Thursday, 19 October 2017

Burke and Hair

Week 4: Top 13 perform - 14 October 2017

Last week! Our first official theme week of the series occurred. Brian pulled out a surprisingly reasonable performance, Aston gave us the first interesting cha-cha-cha since Natalie Gumede, Richard faced off against Simon in the dance off where, inexplicably, Simon’s car crash Buzz Lightyear routine was voted through by all four judges over Richards super camp Flash Gordon. What even is the show anymore? However, none of that was as important as the controversy over the definitely, definitely real 10-second rule, which has always been a thing, just as we have always been vigilant about extra lifts and at war with Eurasia.

This week! The recap comes to you very delayed due to my headset breaking leaving me stranded in the actual time I’d put aside to recap, meaning I needed to pinch my work one until the new one arrived and find spaces to recap in some very busy days, and then Dragon deciding to format everything in red italic underlines, highlighted in green-which I couldn’t get rid of, even when trying to work with in Blogger, rather than Word.

Then I threw everything out of the window and had to start all over again. Anyway-apologies, especially if I seem rather curt or if the recapping ends up rather short as a result. Also! This show is still two hours long and there are still far too many celebrities and (spoiler alert) the first two thirds will be really dull!

I’m not recapping the pre-credits sequence as it’s the usual boring black and white ‘we don’t want to go home montage’, and we have enough filler coming our way, as it is. Tess and Claudia enter-Claudia in black, Tess in white. Tess’s dress is another weirdly asymmetrical affair. It’s as if she goes to a special tailor just to get that particular look, isn’t it? Tess describes last week’s highlight is having a pair of trolls that blew everyone away. Very generous of Aston and Janette to be so giving even after the dancing, wasn’t it?

The judges enter. Darcey arrives weirdly, stroking her arm. I think Shirley giving her a dressing down the other week has officially broken her. Speaking of Shirley, she’s arrived in a ball gown made of curtains. You do you, hun. Our celebrities enter: Ruth and Anton; Davood and Nadiya; Mollie and AJ; Gemma and Aljaž; Simon and Karen; Debbie and Giovanni; Aston and Janette; Charlotte and Brendan; Joe and Katya; Susan and Kevin; Jonnie and Oti; and Alexandra and Gorka. Literally the only person doing the dance along is Aljaž. Such a special weirdo, this series, isn’t he?

The first couple of the evening are Debbie and Giovanni and, of course, we are reminded of the entirely manufactured for drama controversy over the 10 second rule last week. The slow mo recaps of Debbie’s face in reaction to this are an utter treat. Onto the comedy VT that has been making Debbie laugh all week, then. Remember how their VT’s have been essentially them living out porn fantasies? Well, here’s another. Giovanni is Debbie’s post man, and she keeps ordering packages from him (who wouldn’t want Giovanni’s package, et cetera)-learn the punchline is that the final package, which he finds heavy, is her. Rest of VT redacted due to watershed. Not gonna lie, this was not quite as hilarious as Debbie’s actual hilarity about it on ITT, but they are still giving better VT game than most of their competitors, so…

Sadly, what they are not giving us that is better than their competitors is a competent cha cha. It’s danced to the ‘Shoop Shoop Song’ and the storyline is, indeed, Gianni being a postman and them having a torrid liaison. Debbie gives him lustful looks, flirty dancing and shoes and his shirt gets ripped open. Note that I’m not talking about the actual dancing, that’s because it… isn’t especially good. By no means a car crash for the ages, but Debbie doesn’t look entirely comfortable and she’s not giving it enough energy – other than when she does her patented stick the leg up over the head to aerate the chuff move, she looks like she actually quite hates this particular dance – and who can blame her, the cha-cha is the worst of the worst. Still, it’s over now, even if it doesn’t bode especially well for her salsa and samba. I have a theory on Giovanni and Debbie’s diminishing returns, by the way, which is that since Chris stopped pre-empting their weekly narrative, they’ve been floundering without his guidance.

Dance over, we meet our singers, with new boy Jamie replacing Lance - not sure if that is simply for this week (for reasons that will be made clear fairly soon) or if he is here to stay. Also, Dave Arch, the wonderful, wonderful orchestra and the man in the hat are here, too.

Over to the judges and Shirley opens by telling Debbie how wonderful she looks and complementing Giovanni as well. It’s never a great sign when we open on how contestants look rather than the dancing, is it? She once Debbie is dancing to be more earthy and less balletic. Yes, Shirley, get those burns in on Darcey, stoke those flames. Bruno says Debbie always delivers, on time, exact and efficient and very bending. He says she reminds him of centuries and he loves how dainty she is and how clipped her free hand is with no messing about. Craig says she looked a bit like a Barbie doll - too stiff, with legs that were too straight. And also too bendy. He also wants more raunch from them, and so say all of us, amirite? Darcey praises her intent and focus and says that she’s here to dance and show off her ‘facility’-yes, she does seem rather keen on that, doesn’t she?

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says week for is when they get pernickety. I think it’s just as and when it suits them, Claude, to be honest. Scores: six, six, seven, eight for a total of 27. Ouch.

It’s then time for the terms and conditions and Claudia says they are ‘Cher style’, as ‘Believe’ plays in the background-which makes little sense until poor Neil wades into shot in a big black curly wig, fishnet vest and leather jacket. Hey - anything to get screen time.

Speaking of which, Brian and Amy.  They are in the death slot - has the show decided it’s time to be done with them? Our reminder of last week when they achieved the heady heights of five from Craig does have an end of journey feel about it. The rest of their VT involves them going to an empty tapas bar with Brian’s wife and daughter, who seem remarkably un-embarrassed by everything, which is not what we expect from contestants’ relatives who usually look like they want the ground to swallow them up, but I guess if you live with Brian, you’ve probably learned to have a high shame threshold.

They’re dancing the Paso to ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, and Brian opens with a completely out of time and wrong tempo shout of ‘1234’. He is dressed like an arthritic rock star, and she is dressed as Karen Clifton from two weeks ago. Between them, they have emptied the local Boots of black eyeliner. And if you were wondering why we suddenly had new singer Jamie turn up, this is the reason - he manages to do a decent Justin Hawkins impression, which goes to show that occasionally when a song is out of the range of the usual singers, something is done to address the situation. I just wish it would happen more often - I feel for the regular singers as they are asked to cover so many genres and clearly they are not all going to match their vocal tones, so the problems we identify with their performance a lot of the time are really about song choices that are beyond their capabilities. Anyway, it sounds good, is what I’m saying. What is less good, surprise surprise, is the dancing. Brian is clutching his hips the whole time and has a look of Eddie Izzard’s grandad about him, facially. After Simon and Karen’s effort two weeks ago and Flash Gordon last week, I have had all of the comedy duffer Paso Dobles I can handle in one series, sorry guys. [I have decent hopes for Susan's, since at least Kevin is King of Pasos. - Steve]

Bruno says he went for the shapes and ended up falling to pieces, with his arms flailing everywhere. Brian, I was aiming to be you. Fair play, he almost got a smile out of me there. Craig says it was stumpy and largely dancing by numbers, but he can see that he is trying. Darcey said his lips had conviction and he was trying to extend his body and that it was a great improvement overall. Shirley appreciated his ‘oval’, and she’s giving him an extra point for being a blowfish or something.  Gok Wan and Tim Lovejoy, in the audience, seem to approve, anyway.

Scores: four, six, six, five for a total of 21.

Claudia makes a vague joke about Gemma doing a dance under the Northern lights, quotes or ‘as they call them up north, lights’.

Tess introduces the next couple, sitting in between former Strictly legend Frankie bridge and former Strictly Christmas legend, Yellow JLS, aka Merry Christmas JLS aka the only member of JLS that counts. Seeing Frankie there only serves to rub salt in the wound that we have a lower tier Saturday up next. Also, Tess gets a little bit molesty with Frankie, call Ofcom.

Frankie also features in Mollie and AJ’s VT, the story of which is that the dance is going badly until Frankie turns up and then it becomes great (or, as the visual evidence suggests, Mollie just feels embarrassed the whole time). I could not be less invested in this pair at this point.

They are dancing the salsa to ‘Súbeme La Radio’ and all I can think about whilst watching them is how much they are a cut-price version of Pixie and Trent - at least Pixie and Trent went to Amsterdam and got stoned. And gave us ‘Danger! High Voltage!’ And when they did a rubbish salsa, at least they had the decency to bring me a silly hat to go with it. Also, the lifts suck and at one point he drops her on her shoulder. And yet poor Chloe and poor Neil are still sidelined as proper pros.

Tess attempts to ignite some interest in the pair by saying at least Mollie did her bikini line, spawning Internet outrage in the process, but I bet there is less outrage than they would have been had she not shaved #everydaysexism. Craig says the footwork was sloppy, she needs more rotation in her hips and her timing was a bit late in places, but he loved the lifts. Especially the one where AJ dropped her because it’s about as entertaining as they’ve ever got.  At least I assume that was the subtext. Darcey says she is definitely saucy and the two of them together are fabulous, and that Mollie lost her place sometimes, but that the lifts were improving. Shirley says it was a challenging routine and she was 100% committed to it, but it lacked in quality dance content. I’ll say. Shirley suggests to work on her footwork and in Latin to imagine your feet like a clock and present them at the 5 to one position, rather than in parallel. Hooray for technical advice! Bruno says if it had any more lifts, they would have ended up in Cirque du Soleil and that there was a real sense of flow missing, she kept stopping in between movements, but he appreciates the ambition. Bruno would like to see her do it again, and get it right. Pretty sure she’s not going to hit the dance off just yet, Bruno, but maybe you know more than I do.

In the Clauditorium, Mollie finds dancing embarrassing. What a tragedy. Scores: six, seven, seven, seven for a total of 27.

From one set of bland beautiful people to another. Is it just me, or were you hoping Davood and Nadiya would have more personality than they’ve displayed so far? Their VT centres on Davood being dizzy in the Viennese waltz. Whilst this narrative does get boring, year-on-year, especially when it never delivers in somebody having a full on vomit/faint, I do empathise with his position - I get extreme travel sickness and would feel exactly the same. Hell, I walked out of a 4DX film 20 minutes in because I couldn’t cope with the motion, and I’d paid an uplift and everything, and us Grimbarians like to get value for money. [I did not know the word "Grimbarian". Never let it be said this blog is not educational. - Steve] He uses those little travel sickness bands to try and help him - although I’m not convinced they actually work, or at least they never have for me.

They are dancing to Jessie Ware’s ‘Say You Love Me’ and it’s a facially dramatic Viennese waltz, that never quite delivers in the movement what it promises in the faces - it’s a very serviceable mid pack mid-journey Viennese waltz - functional, but not remarkable, and he does look a little bit stuttery in places - which is no doubt the sickness. He looks pretty green after they finish and tells Tess he’s seeing two of her. [No wonder he feels unwell. - Steve] Oh well, never mind Davood, it’s not like you’ll have to do that dance again, ever, is it?

Darcey likes that he’s tamed his inner beast, and managed to hold onto his frame, despite the constant turning. She says he could still do with smoothing out the quality of his movements, but it was generally nice work. Shirley opens by saying she hasn’t been able to sleep all night thinking of him grinding in her face. I’m sure no one can blame you for that, Shirley. She compliments his change step, explaining it’s very hard to do that when you’re spinning. Bruno does his patented endorsement of them as the sexy couple, saying he is always so hot watching them, and he liked the intensity of the piece, and he appreciated how Davood kept the timing with the song being on two, rather than on three. Oh, the joys of using 6/8 music. Craig says there was too much of the dance out of hold, and that the section in the centre took him away from the Viennese feeling.

Up in the Clauditorium, we are told that Nadiya’s mum is here, and we cut to her looking like the most disapproving mum in the whole world. Tens, Nadiya, or no tea for you tonight. Scores: six, seven, eight, eight for a total of 29. Claudia tells them it’s their highest score and Davood says he’s ecstatic. 

We then have our weekly Claudia’s comedy corner. This one focuses on Claudia eating a banana (because Karen will be having bananas in her headdress later), telling Tess that fear over slipping on one is purely an urban myth invented for TV comedy, you can guess the rest. My favourite part of Claudia’s comedy corner is whether or not Tess is going to break out of her robot mode and this one almost manages it, but not quite.

We now come to Charlotte and Brendan, the pair most people are talking about this series (Giovanni and Debbie aside, let’s face it). Well, when I say the pair people are talking about, I mean they’re talking about Brendan, obviously, and by people doing the talking, I mean Brendan. Their VT recaps how the mean judges are out to get them and features extracts of their car crash training footage as seen on It Takes Two. The comedy gimmick is to bring Charlotte’s husband, then while Brendan asks him if it’s okay to ask Charlotte for her hand in fake marriage in the dance.  Guys, that’s not how consent works.  

This jive looked a complete state in rehearsals, so I’m kind of hoping for a train wreck we’ll never forget, to be honest. Sorry, Charlotte. They are dancing to Bruno Mars’ ‘Marry You’ and there is an incredible amount of faffing about in it. The beginning includes much more than 10 seconds of Brendan jumping up the stairs, sliding down the banister and offering a ring box to Charlotte. The routine, when it eventually starts, involves a lot of Charlotte waggling her hands like she’s shaking water off them, some very unpolished kickball changes, clumpy footwork and a lot more faffing about where they put wedding gear on, get under an arch (sadly not Dave) and do the ceremony-more than 10 seconds worth of this as well. What’s missing in all of this - kicks and flicks, actual jive content, you know that kind of thing. That said, it’s not quite as bad as it was in rehearsals and there aren’t any mistakes on the scale of their cha-cha, it’s just not very good.

Shirley’s first comment-removing her glasses in the way that teachers and parents have of demonstrating how disappointed they are in you-is calling Charlotte ‘Mollie’ (poor Charlotte). She said there were nine counts of eight (I’m assuming in music terms) before they got started and they can’t criticise other people for that, without mentioning it, but she did like a tiny aspect of Charlotte’s Charlotte’s footwork. One aspect. Once. Huge praise. Bruno says that he liked that she was ‘participating in that situation’ which is a) the biggest backhanded compliment ever and b) presumably a reference to last week where Brendan did everything. Craig says her shoulders should not be moving in the kicks and flicks but he is surprised. Tess asked to clarify if this surprise is a good one, and he says, well, yes, surprised that he liked a bit of it. Darcey says you could see how much Charlotte was enjoying it (LOL Darcey, no, you couldn’t) and that she kept the kickball changes going and going and going and going (again, presumably this is a backhanded compliment, as that that was all there was to the routine).

In the Clauditorium, we learn that this is the first week that Brendan’s been sweating in rehearsals since series 1 with Natasha. I guess he is getting a little too into the storyline of being a newlywed, huh? And we thought it was Debbie and Giovanni where all the fun was happening. Scores: four, five, five, five, for a total of 19, an improvement on their score last week at least.

Joe and Katya are next and, lovers of the facial furniture, you may want a moment to mourn the loss of his moustache. Their VT covers the fact that he had a birthday this week and Katya bought him cakes with their faces on. Their training footage also looks completely appalling and Joe doesn’t seem to be able to get the chapter frame right, which bodes well.

Indeed, this dance is bad. His arms, in particular, are completely awful - he has no shaping in them, half the time he looks like he doesn’t know what to do with them, and his face is flushed with embarrassment throughout. And when I say that, don’t think that I’m saying his legs and hips are any good, because they really aren’t. There is also some faffing about with a door, because God forbid Joe do a routine without a huge piece of prop furniture. It’s his ‘thing’ now. The one thing I could say about it that’s nice is that the singers do a reasonable enough job of ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’. It is a bit better than Brendan and Charlotte’s, simply because Joe has more dancing prowess in general and a better sense of performance and rhythm, but not one of his better routines.

Bruno says that the routine was very fast and he couldn’t keep up with her, and the footwork was bad. Craig agrees, saying his hips were also part of the problem and he looked awkward throughout, demonstrating that he seemed to be struggling. Craig says it looked like he got off a horse because his legs were so far apart. Darcey says she didn’t think it was too bad-although there were moments where he seemed to switch off. She found it inconsistent, with places where he was better than others, because Darcey doesn’t trust him to know what inconsistent means. Shirley loves the music choice-yes, because Joe had everything to do with that. Shirley said he missed the mark onto many aspects of dancing tonight, and if he can get the fundamentals right, it will serve him well throughout the whole competition.

Scores: five, seven, six, six for a total of 24. This evening is going so well, isn’t it?

Ruth and Anton now and Tess says Ruth needed to learn how to be a strong, confident woman, so that will be the focus of her VT. I would say to have been married for Eamon Holmes all that time suggests she does have a level of strength, but I guess you could also interpret it as she’s used to being talked over all the time? Anyway, the thrust of it is that they go to the set of Loose Women and all of her co-hosts (including Strictly ringer of yore, Denise Van Outen) talk over her and dance with Anton instead. Hooray for confidence!

They are dancing the tango to ‘Allegretto’ and lovers of Ruth’s wigs may be disappointed by the lack thereof this week. However, as routines go, this is clearly their best. Yes, there are moments where she clings to Anton for dear life and looks a little bit afraid or unsure as to what’s happening, and the footwork is a little flat-footed in places-but predominantly, they keep up with the pace (probably using pace to their advantage given the VTs we’ve had of Ruth preferring to dance quickly), there are some recognisable tango steps, she is generally keeping in time and, whilst it doesn’t attempt anything especially complex, what it does do it generally does well. They are ecstatic as it finishes, bless.

Craig says that’s more like it, and whilst there are small problems with gapping and elbows, it’s a big improvement. Darcey says her frame needs a little bit of work but she loved how Ruth managed to gain control in places, and she wants to see more power in Ruth’s performance and less reliance on the music to bring the power on her behalf. Shirley says it’s 100% improvement on their rumba and that she did an amazing fall away (I’m not sure what that is, but I take her word for it). Bruno says there were no mistakes and he thought her neck was going to explode with the force with which she grabbed Anton.

The Clauditorium is full of joy and Claudia says the other contestants were screaming at her as she did it. Anton says this is her dance-and, therefore, presumably, he doesn’t think she’s likely to own any of their future routines? Scores: six, six, six, six for a total of 24. Anton says he’s not sure why sixes should matter that much, but they do. Claudia: ‘talk to Brian’. Heh.

We get a mid-episode leaderboard, in which the highest score is 29. Great. It is possible that could change now, though, because we have Aston and Janette. Their coverage of last week focuses on the pot stirrer, presumably to rub it in Brendan’s face even more. Rehearsal footage of this week shows Aston struggling with the speed of the quickstep and wearing an unattractive bun on his head. The conclusion to this is that he hopes it will be better by Saturday. Talk about downer ending.

They open with a cute/annoying gimmick (delete as per your preference) where they are lit in silhouettes, Aston directly above Janette, as a noisy neighbour. I make it 12 seconds before they get into hold. The choice of ‘Mr Blue Sky’ is quite a good one for the quickstep, as it gives the dance a real personality, and Aston is very good at the character aspect of the dance, portraying a kind of cuteness with a comedic edge. The dancing itself, though, is not their finest. His legs are a bit of a mess, as if he’s not quite sure where to put them at any given moment-this is particularly true when travelling across the floor. It also seems as though Janette choreographed routine that slightly beyond him, and I admire her ambition, but that kind of thing has been her undoing many times before-including two weeks ago with their salsa.

Tess says their scores have gone up week on week and asks the judges if that is likely to continue. Darcey immediately bursts that bubble by saying she was disappointed with it and that the footwork got worse as it went on. She says that he was pigeon toed, presumably getting in before Shirley can, and had flexed foot at various times and she ends with a patronising ‘but well done’. Meow. Shirley says she agrees with Darcey when it comes to the feet. That’s right, Shirley, confuse her with building her up in between all the knocking her down. She says his frame was a good try but wasn’t consistent throughout, and he needs to really think about how uses his ankles in the shaping of his feet. Bruno says the sky is the limit for him and he loves his speed, his timing, his ease of movement on the interpretation of the song and argues that he found the footwork impressive. Craig says it lacked elegance and was quite jolting in places, but he loved the routine as a whole-particularly the energy and agility.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia comments that they haven’t done ballroom since week one, so it must’ve been like learning a new language-isn’t every dance supposed to be like learning a language? Aston says he hasn’t been getting much sleep because his pregnant wife has a new pillow and is taking up much of the bed. Claudia says ‘boo-hoo to you, you’re not making a new human inside you, so sorry you’re not getting enough sleep’. Scores seven, eight, eight, nine for a total of 32. Even Janette is shocked by the nine, as she should be.

Simon and Karen now, whose training footage rivals Charlotte and Brendan’s for its potential to be a disaster. The narrative of their VT is that he keeps doing steps that are too wide for the Samba and has to put a pound in a dance equivalent of a swear jar each time. Hilarious.

The fact that they are dancing to ‘Copacabana’ and he is in a colourful Hawaiian shirt, whilst she has plastic kids’ shopping set bananas in her hair should be your indication that this dance is being played for comedic purposes. His movements are those of a dad who’s downed too many Sangrias from the all-inclusive bar in Torremolinos (Flo notRimmer is presumably incredibly proud at this moment in time) - but I am guessing that’s probably what they were going for, given that they know they can’t achieve technical brilliance. His body moves in a very bizarre way-his limbs are all over the place and they look like they don’t even belong to the same person half the time - each am is tensed and twisted at a completely different angle, for example, making me wonder how he’s even managed to achieve that. Still, fair play to him, he’s embracing more of the comedic side than I thought he might. He isn’t doing very well at keeping up with the beat, though, and once they go into the moving around the floor sections (he just about copes when they are standing still), it falls even more to pieces.

Shirley begins by saying there were some mistakes and Simon replies ‘I know’. He is growing on me. A bit. However, she was pleased that there was a lot of basic samba content in there with a whole range of steps. Bruno says it went down like a Pina Colada (surely that’s a good thing?) [Maybe Bruno's more of a Sex On The Beach man? - Steve]. And it looked like Simon had had a few, with him being more Benidorm than Brazil, but he could see that Simon had tried hard. He tells him, next time do it right. Fully anticipating him being in the dance off their than Craig says it had potential at the beginning, but it descended into a mess, whilst Darcey says he gave it his all and it was a ‘sweet party rather than a cracker’. Karen gives this the WTF eyes that it truly deserves. Tim Lovejoy and Gok Wan in the audience, look at this with a slightly nervous expression that reads to me ‘If we ever do this show, will we be able to do that dance any better’? Scores: 4, 5 (which has about two people clapping, 5 (about 10 people), 5 (cheers and whoops) for a total of 19.

Gemma and Aljaž now and, poor girl, what have they done to her hair? It looks like it’s been wrapped up in glitter tinsel. She’ll be finding bits of that in her pillow for weeks. Aljaž says last week was one of his favourite ever weeks. All this time it was Pasha they were putting in terrible clothing and make-up to look like a hideous comedy character when Aljaž was desperate for it, who knew? For some reason, their highlight in the scoring was getting a seven from Craig. Such strange beings, these two. The dance is apparently going to be set under the night sky which is a cue for them to go to the Greenwich Observatory. Aljaž says it’s going to be beneficial because you have to look up and in the paso doble you have to keep your chin up. On flimsier premises have VTs been made. As Gemma looks through the telescope she sees a 10. Aljaž says where? She laughs ‘weeks away’. They then try and dance and she is in a really tight skirt, which is probably not the best choice.

They are dancing the Paso to ‘Viva La Vida’ and she’s wearing a glittery bodice with fake crisscrosses on it that actually looks pretty cool, combined with a pink skirt (Kelly Brook sparkly cape of yay never forget), whilst he has a pink waistcoat and black trousers with the obligatory bare chest. The dance starts a little bit too contemporary dance like, but once the music really kicks in, it starts to develop real purpose. She has a ridiculously over-the-top Paso face - gnashing her teeth throughout as if possessed - and whilst the shaping in her arms is dynamic but not always very elegant, there’s a real sense of attack and energy about the dance. Then there’s a bit where they clap glitter, which is quite fun, and he strangles her to death. The end.

Bruno calls her a real gem and loved that they did a step with a pullback which he hasn’t seen very often. Craig says she needs to be sharper and more dynamic out of hold and take up more space when she’s by herself, but overall it was powerful and they really took over in hold and he loved it. Aljaž looks like all his Christmases have come at once. Gemma is like ‘calm down luv’, because she’s DED NORMAL. Darcey says she loves her but she thinks she buries her chin a little bit too much. Darcey found it powerful but sensual and says Strictly is a marathon rather than a sprint and she can see Gemma here for the long run. She also noticed some beautiful footwork on her twist turn.

Claudia says their scores have gone up every week, unlike everyone else in the show. Scores: eight, nine (which Darcey delivers a horrible aggressive way that she has), nine, nine for a total of 35 and they are, understandably, ecstatic with that.

Alexandra and Gorka now and I’m so delighted to see that she has big hair after implying on ITT that she might not. Tess, over with Bruno, says Alexandra is playing the role of the diva and she knows just the person to give her tips (Bruno) - girl, Alexandra duetted with Beyoncé, she doesn’t need any diva tips. Their VT focuses on some moves they are finding tricky in training, including Alexandra going through his legs. She says she’s worried that Gorka’s bum will knock her out-I’m sure many people have had that response to his derriere, yes.

This is the ‘Proud Mary’ jive we were denied with Natalie Gumede when she was taken ill and it’s everything we’ve been waiting for for all those years. Alexandra throws herself into it with gay abandon, covered in silver fringing that really works for the over-the-top character. Gorka also has his chest out for good measure. It’s fast, it’s sleek, it’s full of energy, it looks like it should be on a stage show, so her musical theatre training (ringer) has clearly come in handy here. There’s a moment where it stutters a little before they slide her under his legs, but then it picks the pace up pretty swiftly afterwards-he even does a leapfrog over her which works really well-he manages to clear the hair and everything. After sitting through so much dross, I’m glad the evening’s starting to really pick up. Although I’m sick of jives being feted as the 2nd/3rd/4th/5th coming, that still was a wonderful routine.

It receives a standing ovation from the audience, what seems a genuine case of Tess astonishment, and a half standing ovation from the judges (Shirley and Bruno) and a rewind from me because it was so much fun.

Craig said he had no idea where that came from and she was dancing to split the atom, and he found it had a nuclear reaction - do we want to be making offhand comments about that given The State of the World in 2017? Darcey says she kept going and was just brilliant. Shirley said she is ‘proud Shirley’ and it left her speechless. Bruno says he had the honour to work with Tina Turner-at which Alexandra gasps ‘did you? Wow!’ and thus divides the audience into lovers and haters who either think she’s adorkable or up herself OMG entitled ringer bitch (the latter are entirely wrong of course) Bruno says Tina Turner is a force of nature and Alexandra really captured that quality in a dance.  Also, one of my former students, who’s a journalist, saw the actual Tina perform ‘Proud Mary’ live this week and I am dead from the jealous.

In the Clauditorium, Alexandra gets kisses from all the boys. Claudia tells her that her boyfriend like he was crying throughout - and we cut to her boyfriend looking incredibly unhappy to be on camera, with her brother laughing at it. Claudia says it’s lovely to Alexandra keeps mentioning how Gorka is a great teacher. Scores: nine, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 and our first 10s of the series. And if you are wondering whether Darcey delivered that with complete obnoxiousness, of course she did. Shirley has coined a new catchphrase ‘it’s never too early for 10 from Shirley’. Of all the things I don’t miss about Len, rhyming ten with his name is up there, kindly stop this Shirley thanks. Bruno’s fist bump seems almost tame in comparison. The rest of the contestants start screaming ‘Alex Alex Alex’ in the Clauditorium and she starts crying, hugging Claudia and saying that she wishes her mum could have seen her. Claudia says ‘baby, you did so well and we’re going to get you to your boyfriend and your brother now’. I’m not crying, you’re crying. [No shut up you are. - Steve]

Tess tells the judges she’s so glad they gave Alexandra tens (BBC BIAS!1!!) and as she introduces Jonnie and Oti, Oti wipes away a tear (who’d have thought it?) before realising the camera is switched on and gently wiping and turning her face into full beam smile mode. Atta girl.
Their VT reminds us that Jonnie has struggled to get into character-could we be seeing our first acting coach VT of the series? No. Instead they’re getting into character via the medium of re-enacting one of Captain Picard’s Dixon Hill holodeck stories from Star Trek: The Next Generation (Happy 30th TNG!  Now can we get Star Trek: The Even Nexter Generation, Paramount?  Discovery just isn’t the same, even with all the promo press telling us that’s all we deserve because the absolute state of humanity in 2017). Oti, is, of course, playing the alien of the week cunningly disguised as a foxy lady intent on bringing the ship down via the medium of losing Jonnie to the Holodeck forever before Riker comes in, seduces her and tricks her into revealing her nefarious plan! I hotly anticipate their Borg-themed Charleston in the future. [Neeeeeeeerrrrrrrrd. - Steve]

Their American smooth is to ‘Cry Me a River’, and the styling and lighting looks very Argentine Tango - all dark and moody. Which is an unusual, but not unwelcome, tone for an American smooth. You know how, often, the female pros on the show do that thing where they cover up the deficiency of their male partners by making the dance all about them (holla Ola) well, this is Oti giving a masterclass in how to completely dominate the dancefloor. She lunges, leaps and clambers, using Jonnie as her prop, throughout. For his part, he does perfectly adequately in hold and demonstrates plenty of strength in supporting Oti as she does the gymnastics around him. The most impressive moment is where she does a cartwheel over him as he lies on the floor and supports her. He isn’t quite into the tone of it, performance-wise, but you can tell he’s game for whatever ideas Oti is throwing at him, which is going to bode well, I think. If you were in any doubt as to who the new Queen of the pros was, doubt no more.

Tess says that Darcey wanted more character and asks if she got it. Darcey said there was a lot in the dance, particularly the lifts, although he leans forward little bit too much in hold and needs more confidence. She says when you have someone like Oti who is full on, hundred percent passion, he needs to be up there with her and fully exaggerate his character. He doesn’t seem to me like the kind of guy who channels passion very easily, he’s about as laid-back as they come, but I guess he’ll get his AMAZING CHARLESTON ACTING BREAKTHROUGH soon enough. Shirley said he had some nice moments, although he was a bit lumpy in places. She says he does have amazing peripheral vision, which gets him into the right position all the time and she was very pleased with how he handles himself. Bruno says it worked very well for him and he was playing it call, which is the right character. I think that’s just his natural self, Bruno, but whatever. He says it was brilliant that he never lost the phrasing throughout the dance and thought his musicality was absolutely correct. Craig says he tends to stop acting in hold and then loses the story and he suggests he has some acting lessons - I guess that next week’s VT sewn up given it didn’t happen this week. However, Craig loved it other than that.

In the Clauditorium, Jonnie says he loves out his choreography and we learn that the surgeon who operated on him and saved his life is in the audience. Much like Alexandra’s boyfriend, said surgeon does not seem to be very happy to be on camera. Jonnie calls him the man who stole his leg. Scores: seven, eight, eight, eight for a total of 31. Oti is very excited with that. Jonnie is also pleased.

And in your pimp slot tonight? Kevin and Susan. This could be one of those where they have done their annual let’s give the comedy contestant the last slot to give the public a laugh, but I’m kind of hoping it’s more than that because I really like these two. In their VT they catch the sleeper train, which actually looks like quite good fun - although I appreciate it won’t be if you’re doing it for business on a regular basis. They dance in the carriage, then go to bed in matching unicorn sleeping masks and tartan pyjamas, which I think is a Morecambe and Wise tribute as well, with a 2017 Instagram twist?

As soon as this quickstep to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ begins, you can see why it was given the pimp slot. They open with absolute joy on their faces, Kevin dressed in his glasses to replicate Morecambe and they do some lovely business at the front with top hats and canes, before getting into the dance proper. She really can dance this one - it’s not necessarily a top of the pack performance, but a very solid dance, the kind that you usually get from a middling ability dancer. She doesn’t quite have enough bounce in the jumps - but height is no doubt a problem here. Sometimes her execution could be sharper, but this is far and away the best she’s ever done and the breeziness and sense of the joy that they’re clearly both experiencing makes it work-they end with the traditional Eric Morecambe dance and then do a big old jazz hands and exaggerated kicky ending in the style of Eric’n’Ern. What a great big beaming smile of a routine. Kevin Clifton, I salute you.

Susan is completely breathless and doesn’t seem to appreciate Tess trying to ask a lot of questions while she gets it back. I’d be exactly the same in her position. Shirley says ‘what a way to end the show’ and she was surprised how light on her feet Susan was and enjoyed her whizzing around the floor. Bruno says it was like a box of delights and every week she comes out with a surprise and that it was a wonderful tribute to Morecambe and Wise, as well as being a full on, proper quickstep. Craig says she ran around at a hellish speed and she missed a couple of moments due to the speed, but he thinks it was her personal best. Darcey says it was bright and breezy and beautiful and she wanted to hug them. She said she needs to watch the frame in places as the shoulder sometimes came up, but it was a gorgeous routine.

In the Clauditorium, we see that Susan’s parents are next to her wife on the front row and learn that normally Susan doesn’t let them see her perform, so good job that went well, eh?  Scores: seven, seven, eight, eight for a total of 30 and Susan lifts Kevin up in celebration. Neither of them can believe it. Claudia tells them that they got 10 more marks the last week and Susan launches herself at her with a full-on hug.

Scoreboard time!
1. Alexandra and Gorka - 39
2. Gemma and Aljaž - 35
3. Aston and Janette - 32
4. Jonnie and Oti - 31
5. Susan and Kevin - 30
6. Davood and Nadiya - 29
7=. Debbie and Giovanni - 27
7=. Mollie and AJ - 27
9=. Joe and Katya - 24
9=. Ruth and Anton - 24
11. Brian and Amy - 21
12=. Charlotte and Brendan - 19
12=. Simon and Karen - 19

Well, that’s got a few surprises in it, hasn’t it? I’m off to stick a lot of votes on Debbie this week because I think there’s a good chance that some of the mid-pack couples could find themselves in danger. Smart money would say Charlotte vs Simon dance off, of course, but you can never tell for sure. People may still be loving the saga of Brendan vs Shirley and Simon could possibly get a boost after being in the bottom two last week.

So, that was a dreary two-thirds followed by half an hour of extreme emotion. And that’s just the process of recapping. Join me later for the results show with the “fantastic” Gregory Porter.


Beth said...

No offence but you need to stop being so rude and negative about AJ and his routines. Every week however good his routine is you, you constantly find a way to criticise him and his role as a professional dancer which I don't understand because he's doing a far better job that what you could. I love reading your reviews but it gets very irritating when you are making comments about him instead of how Mollie danced.

robjones75 said...

AJ, it’s bedtime!

F a t i m a said...

I am so bored now with highly marked jives on Strictly, particularly in weeks 3 or 4. We're always being told that such-and-such is one of the hardest dances. The jive must be one of the easiest as contestants are now regularly getting 10s less than a month into the season.

Rad said...

Fatima- I hear you. I mean, I like a good jive (and really enjoyed Alexandra's) but it'd be great to see other dances being feted so much, too.

Beth - I don't think we're singling out AJ more than other pros particularly. We've been plenty critical of Anton and Janette, for example. And most of my criticism of him and Mollie is of them as a pair. Their tango was fine, haven't really enjoyed anything else, and neither of them have really given me a moment this series where I really want to root for them. I'd be interested to see him with a celebrity that had more personality, perhaps an older and/or comedy contestant.

Kate said...

Just catching up with your lovely blog.
The bitching is my guilty pleasure. I enjoy reading different points of view. I was a bit meh about AJ and Mollie but then enjoyed Mollie complaining about AJ on ITT, and warmed to them, which makes no sense.
Completely agree about Susan and Kevin, I think he may some kind of dance instructor god, he brings the best out of every partner. He's the anti-Brendan. Plus he was completely amazing to watch live. I was lucky to see strictly live the year of Artem and Natalie. My main memory was seeing Artem and Kevin trying to out jive each other in a pro dance, OMG, the speed, the testosterone!

Rad said...

Oh wow, that must have been amazing!