. [Agreed.  I was pleasantly surprised by her - Rad]

Strictly alumni and fellow Morgan-wranglers Susanna Reid and Kate Garraway clap appreciatively in the audience, and Tess asks Shirley if she got what she was looking for. Shirley says that she got some elements that she was looking for: nice footwork, "a beautiful attempt at a heel turn". Bruno thought it was classic and elegant and traditional, but warns Charlotte to be careful about losing her frame. Craig doesn't think they were dancing together as one unit yet, but he thinks Charlotte has great potential. Darcey finishes by saying that Charlotte needs to use her lovely long back.

Brendan squeals "we did it!" as they race up to the Clauditorium, and Claudia says that Charlotte was shaking when she saw her yesterday. Charlotte says that you just have to lose yourself in that world and forget that everyone else is there. Brendan says that he "could not be prouder of this girl". ATTENTION, ATTENTION EVERYONE WE HAVE A 'THIS GIRL' SIGHTING. Brendan's picking out his outfit for the final already. Charlotte thanks Brendan for being amazing, and we get a quick shot of Charlotte's husband in the audience. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 5, Shirley 6 "nice attention to detail", Bruno 6 for a total of 22.

There's a reminder that we still have ten - 10! - couples left to dance, and I sob quietly into my armpit. After that, it's Claudia joke time! She's thrilled because the new celebrities have clubbed together and bought her "a gorgeous picture of an old lady". The punchline of course is that it's actually a mirror, but I'm sure I can't be the only person hoping she was going to turn it around and reveal it as a picture of Tess, can I?

Back to the dancing now, with Chizzy and Pasha. Tess tells us that Chizzy will be playing the role of a heart surgeon in this dance, and that she'll need to keep her own heart under control. I know, I have that problem around Pasha all the time. Pasha chuckles that Chizzy is "such a flirt", and says that it's great that she wants to show her personality, but at the same time she needs to get her technique right. Chizzy brags that she can do the splits, but she can't necessarily get up from them afterwards. Training begins, and Pasha pronounces her name "Cheesy", which I quite enjoy. Chizzy finds that Strictly acting is broader than the sort of acting she's used to, and if she's managed to pick that up from Pasha of all people, she's doing quite well. Pasha says that she's very detail-focused and picks up the steps quickly. Chizzy reports that her body aches a lot, but she's really enjoying it all.

Back to the dancefloor, and Chizzy is monitoring Pasha through an x-ray machine, and as my lovely husband pointed out (oh yeah, I got married since we last did all of this, did I mention that), that would make her a radiographer, not a heart surgeon. Ah well. Dr/Surgeon/Radiographer/Phlebotomist/Anaesthetist (delete as applicable) Chizzy diagnoses Pasha with boogie fever and prescribes a cha cha cha to cure it. Ah, so she subscribes to the 'treat like with like' philosophy of medicine. Interesting. Anyway, Chizzy brings us premium disco latin delivered with personality to spare, but the basic technique underneath it all also looks fairly decent. I just hope Pasha doesn't go to the comedy well too often, because... well, we all know what happens when Pasha does comedy.

Tess asks Bruno for a dance diagnosis, and I for one am disappointed that the diagnosis is not murder. Bruno says that he could get addicted to "fizzy Chizzy", although to be honest I thought he'd been snorting that for decades now. He thinks her timing was good and she can really move and sell a routine, though there is refinement needed. Craig thought it was all disco and very little cha cha cha, and she did mis-time one section, but he thinks she has a great sense of rhythm (drink!) and a real sense for the music. Darcey calls her "one sassy lady" (I think that's Darcey for "black") - she thought there were some balance and timing issues, but she loved watching her. Shirley: "Let's get busy with Lizzie! Chizzy!" Oh dear. To be fair, all this tells me is that Shirley is no Len, and that can only be a good thing. (Either that or it tells us that Shirley still thinks that it's 1989 and she's on TV-am.) Chizzy, god love her, takes it in good spirit and says that she'll change her name, even going so far as to check that's okay with her mum, who's sitting on the other side of the studio. Shirley attempts to claw it all back by applauding Chizzy for her great rhythm and rotation, and for coping well when she got her heel caught in her dress - she just wants her to get from foot to foot a little more cleanly. Chizzy segues into a pre-prepared bit where she says that she told Pasha on the first day of training not to fall in love with her, and every day he just looks at her like that and she doesn't get it. Pasha gamely plays along, and I wonder if Chizzy's plan is to teach Pasha comedy while he teaches her how to dance. (I kind of hope not, because Pasha's total tin-ear for comedy is one of the things I love the most about him.)

Claudia tells Chizzy that those were brilliant judges' comments - the ones that got her name right, anyway. Claudia flags up that Bruno said he loved watching her, and Chizzy fires right back "I loved watching me too". Pasha says that Chizzy is a perfectionist and has brought perfection in the hip action. He starts shaking his hips to demonstrate and I'm going to need a minute if that's all right with everyone.

Okay, we're back. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Shirley 6 ("Loving Chizzy! Whose name I definitely know!"), Bruno 6 for a total of 21. Claudia asks Chizzy if she's happy with that, and Chizzy says yes before remembering that she had a gag planned for this bit and saying no, because it's not 40. Chizzy then sends her love to John Michie from everyone at the extended Holby family, which is very sweet and thoughtful of her.

Jonnie and Oti are next, and Jonnie's very aware that he's got a lot to learn on this show, and self-effacingly says that he only has to "run fast" in his day job. Oti is honoured to be partnered with Strictly's first Paralympian, and Jonnie says that she has no idea what she's let herself in for because he's a bit of a wind-up merchant. Oh, Jonnie. Oti will have absolutely no truck with that, let me assure you. Oti makes a whip-cracking noise to back me up on that, and the editor plays 'Work Bitch' over the top of it. I am more than okay with that becoming Oti's official theme music. Jonnie has a waltz for the first week, and he says he's just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. The first day is draining, but that's nothing compared to what's in store: Oti brings in a ballet bar for him to dance with so he can learn to hold his own frame. Jonnie says that he's really excited to be here and he just hopes all the hard work pays off.

They're dancing to 'When I Need You', and despite a bit of frippery at the beginning, Oti has very sensibly focused on making this a fairly straightforward waltz so that Jonnie can get the hang of the basics before she starts throwing tricks at him. It's a little hesitant and Jonnie's posture is slightly [/very - Rad] hunched, but they have a certain sparkle together and I'm looking forward to seeing what he's capable of when he gets a bit more confident.

Tess asks Jonnie if that's the slowest he's ever moved in a competition, and Jonnie says that it is: adrenaline usually makes him faster, but that's not particularly helpful in a waltz. Tess asks Craig if he's in for the long run, and Craig says that he needs to work on his posture and his hand-shaping, but it was a brilliant job. Darcey thinks that his timing and control are excellent, and he's a very attentive and caring partner - but she wants him to work on developing a character in the dance. Shirley thought it was very endearing, and she thought he did particularly well in driving the continuous pivots on his heel, saying she's going to give him an extra mark for that. I don't mean to keep going on about this, but Shirley's feedback is so good - it's so nuanced and specific, but still makes total sense to the layperson. She reminds him to keep his partner off to his right side a little more to improve with the overall shaping. Tess points out that Jonnie's mum is crying and Jonnie's all "yeah, I'm not surprised". Heh. Bruno says he was "totally charmed by the Peacock" - he thought he was very caring with his partner, a bit like a child with his mum. Can't believe we've just had an actual on-air endorsement for incest dance but they still won't give us same-sex partnerships, smh. Bruno echoes Darcey's suggestion of how taking on a character will help Jonnie to really sell the dance, although I'm not sure that the idea of being "a rabbit, just jumping around" is going to help. Unless he's doing Watership Down for Movie Week, perhaps.

Up in the Clauditorium, Jonnie says that he's a little bit disappointed in himself because he knows he could have done better, and Claudia wants to talk about Oti's training methods but Oti doesn't want to give us too much of a glimpse behind the curtain lest it ruin the magic [I just assumed it'd be too dark/violent/sweary for before the watershed - Rad]. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 6 for a total of 20. Jonnie has the jive next week, and he's really excited for that.

Joe and Katya are next, and Joe's got his shirt unbuttoned and his chest hair peeking out, so I'm already completely on board here. Joe says that he hopes his actings will help him here because he can play a character in each dance - he's never had to be himself in front of a camera before, so that's the part that unsettles him. Katya says that Joe is like Prince Charming, and whenever he smiles, he just makes everyone happy. Joe's got the jive to start with, and Joe's like "the jive? Isn't that the one that Ore did? That he basically won the whole show with?" That's...certainly one interpretation, yes. Not pictured: the St Jay Army screaming and dying from apoplexy now that Jay's jive is no longer the one being discussed in hushed, awed terms. Training begins, but not for long as instead Joe takes Katya to the set of Holby City and puts her in some scrubs just so the editors can play Aqua's 'Doctor Jones' over their rehearsal footage. Their jive is set in a car wash, so Katya then makes Joe jive while washing one of the Holby ambulances because reasons.

They're jiving to 'Rockin' Robin', sung in a hideously off-key fashion (frankly if I were judging I'd have given Joe eight points just for not diving under the car for cover the second he heard that first note). There are several things worthy of note here: 1) Joe looks great in tight jeans, 2) Joe is very nimble on the dance floor, and 3) Joe is absolutely cute as a button. Do not underestimate him, that's all I'm saying. I'm still not entirely convinced by the jive as a week one dance because I think it's something the celebs need a few more weeks of practice under their belt before they attempt it to get the best results, but despite the slightly rough edges, this is a very, very impressive start from Joe.

Katya's thrilled with how it went, and plants a big kiss on Joe's cheek that leaves a red lipstick mark there that goes unnoticed by Joe throughout this whole section. Hee. Darcey loved the attack and the energy. She loved the detail and the choreography, but advises Joe to get on the balls of his feet and get those retractions a bit sharper. Shirley's next and politely corrects Darcey that actually the standing foot needs to be on a flat foot, because if your weight is too far forward then you'll lose your balance. Honestly, Shirley politely but firmly calling Darcey out for not knowing what she's talking about nourishes me in a way that I cannot even put into words. Shirley goes on to say that Joe did extremely well, and dropped his weight in the twos and fours, which I'm sure is true, whatever that means. Bruno tells Joe that he rocked the house, and brought a lovely polish to the performance. [Insert misjudged joke from Arlene about Ola Jordan here.] Craig offers three words: "" That was...surreal, but yay to Craig for learning a new human emotion, I guess?

Up in the Clauditorium, Katya finally wipes the lipstick off Joe's face, and Claudia asks Joe if he really felt as sick as he looked when Katya told him he had the jive first. Joe says that it's really hard, and Ore did it so well last year, but he thinks Katya got a good jive out of him in the end. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Shirley 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. The scoring is an absolute shambles, by the way: everyone screams loudly at Craig's score, and Darcey is so distracted that she misses her cue, so Alan Dedicoat has to say her name again, which throws Shirley off her rhythm so she holds her paddle up and shouts her score before Alan says her name. Basically Darcey sucks and is over because Shirley ended her, thanks bye. (I think maybe this was a teensy bit overmarked, but I like Joe so I'm not mad about it. Also lol at Katya getting a higher score in week one this year, when the overall grading curve is lower, than she got at any point last year with Ed fucking Balls and his allegedly amazing journey to totally being able to dance and not actually just being slight variations on the ability he displayed in the opening weekend, honest.) [But he DONE A LIFT Steven - Rad] Claudia says that she doesn't think Craig has ever given out a seven in week one. And since Shirley has opened up a brave new world where we can call people out for chatting shit: Louise, Danny, Anastacia and Will each got an eight from Craig in week one last year.

We're now over halfway through, and also somebody just got a massive score, so let's have a little look at that midway leaderboard:

1. Joe & Katya - 29
2. Alexandra & Gorka - 24
3. Charlotte & Brendan - 22
4. Chizzy & Pasha - 21
5=. Gemma & Aljaž - 20
5=. Jonnie & Oti - 20
7. Simon & Karen - 17
8. Brian & Amy - 16

Up next, Susan and Kevin, and judging from the state of Kevin's upper lip, he appears to have finally reached puberty - there's a pencil moustache, or something vaguely approximating it, hovering there and it's very upsetting. Her VT reminds us that Susan is/was/shall ever be obsessed with Kevin, and they're doing the Viennese waltz to 'Mad About The Boy' first, hopefully as an act of massive trolling to everyone who had a go at her on Twitter for not pushing to dance with a woman. They take a break from rehearsals so that Susan can take Kevin on a road trip around Glasgow, singing along to Franz Ferdinand on the radio and practising the Viennese waltz at various landmarks. Honestly, if this is what the BBC has got planned to replace Peter Kay's Car Share, it works for me. [I thought this was a really cute VT and look forward to Kevin showing Susan our hometown delights of Freeman Street, Fish'n'Chik, the Nunny and where my mum and dad live in due course - Rad]

Basically the routine leans into all of Susan's most Annie Wilkes-like tendencies, as she sits with a giant box of popcorn agog as Kevin the Movie Star emerges from her favourite movie and invites her to dance. It's played comedically, of course, but there is room for some proper Viennese waltzing in there too, and Susan's quite impressively light on her feet. The footwork and the overall detail looks good for this stage of the competition, and Susan is clearly having the time of her life.

Shirley says that she loved the cheeky character, and that Susan's fleckerl was pretty impressive, but she needs to work on her posture and closing her feet properly. Bruno says that it was weird, but wonderful. Craig, on the other hand, thought it was a little bit skippy and the pivot turns were "jackhammerish", and that her leg at the end "sprung up like a mushroom", so the general consensus is that she needs to work on the overall elegance, but it was a good effort. Darcey loved the storytelling of the dance, but she needs to try not to show her excitement in the upper body. Well, better than showing it in the lower body, eh Anton?

Claudia tells Susan that the audience and the judges loved it, and Susan's like "yes, well, sort of" and remarks that her mother would've said the same things about her posture, so Craig was right. Kevin says he's having the time of his life - he's enjoyed being up in Glasgow with Susan, her lovely wife and their five cats. Every single mention of Susan's lovely wife delights me, I'm so happy that this is something we can just casually reference nowadays without it being any kind of big deal. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Susan is very happy with that.

Up next, the one we've all (ie me) been waiting for: Debbie and Giovanni. Debbie says that she felt like a Bond girl on the red carpet launch, because it was so glamorous. Giovanni says that he's going to work Debbie really hard, and Debbie says that she might be his naughtiest pupil. Showmance! Showmance! Showmance! They're starting with the paso doble, and Debbie's loving it so far. Debbie asks Giovanni if he believes in magic, and Giovanni says that he doesn't believe in it. They disappear in a cloud of smoke and appear on stage, and Giovanni's all "oh, that was just a camera trick" and Debbie's all "yes, for the purposes of Strictly, we had to get here quickly". I'm quite alarmed by the VTs becoming self-aware. Giovanni chains Debbie up in a harness (STEADY) and pulls a curtain around her, after which Debbie emerges to pull the curtain back and reveal Giovanni chained up instead, begging to be let out. The best part of all of this: throughout, Giovanni pronounces "Debbie" like Wise Elder Vex from Yonderland.

They're dancing to 'Be Italian' and the entire thing is absolute filth. Debbie uses all of her (cough ringer cough) ballet experience to do some amazing split kicks, she swishes her skirt in between her splayed legs, and plants a giant smacker on Giovanni right at the end. She's a little bit unsteady on her feet once or twice but I honestly couldn't care less because these two are giving me absolutely everything I wanted from this partnership and more besides. I've never really rated Giovanni that much up to this point, but I have a feeling this might be the year that changes my mind. All filth, all the time, please. [It was AMAZING. - Rad]

Darcey and Shirley give them a standing ovation, and quite right too. Over to Bruno, who calls it "testy [sic], hot and spicy" and goes on an extended food metaphor comparing it to an arrabiata sauce, clarifying that it's definitely not a bolognese because bolognese is not hot enough. He thought there was a lot of very good detail, and compliments Debbie for being in good shape. Craig says that whatever Giovanni's done to her, it's clearly working (FNAR) because she's dancing like a 20-year-old. Darcey says that to see a celeb have more choreography in a paso doble where the lady does more than the man is quite impressive, but I can't focus on any of this because for some reason Darcey says "paso doble" in a broad Barnsley accent. Was she...going for Italian? I'm genuinely not sure. Shirley agrees that there was a lot of choreography in there, but she was impressed to see Debbie nailing it all.

They scoot up to the Clauditorium and Giovanni is ecstatic. Claudia's all "who knew?!" and I think the answer to that is "anybody who's heard of Debbie McGee's Ballet Imaginaire, probably". (Sidebar: I kind of need Debbie to get a nasty headcold at some point just so I can make a "Debbie McGee's malade imaginaire" joke.) Debbie pretends that she didn't rehearse the kiss so Giovanni was completely surprised by it and...yeah, not buying that, sorry Debs. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Shirley 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 30. Giovanni scoops her up into the air. Claudia gives them permission to kiss again and Giovanni mimes it in the hammiest way possible. I love this pairing already.

Five couples still to go. Dear god, my hands. [I'm gonna have to load up on the lemon and honey for getting myself through next week with any hope of being able to go to work after doing this, aren't I? - Rad]

Tess joins Susanna and Kate in the audience, who dutifully say that it's been an amazing show and Charlotte was brilliant. From there, it's on to Davood and Nadiya. In his VT, Davood says that he's found glitter in all sorts of places since starting on the show - he had a bath the other day and it was just floating around in the water with him, and he has no idea where it came from. Nice try Davood, but I once heard of a Strictly contestant (whose identity I shall protect for the sake of their own modesty) who found glitter in the toilet bowl after they went for a wee, so you've still got some way to go to beat that. Nadiya tells us that she is two-times world champion, and the European champion, though she doesn't say at what, specifically. Embroidery, perhaps? She adds that she is strict as a teacher, but fun. Davood says that in training, he worries that he'll forget it if he doesn't enjoy it, so he's just going to smile his way through it. Davood takes Nadiya for a tour of the East End, even though it would probably be a lot easier to take her to the EastEnders set just over the road from the Strictly studios. They go to the market, then for some pie and mash and jellied eels, and then on to a music hall. Steady on, guys, that's like four weeks' worth of East End stereotype VTs. Pace yourselves.

They're dancing to 'Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)', on top of an Amazon Echo Dot for some reason. Maybe this is a trial to see if it's cheaper just to say "Alexa, play me a cha cha" rather than to hire Dave Arch for a whole series. Davood absolutely throws himself into it, which is a good start, and I appreciate that he's game enough to wear a see-through mesh shirt for his very first routine. I think he's maybe a little bit too excitable and needs to rein it in a little bit to finesse his extensions, but there's clear evidence of some natural skill there which bodes well.

Tess: "I don't get out much, and I enjoyed that a lot." I can't say I'm particularly surprised by either of those revelations. Craig says that he was charmed and slightly bewildered by the heat. It smouldered, but Davood has "a desperate lack of hip action". Darcey thought it was outstanding, and liked how Davood "directed" the dance from the very beginning and led Nadiya through it. Shirley agrees with Darcey on Davood's partnering skills, saying that any woman would feel safe in his arms. And quite a few men, let's be real. Shirley was impressed with his forward locks, but there were some postural issues occasionally. Over to Bruno, who calls them "the Hank and the sex bomp". I think that's 'hunk' and 'sex bomb', for those who don't speak Bruno. He thought it was steaming hot, and he was really impressed by Davood's confidence as a leading man.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia says she's impressed by how quickly Davood's thrown himself into the whole thing considering how nervous he was on launch night. Claudia asks if Nadiya was as strict as she threatened to be, and Davood says "hard-on, myself". Wait, sorry, that should be "I was hard on myself." I really must get my ears syringed. We see Davood's wife in the audience, and he says that was a bit awkward. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Shirley 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Davood is very happy with that.

Speaking of people's real-life partners, Tess is in the audience next to Eamonn Holmes, who is saying "beautiful dress" right in her ear, I really hope he's talking about his wife. Tess reminds us that Ruth joked about making Eamonn jealous, and Eamonn says that the only one of the seven deadly sins she'll make him is proud. Aww. Tonight Ruth will be doing a waltz, and Tess advises Eamonn to look away now. Possibly good advice for everyone, let's see. Tess's VO intro for Ruth says that she "might be an expert on the sofa in the mornings" (that's quite enough of that, thank you), but let's see if she can rise to the occasion on a Saturday evening. Ruth says that the experience so far has surpassed all of her expectations, and she feels like a princess. She tells us that she was really hoping for Anton, which I guess is a thing that some people genuinely experience, but I find it hard to get my head around. Ruth says that Anton and Eamonn have a lot in common because they're both very funny, but she hopes Anton is more punctual than her husband is. Anton explains that the key to a waltz is the flow, and the rise and fall, and Ruth reveals that she has "looking issues" - she keeps looking at her feet or at Anton, instead of off to the left like she's supposed to. She really wants to get it right on the night, obviously.

They're dancing to 'This Nearly Was Mine' from South Pacific, and unfortunately Ruth's quite skippy and stumbly, which makes her frame collapse in turn. It's a real shame - I think it's nerves rather than a lack of skill because there are some quite nice sections, but the gapping starts to take hold after a while and I think she's aware of the errors, and knowing that she's messed up just makes her even more nervous.

Still, Tess applauds her for not looking down at all, and Ruth says it was the most nerve-wracking thing she's ever done. Tess asks Eamonn for his opinion, because god forbid this experience should be about Ruth and Ruth herself, and Eamonn says that he is very proud. Darcey says that Ruth gave off an air of "young romance", even with the nerves and the hiccups. She suggests Ruth imagine someone holding on to your shoulderblades, pulling them back. I don't know, I think that would make me more tense. Shirley says she loves the way Ruth made her feel - she had a lot of mistakes and she kept going off-time, but she was very graceful. Shirley then demonstrates on Darcey how to do the hold properly, and it's about time we had some female homoeroticism on the panel. Bruno calls her "a picture of loveliness and wholesome goodness", but her feet had a mind of their own. He tells her not to hang on to Anton for dear life and allow her frame to stretch back. Craig says "it really was the stumble-and-grab dance" for him, and he hopes she'll do better next week.

They survive the run up to the Clauditorium, where Ruth reiterates that in 30 years of live television it was the most terrifying thing she has ever done. Anton says he thought she was brilliant, and she didn't go wrong, "she just went a little different" and he quite likes that. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 4, Shirley 4, Bruno 5 for a total of 16. They've got the charleston next week. "We're amazing at that," deadpans Anton. "We got confused, we thought it was charleston first so we perfected that, but it was waltz." Claudia absolutely loses it at this, and so does Oti behind her.

Next we have the Reverend Richard Coles and his partner Dianne Buswell. Richard says that in his mind he's Justin Timberlake, but when he watches it back, he sees David Brent. Dianne tells us that she is an Australian open champion, and she thinks she and Richard are the perfect couple. They've got the cha cha cha first, and Richard says that he needs to focus on learning the steps before worrying about things like gracefulness. He takes Dianne to his church for Sunday service, on the grounds that they'll need all the prayers they can get. They cha cha cha for his congregation, and then she asks a couple of women of the parish what they think she needs to look out for. They tell her to keep him away from the pork pies and sausage rolls, and that he's partial to the odd glass of whiskey. I bet he's thrilled that his parishioners are telling everyone he's a tubby drunk. [They clearly love him though, which was very cute - Rad]

They are, of course, dancing to 'There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)' by Eurythmics, and Richard descends on a cloud playing a harp. But without his dog collar, for those of you who were wondering about that. It's a very demure cha cha with a lot of dad-dancing thrown in, but you know what? He's actually (for the most part) trying to do a proper cha cha cha, and I appreciate that. I don't mind a comedy contestant, I just want them to have a proper go. It's when they start gooning around the floor for 90 seconds doing absolutely nothing that resembles the assignment that my patience starts to wear thin. And I'm sure that time will come for Richard in the not-too-distant future, but for now, I'm fine. Plus I watched Rev Kate Bottley on Celebrity MasterChef earlier this year, so at least I know Richard won't ever be the most annoying vicar I watch on reality TV in 2017. (Seriously, she was awful. I think she was actually sent by God to test us.)

Richard vows that he will begin all future sermons by coming down on a cloud, which is definitely the sort of shot in the arm that the Church of England needs in the 21st century. Tess reminds Shirley that she said she wanted surprises way back in the launch show, and Shirley giggles that this was indeed a surprise. She says "my heart really wants to love you" (hee) but her head tells her it's also a competition and he needs to have some technical skills. She points out that he did a quite impressive cuban break, at least. Bruno says that it was a performance full of heavenly delights and diabolical technique, but he'll be damned because he enjoyed it so much. Over to Craig, who says that all the problems really began when the cloud actually landed. Darcey calls him "absolutely divine" and says that there were some moves she hadn't seen in a cha cha cha before, but she can't wait for next week.

They ascend to heaven (/the Clauditorium) where Richard says he's having a lovely time with Dianne, but that's the easy part. Claudia asks if it's true that the last time he danced in public was in 1990 on a podium in Ibiza, and Richard says that he actually danced off that podium. What a picture. Scores: Craig 2, Darcey 4, Shirley 6 ("great entertainment!") and Bruno 5 for a total of 17 [Shirley and Craig's scores looked a bit 'he should get 17 overall, so...' Conspiracy theorist Rad]

Only two couples left! We can do this, guys!

Tess gags her way through Mollie's intro, and normally I'd rag on her for anything like this, but it's been a long night for all of us, I can forgive her for having a bit of a scratchy throat as we approach the two-hour mark. Mollie says that she really enjoyed performing in the group dance on the launch show, and she really had that feeling of 'omg, I'm on Strictly'. She does the obligatory 'not a ringer' spiel by saying that her performance on this show will put paid to all that expectation. They've got the jive to begin with, and in order to make Mollie feel more comfortable, AJ takes her to a recording studio. Or a village hall with a few microphones in it, it's kind of hard to tell. I regret to inform you that AJ's acting, or indeed general speaking, abilities when it comes to VTs have not improved since last year. Mollie's aren't much better either. This could be a loooong series.

They're dancing to 'Good Golly Miss Molly' of course, and it begins with AJ leaping in through the window of Mollie's recording studio. Good job ruining several grand's worth of soundproofing there, jackass. Mollie makes a decent start of things, although she's not doing a lot to disprove my thoughts from earlier about how week one is just too early for the jive because there's a definite stiffness and a slight ungainliness to her that I think wouldn't have been there with a few more weeks of experience. There's also a bafflingly lengthy part in the middle where, rather than anyone doing any actual dancing, AJ flops to the floor and Molly mimes lifting him up with her telekinetic superpowers. I make it two swings and two misses for AJ on the jive choreographing front, put it that way.

Bruno opens for the judges and says he loves the way that Mollie wants to impress, but she needs to wait for her partner to lead her - sometimes she was anticipating it and taking charge. Also she needs to not flap her arms so much. Craig agrees that she needs to wait for AJ's lead, and it was a little bit flat-footed and blocky for him, but she has fantastic rhythm, which is a great start. Darcey wisely doesn't attempt to offer feedback on Mollie's jive footwork this time, but says that she'll improve with practice. Shirley thinks they're a young, vibrant, good-looking team with a lot of potential. She thinks Mollie needs to rotate her body more and watch out for her feet sickling, but the fundamentals were in place.

Up in the Clauditorium, Mollie enthuses that she can't believe she just danced on Strictly. Claudia asks AJ if he minded the criticism, and he says no: "we want criticism, we want to learn". His use of "we" there gives me pause. On the one hand, I think it's good because on the basis of that choreography I'm relieved that he's open to admitting he doesn't always get it right, but on the other hand: if you're the teacher, I kind of feel like you should have done your learning before you got here. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Shirley 7 ("I enjoyed it!") and Bruno 6 for a total of 23. Mollie's giddy over Shirley's 7. Chizzy pats down AJ's brow while Claudia reads out the social media options.

Our final couple of the night are Aston and Janette. Aston's worries include slipping, forgetting his steps, a wardrobe malfunction and people remembering he used to judge a dance show. Lol, just kidding, nobody cares if men are ringers, it's only bad when women do it. Aston was glad to get Janette as a partner because she is short. (Freudian slip of the week: I accidentally typed that as "because she is shit" to begin with. Sorry Janette, nothing personal I swear, but I'm entering into my eighth hour of recapping this and I've got spots in front of my eyes at this point.) Janette makes it very clear that while Aston is a great "performer", ballroom and latin is a whole world away from his area of expertise. (Fun fact: Janette is a salsa dancer by trade and as far as I can tell has zero competitive ballroom or latin experience. Just saying.) [Remember that time they read out all the pro's credentials and it got to Brendan... has won this once.  Anton... hangs around like a bad smell... JANETTE!!! - Rad] Aston has been training holding water bottles to make sure he keeps his elbows up, and he has named the bottles "Bruno" and "Craig". Aston turns up to rehearsals as "Mr Foxtrot" (ie he wore a suit) and Janette is very impressed by his dedication.

They're dancing to 'It Had To Be You', and the theme is of a romance taking place on top of a New York skyscraper. Last time I went to the top of a New York skyscraper I had a panic attack on the mezzanine and had to be helped out by a surprisingly sympathetic security guard, so don't be surprised if I struggle to relate to the romance of this. Anyway: unsurprisingly, considering he's a megaringer with the pimp slot in the first week, Aston's foxtrot is very good, full of razzmatazz and delivered with confidence and aplomb. I'd maybe have liked a little more focus on the basics behind all of the showmanship, but I really can't argue with the result. Neither can Janette, who squeals with delight and leaps into Aston's arms the minute it's over. Considering she's partnered a frontrunner twice and never actually made the final, I wonder if this will be third time lucky for her.

Craig opens for the judges saying that he thought the flashy, show-off moments were self-indulgent. "You're only jealous!" brays Darcey, and the whole audience erupts as if "ur jus jelus" is a riposte worthy of Dorothy Parker. However, he thought Aston's confidence shone through and he has great musicality and will be the one to watch. Darcey calls it cool, controlled, confident and stylish. Shirley says it definitely wasn't a traditional foxtrot but it had elements of tradition. He needs to work on his feet a bit, but what she loved was his musicality - the break at the beginning, if not the one at the end - and she thinks his frame was good. Bruno closes by calling Aston his favourite (the ghost of Bruce lives on!) and says that he unleashed his raw power at the end; he thinks he could be a classic in the making.

Up in the Clauditorium, Aston congratulates everyone on surviving the first week, and the scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Shirley 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31.

Leaderboard, then?

1. Aston & Janette - 31
2. Debbie & Giovanni - 30
3. Joe & Katya - 29
4. Davood & Nadiya - 27
5. Alexandra & Gorka - 24
6. Mollie & AJ - 23
7. Charlotte & Brendan - 22
8. Chizzy & Pasha - 21
9=. Gemma & Aljaž - 20
9=. Jonnie & Oti - 20
9=. Susan & Kevin - 20
12=. Simon & Karen - 17
12=. Revd Richard & Dianne - 17
14=. Brian & Amy - 16
14=. Ruth & Anton - 16

Of course, those scores will be added to next week's scores for an overall leaderboard next week, but that's a whole week away. We review the evening's performances, several of which feel like they happened in 2015 at the absolute latest: Gemma's slightly shaky cha cha cha, Brian's limp tango, Alexandra following the same 'solid mid-table start' strategy she deploying on The X Factor (presumably by accident rather than design) with her waltz, Simon's overcooked paso, Charlotte's above-expectations foxtrot, Chizzy's feverish cha cha cha, Jonnie's hesitant waltz, Joe's "Jay who?" jive, Susan getting out of the cock-a-doodie car, Debbie giving us the x-rated paso we want and deserve, Davood's energetic cha cha cha, Ruth's stumbly waltz, Richard's unearthly cha cha cha, Mollie's flyaway jive and finally Aston's ringerriffic foxtrot.

Next week: another incredibly long show and also an elimination. Join Rad for all of the details, and don't forget we'll bring you an It Takes Two update during the week.


Chris Hill said...

Great to have you back!

Joe McFadden will always be 'The Crow Road's Joe McFadden' to me (seriously, if you've not seen it, it's a wonderful series)

F a t i m a said...

Yes I agree with Chris, it's nice to have you back (to have you back, nice). You forgot to mention that there was even a Pearly King and Queen in Davood's VT. I hope that the next one with Nadiya will involve him experiencing some Ukrainian stereotypes. Fun with a geiger counter, perhaps. It looks as if Gorka has been spending more time at the squat rack than on English lessons in 2016/2017. But that's a good thing.

Canocola said...

Good to have you guys back!

I find Shirley's habit of always having to say something more when announcing her score a bit irritating (and worse once I noticed it, hence wanting to share the pain), but it's more than made up for by her offering actual criticism as if the show was actually about dancing or something. Ironically it demonstrates quite how much Len was faffing abaht rather than actually providing any dance content...

If the 'comedy' contestants show any inclination to dance then it might well be a vintage series. Obviously it'll go tragically wrong next week when we discover the first outbreak of Blackpool fever (like Christmas, it seems to start earlier every year), but for now there are signs of life.