Week 10: Top 7 Perform - 25 November 2017
Last week! The annual BLACKPOOL adventure gave us one great dance (Alexandra), one good dance (Gemma) and one supremely entertaining hot mess (Joe), with several degrees of ‘Aston and Ruth died for this?’ (everyone else). The latest entry in Debbie’s unfortunate run of party Latin saw her face Jonnie in the dance-off, where he was finally dispatched at the traditional SPORTSMAN ejection point. Tonight! It’s Blackpool hangover week and I have a fucking raging toothache meaning I’m going to have to try and use my arms as the lesser of two agonies, and it’s red wedding time - so I am in no mood for any of this show’s usual bullshit. Just give me a string of lovely entertaining dances and perhaps one or two hilarious crashes in the paso-flavoured rigathon and we’ll be sweet. Either that or hope that the mountain of painkillers and the mulled wine (it’s medicinal! Cloves are good for toothache!) put me in enough of a fug that I’m too zonked to get tetchy.
Cue credits! Looking at the dearly departed reminds me that the dance-offs have so rarely involved people even trying to save themselves this year.
Tess and Claudia enter on the arms of Brendan and Anton. Classic. Daly Dresswatch: bright fuschia with sleeves that make it look like she’s wearing a cape which I will forgive as I assume it’s a nod to the paso-doblathon… and then Tess actually notes she’s wearing a cape which is some unusual self awareness well done. What Winkleman’s Wearing: a blue-black sparkly cocktail dress, the likes of which you might wear to the office Christmas party. It’s fine but hardly in keeping with the theme.
Our judges enter, for some reason doing half-arsed sub-Latin ‘maraca shake’ arms that, SPOILER ALERT, still look better than what’s coming in Gemma’s samba tonight. Of note: Darcey is wearing a racy skirt with a paso style wing at one side and a short skirt cut just below her hip on the other. Then the couples: Davood and Nadiya in some lovely classic Fred’n’Ginge outfits; Mollie and AJ both wearing yellow so that’s them in the dance-off if we believe in such portents; Gemma and Aljaž in bright red (ditto); Debbie and Giovanni in black; Joe and Katya in braces and flat caps dear god; Susan and Kevin in blue (he in a sailor’s jacket) and Alexandra and Gorka in chevrons (her) and black (him). For those keeping score of dancing along: Debbie and Gio, Aljaž, Katya and Susan are bothering and Nadiya is almost vaguely swaying. Everyone else: must try harder.
Joe and Katya are first up and Tess introduces them by telling us that they’ll be playing construction workers working on a New York skypscaper and that last week Joe showed us he had a head for heights. Except he literally doesn’t, as his VT and ITT interviews were all about how much he hates heights, way to show you care about this show’s storylines, Daly. Their VT training features Joe in a vest that’s too short for him, PE shorts and white ankle socks and never has he looked more like a primary school pupil running around the school gym. He also gets excited that they might get to go to New York but, no, he gets taken up the shard and you can see him actually shake a bit as he gets out of the lift. As a fellow height-phobe, I feel ya, Joe.
Their quickstep is to ‘Jumpin’ Jack’ and features a cool rendering of girders above NY projected onto the floor which looks great but would also terrify me were I dancing atop it. It looked terrible in the training footage on ITT, but it’s definitely improved since then. It’s well paced and on the spot, the kicks are nice, although in hold, Joe’s knees look like he’s trying to play keepy-uppy. But then it gets into lots of goofy Charleston larks where they slide down each other’s backs and stuff, complete with a huge dollop of gurning, and I’m not here for that outside of the actual Charleston, and the whole thing just makes me think of Tom Chambers, which: no thanks. [Yeah, the bits of quickstep I quite liked, but there was a lot of faffing in there that I really didn't care for, which is becoming a bit of a hallmark of Katya's choreography at this point. - Steve] Still, now that Athena posters are officially an inspiration, I look forward to dances based on ‘topless man with baby’ and ‘tennis girl’ soon. After all, we’ve already had Anne Geddes-style animal babies:
Katya gives an ear-piercing scream as the audience go nuts. I know it’s nice when we get a quickstep in what’s seemed like a series of endless terrible foxtrots and party Latin, but come now, it was a solid 8/10 at best.
We welcome the singers: Hayley, Lance, Andrea, Tommy. Yet another classic combination. Also Dave Arch and the orchestra, you know the drill.
Tess asks Shirley if Joe’s becoming an all-rounder and she says she’s not sure about an all-rounder (because his tango and cha cha burn long into the memory) but he’s definitely on his way to next week. She praises the mixture of basic, intermediate and advanced technique and the mixture of chasses. She says the most impressive part was when he put his hands behind his back as that’s ‘a well known technique in my industry’. Bruno praises it for being light and accurate and highlighting the rhythmical subtleties in the music. Yes, the word ‘subtleties’ exists in the vocabulary of Bruno Tonioli I am shook. Craig says he thought Joe was holding a bit too much tension in his top line and the actual state of the audience tonight giving an enormous boo for that teeny tiny bit of critique. Other than that, he thought it was light and bright and he loved the phrasing throughout the whole dance. Darcey calls it ‘wonderfully authentic’. Yep, he totally convinced me he’s going to build a skyscraper, Darce. Katya screams some more because she seems to want to squander the good will she’s been building up with me this series. [If anything, this series has made me like Katya less, and I don't really recall having any strong feelings about her one way or the other last year. - Steve]
In the Clauditorium, Joe says Katya’s happy because it was so bad in training at the start of the week. Scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 for an are-you-fucking-kidding-me 38. It was good, but I’m not even sure about those 9s, never mind 10s. I get that they need to ensure some men are kept around, but surely his vote can’t be so bad that he needs this much inflation? The terms and conditions are introduced with a Spanish guitar player, some (small) fans and Katya and Janette mugging for the camera. Still less annoying than Peter Kay last week though.
Alexandra and Gorka now. Whilst it looks like Joe and Alexandra have the worst positions in the running order tonight, I’m not sure that’s actually true with the rigathon coming up later. Surely the couples who go on first have more time to recover and prepare than those who have to do two dances very close together. [And more time to get changed, at the very least. - Steve] Anyway, they’re doing the rumba, aka the dance of LURVE and we have Alexandra’s boyfriend Josh turning up to training, and he even gives her a good luck message, which is not in keeping with the embarrassed faces he usually pulls, but is kind of sweet I guess.
They’re dancing to ‘Halo’ and the singers flub the words from pretty much the off, and for some reason they’ve chosen one of the men to lead, with harmonies from one of the women (I think it might be Tommy and Andrea but hard to tell) and the arrangement is weird so it sounds like the voices are really out of harmony with each other, as well as lacking some much needed percussion and bass to give the dance some support. The result is that both the vocals and the dance feel over-exposed and thus a little lacking. It’s OK as a dance but it’s quite thin in terms of content and doesn’t have a great deal of fluidity in the motions. They don’t feel incredibly invested in it, either, something seems missing compared to the full-throttle of their best routines. It also feels really short although that might be because they only used a small amount of the dance floor. (I ran a comparison with some of the others and it came in about 10 seconds under the two quicksteps but a similar length to Susan’s American Smooth). [I actually really liked it and totally felt the chemistry between them, but apparently I was entirely alone in this? - Steve]
Bruno says it had drama in the facial performance, but needed more extension in the body, especially in the hips. Craig says she needed to extend further and have straighter legs and he didn’t feel there was much connection or chemistry in the performance but it was still a beautiful rumba. Darcey says she can see the hard work, but she didn’t see the connection with the music. Because there was a shitty arrangement that felt hollow and weird? Shirley said she had nice emotion but she lacked the straight leg she had in the cha cha and that she stepped on every beat of the movement but one beat should be a hold – which surely is more about the choreography than her performance? [Potentially yes, but it could also mean that she was putting in steps that weren't meant to be there at all. To be honest, it was quite hard to hear the 'one' beats in that arrangement anyway, so I'm not surprised if she messed that up. - Steve]
In the Clauditorium, Alexandra says at least criticisms give her things to work on and improve. Scores: 7, 8, 8, 9 for a total of 32, which isn’t necessarily an unfair score, but not sure it was 6 marks worse than Joe.
Gemma and Aljaž now. They got their first 10s last week and Gemma is worried it’s too good to be true. Not least as they have a samba this week. To Billy Joel. So they sack training off and go to Gemma’s boxing club for DED NORMAL women instead and Gemma kicks him a lot instead; way to get that training in for the paso-thon, you go girl.
They open asleep in bed (which, lest we forget, was basically the storyline to Ben and Kristina’s time both on and off the show) and… they probably should have stayed there. There’s some ridiculously literal theming and choreo going on to match the opening lyrics of ‘The River of Dreams’ (‘In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep’) involving an actual part where Gemma falls asleep on his shoulder mid-way. I get the thinking behind the choice of song in that it has that bouncy samba rhythm albeit at a very slow pace, but this is the kind of theme you’d pass to a comedy contestant for some heartwarming LOLZ, not something for an apparent front runner. Not something Gemma can be held too responsible for, of course, but her technique isn’t particularly great anyway – she doesn’t seem to be enjoying it much and there isn’t much commitment to anything other than opening her mouth so wide she makes Alexandra look subdued and occasionally staring right down the camera with an ‘I fucking hate this too, don’t worry’ grimace. [I thought the bits of samba were danced decently enough, but the theming was just such a mess that it barely even mattered how good she was. - Steve]
Craig says it was awkward and sluggish. Darcey says the whole ‘sleepy party’ theme was really strange. No kidding. She says her free arm had no direction and this wasn’t really her dance. Shirley says she quite liked the bedroom scene as she looked as snug as a bug in a rug and like she didn’t want to get up. And who can blame her? She then says ‘let me try to explain what Craig meant by sluggish’ and if the internet did not erupt in an ‘OMG SHE JUST WOMANSPLAINED CRAIG SEE IT’S NOT JUST TEH MENZ YOU FEMINAZIS’ rage at that then 2017 will have reformed society more than I thought possible. (No, I’m not going to check Digital Spy/Twitter to see, I’m in enough pain as it is). Anyway, her non-standing leg should pass smoothly under the body for the next step otherwise it looks lumpy. Hooray for the continued presence of actual dance critique. Also she did a nice volta well done her. Bruno calls it the perfect samba for a (Blackpool) hangover and he knows just how that feels. He understands the interpretation of the dance was about trying new things but she still lost the rhythm in doing so. Aljaž tells Tess he’s never heard the phrase ‘snug as a bug in a rug’ and if I know 2017 Aljaž, it’s about to become his new favourite expression.
They bounce up to the Clauditorium with more energy than their samba had and Aljaž tells her she smashed it. Smashed the notion of samba into itty tiny pieces. Scores: 6, 6, 6, 7 for a total of 25.
*Whispers to self* ‘Hang on in there. Just remember. Debbie McGee Argentine Tango.’
Claudia’s comedy corner: ‘Susan’s dance is set on a cruise, but where is she going?’ ‘Alaska’ ‘Never mind I’ll ask her myself’ repeat ad nauseum. I’m just amused by the fact that Susan’s dance has an actual backstory.
Mollie and AJ now. We’re promised that, fresh from Charleston-ing up Little Mix’s Wings, they’re about to bastardise Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’. Wow, Mollie really HATES her pop rivals, doesn’t she? Also Mollie’s nephew turns up in her VT as a late BABY WARZ entrant although this series has been a bit rubbish on that front all told, hasn’t it? Has there ever been a cast with so few tiny children between them? The best they’ve given us is a baby bump and an embarrassed adult daughter who changed her name.
Godawful music aside (although thank GOD the singers don’t put on that awful faux-Elvis voice the singer of The Baseballs uses), this is not too bad. It’s not too great, either – her footwork is fairly basic and there’s little in the way of tricks but she sells it performance-wise, and there are no glaring errors, so not a bad job all round, and should net her some solid 7s and 8s?
Darcey tells her to watch her energy levels at the end but otherwise thinks she acquitted herself well. Shirley says she agrees with Darcey that it lost steam ¾ of the way through, but as a positive, she had wings. That was last week, Shirl, keep up. Bruno says the fog has lifted and it was a bright, lively, clear quickstep. Craig says she was a little jolty in places and something happened at the end, but it wasn’t really anything (although whatever it was, Mollie says it was her fault) but overall she’s really improving.
In the Clauditorium, Mollie’s happy to be told she’s improving. Scores: 7, 7, 8, 9 (LOL Bruno) for a total of 31 and their first 9. Everyone in the Clauditorium shouts at them to kiss, the trolls.
Davood and Nadiya now and Tess says his Bond-themed dance last week would have impressed Daniel Craig (really? That bloke seems permanently grumpy to me) and this week he only needs to impress actual Craig. I kind of feel there’s a missed opportunity for a Craig David themed dance somewhere.
Their VT is Nadiya trying to convince us that waltz is SO HARD FOR THE MEN. Tone it down, Nad, even John Sergeant did a passable one.
They both look pretty – Nadiya in a white ballgown and he in tails, but it’s being danced to ‘With You I’m Born Again’ which is the fifth time it’s been used for a waltz on this show, and the last time was only in series 13 so that immediately prejudices me against it, sorry guys. (The music really sucks tonight, doesn’t it?). What to say about this? It’s a standard nice bloke waltz in that it’s both nice for a bloke waltz and a nice bloke doing the waltz. Boring as fuck for week 10, but still preferable to what they did last week.
Tess asks Shirley if he’s delivered again and Shirley says she believes he has and he looks lovely in a suit. She especially loved the way he brought his feet together. Bruno calls it stylish, simple and effective. Craig says it needed a little more swing and sway but it had elegance, grace, taste and simplicity. Darcey calls it effortless and loved the travelling and the sense of romance.
In the Clauditorium, Davood confirms his lucky socks are back on. Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 35, giving a good chance of him either not hitting the dance-off or being saved if he does.
Claudia tells us to check out the Strictly website where this week we can learn Gorka’s tips on horse whispering. I’m assuming that’s a reference to some kind of in-joke that I just don’t get? [It's a running gag they've been doing all series about 'bonus content' you can find on the website, all of which is bizarre and none of which actually exists. Er, not that I checked. - Steve]
Debbie and Giovanni now and I have been longing for their Argentine Tango for the longest time (and they better be here for musicals week next week in which they also better be finally getting that American Smooth happening. I mean, I’m up for their jive as well, but good God all the Latin all the time, save it for two-dance week when they’ll have to do either the foxtrot or waltz). In training, Debbie seems quite deflated after their dance-off last week and says she’s really tired and feeling her age. But they go and see Vincent dance and he gives her her mojo back, huzzah, wouldn’t this dance be even better if it was 'Vincent and Gio fight for Debbie’s love(/sex)', yes it would.
They’re dancing to ‘Por Una Cabeza’ (third time it’s been used on the show – and it’s funny how, of all the dances, Argentine Tango seems to get the most reverential PURITY OF DAHNCE treatment in terms of music, costume and lighting. I'd wonder if there were some special rules about how they’re allowed to use it if I hadn't seen Jake and Janette's Greek tragedy). It is, as you might expect, full of leg action and sensuality even if a teeny tiny bit less filthy and dramatic than I was hoping it would be. I don’t see them being in the dance-off again on that, though.
Tess opens the critique by calling it flexible, sharp and a great comeback. As annoying presenter critiques go, there have been worse, but still, stop it. Bruno says she used the dancefloor like a canvas with her legs as the paintbrush in the hands of a great artist. Craig says she truly amazes him and he wishes he could dance like her but he has one small note (BOOO etc) and if she does it again, which he hopes she does one day (I will take that to mean in the final, rather than the dance-off, Craig?) she needs to have a slightly looser leg in the gancho. Darcey praises the articulation and lines in her leg, whilst in the audience, Gloria Hunniford looks on and smiles. Not quite the A-list of last week’s audience, though, sorry Glo. Shirley finds it emotional ‘as a 57 year old woman’ who prides herself on balance as she thinks Debbie’s balance is outstanding.
In the Clauditorium, Debbie reveals she hurt her back in the week but pushed herself to do it right. Scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 38 and more exhortations to kiss. They don’t, spoilsports.
Claudia previews the pasodoblathon as ‘the Black Friday sales, set to Spanish music’. So, a lot of hype for a tiny bit of difference to the end price/score, then.
Final couple of the night and either in the pimp slot or the worst slot of the night depending on your interpretation of these things, it’s Susan and Kevin. They’re on American Smooth and are doing a foxtrot-based one which seems unfortunate given their previous foxtrot, but I guess this is the time when the show will want to dispatch of the also-rans. They go to a boat called the Waverly and it’s no The Lovely Debbie McGee, however many Titanic tributes they try to get in.
They’re dancing to ‘Beyond The Sea’ with some benches right down the middle to evoke the feeling of a cruise ship/hinder the dancing (delete as per your preference). Tonally it’s very sweet and the bits in hold are quite nice, with one very lovely lift indeed (and another one that they biff a bit). But they are out of hold with the bench between them for a lot of the dance, and there’s a bit where they do the Morecambe and Wise pose again which is very much a case of never revisit your best bits as you might make them worse (OMG Aliona and Jay were RIGHT). Whilst Kevin can dance his way along a varnished bench assuredly, Susan approaches it with much more trepidation. He really hasn’t learned his lesson about putting his partners on wooden surfaces after Kellie’s paso, has he? It ends with him sticking his hand up her vagina in their final lift in an attempt to bring some Debbie McGee magic but it has the unfortunate effect of her looking like a puppet. The problems with this are basically the same as last week – they spend too long out of hold and there’s too much of Kevin doing things because he thinks they look cool rather than choreographing to what she can do – the opposite of their better dances, really. Susan always seems much more relaxed in hold than out of it and whilst the celebrities do have to show range across their dances, he could be doing more to support her here. Nice storytelling though - even if they weren't giving me Alaska (either the state or the drag queen) vibes at any point.
Craig says there was gapping – half a dancefloor’s worth, I’d say and awkward use of the benches, but it was quite sweet. Darcey says it was charming and quite subtle although she could have created longer and more sweeping lines. Have you seen Susan’s arms, Darce? Not sure it’s possible. Shirley praises the emotion and entertainment but drops in the obligatory ‘but it’s coming to that point in the competition now’ phrase they use to tell the audience to quit voting for the duffers now. Bruno reiterates that her technique needs work even though she has the entertainment factor.
In the Clauditorium, they get begged to kiss as well, and Susan joins in, but then Kevin does kiss her and she recoils at the boy cooties. Scores: 4, 6, 5, 6 for a clear signal to the audience to stop voting for them total of 21. That felt a bit undermarked, but maybe their vote is so high they need to really deramp them. Kevin says they’ll win the paso doblathon and all will be fine, except even if they won it, the best they could do would be to beat Gemma, so probably not.
We get a pre-rigathon leaderboard:
1=. Joe and Katya - 38
1=. Debbie and Giovanni - 38
3. Davood and Nadiya - 35
4. Alexandra and Gorka - 32
5. Mollie and AJ - 31
6. Gemma and Aljaž - 25
7. Susan and Kevin - 21
Claudia tells us the leaderboard could be turned upside down after the paso-thon – except it can’t, because however you slice it, Susan and Gemma would still end up the bottom two, with Mollie and Gemma possibly tying for second bottom if Gemma got 7 and Mollie 1. So all it will really do is break the tie at the top and possibly do a little shuffling of the middle of the pack.
Shirley explains the paso doblathon with some assistance from Neil and Amy and Oti and Anton (poor Chloe). Lifts = automatic disqualification, Nadiya. Couples should go anti-clockwise and not crash into each other. Capes are optional, and strong paso technique will be important, funnily enough.
They’re dancing to ‘Espana Carn’ (6th time out, making it officially more overdone than ‘With You I’m Bored Again’ yet somehow less annoying). As is usual with these things, you can’t see what’s going on that much but at least they’re all in outfits with (mostly) different coloured accents which helps – Alexandra and Gorka in red; Susan and Kevin pink; Mollie and AJ also red for some reason (why no green?); Davood and Nadiya yellow; Joe and Katya navy; Debbie and Giovanni silver and Gemma and Aljaž purple. It’s quite fun to watch, even if it’s hard to keep track at times. Susan and Kevin just play it for laughs as they know they’ll be dead last whatever they do. Otherwise, Mollie looks a bit awkward and out of breath; Davood very posed; Gemma’s arms are a bit sloppy; Joe gives massively OTT face; Debbie looks like she misses the tambourine as much as we do and Alexandra looks aggressive. So, as you might expect, really. Hard to call when you see so little of each couple but I don’t think it’s going to shake up the scoring much on this evidence. Nobody even pushes anyone else over, worraswizz.
They place the couples as following:
Susan and Kevin 1
Mollie and AJ 2
Gemma and Aljaž 3
Davood and Nadiya 4
Debbie and Giovanni 5
Joe and Katya 6
Alexandra and Gorka 7
So… basically pretty much what you’d expect except maybe Joe and Debbie would be the other way round, which means this is what the leaderboard now looks like:
1. Joe and Katya 38+6 = 44
2. Debbie and Giovanni 38+5 = 43
3=. Davood and Nadiya 35+4 = 39
3=. Alexandra and Gorka 32+7 = 39
5. Mollie and AJ 31+2 = 33
6. Gemma and Aljaž 25+3 = 28
7. Susan and Kevin 21+1 = 22
So that leaderboard is turned so upside down that it is in THE EXACT SAME ORDER as it was before the pasothon. All it’s done is break the Joe/Debbie tie at the top and created a Davood/Alexandra one in 3rd place, well done all.
This leaves us going into tomorrow with a strong chance of a woman going home, and an outside chance of it being Davood. My guess is Joe and Debbie should be safe, and anyone else could be in the dance-off – with only Alexandra vs Davood being the one that would be hard to call – Alexandra’s the strongest overall, but Davood is a MAN and has a JOURNEY. Mollie vs Gemma could also be interesting, with Mollie clearly better tonight but slightly weaker overall and if she hits a third dance-off, they may just cut her loose. Or will the public have decided this week is when they stop voting for Susan? Join me tomorrow to see how it all plays out!