OK, you guys. Week 5, 12 couples, a lot of tears, and the first Shock Boot of the series to report, and Miss Jones is absent with leave, so you get all KateTF this time out. Buckle up, we’re just getting started.
In this week’s credits report, I don’t think it was good for Alison’s show narrative to have Aljaz literally hiding behind her. I mean, let’s at least TRY to rise above the stereotype, shall we, Show?
In dress news, Tess looks tremendous. Somehow, Bruce leaving the show has done wonders for Tess’s wardrobe. Higher budget? Lower levels of depression amongst the Show’s wardrobe department? As for Claudia's outfit... When I was seven years old, I was in a show in which I played a bat called Bismuth. My first line went like this: "Hello, my name's Bismuth and I've got a cold in my nose." Claudia's dress looks like my Bismuth costume.
Oh, a Murray Boy! The less famous one! (But still a Wimbledon champion, the Murray family will have you know.)
Darcy still isn’t trying in the dance-on. Craig does four spins to make up for it.
ALERT ALERT Pasha has his chest out, which can only mean a) paso and b) hooray! Unfortunately for Miss Jones, Kevin from Grimsby has graduated from red trousers to a full red suit this week. It is an outrage.
ON WITH THE SHOW!
Jake & Janette
Last week, Jake jived and it was pretty good, but I personally was not on board because he pretended to play Janette as a guitar, and we all know how I feel about that sort of thing by now. I forgave him, though, because he bounced around like Tigger and Janette’s dress was amazing. As to this week... Sure, let’s do a quickstep to I’m Still Standing. It’s not as though I’m Still Standing on this show will forever be associated with the best jive ever jived, beside which even the best quickstep is likely to pale in comparison. And this is not the best quickstep. (For the record, this might be the best quickstep. Or this. And this one was fun too.) It is, however, a pretty good quickstep – tons of movement, lots of fancy footwork, very confidently delivered. I think maybe it just lacked a bit of imagination to distinguish it from the one million other quicksteps we’ve seen on the Show by now, so my reaction was THIS IS FINE. The judges all use the word “efficient” and that seems about right to me, and has seemed about right to me about Jake for most of the series so far.
Sunetra & Brendan
Is it me, or is Brendan SUPER-SERIOUS this year? He had a very sober reaction to being declared safe, and even when forced into a comedy playground VT, he uses it to soberly make very sensible training points about spotting your turns. I’m kind of into this Brendan, and I was already kind of into the old Brendan (not like that, guys, IN A DANCE WAY) so these two are definitely high up my list. A Viennese waltz to Anyone Who Had A Heart has been done before, but they attempt to distinguish it by telling us it’s the Cilla version rather than Dionne Warwick, which is probably some kind of shameless attempt to further court the Liverpool vote. I thought this was gorgeous. Her footwork was a bit ungainly a couple of times, but it’s elegant and dramatic, and at the end Brendan gives it the full Artem in presenting Sunetra for the audience’s applause. Brendan has some form for dramatic Viennese waltzes, but this one was all sad and wistful too. I loved it, and I thought it was underscored.
Scott & Joanne
Scott gives us quite a sad little VT before his dance and, to be honest, I think that went further at getting him votes than his actual dance. This was not in any way a Charleston. Not in any way. It was as easy a dance as Joanne could actually make it without actually drawing diagrams on the floor, with the exception of the tricks, which Scott duly buggers up. It was pretty fun, though, during those moments when I wasn’t actually afraid for Joanne’s life. At the end, Darcy enjoyably tells Scott to strengthen his core. Yeah, Darcy, that’s the problem with Scott’s dancing. His core.
tHom & Iveta
Well, I had a whole bunch of notes about this dance. There were fun notes about Iveta training in leopard print (because of course she does), the boyband moves with Max (even though you would think he would try to disassociate himself entirely from even the idea of boybands given this fiasco), the terrible singing that sullies the first performance. And then there were the dance notes about how this all seemed a bit pre-breakthrough Gethin to me – bit stiff, arm placement not great (incidentally, Len agreed with me about the arms, which made me have to step away and have a quiet cry about what I have become), the imminence of an acting coach and so on. But all the pleasure in this has been stripped away by their Shock Boot. I wasn’t all that surprised to see them in the bottom two – this was a bit anonymous, and I don’t think he has done quite enough over the past few weeks to build a big fan base – but I thought they were much better then Simon and Kristina in the dance-off, and I reassuringly once again found myself thinking Len was wrong, which cheered me right up, but didn’t really help tHom. Too early for him to go, I think, as there were probably good things to come, but as the Show (and my friend Alice) pointed out, if you don’t phone (and I don’t phone) you can’t moan. (This whole blog basically gives the lie to that statement, I would argue).
Frankie & Kevin from Grimsby
Frankie goes for the double whammy this week of a) cute baby and b) footballer husband. The husband is neither here nor there, to be honest, but her baby is so adorable that basically nobody ever again in the future of Strictly should ever attempt to use their baby to get votes, because this is the Gold Standard. This foxtrot is extremely twee, possibly even more twee than tHom’s last week, but it is very good. I don’t like her top line much, especially out of hold – it all goes a bit Pop Star given half a chance – but it’s a lovely dance nonetheless. I found myself wishing halfway through that it was an American Smooth though – I much preferred the bits that were out of hold and more freeform, and a couple of lifts would have fitted this choreography perfectly. A missed opportunity, Kevin from Grimsby.
Alison & Aljaz
Oh no, Lisa Riley in the VT. Sigh. I already get the parallels, Show, I don’t need those parallels made visible, thanks so much. Things don’t improve much from there – I love Alison, but it felt this week as though she was dancing with very little confidence and no drama, and those have been her stock-in-trade to date. I wasn’t in any way worried that she’d be in the dance-off – she’s too popular at the moment – but I do think she’s going to have to bring the pizzazz next week.
At this point, I counted back through the couples and realised I was only halfway through. Internally I started screaming I CAN’T DO THIS ALONE, but then I realised that in New York, no-one can hear me scream (this week I am the Ripley of Strictly blogging) so I fought it down – I’m better than this, I’m stronger than this, LET’S PRESS ON.
(Before we do, here are two brief asides:
In the next section of VT, we see Judy rehearse. Judy tells Anton, “You’re already looking at me despairingly and it’s only half-twelve.” I love Judy so much.
It’s 80s and 90s week in the results show, apparently, what with the appearance of Boy George and his No Voice, and Cotton Eye Joe by whoever those people are. There is lassoing by Jimmy Johnston, who the show describes as Amazing Lasso Artist, whilst neglecting to mention that he was also a tremendous Will Parker in Oklahoma! in the National Theatre production that first introduced London to the marvel that is Hugh Jackman. Here, take a look (at about 1:09).)
Mark & Karen
Their VT this week takes them clubbing. Mark tells us he even pulled the worm out. I remember that Mark began life on TOWIE and panic briefly, before realising he is describing a dance move. Their dance turns into a samba about halfway through with a few samba rolls, but this is basically enthusiastically-danced disco. Pretty good footwork, and it’s generally fine, but this is Mark’s Bottom Two Bounce week, so the judges praise it wildly. It is seriously overscored, obviously – there is no planet on which this is better than Sunetra’s Viennese Waltz, never mind Frankie’s foxtrot. UGH JUDGES.
Simon & Kristina
We go full Blue in the VT, and the one who isn’t Lee or Duncan does a Bruno impression, which does not endear him to me. Going full Blue does not save Simon from the dance-off for the second time, however – I don’t think this warranted being in the bottom two, but I did not like it. He gallops the whole thing, and while he partially rescues it with good posture, it’s much too fast and frenetic for my taste and not all that elegant. Not reminiscent so much of Bruno’s description of “riding the crest of a wave” as it was of me attempting bodyboarding in choppy Atlantic waves this summer, which goes more like OH SHIT A WAVE OH DAMN I MISSED IT HERE’S ANOTHER ONE WAIT WHY AM I UNDERWATER. It screams Middle of the Leaderboard Danger Zone, and so we can’t be in any way surprised that that’s where it ended up. I would NOT have saved these two, I would have kicked them into touch, and unless Simon does something serious next week he might well be in trouble again. Unless he’s up against Scott or Judy in the dance-off, of course.
(Claudia at this point delivers a speech entirely made up of Queen songs and it is charming. Tess then responds in kind and it really annoys me. I’m a very complicated person.)
Judy & Anton
The Rowing Boat makes another appearance! I knew we hadn’t seen the last of that dumb prop. Anyway, it’s classic Judy in that she keeps going out of time, the lifts are clunky and ludicrous, and I love every single second of it. She graciously deals with all the judges’ laughter, then strides off to Claudia, throwing a headmistressy THANK YOU back at Tess as she heads for the stairs. We get a lot of shots of Jamie. Getting our Murray’s worth. (Sorry.) Judy makes me love her even more (if that were even possible) on the results show by telling us all that she channels Sharon Stone while she dances. Imagining the looks on the Murray Boys’ faces at hearing that kept me laughing for a good 20 minutes.
Caroline & Pasha
I watch the whole VT because Polo Neck Wearing Pasha is my favourite flavour of Pasha. We’ve pasoed to Live and Let Die before, of course, but not for seven years, so I will allow it. It’s really good too – her legs are great, and the speed of the dance is amazing. I thought her arms were a bit loose occasionally, but I am being super-picky at this point. This scores only one point more than Mark’s samba, which: NO. Pasha’s choreography was fantastic again, and they really ought to be my favourite couple by this point, but for some reason they are not. Is it a personality thing? A couple chemistry thing? I certainly don’t like them as a pair as much as I liked Pasha/Kimberley, or Pasha/Chelsee, but I am judging myself pretty hard right now for becoming a Personality Voter (the rot started with Chris & Ola, I won’t lie), so I’ll try to get on top of this for next week.
Steve & Ola
God bless Ola Jordan, who never met a 90s rock ballad she didn’t want to dance to. This is the fourth time this song has been waltzed to on Strictly – yes, the FOURTH – but that utter lack of originality aside, this was pretty good. There was gapping all the way through, but it had lovely glide, and obviously the Pivots of Joy. I am always very charmed by Steve, incidentally – he just seems so nice. (See above re my issues with personality voting. I need help.) This is perhaps a mite overscored, but I’ll allow it. Bonus points to the Show for giving us a glimpse of Olympic champion Helen Glover at this point. No idea why she was there – are she and Steve friends? Might she be a future contestant I HOPE SO. She’s very tall, so they could bring back Matthew or Ian especially for her! Someone make this happen.
Pixie & The Other Pixie
For this week’s VT, Pixie takes The Other Pixie to an “open mic night”. This is memorable only for the tremendous side-eye she gets from audience members when she is dancing next to them. What follows is a top speed, high camp samba and look: she can dance, ok? Nobody is denying that. But MY GOD this felt overdone – it was so over-enthusiastic I hardly knew where to look. A stage school samba if I ever saw one. Technically this was miles better, but I preferred Mark’s samba, and I didn’t even really like Mark’s samba. And so obviously the Pixies go top of the leaderboard and I go and drown my face in a glass of wine.
So there you have it. The Pixie-Frankie-Caroline-Jake top of the leaderboard hegemony is disrupted by Mark, of all people, because of Bottom Two Bounce scripting, we have our first Shock Boot of the series - bye tHom and Iveta, you were robbed by Len, I think – Scott and Judy survive, and Simon’s days are probably numbered. Next week, I expect Simon will get Latin, Scott will get whatever is likely to finish him off (rumba?), and maybe we might see Andy Murray. Most importantly, it will be Halloween week. Gird your loins, you guys – monsters and vampires and ghosts, OH MY.