Hello, and a warm welcome to the second part of Oh OK Then Maybe Blackpool Is Kind Of As Amazing As They Always Go On About Week. Like Adam Gemini to her Richard Kilty, I have taken the baton from Kate and am sprinting towards the finish at high speed with quite a lot of strain showing in my face (niche athletics reference).
It's been a crackerjack first half for KateTF. Amazing pre-pro-dance VT! Amazing pro-dance apart from the small child singing! Amazing Jake and Jeanette! Amazing Simon and Kristina! Really pretty good Frankie and Kevin!
My half starts with Anton and Judy. OK then. And um-diddle-diddle-diddle um-diddle-aye, they are channelling Mary Poppins. This isn't a big leap for me. Judy seems to be cut from just the same twinkly-eyed, firm-but-fair-but-mostly-firm cloth as La Poppins. It's not hard to imagine her pouring a dose of magic potion for the young Andy and Jamie in their stripey PJs ('People who hit tennis balls through greenhouse windows must learn to take their medicine!') before pouring some for herself ('RUM PUNCH!').
The first thing we learn from J&A's Viennese waltz is that kites are a lot easier to control than dalmatians, which is worth remembering if you have a medium-sized windfall and are wondering what to spend it on.
Relatively speaking, this a triumph. Judy manages something that can unequivocally be called dancing. There is a moderately successful period of twirling, even if the overall impression is that Anton has grabbed someone else's relative to dance with at a wedding and that relative is trying to pretend she is totally cool with it, despite her every physical inclination to the contrary.
I laugh out loud at Bruno's reference to 'Mary Sloppins'. I do. Sorry. The judges perform their tried-and-tested method of finally eliminating the weak but popular contestant by moderating their criticism, laying on the 'your best dance yet' sucky-up, and ludicrously overmarking to dissuade people from feeling the need to vote. Oh, judges, truly you have bamboozled the public again with your wily psychological mind-magic. Time to write a popular science book just in time for Christmas (A Tango For Our Time: The Public-Vote Paradox or Why We're All Dancing To The Wrong Rhythm).
It's been a jolly holiday with Judy, that is for sure, but the penguins have served their last beverage (if no one dances with live penguins in the Christmas special, I am going to KICK RIGHT OFF, penguins are so hot right now), and it's the right time for her exit. All future contestants who are rubbish but beloved would to do well to mark her sense of humour and self-knowledge.
Mad props to Mark Wright for producing a cousin who does magic to match the theme of his routine. In the Tower Ballroom, the backdrop is lit up with the words 'Magic Mark's Circus'. Roll up! Roll up! You will believe a man has 428 close family members who are available to pop into rehearsals at literally any time and perform any random physical speciality you can think of!
Now then. Regular readers will know that I am emphatically a Mark Wright sympathiser. However. This Charleston is kind of a bust for me, no matter how well Mark executes it. For starters, the Karen-in-a-box shenanigans go on far too long. Secondly, I do not like the choreography. Third, I hate the music. Fourth, it seems pedestrian. That's about the size of it. None of these have anything to do with Mark. Karen, you can stay right there in the box, as far as I'm concerned. Still, great swivel from Mark (one of Mark's seven grandfathers was a professional swiveller during the war). Mark kisses Craig, aka Strictly cliche #547.
It's almost like the BBC don't know what to do to make us fall in love with Pixie and Trent. (My friend Beth loves them, so I know it's not impossible, but I am really struggling.) This week the show's bosses use their training VT to demonstrate their love of animals. The British public loves animals so it can't fail, right? Pixie loves donkey rides. She loves them sooooo much! Please can she ride on a donkey? It's played out slightly like a John Lewis advert, which the British public also loves, but only proves that donkeys are cute, but not as much as penguins. I remain unmoved. Back in the ballroom, it's Paso Doble: Beyond The Thunderdome. Austin Healey wishes he had a fraction of this focus and aggression. It's utterly flawless to my untrained eye, but all a little prog for me and I watch it in a passive state, having whooped out loud for both Jake and Simon earlier in the evening.
There follows an excruciating rehearsed Spartacus gag. Oh Strictly.
Steve and Ola are dancing the American Smooth. Their Token Distracting Backing Dancers are wafting long bands of fabric across in the floor in the manner of a primary school play attempting to portray the sea. Blackpool is, of course, by the sea so this makes perfect sense and is definitely not weird and unnecessary at all. Their dance seems rather old-fashioned next to the narrative of Jake and Jeanette's, but lacks the finesse of Sunetra and Brendan's early old-fashioned glory days. Still it's classy and has MEGA LIFTS. Craig says the dance lacked flair, and I concur. Steve's not a natural dancer and has had some confidence knocks lately, and Ola's heart doesn't seem to be in it these days, and this is what you get. It can only be time for Ola to DEPLOY THE CATSUIT. Or for Steve to get his top off. That or he has to ask the advice of the coterie of woodland animals who live in his garden and are his closest friends and confidantes – specifically a female deer who is shy but kind, a garrulous woodpecker who talks too much but always has Steve's back, and a fox who, in contrast to the popular stereotype, is well-meaning but extremely stupid.
I feel quite strongly that Steve should be practising his dance-off face for next week.
At our Book Club this week, a friend of mine remarked mournfully that Pasha In His Silver Trousers was gifted to us far too early in the series, and we may never witness that kind of majesty again. Still, this week's soldier costume is kind of working for me. He and Caroline are dancing the jive, so please, god, grant us a tiny shred of magic and/or panache. It doesn't start too well with the 90s Geri Halliwell styling, and the 'Dude, where's my bearskin?' lolz. Also, Caroline looks unnervingly like Janine off EastEnders. But still, most boxes are ticked and more of this please, Caroline and Pasha.
Now, barring Shock Return Week (I wouldn't rule it out), we can say that Anton and Judy definitely won't win. But who will? For me, it's between Frankie, Jake and Mark. And Pixie. And Simon. And Caroline. Anything could happen! See you next week!