Sunday, 27 November 2016

Well, how are we all after last week's seaside stormer? Have we all recovered from the shock of losing poor Greg? I'm not entirely sure that I have - but it's onwards and upwards now. Well, onwards towards Christmas, anyway. Only four weeks to go. Four! I don't know about you but I've already started panic buying the prosecco mince pies and Babycham. The sprouts are on a low light ready for The Big Day and I've set a date to start plucking me poultry. (Oi, none of that!)

But before all that festive nonsense we still have a few more weeks of Strictly. A few more weeks of whittling down the crew to the final few. Who is your money on?Are you sure it will be the same person after this weekend?

Bearing in mind this is the first time Ed Balls has been in (week) Number 10 in a while, how did it all go on the night?

Danny Mac opened the show with a stunning, sensational samba to Magalenha by Sergio Mendes (he's on my Christmas list, honest). Wow. This was, to quote Craig, A-MA-ZING! Such a different dance! Oti had choreographed another corker - an African / Creole mix of flavours with a deep tribal core running through it. From a slow, measured start the dance built in speed and rhythm to its climax. Danny showed extraordinary hip isolation and rotation and used his whole body in an expressive, fluid dance that was a joy to watch. There was terrific armography sections and the tone was steamy, sexy and fun. Again, the timing and togetherness were spot on and the energy never flagged. Danny's dance got Len hot under the collar, Bruno went bananas, Darcey was dotty and even Craig went crackers. Another 40 out of 40 for Danny, the highest ever scoring samba in the history of Strictly - a fact that had Oti in tears.

Ore Oduba followed this with another different take on a Paso Doble to Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Lorde. Lorde? I remember when it was Tears For Fears. Anyway, the dramatic arrangement of this number really suited the dance that was darker in tone than we've seen before. Starting off on what looked like an air hockey table, Ore soon got into the swing of the routine with some very nice moves. He had nice lines (for me a little too nice - I like a powerful paso, myself) and was very fluid. There was a hint of attack and aggression, but this routine looked more like he was stalking partner Joanne than seducing her. Ore lost some footing and steps in the middle and you could tell at the end he was disappointed with his mess up. The judges still enjoyed it, though, and appreciated the modern take on a traditional dance. Ore scored 36 out of 40.

I had another Lookee Likee revelation this week. Well, Soundalikee. Joanne Clifton is a dead (sound) ringer for comic creation Philomena Cunk. There's actually a bit of a physical resemblance as well, come to think of it. So now Joanne is Philomena Clifton in our house. Or maybe Joanne Cunk?

Cunklifton Confusion. This week's spot the difference!

Anyway, I digress. Again. Louise Redknapp was next to the floor with a wonderful waltz to At This Moment by Michael Buble. Louise admitted at the start of the training video that she wasn't a romantic sort, so they brought in hubby Jamie to try and get her in the mood. Well, that was a mistake. Bringing in her husband? After so many years watching them pick out belly-button fluff and having to wash their scraggy undies the last mood you usually get with your other half is romance (sorry, HOTH). Where was I? Oh, yes. dancing. Once again Louise had upped her game and coped with this dance with style, grace and aplomb. She had beautiful footwork and swept across the floor. There was great frame and shaping and Clever Clifton #2 had developed a dance with light and shade, power and presence. Louise has natural musicality and it shone through in this routine. Fabulous finger turns near the end capped a dance that had been full of content and had been eminently watchable, even for waltz-naysayer HOTH. Louise scored 39 out of 40.

Judge Rinder came next dancing a rueful rumba Lean On Me by Bill Withers. Which reminds me of that old joke. How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? Shove him in a microwave until his Bill Withers. No? Oh well, there's no pleasing some people. That joke was actually better than the Judge's outing this week. I'm sorry, but this definitely wasn't his dance. Oksana had choreographed a teacher / pupil story which kind of put an end to the romance and seduction mood that's supposed to run through a rumba. Mr Rinder had some good wiggle through the hips and fluidity in his arms, but he leaned far too far back and that ruined the graceful lines. He looked uncomfortable and unnatural throughout this dance and there were some awkward pauses. The dance was difficult and he was moved by the moves. Sadly, the panel weren't and he scored just 29 out of 40 this week.

Ed Balls brought us a tiresome tango to (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones (I know the feeling, watching Ed dance). Why does Ed always get to dance near the end? Is is because the audience is nicely drunk warmed up and likely to vote in droves by now? In this dance Ed was portraying a male model. Which wasn't good after I'd just eaten a lovely meal. The routine was 'comedy' strewn again but it didn't really work this time. Ed spent more time posing, pouting and staring down the camera than he did doing any actual dancing. Katya did all the 'look at me' distraction showy moves while Ed pranced like a pillock with a rose in his gob. Banana hands, weak feet, no frame and no power from Ed spoiled what could have been a decent dance. There was plenty of content and some good ideas, but he couldn't seem to pull them off. I don't know about moves like Jagger, Ed looked more like Keith on chems. The judges weren't impressed either and seemed to have lost patience. 23 out of 40 for Ed.

Claudia Fragapane closed the show with an Argentine (or should that be AJtine / AJteen) Tango to Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake. This was a fierce dance, full of focus, intent and attack. Claudia was on point with beautiful shaping, frame and character and AJ had put together yet another different take on an original. There were some extraordinarily difficult and technical lifts - all of which Claudia pulled off with grace and ease. She may have spent more time off the floor than on, but when she was on the floor she had great footwork and technique. The ganchos and ochos were slow and tight instead of the trademark quick flicks we normally see, which was picked up by the judges. Even so, Claudia did a turn through one of the ganchos which apparently an extremely difficult move even professional dancers struggle with. A dramatic, powerful, controlled dance that scored 36 out of 40.

As if that wasn't enough we had the huge treat that was the Cha-Cha-Challenge! All six couples took to the floor in a winner-takes-all dance off against each other. This was an important part of the night. The extra points earned from the judges' scores for this dance would be added to those from the main dance. It could make a huge difference the the leaderboard (like that's mattered these last few weeks).

This was the crazy part of the show. So many rules! Couples had to keep moving, there had to be plenty of cha-cha content, there was to be no partner-swapping (although there was a change of position on the dance floor halfway through) and no improv in the steps. Even more challenging -  the couples were said to have never heard the music, let alone worked out any choreography for it. The dancing duos strutted their stuff around the floor and tried to look like they knew what they were doing. Danny was very watchable, Kevin talked Louise through it all, Ore was okay,  Claudia was a little clunky, Judge Rinder just about avoided em-barrister-ment and Ed made a....well, let's just say he wasn't the best on the floor. The judges pretended to seemed to argue amongst themselves as decided who was getting what score and Craig played along pretending that they hadn't been in full agreement. But at the end of the dance:

Louise was judges' favourite scoring 6 points
Danny was second, scoring 5 points
Ore was third and got 4 points
Claudia was fourth and got 3 points
Judge Rinder was fifth and scored 2 points
Ed Balls was last and scored just one point.

This left the leaderboard looking like this - Danny Mac and Louise Redknapp at the top, Ed Balls propping it all up.

We all know what comes next. I won't pretend it happened on Sunday if you don't. The viewer votes had been added to the judges' scores. (Does that mean Ed gets something like 90,023? That'd be weird. I mean, it's weird he gets scores like that anyway, but you know what I'm getting at.) Someone in the gallery was whispering the results into Tess Daly's ear as she was reading the autocue. No wonder she always has a look of panicked bafflement. Media multitasking - for me that means listening to Ed Sheeran while playing Candy Crush. Soon Tess would be revealing all to the agog audience (WHAT have I said? Get to the back. Go on, off you go. Cor, there's always one).

While we were waiting for the results the auditory equivalent of blancmange Ellie Goulding subjected treated us to her latest musical rendering,  Still Falling For You. I'm sorry. That was mean of me. I'm sure lots of people like Ellie. She sells lots of records, downloads, upstreams or what have you. She's just not quite my bag, as it were. She's too...twinkly and......nice and.........boring. Mind you, it's not like I'm expecting Metallica doing a slot any time soon - although after Glasto the other year, you never know. I can see Brendan and Natalie doing a lovely Viennese waltz to Nothing Else Matters (I told you I invest far too much time thinking about Strictly).

Mr Goodman had a gander through his lens again, nit-picking and bum-licking his way through the celebs' routines and explaining to us sofa-samba-ers, us couch cha-cha-cha-ers, us pouffe-paso-doble-ers (I'm running out of ideas here) what was good and what was grotty. He even got his hanky out for a wave around at one point.

And then it was time. Had the cha-cha-challenge make any difference to the decision? Had it bum-cheeks! Everyone else was in the same place. And it wasn't much of a surprise who was bottom of the viewer votes.  The two celebrities in the dance off this week were.....

Judge Rinder and Ed Balls. FINALLY!!! The viewers seemed to have got the idea of the competition and voted with their heads instead of their hearts (or funnybones). As much as I love Robert Rinder, he did deserve to be in the bottom two this week. As for Ed - he should have been here a long time ago. At least we can assure ourselves that the dancer who went this week was one who should have gone instead of one that can actually dance. It feels a bit strange, not having a rant this week.

Unfortunately, of course, this meant we had to sit through Ed's dance again - even though Craig admitted to secretly really enjoying his performances and being chagrined that he had to score him as a judge and not a fan. Flipping good job, really!

Poor Judge Rinder looked like he wanted to be sick before he took to the floor, Ed looked quietly confident. But then again, he always does. Judge seemed to get into the character more the second time around and took the panel's advice on board about making more of a connection with Oksana - he didn't lean back as far this time, either. Ed went guts and glory, poop or bust. It didn't improve the technique any and he actually seemed to make a couple of mistakes in this offering.

Once again the judges had to decide who to call time on. After some - but, let's face it not much - deliberation ED was finally, and rightfully, booted off the show. Now we have at last whittled the numbers down to those who can actually bust a move and get with the title of the show. Strictly Come Dancing - not Strictly Get The Viewer Sympathy Vote Because Although I'm Actually Crap I Look Like I'm Trying, I'm a Bit Amusing And Britain Loves An Underdog. I mean, that'd be too much of a mouthful for starters, never mind the cost of ink in printing the bloody tickets. So, yay. Hooray, in fact. Ed has reverted to his MP (Minor Personality) status, has lost out on a vote and gone. I'm definitely not breaking out the celebratory gin. Oh no, sir, not me.

And there we are. Six becomes five as we hurtle on a week closer to the final. One week closer to Christmas. Quick, HOTH, give the sprouts a poke! I'm just nipping off to give my pudding a stir.

Until next week, everyone........KEEP DANCING!!!! And just to keep us on our toes - and probably someone read my moan last week that there's nothing special after Blackpool - next week is going to be MUSICAL WEEK. That should be a whole heap of fun. Imagine the puns I can shoehorn think up for that.

Oh, and as a special treat, here's a preview of the costumes HOTH and I have decided on if ever we take up dancing. Enjoy!

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