Sunday, 29 October 2017

All the fright moves

Week 6: Top 11 Perform (Hallowe’en Week) - 28 October 2017

To give credit to the celebrities on this show, they are leaving their vanity at the door this week and marking Hallowe’en week by sticking a torch under their chins and braving the harsh uplighting for this week’s intro VT. It’s not a particularly flattering angle for anybody, but on the other hand, you can hardly tell who any of them are from that angle in that light anyway.  And that’s not even the most undignified thing that happens in this VT, somebody decided to rhyme “heckling” with “fleckerling”. Still, maybe Jason Gilkison was watching this VT and might at least have learned how to pronounce “fleckerling” from it. Now let’s get on with the show!

Titles! I honestly can’t even look at Gorka in these without thinking how incredibly unfair it is for one person to be that photogenic.

I’m going to open with a brief note of housekeeping: my poor ancient laptop is in for repair this week and has taken an agonisingly long time to come back, so I’ve been reduced to attempting to recap on my tablet. Since the keyboard is a bit small and I have enough problems with RSI as it is, I’ve ended up dictating most of this week’s recap through the voice recognition software, so there may be more mistakes than usual. (Bizarrely, it recognised “Gorka” while I was speaking and then when I finished went back and retroactively changed it to “Gocke”. Nope, no idea.)

Since it’s Halloween, we open with a group number that involves the celebrities as well as the professionals. It begins with four of the celebrities (Susan, Davood, Ruth, and Gemma) taking a tour around the cobwebbed remains of what was once the Strictly studios. Entombed in glass cases are Brendan, Aljaž, and Pasha holding their respective glitterballs. I don’t think I had realised until this moment that so few former winners were still on the show. They then get to the fourth exhibit, which turns out to be Anton holding a pumpkin instead of a glitter ball. I am always here for any opening number that drags Anton. The band are quietly playing ‘It’s A Sin’ by the Pet Shop Boys in the background with the return of New Boy Jamie on lead vocals doing a fantastic job I have to say.  The camera then cuts to the skeletons of the former judges (with Skeleton Shirley wearing glasses <3) and folding up their 10 paddles. As we pan along the desk, we eventually come to Craig looking exactly the same as he always does lol. The celebrities screen into the camera at which point the song kicks in properly and the number erupts into a full choreographed routine, with the professionals as Edwardian-looking ghosts doing some sort of paso/tango fusion (NOBODY MENTION FUSION WEEK, WE DAREN’T WAKE IT FROM ITS SLUMBER!), and eventually the rest of the celebrities wander in doing their best scared faces to join in the fun. Gemma and Debbie are given brief solo showcase spots, and Susan is put at the front for the group section which, given that she seems to be several seconds behind everyone else for most of it, was probably a nicer idea in theory than in practice. I must give props to the hair, make-up and costume teams for this one, though, truly they have outdone themselves.

The set clears (as if by magic!) and Tess and Claudia make their entrance. Perhaps the most truly eerie thing of all tonight is how good Tess looks: she’s in a red velvet dress that fits her beautifully (although the sleeve caps are maybe the only part of the outfit that doesn’t completely work, but it’s such an improvement on her regular styling overall that I’m willing to overlook it on this occasion)  [I thought she looked amazing and I'll forgive the sleeve caps as a nod to the theme - Rad] and her hair looks great too. It’s sort of ironic, considering this is the one night of the series where she’d technically be allowed to look terrible. Claudia, by the way, is looking swell in a black fringe-effect dress that isn’t quite so noteworthy because it’s more in her everyday wheelhouse than Tess’s is. The judges are introduced to ‘The Monster Mash’, with Darcey as Little Red Riding Hood(?), Bruno dressed as Beetlejuice, Craig as The Joker and Shirley as Cruella DeVille. Why is Darcey the only one not dressed as a villain? Unless Vicky Gill thought the wolf was the hero of that story, I’m all for alternative readings of the classic texts.

The couples make their entrance: Ruth and Anton as Samantha Stephens and one of the two Darrins, probably the first one because they wouldn’t want to make Anton a gay or anything, Davood and Nadiya as Open-Shirted Man and Companion, Mollie and AJ as Straight Girl and GBF going to see Steps at GAY circa 2001, Gemma and Aljaž as Buffy Summers and one of the hench-vampires she meets early on in season one, Simon and Karen as Peaky-Looking Noel Fielding and That Woman Who Ran The Sweet Shop Your Parents Wouldn’t Let You Go To, Debbie and Giovanni as Dora The Explorer and Frankenstein’s Monster, Aston and Janette as Second Open-Shirted Man and Wonderbra-Wearing Companion, Joe and Katya as Man Trapped By Spider and Black Widow But Not The One Played By Scarlett Johansson, Susan and Kevin as IDK Some Game Of Thrones Shit I Don’t Watch It, Jonnie and Oti as Heavily-Guylinered Pirate and Fellow Plunderer, and Alexandra and Gorka as Sexy Zombies Who Won’t Just Eat Your Brains If You Know What I Mean.

Up first tonight are Jonnie and Oti. In their VT, Jonnie is very happy with how the quickstep went last week, particularly getting nine from Shirley. Of course their next mission is now to get a 10. Jonnie is particularly pleased to be a pirate for Halloween, because he thinks it’s very fitting what with him being an amputee and all. Jonnie tells Oti that he is going to take her to a pirate castle which of course prompts her to ask why they are going there  and Johnny replies “because we arrrrrr”. Bless him for fully getting into the spirit of this nonsense. A normal looking Oti arrives to see Jonnie dressed as a pirate, which I have to say is not a bad look on him at all. Any excuse to have that shirt front open tbh. Less successful is Jonnie’s pirate accent, which sounds a bit like Jim McDonald so it does. What their training mostly entails is paddling round a canal while wearing comedy moustaches and Johnny making jokes about doing a charrrr charrrr charrrr. It’s a good thing he’s pretty.

They are dancing to ‘Troublemaker’ by Olly Murs, and it doesn’t get off to the best of starts when Oti tries to throw her pirate booty for Jonnie to catch and he drops it. (And if you think I’m going to make a joke about Jonnie’s pirate booty, probably know me quite well.) There are some reasonable basic cha-cha-cha steps at the beginning, but there is precious little hip movement and it’s not long before Jonnie starts to take the whole drunken sailor character a little bit too seriously and seems to be leaning on Oti to help him stay upright. There is also a bit of armography chucked in the middle, presumably to reduce the amount of time that Johnny has to spend actually doing the proper cha-cha-cha. It’s just clearly not his dance, and that’s a shame. [I know the cha cha is rarely good, with only Aston's standing out for the right reasons since, well, Natalie Gumede's, probably, but this year's cast are really taking it to new lows.  I thought this was the worst dance of the evening despite really liking these two - Rad]

Tess enthuses that we all know how much Jonnie loved being a pirate and makes Jonnie “arrr!” one last time, which he does as if responding to a slightly senile relative. Shirley opens by telling Jonnie it is difficult to open the show, and praising him on the theme. Oh dear. She thought there were some movements in there that were not that well-coordinated but she did like his natural top. I always thought Jonnie had the air of a natural top about him (*winks at camera*). She thought that it lacked rotation and body action. Bruno thinks that Jonnie launched his boat on the wrong tide and therefore his timing was a bit off. He says that it looked like Jonnie was walking the plank at times, but he is sure he will be back to his swashbuckling best soon. Craig laments the absence of hip action, and found it stumpy and flat-footed. Darcey says that Jonnie is struggling with technique he should focus on presentation to distract from it and really emphasise the character. Which is pretty much what he was doing here anyway, and clearly it didn’t work. Thanks Darcey!

They avast and belay up to the Clauditorium, where Claudia informs us that Jonnie really didn’t want to start the show, and was begging to go on second. Does he not know that is the death slot? Also apparently Jonnie has been begging to be either a pirate or Legolas for Halloween ever since he was cast, bless him. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Shirley 5 and Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Jonnie thinks that’s fair enough, but eep. It has to hurt getting a lower score out of 40 than you got the week before when it was only out of 30. Jonnie says he asked Aston for help this week and Aston was like “um, yeah” which tipped him off that this maybe wasn’t going to go so well. In honour of it being Halloween, Claudia summons a mummy to help with the terms and conditions this week - AJ’s mummy Debi, in fact. She’s every bit as natural on camera as her son, and make of that what you will.

In Jonnie’s coveted death slot, we have Ruth and Anton. Tess sits in the audience to join some of their supporters: Rylan, Stacey Solomon, and Denise Van Outen, who is sitting on a chair just like she did in Chicago [now the X Factor floodgates are well and truly open, the real question is will Rylan or Stacey do this show first? - Rad] . Ruth is doing a B*witched-themed quickstep so she will be wearing an outfit made entirely of denim and she will show you hers if you show her yours. Oh wait, wrong Bewitched. Ruth loved last week's samba even though she made some mistakes because she thinks it was the first time she went out on the dancefloor and didn’t feel nervous. Ruth tells us that she was a big fan of the series Bewitched, and she remembers Samantha used to wiggle her nose when she was doing magic. So Ruth gives it a go: she wiggles her nose and turns all the lights in London off, creates a thunderstorm, and turns Anton into a pumpkin and then a bunny. I mean, if you have the power to transform Anton into anything you like, and you don’t turn him into, say, Gorka or Pasha, then I feel that classifies as an abuse of your privilege.

Ruth descends from the ceiling on a broomstick and wiggles her nose, turning a stuffed rabbit into Anton, although he still has a fluffy tail stuck to his bottom. The Elizabeth Montgomery wig they’ve stuck her in is another absolute triumph, by the way. Ruth actually handles the opening side-by-side section fairly well, but when she gets into hold, it all rather crumbles. Her frame is weak and floppy, and there is a fair bit of camping. However, there is still a lightness of touch and a surprising elegance to the routine that I don’t know I would have predicted from Ruth five weeks ago.

Bruno tells Ruth that he was bewitched by her elegance, bothered by her frame, and bewildered by the fact that she went off on the wrong foot at one point but managed to mask the error and recover. Craig felt it was too heavy and sloppy for this particular dance, and also mentions that she went off on the wrong foot and her chassés were out of time. Ruth attempts to wiggle her nose and make Craig disappear, but sadly neither the sound nor the effects team are in a position to cooperate. Darcey found it charming and thought Ruth was light on her feet. She thinks Ruth is growing in confidence but needs to not get too comfortable. She praises Ruth for not showing her mistakes in her face and for some lovely chassés. Shirley agrees that Ruth is improving but says that she’ll have to deduct a point for the mistakes, and Anton’s all “okay, great, a nine this week is it?” and Shirley advises Anton not to make her actually count the errors. Hee. She thinks that despite the mistakes, Ruth is going in the right direction.

In the Clauditorium, Ruth says she was quite nervous about the broomstick part, so that made her a little bit more nervous overall than she was last week. She’s also very happy to have her “TV son” Rylan here to support her. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Shirley 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 22. That’s Ruth’s second highest score, and also places her ahead of Jonnie on the leaderboard for the first time ever. Truly, ‘tis a strange night. Anton suggests turning the sixes upside down and making it three nines and 38 overall. Maths not his strong suit, then.

Next we have Simon and Karen. They are dancing the American smooth (which was originally announced as a Viennese waltz, so I think we all know where this is going), and Simon says that he enjoyed their charleston last week even if nobody else did. To get into the mood of his Victorian-themed routine, where they are apparently playing royals, Simon summons his ancestors to meet Karen, It’s odd how his female ancestor looks suspiciously Venezuelan isn’t it? [I got incest vibes from this which is maybe not what they were aiming for? - Rad] In the VT, Simon even refers to his upcoming dance as a Viennese waltz, which implies that this change was made rather late in the day.

Their costumes are...odd. I don’t pretend to be Kate Williams, but they don’t look like any royals I’d recognise [I think they were supposed to be Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett at one stage? Maybe that got changed to 'royals' just before the show? - Rad]. When they get up and start dancing (to ‘Delilah’) you will see very quickly why the format of the dance has changed, because Simon’s technique is pretty terrible from the off. He’s either on tiptoes or completely flat-footed and the whole thing is just painfully sluggish. I know they had limited training time this week as a result of his injury from the dance-off last week, but I’m not sure there was ever going to be any salvaging this one however long they had. They end by biting into the chicken again, and are still chewing when they get over to Tess, and indeed for most of the next five minutes.

Craig thought it was the dance of the living dead and that rigor mortis had already set in. He thought it was incredibly stiff and Simon’s hands were splayed so he didn’t enjoy it at all, sorry. Darcey tells Simon (still chewing) that she knows he has had a hard week, but she loved how much he enjoyed playing that character. However, she found it lumpy throughout and urges him to soften his knees. She thought the best bit was at the beginning, presumably when they were both still sitting down. Shirley thinks Simon’s frame is still good but she tells him that he has to learn things like flats and crosses and closes. Technique, in other words. Bruno says it wasn’t an American smooth, it was an American Horror Story. Well I guess it shared the same casual disregard for plot, storytelling, characterisation etc. He adds that he has seen articulated lorries that moved more smoothly.

They make their way to the Clauditorium, STILL CHEWING, and Simon explains that they attempted to eat the chicken in the dress rehearsal, but realised that it was too dry to swallow and so they mustn’t eat it on the night. Glad to see that lesson sank in. Karen says she’s very proud of Simon for pulling that together in just eight hours of training, which is fair enough. Simon’s sister is in the audience and is a Strictly superfan who predicted that he’d get Karen all the way back in April. But then I guess you don’t need to be a superfan to know that KAREN LIKE FOOD. Scores: Craig 2, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 16. Simon thinks it was better than 16. Was it? [No, but I think Jonnie might have been worse than 20 and this was on a similar level, and LORD ONLY KNOWS we don't need a repeat of last week's tie-a-thon - Rad]

Next: Gemma and Aljaž. Gemma reminds us that her dress run from last week was better than her performance on the night, and Aljaž consoles her that she’s still doing an incredible job for a non-dancer. This week they are doing a jive where Gemma is a Slayer and Aljaž is a vampire. Their VT is the usual “one person is turning into a supernatural creature and their partner misunderstands for comic effect” effort that we get every year, so let’s skip to the end.

They are dancing to ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ and it starts well with good rhythm and energy and characterisation, but something happens to Gemma around the halfway mark where her movements become sloppy and low energy, and the whole thing just fizzles out which is a real shame because if she had been able to maintain that level of performance throughout this could have been a real standout of the night.

Darcey felt that it was light and strong and compliments Gemma on having her body weight forward to create the proper jive posture, while maintaining a “fun, carefree attitude”. Did Darcey not watch the second half? Shirley noted some mistakes in the beginning but thought that Gemma’s link step was of good quality. She thought her posture could have been more forward, but Gemma will come back strong next week. Bruno calls her a jive Slayer and says there was a lot of content in that dance and she did it without breaking a sweat, and says that he loves her obvious joy of dance. Craig points out a lack of synchronicity but congratulates her on the spins and the retraction. Presumably Gemma said something incorrect on the radio this week and sorted it out quickly and publicly, good for her.

In the Clauditorium, Gemma apologises to Aljaž for forgetting the beginning which was the easiest bit. Claudia echoes Gemma’s joy of dance and says that she keeps saying her practising in the corridors. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Shirley 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. Aljaž is pleased because that is his best score for a jive yet. Yes, of all the...three that he has done on this show.

Next we have Joe and Katya with a spidery foxtrot. [Does not approve of the spider mouth thing.  It makes his face too out-of proportion with the blank forehead - Rad] We are given a welcome reminder of Joe's nipple-flashing paso doble from last week and Joe says that to get a 10 was mind-blowing. I have a feeling that many members of the audience felt similarly. The central gag of their video is that Katya doesn’t like spiders so Joe disguises her dog Crumble with some additional spider legs, and apparently Katya is not bright enough to recognise her own dog through a paper-thin disguise. Dancers, eh?

They are dancing to ‘Trouble’ by Coldplay, which seems more of a waltz-tempo than a foxtrot to me. Perhaps it doesn’t help that out of all the ballroom dances I find the foxtrot to have the fewest obviously-recognisable traits, but throughout this routine it’s quite hard to tell whether it is a good foxtrot or not. It also doesn’t help that the lighting is so dark and Joe is wearing so much black that I can’t really see what his legs are actually doing most of the time. That said I really like the theming here, it’s very evocative and well-played by both of them.

Shirley loved the creativity of the concept and Joe’s agility, but she thinks it was a little bit flat-footed generally. In general though, she was pleased with it. Bruno was pleased to see them not get overwhelmed by the concept and to make the routine fit in with the theming smoothly. Craig loved the energy of the performance, the storytelling, and the swing and sway. Darcey thinks he captured the pace of the routine perfectly and seemed to be in command most of the time. She is also happy that Katya did not eat him, as is Joe.

Up in the Clauditorium, Joe is really happy with how that went. [I'm pleased they broke their 'curse' at last - Rad] Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Shirley 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32, putting him at the top of the leaderboard for now.

Mollie and AJ are next, and Mollie says that last week was her favourite dance so far because she felt like a princess. This week she has the cha cha cha, and her comedy VT is about her losing focus and imagining Devil AJ and Angel AJ giving her conflicting advice. I think they are meant to be tiny figures whispering in her ear, but it’s AJ so I’m pretty sure they are shown actual size. Mollie’s acting throughout is Pasha-level.

They’re dancing to ‘Better The Devil You Know’ by Kylie, and within the general canon of Molly’s latin, this feels like one of the slightly better efforts. That said, it is still a week six cha-cha-cha, and as such is not terribly exciting. That’s probably the biggest problem with it: it isn’t good and it isn’t bad, it is just deeply deeply middling. Even the costumes for this one feel a little uninspired.

Tess patronises them (“so cute!”) and throws to Bruno who declares it devilishly good. He thinks she has improved since he was here last time (it was only two weeks ago, Bruno, calm down) but warns her to watch her foot placement. Craig thought she needed straighter legs throughout but thought she showed the beginnings of good hip movement. Darcey liked the sharp accents but thought Mollie had her weight a little far back, though she enjoyed the Kylie Minogue references in the arm movements. Shirley finishes by saying that she thought the personality was shining through, but she has issues with Mollie’s core and the way her shoulders are creeping up to her ears.

In the Clauditorium, Mollie squeals that she hates latin (hee), then quickly corrects herself and says that it’s not that she hates latin, it’s just that she loves ballroom. She has found this week tough, but loved having a good old bop to Kylie so it hasn’t all been bad. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Shirley 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Mollie is slightly disappointed with that score.

Halfway leaderboard time!
1. Joe & Katya - 32
2. Gemma & Aljaž - 30
3. Mollie & AJ - 27
4. Ruth & Anton - 22
5. Jonnie & Oti - 20
6. Simon & Karen - 16

Our seventh couple of the evening is Alexandra and Gorka, dancing a zombie-themed tango. Tess jokes that we all know Alexandra is dead good, but will she be any good dead? What sells this joke is the way that it takes Alexandra a full two seconds to laugh at it, just as the editors cut away from her. Alexandra reflects on last week’s samba, and says that she feels she could’ve done better. In training, Alexandra says that Halloween has always reminded her of her childhood. Does that include the Halloweens of her actual childhood? Anyway, this is all a thin excuse for Alexandra to take Gorks to her primary school and have him interact cutely with children. [One up on Aston's VT from last week, BABY WARZ 2017 is ON - Rad] And sure enough, Gorka’s fist pump when one of the kids says that he’s their favourite is absolutely adorable (agorkable?). Small children scream wishes of good luck to them, and then we’re out.

Their tango is to ‘Maneater’ by Nelly Furtado, and it’s another strong effort from Alexandra: lots of clean, crisp lines, great staccato movement and, of course, a strong sense of DRAMA. There is what looks to be a bit of a stumble in the middle of the routine, but conveniently the camera is quite far away at this point so it is quite hard to be certain. Also, there is a part where Alexandra has to slide between Gorka’s legs and I’m pretty sure she accidentally head-butted his balls on the way through. Still, if you were that close, you’d go in for a closer look wouldn’t you?

Craig tells Alexandra that she came out all guns blazing and did not-stop until the end. He really and indeed truly loved it. Darcey thought Alexandra was fierce without being wild, and kept it strong. Shirley’s mic is malfunctioning here but she says something about Alexandra’s contracheck and then kisses her fingers, so I think the meaning is fairly clear. Bruno thinks Alexandra is like a tigress, but he did spot a small mistake in there and reminds her of the importance of stillness amid all the excitement.

They zomb up to the Clauditorium where Claudia apologises for the situation with Shirley’s microphone. Alex says she knows where she went wrong, and Gorka’s all “wrong? Where?” Heh. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Shirley 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 35 and the highest tango score of the series. (Although prior to this it was Mollie and AJ with 25, so not a massive bar to clear.)

Davood and Nadiya are next with their rumba. Davood thinks that their performance of their jive last week was the best that they had ever done it, and he’s really excited to be around for Halloween week. Davood is, of course, struggling in training because the rumba is (say it with me kids) HARD FOR THE MEN, so they take some time away to go to a haunted hall of mirrors and the camera work gets a bit Blair Witch. Afterwards, Davood states that if he can deal with that house of horrors, he can definitely deal with Nadiya’s choreography. Sorry, “the rumba”.

Oy. So, here we go. I may have mentioned in the past that I don’t particularly rate Nadiya as a choreographer, and I’m afraid this week is where I lost patience with her entirely. The routine (to ‘Wicked Game’) is overwrought and Davood spends more time angstily clawing at his hair than he does doing any noticeable rumba steps, it is just lunge after lunge after lunge after lunge. It’s a shame, because I quite like their  concept (sexy haunted ghost bewitched rumba) but she doesn’t actually get him to do anything. I’m starting to feel quite sorry for Davood because I find myself wondering whether he might have actually been a lot better by now with a different partner, and I don’t think Nadiya is bringing anything to the show that’s worth keeping. Sorry. They’d have been better off taking Chloe off the subs bench than hiring her. Or Davood might have been better off just bringing Bonnie Langford over from EastEnders to partner him. [Yeah, agreed.  She doesn't seem to *get* this show, whereas Amy and Dianne almost got it too much and could do with dialling down a notch.  Or not getting comedy contestants next time to see what else they could bring a la Joanne - Rad]

Darcey tells him it “wasn’t bad”. It wasn’t a lot of things, Darce, including a rumba. She liked his expressive arms though. Shirley basically rips the choreography to shreds, although she addresses it to Davood rather than Nadiya. Bet Brendan is fuming. Bruno liked the “six-pack action” and thought he partnered Nadiya well. Craig liked it as a dance but not as a rumba, and says that what rumba was there wasn’t danced that well, but nonetheless he could’ve watched it for hours.

Up in the Clauditorium, Nadiya burbles on about how it is THE MOST DIFFICULT DANCE FOR A MAN (sidebar: I’ve done my fair share of dance lessons now and my counter argument is that the rumba is actually one of the easier dances for a man, so take that, received wisdom!) and I have just lost all interest in anything she might have to say at this point. Claudia points out that Bonnie Langford was in the audience tonight and went full tiger-mum during the judges’ comments. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 7, Shirley 6, Bruno 7 for a total of 25. Davood is just glad it’s over. I wasn't aware it had ever started.

Next we have Susan and Kevin. Susan reflects on last week and having been bottom of the leaderboard, but is fairly philosophical about it and points out that it means the only way is up. They are doing a foxtrot to ‘Killer Queen’, but the overarching theme of the dance is their mutual love of Game of Thrones. The VT features Susan growing a dragon's tail and breathing fire everywhere. This is absolutely definitely a thing that happened to a character in an episode of this show which I totally, totally watch. In fact wasn’t it the arc for most of season four? Everyone growing tails? And breathing fire? (Okay, you caught me, I don’t watch Game of Thrones. I know nothing, Jon Snow.)

So Susan is playing Daenerys and Kevin is Jon Snow, as I understand it, although to be honest Kevin looks a bit more like “third henchman from the left in an episode of Blackadder. Susan descends on a dragon and it all makes for a very elaborate opening to the dance, but I find the combination of the foxtrot, Game of Thrones, and Queen to be a rather uneasy marriage. This theming really would have been better suited to a paso or tango perhaps, but the foxtrot is too light and airy and gentle to have a fire-breathing dragon in the background [I agree but I guess Louise's paso last year was almost exactly this theme, just without naming it as such - Rad]. They look like they’re having a lot of fun, and Susan’s ballroom is gradually improving, but she still looks a little bit lost whenever she’s out of hold. It’s great to see her giggling once it’s all over though.

Susan tells Tess that they’re just trying to keep it understated for Halloween. Heh. Shirley felt it lacked grace and elegance, and Susan got off on the wrong foot a few times. Kevin responds that for the “Halloween Game Of Thrones dragon-breathing foxtrot”, grace wasn’t really what they were aiming for and Shirley, to her credit, squawks with delighted laughter. Imagine the length of the snit fit that would have ensued if Kevin had tried that on Len. Bruno found it rather confused, but he left the madness of it all, of course. He had great fun watching it but spotted a lot of mistakes. Craig says that his ride-on mower at home had more grace and elegance, and frankly that’s more than I wanted to know about his personal life. Oh, and he says that Susan was out of hold for too long, because apparently that rule is in play again this week. Darcey liked that Susan is working on keeping her neck long and her shoulders down, but the character was so strong that she thinks Susan got overexcited.

In the Clauditorium, Susan says that she doesn’t remember making any mistakes. Kevin says that nobody wants to see subtle at Halloween. I don’t think we’re ever given much choice, hon. Apparently Emilia Clarke tweeted in support of Susan, and Claudia gives away that she knows about as much about Game of Thrones as I do. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 5 for 18 in total.

Our penultimate couple this evening is Debbie and Giovanni. She is very pleased that last week’s rumba went so well, but now they are moving on to the charleston. To get in practice for their Frankenstein theme, Debbie draws upon her magical powers once again to turn Giovanni into a real monster, who lumbers around the room shouting “DEBBEH! DEBBEH!” Honestly sometimes I swear it’s like they read this blog for inspiration, I love it.

They are dancing to ‘Frankie’ by Sister Sledge, and there is some lovely swivel on display from Debbie here, who just seems to instinctively understand the limp ragdoll-style movements required for this dance. The section where Debbie disappears behind the scenery for a slightly underwhelming costume change feels a little unnecessary [and how.  Especially after the 10-second rule nonsense, you'd have thought they would have shied away from that - Rad], particularly since Ruth and Anton set the bar so high for those last week. Also, they have blatantly reused the lockers from Claudia and AJ’s foxtrot last year for the monster machine in this dance, but who can blame them? Everybody loves lockers! There is an around-the-world lift that is frankly death-defying, and towards the end there are noticeable slips and mistimings, but the enthusiasm of the whole thing it’s hard to resist. It actually puts me in mind of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s charleston in terms of having some obvious errors that don’t actually detract from the overall impact of the performance. Also Debbie ends the routine upside down and doing the splits - what’s not to love?

Giovanni screams with delight afterwards, and Bruno tells them that he was bitterly disappointed that there was nothing wrong with it. Craig dings them for the clumsy lift, which Giovanni takes responsibility for, but he loved the cross, swivel, and hop which apparently we never see. Darcey loved the naughty flapper and the fearless lifts, and Shirley tell Debbie to come closer so she can hand over her Queen of Latin crown. Don’t do it Debbie, it’s a trap! Shirley says there was nothing she didn’t like. Is this getting 10s, d’you think?

They flap up to the Clauditorium where Debbie requests not to have to talk much because she still hasn’t got her breath back yet, so instead Claudia directs our attention to Debbie’s proud mum in the audience. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Shirley “KWEEEEEN 10!” (I love Shirley so much) and Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Giovanni can’t believe it and grabs Debbie and shakes her.

Closing the show tonight are Aston and Janette. He is very happy to have made it this far, but is scared of doing the paso this week. They are dancing it to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana, and Janette decides they should practice in a graveyard, because reasons [I kind of saw this as Janette trolling everyone who hates her by giving them more to bitch about - Rad]. While they are there, they get spooked by some painted dude pretending to be a statue. [Hi Len!  Glad to see you're keeping gainfully employed! - Rad] Well, that was worthwhile.

I have been thinking for a while about Aston and the fact that while he is clearly one of the strongest dancers in this year’s competition, he has yet to have a real moment with a dance.This routine is easily the closest he’s come yet because it is incredibly strong and slick and dramatic, but the problem is that it is another excellent paso in a series that has already included lots of excellent pasos, and as a result I feel that the impact is diminished compared to what might of happened if we had seen this dance in week two or three. That’s not to take away from how good it is because it is great, but I still think we’re waiting for that “moment”. As it is, this is just another strong performance from the most reliable dancer of the series.

Craig says that the paso should not contain pop-and-lock, body ripples or hip hop generally and that routine was full of it - and he’s glad because he loved it. Darcey loved the feistiness and the strong shaping, particularly the way that Aston pushed out his pelvis (steady). Shirley liked the modern aspects to it, but seems a little uncertain about whether it fully satisfied the traditionalist in her. Bruno liked the marriage of tradition and innovation and thinks it was the perfect way to end the show. He then takes the opportunity to take up Brendan’s mantle and thank the hair, costume and make-up teams - except the people who worked on him. Hee.

Claudia tells them that this was their best week and Janette points out that Aston was wearing Cuban heels for the first time this week. Aston says he lost a heel halfway through, but he survived. Oh and they all send a kiss to Brian at home, but I don’t want to waste any more time on the world’s most boring bromance. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Shirley 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 38.

Final leaderboard:

1. Debbie & Giovanni - 39
2. Aston & Janette - 38
3. Alexandra & Gorka - 35
4. Joe & Katya - 32
5. Gemma & Aljaž - 30
6. Mollie & AJ - 27
7. Davood & Nadiya - 25
8. Ruth & Anton - 22
9. Jonnie & Oti - 20
10. Susan & Kevin - 18
11. Simon & Karen - 16

Nice to be back in the land of no ties, isn’t it? After the recap (and no, I’m not recapping the recap, writing this much on a table has broken my hands and my sanity as it is) everyone gathers on the dancefloor to wave us off and wonder which of them will get the honour of sending Simon home in the dance-off tomorrow. We’ll find out soon enough!


phoebephoebo .sydney said...

Now see, I think Alexandra's skirt both favoured and hindered her at the same time; where you saw a possible stumble, I saw a skirt hiding what may well have been great footwork. In fact I found her obscuring-skirt frustrating throughout most of the dance; I kept wondering if she'd managed to break through into having tidy legs at last. There again, maybe she hadn't, and the skirt was a godsend. The only time it enhanced the dance was when the frills on her bum accentuated the twists she made in that promenade run (I wish I knew the proper term...) early in the dance.
But from the waist up she looked fabulous. Major points for wearing a contact lens too- can't bear the idea for myself.

Penny said...

Now that Susan has made it to Halloween, we'd love to see her get as far as Blackpool, if only for the "trip down south" comedy VT that must surely ensue. Sadly, I think only Ruth is consistently worse than her now, so it seems unlikely.

Rad said...

I think they'll be the two likely targets for sure, but Davood is pretty dispensible at this stage, I think; Jonnie and Joe are wildly inconsistent and Mollie clearly has no vote, so there are a few in the mix for the next few boots, I think. I would imagine Susan, Ruth and Jonnie all have a decent public vote, although BLACKPOOL historically is the 'enough is enough' time for comedy contestants.

F a t i m a said...

Davood is safe-ish now, because he survived his Rumba week. I get the feeling that the producers have lined up Rumbas and / or Argentine Tangos for the couples they want to leave in the weeks they want them to leave. Mark my words. When we see Jonnie drawn second with a Rumba to "Let It Go", we'll know it's his time.