Saturday, 14 October 2017

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Aston wears his bun (man-bun is a redundant term, no?) as a top knot in training.  It does not look good.
- Oti screamed when she saw Aston in his troll make-up for the first time.
- Craig doesn't really understand the meaning of the word "surprise".
- Craig thinks he would've probably voted for Richard if he was a regular punter at home.
- Craig thinks 'everyone' should know the 10 second rule.
- Apparently the 10 Second Rule means that the contestants can be out of hold for 10 seconds at the beginning, 10 seconds in the middle and 10 seconds at the end. That is some hot, hot bullshit.
- So much so that even Craig admits he doesn't usually bother applying it. #justicefordebbie
- It seems Richard hadn't banked on being out this early because filming commitments meant he couldn't be in the ITT studio for his exit interview.
- He also got pissed with some viewers on his way to film in Glasgow, so did his interview over the phone whilst hungover.
- Dianne has been enhancing Richard's vocabulary and teaching him words like "tezza" (which I think means "terrible"?).
- Bonnie Langford has been telling Davood to practice his hip movements while brushing his teeth, but he can't do two things at once.
- Aston didn't go to the toilet all day once he was in his troll costume.
- Janette's dance teacher came to watch them on Saturday.  Bet Janette was glad it wasn't in salsa week.
- Erin loves theme weeks.
- Erin's way of pronouncing 'buttocks' is 'butt-ex'.  There's some sort of joke in there somewhere.
- Erin thinks the 'rise and fall' controversy was Brendan 'bobbing up and down' to add some flourish to the tango.
- Anton is not here for demo time.
- Ruth prefers to dance quickly to get it over and done with, so sometimes Anton has to choreograph extra steps.
- Ruth was more worried about dancing sexily in front of her son than she was about dancing sexily in front of Eamonn.
- Anton thinks that only 10,000 people are watching The X Factor. Give it a few years, he probably won't be wrong.
- Ruth's love of wigs has now extended to the point of demanding that Anton wear them.
- Erin and Oti doing 'Proud Mary' is what you never knew your life was missing.
- Erin thinks Giovanni broke the entirely real 10 second rule because he was choreographing to the music instead of arbitrary and entirely made-up legislation.
- In an American smooth, the bum goes underneath the body. That can't be right, can it?
- If you want to make an impression, wiggling your bum on the judges' table is a sign you want to stay in the competition.
- Ian and Gorka apparently buy the shirts at the same shop.
-  Zoe loves it when Giovanni is naughty. *eyebrow raise*
- Giovanni is more than happy to play by the rules in future as long as all the other pros abide by the same rules, Brendan.
- Giovanni tickles Debbie if she goes wrong in rehearsals. Get a room, you two.
- Debbie has been watching Fred’n’Ginge for inspo in the evenings
- Debbie really enjoyed filming her VT for this week. The mind boggles.
- Joe has shaved his moustache off. Sorry everyone.  (His stubble is still more facial hair than Kevin can manage though)
- Judging by Katya's outfit on Weds, she thinks Halloween has come a couple of weeks early.
- Joe turned 42 this week. Or as he prefers to call it, "35 plus VAT".
- Katya bought him a tartan belt for his birthday.
- Zoe thinks 'Cry Me a River' is a 'Michael Buble classic'.
- Ian is enjoying Brian's paso face.
- Ian thinks Aston is going to struggle with the quickstep. Then again, he said that about Chelsee in series 9.
- Alexandra and Gorka and Aston and Janette are really good friends and train together and help each other out NO RIVALRY HERE HONEST.
- Alexandra isn't sure if she's going full-on big hair for her 'Proud Mary' jive yet.
- Gorka has a lot of stamina. *theatrical wink*
- Debbie's cha cha training outfit includes a black fringe dress and enormous blingy belt over multicoloured leggings.
- Ruth and Anton's tango training footage contains a lot of rise and fall.
- Simon was pleased to be first on on Saturday to get it over with.  It, presumably, being the shame.
- Karen doesn't care about the scores, she just wants to see Simon smiling at the end of each dance.
- This series has completely broken Karen and she's pretending to be a cat woman in training.
- Simon is not built for the samba - he has childbearing hips and a static back.
- There's a move in Simon's samba that they have nicknamed "the Ricky Martin". Ricky should sue.
- Brendan thinks we should "make this about Charlotte". Sure, Brendan. You go first. Any time you like.
- Like Giovanni, Brendan is blaming the music for him breaking the rules and doing some rise and fall (that he isn't calling rise and fall, of course).
- Susan's boots were made by the original Wonder Woman bootmaker.
- Vicky is planning some fruit for Karen's samba dress.
- Aljaž thinks his charleston with Gemma was the best dance he's ever done on the show.
- Aljaž met Ryan Giggs this week because he's mates with Gemma (how? We need more information on this!) and got totally starstruck.
- Coldplay are Aljaž's favourite band.
- This show seems to think there’s a scenario in which AJ would allow the breaking of a mirror to happen. Pull the other one.
- Lots of people stopped Susan at Euston station on her way home to shout “Wonder Woman!” at her.
- Susan’s first dance at her wedding was “clompy-clompy-clompy-clompy, clompy-clompy”.
- Kevin met Susan's family this week and they're all big superfans too.
- Susan probably won't be leading any more dances because dear god they have two lady presenters and a lady gay hasn't feminism done enough damage etc.
- This week’s pro group dance is a paso set in a parallel world where Anton is the king. Presumably that was in his contract.
- Chris Hollins doesn’t have fond memories of his jive. In fact he doesn’t really have any memories of the jive and that was mostly the problem with it.
- He also hated his samba. And pretty much everything else he danced.
- And he happily calls out series 7 as the worst. I'd say series 6 was in with a chance, but it's a close call.
- Candice Brown off the Bake Off is a Debbie fan.
- The highlight of Neil’s dance career was playing an assistant lollipop.
- Karen bought Kevin a book for his birthday.
- According to Mollie, Thursday is when AJ “really goes in”. I guess those showmance rumours were true.
- Mollie is trying to channel Beyoncé for her salsa. She also thinks AJ can be Jay-Z, but I think “names that are also initials” is pretty much all they have in common.
- Katya’s training technique involves digging her nails into Joe’s flesh to make him more aware of his body parts.
- According to Anton, the tango is “walking quick to music looking a bit intense”.
- Brian cannot remember the names of Indiana Jones or the protagonist of The Wizard Of Oz.
- Brian trained for 10.5 hours on Tuesday.
- Chris Hollins has welcomed Susan into the Hobbit club.
- Louie Spence thinks Mollie and AJ should breed.
- Chris thinks Simon is going home this weekend, Candice didn’t want to say, and Louie didn’t want to say unless he was being paid.
- Gorka seems to have inherited one of Robin’s old nipple-baring vests.
- Alexandra and Gorka went to a wedding together this week. ‘Proud Mary’ came on just as they were leaving and Gorka wouldn’t let Alexandra do their routine because her heels were too big.
- Alexandra cleans on Fridays, and Janette cleans on Friday mornings while Aljaž is making breakfast.
- Alexandra spent the whole of this week's Gethin'n'Gorka moment with her arms firmly round her man.
- 'She's So Lovely' by Scouting For Girls is still the worst song ever written.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Coles shouldered

Week 3: Top 14 Results (Movie Week) - 8 October 2017

We open with the much-hyped Disney-themed pro routine, which begins with lowly clerk Brendan opening a Mickey Mouse-shaped vault and removing a load of film canisters - no doubt containing his most cherished copies of his tango with Charlotte which definitely did not contain any rise-and-fall. (I think there are a few copies of Snowdance in there as well.) Through the magic of vaguely passable GCI, Simba and Nala bound out of the vault just as Brendan is blowing a load of glitter off one of the canisters, followed by Tigger and that snowman from Frozen whose name escapes me [Olaf!  He likes warm hugs etc - Rad]. Then Tinkerbell waves her magic wand and turns the ballroom into Agrabah and...I'm sorry, is this Kingdom Hearts or something? Anyway, for everyone who felt hard done by last night when Aljaž was put in that unflattering bear costume, there is reward tonight as he gets to play Aladdin with the girls out on full display. The pros dance to 'One Jump Ahead' before the scene changes to the underwater kingdom of...wherever it is Ariel lives. Katya has been gifted Dianne's hair for the role of Ariel and glides around on a harness to 'Part Of Your World', touching the floor almost as much as Mollie did in her American smooth. (Anton plays Prince Eric, for what it's worth.) Then we go to yet another number, this time 'Be Our Guest' with Janette as Belle. There's a quite impressive moment where Pasha chucks Janette back over his head, but that's the end and...I'm rather underwhelmed. I think they might have been better served by picking one Disney number and doing it justice rather than doing a drive-by of a couple of different films. (Also I bet all those costume changes were a right pain in the arse for the studio audience.)

Alan Dedicoat appears to have been on the sauce tonight, introducing and I quote, "our very own Lady and the Tramp, Tess Deeley [sic] and Claudia Winkleman!" Tonight Tess is wearing an asymmetric short black number with one sleeve, and Claudia's wearing a hot pink strapless dress. I know Claudia always prefers dark colours but bright pink really, really suits her. They remind us that we've voted, and two couples are about to face the pointless dance-off. The judges return, and Shirley's now in an all-white A-line dress (with much more freedom to move than she had earlier) and Darcey's in an all-in-one black pantsuit with red-lined slits down the sides of the legs. Darcey looks severe, and amazing.

But first: our recap of last night: Charlotte says there is "such a buzz" about the place (which is undercut with footage of Simon getting his make-up done, yes very clever editors, I see what you did there). Alexandra enjoys her transformation into an elegant lady, just as Aston enjoys becoming a troll. Davood remarks on the surrealness of all the characters you bump into backstage on Movie Week, we get to see Joe having his shirt sewn to his trousers. But what if he needs a wee? Speaking of which: Ruth shows off her Bond girl dress before informing us that she needs a wee. Gemma bursts through a door yelling "I am a cat -- no, I'm a panther!" Bless. One of the make-up team applies make-up to Jonnie's chest and I would just like to make it clear that if she ever phones in sick I am available to cover at short notice, free of charge. Then - best of all - Hot Greg The Floor Manager appears to give everyone the five minute warning. He's back! Finally, this series can get going! In terms of new and/or useful behind-the-scenes content from the show itself, Gemma and Aljaž celebrate their ever-improving scores, Una from The Saturdays is here to support Mollie but is rather cruelly captioned just as "Mollie's friend", Oti yells "WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT BUM" to Jonnie, Davood's wife Isobel tells us that she's blown away and incredibly proud of him, Simon says it was "such a buzz" out there (yes, you did this joke already, show), Charlotte is treated to a slow-mo replay of messing up her footwork, Richard's civil partner (who is not a great advert for Christianity) says that he is a star, Ruth and Anton giggle about how crap their rumba was, Joe is chuffed to have got two thumbs up from Craig, Aston's mum is proud.

But enough jollity, it's time for Tess and the Cue Cards Of Doom. The following six couples are safe and guaranteed to be back next week: Gemma and Aljaž, Alexandra and Gorka, Charlotte and Brendan (who promises to keep quiet next week), Brian and Amy, Joe and Katya, and Aston and Janette. The first couple in the dance-off this weekend is...Simon and Karen. They march over to Tess and Simon says that he's been delighted with the whole Strictly experience, and whatever happens happens. Tess turns to Craig to ask what Simon can do to improve the amount of gapping in the performance that Craig critiqued earlier, and Craig's response is unsurprisingly "get closer to Karen, dimwit" (I am paraphrasing slightly).

Claudia is with the six safe couples, and the first item on the agenda is Amy's ear-splitting scream of delight when she learned they were through - Brian points out that she was so excited that she actually hit him with her elbow. Brian says that they're delighted to have survived this week. Charlotte reiterates that dancing on live TV is terrifying, and says that for the second week in a row it didn't work out how she hoped, but it's definitely going to happen next week. Definitely. Gemma was nervous again this week, but loved her charleston. Aston has a quickstep next week, and Claudia wants him to still be dressed as a troll. Alexandra has the jive next week, but apparently Gorka is a jive master and Alexandra vows to give it everything she's got. Claudia says that Joe's score went up by a full 10 points this week, and Joe says that he's still feeling the nerves but he's just trying not to let them get to him.

Next we have a musical interlude, with Sheridan Smith performing 'My Man' from Funny Girl. Interlude: I went to see Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl at the Menier Chocolate Factory - she was fantastic, but the show itself didn't really grab me. It's one of those shows where you realise why the songs that went on to be famous in their own right did so, and why the rest of the songs...didn't. Anyway, Sheridan plays the song right to the back row, complete with overexaggeration to cue the arrival of Giovanni and...Luba? Yes, that's Luba Mushtuk, who danced with Giovanni on his tour this year and also was the woman in the movie poster in Susan and Kevin's week one Viennese waltz. She's lovely and clearly very talented, but this does seem to be yet another snub of poor underused Chloe. GIVE CHLOE SOMETHING TO DO. SHE HASN'T EVEN BEEN ON IT TAKES TWO YET. [Although brace yourselves for ALL the puns if Luba does become a pro on this show - Rad]

The judges are brought up for the segment formerly known as Len's Lens, and we begin with Shirley analysing Susan's samba, specifically explaining where all of those different samba timings came in, and pointing out that Susan was striding too far in her volta promenade runs. Darcey talks about Mollie's awkward landings out of her lifts and her lack of core strength throwing her off-balance. Claudia wants to talk to Craig about the totally-not-made-up 10 Second Rule, and Craig explains that in competition you have to be in hold the whole time, but in Strictly there is totally a rule where you can break hold for 10 seconds, but any longer than that and it becomes an American smooth. Look, it says so right here in this book, juuuuuuuust below the camera lens, what's that, you can't see it, oh what a shame but it's totally there. [Right now there is someone on Digital Spy going through every quickstep ever with a stopwatch I hope - Rad] Craig then goes in to add that lifts aren't allowed in the ballroom dances (apart from the American smooth) and that Brendan put an illegal lift in Charlotte's tango that none of them actually bothered to mention at the time, because rules are rules except when Shirley's having a knife fight with one of the pros and everybody else is too excited to concentrate. Bruno concludes with a look at Joe's Viennese waltz, and says that the joy of it is how it should never feel interrupted - it should roll like a wave, and Joe did that beautifully.

From there, it's back to Tess and the Cue Cards of doom to find out who will be joining Simon and Karen in the dance-off. The six safe couples are: Mollie and AJ, Jonnie and Oti, Debbie and Giovanni, Davood and Nadiya, Ruth and Anton, and Susan and Kevin. That leaves Rev Richard and Dianne in the dance-off. I guess that lack of ties really did for him. Richard tells Tess that he's not disappointed - he's excited, because now he has another chance to wow Craig with his moves. Darcey tells him that he is "a unique Richard" (that's an insult I've never heard before) and tells him not to change anything, because he's clearly doing everything right and that's why he's not in the dance-off--oh. Actually, she does tell him to watch for those splayed fingers.

The remaining six survivors join Claudia upstairs, and Ruth says that standing under those lights isn't getting any easier each week. Debbie says she thought she might be in the dance-off this week (ok lol) and thanks everyone for voting for her. Jonnie compares Strictly to athletics and says it's a bit different to train three days for something that takes 90 seconds as opposed to training seven years to do something that lasts for ten seconds. That reminds me of the story of how I lost my virginity. We establish that Mollie's sister Ellen is a Strictly superfan, and Davood has the Viennese waltz next week. Finally, Susan wants to thank everyone for voting for her, and reveals that she'll be dancing to 'Bring Me Sunshine' - which was the first dance at her wedding. She's going to do a full Ore again, everyone!

After an It Takes Two trailer, it's time for the dance-off. Simon tells Claudia that he feels remarkably calm - he doesn't think he can do any better, and if this is his last dance, he's had a great time. Karen advises him to keep his frame, stay light on his feet and "heels on one". Heh. They head down to get ready, and Richard vows to tidy up his fingers - Dianne says she has in fact glued them together. She adds that he brings a lot of joy, and he needs to just keep doing that.

Simon and Karen reprise their quickstep, and it's probably a bit worse than it was the first time - Simon appears to go wrong in quite a few places, though to his credit he keeps going and doesn't drag Karen around that much. Richard and Dianne then go again, and it's pretty much the same glorious mess it was the first time. Bizarre to think that one of these is actually going to get to stay in the competition again, isn't it? [Honestly I thought Richard was better - if only because of how much worse Simon was than in the show proper - Rad]

Time for the judges to vote. Tess reminds us that in the event of a split decision, Shirley has the casting vote. And will vote for Simon. Craig says that he loved the entertainment value "of one couple", but he has to save the couple who were technically better: Simon and Karen. Darcey thinks they both made improvements to their dances (lol no they didn't) but again she votes to save the better technical performers, Simon and Karen. Bruno loves them both even though they're both crap, but saves the more "cohesive" performers: Simon and Karen. That means Richard and Dianne are out, and Tess checks with Shirley to confirm that she agreed with them, which of course she did. I mean, we're all praying for a Simon vs Charlotte dance-off next week and Shirley having the casting vote, right? Right? [Oh yes - Rad]

Richard tells Tess that he's enjoyed every minute, even the ones where Dianne was hissing "feet! frame! feet! frame!" at him through her teeth. He says that his highlight has been getting together with the whole group of celebs and pro dancers on the show, and makes a point of crediting the fantastic behind-the-scenes crew on the show [Adding him to my hit list - Brendan]. Dianne says she's had the time of her life, and Richard is a friend for life. Taking their cue from Dianne, the band plays '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life' for their last dance and everyone rushes on to hug Richard goodbye - it seems he was very popular with everyone else. Sure enough, in the reaction clips that play out afterwards, Mollie and Ruth say how sad they are to see him go, while Simon breathes a sigh of relief at getting to survive another day. Jonnie is very glad he never has to paso again, and Giovanni promises that The Cheeky Debbie McGee is back next week. What a note to end on! Rad will be here to bring you all the details - be sure to join her next weekend.

Twirls on film

Week 3: Top 14 Perform (Movie Week) - 7 October 2017

Last week: the class of 2017 faced their first elimination week while the producers learned the perils of back-loading the show with talent as the first 45 minutes or so left us all wondering what the hell we'd just watched. Things went well for the likes of Alexandra, Debbie, Aston, Mollie and Jonnie (and also Davood is included here in the montage even though he got the same score he'd received the week before and some fairly lukewarm critiques from the judges), but pretty much everyone in the front half of the show flatlined - particularly Charlotte, but don't even dare to suggest that was due to any flaw in Brendan's choreography or teachings, he knows where you live, he'll have you fired, he's got friends in high places! Chizzy Akudolu and Brian Conley ended up in the first dance-off, and Chizzy went out because [insert reason here when we actually figure out what it was]. Tonight, it's Movie Week, so the celebs have all been assembled in a small screening room to watch each other's training footage and throw popcorn at each other (Jonnie and Joe seemingly being the two biggest offenders, and I find myself unsurprised by this). It ends with everyone applauding Richard wailing that he can't get the hang of the dance, which seems a little unkind.

Titles! I'm still giggling at the background shenanigans in Chizzy and Pasha's segment. It's such a shame she went out first.

We open with a group routine from the pros and celebs to a La La Land medley (mostly consisting of 'City Of Stars' and 'Another Day Of Sun'), with Brendan as Sebastian (look, he just wants to open up a traditional cha cha cha club where people can come and experience a real cha cha cha and not that watered down populist rubbish that the Shirley Ballases of this world enjoy OKAY) and Nadiya as Mia. I hope they go super-meta by giving Chloe the role of Sebastian's sister, considering their shared position as someone who technically ought to be important but doesn't actually get any screen time. Or that halfway through Jason Gilkison comes out and tells them that it's actually supposed to be a Moonlight-themed routine and someone gave them the wrong envelope. They dance all around the backstage area in various riffs on the opening sequence from the movie, and let me tell you that Anton in a pastel-coloured polo and chinos is not a sight that any sensitive person should have to experience. The routine extends out into the marquee and the studio lot - in bright sunshine, in October, suggesting that this pre-record happened at least three hours ago. They return to the studio and everyone dances together and ticker-tape explodes everywhere. At this point I'm reminded of how, when I went to see La La Land, I really enjoyed the opening number but found the rest of the film never quite lived up to the standard it set. I hope that's not an omen.

Our "leading ladies" Tess and Claudia arrive in their best Academy Awards red carpet get-up - Tess is in a gold sequinned floor-length gown while Claudia is in an asymmetrical black number. I'm not sure that the cut of Tess's dress is completely flattering, but neither outfit is a disaster so let's just count our blessings and move on swiftly. Tess reminds us that some of the greatest screen legends have worked at Elstree Studios, and Claudia cites some examples: Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and of course Anton Du Beke. The judges make their entrance, and Shirley appears to have been placed in a dress that's rather too figure-hugging to allow her to walk down the stairs properly, so she has to hitch it up a bit to give her feet some more room and then ends up scurrying across the floor to make sure she hits her mark on time. What an icon.

Claudia holds a moment's recognition for Chizzy, who is now languishing in development hell, and then we move on to welcoming our remaining Strictly stars: Ruth and Anton (as James Bond and his latest romantic interest Gloria O'Minge), Davood and Nadiya (as Tony Manero and Stephanie Mangano), Mollie and AJ (as Maria von Trapp and that kid who turns out to be a Nazi in the end), Brian and Amy (as the Scarecrow and Amy Diamond from Over The Rainbow), Gemma and Aljaž (as Karen Smith's Hallowe'en outfit from Mean Girls and a furry), Simon and Karen (as some guy who got invited to a fancy dress party at the last minute and ended up with a Buzz Lightyear costume from Poundland, and a woman who'd had slightly more notice and went to the Disney Store), Debbie and Giovanni (as two people from Strictly Come Dancing: The Movie - 2Ed2Balls), Aston and Janette (as something out of my nightmares), Richard and Dianne (as Michael Fabricant and a sexy Deku Scrub from The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time), Charlotte and Brendan (as the living embodiment of Brendan's mid-life crisis), Joe and Katya (as a low-budget 1970s Russian porno), Susan and Kevin (as Wonder Woman and Some Guy), Jonnie and Oti (as Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood) and Alexandra and Gorka (as Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep, apparently) [Thank God it wasn't just me who thought this and then got confused by their dance music being from My Fair Lady - Rad].

Simon and Karen are opening the show tonight with their Toy Story-themed quickstep. They reflect on last week's performance and how Simon messed up at the end (/throughout), but Karen tells him that he still did a brilliant job out there and carried himself like a professional. A professional wrestler, as far as I can tell. Simon's very excited about Movie Week, and Karen's very excited about them getting to be Buzz Lightyear and Jessie. Because this is Movie Week, we must have Comedy VTs For All, so Simon makes what he pretends is a working jet-pack and keeps wanting to play with it, much to Karen's "annoyance". Karen then has to leave training to take a woody - sorry, to take a call from Woody - so Simon puts on the jet pack, which he can't control. Oh those crazy kids.

And speaking of things that lack control, here's Simon's quickstep. I have some sympathy for him, because 'You've Got A Friend In Me' is not a song that lends itself well to quickstepping [so not.  And such a strange choice given it wasn't that many movie weeks ago that Denise and James danced to it - Rad], despite the changes they've made to the arrangement, and also because that outfit they've given him is really embarrassingly bad. [And is it just me, or did the make-up somehow make him look a bit like Ronan Keating? - Rad] At least leave the man with his dignity! On the plus side, it's the most confident performance Simon has given yet - he seems to know what he's supposed to be doing most of the time, and looks like he's enjoying himself, but the footwork is quite untidy, his hold is quite loose (and I think at one point he loses his grip on Karen entirely) and he does seem to be dragging Karen rather than leading her quite a lot of the time. Karen gets a lengthy solo at the end so Simon can be strapped into a harness and launched into space. Which, considering what's waiting for him with the judges, might have been the better plan.

Tess thanks the wunnerful orchestra and then asks Shirley if Simon has a friend in her. Shirley says that Simon always has a friend in her (yes, we noticed that last week) and she feels that when he holds his frame, he actually has one of the best frames in the competition. She also liked that Simon did some good basic quickstep and Karen didn't try to give him anything more complicated than he could handle (I like to think that pretty much everything Shirley says tonight, and indeed for the rest of the series, should come with a silent "...Brendan" on the end) and he's quite light on his feet for a strapping chap. Bruno felt that "at times you ran out of rocket fuel" and the audience start booing. His problem was the jerking and wobbling in Simon's upper frame, which needs to be still and graceful. Craig disagrees with Shirley - he thought Simon's frame was loose and he lost it halfway through, and that it looked like he was just jogging around the floor. But Craig did like the bit at the end where he flew. Darcey says it's always tough to open the show, but his scattered chassés are bothering her. She can see he's working really hard and the hours will pay off, though.

They go to infinity, and beyond (otherwise known as the Clauditorium) where Claudia says that Simon is doing it for all the dads out there. In certain sections of the gay community, that may well be true. Simon says he feels like he's getting a little bit better each week and understanding it a little bit more. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Shirley 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 19. Claudia reads out the voting number as the Jaws theme plays and Brendan and Neil pretend to be sharks.

In the death slot tonight, we have Ruth and Anton. Ruth says she really enjoyed her charleston last week, but thinks she could have done it better. Still, she was pleased to get some positive feedback. This week they have the rumba, and Ruth says that she hopes Eamonn will be okay with her doing such a sensual dance. It's an Anton rumba Ruth, I think he'll be fine with it. Still, they bring Eamonn in to make sure, and Eamonn arrives with the cardboard cutout of Ruth he's been using for company while she's been off training, and let's not think about that too deeply, eh? Anton refers to it as "Wooden Ruth", which seems like a Freudian slip. Eamonn says that the rumba is "sensual and intense, and Ruth is maybe one of those things on a good day". Lovely.

They're dancing to 'The Diamonds They Are Forever SIRRRRRRR', and the dry-ice machine has been set to "nuclear winter" which suggests that Anton doesn't have total confidence in Ruth's footwork. Ruth is absolutely feeling her long blonde wig [which, combined with the outfit, made me think we were living the second coming of Dr Hamela.  Well, before she started dancing, anyway - Rad] and playing the whole thing with an icy aloofness which in theory is a valid performance choice, but it does mean that there's not much connection between her and Anton here. The routine opens reasonably well, and for the first few bars I think that it might be a decent rumba, but before long it just feels like Ruth is marking it through - there's no finesse to her arm extensions and there's no movement in her hips. I like Ruth, and I'm pleased that her confidence is improving (plus I think she is improving as a dancer, albeit gradually) but the routine promises rather more than it ends up delivering.

Ruth admits to Tess that she has "wept" over this dance in rehearsals, and Bruno says that she could start an ice age with that rumba, but the hips need defrosting. He tells Ruth that she needs to respond to her partner and follow his movements, and her timing went right off. Craig says that the rumba walks were stilted and she needs to have smoother transfer of her weight changes, and to still "live" the four and one beats even if she isn't actually moving on them. Anton bursts in saying that he had a lovely time, as if this is even remotely about him, and says that he feels stirred in a way that he hasn't felt since Fiona Fullerton's cha cha cha. Darcey is desperate enough to tell Ruth how amazing she looks, and to hold on to that look (erm), and advises Ruth to lift her eye level which will help her balance. Shirley says that the rumba was her dance back in the day, and Ruth needs to learn that there are four beats to the bar and she is moving on three of those beats. She adds that there are seven types of rumba walks and "you weren't able to execute them very well today" (ouch), but it was "a good try".

They Bond their way up to the Clauditorium where Claudia says that it is the hardest dance (apart from all the other dances that are also the hardest dance when the narrative calls for it) [also, I thought that sentence always came with a 'for men', what even is this show any more? - Rad], and Ruth says that she loves to watch a beautifully-danced rumba, but she is aware that hers was not one of those. Claudia tells Ruth that her 15-year-old son was watching with total pride, and poor Jack is going to get a lot of shit for that at school on Monday. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Shirley 3, Bruno 4 for a total of 15. Anton says that if they added up all of their marks for the first three shows, he doesn't think they'd score 42. Why he picked "42" there, I have no idea. (Also Anton I have a spreadsheet and your cumulative score so far is 51.) Anton says that it's a work-in-progress, and he reckons they'll be on 45 points by March.

Claudia's link: "Still to come, Gemma and Aljaž dance to The Jungle Book, the story of a little boy lost among some lovable dancing animals. Which reminds me: has anyone seen AJ?" Heh. As a matter of fact, Tess has seen AJ, because he and Mollie are up next with their American smooth to The Sound Of Music. In their VT, AJ says in his weird VT voice that he's really proud of how well Mollie did with her tango last week. Mollie was pleased that her scores are moving upwards, and hopes to continue that trend this week. They've got 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' and AJ robot-voices that they need to go and train up a mountain. Except, lolifically, it's not a mountain, it is actually the artificial hills of Northala Fields, which is about five minutes' walk from where I live. So pleased that my area has been Strictlified, this is going to do amazing things to the house prices. Mollie turns up in her best "city chic" gear and AJ turns up in what apparently passes for mountaineering gear on this show, including what looks like a yoga mat hanging off his backpack? They scale the mountain, plant a flag, do a little dance, make a little love, and get down tonight.

Their American smooth is reasonably strong - what dancing they actually do seems decent to me, although I'm a little alarmed by the giant strides they seem to be taking. I know they're both quite wee and have to work harder to cover the floor than some couples do, but even so that seems a little excessive. It loses some of its appeal for me in the second half when it just turns into a colossal liftathon where Mollie's feet barely touch the floor, though.

Craig loved the lifts this week, although Mollie needs to work on smoothening out her landings a little bit. Darcey says that Mollie's control was beautiful throughout, and she just needs to keep her core strong when she comes out of the lifts. Shirley says she's very excited about Mollie because she did an amazing outside spin with her feet closed, with all of her footwork exquisite and she made Shirley's night. Bruno says it was as uplifting and crisp as fresh mountain air, and he thinks their partnering and chemistry is getting better every week.

They climb ev'ry mountain, by which I mean the set of stairs, up to the Clauditorium where Mollie declares herself speechless and about to cry, which Claudia calls "a full Ore Oduba". Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Shirley 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 30 - a personal best, and the highest score of the night so far.

Up next are Richard and Dianne, dancing the paso doble. Dianne says that on Saturday night there were a few mistakes, and Richard cops to "this whole chunk" that he forgot, and that he thinks the 3 Craig scored him was fair. Onwards and (possibly) upwards to the paso doble, and Dianne says that she thinks Richard's personality is like a big cuddly bear. Either that or she's been reading his Grindr profile. Richard says he's having to dig quite deep in his personality to find his inner macho man. Dianne reports that Richard's getting closer to getting it right as the week goes on, and Richard thinks the dress rehearsal went perfectly. Let's see, shall we?

Well, Richard's paso shaping is not great from the outset, with his arm movements being more like a failed attempt to fly. While the camp value of the routine is tremendous, the actual dancing is fairly alarming: heavy, plodding, and also soft in a way that a paso doble really shouldn't be. And the bit where he tries a paso leap is...ill-advised, at bit. [I would KILL to see this again with someone who could dance because the music and camp factor suit the paso so well - Rad]

Tess tells him he deserves a 10 for the wig, and Darcey describes the routine as "strangely powerful". She says that his splayed fingers are distracting, but the grand jeté en tournant (which I think is the bit I meant when I said "paso leap") at the climax was fabulous. Predictably, Bruno giggles at the word "climax". Shirley tells him that she can't fault his commitment, and she wasn't sure with the flamenco arms if he was knitting, but there were places where he had an oval shape. She would've liked more rotation in the body - it wasn't his best dance, but it was a good try. Bruno calls it "out of this world" and "a paso doble that took an alien form". He thinks Ridley Scott would be proud, and calls it "pure science-fiction". Craig finishes by saying that Richard was stomping around like a tantrum-throwing three-year-old, and the hand shaping was peculiar, and the jeté en tournant was a disaster.

They are dispatched to the Clauditorium to determine whether Gordon is indeed alive, and Richard tells Claudia that he experienced g-force in that performance. He adds that he promises to change his hair before the parish harvest festival tomorrow. Scores: Craig 2, Darcey 4, Shirley 4, Bruno 4 for a total of 14.

After a teaser for some of the routines yet to come, we move on to Debbie and Giovanni. Debbie still can't believe she was top of the leaderboard last week, and says she felt like she was in a fairytale. They do their obligatory meta magic/camera trick gag (this time Giovanni clicking his fingers to summon Debbie to the training room, and Debbie complaining that he's stolen her bit). They have the quickstep this week, and Debbie says that she finds the running bits quite difficult. Debbie jokes that Giovanni keeps telling her she has to be a Ferrari, but he's forgotten she's vintage. She hopes she'll be able to keep up with him this week.

They're dancing to 'Let's Call The Whole Thing Off' from the FRED 'N' GINNNNGE movie Shall We Dance? and it delivers a lot of old Hollywood razzmatazz. It's probably the weakest of Debbie's three dances to date, though that's not to say it's bad in and of itself, but she's right in saying that she finds keeping up with Giovanni a bit of a struggle. There's still some lovely footwork in there though, and it's a fantastic routine from Giovanni, who is absolutely coming into his own this year. I love this partnership and I never want it to end.

Shirley starts by saying that she's "not a fan" of having drawn-out sections at the beginning before they start dancing (lol good luck working on this show then) but she's not going to deduct any points for it - she just thinks that because Debbie is a dancer there's no reason she can't just get on with it. Shirley loved Debbie's scattered chassés, but just wants to give her a thought for the next ballroom dances - to aim for more stillness in the frame, like an elegant swan keeping still above the water. Bruno loved the classic Hollywood style, and says that Debbie must have watched Ginger Rogers closely because she even echoed the mannerisms accurately. Craig says that they broke the "ten-second rule". If you're unfamiliar with this (which you will be, because it appears to have been invented on the spot), they're only allowed ten seconds out of hold during the routine. It's odd how Simon also spent significantly more than 10 seconds out of hold in the middle of his quickstep, and yet Craig didn't feel inclined to invoke this very important rule then. He says he has to mark them down for that - they danced very well, "but rules are rules". Even rules that I'm pretty sure have never been mentioned in the 10 or so years I've been watching this show, even back when they used to claim there were actual proper ballroom rules they were supposed to be following. Darcey loves the way that Debbie uses her neck in hold, and the way she hides every preparation - she thanks Debbie for surprising them every week.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says that she has never heard of the 10-second rule, and Giovanni's like "yeah, me too, odd that isn't it?" Debbie says that this was a hard week - she really struggled to get through to the end of the routine, and to keep up with Giovanni in training. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 8, Shirley 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. Claudia points out that this is Debbie's lowest score so far, but it's still a good one. I guess they have to ding Debbie and create some sort of journey narrative somehow, even if they do have to make up new rules to do it. [I can't believe that you missed out Giovanni kissing her lots of times as the results were coming in - Rad]

Brian and Amy are next, with their Wizard of Oz-themed American Smooth. Amy asks Brian how he felt about last week, and he says he enjoyed Saturday night "but the results show, I don't want to be there again". Pretty sure you have to turn up to the results show every week, Brian. From a tearful Brian post-last week's dance off, we cut to training for this week, which seems to be going better. Amy drags Brian to a field to be at one with his inner scarecrow, and then they go to meet Amy's friend Charlie, who is a horse. This VT was brought to you by the Strictly Come Dancing Random Comedy VT Generator, which appears to be malfunctioning slightly this week.

They are, of course, dancing to 'If I Only Had A Brain' (I can't believe we've got this far without any "if I only had a Brian" jokes, but there we are), and I'm as surprised to be writing this as you must be to be reading it, but it's actually quite good? There are lots of comedy bits where Amy lets Brian go and he immediately flops to the ground because he is made of straw, but they don't feel as grating as Brian's normal comedy efforts, and when the two of them are actually dancing in hold you can definitely see an improvement in him. His frame still needs some work, but the dance as a whole is smooth and elegant and actually kind of charming. I'm not a huge fan of Brian, but I'm pleased for the two of them to have come back strong after last week's dip into the dance-off. [Same.  I actually enjoyed that - a real 'in character' dance - Rad]

Bruno begins by applauding Brian's characterisation and the detail he put into the performance, but he feels like he loses the vitality when he goes into hold and starts dancing. Craig would've liked to see more ballroom in that routine and more power in his drive, but he can definitely see an improvement from last week. Darcey is impressed with the timing and the lack of mistakes, but it felt very safe to her. Shirley loved the bits of foxtrot that were in there, and thought the footwork was good. Brian grins "we needed that" to Tess, and the two of them skip up the yellow brick staircase.

In the Clauditorium, Amy says that Brian has worked very hard all week and she's extremely proud of him. Brian, sweetly, says that it's Chizzy's birthday today and wishes her happy birthday on behalf of everyone. (I kind of assumed they'd cut to Chizzy in the audience here but maybe she just decided to go out and get bladdered instead?) Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 5, Shirley 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 22. Brian and Amy squeal with genuine delight at every single one of those scores, and so help me I'm honestly finding them rather adorable tonight.

Gemma and Aljaž are next, dancing a charleston to 'Bare Necessities' from The Jungle Book. Aljaž compliments Gemma on recovering so well from the little mistakes in last week's waltz, and they're both very happy to have received six points more for their second dance than they got for their first one. This week they've got the charleston, and Aljaž takes Gemma to a safari park to get in the mood. Gemma spots a meerkat and immediately does the "Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan!" routine, and then they get into a jeep to go and look at some rhinos and lions and bears, oh my! Gemma goes "look! look!" and for some reason this makes Aljaž go "hmm, yes, I can see you are really getting into the character" - she's meant to be playing Bagheera, mate, I don't recall the part in The Jungle Book where Bagheera just sat there excitedly pointing at other animals, but to be fair it is quite a long time since I've seen it. Gemma hopes the judges find their dance bearable on Saturday night.

I'm finding Gemma's "sexy Bagheera" costume quite alarming, and I'm also wondering if not having stopped fancying Aljaž despite his significantly less sexy Baloo costume makes me a furry, so let's just move right along before this gets any weirder. Gemma and Aljaž have both heeded the warning from Craig last week about how charlestons have to be all gurning, all the time (sigh) so this one is played right down the camera, but there's a good energy level throughout (so much energy in fact that one of Aljaž's bear-ears falls off mid-routine) even if Gemma's not displaying a huge amount of swivel. The whole thing comes across well, generally - as has been the case with a lot of the couples tonight, you can definitely see how much more comfortable Gemma is on the dancefloor than she was two weeks ago. [I enjoyed it a lot - although the blue lighting wasn't the best choice to highlight Gemma in a black costume.  I am SHOCKED that the comedy in the routines is generally landing tonight.  Maybe Halloween will actually... be good? - Rad]

Tess remarks on Aljaž's missing ear and Aljaz says "I can't hear anything!" I'm pretty sure he's not the first person to have faked deafness just to get out of talking to Tess. Craig opens by telling Aljaž that he might want to take the other ear off now, and Aljaž's hurt face in response hits me right in the ovaries. Craig bemoans the lack of basic charleston with cross and swivel in the routines, and remarks that Gemma only swivels on her right legs, but he thought it was full of character and energy and it was brilliant. Darcey tells Gemma she is "one fit lady" who just doesn't tire, because she thought all of her lifts were great, including "your little starfish upside down" [Ola Jordan will be seething - surely she's the only little starfish allowed? - Rad] And here I was thinking Jonnie having his flies open for an entire segment on Monday's It Takes Two was going to be the most exposing wardrobe malfunction of the week. Her only criticism is a slight lack of consistency - she thinks Gemma switches off during the easy steps and only works hard when it gets difficult. Shirley compliments Aljaž on the charleston choreography (which Aljaž then credits to Matt Flint, although you can't really hear him over the roaring approval of the crowd) and admires Gemma's energy, and Bruno calls them "the bear and the pussycat" and asks if he can take them both home. Well, there's a story for the Sunday tabloids. He liked the jazz elements of it and thought it really worked well in these circumstances.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia compliments them on the routine and Gemma says that it was so tiring, and that the professional dancers are all really fit and she doesn't know how they do it. Claudia asks Aljaž if he's nice and cool in that bear costume and Aljaž is all "what month is it? July?" Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Shirley 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. Aljaž wishes happy birthday to his little sister, who is in the audience.

Halfway point (oh dear god) leaderboard:

1. Gemma & Aljaž - 31
2. Mollie & AJ - 30
3. Debbie & Giovanni - 29
4. Brian & Amy - 22
5. Simon & Karen - 19
6. Ruth & Anton - 15
7. Rev. Richard & Dianne - 14

Up next are Charlotte and Brendan with their Top Gun-inspired tango, hoping to keep out of the "danger zone". They flash back to last week, and Brendan consoles Charlotte that it was "one mistake, it doesn't matter". I guess if you could the entire cha cha cha as that one mistake, it sort of works. Charlotte cries that she spent hours and hours working on a dance and then couldn't do it. She is very grateful to everyone who voted to save her (from doing it again in the dance-off). She's determined to make this week's tango work, so Brendan takes her to an aerodrome to <strike>live out his fantasies as he weeps internally at the passage of time</strike> embrace her inner fighter pilot. They go up in a plane and do the loop-de-loop and I know we need ("need") comedy VTs this week but I think this is time that would have been much better spent learning how to dance, goddammit.

So yes, they're meant to be Maverick and Charlie (classic Brendan, reading Top Gun as a heterosexual love story rather than the tragic tale of suppressed gay love we all know it to be), but the thing is that my main point of reference for 'Danger Zone' at this point is Archer, so I can't help assuming that they're playing Sterling and Mallory Archer. And given Charlotte's general stiffness and the lack of any real chemistry between them, it doesn't not work as a viewpoint. The dance actually starts out reasonably enough, but Charlotte's very floppy in Brendan's arms and struggles to keep up after a while, ending up just sort of stumbling around the dancefloor. At the end of it Brenda pops her back on the motorcycle that they've been dancing around the whole time and looks like he's going to bite her neck. Someone's already planning his routine for Hallowe'en Week, I suppose.

Charlotte tells Tess she enjoyed it more this week, and Brendan immediately steps in to claim fault for a mistake that no one has actually mentioned yet, so this is going to go well. Darcey tells Charlotte there's a clear difference this week, and she saw the focus there this week. There were bits that went wrong, but she produced some very nice lines - she just needs to work on smoothing out those transitions. Shirley says it's definitely "a little bit better than last week". Brendan: "A little bit?" Shirley: "Yes, definitely, just a little bit Brendan, unfortunately." Shirley then proceeds to address all of her criticisms of Charlotte directly to Brendan, bypassing Charlotte entirely ("she needs to stand on her own two feet" etc) and says that there needs to be no rise-and-fall in the tango. Brendan's all "um, excuse me, there was none". Shirley tells him to watch it back, and Brendan says he certainly will, good DAY Madam. And all the while Charlotte stands in between them biting her lip. Poor Charlotte, basically now just the McGuffin in her own Strictly story. Bruno thought she played the part well, but there are just too many mistakes and Charlotte needs to not cling on to Brendan when she goes wrong. He then adds pointedly that he thinks Shirley is right, and Brendan needs to be more respectful. Brendan blathers "no, I respect all of you, I just don't think there was any rise-and-fall in there", looking very much like the guy who started a fight with the skinny kid in the playground and didn't anticipate that the skinny kid had friends. Craig says that Charlotte did well to recover from last week, and she's much safer in hold, so she's going in the right direction - but it's not going to be a high-scorer.

In the Clauditorium, Charlotte says that she loves to dance and she just wanted to come back and do the best she could and make it work. And probably not to have to deal with her partner trying to have a dick-measuring contest with the head judge, I imagine. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Shirley 4, Bruno 4 for a total of 17. Brendan says that they're going to have to watch it back, because it felt really good. Yeah, I bet Charlotte can't wait to relive this.

Next we have Jonnie and Oti. Jonnie appears to have more eyeliner on his face than you would find in an entire branch of Boots, and his hair is down again. It's working for me, I can't deny it. Tess sits with Jonnie's mum in the audience, and she says that she's never seen him dance before and it's wonderful. Jonnie really enjoyed last week's jive and says that being so close to 30 is amazing (easy to say when you're only 24, sunshine) but he does feel that puts pressure on him now to live up to that score again. This week they've got the paso, in which Jonnie will be playing Indiana Jones, so in order to get under the skin of the character, Oti takes him to meet the nearest real-life equivalent to Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford? No, Ray Mears, of course. They meet where Ray tells Jonnie that he needs to be fearless, wear a hat, be ready for anything, and always come prepared. Jonnie gives this VT the level of commitment it deserves, which is to say not much.

They're dancing to 'The Raiders March', and it begins with Jonnie swinging in from atop the judges' desk on a rope. I think he's meant to flick his whip when he lands, but by the looks of it he has a bit of trouble untangling it so he just pulls it off his belt and discards it in order to get into position with Oti on time. His paso movement is a little stilted and he doesn't seem to know what he's doing with his arms a lot of the time, but his timing is pretty good considering that this isn't really the best music for a paso. Also his butt looks great in those khaki trousers. Hey, I'm just here to report the facts. On a technical level it's not great, but I think he manages to sell it from a performance level - or Oti does, at the very least.

Shirley compliments Oti on an excellently-choreographed routine, and says she was very impressed with the barrel roll turns (I think you have to press the Z button to do those), but she'd like him to work on his hip line, which needs to be slightly more underneath, which will stop his butt sticking out quite so much. NO SHIRLEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Bruno says that Indiana Jonnie can take him anywhere, and he thinks that while Jonnie has a nice butt, he does need to remember to tuck it under. Jonnie says he thought he might get an extra point from Bruno for the butt. Heh. Craig says it was a little bit square and the body-shaping was off, but otherwise brilliant. Darcey agrees "with my judges" that Jonnie needs to lift his ribcage, but she's impressed with Jonnie's commitment.

Claudia says that Jonnie wasn't a big fan of the paso, and he admits that it's been his nightmare dance. Oti says that he's been saying "I can't do this! I don't wanna do this!" all week. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 6, Shirley 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 26. Jonnie says he just wanted to beat his waltz score, so he's very happy with that.

Next we have Susan and Kevin with the first samba of the series. Kevin says that their aim last week was to get a 6, so to get two 6s and a 7 was even better than they hoped. Susan informs us that she will be playing Wonder Woman in this routine, which is our segue into our comedy VT about Susan actually becoming Wonder Woman with super-speed, super-strength, and super-jumping. Both Susan and Kevin play the whole thing with a rather delightful B-movie level of acting, which I appreciate.

It begins with Kevin trapped under a giant one-tonne weight - you know, the sort of thing that just happens to anybody on an average day. So Susan does her spin to turn into Wonder Woman (even though she's already wearing the outfit) and then pulls him out from underneath it. A lot was made in advance of this routine of the fact that Susan would be leading, because she is Wonder Woman. I'm not sure how evident that is in practice, but Kevin has choreographed the routine so he is the one who gets twirled around by his partner and does the floor spins, and I am absolutely here for Kevin Clifton: Feminist Choreographer. There's not a lot of bounce in Susan's movement, but this is definitely her strongest performance yet: despite the camp, comic-book nature of the set-up, it's clear she's been taking the samba seriously and doing her best to learn it properly, and Kevin has actually choreographed a proper routine for her with minimal faffing. I enjoyed it very much, and hurrah for smashing the patriarchy on primetime BBC1, quite frankly. [Another success for comedy routines tonight - what is going on? - Rad]

Susan runs up to give Craig a kiss afterwards, and Tess asks her what she would've thought if someone had told her this time last year that she'd be doing a samba dressed as Wonder Woman. Susan: "Yes please." Heh. Bruno says she had him spinning and he loved how much Susan was in charge. Craig giggles that he's never seen anything quite like that - he felt the routine was a lot of fun for everyone at home, but she does need to have bounce in the samba and that largely was missing - so that's something to work on, if she ever gets to the final. Darcey says that Susan needs to straighten her back leg and get her weight forward, but she loved the "100 per cent performance". Shirley says that there are nine different timings that can be used in the samba and Susan covered at least four or five of them, and she did see the bounce in Susan's voltas even though she was travelling too far.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia breathlessly exhorts Susan to watch her performance back to see the judges' reactions, and we get a shot of Susan's Lovely Wife Lee in the audience wearing a Wonder Woman crown. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Shirley 5, Bruno 6 for a total of 20. Two less than last week, even though I'd probably say that was Susan's best performance of the series. Eh, what do I know.

Next we have Joe and Katya, who admit their tango last week didn't go that brilliantly. Joe says that he needs to learn not to force things, and trust what he and Katya are doing. This week they're doing a Doctor Zhivago-themed Viennese waltz, and to get Joe into the spirit of playing a Russian character, Katya takes him to...Hemel Hempstead? To use the indoor ski slope. Sure, why not. A rosy-cheeked Joe says that he thinks it helped, and that there's snow way he'll get a frosty reception on Saturday and get left out in the cold. I need a lie down.

They're dancing to 'Somewhere My Love', and I'm quite impressed with Joe's swiftly-grown Russian pornstache first and foremost. It's a definite return to form after the wobbles of last week - he needs to work on his posture a bit and some of the footwork is a bit scattered, but it's much more assured-looking and confident, and the chemistry between Joe and Katya here is really great.

When it's over, Katya flings herself at Joe so hard that she almost takes him down entirely, and Tess compliments Joe on his facial hair which he masc4mascs is definitely all his own with no need for enhancement. Craig gives it the thumbs-up. Darcey says it was beautifully traditional with lots of travel and rotation. Shirley says that it's twice the speed of the waltz, and a much flatter dance, and he brought that today. Bruno says he was swept away by the romance of the whole thing.

They make their triumphant run up to the Clauditorium, where Joe enthuses that Craig actually enjoyed it, and thanks Katya for her hard work this week. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Shirley 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32. Claudia tells them that they're top of the leaderboard and Katya's all "at the what of the leaderboard?"

Aston and Janette are next as we round the final corners of the show. They reflect on last week's salsa, and Aston says he's happy with how it went, but a little disappointed with that last lift. This week they're doing the cha cha cha to 'Can't Stop The Feeling!' by Justin Timberlake, from the movie Trolls. I have no hesitation in saying that the thought of a routine to 'Can't Stop The Feeling!' pains me more than the thought of one to 'Despacito' ever did. Janette takes Aston to Tower Bridge because trolls live under bridges and... *fast-forwards*

I'm sorry. I'm almost comedy VT-ed out, and this one is exceptionally stupid. Just let me have this. [The saving grace was how much Aston is over comedy VTs already - Rad]

So they do the cha cha cha and it is really very good indeed, almost certainly the best one we've seen this series - very slick, very clean, and nice and playful. I am also a very big fan of Janette being a troll in a very literal sense by choreographing in a pot-stirrer for herself and doing it flawlessly. I don't think the pot is the only thing getting stirred here, if you know what I mean and I'm sure you do. [I loved this - and the cha cha is usually my least favourite Latin.  The hair, make-up and costumes though.  She looked like Shoshanna from Girls when she lived in Japan and he looked like the kind of mess wardrobe and make-up usually save for Pasha.  Kudos to the two of them for just rolling with it - Rad]

Darcey says that they were made for each other and all of their moves were so clean - she was impressed with the straight leg action and the way he directed the amazing turn. She says that she didn't want that dance to stop. Shirley says that she could see Aston was making an effort with his feet this week to stop the sickling, which was great. She then turns her attention to Janette and says that she could have overloaded this routine for him but she didn't ("...Brendan") and the pot-stirrer is a very difficult step ("...Brendan") and she really appreciated the effort put in by Aston to ensuring that Janette was able to do it. Bruno says they are "deliciously cartoonish" and every move they did seemed to pop - "it was like watching HD 3D, nothing fuzzy". I bet it's been a long time since Bruno's vision has been like that. Bruno liked how they included the hip hop touches without losing the cha cha cha feeling. Craig concludes simply: "you're very good, aren't you darling?"

Aston says that Janette makes the whole week fun, drilling the routine into him, and then makes sure he has fun on the night. Claudia says she loves that Aston's mum comes to the show every week but can't actually watch him, and just covers her eyes. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Shirley 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35.

Our penultimate couple of the night are Alexandra and Gorka. They're dancing the American smooth to a song from My Fair Lady. Last week's paso was electric, according to Alexandra, and Gorka says he will always remember it. Alexandra says that it's out of this work to have received the best score of the competition so far. This week she has to play a sweet girl who is trying to be sophisticated and elegant, which is something that she's struggling with - although she doesn't specify which of those things she's finding difficult, so have at it, people on the internet who don't like Alexandra! To get in the mood, Alexandra takes Gorka for an etiquette and elocution lesson (while the theme from Keeping Up Appearances plays in the background, and now all I want is for Alexandra to emerge in a floral dress with a string of sturdy pearls and play the whole thing as Hyacinth Bucket), and Gorka's attempt at an RP English accent is really quite something. As is the way Alexandra accidentally biffs Gorka in the head with her elbow when they run out to do some dance practice on the croquet field.

They're dancing to 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly', and it is indeed loverly - simple, elegant, grounded, and classy. Although I'm not entirely sure about the bit at the end where Gorka hands her some celery to go with the flower she's holding.

Shirley tells her that the technique was very good - she was rolling through her feet and she had some lovely pivot turns. But she would like to explain the difference between the American smooth foxtrot and the international one - basically the international one is all in hold, but the American smooth one is 50 per cent in hold and 50 per cent open, and the open work would normally cover much more space. Shirley advises Alexandra to think about that if she gets another American-style dance like that...of which there are none. Thanks Shirley! Bruno thinks that Alexandra's artistic sensibility is flawless, and he couldn't see a moment that wasn't played absolutely right. Craig says that he won't give them a standing ovation tonight - her free arm does need more work, and she must remember to tell a story with that arm, but the stuff in hold was gorgeous and the routine was beautifully constructed! Darcey admires Alexandra's versatility week in, week out and the cleanliness of her movements - she thinks she's one to watch.

They blossom and bloom their way up to the Clauditorium, where Alexandra tells Claudia that she had to put last week aside because she was worried about not living up to the standard set by her paso, but this one gave her a chance to show a different side of her personality because it's a really cute dance. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Shirley 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 33. Gorka and Alexandra are both very happy with that score, which puts them in second place.

That just leaves Davood and Nadiya to close the show. Last week's performance went well, but Davood wants to make sure that he harnesses his energy properly and doesn't slip below that 27 marker that he's scored for the last two weeks. Nadiya tells Davood that they'll be doing a samba themed around Saturday Night Fever, which Davood instantly proclaims to be "iconic" and says he's going to try to focus his energy into his hips. Davood's comedy VT theme is that he's gradually becoming discofied - wearing flares, a psychedelic shirt, star-shaped glasses and a chest wig. Davood takes them to a proper lit-up disco floor and says that he hopes he'll be staying alive to dance another week after this performance. I'm just glad that I haven't been killed by all of these dreadful puns.

They're dancing to a fairly strange arrangement of 'Stayin' Alive', and I'm starting to sense a recurring problem in all of Davood's routines - they're all too fast. This is something that Nadiya really needs to be reining in, because I think he's got the ability, but whether it's her choreography or her natural enthusiasm, every time he comes out on the dancefloor he hits it at such a rate of knots that any nuance or finesse just goes out the window. There are some decent attempts at hip rotation to the extent that I can see why this one got the pimp slot [I was flummoxed by this pimp slot placing. I get that they wouldn't want Aston or Alexandra in there again yet, but Gemma's seemed much more suited to the slot - Rad] but it just all feels so rushed. I just want the two of them to slow down.

Bruno calls Davood "a beast of fun" and says that all the pelvic thrusts looked like he had ferrets down his pants - but he needs to be smoother. Craig says that all the hip wiggles and gyrations are wonderful crowd-pleasers but have very little to do with samba bounce or samba hips. Also, he needs to sort out his spatulistic hands. Darcey says that Davood definitely doesn't hold back and she doesn't know how Nadiya holds it together because he was really chucking her around - she loves it when someone really goes for it, but Davood just needs to hold back very slightly. Shirley finishes by saying it was much better than last week with plenty of samba content, but he needs to get his posture right because it was a little bit collapsed in the middle, like a filleted fish. She thinks if he gets that right in future, it will help him in all dances.

Upon arrival in the Clauditorium, Davood announces that it's hard going last because you're constantly going over your routine in your head while everyone else is on, and psyching yourself out. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 7, Shirley 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 25. Davood's a little bit disappointed but styles it out as best he can.

Final leaderboard, then:

1. Aston & Janette - 35
2. Alexandra & Gorka - 33
3. Joe & Katya - 32
4. Gemma & Aljaž - 11
5. Mollie & AJ - 30
6. Debbie & Giovanni - 29
7. Jonnie & Oti - 26
8. Davood & Nadiya - 25
9. Brian & Amy - 22
10. Susan & Kevin - 20
11. Simon & Karen - 19
12. Charlotte & Brendan - 17
13. Ruth & Anton - 15
14. Rev. Richard & Dianne - 14

The main interesting thing about this one is that we have 14 couples and no ties. It is literally unprecedented to have this many couples dancing on one night and have no ties at all. This basically means it's much harder for the couples at the bottom of the leaderboard to leapfrog over the middle-tier ones, so the likes of Richard, Ruth, Charlotte, Simon and even Susan should watch their backs. (Brian too, but he's just high enough to be out of the hazard zone, I think, plus a decent comeback performance should ensure a bottom-two bounce for him.)

Claudia declares the vote open, and Karen starts screaming at Aston for trying to eat her giant bucket of popcorn (not a euphemism), which makes him crack up. Recap: man in a bad costume doing a bad quickstep, Ruth's icy rumba, Mollie's airborne American smooth, Richard and his bad wig doing a terrible but hilarious paso, Debbie's quickstep that breaks a rule none of us knew about, Brian's delightful comeback American smooth, Gemma's bestial charleston, Charlotte's tango that sparked World War 3, Jonnie and his eyeliner raiding the Temple of Doom, Susan and her feminist triumph of a samba, Joe's Moustache getting him back in the game, the best cha cha cha of the competition if anyone still cares about cha cha chas after three weeks, Alexandra's loverly understated American smooth and Davood's frantic but fun samba.

That's it! Join me for the results show when the box office numbers come in and we'll see who hasn't delivered the bums on seats...

Saturday, 7 October 2017

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Chizzy cried for quite a long time after the results show, but she's feeling a bit more positive about it now.
- It's Chizzy's birthday on Saturday and she's quite gutted she won't get to dance on live telly on her birthday.
- Nadiya Hussain has invited Chizzy and Pasha round for tea and cake.
- Chizzy would've liked to do It for movie week, she had the red balloon ready and everything.
- Chizzy is still struggling to pronounce "chassé".
- Still no sign of Hot Greg The Floor Manager.
- Simon was sobbing all day on Saturday because 'You'll Never Walk Alone' always does that to him.
- Karen reckons she ended Simon's waltz in the exact position she was meant to be in. Having gone back and rewatched, I remain unconvinced.
- Simon and Karen are going to be Buzz Lightyear and Jessie from Toy Story for movie week.
- Simon is not a massively serious human being.
- Tim Lovejoy bought Simon flowers because he wanted to make sure that Simon had the biggest bouquet of anyone.
- Joanne reckons Alexandra did the best paso a female celebrity has ever done on the show.
- In ballroom hold, the woman's face should be looking over her left wrist.
- Joanne disagrees with Craig and thinks you can do an aloof charleston actually thank you.
- Jonnie's dad has been a Strictly fan for years.
- Jonnie apparently didn't check to see if his flies were zipped before going on live telly.
- Jonnie and Oti are doing an Indiana Jones-themed paso on Saturday.
- Oti doesn't think she's met her match in Jonnie.
- Brian learned he could moonwalk when he was trying to scrape dog poo off his shoe.
- Brian keeps telling everyone Amy is a world champion even though she is only (only!) the British one.
- Brian would rather have been Buzz Lightyear than the Scarecrow.
- Amy makes Brian do a forfeit every time he does "a naughty arm". If only Lilia had thought to try that with Dominic Littlewood.
- Ruth has already started slipping and calling Anton "Eamonn".
- Ruth thinks she looked like Sharon from EastEnders with her waltz hair.
- Anton promises that his and Ruth's rumba will be intense if not sexy.
- Ruth thinks she looks like she's sucking a sherbet lemon when she tries to pout.
- Joanne claims the reason there's sometimes a lot of faffing about at the start of dances is because the music needs to really kick in. Mmm-hmm.
- Joanne thinks you can never have too much attack in tango.
- To get into doing a Charleston swivel, you should start doing the Dorothy 'there's no place like home' footwork.
- Joanne thinks Brendan should have taken the pot stir out of Chalotte's cha cha cha.
- You're only allowed 3 lifts in a salsa, but Janette got round it by not putting her feet on the floor when she was flinging herself around Aston.
- Mollie's shoulders are, like, totally, wild.
- Mollie and AJ are dancing a Sound of Music number, but neither will be dressing as nuns.
- On the subject of nuns, anyone else wish we had a Sister Act themed dance?
- AJ is making Mollie practice doing everything gracefully, right up to drinking her morning coffee.
- Even AJ can grow facial hair faster than Kevin.
- Giovanni felt there was 'something there' with Debbie from day one.
- This week in training Debbie has been The Glamorous Debbie McGee.
- Debbie's training room outfits continue to amaze, with pink legwarmers joining the line up.
- I say ‘tomato’, Giovanni says ‘pomodoro’.
- Charlotte and Brendan did a lot of practice in anticipation of the dance-off.
- Brendan thinks Shirley should keep her opinions to herself. I don’t know what he thinks a “judge” is for.
- Brendan is a bit pissed off they made Saturday's VT all about the pot stir going wrong.
- Unsurprisingly, Brendan is very excited about having a Top Gun themed routine.
- Baz Luhrmann tweeted Charlotte this week.
- Davood is channeling a swan for this week’s routine.
- Ian shouldn’t quite the day job to become a singer.
- Ian isn't happy with Aston's feet
- Ian’s favourite film as a child was Flash Gordon, and also he fancied Flash.
- Joe doesn’t know why he pushed Katya away at one point during his tango. Answers on a postcard.
- Ed Balls has been to visit Joe and Katya in training, hey guys do you remember when Ed Balls was on Strictly

- Katya has taught Joe how to say “good morning” in Russian and Katya is working on her Scottish accent.
- Dianne loves Richard’s timing - even if he does the wrong step, he at least does it at the right time.
- The first time Richard did his paso face, Dianne laughed for over two minutes.
- The show is attempting to officially  brand Janette as a 'latin sensation' but we will never be able to hear that without mentally adding 'or whatever she is' thanks to Ian last week.
- Janette is aware of the irony of choreographing such a fast and frantic salsa to ‘Despacito’, which means “slowly”.
- Aston’s mum was in the audience on Saturday but had her eyes closed throughout his salsa.
- Janette thinks that she and Aston are like cartoon characters in the training room. Wait, who said “Rick and Morty”, that’s not fair.
- Gemma thought she was fit until she tried to dance the charleston.
- Debbie’s dress for this Saturday will have about 5000 stones by the time it’s finished.
- It’s official - dancing a paso with Gorka is as good as singing with Beyoncé. Alexandra should know, and she confirmed it.
- Alexandra and Gorka accidentally headbutted each other during their paso dress run.

- Gorka has seen Alexandra’s puppies, but just the once. We of course all saw Gorka’s puppies during that paso.
- Gethin is not related to Catherine Zeta Jones.
- The Strictly group dance rehearsals are the happiest place on earth. Except for that time when Ola made up that story about Karen calling her a clapped-out old whore or whatever it was.
- There will be a lindy-hop-quickstep-paso pro dance to Aladdin-Little Mermaid-Beauty and the Beast this weekend.
- Aljaž told Gemma to be a character, rather than herself, in the waltz.
- Gemma's outfit for Saturday is really itchy and she can't go to the toilet while wearing it.
- Gemma has been wearing a tail in rehearsal.
- Komedy Aljaž has apparently been unleashed going on his appearance on Friday.
- Gemma has a regular slot every week on her radio show called "až Wednesday" when Aljaž comes in.
- Aljaž has been learning about Mancunian dress and phrases.
- Aljaž is very slow at picking up visual gags.
- Janette and Anton's favourite movie dancers are Syd Charisse and Fred Astaire, and Syd Charisse complimented him on his dancing on his dancing once, which was the best compliment he ever had.
- Amy and Giovanni are Grease fans, with Amy loving 'Born to Hand Jive' in particular. If only it hadn't been done last year, eh?
- Karen Clifton loves the barn dancing in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,  Kevin loves Strictly Ballroom.
 - AJ, meanwhile is a big fan of the all time classic Step Up 2: The Streets
- LA PRENJ was part of Kevin and Aljaž's auditions and I feel this is a showbiz story we must know more about please.
- Rufus Hound thinks Strictly has become a proper national institution this year entirely due to Len being replaced by Shirley. It's such a shame that Rufus Hound has become a national liability this year.
- He is also team Debbie.
- Despite being a reality TV legend, LA PRENJ pretends she hates the term 'journey'. She still uses it though. Before week three.
- Simon Webbe remains as charismatic and conversational as ever.
- He also thinks he was on this show last year.
- The Friday panel have been laughing at Simon's training footage which looks like a trainwreck.
- Simon (Webbe) thinks Aston needs to 'let the Caribbean go and feel the Latin feel'. Uh-huh.
- Simon's memories of the rumba? 'It was very stiff... very hard.'
- Joe thinks Batman can fly.
- Simon Rimmer can't pronounce Hermione.
- Katya can't remember the name of Maria in the Sound of Music and thinks 'Kellie Bright' rather than Princess Leia when thinking of Star Wars.
- Susan thinks there is no such thing as too much fun on Strictly Come Dancing. She clearly doesn't remember Russell Grant.
- Susan hasn't watched her dances because she never watches herself on TV.
- Kevin thinks performance is more important than swivel in Charleston.
- Because Susan is playing Wonder Woman in her samba this week, Kevin has taught her how to lead.
- Mollie finds the American Smooth confusing.
- Debbie wears pink legwarmers in training <3.
- Davood channeled his inner Kevin to play a geek.
- Nadiya reckons their illegal lift was really a 'catch'.
- Zoe wonders if Davood is worried about living up to John Travolta in his Saturday Night Fever samba.  I'm more worried about reliving Abbey Clancy's SNF 'salsa' TBH.
- Davood won't be doing any samba rolls on Saturday.
- Davood has been having nightmares about swans.
- Pasha, Gorka and Brendan are all Singing in the Rain fans
- Aljaž's favourite dance from a film is Al Pacino dancing in Scent of a Woman.  You guys, Aljaž is weird this series.
- Also going off-piste are Dianne with Bring it On and Oti with You Got Served (which I've never heard of), whilst Nadiya and Katya like Flashdance and Sweet Charity respectively.
- Rufus Hound finds it hilarious that Gemma will be in a catsuit 'for the dads' but Aljaž will be in a big bear costume to annoy the mums.
- But Aljaž will be playing Aladdin this week and we all know what that means.
- It's quite hard to jazz up 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' unless you bring crampons and ropes.
- Zoe has the vinyl of Kenny Loggins' 'Danger Zone' on her record player at home.
- Doing Top Gun was Brendan's idea colour me shocked.
- Chloe loves movie week.
- Neil would like some popcorn this week. If you were sitting through 14 dances and none of them involving you, you would really.
- Pasha now has to sit at the losers' table with Neil and Chloe.
- Gethin really wants to know where Gorka lives. Presumably so he can stand outside his bedroom window in the middle of the night holding up a boombox, trying to tempt him back from that hussy Gemma.
- Simon Webbe has a new single out, how exciting.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Chizzed off

Week 2 Results - Sunday 1 October

Last night! Alexandra and Debbie triumphed, whilst Charlotte had a complete nightmare and many of those in between were either underwhelming or also made a series of mistakes. Hooray for the early stages of the competition!

We open with a pro-dance to 'Everybody Needs Somebody' is set in a bowling alley - with a projected set of bowling lanes on the floor the look really good, props to the technical team. It features Gorka bowling at an angle that would certainly have got his ball in the gutter despite us having the sound effect of him hitting a bunch of pins [Gorka can fling his balls into my gutt[*COMMENT CURTAILED ON GROUNDS OF TASTE*] - Steve]; Neil being forced to carry around pins (always the bridesmaid etc); lots of Janette being flung around; Oti and Giovanni frolicking on the judges table-hinting at an Oti versus Debbie McGee fight in the future? I genuinely have no idea who I’d bet on. It gets to end with Pasha bowling a strike which (spoiler alert) is kind of them, allowing him a tiny moment of victory considering what’s about to come.

Tess and Claudia enter. Daly dress watch: a cerise pink number with some very odd asymmetrical shoulder work going on that makes it look as if she’s wearing two completely different dresses stitched together. Wasn’t that a challenge on Sewing Bee once? I miss Sewing Bee, damn you Love Productions.

Tess says it was raining nines in the ballroom last night, which is an incredibly positive spin on the number of twos, threes and fours that were being given out. Our judges enter, introduced in pairs: Shirley and Bruno, then Craig and Darcey.  Is this to cement Craig and Darcey’s position as the lesser judges to justify their lower pay?

Recap of last nights in which the following of note happens: Chizzy is sad that somebody has to leave the family (spoiler: which makes my heart break a little bit knowing what’s about to come); Richard thinks his ensemble made him look like a flamboyant farmer; there is a lot of focus on the errors in Chizzy, Charlotte and Simon’s dances and not at all on those in Aston or Joe’s; Johnny has a remarkably young looking dad; I will never stop being delighted at Susan’s wife being so prominent on prime-time BBC1 [me neither <3 - Steve]; Debbie thinks Giovanni isn’t speechless very often as if she isn’t the talker of the partnership; literally every single couple except Chizzy and Pasha are shown in a huggy or loving position at the end of the recap. Foreshadowing!

And now for our first set of results of the series. Safe: Debbie and Giovanni; Aston and Janette; Davood and Nadiya; Mollie and AJ; Johnny and Oti; Ruth and Anton. First couple in the dance off? Chizzy and Pasha. This is a somewhat surprising turn of events - I was betting on a Simon/Charlotte bottom two with the possibility of Brian or Richard turning up there due to splitting the comedy vote. I guess Chizzy is probably the least famous of everyone here, though, and the underdog votes were probably more likely to go towards people lower down the leaderboard that she was. [I think there were quite a few things working against Chizzy - she had a bit of a bad night performance-wise, but not *so* bad that it would've driven sympathy votes her way, she was on at the start of a *very* long show and wasn't terrriby memorable, she was fighting with Joe - who probably *did* get the sympathy vote drive - for the Holby vote, and that's before we even consider that being a plus-size black woman isn't a massive vote-winner on this show to begin with. - Steve] Shirley advises her to get over her standing foot so that the movement looks easier and to bring her own personality to the dance. Chizzy looks really defeated, bless her.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia calls upon Mollie to provide the standard statement about it being really nervous waiting for your name to be called out and she delivers the most rote version of that statement I’ve ever heard - but all I can focus on is the line of red jewels along her hair parting that make it look exactly as if she’s suffered a head injury and we're not even on Halloween week yet! Debbie claims to have been stunned to go through despite being top of the overall leaderboard, but I guess when you’re a mega ringer you want to work on the ‘Oh I’m so humble really’ act early, so go Debbie. The men are happy to go through and sorry to see the red light come on - they are very boring so far. Claudia and Ruth inform us that next week is movie week. Hooray?

Our special guest performer is Emily Sunday, singing something that doesn’t suit her voice or style at all and has a really annoying dance style backing track. Neil and Katya come out to dance in front of it and Katya is wearing some god-awful transparent black lace trousers, whilst Neil is dressed as a jewel thief and it’s all pretty underwhelming for our first special guest performance of the series (and I don’t even normally mind Emily Sunday). Still, it gives Neil something to do. While he’s waiting to see which will be the first to crack out of Brendan, Anton and Pasha to finally let him get a chance at being a pro.

We then come to what used to be known as Len’s Lens and now is apparently called Dance Debrief (what, no Craig’s Candid Camera? Shirl’s Twirls?) as the judges dance on to Reel 2 Reel’s ‘I like to move it’. 

They begin with Simon and Karen and Shirley looks as if she’s about to burst into tears yet again. Anyway, Shirley explained she was impressed with the vertical line with his back and the shape of his arms from the blatant emotional manipulation. Claudia asks if the spin that went drastically wrong was obvious they show it in slow mo and it looks even more horrific than it is time-it’s clear that Simon hasn’t got the faintest clue about the logistics involved, which actually endears him more to me as a fellow spatially challenged individual. Bruno laughs ‘was it obvious?!’

They briefly discuss Debbie and Giovanni with Darcey complementing how Debbie makes it look effortless (I think that’s because it is effortless for her, Darcey) and praising her doing a movement that I can’t find online but sounds like Debblique - I’ve decided in my head canon that it’s a movement Debbie made up and named after herself because that’s the kind of thing a mega ringer should do. [It's called a développé, I think. - Steve] Craig then covers how Susan couldn’t swivelling the Charleston and Ruth could only manage on 1 foot; how Susan’s facial expressions were better than Ruth’s and how neither had a sense of rippling in their bodies. He then encourages everyone else that there is no such thing as too over the top in a Charleston. I believe this is one of those statements that needs to be qualified with YMMV. [I for one would beg to fucking differ. - Steve]We end with some praise for Alexandra, Bruno waxing lyrical about she was the dance embodied in person.

And now for some people who were not the living embodiment of dance, I presume. Before we find out who’s in the bottom two, though, we have more results. Safe: Susan and Kevin; Joe and Katya; Alexandra and Gorka; Gemma and Aljaž; Simon and Karen (who is the most shocked person in the room); Charlotte and Brendan (and I can’t tell if she’s happy to be through all completely gutted to have to face another week of it). That means we are looking at either Brian or Richard in the dance off and now is the moment to find out who is the official Komedy legend…. And it’s Brian and Amy who'll be facing Chizzy and Pasha for the ignoble title of first boot. Overall, you would think that Chizzy and Pasha had the better chance, especially going on last week’s performance, which was decent enough for a week one but Brian is more well-known and Amy untested, so you can see why there might be some TV value in keeping them. Darcey looks like she’s about to burst into tears at this reveal-who knew she’d be such a Brian fan? Brian is quite philosophical about being in the bottom two and says just do what they can. Bruno tells him to keep his performance level as he did and points out that he went back on the wrong foot at one point so to try and avoid at this time. He asks Brian if he remembers that part and Brian says no. At least he’s honest.

In the Clauditorium, Joe says it’s too soon for anyone to go home this week - not for those of us recapping, it’s not Joe. We also learn that Kevin and Susan are doing the samba to the Wonder Woman theme and Susan is in a state of horrified disbelief at this so that’s clearly going to be a routine for the ages. Richard says he doesn’t mind being called last because of the biblical principle that the last shall be first. Did someone write into Points of View requesting that we need a reminder that Sunday is the Lord’s day? Alexandra Alexandras about being through, Charlotte still seems in a state of shock and Claudia attempts to engage Simon into some culinary-based humour around the salsa and he completely dodges the bullet.

As if I haven’t had enough to write about this week, here’s a trailer for next week’s movie week - they are filming some audition scenes in front of a blue screen because Tess and Claud’s casting agency is circa 1985 who’s surprised? Spotters of portents of doom take note, after Chizzy’s audition Tess gives her a ‘you’re out of here’. Also, Debbie gets the line ‘you’re [sic] gonna need a bigger boat’ and cracks up laughing. Hee.

Chizzy and Pasha are asked about their feelings towards the dance off. Chizzy says it’s going to be hard. Pasha tells her to bring some cheesy onto the dancefloor and, yes, I’m aware you could interpret that as him saying Chizzy in his accent, but again, I know what he said. Brian gives a farewell speech about all the memories he’ll have and will never forget and how wonderful Amy’s been and Tess tells him off because he can’t give a goodbye speech until he is officially going. Amy is a blubbering wreck-tears of sadness, or tears of joy - who can tell?

As for the dances, Chizzy looks defeated throughout and doesn’t dance as well as the first time round. The moment where she takes the briefcase and coat and puts a hat on at the end seems quite sad. She is still, I would say, the better dancer of the two overall, but I don’t think Brian dances while second time as he did first time either, but Amy looks a bit more bothered than Pasha about putting in some effort.

Craig reminds us that both couples were only worth three in his opinion, but says he prefers watching Chizzy and Pasha move, so saves them. Darcey praises the enthusiasm of both couples (!) but saves Brian and Amy for having more dance content [lolwut - Steve]. Bruno says both were far from perfect but he saves Brian and Amy for having better timing and popping more. Shirley then has the casting vote and says they both brought quite nice performances but saves Brian and Amy for having more musicality and contents.

Chizzy is in floods of tears and finds it hard to get out her thank you speech but she says she’s loved dancing with Pasha and she is going to continue dancing with Pasha because she’ll just go around his house and make him dance. Atta girl. Pasha says he enjoyed laughing with her and says ‘fine, come over to my house’. The male pros are rather tolerant of the stalky female celebs this year, aren’t they?

They dance off to thank you for the music and ladies and gents and those that operate outside the gender binary, we now officially have our first WUZZROBBED of the series. Now it feels like Strictly!

Next week we have the joys of Ruth pretending to be a Bond girl by doing a Welsh sounding accent, Jonnie Peacock doing a Paso Doble and Kevin and Susan trying to overcome the cringe to do a Wonder Woman themed samba. Steve will be your host for the evening - I’ll get the popcorn in.

3 is the tragic number

Week 2: 15 Couples Perform - Saturday 30th September

Last week! All 15 celebrities danced-in the case of some of them, dancing in the loosest terms (Ruth, Simon, Brian, Richard). Mega ringer Aston topped the leaderboard in a display of confidence that, were he a woman, would have no doubt garnered him 18 Digital Spy threads and various Daily Mail articles about what a confident monster he was whilst mega ringer Debbie won all our hearts with the most outrageously filthy paso this show has ever seen and getting us all far more invested in Giovanni than has ever been the case before. The whole thing lasted for ever and Steve still has the blisters on his fingers to prove it. [Not even kidding, I've barely been able to type properly all week. - Steve]

Tonight! A show that is just as lengthy, followed by a 45 minute results show “tomorrow”and I am full of cold and in danger of losing my voice partway through (also the reason this is late – apologies). Hold me, I’m scared!

We begin with the pre-credits montage of everyone saying they don’t want to go, which ends on Alexandra - possibly as a preview of what is about to come, who can say? Cue credits! Looking at Debbie sitting saucily on Giovanni’s knee, the signs have been there from the very beginning, haven’t they?

As there is such a lot of show to get through, we are straight into business, with no pro-dance, which I’m grateful for the sake of my health, if nothing else. Our hosts enter. Daly dress watch: a mink coloured pantsuit that actually looks more flattering than it sounds. It is somewhat tight around the nipple, but given the way the trousers make men’s bums look, perhaps it’s just wardrobe offering something for those that like the ladies. What Winkleman’s wearing: black, lacy, off the shoulder. However, never mind what they are wearing, Darcey is the one trying to take the dressing to the next level-possibly to show that Shirley who is really the Queen round here (which: bless. Of all the judges on the panel, Darcey is the least likely to be crowned Queen). Whilst Shirley comes on in plain black and Bruno and Craig in black suits (Craig with a natty tie - well, natty in the sense that it’s the kind of thing Apprentice candidates wear in their opening VTs), Darcey is here in a long black dress with sheer panels covered in colourful flowers and butterflies. Personally, I like it, but then I have a fondness for all things garish (as my two-count-em-pairs of yellow converse will testify) and your mileage may vary.

Our pairs enter: Ruth and Anton; Davood and Nadiya; Mollie and AJ; Brian and Amy; Gemma and Aljaž; Simon and Karen; Debbie and Giovanni; Aston and Janette; Chizzy and Pasha; Richard and Dianne; Charlotte and Brendan; Joe and Katya; Susan and Kevin; Jonnie and Oti; Alexandra and Gorka. I’m really looking forward to there being far fewer of them, if only for the fact that writing their names takes FOREVER when the voice software gets about 40% of them correct (also, whilst on the subject of over-disclosing, every time I am sniffing with my cold, it’s interpreting it as ‘this’ - so if a few errant ones turn up here and there, you can be reminded of the great sacrifice I am making in the cause of blogging).

Observers of the intro dancing, note almost everyone is already half arsing it with Mollie looking particularly uncomfortable vaguely moving a single arm. Debbie and Giovanni are the only ones even bothering putting any effort in (naturally). I also love that we finally have located Giovanni’s personality and all it took was a mature ringer. Who knew? Perhaps we might even grow to appreciate AJ if, next year, he is paired with inevitable mega ringer star of the future Bonnie Langford? Note to producers: don’t actually do this - the many, many jokes about terrible showbiz children and recalls back to Bonnie as a youngster are really not something any of us ever need.

First up tonight are Chizzy and Pasha. They remind us that last week, Chizzy’s heel got caught in her dress, but they styled out the wardrobe malfunction (only to have it replayed over and over again afterwards). Chizzy’s sister comes to see them in rehearsals and that's all the VT we have time for with so many couples.

They are dancing a foxtrot to 'I'm A Woman', with a storyline about Chizzy not making Pasha breakfast or something because feminism, I assume? They are both dressed in bright purple, although Pasha’s purple shirt is mixed with a mauve waistcoat and trousers, the type of colour clash that you normally see on the afashionable likes of Anton or Kevin, but doesn’t work for Pasha. 

Chizzy is giving the dance plenty of personality - at the expense of technique. Full on skirt swishing and growls down the camera are what we’re talking here. That said, there are moments where she makes a reasonable attempt at the moves - particularly the footwork. Her top line is all over the place, though - and the whole thing doesn’t really feel like a foxtrot (this is not necessarily a bad thing in the minds of a lot of people - I know foxtrot is not exactly the most popular of the dances).

Two unidentified men in the audience, who I am assuming are team Chizzy, give it a standing ovation. We are introduced to the singers, Dave Arch and the orchestra (including the Man in the Hat) and then it’s over to the judges. Shirley says it was a little disappointing for her because she considers the foxtrot as the Rolls-Royce of all ballroom dances, it needs to be gliding and smooth, but she found this performance a bit too lumpy for her taste and although she loves Chizzy’s personality, she would have liked some more sophistication. Chizzy says she is more of a Beetle girl than a Rolls-Royce one (if only you were a Beatle girl, Chizz, you could have done it for LIVERPOOL.  But more on that later). Bruno says he’s going to put her on the naughty step if she carries on and that she is being ‘too sassy, too soon’ - which I feel could make an excellent T-shirt slogan - because the performance made her lose the style of the dance. As if Chizzy had any control over that. Craig said it had too much gapping and she was too far over to Pasha’s right and that he wanted to see more foxtrot and less musical theatre. He said she was also looking down too much, but she does have an amazing sense of musicality – his new euphemism for 'rhythm'. Darcey says she doesn’t want to cut any of her enthusiasm and that she travelled across the dancefloor - not necessarily with long gliding steps, but with a sense of performance. Helpful as ever. Tess says ‘we can’t get enough of that Chizzy charm’ - but will the viewing public think the same, given she is not especially famous compared to the rest of the cast and the great British public has such a good track record at voting for larger women and/or black women over the age of 35? 

They go to the Clauditorium, where Simon attempts to do an arch over their heads but is the only one raising his hand so looks incredibly odd and I kind of like how endearingly awkward that was, so I’m warming to him slightly #fickle. Chizzy then pulls her weave, which is slipping, and apologises to all the black women around the world who'll be telling her not to do it. Scores: three (and this isn’t the last time we will see that paddle tonight); five; four; four for a total of 16. Ouch.

Claudia then reminds us that the scores will be added to the totals from last week before reading out the terms and conditions over Black Box’s Ride on Time (apparently not the tune she was expecting). Chizzy tries to mouths along with the autocue, before giving up, grabbing Simon and dragging him into front of shot to steal the limelight once more. Everyone dances along and Ruth shows far more dancing prowess in 10 seconds of this than she did in the whole of last week’s routine.

The second couple of the evening are Aston and Janette. Their VT involves them going to a field with some yurts in it, ostensibly for the glamping experience, although clearly they just rocked up to do a quick video and run away again. The rationale behind this is to get them into the festival vibe for their dance - although, of course, it should be noted that this appears to be some random camping field and there is not another person in sight, never mind any sense of festival atmosphere. My favourite thing about this whole VT is how un-invested in the whole comedy VT process Aston really is.

They are dancing a salsa to ‘Despacito’, which has been trailed all week, both for using one of the most popular songs of the last year and for having some death-defying lifts. The fact that it has appeared in the death slot suggests that the problems we were seeing with this dance from rehearsal footage during the week (not least Aston biffing the lifts so badly that Janette NEARLY DIED!1!!1!) mean the show’s expectations for it have become somewhat lower as the week has gone on.
With Janette being a salsa specialist or whatever she is, I have hopes for this dance nonetheless. 

It has its merits, to be sure. Their multicoloured costumes (Jannette’s being made from the off-cuts in Vicky Gill’s bin, how eco-friendly) work with the festival theme of the dance and it starts generally pretty well in that it is very pacey and fun. However, the problems are evident very quickly. Aston can certainly move, but his hips lack a sense of rotation. As for the lifts, whilst none of them go as disastrously wrong as in rehearsals, they don’t exactly go right either (there’s one neat move where she is flung under his legs early on but that’s the only one that really excited me). Indeed, this dance suffers quite a lot in comparison to Jake Wood’s salsa. Janette has clearly tried to recreate that magic by using some of the same moves, but whilst they felt novel and exciting then, here they feel like Queen trying to recreate their greatest hits with Adam Lambert. Sure, the new guy has talent in his own way, but it’s just not the same and it doesn't feel as new or exciting.  It’s true that Aston has a greater sense of flow between movements than Jake did (watching again, Jake’s performance is somewhat stilted in places, especially transitioning from move to move), and he is keeping up with the ridiculous speed, but it still feels as if it should have been a whole fireworks display but is really just a fairly pretty Catherine wheel. To compound that feeling, it ends, not with a flourish, but with a misjudged lift in which Janette’s skirt is halfway over her head so we see half of their knickers and he nearly drops her when she’s coming down from it. I mean, it’s not terrible, but it’s so clearly missed the bar it was aiming for. [Considering salsa is Janette's specialty, Aston slightly biffing it did leave me worrying a bit for him in terms of how he'll cope with the genres she's less experienced in. - Steve]

Tess says it looked like a showdance. Talk about a backhanded compliment. Bruno says it contained the most difficult lifts he’s seen in a salsa and that Janette was lucky not to have ended up in traction. He says it is almost perfection and that his hand is on ‘the paddle’ but for the final lift which was a little unbalanced (/an unholy mess). Craig points out the problems with the lifts and notes that Aston didn’t have a strong figure eights in his hips, although praises the performance and rhythm of the piece. Darcey praises him for keeping his cool in a dance of that speed and praises Janette for the amount of detail in the dance. Shirley says she loved it, loved it and loved it some more. She says a stumble is what happens in dance sometimes and tells him he needs to watch his sickled feet and that she doesn’t want to tell him a third time about it. 

Scores: seven, eight (and if you are wondering if Darcey is doing that thing where she pulls a face at Craig’s score then goes on to only give one higher, then, yes, of course she is) eight, nine for a total of 32. It’s apparently more than they got last week, which I’m not really feeling but I suppose it’s only one mark.

The third couple of this evening are Susan and Kevin, and my DVR decided to cut out the whole of their footage until they came over to the judges, so I went to watch it on iPlayer, which then promptly crashed, so it took me quite a few goes to even see this dance. They’re lucky that I like them, there are certain others I might not have bothered for (oh hi Brian/Simon).  Their VT acts as a promo for Susan’s new BBC series Armchair Detective, as they do their rehearsals around her filming.

They are performing the Charleston to a song I’ve never heard before, called 'If You Knew Susie'. And in case you were wondering, Komedy Kevin is locked and loaded after being released from the torture of having to do four finals in a row what a tragedy. The dance focuses on Kevin as Susan’s defence solicitor. It’s not entirely clear what her crime is meant to have been, possibly stalking? Anyway, it goes without saying that the comedy value of the dance is played for all its worth. Susan’s height gives a sense of cheeky charm to proceedings, although does somewhat disadvantage her in terms of legwork.  It ends with Susan pleading with the judges/jurors, which is one of the most thought through bits of storytelling I’ve seen in a comedy routine for a while. Technically, it’s really not great (lack of swivel or flex in particular), and has no doubt suffered from Susan’s attentions being on the day job, but it is fun and should be enough to see them comfortably through until next week assuming the rest of the lower end of the pack don’t all pull out blinders tonight.

As they go over to Tess, Susan’s teeth are completely covered in red lipstick and Tess eventually does the wiping teeth motion to alert her several comments in. Viva la sisterhood! Craig says swivel is the basic requirement of the dance and she had none. Darcey praises her for making the dance her own because she is now apparently the Louis Walsh of this panel (hey, at least she stopped short of saying Susan reminded her of a little Janette Krankie, even if that might have been a comparison some of us had in mind not me honest I love Susan). Shirley says they were entertaining, coordinated and synchronised and that she loved it. Bruno says she is guilty of having too much fun and calls it ‘Pan’s people gone demented’ in his latest attempt to whip up moral outrage. Oh, and she should sort her footwork out, too. Scores: an all over the shop 3 (which gets resoundingly booed), 6, 7 (at which Karen Clifton pulls a ‘you have got to be kidding me’ face right in the middle of the camera gawd love her), 6 for an overall 22. 

Charlotte and Brendan now, and their VT begins by reminding us how surprisingly decent she was in ballroom… before covering a floor-based spin that keeps going wrong in rehearsals - including the dress rehearsal - and Charlotte ominously noting that if it goes wrong on the night, it could ruin the whole routine. It’s always somewhat baffling to me why couples persist in attempting movements that keep going on in rehearsals when it comes to the live shows. Surely if you can’t get it right often enough in rehearsal there’s a good chance it will go wrong on the day as well? (Aston and Janette had the same problem but at least he had more base material to work with than poor Charlotte.)

They are dancing the cha cha to ‘Sugar’ (which isn’t a brilliant song in the first place and the Strictly singers don’t particularly seem to get on with it). It begins with Brendan (in his best Saturday Night Fever-esque white suit) groping Charlotte’s breasts and that’s pretty much as good as it gets. Vicky Gill’s magic tassling on the dress does an excellent job at making it look as though she’s spinning and turning much more successfully than she actually manages, because this is an unholy mess. She is walking, rather than dancing, through part of it, almost stops still entirely in a couple of parts and looks completely terrified the whole time.  She doesn’t seem to know what to do with her arms and Brendan visibly pushes her into position in multiple places. Then comes the spin and she pulls a face going into it, clearly hating it, and whilst she doesn’t fall completely flat on her arse, they do stumble and this clearly knocks her confidence so much that she can’t get back into it, losing the timing, forgetting the moves, and the whole thing completely falls to pieces, with both of them grimacing throughout.  Poor Charlotte.

As they go over to the judges, Tess has to tell Bruno off for laughing at Charlotte’s misfortune, which is always a good start. [This should've been where Tess said "that looked like a showdance", because we all know *which* showdance it looked like. - Steve] Even Darcey can’t bring herself to say anything positive, resorting instead to telling Charlotte she should get into character (spoiler: maybe she should talk to Mollie about that), and think about being ‘Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or something’. [She needed to...be a hooker? Not quite following Darcey's logic there. - Steve] She tells Charlotte repeatedly that it’s a shame it went wrong but that she is a good looking woman so there’s that.  Shirley says the routine should maybe have been made more simple for her.  Brendan says the routine was spot on in practice.  Not according to the training footage, Brendan.  Bruno repeats that she is a beautiful woman and tells Brendan off for dragging her around the floor and looking at points like he was sweeping the floor with her. Craig brings out his ‘complete dance dis-ah-stah’ line and tells her the positive is that she won’t have to do it again-what, even if she gets in the dance off? Scores: two, four, three, three for a total of 12 and the joint second lowest score for a cha-cha ever. Brendan is completely fuming.

On the subject of people who did better than expected last week, we now come to Joe and Katya. Their training VT focuses on how pleased they were to get a good response and sees Joe being this year’s first recipient of the stick a broom handle on the back to improve your posture technique. Continuing the trend of downer VTs, Joe tells us he has been struggling with this dance in rehearsals. Great!

So what song have our dart throwing monkeys come up with for their tango? Yet another entirely inappropriate one: ‘Castle On A Hill’. It’s way too fast, meaning Joe is up against it from the very beginning. To think they wasted a perfect tango choice ('Temptation') on Brian last week as well. The theme of this dance is Scotland and Scottishness and involves a lot –  like a Len-baiting amount, if Len were still here - of mucking about with a wardrobe selecting kilts and waistcoats at the beginning - and he doesn’t even wear a kilt in the end, what a cheat. Unsurprisingly, you can’t tango very well to Ed Sheeran and this dance feels like Joe is fighting the music the whole time. His posture is appalling and he is stumbling all over himself to try and keep up. As with Brendan and Charlotte, Katya is pushing him into position a lot of the time, although she is marginally better at distracting us from it than Brendan was, using her skirt to hide the worst of his movements. Tonight’s going so well, isn’t it?

Over with the judges, Shirley says there was too much messing about at the beginning, his frame was all wrong, there shouldn’t have been any rise and fall in the tango and she believes in him, but today wasn’t his day. Bruno says he spent so much time in the wardrobe - and full marks to Bruno for not saying closet - and wondered if he was going to Narnia. He says he was skipping around like a March hare, but the tango is a jaguar. He says that was too much impetus and no control-the music really didn’t help that, did it? Craig says there was too much energy, his thumb was up, his hand was splayed and knows he can do better. Darcey says everybody else has already said it and he had too much energy but he can come back and be great. 

In the Clauditorium, Claudia points out they only had five days to do this dance compared to a fortnight for the previous one-although surely that’s the same for everybody? Joe says it was just too fast. He’s not wrong. Scores: 5, 6, 5, 6 for a total of 22.

If you were thinking that surely they must throw in a good routine now to break up proceedings, you’d be wrong. I’m not saying this year’s cast is somewhat lacking in dance flair, I’m just saying it looks a little bit that way at the moment. Anyway, here’s Brian!

His VT storyline centres around him wanting to show off personality at the expense of technique and Amy putting paper under his shoes to get him to work on his footwork (the idea being that if he does a heel lead, the paper will slide out so she knows ) whilst still barely getting any words in edgeways.

Their cha-cha is a 70s themed disco Latin routine to 'Shake Your Groove Thing'. It gives Brian a lot of opportunity to gurn away as if his life depends on it and you either like that or you don’t, but I suspect most of us fall in the don’t category. His posture is terrible - hunched over most of the time.  There’s a really annoying fake out ending where the music stops whilst he’s on the floor doing the half splits (ie stretching one leg out) before eventually kicking in again-and I feel that such a fake out is only really valuable when the dance is interesting enough to merit it, but then I’m a curmudgeon who is full of cold so maybe after a few Saturday night sherries this would seem quite exciting to a certain kind of viewer. I’m not sure who that kind of viewer is, but the BBC does aim to provide something for everyone, I guess. It descends into a badly done moonwalk, which I’m sure is just what Michael Jackson expected his legacy to be. Next year, let’s look forward to Bobby Davro in full Ziggy Stardust mode as a tribute to David Bowie (actually, that doesn’t sound any worse than this). He does, however, have a decent sense of timing and doesn’t fall over, so that’s something anyway. It gets a standing ovation, I suspect primarily because the audience had had enough of cringing through the mistakes in Charlotte and Joe’s that even something they are meant to cringe at because it’s so cheesy comes as a welcome relief.

Bruno says he has a severe case of Saturday night fever, the flu and influenza. I am not entirely sure what Bruno thinks the difference between the flu and influenza is, but as we all know, the mind of Bruno Tonioli is a weird and wonderful place. He says that the footwork got stuck in the 70s, but as an entertainer he is great. Craig says he thought it was very stompy and gets resoundingly booed. Sigh. Darcey says he needs to watch his arms and she thought the moonwalk was spectacular (?!) [I suppose it certainly was a spectacle - Steve] but not enough to save the dance - although she enjoyed the homage to the 70s – ie the part neither he nor Amy could control.  Shirley tells him to stop shying away from the technical aspects of the dance and learn his choreography but that he might be a frontrunner in terms of entertainment. In a competition where Debbie McGee did what she did last week? I know entertainment when I see it, Shirley Ballas.

They get cheered an earsplittingly loud amount as they bounce up to the Clauditorium, which I can only assume is the audience’s relief at watching someone who is supposed to be bad rather than someone who just flubs it like most of the others tonight.  Brian tells Claudia that he thought he might have split his trousers when he did the splits. Just to clarify Brian, you definitely did not do the splits in that routine.  Scores: three, five, five, six for a total of 19. I love how surprised Amy is when Darcey gives them a five, bless her.

Gemma and Aljaž now.  Tess tells us they’re doing a song from Romeo and Juliet and calls them a ‘lovestruck couple’. I know you love a showmance, Tess, but is it a good idea to start rumours about a dancer who just got married to another dancer on the same show? The VT storyline shows her struggling in training so she takes Aljaž home to meet her DED NORMAL family where she is magically cured of her struggles through the power of lasagne and home video.

Their waltz is to ‘Un Giorno Per Noi’ and it’s your standard Aljaž Skorjanec Lovely Waltz – with attendant lovely lighting, wardrobe and hair.  It’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s tasteful, elegant and a nice palate cleanser after what we’ve just seen.  They do a floor spin that actually works and Gemma’s prospects are looking a lot better than they did last week.

Tess patronises her by calling her CHUCK and LUV in a north-off. Wonder if this is what it’s like chez Daly-Kay every night? [*shudder* - Steve] Craig says her rise and fall were great, although to watch her leg when she turns out. Darcey says she had great control over the rise and fall and has a strong core but needs to watch when she finishes her lines. Shirley calls it a huge improvement and she’s worked on the toe-toe-toe-flat in the footwork as well as coping with the change in the pace of the music. Bruno says it was so much better and she needs to believe in herself. Aljaž squees ‘ooh, it was all so lovely!’ 

In the Clauditorium, Aljaž still seems overwhelmed for some reason.  Scores: 6, 6, 7, 7 for a total of 26.

Richard (I'm just not with the Rev. I know quite a few vicars and none of them use it outside of when they have to, so it just sounds weird and TBH I'm just not one for honorifics anyway, never using my own unless I need to professionally) and Dianne now and we’re reminded that Craig gave him a 2 last week. So what, Tess, he’s already chucked one Charlotte’s way tonight as well as dishing out 3s like there’s no tomorrow.  They go to watch Richard and Mariella Frostrup filming The Big Painting Challenge, coming soon to your BBC One, don’t forget to watch, in what looks like an aircraft museum. They don’t bother doing any training but Dianne paints a six-year-old-style picture of Richard, so hooray for the arts anyway.

Their American Smooth (to ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’) is about – I think – a couple separated by distance.  She wears a cork hat (with glittery corks) because she is AUSTRALIAN and he eats a pork pie because he is ENGLISH. Love overcomes all, though, which we know because they are united by a shared love for brown, sack-shaped ballroom outfits (Dianne in particular looks a STATE). He has a decent enough sense of timing and you can see he’s trying hard, and there’s a decent couple of lifts, but it’s still mostly a clumpy mess. He ends by grabbing a plate of cakes from the set and carrying them over to the judges as a bribe. Heh. 

Darcey says you can really see him trying and she appreciates that. Shirley echoes that, saying he had a good song choice (which I’m sure he had a lot to do with) and she likes that he keeps in time, even though the dance needed more content. Bruno calls it an Australian Bender rather than an American Smooth. Tess says to Craig that she hopes it’s better than a measly 2. Have you seen Craig’s scoring tonight, Tess? Craig says the petals falling in the background had more grace and Tess tells him to watch out as Richard has a friend upstairs. Craig vs God isn’t going to get old quickly at all, is it? 

In the Clauditorium, Richard and Claudia both agree they like a bit of Australian rough.  Given Jonnie’s near complete transformation into Chris Hemsworth, he might need to start watching out for them. Scores: 3, 4, 5, 5 for a total of 17.

Because either this show has little sense of how to space out the good and bad dances or because, well, there aren’t that many good ones, we’re onto Ruth and Anton.  Anton goes to the set of This Morning and Eamonn passive-aggresively calls him Brendan.  Such larks!

The Charleston itself is traditional in terms of look and music (a piece called ‘Charleston’ indeed) – Ruth wears a brown bob and everything.  However, it is one of the most polite, mumsiest Charlestons I’ve seen in some time. Whilst Susan’s was sloppy but energetic, Ruth’s has a little more in terms of attempts at technique, but no energy or stretch – she’s stiff throughout and every time she moves she looks vaguely apologetic, as if she’s been allowed a sniff of liquor and is ever so concerned she might fall over in front of the vicar and embarrass us all. Don’t worry Ruth, the vicar is doing a good enough job of that all by himself. [I can't decide if this was a deliberate character choice or if Ruth was absolutely zonked on painkillers for her hamstring injury. Or maybe both? - Steve]

In the audience, Ruth’s son looks faintly embarrassed as teenage sons do. Shirley says she was 100% better this week, mostly staying on time and remembering her choreography. Bruno calls her a good flapper and says she could have had some more cocktails down her to go more crazy. Craig says the dance needed 80% more energy than she gave it. Darcey says she likes seeing the self-belief and wants Ruth to come back stronger next week.

In the Clauditorium, Ruth says she pulled her hamstring this week and that’s a dancer’s injury. Anton says now she’s a dancer, she’ll get a ‘split end’ next week, oo-er missus etc. Scores: 3, 5, 6, 6 for a total of 20.

There’s no let up in the parade of duffers, as here come Simon and Karen! Their VT somehow seems to focus on the two vaguely good comments they got last week about being powerful rather than the car crash the performance actually was. This week, they’re dancing to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which is an excuse to talk about LIVERPOOL and go to ANFIELD and sport is bad enough when there’s an actual SPORTSMAN never mind a fan, so let’s not.

This is not a good choice for a waltz – it’s usually performed in 6/8 or 4/4 time depending on version and it doesn’t transpose well into 3/4 time however much the song-choice monkeys might wish it did. The singer struggles with this timing as well. As for the dancing – he is not as terrible in hold as last week, but he simply cannot cope with spinning her and literally throws her about with as much grace as Charlotte trying to cha cha. But it still gets pyrotechnics because LIVERPOOL. (And yes, it feels uncomfortable being snarky about Liverpool given the genuinely tragic circumstances associated with that song in particular but I really, really wish they hadn’t chosen this - especially for a duffer - because it feels quite crass and like something they’d do on The X Factor).

Tess tells Simon it must have meant a lot and he says ‘yes, and that’s the end of it’ and gives her a death glare. Bruno says it started well but then fell apart.  Craig says it’s a shame as it showed promise and he felt for him when it went wrong and that Simon was perhaps too focused on technique at the expense of performance.  Darcey says he had stature at the start and it’s hard to hold on to that and she could sense he was overcome by emotion.  Shirley says she’s not going to focus on technique and hugs him and cries because the song means LIVERPOOL.

Scores: 4, 4, 6, 5 for a total of 19 and Claudia says Liverpool are playing tomorrow ‘so good luck boys, grrr, or whatever it is’. Hee.

Coming up, Mollie getting into her inner Julia Roberts, tonight’s most unlikely sponsor.

In the audience, Tess is with Rochelle and Marvin Humes.  Tess says ‘Rochelle you’re backing Mollie because you’re a Saturday and Marvin you’re backing Aston because you’re JLS’ and they both say not really, they’re supporting Ruth because team ITV and Tess pulls a face – the reason for which appears to be that Eammon Holmes is lurking behind her, so who wouldn’t have that reaction.
Mollie and AJ now, who had a poor first week, but Jess Glynne appeals to her to ‘don’t be so hard on yourself no’ by the medium of VT backing music. [I found out from a friend this week that if you fly on Jet2 you have to listen to that wretched Jess Glynne song from the ad on a loop for about 20 minutes while boarding. And here we were thinking the conditions on board Ryanair were the worst. - Steve] AJ tells her she needs to get into character for the tango, but instead of getting in an acting coach, he’s given her a camera to record herself. I don’t know either. Maybe this storyline will get some sort of payoff in Halloween week via some found footage? Anyway, she invents the character of ‘Tallulah the Tango Queen’ who Mollie tells us is fierce but appears from training footage to still be incredibly posh and polite. Also: AJ’s hair is getting to a RIDICULOUS size can someone cut it please.

Their tango to the Tina Turner version of ‘Addicted to Love’ (me neither) opens with Mollie in greyscale save for her red dress and lippy, and her pretending to put lippy on then throwing it away like an unconvincing badass bitch. I wouldn’t say Tallulah is a fierce tango warrior, but she does have a haughty indifference that actually works with the staccato nature of the movements (and their complete lack of chemistry) – it’s a cool, rather than hot, tango, but it works.  It’s clumsy in places and not a showstopper, but much more promising than her jive, thank god. [I would say she was definitely channeling Emma Roberts more than Julia though. - Steve]

Craig points out that there was an illegal lift – so these are a thing again? He liked her attack, however. Darcey is impressed with her improvement. Shirley says it was the best tango so far – which is quite a backhanded compliment considering the field – and that she held her frame. Bruno tells her not to wobble when leaning into her partner and to demonstrate, leans into Shirley as the audience inhale and Tess gets ready to be very very sorry, but reaches past her and screeches ‘I didn’t touch anything!’

Scores: 4, 6, 8, 7 for a total of 25 and you guys, I love Shirley – I think she is the breath of fresh air this show needed and brings so much to proceedings… but her scoring completely and utterly baffles me (I think Craig’s 4 is also unjustified, to be fair).

Jonnie and Oti now and Tess attempts to make a joke about even the jive being a slow dance for Jonnie because he’s so fast and her eyes scream that she is dying inside at delivering that and if even Tess knows how bad her script is then the writers really need to up their game. The VT? Jonnie is fast and a SPORTSMAN. Yawn.

Their jive is to ‘Johnny B Goode’ (see what they did there etc) and it’s sloppy, raucous and so much fun. The setting is a wild west saloon and it certainly has the vibe of someone who’s had a few and thinks they are invincible in that it’s dancing on the edge of disaster much of the time – he frequently looks like he might drop her; his long hair is down and flapping everywhere (note, as a fan of gents with shaggy long blonde hair this is not a criticism) [can I also just add PHWOAR - Steve]; there’s a clumsy somersault, there’s no sharpness in the technique, especially with his arms that just swing about all over the place – but it’s fast, it’s bouncy, it’s full of gusto and it’s danced with massive grins on their faces that are infectious. Forget Brian, that is how to use performance to hide problems in technique.

Tess says he got a new blade for this dance – how’s that for commitment – and asks him how it was.  He says 'tough'. I love him.

Darcey says she loved his energy, even if his arms were all over the place.  Shirley loved his kicks and flicks and the speed with which he manoeuvred.  Bruno says if it looks and feels good then it’s good – and he’s goooood. Craig says there were a couple of moments of hesitation which was probably him getting used to the new blade, and that his arms need as much work as his legs, but it was brilliant overall. Scores: 6 (and it’s testament to how great the standard has been tonight that this gets huge cheers), 7, 8, 8 for a total of 29 and everyone is very happy about that. It was probably overmarked but nonetheless a real boost to proceedings.

It’s usually at this point in time when I tell myself I just have two people left to watch – Davood and Alexandra – and then get a rude awakening when someone I’ve forgotten turns up, so I must stop myself getting too excited that the end is sight. You think you’ve been waiting days for this recap?  Imagine writing it. WHEN ILL. #wrongshow (do they still do sob stories on TXF? I’ve stopped watching it altogether). [Oh yes. - Steve, Who Is Somehow Still Watching]

And… I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT DEBBIE AND GIOVANNI HOLY (STEP) MOTHER PLEASE FORGIVE ME.

Last week they did an amazing mega-ringer paso made of pure filth and got huge scores and Debbie is all nonchalant about this as if we couldn’t love her more.  This week they have the Viennesse Waltz and on ITT she basically called the dance out for being super easy and dismissed the usual ‘but it makes you sick it’s so EXTREME’ storyline the show usually pulls.  Because it’s a piece of cake, they have more time for comedy VTs and whilst I may not always like these, I do when they involve this pair. If you thought it couldn’t get more ‘likely to turn into porn at any moment’ than last week’s bondage extravaganza, then think again. Catering for a different niche, but nevertheless a FILTHY one, they are playing the roles of rich old lady with a boat and handsome young gigolo who comes to steal her heart, her loins and her riches, the cad.

As if to make it better, Debbie’s boat is actually called ‘The Lovely Debbie McGee’. It’s not a Howards Way-style power yacht, or even a Bullseye-style speedboat, but a tiny riverboat, which makes me love it even more. Giovanni says he’s excited ‘because maybe Debbie will let me sell the boat’ – and you might think it’s just his accent and he was trying to say ‘sail’ but that’s just what he wants you to think, the CAD. Debbie says Giovanni LOVED being the captain, they get drunk, the camera cuts off because we’re pre-watershed. Next week! Giovanni comes round to fix her washing machine etc.

Their Viennese Waltz is to ‘She’s Always a Woman to Me’ and it’s camply, ridiculously, over-the-top sickly sweet and pretty and Giovanni looks the happiest I have ever seen him and when it ends Debbie looks right down the camera with a smile and a steely stare to let us all know that mega-ringer domination is so ON. Amazing.

Tess says ‘oh yes, Debbie’ in a way that suggests she’s got a certain something out of this pairing too. Shirley says you can tell that Giovanni has such respect for Debbie and calls Debbie a ‘beautiful English rose’ (mm-hmmm). Bruno praises the fluidity of her body (perv), Craig gives an ‘uh-may-zing’ for the biggest cheer of the night, and Darcey says she makes it look effortless. Well yeah, that’s not surprising seeing as she spent the week calling it a piece of piss. Scores: 8, 9, 9, 8 for a total of 34, which Giovanni calls beautiful. Well, it's either the score or Debbie, anyway.

And now for the show’s beta sexy couple, Davood (whose name Dragon already knows on my second recap of the year, despite it never learning Aljaž’s across lots of mentions over two years and is also refusing to learn the name Katya) and Nadiya. Nadiya says their dance is set in a library, where the storyline is that they bump into each other in the library and fun sexy dance times ensue. To get into the mood, they go to a library - which looks like it might be in part of the British Library (although not a part I recognise particularly) after closing hours and run around playing pranks with whoopee cushions and suchlike. Such LARKS!

They are dancing the quickstep to ‘Last Nite’, which is such an obvious quickstep song choice that I am completely shocked it hasn’t been chosen before. Especially when ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ has been used approximately 80 billion times. At this point I want to give a shout out to the stage team who have assembled a full bookcase of books as part of the set for this dance-to be used precisely once. The story is that they are both geeks (you can tell because they are wearing glasses and Davood wearing braces - of the clothing variety, not the teeth variety) who meet after bumping into each other in the library and are transformed by the power of dance into attractive rebels-there’s even the Plain Jane Super Brain feel of removing the glasses and shaking out the hair from Nadiya, and an unbuttoning of the shirt from Davood. Transformed, they jump on to the desk and get into shagging  position. The end. Still got nothing on Debbie and Giovanni though. It’s incredibly cute, very fast, very fun and has really cool (but naughty) lift where she jumps into one of his arms exactly in time with the accented beat. The footwork is a bit sloppy and he goes out of time at one point, and shaking off their geek gear takes too long, but still enjoyable to watch.

Tess says it’s the noisiest library she’s ever been in, and I never had Tess down for being much of a library user how judgemental of me. Bruno is, of course, hot under the collar and says it was steamy and a race to the bedroom and the audience act mildly outraged and he goes on about the hot rough sex they’re having and how the dance was also a bit like that and it’s very much like when Bake Off went from a few cheeky innuendos to focusing on people wanking off dough for ages going LOOK HERE. But, you know, Bruno. Craig says it was a little rough and there was an illegal lift they didn’t need but he liked the energy. Darcey adored the energy and lightness. Shirley decides to be all rules lawyer and criticises the illegal lift and faffing about. Craig pulls a ‘and yet you gave Simon a hug, tears and a 6 for LIVERPOOL’ face down the camera which is quite fun.

In the Clauditorium we are given the message that Davood has no dance experience unlike these other ringers in case you need an underdog narrative to buy into.  Scores: 6, 7, 7, 7 for a total of 27.

And we’re here! The pimp slot with Alexandra and Gorka. She talks about remembering her mum in the dance last week without us yet having had the fact her mum recently died made explicit. As we said previously, it’s great they’re not being mawkish but it may also confuse people who don’t follow celebrity news. Sad moment over, they have a comedy VT involving Alexandra riding a mechanical bull to prepare for the paso and she could probably do with a laugh, so OK.

They’re dancing to what seems to be a Spanish-language version of ‘On the Floor’ aka 'JLo does the Macarena' and Alexandra looks like a particularly mercenary seaside psychic, all bejewelled teal headband and grimacing, but that aside, she really attacks this one. The caping with her skirt is dynamic, she gives fantastic kicks with her long legs and you can really feel the emotion throughout – it looks almost quite cathartic for her. With Giovanni last week and Gorka this, Kevin better watch out – there are some real contenders for his paso crown.  I loved that. 

Tess says Darcey, Shirley and Bruno gave it a standing ovation, but what about Craig?  In response, he stands, claps and punches the air and Alexandra full on hyperventilates and grabs Tess’s hand so hard it looks like she might break it, which is quite a feat giving how Tess is usually the one doing claw hands. Darcey is overcome, loving the light and shade in it and the fan kicks. They go to Shirley whom Alex is clearly in awe of, especially after last week. Shirley praises the technique and Bruno says she blew him away. He really has had a special time tonight. Alexandra pulls Gorka in for a big squeeze, as any reasonable person would.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia reminds us Alexandra had only a week of training which makes Joe’s sob story earlier in the show look a bit pathetic, poor Joe.  Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 36 and triple the score of Charlotte and Brendan, what a crazy night.

Shall we have a combined leaderboard for last week and this?  Why yes, especially when you see who’s sitting at the top:

Debbie and Giovanni 30+34 = 64
Aston and Janette 31+32=63
Alexandra and Gorka 24+36=60
Davood and Nadiya 27+27=54
Joe and Katya 29+22=51
Jonnie and Oti 20+29 = 49
Mollie and AJ 23+25=48
Gemma and Aljaž 20+26 = 46
Susan and Kevin 20+22=42
Chizzy and Pasha 21+16=37
Ruth and Anton 16+20=36
Simon and Karen 17+19=36
Brian and Amy 16+19=35
Charlotte and Brendan 22+12=34
Richard and Dianne 17+17=34

I’d say pretty much anyone in the lower half could be in danger. I guess we’ll see which out of Brian, Richard, Susan and Chizzy are picking up the ENTERTAINING votes, whether or not playing the "I hope the whole of Liverpool votes for you" card has worked for Simon or the doing it for the middle aged vote has worked for Ruth.  I’d call Charlotte a very likely contender for bottom two but maybe people will recall how surprisingly good she was last week and throw her some votes out of sympathy.  

Before we learn who’ll be first boot, we’ll have a whole heap of filler to get through, including Emily Sunday because it’s apparently five years ago. Join me tomorrow for the results!