Good evening everyone. Let's talk about ballroom! Which was the working title of Salt 'n' Pepa's 1991 hit until the record company said, 'Look, girls, you know I love you. But how's about we make this less about ballroom and more about... I don't know... sex, maybe?'
Like Kate, I much prefer Zoe's dress to Tess's. When we're eventually asked to host the show (I'm thinking early December, at the latest), this could potentially result in some awkward wardrobe-related arguments, but for now we are as one.
So… then there were 10.
There are still 10 (ten) – 10! – couples. No time to waste then... It's Pre-Blackpool Gratuitous Friends And Relations Week But Wait Isn't That Every Week Yes Pretty Much It Is!
Reporting first to the ballroom are Simon and Kristina and they're dancing the quickstep. Simon's look of Total Shock when he was saved from elimination last Sunday night was one of my highlights of the week. When you consider that last week also included Firework Night and the discovery of Hotel Chocolat's Super Milk innovation, this is a Massive Deal. In a bold and early attempt to win the highly competitive category of Best Relative, Simon introduces us to his mum who works in a community centre and is full of lovely mum advice. What is that thing thrown down there on the floor? It is like a glove, but slightly more old-fashioned. Anyway, mostly this week, my half of the programme feels like being rolled around in marshmallows and syrup and other sickly stuff that coincidentally comprises half the ingredients for rice krispie squares. By refreshing contrast, Simon and Kristina's dance is light and fresh and joyful. In addition, Simon gets to use some of the faces he learn for his triumphant Charleston. And some of the steps too. Recycling is such an instinctive part of our lives these days.
Afterwards, Tess immediately remarks on their standing ovation ('They're on their feet') and then calls Simon 'my love'. Did Bruce ever actually leave? I increasingly believe the real Tess is locked in a broom cupboard in the now-disused TV Centre and an animatronic model has been installed in her place, which Bruce is operating via remote control from the lounge of a very high-end golf club.
A 9 from both from Darcy and Len sees more Shocked And Amazed faces from Simon. This is emerging as a key skill for him, which he must be able to utilise post-Strictly. I don't know how. I can't breathe for you, Simon.
Let's move on. After last week's wig atrocity, Pasha restores his image by being all adorable with Caroline's nieces in their VT. This blog has a problem being stirred by Caroline and Pasha's routines, and a waltz to a cheesy old smoocher like Three Times A Lady needs to go some to change that. It doesn't. Although it's beautiful and softly romantic and marshmallows and melted butter and toffees and a lot of YEARNING faces. Oh, the YEARNING. It's a fist of pure emotion, if not two, or, in fact four, but the judges are pissy about the technicalities and the rise and fall is not so much. Oh Pasha, remember the personality of your quickstep with Chelseeeeee Healey? THE WORLD NEEDS IT NOW. What the world also needs now is love, sweet love, which you could have danced your waltz to, although someone has definitely done it before and Kate would be able to tell you who because she is the Strictly Rainman Megabrain. Unfortunately I am here instead.
Sunetra and Brendan are doing the foxtrot, and Sunetra has a lovely new fringe. Some of her friends from Casualty come and visit her in training, including losing series 3 finalist Colin Jackson's sister. You can quite clearly hear her say 'NO PUPPETS' in the background to Brendan at one point. S&B seem to have been inspired by Caroline and Pasha's romantic, beautiful, technically flawed performance and decide to follow suit. Not even Sunetra's Arms Of Illusion can weave a spell to conceal the blunders. At points, you can actually see Brendan manhandling her into position. Remember what Colin Jackson's sister said, Brendan? NO PUPPETS. It's a missed opportunity to storm the leader board in a week when Caroline and Frankie are off-form. Still, many people are voting for these two. I just don't know any of them.
Mark and Karen also get the waltz, and for the kind of tenuous reasons that are Strictly's speciality, they go and visit Mark's brother who plays football for Leyton Orient. Back in the studio, Mark is wearing a truly hideous pale-grey cropped tail suit abhorration. Seriously, Mark, you are getting the shitty end of the costume stick. Gregg Wallace had better costumes than this. As Mark and Karen schmaltz their way around the floor, autumn leaves fall from the ceiling. I think they're leaves anyway. They might be the rice krispies you need to complete your Strictly Rice Krispie Cakes recipe. Sorry, that seemed like a good idea when I started it. Anyway, technically Mark is really getting it together, and, of course, he emotes all over the shop. A DVD will surely come out of this. Emote With Mark Wright. Mark Wright's Emotacise! Disarm friends and colleagues with your totally natural tears! Make every day feel like a dream!
Now then. The perpetually underwhelming (to me, at least) Pixie and Trent are foxtrotting to When I'm 64. I was thinking about this song earlier in the week, and remembering how various members of my family would play it on the piano when I was small. I make us sound like the Von Trapps - we are very much not, but if we were, I would be Brigitta. It was in a songbook with lots of much older standards, and I was thinking how it has moved beyond pop music, and feels like it's existed forever. It says home and family to me, and I think that's a big part of why I am crazy in love with Pixie and Trent's routine tonight.
I know, I can't believe it either.
Also, in their VT, they visit the Rivoli Ballroom, aka one of the best places ever, and people can carry on being snobby about South London forever if it means they stay away and leave it just for us.
Anyway, Pixie and Trent's domestic, old-fashioned foxtrot is witty and balletic and theatrical (are you watching, Pasha? or are you just trying on ugly wigs backstage?), but not in the freaky way of Jennifer's Mamma Mia! tribute. They nearly ruin it with one of the worst endings ever. One chucking a bucket of fabric and glitter over the other an uncomfortable amount of time after the music has ended is total self-sabotage, as far as I am concerned. What is this, Billy Smart's Strictly Circus? (And if that ever happens, I demand a cut.) Unlike last week, I love Pixie's hair and outfit and the styling and.. look, I loved it, OK?
I also love the bit post-scores when Zoe asks Pixie how old she is, and she has to think quite hard before answering.
Come results time, it's a tragedy for Alison and Aljaz to leave - not just for their contribution to VTs, but also because they staged a dance-off WITHIN THEIR OWN ROUTINE, and did one of the best ever leaving dances, and are also just flat-out adorable with each other. But, with the exception of Judy, and possibly Steve, everyone who's left in is a better dancer than Alison. The fun, though. Oh, the fun.
Meanwhile, Judy marches on to Blackpool. See you there. And by there, I mean at home in front of the TV with a bag of peanut M&Ms and the cringe threshold set to high.