'It's semi-final week,' KateF says to me. 'How will we play it? Shall we split it by Latin and ballroom, then we both get to cover each couple?'
'Sure,' I say, as KateF is full of this kind of good sense.
'So which do you want?' she says. 'Because the Latin has two rumbas and therefore is basically DEATH.' [That last bit is a direct quote. I admit I paraphrased the rest.]
My aversion to the rumba is no secret, but remembering how Kate courageously confronted her difficult feelings around Pixie and Trent earlier in the series, something changed inside me. In my head, stirring music started to play – it might have been Hero by Mariah Carey, it might not – and my choice was made.
'I'll do it,' I said to Kate. Actually, I typed it. She lives in New York, and I'm on a budget. 'I'll do the Latin. I will look those rumbas in the eye and I will not flinch and I will not say 'Urgh, gross.'
Let's see how that goes.
But first, we have a cha-cha from Jeanette and Jake. Last week, Jake proudly announced that he had been given the week off by EastEnders so he could concentrate on learning tonight's double-dance throw-down. 'God,' thought Mark Wright, 'that guy! What I wouldn't give for that kind of down time. If only I wasn't so INCREDIBLY BUSY.' Well, let's hope Take Me Out: The Gossip survives the week, Mark, because on Jake's evidence tonight, more down time = more frown time in front of the judges.
Jake's glitzy cha cha is set in a classic British boozer but misses the chance to incorporate a quiz and some live darts (maybe that was the plan for their show dance). They're using the solid-gold soundtrack of Boogie Shoes and this whole thing should be a home run for Jake and his bloody hips, but it turns out he's using the wrong sort of hips, and it's all rather underwhelming. Jake has been all about the overwhelming this series – if not always in a good way. He doesn't have this dance in his usual slightly over-aggressive stranglehold, and in keeping with the pub theming, it's a little untidy and haphazard, as if he's dancing it at a lock-in after a generous drinks promotion.
Next up, it's Rumba No 1, which is not the same as the great lost Lou Bega album of the same name. And it's Frankie and Kevin and a whole Rimmel counter of dinky dolly blusher. Regular viewers – and Kevin watchers in particular – will be surprised to learn that he reinvents the rumba as nihilistic performance art where the relationship between sex and death is twisted and tightened into utter blackness.
OK. Not that. It's cute, romantic and probably the least erotic rumba ever. Which, of course, means that a) it's not really a true representation of the genre and b) I actually quite like it, in the same way that I like meringues or Winnie The Pooh. It's inventive and unusual, although I can't bear Kevin's innocent simpleton face or the way he drags Frankie towards the Christmas tree by the ankle. She, however, plays it perfectly, especially the part when her ickle dolly legs fail her, and she drops to the ground.
OK, let's not plan the party yet, but it's possible I'm quite liking a rumba. There can be miracles! If you believe!
Despite mixed reviews for the dancing, Frankie's pink princess dress is enough to have little girls all over the land begging their parents for use of the phone. Well done, Kevin. You are a conniving genius who has had us all fooled.
Now it's time for Simon and Kristina and the samba, which is Notoriously Hard, as any celebrity who has attempted the Notoriously Hard Samba will know. And sure enough, there's trouble for Simon from the start, as he has been forced into the most disgusting pair of trousers the world has ever seen (I include Kevin's beloved red trousers in this, of course), and I am wholly attributing all the mistakes he makes to his revulsion at having to wear the Brown Samba Slacks Of Despair. Trousers aside, the whole routine is all kinds of demented, as the pair jiggle in front of a lot of plastic foliage and a Fisher Price Jungle Lullaby frieze of moving animals (animals that move, not animals that make you sad, although sometimes animals do make me really sad, especially donkeys). At one point, they are just swinging their arms wildly, in a way that reminds me of the Rainbow Rhythms dance class scene in Peep Show. I suspect the whole debacle secures Simon a solid sympathy vote before crowning himself the comeback kid with his foxtrot in round 2. He is also boosted by the presence of Duncan and Lee From Blue, both in the studio and in the training VT (if you were worried about Antony, don't be. He's having a totally brilliant time doing panto in Southsea, where I once travelled to see Blake from Home & Away in Aladdin. Blake from Home & Away was quite a big deal in 1992).
And now I face down the rumba again, this time with Mark and Karen. And despite my positive start, it's not ideal to find yourself saying out loud 'Oh god, oh god, oh god' before the dancing has actually started.
So the post-coital cornfield opening takes me off-guard, but I don't totally hate it after this point. Of course, the reason for that is a lack of rumba content, for which Karen is castigated, causing Kevin to shake his head angrily at the judges, AKA the least menacing thing ever. Mark doesn't actually do a huge amount, this is true, but it certainly has the gropey-snog-in-the-corner-of-a-nightclub-executed-with-the-intensity-of-the-utterly-shitfaced feel of what I have come to understand as a true rumba. And it has lots of the familiar non-sequitous dance moves, specifically: uncomfortably wide-legged balance (Mark), sitting down on the floor for no apparent reason (Karen), sleazy rubbing of limbs (Mark on Karen), being dragged around in the semi-splits (Karen, by Mark). Props to Mr Earnest, though, for carrying it off better than I could ever have thought. My involuntary physical reaction was definitely wince, rather than, say, shudder or gag. Still, maybe cancel my 'Well Done You Now Like The Rumba' cake.
Which brings us to Caroline and Pasha's all-conquering salsa, which I'm not quite as mad for as the rest of the world. There seems to be some nebulous concept of perfectly imperfect that the judges are embracing that I do not totally understand. It doesn't seem entirely joined up, and I don't really like the look of Pasha when he's dancing a salsa. YES, I SAID IT. I DISSED PRINCE PASH-PASH. SUE ME, ALL OF YOU. Still, I just believe Caroline when she's dancing, in a way I didn't with, say, Pixie.
In the results show, Kevin does an even more undignified shout of triumph than last week and starts crying when Karen is saved in the dance-off. Or maybe he just realises he's forgotten to put his red trousers on. Jake and his angry dance faces are dispatched, and it's now Caroline's to throw away, isn't it? Well, maybe not if you've seen their show-dance music.
Join us for the final, which is actually less than 48 hours away because I am so incredibly late posting this. Forgive me, I'm sorry. A bientot!