Saturday, 29 December 2012

Festive baubles

Christmas Special: 25th December 2012

It's Chriiiiiistmas! (Okay, so by the time I'm writing this it's clearly not Christmas - Christmas had been and gone before I'd even finished recapping the final. But it's not New Year yet, so it's sort of still Christmas. Humour me?) [Christmas officially lasts until January 6th, so we're good - Rad] The judges are all sitting down to Christmas dinner together, as they obviously do in real life (Bruno, of course, would forgo the turkey and stick to his usual liquid lunch), and Len is carving the turkey because he's the head judge, and also because despite the efforts of the cast of 2012, he still hasn't seen enough turkeys this year. Darcey endears herself to me hugely here by sending herself up royally: "Little tip, Len: when you're carving the turkey, yah, I would imagine you've got a beautiful necklace on..." Hee! I mean, the joke goes on too long as she starts talking about hold and extension and whatnot, but this is Strictly Come Dancing after all: of course the jokes go on too long. Bruno has bought Craig the perfect gift: Australian whine. I'm more impressed that Bruno has managed to give the bottle to Craig without drinking the contents, personally.

Tess brings in the pudding and asks if there's any sign of Bruce. You can tell this is an entirely scripted scenario because none of the guests look like they're trying not to wonder if the reason he hasn't turned up is because he's dead. Bruce arrives, dressed as Jeremy-Brett-as-Sherlock-Holmes and starts crabbing about having not been invited, which rather makes a nonsense of the others wondering why he hadn't turned up. Although quite why I'm expecting cinema verité from this skit, I'm not sure. Anyway, Bruce tells them they've got a show to do, and everyone gets up from the table. Craig's jeans have got little white marks all over the thighs. *no comment* Bruce holds up some mistletoe as Tess and Darcey walk past, but is cruelly denied - at least until Bruno arrives and kisses him on the cheek for GAYLOLS. Again, the funnier part of this joke for me was the suggestion that Bruce waits for permission before manhandling Tess, considering what happens at the start of every show. As the door slams, Claudia wakes up from her state of drunken slumber on the sofa (♥) and declares that it's fine, because they don't need her anyway. If only that were true.

Christmassy titles! There are no sinister cavorting snowmen this year, perhaps because of the subject matter of this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. No, not "the perfect tears of white middle-class people save Christmas", the other one. [The message that lesbian lizard detectives are the best?   Not seeing the connection myself - Rad]

Of course, we open with a pro-routine to 'Sleigh Ride', where Santa's sleigh arrives in the studio drawn by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (played by Craig in a costume, naturally, although if they'd got Bruno to do it they could've done the red nose without the need for costume or make-up). The competing pros all hope out of the sleigh and Ian and Katya quickstep straight to the front of the stage all "yes! We are the best ones! Yes, it is a travesty that we're not on the show any more! Thank you for noticing!" We've seen some curious pro-pairings over the year, but it's still strange to see Anton and Ola dancing together. Especially since it makes me imagine the Strictly alternate-universe where Erin is dancing with James. Now that I would pay dearly to see. The other pairing is Artem and Aliona, who have danced together before even though they're not each other's official pro-dance partners. I think. Frankly, who knows any more? [Anton and Ola dancing together in the final made much more sense when I saw this.  I love the whole pro-pair mix-up thing they had going on this year though.  SUCH FUN! - Rad]

Time for the pros to open up their presents and see what they've got: Ola unwraps JB "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" Gill from JLS from a box marked "drummer boy" (it's a bit of a reach to pretend that's a nod to Alesha, isn't it?), Artem collects Blue Peter's Helen Skelton from the top of the judges' desk, Katy Brand plays some sort of fairy who's drawing Anton towards her with her magical powers (finally, a fairy story that makes even less sense than the ones in True Blood!), Bobby Ball brings Katya some chestnuts and a bin and Katya understandably turns her nose up at them until he comes back with a glitterball (dare to dream, Katya my dear), Aliona kisses a frog who...doesn't exactly turn into Fabrice Muamba as much as suddenly co-exist alongside him. I guess they didn't have enough of a budget for pyrotechnics thanks to those ever-present BBC CUTBACKS. Finally, the ever-truthy Sheila Hancock is waiting for Ian over on the stairs.

They disappear as a result of some indifferent CGI, and then we have Bruce and Tess, who are greeted by Kristina and Pasha respectively, who take their coats/shrugs and dance with them. This marks the first (and almost certainly last) time in my life I have ever been jealous of Tess Daly. Daly Dresswatch: a white linen dress belted around the waist and accessorised with a sort of Egyptian neckpiece thing. It's not terrible but it does make me wonder if she's planning to do Denise Van Outen's charleston at the wrap party. [You just know Tess has dreamed of that ever since she saw Denise being borne aloft by shirtless hunks - Rad] Tess wishes Bruce a merry Christmas and gives him his present: a pair of socks. Bruce hasn't got her anything in return, because...wait for don't get anything for a pair, not in this game. "It was worth the rehearsal!" Bruce crows as the crowd join in on the second half of the phrase. Define "worth", Bruce. Actually, define "rehearsal" while you're at it.

Bruce reminds us that some Strictly All-Stars will be back for one night only, and Tess tells us that Rod Stewart is here later on. Say, did anyone see that ITV Rod Stewart Christmas special where he sang 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' and did a limp-wrist gesture to accompany the line "make the Yuletide gay"? Such a class act. In the meantime, it's time to meet the stars of our show: Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton and her partner Artem Chigvintsev; entertainer and comedian Bobby Ball and his partner Katya Virshilas; actress Sheila Hancock and her partner Ian Waite; from boyband JLS, JB Gill and his partner Ola Jordan; comedian Katy Brand and her partner Anton Du Beke; and footballer Fabrica Muamba and his partner Aliona Vilani.

Tess reminds us that the studio audience will be representing the public vote in tonight's show, since the show is not live so there can't be a phone-in. Given the studio audience's recent track record of giving every single dance a standing ovation and booing 9s for being an insufficiently low score, I'm rather scared already.

Up first are Merry Christmas JLS and Ola. Merry Christmas JLS tells us that being in JLS is brilliant, because they've won Brit and MOBO awards, they've had five number one singles, and they've never cried on Beyoncé. He tells us that of course he dances as part of JLS, but it's a very different style of dance and he's definitely not an EVIL RINGER like that Denise Van Outen. Oh calm down, Merry Christmas - it's a Christmas special, you're only here for 75 minutes, nobody cares about that sort of thing here. He says that the other members of JLS have been slightly supportive, but have spent most of their time hiding in Louis Smith's rehearsals and calling him a bumder, just like we saw during that VT in the main series a few weeks back. Ola says that she's the envy of a lot of young girls in this country, and not just because she can can actually tell James Jordan to shut the fuck up in person. They rehearse their jive, which Merry Christmas notes is "ridiculously fast", and Ola says that he was trying to put some "JLS-ness" in the routine, but she quickly stamped that sort of behaviour out. Merry Christmas says he hopes people don't think he looks like an idiot, and Ola makes fun of his boyband dancing some more. Ola is the best.

They're dancing to 'Rockin' Robin', and the narrative of the routine seems to involve Ola the Christmas Fairy freeing Merry Christmas the toy soldier from a toy shop window. Merry Christmas's dancing is a little bit skippy and a little bit sloppy, but for a jive danced with (I'm guessing) minimal preparation and rehearsal, it's certainly passable. Ola is clearly relishing actually being partnered with someone with a reasonable amount of natural talent for once (I mean in celebrity terms, calm DOWN James), and there are the usual crowdpleasing moments including kneeslides and Merry Christmas leapfrogging over a standing Ola.

Bruce welcomes our judges, who are all looking very festive, and his opening joke involves him singing at them, so let's just all agree to NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN. Len opines that "Merry Christmas" stands for "jive bunny" (this is one of those parts in the recap where I regret referring to someone by a nickname only, isn't it?) and says that the dance was full-on, and fantastic for something they put together in one week. Bruce tells us that the contestants had between 12 and 30 hours to rehearse, "which is nothing", and makes Merry Christmas "a dancer who can sing a bit". Bruno says that Merry Christmas had "the vitality and energy of a young buck". What, Uncle Buck? Craig thought it was a little bit flat-footed and there was a nasty slip moment in it, but the dance had amazing character and rhythm. Finally Darcey thinks the routine had amazing energy, and then the edit cuts her off mid-sentence. It's almost like watching the live episode of The Only Way Is Essex.

They run off to the festive Tess Circle, where Tess reminds us once more that this is not the sort of dancing that Merry Christmas usually does with JLS, and Merry Christmas agrees that it was "ten times more passionate", and immediately everyone's all "STEADY ON THERE ROMEO". Ola says that Merry Christmas has been a marvellous student, and this is the best Christmas special she's ever been to. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Oh, Christmas special scoring. Keep on keeping on. [My parents were outraged at the Christmas scoring.  I can't believe they've forgotten what Christmas specials are like since last year - Rad] Tess tells us that there are even more special guests due later: "I love a surprise, I can't wait to see who's coming." It's an odd statement from a woman whose husband was involved in a very public sex text scandal.

Our next couple are Bobby and Katya. Katya is wearing red gloves. I repeat, KATYA IS WEARING RED GLOVES. This is amazing already and they haven't even started dancing yet. Bobby's VT introduces him thusly: "Bobby Ball is one of Britain's best-loved entertainers, with a catchphrase to rival Brucie." Blimey. I didn't even know "rock on, Tommy" was his, to be honest. Also, seeing Cannon and Ball again makes me wonder what Tommy Cannon is up to these days, since Bobby's been doing Mount Pleasant and Not Going Out and things. Bobby says that the last time he danced was some time in the eighties, and then he stopped. Katya interviews that she knows Bobby has had the same partner for many years, and she's not a replacement, she's just a temporary stand-in. You can almost see her tangible disgust for the word "temporary", since I'd imagine the odds of her being asked back for the 2013 series are fairly slim, even though she remains amazing. Stupid bloody producers and their four-person finals and their lack of Katya-love. Bobby attempts to teach Katya a northern accent in a direct retread of about 80% of Pasha and Chelsee's VTs (and about 20% of Pasha and Kimberley's), and Bobby reveals that he's doing the American smooth and he absolutely loves it. He says that they bicker a lot in rehearsals - her more than him, because she's the boss. Katya's all "yeah, that's very true" and says that she calls him Robert when he misbehaves but Bobby when he's good. I miss Katya so very much. [Yeah, me too.  I mean, we got KAREN?  What sort of a trade was that? - Rad]

They're dancing to 'White Christmas', and there's a bit of business at the beginning involving Bobby wrapping presents for all the judges: pickled walnuts for Len, nutty fruitcake for Bruno, the big book of yahs for Darcey, and a one-way ticket to Australia for Craig. Len and Bruno act amused, while Craig and Darcey do their very best gawping faces in response. Also, I can't recall a single incident of Darcey saying "yah" in the last two months - can we retire that joke now? She's been very good-natured in poking fun at herself and it's all been lovely, but I think that reference has run its course now. Back to the dance: then Katya arrives in a red dress looking like the femme fatale of the dancefloor and Bobby tries to woo her with his moves. Katya seems unimpressed, but dances with him anyway due to a lack of  better offers. Bobby's moves are a little bit rigid at parts, but again, for a sexagenarian with only a week's training, it's pretty good, and there's some decent attempts at humour in it.

After the dance, there's yet another bit of business with Brucie as Bobby tries to claim that getting him on the show was all a vendetta on Bruce's part, because he knows Bobby can't dance. Katya buys into this all a little bit too much, and rather over-eggs the reassurance. Then Bruce pings Bobby's braces without warning and we get to see what happens when an entire room winces in unison sympathetically. Let's just say that even if this vendetta is an entirely fictional construct in the mind of Bobby Ball, the crowd has now all chosen a side, and it isn't Bruce's.

Meanwhile, Bruce welcomes the fabulous "carol singers", Dave Arch, and the orchestra. Bruno calls Katya and Bobby "the belle and the Ball", and says that the ball "keeps merrily rolling along". He liked the comedy aspects, even though it could've been smoother at times. Craig likens it to a Christmas pudding: "all stodgy". He thinks it lacked any swing or sway, but concedes that it was "slightly amusing". He also takes exception to the present he was being offered at the beginning, and says that he'd have given Bobby a ten if that ticket had been a first-class return. I think Craig's spent a little bit too long as a real-life villainous panto dame at this point. Darcey thinks Bobby looked "most happiest" (see, the misuse of superlatives is the stick we can use to beat Darcey with now she's stopped saying "yah") in hold, and she would've liked to see him travel a bit more, but it was a very enjoyable performance. Len makes a comment about Bobby "warming up his chestnuts" at the beginning, and then pretends that Bobby is related to Zoe and Johnny. If only that were true, the Balls would be the McGanns of Strictly Come Dancing. Katya whoops at the mention of "balls", and at this point I'm beginning to think she might have been drinking. [This has made me envisage Katya drinking with Nicole Scherzinger.  Now THAT would be a combination - Rad] Len liked the festive fun of the routine, basically.

The Belle And The Ball head up to the Tess Circle, where Tess welcomes Katya back, and Katya's all "so, about me getting a permanent BBC staff member's pass, where's my application at these days?" Tess asks if Bobby enjoyed himself, and Bobby says that he made a little bit of a mistake at the end, which Katya chalks up to him "getting so excited with rocking on Tommy". Drunk Katya is amazing. Tess asks how Katya compares to Tommy as a partner, and Bobby says that he's celebrating 50 years of working with Tommy this year, but unless he can look as good in a dress as Katya does, he's out on his ear. And suddenly seven million viewers got to see their Christmas dinner in reverse. Scores are in: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. Bobby's just happy that he completed the routine. Fair enough.

Next up are Sheila and Ian. Brucie joke corner: her presence on the show will cheer up Craig, because he's Australian and she's a lovely Sheila. Hey, it's one of his better efforts. Sheila tells us that she spent the early part of her career playing "titty blondes" (♥) even though she's always been a very serious person in real life, and that one of her career highlights was playing Steve Owen's mad mum in EastEnders. She's enjoyed the variety of her career, and branching out into comedy, and now Strictly is a new challenge that she's very excited by. What, no mention of her being officially The Greatest Reality TV Judge In History on Over The Rainbow? We need more judges who tell contestants that they don't give a shit about their sob stories, or that the audience will cheer for any old bollocks and it doesn't necessarily mean that they were good. As Sheila's possibly about to discover. Ian says that Sheila can do anything he asks her to do...within reason, while Sheila cackles that it's very hard to find people who can teach you anything when you're her age. They're doing a foxtrot, and Ian openly admits to putting an illegal lift in because it's Christmas so no one cares about the rules (as opposed to the way they're so RIGIDLY ENFORCED over the rest of the year), and Sheila essentially says that she doesn't give a crap if the judges object to it, because she's old. I think Sheila is basically Holly Valance in 50 years' time.

They're dancing to 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', and it's all very slow and poised and elegant while also being as camp as...well, Christmas. There's some odd business with Ian leaving Sheila frozen in hold as he wanders around her, and there are also moments where Sheila has an obvious "lol, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing" look on her face, but hey, she seems to be enjoying herself. Then there's the promised illegal lift, and then the end.

Craig thought it was classy, graceful and warm and can't believe that Sheila is 78. "79!" Sheila corrects him, adding "I'm catching you up, Bruce!" Hee. Darcey thinks Sheila created some beautiful lines especially along the top, and she's got a beautiful neck which she used brilliantly. Len thinks it was like mulled wine: warm, smooth, satisfying and liable to give you little vinegary burps afterwards. Except maybe not that last one. Len notes in particular the bit where Sheila waited in hold while Ian "flatulated around" her, pointing out that "that's what you get at Christmas". Finally, Bruno calls Sheila "the ageless and evergreen queen of Narnia", saying that she moves with beauty, class and elegance, proving that age is just a number. Bruce calls her "a very...classy...lady", as though he really had to think carefully about where that sentence was going, and dispatches them up to the Tess Circle.

Once there, Tess says that the lifts were beautiful and asks if they were difficult to master. "Well, yes," admits Sheila. Ian says that they weren't going to do a lift originally, but then decided 'fuck it' and did it anyway. Sheila says that she's always wanted to learn to dance, and is impressed at what she managed in one week. We see her daughter and her granddaughter in the audience, both of whom look very proud, and Ian says that Sheila's taught him a lot of acting skills. So hopefully those "origin of dance" VTs in the next series of It Takes Two will be a little less painful. Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 36. "We're still in with a chance!" yells Ian. Yes, I can just see the 79-year-old woman overcoming the boyband vote, even in the limited sample of a studio audience. [But it's IAN.  Surely they have some love for the Ian? - Rad]

Our next couple is Fabrice and Aliona, who will be doing a salsa. Fabrice says that you can't get the feeling you get from playing football anywhere else, which feels like a bit of an unfortunate intro considering the very next part of the VT is "AND THEN HE HAD A HEART ATTACK ON THE PITCH AND NEARLY DIED". Fabrice says that he never expected to be on Strictly, but he's looking forward to enjoying the experience. Aliona says that Fabrice's personality naturally suits the salsa, because he has good natural rhythm (drink!) and we'll really see his hips moving. She adds, giggling, that she's choreographed some booty-shaking into the routine as well, but changed her mind the next day and tried to take it out, only to be overruled by Fabrice. I hope this is the story behind her American smooth with Matt Baker: she wanted to take out all the contemporary bollocks, but Matt overruled her!

They're dancing to 'Christmas Wrapping' and OHMYGOD TEN! ALL THE TENS, ALREADY! Sorry, got a bit carried away there, but I do love that song. It's got a vague Cinderella theme as Aliona begins by polishing her pumpkin (not a euphemism) before Fabrice arrives to present her with a football boot, and then a strappy dance shoe. Although the music doesn't really match the routine that well, he's rather good - he's got decent hip movement, quick feet, lots of energy and has no problems covering the routine while Aliona fits in a quick costume change. It's one of the few routines tonight that, if you removed all the Christmas-centric accessories, wouldn't have looked out of place as a competitive routine in the series proper. [Given that none of the celebrities shamed themselves too badly, I wouldn't mind them being the series proper's cast.  Especially if Ian and Katya were involved too - Rad]

Darcey tells Fabrice that it was extraordinary for Fabrice to come out and deliver that AFTER ALL HE'S BEEN THROUGH THIS YEAR. She says he charmed the socks off her, and mentions "natural rhythm" again some more (drink!). Len calls him "the netbuster thruster" and remarks that Fabrice's bum was going to town. He likes it to a prawn cocktail - "there was loads of prawns, and plenty of cocktail" - which isn't the most sophisticated simile he's ever used, to put it mildly. Bruno agrees that it was a hot dish (aren't prawn cocktails served cold? I'm no expert because I don't like them, but I'm fairly certain you can't really class them as a hot dish) because Fabrice had the moves, the grooves, and the mood. Craig agrees - he loved the hip movements, and Fabrice had "a really solid groove" going on. Bruce crows "Aliona, you helped him through it", and I'm sure he's referring to the dance and not the heart attack, but even so it still sounds weird after how much they've mentioned the latter.

Up in the Tess Circle, Fabrice is suddenly looking a bit sheepish and a bit reluctant to show off his hips. Tess asks Fabrice if he's going to take up dancing to replace the football career he had to retire from (sensitive!) and Fabrice says that no, this is definitely a one-off, even though he's had a lot of fun. He says he has a lot of respect for the professional dancers and all the effort they put in. Tess asks him if he wants to win, and he says that basically he wants to win everything he takes part in. And maybe I'm just obscenely competitive myself, but: are there really people who take part in things and don't want to win them? It's not a mindset I particularly understand. Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. I can't quite believe I'm saying this in a Christmas special, but: I think that was undermarked a little bit. [Yeah, me too - Rad]

Our penultimate couple are Katy and "our new professional, Anton Du Beke". Heh. The increasingly mean Anton jokes are always funny to me. Certainly funnier than anything Katy's ever done. In her VT, Katy says that most people will know her from her sketch show. It was on ITV2 from 2007-2009, dear, I think saying "most people" is a bit optimistic. She says that she's not dignified or grown up, but will try not to do any fart jokes for the whole 90 seconds of her routine. Apparently Anton's spent the whole of the training period trying to out-funny Katy, which sounds like it might have been a wonderful experience for the people who had to stand there and film them. Katy tells us that she's doing a Viennese waltz, and jokes that she thought that was a cake. Is she just raiding material from Jo Brand now? Anton is his usual ragingly insincere self throughout, and Katy reaffirms her vow to act like a grown-up for a minute and a half.

They're dancing to 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' in a routine that involves Anton somehow creating Katy in a Christmas dinner-cooking mishap. Either that or she's the good fairy who arrives to fix his Christmas dinner-cooking mishap, but I like my Weird Science-style interpretation better. Despite the inauspicious VT, Katy's dancing isn't too shabby: she moves around the floor elegantly, her posture's pretty good, and so are her arm extensions. I'm a sucker for a Viennese waltz at the best of times, but even with my obvious bias in mind, I think she acquits herself pretty well with this routine.

Len says he's glad he's not having Christmas dinner round Anton's house, but he loved Katy's movement, which was like the snow: deep and crisp and even. Bruno praises the good fairy for "rescuing Anton Ramsay from a kitchen disahhstuh". He liked her beautiful turns, and thinks she finished the movements very well. Craig enjoyed the flow, though he thought it was a bit skippy on occasion. He points out that she needed to extend her top line more, but he can forgive her since this is a one-off, and Katy quips that she's been "trying to extend my top line for years". Oh all right: heh. Finally, Darcey thinks she was spinning around magically and had seamless changes of directions, and she thinks Katy made a very graceful fairy godmother.

They make their way up to the Tess Circle, and Anton declares himself "emotionally overwhelmed", to which Tess responds that the rest of them feel that way thanks to his Christmas sweater. Heh. Anton thanks Katy for giving him a wonderful week and for also being his first partner since 2009 who didn't make him want to lean over and run headfirst into the wall, largely for understanding basic commands like "step forwards on your right foot". Katy says that being on the show is like "being dipped in molten tinsel", which is apparently a good thing, and we reminisce about that time she did the 'Single Ladies' dance for Let's Tit Around For Sport And/Or Comic Relief until the scores come in: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 33. Anton jokes that that's more than he scored in his last four series combined. Except four series ago he was with Laila Rouass and made fourth place, received 34 points for the foxtrot alone and, in the majority of cases, only scored poorly because of Anton's complete inability to do Latin. So don't feel too sorry for him. [I don't ever feel sorry for Anton.  Laila, yes, Erin, yes. My parents almost went down the poor Anton route and I reminded them about his Latin and then they were all oh yes, of course, fair enough that he gets the duffers - Rad]

Our final couple of the evening is Helen and Artem. Bruce makes a "here's a dance she prepared earlier" joke, and we watch her VT, in which we discover that Blue Peter actually covers subjects beyond homoeroticism. Hey, I only watched the Simon Thomas/Matt Baker/Gethin Jones years, so how would I know otherwise? [Weren't you a little old for that combination?  Oh right, you weren't watching it for the craft segments.  Carry on... (PS Simon Groom/Mark Curry/Janet Ellis 4eva) - Rad] Apparently Helen's a bit of an adrenaline junkie and a daredevil, and signs up to things without even knowing if she's any good at them. I wonder if that's an omen for the show? Artem tells us that they're doing the jive, which is fast, hyperactive and happy, suiting Helen perfectly. Even in the course of the week that they're rehearsing together, I think Helen's energy is a bit much for Artem. I think he spent a bit too long with Holly Valance. Helen hopes that she finishes the routine smiling, and makes everyone else smile as well.

They're dancing to 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' (second-best Christmas song ever, only beaten by '8 Days Of Christmas' by Destiny's Child) [Wrong.  Last Christmas.  Both original and JLS flavour - Rad], and Helen pops out of a Christmas present in true Christmas-special style. Her footwork's a little bit heavy and she's a bit too slow in general, but the precision of the routine is good, and as I said earlier on the subject of Merry Christmas JLS, I should think the jive is one of the harder dances to learn in a week with no prior training, because it's so energetic. There's a good split-lift in there, but she does get her footwork a bit muddled once or twice and doesn't quite have the confidence or showmanship to cover it up properly. Still, it's a credible effort under the circumstances.

Bruno tells Helen that she finished with a real sparkler and he thinks she already has what she wants for Christmas: Artem. I'd imagine Kara might have something to say about that. Craig thinks her turns were spot-on, though a lot of the kicks and flicks were laboured, and he really enjoyed the cartwheel. Darcey thinks it was a sugary jive with beautiful dance content and clean lifts, but she would've liked more action. Finally, Len thought it was sharp and tasty like a pickled walnut, and all he wants for Christmas is to see that again.

They head up to the Tess Circle, where Tess says it's surprising that Darcey wanted more action because Helen's such an action girl. Helen replies that she couldn't look at Artem at that point, because he'd been saying "more more more" throughout rehearsals. What Helen didn't realise was that he was actually just singing along to The Andrea True Connection on his iPod. Tess reads a list of Helen's achievements off a cue card (professional!) and focuses on the time she walked a tightrope across Battersea Power Station. Helen says that Strictly is difficult in a different way because here she had to be good at something as opposed to just keeping on going - "with this, I had to be good or he shouted". Hee. Artem pouts, and Helen plants her fingers into his dimples and lifts his expression into a smile. Hee again. Tess asks if Helen put that smile on Artem's face (yes, Tess, she literally just did that, which channel were you watching?) by being a good student, and Artem says "yes" with a huge sigh. Yeah, something tells me if Helen comes back for a full series, they're pairing her with someone else. Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 37.

Time to look at that leaderboard, then:
1st: Merry Christmas & Ola (39)
2nd: Helen & Artem (37)
3rd: Sheila & Ian (36)
4th: Fabrice & Aliona (35)
5th: Katy & Anton (33)
6th: Bobby & Katya (29)

Tess reminds us that the studio audience's votes could potentially change everything (but probably won't), and then we see a recap of the six routines we've already watched, for no particular reason.

The audience then use their powers of manipulating the space-time continuum to pick and submit their votes in the time it took to show that VT, and while the show's Christmas elves (drunken, weeping runners) count the votes, it's time for the hilarious comedy stylings of the All-Stars as we get a rehearsal VT from them. Russell Grant is dressed as Santa and acting like a tit (I know that second clause is hardly news, but still), Tom Chambers has grown his hair a bit and is acting like a tit (see above), Widdy has that expression of abject misery on her face, like she knows that somebody, somewhere is having fun and yet she is powerless to stop it (she's basically the human equivalent of the Daily Mail), Kelly Brook is giggling, Rachel Stevens is as animated as ever, then Kristina forces them all to get to work. Rachel tells us how much she's missed Vincent, Ola calls Chris Hollins fat (♥), Colin Jackson and Erin try not to discuss Dummy Dance, Natasha Kaplinsky is clearly HATING EVERY SECOND, Chelsee says that her arm movements have improved since last year and Pasha snarks that Christmas works miracles, Brendan and Kelly have great fun being The Naughty Ones, Tom continues to be utterly unbearable, and everyone hopes they'll somehow manage to pull it off on the night. Fnar.

This would seem like the perfect place to run their performance in the general sequence of things, but no: the pro routine is going at the end of the show, and instead here's Rod Stewart sing 'Let It Snow'. *fast forwards*

(What? There wasn't even any dancing during that bit, unless you count the judges shuffling awkwardly behind the desk. If it's not about dancing, or about leading up to dancing, it doesn't get recapped. THEM'S  THE RULES.)

Tess has got the special Christmas cue cards in her hands, so it's time to announce the results. We're reminded of what the judges said about each of the couples (it's all Christmas puns for the most part, so let's just skip right past), and the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas champions are...Merry Christmas and Ola! It's nominative determinism in action! (Also, I'm taking great pleasure in Ola having won the main competition once and various spin-off contests twice, and James having won...nothing, ever. LOLLERSKATES.)

Tess congratulates all the other losers for taking part, and Merry Christmas says that it feels really good to be recognised for something other than saying "Merry Christmas" that one time. And now it's that moment we've all (/some of us) been waiting for (/mildly curious about) - it's the Strictly All-Stars! Brendan and Kelly start off by twirling, twirling, TWIRLING TOWARDS FREEDOM to 'Pure Imagination' (and hey, thanks for ruining that song, Iceland) and then the music changes to 'Cool Yule' by Louis Armstrong (no, me neither) and they disperse to allow Colin and Erin to quickstep right across the floor. Colin's still brilliant, incidentally, and still so very robbed. Then Chelsee and Pasha offer up some party Latin and a lot of lifts, then Chris and Ola reprise the most memorable moments of their charleston (i.e. Chris gurning and then the two of them 69-ing) and then Smuggo Chambers comes out with Kristina, chin-first and titting around like Fred Astaire all "COME AND SEE ME IN THE WEST END! I MIGHT BE MORE TOLERABLE IN PERSON! POSSIBLY!" Then the music changes to 'Celebration' and Natasha and Ian come out, with Natasha still looking utterly despondent. She just about survives her cha cha cha section, but it's not pretty. Then Rachel and Vincent come out to do an Argentine tango (because that's a brilliant fit with this song) and it's great apart from when Vincent accidentally kicks her in the arse, and then everyone takes to the floor together as the other Christmas competitors and the top six of 2012 head down the stairs to join them. After that, the judges arrive, and it becomes clear that Darcey's dress is not practical for dancing because she's having to hold the trail up with one hand the whole time. Then there's another knock on the makeshift door, and look who it is - it's Widdy and Russell Grant! Brendan and Kelly (who appear to be on door duty for this party) react with the appropriate amount of disgust, but aren't quick enough to stop these unwanted guests from invading the party, eating all the vol-au-vents, throwing up in the plant pots and leaving an unflushable in the host's en-suite. Russell runs straight to the front and calls shotgun on dancing with Kelly Brook, while Widdy just ambles past the camera like a Muppet and Chris Hollins puts his hand on her hip for the final pose. I'm surprised she didn't consider that too sexually suggestive, but there you go.

And that's Christmas! Hope to see you back here in 2013 for series 11, and in the meantime, keeeeeeeeep reading this blog. Because we need the Google hits for search engine optimisation, you see.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Mr Smith, if you're gymnasty

Final Results: 22nd December 2012

This time we get the cold open that we were so cruelly denied at the top of the evening: the show opens with a close-up on the glitterball trophy, and our four finalists all manage to restrain themselves from charging towards it screaming "GIMME GIMME GIMME! MINE MINE MINE!", Daffy Duck-style, as Tess intones that they've all danced twice for our votes this evening, but for one couple it will have been all for naught, as they're about to be eliminated. The other three couples will look sympathetic for as long as strictly necessary, then step over that couple's dance-corpse in order to compete one final time for that lovely prop trophy. This is Strictly Come Dancing - the grand final!

Truncated titles remind us of the only four people who matter at this point, and then we head straight back into the ballroom to get the necessary roughness over with, or so it seems. Oh lord, Tess got changed during Merlin - possibly into an actual costume FROM Merlin, since she's wearing a purple corset over a short purple skirt with translucent purple fabric draped over her from the waist down, and some sparkly epaulettes resting on her shoulders. She looks like She-Ra: Princess Of Power on Casual Friday. Still, this is the last fashion horror we'll have to witness from her until September 2013 [Except for Christmas, Steve - Rad], so the pain is less sharp than it might otherwise be.

Tess informs us that the lines are frozen, so we must not try to vote at this time. Bruce tells us that he doesn't want to see anybody go. I wouldn't put it past the show at this point to attempt to declare this a four-way tie, but if they even think about it I am going STRAIGHT TO OFCOM. Before the nasty business, Bruce reminds us that we've got the 2012 cast reunion dance to look forward to later, and then Tess tells us to watch out because Robbie Williams will be here later. I'll make sure I schedule my loo break for that point, then.

Backstage footage! Everyone is nervous. This is probably something we could have likely inferred for ourselves. Len thinks it was "without a doubt, the best final ever". Sometimes I really want to get all Wikipedia editor up in Len's face, and tell him that he'll need to cite an external reference if he's going to make statements like that. Denise's jive reprise was slightly disappointing unless you were one of the judges, Dani's tango reprise was slightly disappointing for pretty much everyone, Kimberley's Viennese waltz reprise was a notable improvement, and Louis's salsa reprise was...well, it was Dirty Dancing again, with everything that goes with that. Then we had showdances: Denise's was a little lift-centric for my tastes but arguably well-executed, and then James snogged Craig, or would like us to think that he did because he wants to look cool and exotic. James is basically the Katy Perry of ballroom. Dani's showdance was chaotic, confusing and not worth the effort - it was the Euston station of showdances, essentially. Kimberley's showdance was an utter triumph of style over substance, and I didn't even care because ZOMG PYROTECHNICS, and finally Louis's showdance was either a brilliantly moving display of artistic stillness or your local community centre's long-winded and self-indulgent production of The Bacchae, depending on where you stood on the spectrum. Read the previous recap if you genuinely feel that you can't go on without knowing my personal opinions on it, though I imagine you can probably guess.

Bruce and Tess are now holding cue cards, so you know shit's about to get real. The couple with the fewest viewer votes and finishing in fourth place is...Dani and Vincent. Denise totally had her "no, really, I'm fine with going out here" face prepared and is momentarily thrown because now she doesn't have to actually use it. I feel a bit sad for Dani and Vincent considering they made it all the way to the final without ever being in the bottom two only to crash at the final hurdle, but ultimately they were just outdanced on the night. And, if I'm honest, I could never really get on board the Dani train - she was a good dancer, but there was always too much strain in her face for me to ever get truly caught up in one of her routines. [Likewise.  I never disliked her especially but there was nothing there to actually make me want to vote for her.  I'm really susprised she never hit the bottom two in the earlier rounds - Rad] They head over to Bruce and Tess, who console them, while Vincent considers how he'll now rank alongside Erin in the list of pros who were eliminated while wearing embarrassing hairpieces, since he and Dani would've been dancing their jive if they'd survived this elimination. Dani says that it's been an amazing experience and the best part was meeting Vincent. Vincent says that he's so proud of Dani and couldn't wait to come in and train with her every week. We see Dani's highlights, which run as follows: GOSH, AREN'T YOU SHORT? SO VERY TINY! TEE HEE HEE! ...Oh, and you dance quite well, I suppose. Afterwards, Tess chucks Dani on the cheek, because why stop with the ridiculous patronising bullshit now?

This leaves us, of course, with three remaining finalists: Denise and James, Kimberley and Pasha, and Louis and Flavia, who will go on to reprise their own favourite dance from the series. Tess declares the lines re-open (with the votes from earlier carrying forward, in case anyone's wondering). Up first, we have Denise and James, who'll be serving up some Egyptian charleston realness - but first, we must endure their Strictly Story. Denise tells us that she's always had Strictly envy when she was watching other people dancing (those other people being the ones standing alongside her on the West End stage. Yeah, I said it: COME AT ME, DIGITAL SPY FORUMITES!) - having watched it for so many years, it's surreal finally being here. She points out that she and James haven't had the smoothest of rides on the show - things started out well, and then she got HER HEEL CAUGHT IN HER DRESS OH NOES, and then she ended up in the Dread Dance Off not once but twice. However, Denise attests that that's the joy of Strictly - it keeps you on your toes. Literally, unless you're Ian Waite. She claims that she never thought she'd make the final - and while I'm tempted to do my "oh yeah right" face here, that's one of the few saving graces about Denise and James as a pair - the part where they basically knew from a very early stage that they were going to come across rather grating and were probably destined to face the bottom two at least once. I mean, I'd have liked them more if they'd tried to do something about it by reining in their obnoxious personalities a bit, but they get some points for self-awareness, at least. Denise fondly remembers the time when SHIMMY JIMMY JORDAN forgot his moves, and less fondly remembers the times when things got tough, but says that James has kept her spirits up throughout. James says that he left the decision of their favourite dance entirely down to Denise (so gallant! Such a gent!) and unsurprisingly Denise went for her charleston, which was by fair the best dance she did on the show, quite possibly the best charleston anyone has done on the show. They got 39 at WEMBLEY, now she's hoping to get Craig to score them one point higher and land herself that perfect 40. Denise talks about how she'll miss all the banter that she and James have together (I, on the other hand, will not miss that at all), and says that all the hard work and injuries (the whiplash! That time she banged her head!) were worth it.

They reprise their charleston to 'Walk Like An Egyptian', with a few choreographical adjustments made to adjust for the fact that they're not at WEMBLEY this time, but they've wisely decided not to tamper too much with near-perfection. Last time they did it Denise out-danced James, and I'm inclined to say she does so again here. Obviously the charleston's not going to be the most taxing challenge for someone who's already got a stint in Chicago under her belt, but that shouldn't take away from this being a brilliant, joyful routine that I know I'm going to enjoy watching long after this series has finished. That's basically all I want at this point. (I could've done without James planking at the end, mind.) [Probably my favourite dance of the series - closely followed by her tango, Kimberley's tango and Kimberley's fusion in joint second because apparently we're all about joint second-place this year - Rad]

Dani and Vincent look down sadly from the Tess Circle, thinking of what could've been, as Denise and James head over to the judges. Len tells Denise that he will never forget her charleston. Christopher Parker, Sarah Hadland and Emma Kennedy applaud this statement. (I almost want Emma Kennedy to do Strictly just for the hilarious Twitter drama that would inevitably ensue, but then I remember what she was like on Celebrity Masterchef and think better of that idea.) Bruno tells Denise she has shown technical ability and versatility across the series, and "whatever happens", she can leave with her head held high. That's Bruno for "you're not winning, but well done". Craig reiterates that it's the best charleston they've ever had on the show. Darcey finishes by agreeing that it's a memorable charleston and praising the attention to detail, before opening up that can of worms again by calling Denise a professional.

Thankfully we don't dwell on that and head straight up to the Tess Circle again, where Denise says that she's very sad that this was her last dance with James, and the pair of them thank the viewers for allow them to dance the charleston one more time. Tess asks how much they want to win, and Denise's answer is basically "did you not hear Bruno? We're not winning, but thanks anyway." James does the "Ola has a glitterball trophy and I don't" sad-sack routine, then it's finally time for longstanding hold-out Craig Revel Horwood to give them a 10 for that routine and for the other three to follow suit, giving Denise a perfect 40 for her last dance.

Kimberley and Pasha are next, and their Strictly Story is very much what you'd expect Kimberley's narrative to be: hits all the beats of an average contestant, never entirely seems to engage. Still, she did her talking on the dancefloor in the end, and that's where it mattered the most. Pasha says that he knew right from the start that Kimberley was destined for great things, and it was his job to make her believe in herself as much as he believed in her. He is just the darnedest thing, isn't he? Kimberley reminds us that Len didn't like her foxtrot, and I swear I'd entirely forgotten that until they showed the clip a gazillion times on It Takes Two in the final week, just to remind us How Far She's Come. There are shots of a pouty, tearful Kimberley hugging Pasha, as Kimberley explains that getting criticism pushed her to learn to be a better dancer. Like, eight weeks later, but still. Then she had that premature visit to the bottom two in week six and thought (as did most of us) that her days were numbered, but she came back fighting (eventually), winning the judges over with her Fusion. She says she feels like the Comeback Kid, and isn't entirely sure how she went from stuck on 34 every week to regularly getting 40/40. Neither am I, and what's even more fascinating to me is that she somehow became more likeable when her scores suddenly skyrocketed, when I'd expected the reverse to happen. She calls Pasha "a friend for life", and he says that he felt they were "a perfect couple". He'd love to win, but even more than that, he wants Kimberley to win. OH GOD PASHA STOP BEING PERFECT, I CAN'T HANDLE IT.

They're reprising their tango for their favourite dance - another one of their many, many previous routines that originally scored 34. You can tell pretty much instantly that they're going to score much higher this time around, not just because it's the final and the judges are physically incapable of scoring that low (you could practically see them all twitching when they gave Dani 35), but also because this dance is much better this time around: it's sharper, Kimberley's posture is much improved and she's channeling the tango attitude with her whole body, not just her lips. The crowd goes wild at the end, and deservedly so.

While Bruce has a coughing fit, Bruno calls Kimberley a "femme fatale" and "Strictly irresistible", and reminds us that she has really blossomed both as a dancer and a performer in the last few weeks. He says Kimberley makes us forget where the technique finishes and the performance starts. That's a good thing, I assume. Craig says that was ten times better than the last time she danced it, and he can't believe how she came out and annihilated the dancefloor this time. Darcey giggles that she loves it when Kimberley's moody and suggests she could win medals with that pout. She loved the tension in the dance, and cites the end of that routine as her "most favourite". Well, so much for the standard of grammar on this show improving after Alesha left. Len says that back in week one he called her "nimble Kimble", and now she's improved her technique, her footwork, and her hold, and she's provided him with some of the most spectacular highlights of the whole series. Bruce ushers her off quick, "before I cry". Kimberley and Pasha do as they're bid, since they've heard that once Bruce starts leaking fluids, there's no telling when he'll stop.

So up to the Tess Circle they go, for one final cuddle with Tess. Kimberley's a bit tearful, and says she's going to miss dancing with Pasha, and she wanted to really go for that tango knowing it was her last chance. Tess says that Kimberley's given a real range of emotions tonight, and Kimberley giggles that she's got a split personality. Well, it's a definite step up from "no personality", which was my fear in the early weeks. Kimberley pouts a bit more, Pasha grins with pride, and Kimberley says the experience has been worth more than any glitterball. Just as well, since Louis is winning. Scores: 10s all round again for a total of 40. Kimberley's thrilled to have got a perfect score with her favourite dance. As Tess reads out the numbers, Denise reaches out and gives Kimberley a congratulatory stroke on the arm, which is a lovely moment of unscripted humanity for both of them.

Our final Strictly Story of the night comes from Louis Smith Esq., who talks about having just come from the Olympics and realising that Strictly is quite the match for it in terms of intensity. He's loved his experience on the show, even though it's been difficult. He never thought he'd make the final, but he's worked hard and had a lot of fun and credits Flavia with getting him this far. Flavia talks about Louis's "poster-boy image" (is that in the same way that he's a gay icon?) but deep down he's very loveable. Louis thinks Flavia has been a brilliant teacher, and Flavia reminds us that he had to Learn To Perform and how those mean judges were mean because they had high expectations of him being a professional gymnast and everything. SO MEAN. Louis loved Halloween week above all, but not enough to actually pick it for his favourite dance of the competition: instead, that honour is going to the charleston, where he had his Performance Breakthrough (/learned to pull a few faces). Louis says that this is the point where things changed for him, and it makes sense to finish on that routine because he loved it and everyone else seemed to enjoy watching it too. [I didn't mind the dance, but I'm not pleased that the song they used for it has been a constant earworm for me ever since, and I don't even like that song - Rad]

So they repeat their charleston, and it's goofy and fun but it's not really a showcase for Louis's abilities in the same way that the two dances we've just seen were for those couples, so it feels like a bit of an anticlimactic choice to end with. Mostly, I just spent this routine thinking "blimey, he really does have big hands, doesn't he?" - although not in a sexual way, obviously, because I know Louis doesn't want The Gays thinking like that about him. HEAVEN FORFEND. After the famous somersault over Flavia from the original routine, they've now added a backflip in afterwards (despite having said that they wanted to use the showdance to prove that gymnastics wasn't just backflips and somersaults. Oh well).

Bruce points out the standing ovation from the audience, and points out how ubiquitous the standing ovations have been this evening, thereby pointing out the meaninglessness of said standing ovations. Thanks Bruce! Craig says it's going to be so hard for the viewers at home to pick a winner, and he's glad that the judges' opinions "sort of don't matter" tonight. He says that Louis has worked very hard on that routine, and his personality and character really come through. He also calls the somersault a "sommie", and I really hope that doesn't catch on. Darcey says she didn't think they could add more to that routine, but then they added another flip! She likes seeing the cheeky Louis, and confirms that he now has everything: the performance, the technique, and the tricks. Len says that he's felt like a teacher telling off a naughty schoolboy sometimes this series (Louis points to Flavia in response to this, which is interesting on so many levels), but he's never doubted Louis's ability or potential. He thinks that was a gold medal performance. "I've been waiting for that kind of comment!" says Louis. And don't we know it! Bruno finishes by calling it "an uplifting tonic" and saying that Louis offered more tricks, more fun and more accomplishment than ever, and he's proven that he can act a dance. Bruno thinks that the decision tonight is "like choosing between precious jewels - each one of you shines and has incredible qualities". And Bruno wants to put them all in his ring. Yes, I realise that's biologically improbable for at least two of the contestants, but it sounded filthy so I went with it regardless. Come on, it's been a long series, cut me some slack.

They trot up to the Tess Circle, clearly spent emotionally and physically, and Tess reminds us that Louis has "never performed before", just for the benefit of the viewers at home who vote for reasons like that, and Louis and Flavia both do the "you've been amazing" "no you have" "oh shut your face" "no, you shut YOUR face" thing, and Louis echoes the sentiment that it's all gone beyond winning at this point. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. There is predictable OUTRAGE at Craig's score, but...less than 15 minutes ago he'd said Denise's charleston was the best in the history of the show, so of course he wasn't going to give Louis's the same score. (We'll gloss over the part where he gave Kimberley's charleston a 10 last week.) The booing continues for longer than is necessary, and it's ridiculous at this point that 39 is considered an unacceptably low score, but it's the final and I think everyone's gone a bit stir crazy, so let's just hope they've calmed down by the time series 11 starts and don't start setting fire to the set just because Greg Rutherford's cha cha cha only gets 31. (It's probably for the best that Greg Rutherford is only a Strictly contestant in my imagination, because I think these recaps would get VERY EMBARRASSING if he was actually on the show. It would make the sort of things I've written about Pasha look positively tame.)

Very last leaderboard of the series:
1st: Denise & James (119)
2nd: Kimberley & Pasha (118)
2nd: Louis & Flavia (118)

That officially makes this the closest final EVAH, at least in terms of the judges' scores (narrowly beating Alesha vs Matt in series five, when there were only two points between them). As she reads out the voting details again, all the finalists (including Dani and Vincent) reach out to each other behind her. Again, it's lovely. I wish we'd seen a little bit more of the bonds between the finalists - if they're as close as it looks like they are, it would've been nice to have that a bit more front-and-centre.

Recap of our three finalists dancing their three dances of the evening, then Tess reminds us that we had a great cast this year (I suppose we did, didn't we? Even if it didn't seem like that at first glance), and they'll be dancing for us shortly, but not before the first of a great many filler VTs to pad out the running time before the winning couple is announced. Highlights of this one include: the brief reappearance of Iveta Lukosiute; Jerry Hall saying she'll remember her time on Strictly forever, which is precisely forever longer than anyone else will; Colin now and forever being ridiculously taller than Kristina; Fern still being very happy that she went out on a salsa in a pink frock while swaddled in Artem's tits (♥); the editors including THE QUIP THAT RICHARD ARNOLD TRIED TO BAN; Victoria thinking she's "a little bit crazy for doing [Strictly]", not realising that she didn't need the last three words; Michael using a lot of cricket metaphors; Nicky reminding us that Westlife existed for 14 YEARS; Lisa talking about how she and Robin are now BFFs and are off down G-A-Y later and will be staggering home at 3am reeking of poppers.

Back in the Tess Circle, Tess reminds us that Lisa is the star of the series whether we agree or not, and Lisa says that it was nice to be able to chill out and enjoy the show tonight without the pressure of performing. Richard says he's going to miss everyone on the show, but he's very pleased that he got Jerry Hall's phone number. Tess asks Jerry if she has kept dancing. I'm not sure if that's the appropriate verb, since it implies that she ever started dancing. Then we revisit the epic bromance (*spit spit*) of Michael and Nicky, and how Tess spotted them earlier swapping clothes AFTER HAVING HOT GAY SEX WITH EACH OTHER. Possibly. Tess asks them all to shout who they want to win on the count of three, and everyone either shouts "Louis" or "Johnny". Sucks to be Kimberley and Denise right now, I guess.

And now, a musical interlude courtesy of Robbie Williams with 'Different'. The light's just gone out a little bit where Robbie Williams is concerned, hasn't it? He just looks like it's all a bit of a chore for him these days. Still, people are buying the records, so he has to turn up. Mind you, if we were going to be forced to endure him tonight, I'd have preferred him to sing 'Candy' so Victoria Pendleton could've done her salsa again. Instead, we have Artem and Aliona doing a very high-speed exhibition rumba/samba hybrid (DANCE FUSION!), to the point where I thought my recording of the show had just sensed Robbie Williams and decided to fast-forward itself on principle. Quick show of hands: who thinks Aliona will be back next year? Who thinks Iveta will be here instead? And who thinks they'll somehow both be here? Ah, interesting.

We cut back to Tess and Bruce who are doing the "everybody! Robbie Williams! Totally here right now!" arm gestures, which give away that it was a pre-record (assuming you hadn't already spotted that Darcey was wearing a completely different outfit during his performance). Tess warns us that the lines are closing in five minutes, which is the cue for another VT about what people at home "have loved about this series". Which is a falsehood, because the VT is in fact about "the Strictly Shimmy", a thing that literally nobody outside of the show gives a crap about. Still, we're forced to sit through footage of people all over the country pretending that they're totally engaged with it, and it's very disheartening. Assorted women and gays then talk about what an amazing series it's been, people go on about Darcey saying "yah" all the time even though that lasted for all of two weeks, and then someone actually says "but she can get away with it because she's so beautiful". It's moments like this that make me think this show doesn't deserve to have viewers at all. There's a whole Olympian montage devoted to how Victoria sucked but Louis was amazing because everyone fancied him. Then there's a discussion of the real stars of this series: Artem's tits. People's Champignon Lisa Riley gets an extended tribute (soundtracked to 'Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)', I shit you not), someone calls Sid Owen "Ricky", everyone remembers how shitmazing Michael's jive was, then we're informed that Bruno is incoherent (fair enough) and Craig went all soft this year (????????????????), and Len talked about some pig's bums. The unfortunate segue department takes us to Dani here, someone calls Dani and Vincent "like real people but smaller", the show manages to find a handful of Denise supporters, there's a montage of Kimberley shaking her T&A, and Louis's time on the show is, of course, reduced to "he did a lot of gymnastics". It's amazing how this VT that's meant to make us feel all nostalgic has gone to great lengths to capture all of the worst things about this series. Except for Artem's tits, of course. God bless you, Artem's tits.

The lines are now closed! So while the votes are being tallied (/a technician wanders over to see if anyone at all bothered to vote for Denise or Kimberley), we've got our group dance from the ten couples who didn't make the final. It's a jive to 'River Deep, Mountain High' in which the celebs (mercifully) get hidden behind the pros as much as possible - seriously, the first verse and chorus basically involves the celebs freestyling at the back while the pros do all the actual dancing. [Along with new random pro-combo Anton and Ola! - Rad] They get integrated a bit more afterwards, with everyone making room for Lisa and Robin to reprise their FAMOUS reverse-lift from their cha cha cha, and even the judges are involved briefly. The camera lingers in front of Victoria for an uncomfortably cruel amount of time - oh, and for some reason all of the female pros are wearing hideous white satin skorts. Now there's a mental image to take away.

Tess is up in the Tess Circle with the three finalists, waiting to plug the Christmas special. We'll be getting around to recapping that in due course, but let's just say that we're very excited about Merry Christmas JLS being a part of it. And Katya, of course! And the ever-truthy Sheila Hancock, who still doesn't care about your grandmother or about the morons in the audience who'll clap for anything.

Apparently we haven't had enough highlights from the series yet, because now we're going to get some more: Denise pulled faces at James and also hit him a lot, Kimberley spent a lot of time pouting at the camera both in rehearsals and on the live shows, and Louis dances a lot better when Flavia's choreographing for him than he does when he's just making up his own moves. There you go: Strictly FACTS! I'm so glad we wasted four minutes on that, considering what we're about to not find out.

Tess and Bruce have got their cue cards, and the glitterball trophy is standing by. The results are in, or rather the singular result is in, and the champions of Strictly Come Dancing 2012 are...Louis and Flavia. I'm not sure it was the producers' exact intention for this moment to be accompanied by screams of "BUT WHO WAS SECOND, YOU UTTER BUNCH OF SHITS?", but that's pretty much what happened in my house. Seriously, that is inexcusable. As I said in the previous recap, I had a feeling it was going to happen because The Voice UK did the same thing, but it's still ridiculous to expect people to pay to vote for their favourites and then arbitrarily and vaguely declare two of them "joint runners-up". We want a finishing order, DAMMIT. I was so cross about this I actually complained to the BBC for the first time in my life. Considering we had to sit through nearly half an hour of filler to get to this point, there is no good reason at all why they couldn't have made time for a separate elimination to confirm who finished in third place, and then go on to announce the winner.

Anyway, my apologies to Louis and Flavia for not being suitably reverent in their moment of triumph (IT WASN'T MY FAULT IT'S THE BLOODY PRODUCERS), but let's just say that Louis is quite pleased, and Flavis is ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC. She's going a bit Camilla, just repeating "ohmygodohmygod" over and over again while Bruce and Tess try to direct the runners-up to their marks for the final interviews. Tess asks Kimberley and Pasha how much they've loved being here, and Kimberley says it's been amazing and she's very happy for Louis. Flavia can go fuck herself, though. (Kidding!) Denise is going to miss James, and thanks him for everything. Bruce announces that "you're all champions in my eyes". NOT GOING TO CUT IT BRUCE, TELL US WHO WAS IN SECOND PLACE OR I'M GOING TO GET NASTY.

Then we turn to our winners, and Louis declares Flavia "a goddess" while Flavia thanks Louis for "sharing your amazing talent". My word, it's like the Oscars. Then Louis busts out the "finally I can say I won something in 2012!" line that's funny and also fractionally churlish. Tess asks if there's anything Louis would like to say to Flavia, and Louis says that she's the nicest person he's ever met, and "so patient". Bruce jokes that of course she is, she had to dance with Jimmy Tarbuck. Tess asks if Louis is going to keep dancing. "You have to!" Flavia chirps, and Louis repeats that he has to, sounding faintly non-committal to the idea. Bruce hands over the glitterball trophy, the fireworks go herp derp perp across the werp merp berp. Then the other contestants all arrive ready to congratulate Louis and Flavia, and Bruce snarls at them repeatedly to back off. He's got a closing link to do, you don't know the pressures he's under! Louis and Flavia head to the floor for a victory dance, and Flavia CANNOT WAIT to do the Dirty Dancing lift one more time. Confetti falls from the ceiling and the band play 'Rule The World' one last time as the others finally get the chance to pile on that Bruce so rudely interrupted a few moments ago.

So that's it for the 2012 series! I think it's no surprise at this point that Louis and Flavia weren't my choice to win and I don't know if I'll actually go back to any of their routines to watch again and again the way I know I will with Denise's charleston or Kimberley's tango, but they were very strong contenders across the series, they worked hard and delivered week after week and I can't deny that they earned that victory. Besides, my favourite has won two years in a row prior to this, so I've had a pretty good run lately, results-wise. We'll be back soon with a recap of the Christmas Special (check back for that in a few days), and we hope you'll join us again next year for series 11 - and we also hope that at some point the BBC will deign to reveal which couple actually finished second. In the meantime - BACK OFF, ALL OF YOU! JUST BACK OFF A MINUTE!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Four play

Final Performances: 22nd December 2012

You might expect that the final would begin with a lengthy intro sequence detailing exactly how we got here, reminding us of everyone's Strictly Journey, possibly even admonishing us a little bit for allowing History's Greatest Dancer Who Totally Isn't A Ringer Denise Van Outen to fall into the Dread Dance-Off not once but twice - but you'd be wrong. Instead, we go straight to the titles, with an added bit of "The Final!" jazziness to them.

We open with a truly ridiculous pro-paso to 'The Final Countdown', which is, rather incongruously, where we get our Strictly Journey moments, as the early parts of the dance are intercut with footage of the judges delivering praise to our four finalists earlier in the series. There's a huge set of screens at the back of the stage which flash up the eyes of each of the finalists in turn on a continuous loop, and then suddenly the display changes to flash up each contestant's name as they suddenly appear from behind it, presumably by complicated hydraulic means: first Kimberley, then Dani, then Denise, then Louis. The women are all wearing the same silver sequinned outfit (with slight differences in style to set them all apart), while Louis is wearing tails and a gold bow tie. I find myself wondering if they were stored backstage in two boxes, labelled "sequins for also-rans" and "winner's tux". Er, spoilers.

Then a large CGI glitterball descends from the ceiling, "THE FINAL" is written on it, and we go back into a weird, truncated version of the titles that just features the four finalists dancing around the world "FINAL", even though the footage of them is the same footage we've been seeing all series long. I think we all got the point of who the finalists were without needing to see this, so the only reason I can see for its inclusion is that the opening number was an obvious pre-record, and they just needed something else to show for 15 seconds to ease the transition into the live sequences where all the props from that routine had been removed - it would probably have been a bit jarring to cut straight to Bruce and Tess entering with those screens and platforms instantly vanishing.

Speaking of Bruce and Tess, here they are. Daly Dresswatch: oh good lord, she's actually come as the glitterball. Her dress is just a long, unflattering stream of silver sparkles that clings in all the wrong places and makes me hope that she doesn't inadvertently stand on a black podium at any point in the evening lest she actually be mistaken for the trophy in a hilarious mix-up. We cut to the judges, and Bruno is doing finger guns at them, presumably in the knowledge that Tess's outfit is a blight on humanity and must be destroyed, whatever the collateral damage might be. Bruce welcomes us to the grand final, and gets a fit of the giggles: it's not a bout of unprofessionalism, he just saw Anton backstage earlier looking at the trophy and wondering if he'd ever win it. Hey, cruel humour is the best humour - the very existence of this blog will attest to that.

Once Bruce has calmed himself down, he and Tess inform us that our votes alone will decide who wins this year's competition - the judges will still be scoring, but those scores will be for "guidance only". Bless the show for still plugging away at the idea that anyone is influenced by the judges' scores at this point: the first boots in the finals of series six through nine were the couples at the top of the leaderboard. Tess runs through the running order: first the contestants will repeat a previous routine that the judges have selected for them (and by "judges", presumably read "producers"), then the voting lines will open, and then there will be what Tess refers to as the "incredible showdances", and she is possibly more correct here than even she realises, since invariably the showdances will literally not be credible. Bruce then picks up that they'll be back at 8:50pm, when the couple with the fewest votes will be eliminated, then the remaining three couples will perform their own favourite dance in a last-ditch fight for the trophy. Incidentally, this is where everyone who watched The Voice UK (all 12 of us) started to get that horrible, sinking feeling that we weren't going to find out who finished second or third, but more on that later.

There's no dancing yet, only filler as we look back over some highlights of the series. Let's skim over this as quickly as possible, shall we? Launch show, Darcey Bussell, cartoonish Hollywood dances, Halloween dances, Lisa Riley doing a lot of faces, Bruno doing a lot of...something, fuckin' WEMBLEY, Lisa paying tribute to Mystique Summers Madison with her death drop, Louis' Strictly Journey beginning and ending with him learning to pull goofy faces in the charleston, Kimberley losing her shit when she got 40 for her Dance Fusion, and comedy VTs which were lesser in both frequency and commitment than last year (controversial opinion: I think I preferred it last year when the show at least decided it was definitely going to make comedy VTs a thing and stuck with it: this year it just decided that it wanted to do some comedy VTs, occasionally, and then do training VTs the rest of the time. The show's done a lot of fence-sitting this year, and that's one of the more egregious examples, right up there with Darcey's scoring).

Right, time to meet the superstars of our show. Bruce grabs Tess and declares that she feels "like a Brillo pad". I bet the champagne corks were popping in the Kay-Daly household on Sunday morning when they saw that headline about Bruce not planning to come back next year. (I'll believe that when I see it, personally.) Anyway, here are our finalists: Kimberley and Pasha, Louis and Flavia, Dani and Vincent, and Denise and James. Without actually having seen any of the dances yet, I'd have been quite happy with that as a finishing order. Dare to dream, eh? [For me, I'd have liked a Denise/Kimberley top two, in either order, then Louis, then Dani.  But then I'm Denise's only fan, I think - Rad]

Bruce decides to open the proceedings by declaring that any of these four couples could've been champions in a previous series. Presumably the series in question is the seventh, and even then I think Denise would've struggled. Kimberley too, quite possibly, since she wouldn't have had Pasha to dance with. Joining Karen Hardy for her "expert guidance" (again, the sort of "guidance" that we hold in about as high esteem as that of the actual judges) tonight is none other than series four champion Mark Ramprakash. I didn't press the red button, but I imagine the commentary was pretty much "REMEMBER WHEN WE WON?!?!?!" on a loop. "Have a good time up there!" says Bruce. Oh Bruce, I'm sure they don't need telling.

Up first tonight are Denise and James, and the crowd whoops, leading Brucie to declare "they're all so popular!" Considering Denise has been in the Dread Dance-Off in two successive weeks, Bruce, I think some of them might be more popular than others. After yet another off-colour and faintly homophobic joke about Bruno, we learn that Denise is reprising her jive to 'Tutti Frutti' for the judges' choice section. Their VT gives us a brief summation of their past week, the main gist of which is that being in the bottom two makes you feel sad. Thanks James! There's a hilariously stagey bit in which the Judges' Choice is officially revealed, featuring all four of them behind a handsome desk in all of their finery, like the world's sparkliest interview panel ("tell us about a time when you really delivered first class customer service. And tell us about it THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF DANCE!"), ostensibly discussing the grave importance of the task they are here to deliver today. Len and Craig are taking it seriously (obviously), and Darcey and Bruno are doing their best not to laugh (OBVIOUSLY). Denise and James stride in, both with "this shit is so idiotic" looks plastered across their faces (it's the most likeable either one of them has been all series) and Craig congratulates them for getting this far in the series. I'd say most of the thanks go to the judges for pulling them through two successive Dread Dance Offs, and the producers for changing the rules mid-series to allow four couples into the final, but whatevs. Craig tells them that they're doing the jive, and Denise is very pleased about this. Bruno thinks that, ten weeks on from the first time they performed this, now Denise truly has the experience to take a good jive and make it into a brilliant one. Because those ten weeks have really made all the difference in a way that several years on the West End stage just couldn't. Len informs them that they can tweak the dance if they choose, and reminds them that they got 32 last time, but this time he's expecting it to get the perfect 40, at which point St Jill of Halfpenny will descend from Ballroom Heaven and wage a holy war on the nation for daring to tarnish her record. Denise and James go off to rehearse their jive, and Denise talks about how much she's looking forward to it, and she hopes Len enjoys it too. Because fuck those other three losers, who even cares what they think?

So Denise and James reprise their routine with a few minor changes (there's a big jump in it now!) and this may be deeply uncharitable of me, but I was really hoping she'd get her heel caught in her dress again. Thankfully the universe does not cater to my whims in that way and Denise's hemline remains intact. It's still very well-danced, but honestly I feel it's not quite as good as it was first time out. If anything, it seems to have less active jive content this time, the bloody spins are endless, and the side-by-side section looks a little bit sloppy on Denise's part. [Still better than what happens at  (Mewwy) Christmas though, whoops, spoilers - Rad]

Bruce introduces the judges with a little spiel about how much he's going to miss all of them, except Craig. Interestingly, despite having been hired to add a much-needed voice of dance expertise in place of Alesha, Darcey is essentially reduced to the position of "the totty" in this joke just like Alesha always was. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. 

Len opens for the judges and says that to dance well, you have to be athletic (like renowned athlete Chelsee Healey, for example?) but to truly be a dancer, you need artistry, and Denise has got both of them. Athleticism and artistry. Arthleticism! Actually, that sounds like some sort of condition that leaves you with dodgy joints. Bruno declares Denise "wicked" and tells her it was a premium grade jive. And if anyone should be able to recognise premium grade...things, it's Bruno. Craig feints with "limp, lame..." before giggling that he's joking (so precious) and telling Denise that her timing's impeccable. Denise crows "d'yer wann' another kiss?", indicating that she's willing to pimp out James if necessary, and James shoots her an "even I don't want to win that badly" look. Darcey says that she loved it the first time, and Denise's style suits it perfectly. She adds that Denise is "fast and furious", and is it just me, or does anyone else automatically think of Roy Walker introducing the Ready Money Round on Catchphrase when they hear those three words together? It's certainly made it hard for me to take Vin Diesel seriously. Well, harder. Darcey spotted no effort in the shoulders this time around and a genuinely delighted Denise exclaims that she'd been working on that. Aw. It's moments like this when you almost begin to think she's human and not an Evil Ringerbot, isn't it? [I genuinely like her.  I think James brings out the worst in her, but imagine her with Ian.  That would have been epic - Rad]

They head up to the Tess Circle, and Denise says that she loved it. "You wait till you go out there," she says, seemingly talking to Tess. I'd say that'd be a very disappointing booking as far as this evening's half-time entertainment goes, but frankly after last week's shenanigans I'll gladly take anything that doesn't involve Katherine bloody Jenkins. Tess asks James if Denise is the best person he can hope for in a partner, and he says that she's his dream partner. Somewhere in Scotland, a tearful Dr Pamela makes a beeline for the drinks cabinet. Tess asks what we can expect from the showdance. "Spins," says James, as though this is any sort of surprise. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Everyone reacts to Craig's 9 with the sort of shock and disgust they'd normally reserve for a situation like catching him having sex with a woman, but at least St Jill's perfect score remains unparalleled. For now.

Our second couple for the night is Dani and Vincent, dressed for their tango. Bruce does a joke about Dani being upset about him calling her a "dark horse" all the time, but it's a fairly hollow effort since I absolutely guarantee she can't be nearly as sick of it as I bloody am. And don't even get me started on fuckin' "dark pony" either. (Brucie joke admission: I did actually laugh for real at "try not to take offense". As horse puns go, that's a pretty good one.) Dani recalls being very tense in the semi-final, and really thinking that she was in the Dread Dance Off when it came down to her or Denise, despite...well, everything, really. They head off to the Sparkly Panel, led by Darcey, who informs them that she wants to see their tango again. Bruno says that he's really seen their partnership in this dance, and Len tells Dani she needs to work on her heel leads. Craig says that Dani's been consistent, but she's also consistently never been at the front of the pack, which is an interesting way of looking at things. Certainly better than just saying "dark horse" for the 90 millionth time. They rehearse, and Dani talks about how she's grown as a person since the last time she did it (insert laboured "Dani is short" joke here) and she says she's going to give it even more this time.

In case you can't remember, they're dancing to Adele's 'Rumour Has It', and regrettably the routine actually looks more like a teenage temper tantrum than it did last time. Vincent, for reasons of his own, has left in the bit of choreography where he appears to be physically overpowering Dani and forcing her to tango with him, which was always a bit that sat rather uneasily with me. This is another disappointing revival because I don't even think it's danced as well as it was last time - Dani seems to be off her balance slightly in some of the faster parts, and the whole thing just doesn't have the attitude and dynamism I want in a tango. [I thought it was a clumpy, stompy mess - Rad]

Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers (but not by name, that fad died out quickly), DaveArch, and his wonderful orchestra. Bruno says it was "like watching tantrums and tiaras". I'm sure every young woman wants to be told that her passionate tango made you think of Elton John. Bruno says Dani has always been a good technical dancer, but tonight there were a couple of wobbles. Terrifyingly, he then screeches "THERE WUZ A CUBBLE OF WUBBLEZ!" at her again in a weird babyvoice, and CHRIST ALIVE DANI HARMER IS 23, CAN WE PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WHEN TALKING TO HER? However, Bruno was pleased she tried to get the character right. Being an actress, and everything. Craig spotted the "minor stumbling", but loves Dani's clean, precise and efficient work, as well as the fact that she finished in time with the music this time. Darcey didn't see a moody teenager this time, but a sophisticated woman, and she thinks Dani looks so comfortable in hold with "Vince". Len thinks Dani is the spirit of this show, because she's what it's all about, and if someone had told him in week one that Dani would be in the final, he'd have said "WORR DO ME A FAVAH! APPLES AN' PEARS, PICKLE ME WALNUTS, GWORN MY SON" and other east London things like that. If you'd asked me to pick four couples to make the final in week one, incidentally, I would've probably picked Dani and Vincent as one of them, so this means I am now officially a better judge than Len. Anyway, Dani's become consistent, and there's nothing sexier than consistency, is there? That's a vote-winner you can ride all the way to the glitterball. [Yeah, this final four is pretty much the one I saw coming once I discovered Nicky Westlife couldn't dance.  It's the right finl four though, much as I wish Michael/Natalie were there - Rad]

They run up to the Tess Circle (consistently, natch) and Tess asks if the final is nerve-wracking and Dani says that she's got nothing to lose any more (spoiler: LOL) so she just wanted to go out there and be as passionate as possible. Vincent's all "too passionate? Story of my life" (no wonder he and Flavia split up) and Dani talks about what a wonderful partner he's been. She's also dancing to her favourite song of all time for her showdance, prompting Nicky to shout "Westlife!" from behind her. Hee. Scores are in: nines all round for a total of 36. It's an improvement on last time, sure, but not a great score to get in the final when they're handing out 10s like Christmas cards at this point.

Time for Kimberley and Pasha, all dressed up for a Viennese waltz. Naturally, Kimberley is quite chuffed with how the semi-final went (I still think her American smooth was undermarked, but never mind). She and Pasha head in to see the judges, and officially win at Wearing Things because Kimberley is rocking some tight leather trousers and Pasha is all beatnik-chic in a suit and a turtleneck. God, they are both so hot right now. Len tells them he wants to reprise their Viennese waltz; Kimberley and Pasha's faces give nothing away, but you can tell they're thinking "...the one that put us in the bottom two despite being second on the leaderboard? Yeah, THANKS." Len claims that this one was chosen because there were one or two things he would've liked to have seen a little bit better, presumably "the public vote" not being the least of them. They got 34 for the dance last time (to be fair, throw a dart at the series 10 wikipedia page, you'll probably hit a dance that Kimberley scored 34 for. And you'll probably need to repair your computer screen), but Len thinks they can get the perfect 40 if Kimberley tidies up her hold and her footwork. Craig reminds Kimberley that this was her bottom two dance, and says he doesn't want to see it end like that this way. Well, it can't, can it? At least, not as far as the Dread Dance-Off goes. I suppose the bottom two is still technically a thing at this point. Kimberley admits she was surprised to get the VW, but hopes she can perfect all the things she got wrong last time. Pasha says that she needs to get her connection right, because that's the most important thing of all.

Kimberley's doing her very best "emotionally overwhelmed" face for this one, and throughout the entire routine she's at risk of strangulation from those dreaded chiffon wings they've given her, so frankly I think she deserves tens for still being able to breath at the end of it all. After two disappointing reprisals, it's nice to see this one genuinely show signs of improvement: Kimberley's posture in hold is a lot stronger than it was back in week six, and she manages to do the pirouette step without hopping, which is something she didn't manage either on the live show or in the Dread Dance Off last time (incidentally, would this be the first time someone's ever danced the same routine competitively three times in one series of Strictly? I think it must be). At the end, they're relieved to get through it, but I think they're quietly confident that they nailed it. There's a standing ovation, if that even still means anything at this point.

Craig tells Kimberley she's grown so much, both in dancing and in confidence, and her top line and her core have both improved immensely. He adds that he and Darcey were both grabbing on to each other for dear life during that infamous spin to watch out for a hop, and then none came. I can't believe I'm actually about to regret the absence of Len's Lens, but seriously? The one week they aren't doing that segment is the one week that Craig and Darcey spend almost an entire dance clinging on to each other? Because that I would actually have quite liked to see. Darcey agrees, she says Kimberley is not just a beautiful dancer, but she's also a true actress who is graceful and doesn't hop. Len says that last time he liked it, but this time he loved it. Bruno calls Kimberley "my darling" and tells her the dance had everything a Viennese waltz needs to have - grace, skill, and timeless elegance.

They scoot on up to the Tess Circle where Kimberley gushes that she feels like a princess in her dress, and Tess asks if she ever imagined she'd be in the final. Kimberley says it was weird dancing this again because it felt so different, and this was one of her favourite dances. Despite it being her Dread Dance Off memorial dance, she was glad to do it again, presumably so she could get it right this time. What's in store for her showdance? Something very different, Kimberley promises. Scores: Craig 9 (gasps of horror from the audience, Bruno shouting "ridiculous"), Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Not a perfect score, but enough to wrest the title of highest-scoring Viennese waltz of the series away from Denise. The audience boo Craig for not giving it a 10, and Tess is all "pfuh, the judges' votes don't count tonight anyway". Heh.

Our final couple is, of course, Louis and Flavia. Bruce reminds us that last week Flavia took Operation Glitterball nuclear by promising that Louis would do his showdance half-naked if they made the final. Coincidentally, they're wearing their salsa clothes. Their Dirty Dancing-themed salsa. So Louis has Dirty Dancing and shirtlessness in his corner tonight, and I take my hat off to both of them for playing this game impeccably, because they have secured an awful lot of hormone-votes with that combination tonight (and before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I'm not suggesting for a second that it'll only be female hormones that are affected. Louis is, lest we forget, a "gay icon" *rolls eyes*). Louis thinks his semi-final was "a tough week", and he thought he'd blown it after that jive - which was, let's be honest, an absolute trainwreck, but when we get to the point of semi-finals, I doubt that many people are voting for individual dances any more. Louis and Flavia arrive at the Sparkle Panel, where Bruno tells them he wants to see their salsa. Len reminds them that he wasn't hugely impressed with it last time, and he wants to see more of "that special flavour" in it this time. Keep on wishing, Len: we all know it's going to be eighty-five seconds of filler and then that bloody lift. Craig reminds them that they got eights from everyone apart from Len (who awarded it a six) last time, and at final standard they should be delivering nines and tens. Louis tells the judges he believes he can deliver more intensity this time.

Salsa. '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life'. Have I mentioned that Dirty Dancing is a bit rubbish? I have, haven't I? [You're still wrong.  But then I think it's perhaps the one thing that almost all women love but gay men just cannot get.  Not that it made me vote for Louis.  I voted for both Kimberley and Denise - Rad] Anyway, there's a bit more actual salsa in it this time around, but most people aren't really noticing the hips and the armography because they're all too busy remembering their sexual awakening. It's well danced, and it's not that I don't like Louis (as long as I don't think too deeply about that article I linked to in the previous paragraph), but at the same time, this feels deeply calculated and cynical to a degree that I suspect is frankly unnecessary. I don't know whether it's the producers or Flavia who should bear responsibility for that, so I'll just be moderately angry at both of them for a little while.

Another standing ovation, which of course Bruce won't let pass unnoticed. Darcey tells Louis this was "100 per cent better", because it wasn't safe (HA!), it wasn't controlled, and the armography was brilliant. Darcey liked the isolations, and thought "it was all happening". I bet it was. Len calls Flavia "flavulous" and says that she's completely changed the routine to include lots more salsa while keeping the essence of Dirty Dancing. He adds that last time Louis was like a budgie, this time he's like an eagle. Bruno tells Louis he's been hiding for so long, but it was worth waiting for him to unleash his A-game. Craig admits that he didn't really like the shoulder roll and pout Louis did before the big lift, and Louis does it again for Craig's benefit with some added pelvic thrusts, which is a bit of goodnatured sassing that I actually quite enjoyed. Oh, not like that. Get your minds out of the gutter.

They head up to the Tess Circle, where Louis does the shoulder roll one more time, this time with added eyebrow wiggling. Heh. Louis says that Flavia has worked wonders with him, and Tess says that Louis's mum is downstairs and went wild when the routine finished. Hang on: Flavia isn't Louis's mum? Blimey, I've been mistaken this whole series. Tess asks what they've got planned for the showdance, and Louis says that we've seen his flips before (fnar), but we've not seen the strength side of what he does, and Flavia hints that they've "saved the best for last" through gritted teeth. And by "best", she means "nipples". Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39.

Midway leaderboard:
1st: Denise & James (39)
1st: Kimberley & Pasha (39)
1st: Louis & Flavia (39)
4th: Dani & Vincent (36)

Coincidentally, it was around this time that Dani's odds of winning suddenly started crashing. I can't think why. Tess declares the phone lines officially "h'open" and runs through those all-important voting numbers again.

And now: it's showdance time! Tess pretends that this is a time to get really excited, even though my boyfriend and I worked out at this point that the last good showdances were in series five, and that ever since then even the most reliable of contestants (mentioning no names, Rachel Stevens and Kara Tointon) had turned out some real stinkers when it came to freestyling.

Up first are Denise and James. They're dancing to 'Flashdance (What A Feeling)' and Denise explains that they're going to put a lot into it to try to make it into the final three. We see them struggling to perfect the knee slide, as Denise pulls up her rehearsal-leggings and shows us all her war wounds from the competition as a whole, including a wicked-looking injury from the tango near her knee. And in case you were wondering, yes she does make the "Denise"/"de knees" joke. James has choreographed a bit of a greatest hits routine for them, with a bit of tango and a bit of salsa - specifically, the bit of the salsa that he forgot the first time around. Denise points out that as it's potentially(/likely) their last dance together, it needs to be the absolute best dance they can possibly do.

It's a real liftathon, with Denise starting by rolling up onto James's shoulders and he jerks her up, weightlifting-style. They do what I think is called a reverse trapeze lift, if I remember anything from recapping Dancing On Ice, and so far it's all very reminiscent of the infamous Snowdance, but with, as my boyfriend pointed out, the crucial difference of being performed by someone who is actually up to the task, because the lifts are very clean and well-executed. There are some endless spins (of course), some rather flat-looking tango, some more lifts, some more lifts, a floorspin, some more slightly strained-looking tango, some more lifts, and the splits. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of showdances that turn into an endless showcase of lifts, but I think that was one of the better ones we've seen for some years - it could've done with having a bit more of a coherent theme to it (I thought the tango section in the middle looked ridiculously out of place), but given that the biggest problem with the vast majority of showdances is that they're sloppy and underrehearsed, I think Denise actually nailed that one, so well done to her. She knows what's at stake tonight, and she delivered when it mattered most. I know people have called her a "pro" in a dig at her musical theatre background, but here I'm using it in a different sense: someone who just delivers exactly what she needs to at exactly the right time because failure isn't an option.

There's what feels like a genuinely spontaneous ovation after that, and James even sets himself apart from Denise to applaud her, Artem-style. There's a bit of confusion over who's speaking, but it's Len first: he says that if that dance was a game of poker, then Denise just went all-in. She had danger, attack, even some tango (Len must go to some very odd poker games - clearly Texas Hold'em means something very different where he comes from), and he thinks that dance justified what he always thought - Denise deserves to be in the final. Bruno calls it "vertiginous" and says that he doesn't think he's seen anyone outside of professional exhibition dancers pull off a routine like that before. Bruce snarks "I wonder what Mr 9 thought of that?" Frankly I think the joke is on this show for thinking a 9 is a substandard score. Craig thinks it was sensational and thinks she gave Hanna Karttunen (professional exhibition dancer and former Strictly pro) a run for her money. He can't believe what Denise's body did, and Denise jokes that she can't either - she's nearly 40! Darcey says that they could travel the world with that routine, and tells James that he made Denise look light as a feather and the whole thing look far too easy. James deadpans "it wasn't". Such a gent.

Up they go to the Tess Circle, knowing that they've done all they can, but hoping they peaked at the right time. Denise says it was scary, but she finally got the knack of the spinning lift on Thursday where before she'd been too scared to do it. She isn't sure if she's made the top three, but if this is her last dance, then she's happy with where she's leaving it. Scores: 10s all round for a perfect 40. Denise is flabbergasted, and James is very pleased with himself. He vanishes momentarily, and subsequently returns and explains that he "went to kiss Craig". Careful, James - I don't know what the rules are, but I suspect he can revoke that 10 if he wants to.

Next up are Dani and Vincent. Bruce reminds us once more that Dani started out "a shy, nervous little girl" (TWENTY-THREE. SHE IS TWENTY-THREE) before blossoming into a confident dancer. In the VT, Dani explains that her showdance is to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Ugh, that's her favourite song? I think I'd rather it had actually been Westlife. Dani reminds us that this is a very important time, determining whether she will make the top three or not. Vincent says they'll have to put everything they've got into it - and as a nifty little theme, he's going to include bits of paso doble and rumba because those are the only two dances he and Dani haven't done in this series. Okay, I quite like that approach. Of course, there are still LOTS AND LOTS OF LIFTS, because this is a showdance, and Dani is nervous because they haven't really done a lot of lifts so far. Dani swears that she trusts Vincent completely, so what could possibly go wrong?

Funny you should say that: here's Dani's rushed, under-rehearsed showdance. It's all a bit hesitant, delivered without any real conviction, and the lifts are unimpressive, particularly the one where she runs up to Vincent and wraps herself around his waist like a WWE championship title belt. Also, I realise it's difficult to condense 'Bohemian Rhapsody' down into 90 seconds, but the way it's been hacked apart to suit the various moods of the choreography is really distracting. Ultimately it's all just a bit of a confused, unstructured mess - not particularly egregious by showdance standards on this show, but since Denise actually did quite a good one and this has to follow it, the frayed threads around the sides are highly visible. It ends with Dani slumped on the floor, which is a rather handy visual metaphor for the entire routine.

Afterwards, Dani is verklempt and the audience are on their feet. Bruno calls it "ambitious" and "interesting", which is a warning sign - he felt her nerves, because the power was there but it wasn't quite as slick as Dani's usual standards. Craig thought the transitions in and out of the lifts were lumpy, but he really liked the content and how Dani danced it. Darcey thinks Dani has "it" and she can control "it", whatever "it" is. Len tells Dani that she has a huge talent for a small person, and the showdance was like an intoxicating dance cocktail. Now that he mentions it, it did look a bit like the sort of dancing I see people doing when they're hammered.

Up in the Tess Circle, Dani's all "YES I'M NERVOUS, DUH", and like Denise, she's happy with this as a last dance. Of course, she'd love to be back and make it into the top three, but "what will be will be". Speaking of which, here are the scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Yeah, she's boned.

Next we have Kimberley's hair and Pasha's eyebrows, both of whom are fighting for our attention. Kimberley interviews that Pasha has worked really hard to create a show-stopping showdance, and Pasha explains that it's a bit of salsa, a bit of a samba, a bit of cha cha cha and a lot of head rolls. They are, of course, dancing to 'Crazy In Love', and giggle adorably about how they are actually going a little bit crazy at this point. Then 'Something Kinda Ooooh' cues up on the soundtrack (man, I wish Kimberley had danced to a Girls Aloud song for her showdance - I bet Pasha could've done something amazing with 'Biology'). Pasha says that the lifts are going to be the difficult part, and Kimberley frets that if they work out, they'll look great, but if not...sloppy central.

I'm going to do something a little bit different for my recap of this dance, a sort of stream-of-consciousness based on what I remember of my reactions when I first saw it. So here goes:

"Okay, there's a giant paper hoop at the back of the set. Someone's going to come bursting through that in a minute. Oh, hang on, Kimberley and Pasha are both in front of it, so that's not going to happen for a while, then. Hmm, 'Crazy In Love'. Alesha's highly memorable cha cha cha routine. They've really got to work hard to overcome that ghost haunting the proceedings. Interesting pantsuit they've got Kimberley in - very Charlie's Angels. Makes her arse look huge, though. Ha, "It's your girl, Kimberley! It's your boy, Pasha!" Nice. Okay, this is very strutty. Actually this routine is mostly hair and pout. Not that I'm complaining, but I was expecting a little bit more. It's fine, but it's a bit fast and sloppy. Oh, okay, Kimberley's going behind the paper hoop so she's going to come bursting through that in a minute. Pasha's vamping for a bit, so maybe there's going to be a costume change? Oh, interesting: they're silhouetting Kimberley behind the screen and she's obviously got out of the pantsuit and now she's in a much more flattering and shorter frock. Now she's throwing her hair about some more and HOLY FUCK THE HOOP IS ON FIRE. THE HOOP IS ON FUCKING FIRE. THIS IS THE GREATEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. Okay, they can send everyone else home now because no matter what else happens, that is the showdance of the night for me. More shimmying. Some salsa. Some slightly awkward lifts. More hair. More hair. A drop into the splits. Okay, so 90% of the showdance was kind of sloppy and a mess but DID YOU SEE WHERE SHE WAS A SILHOUETTE AND THEN THE SET CAUGHT FIRE?"

Craig declares it "indecent, improper and absolute filth" - needless to say, he loved it. Darcey thinks Kimberley burned up the dancefloor with her wild spicyness, and she loved the pressage into the ponche lift. Although it was wild at times, she loved it like that. Len thinks it was Kimberley's greatest hits with all the party Latin routines (except her highest scores were in fusion, American smooth and charleston, so...). And Bruno hated it. LOL JUST KIDDING - it involved a sexy lady flinging herself around with wild abandon, I'm surprised Bruno's dance boner didn't knock the judges' desk over. "It's a hit!" he screams.

Tess encourages us to keep trying if the lines are busy, and asks Kimberley how it was to be on fire. Kimberley does a few more (slightly shamefaced) shimmies, and Tess outs Colin as the secret booty shaker in the Tess Circle. Once again I find myself disappointed that we don't have a Len's Lens this week. I think this demonstrates the obvious uselessness of Len's Lens, considering it's not around the one week it might have been able to show us something interesting. Kimberley says this was an amazing dance, but she doesn't want to think about the possibility that it might be her last one. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Kimberley shakes her boobs, and Pasha shakes his. Well, that's enough to convince me to vote.

Our final showdance comes from Louis and Flavia. Hmm, Louis is in a vest. This isn't what Flavia advertised. In their VT, Louis reveals that their showdance is to Take That's 'Rule The World' (oh well, at least it's not 'The Flood') and explains that their dance is rumba-themed, and they'll be really pushing the boat out. Flavia adds that Louis will "not be wearing very much, so hopefully the ladies will be happy." Such naked vote-grubbing, in a very literal sense. I love it. She thinks it's their last chance to show off Louis's skills. And by "skills", she means "nipples". Louis reiterates that it won't just be somersaults and flips, he wants to showcase the other side to gymnastics, which is strength and beauty. Louis says that their aim is to make people press the rewind button and watch it again and again and again, much as I did with the HOOP FIRE of Kimberley's showdance.

Okay, so there's a giant glitterball globe which Louis is using as an ersatz pommel horse. He is shirtless and wearing spandex trousers. Hey, I'm just reporting the facts here (sadly, for me, any benefits of the shirtlessness are immediately cancelled out by the exposure of the hideous tattoo on his back. I hate that shit). It's a lot of spindly posing with some rumba that segues into an Argentine tango midway through. A lot of it seems to be a Flavia showcase, to be honest, as Louis isn't required to do much for most of that. Then some lifts and a big balletic leap to finish. This is the sort of routine that's bound to be extremely divisive: clearly a lot of people will have found it breathtaking in its daring and artistry, and I'm not about to tell them they're wrong. Personally, though, I thought it was the sort of thing that would look like pretentious wank even on So You Think You Can Dance, the sort of thing I'd expect from Tyce Diorio. Also, I would've liked a bit more actual dancing from Louis rather than just lifting and/or framing Flavia. It wasn't bad, particularly, it's just not my cup of tea at all and so I was completely unmoved by it. [I utterly hated it.  So boring and not much "content" - Rad]
Bruce says that he hopes the Royal Ballet were looking in, because that could be Louis's future. Louis, very sensibly, realises that NostradamBruce once predicted that Alesha Dixon was going to be the British Beyoncé and ignores this comment as politely as he possibly can, which is about the best thing he could have done there. Darcey says that the performance had grace and fluidity and sensuousness. She thinks it was brave of Flavia to do a dance that was seamless and cool and calm. She loved the contemporary aspect to it. Bruce, never one to let an idea lie, asks Darcey if Louis is Royal Ballet material, and Darcey replies that Louis hasn't got a big enough instep. Bruce replies that he's got a big instep, and Darcey cackles. Despite the shaky start, she has kind of won me over this year. I think her judging still needs some work (mainly on the scoring side because she has a tendency to just chuck the same number of points at everyone regardless of performance, but her actual feedback has improved significantly) but as a personality, I'm really starting to enjoy Darcey. [Me too.  It was her getting drunk on Alan Carr/Graham Norton/whichever it was that did it for me - Rad] Len thought it was going to be "all gymnastics and flip-flops", but ultimately he enjoyed that element, as well as the Argentine tango and the rumba, but mainly he liked the weightlifting part. Len declares that if the show goes on for another 20 years (frankly, tonight's final is feeling a bit like it'll go on that long all by itself), he doubts they'll ever see such a magical showdance again. Bruno gets super-pervy about Louis finally revealing himself and nobody being disappointed. He thinks the routine was "creatively wonderful...deeply felt, extremely effective, and memorable." Finally, Craig adds two words "fab-u-lous" and "uh-may-zing". I think I smell a ten coming out from the left hand side.

Up in the Tess Circle, Louis mimes to Tess that he can't speak and Tess, with her typical tin ear for human expression, is all "you're overcome! So emotional!" and Louis points out that no, he just hasn't got a microphone on because he's half-naked. They soon work out a solution, though: he's just going to speak into Flavia's. Tess cracks that Louis "pulled out the big guns" tonight, and Louis says that they really tried to do something different and they weren't sure the judges would connect with it, but they did. Tess asks how much he wants to win, and Louis is typically sanguine about it, in a "I'd love to win, but I'd also love a turkey sub if anyone's offering" sort of way. A lot of people were down on him for "acting like he doesn't want it", but I think it always helps in these hyperbole-drenched finales to have someone around who appreciates that this is, ultimately, just a televised popularity contest with a bit of dancing thrown in and none of it really matters. Scores are in: tens all round for a perfect 40. Louis declares that even if they don't win now, that's good enough for him.

Updated leaderboard:
1st: Denise & James (79)
1st: Louis & Flavia (79)
3rd: Kimberley & Pasha (78)
4th: Dani & Vincent (71)

Tess reminds us that the judges' scores are totally irrelevant tonight, and that the votes will be frozen at some point during Merlin, then when we return for the results show, one couple will finish in fourth place. And while I came into the show utterly convinced that couple would be Denise and James, and I'm sure I wasn't alone in that, it now seems more likely that it'll be Dani and Vincent. The recap of the evening's performances seems to back this up, as they're the only couple who didn't really have A Moment with either of their routines.

As is customary at this point, we get some sepia-tinted highlights as the contestants look back on their time on the show: Kimberley says that it was her first time putting herself out there to be judged by herself without the girls (except arguably when she went into the West End to do Shrek: The Musical) and now the glitterball is so close. Dani never thought she'd be on the show let alone in the final, and winning would be overwhelming. Louis doesn't want to fall short, because anyone could win, but he hopes it's him. Denise thinks that winning would be the best thank you she could give to James for teaching her something she never thought she could learn. Oh, just buy him a Boofle and a box of Celebrations like everyone else, love. Dani says it would be nice for Vincent to win as he's never picked up the glitterball. Yes, and neither has Flavia, Pasha or James. Try again, dear. Louis says he's got Flavia a Christmas present, but a glitterball would beat it. Is it pyjamas? It's pyjamas, isn't it? Finally, Kimberley says that winning would be the biggest achievement of her whole life. Even more so than when she made a documentary about jeans for Sky1.

That's it - we're having a break, and when we return someone is getting kicked out. Thanks for your patience, as I know it's taken longer than usual to get this recap up (largely because it fell so very close to Christmas and Rad and I both had rather a lot of festive responsibilities to attend to) - hopefully the Results won't be too far behind.