Hello Strictly fanciers, how have you been? Have you spent the last seven days entertaining disturbingly vivid fantasies about the increasing attractiveness of Robbie Savage? No, neither have I. Absolutely not. Definitely. Not.
The first thing to note about this week's show is that Chris de Burgh is in the audience, sitting next to Ann Widdecombe. Oh wait. No, it's actually Gary Speed. Sorry about that, Gary.
Also, Tess's dress. Just that, really. Tess's dress.
Dancing first are Jason and Kristina. Those who were entranced by Jason's game face last week during the tango will be drooling into their takeaways at the prospect of his paso. Yet not even talking to himself in the third person during training, nor wearing a false moustache, can summon up a convincing matador, which is extraordinary as I believe that's normally how it works. There are still Faces, of course – there will always be Faces – but everything seems fumbly and unsure. Jason even looks pained in places. Perhaps all the synthetic fabrics he's wearing are creating an unbearable amount of static sparks in the groin area. Still, it's obviously good for the show that Jason is no longer ruling the roost at the top of the leaderboard week after week like an intimidating but incredibly earnest hen.
Dave Arch is playing the guitar! He's so versatile! He really is so much more than just a baton and headphones.
Alex Jones and James Jordan are dancing the rumba, which regular readers will know is my Strictly Kryptonite, if I'm using the word correctly, which is unlikely. One of my sofa companions quite correctly describes it as 'an embarrassment of a dance'. In rehearsals, James tells Alex he needs to see sexy. The wardrobe department have tried to help her with this by channelling Cher in the If I Could Turn Back Time video, but sadly Alex doesn't have a deck full of sailors to get excited about. She has James. Good luck, Alex. At the start of the routine, they are basically copying Torvill & Dean's bolero. And they're not even on ice, so what's cool (quite literally cool, heh) about that? Then, later, there is floor-rolling. Floor-rolling is not dancing. It is floor-rolling. Any idiot knows this. Alex does OK, but her hips need oiling. James once again tries to display his 'personality' by getting chippy with the judges. Alex just looks embarrassed, like her husband's got really drunk at a dinner party and has started to tell everyone just what he thinks of them.
After his ballroom triumph last week, Rory Bremner is doing the cha-cha this week. Hmm. The conversation at Miss R's, where I watch the show, goes something like this: 'Oh dear. He's... oh no... oh.. please don't. Oh god. He's actually in quite good shape though, isn't he? OH NO PLEASE STOP.' Rory was clearly struggling in training, so props to Erin for not turning this into a comedy cha-cha where Rory dances as Julian Clary or similar, because, in case you missed this part, Rory can do impressions. Alesha says Rory's work ethic is brilliant, which is a pretty damning thing to say about someone's dancing.
Audley and Natalie dance a sweet foxtrot. With all the aggro that goes on during this week's show, tonight I find myself warming to Audley, who's just muddling along with his ordinary marks and being all genial about it. He's almost certainly the only person who could genuinely intimidate the judges, but he'd rather just nod and smile.
It's Nancy and Anton time! At the start of the routine, Nancy is draped over Anton like a ragdoll. Maybe it actually is a ragdoll, and Anton has locked Nancy in a caretaker's cupboard, tying her up with a hoover flex, hoping no one will notice the difference. But no, soon enough 'Nancy' starts moving - so it's either genuinely her, or the BBC have really splashed out on the animatronics – and I have to avert my eyes, as is now traditional/necessary for my nervous well-being. Instead I watch my friends watching Nancy and Anton, observing them oscillate between sighs and winces at a remarkable frequency.
At the end, Bruce asks Anton if he's ever danced with a Nancy before. Even Anton, no stranger to a comment that's in questionable taste, looks dumbstruck.
Lulu and Brendan are doing the samba. We're slightly distracted from the dancing by an in-depth discussion about the thickness of Lulu's hair, and how attributable this is to good products. Their dance is notable for its gratuitous stair use. This is dramatic foreshadowing of a highly controversial incident later in the show. Who says Strictly is not as calculated and manipulative as The X Factor? Anyway, in samba-land I have no idea which bits are going right and which are going wrong but everyone seems to have a lovely time. During their judging, James Jordan shouts heckles from the balcony like a mad tramp who cuts his own hair. This, I've realised, is an excellent explanation for James's rear-mohawk.
Holly and Artem are dancing the Viennese waltz. The props department have been buying thriftily, clearly scoring a three-for-one on wobbly plastic lampposts. Their waltz is nice enough, which is as much as I can usually find to say about a waltz, especially the Viennese. I'm warming to Holly, especially after she mocks Artem's habit of self-flagellation.
Chelsee and Pasha get one of my very favourite dances. It's a cheeky airline-themed quickstep and it's totally brilliant! Why don't all quicksteps have a cheeky airline theme? Why don't all airlines have a cheeky quickstep theme? The quickstep is famously one of the fastest dances, which perfectly suits the budget-airline sprint for seats. It's four 9s for Chelsee and first place with the judges.
It's fair to say that I have concerns about the kind of storytelling we're going to encounter in Harry and Aliona's Viennese waltz. It starts off reasonably well, although early in the routine I can see Harry eyeing the stairs with anticipatory hatred. Then IT GETS LUDICROUS AND I WANT TO BE SICK. If you didn't see it, I can't waste good typing on describing it. I mean, no one gets naked or anything, but urgh. It is naff and cringey and detracts from Harry being brilliant at dancing. Aliona's choreography comes in from some major stick, although not from Craig, which makes me feel like he has let me down in the most cruel and personal way. It's unclear whether Aliona realises they are specifically taking her to task. Harry manages to stop her answering back though. As Alesha contends that 'HARRY DIDN'T DO THE CHOREOGRAPHY' and awards him a 10, it appears we are looking at a major philosophical crisis in Strictly judging. Mark the whole performance, or just how competently the celebrity performs it? I believe Alain de Botton's next book takes this as a jumping-off point.
Anita looks lovely tonight. I hate being disloyal to the curly-haired sisterhood, but it might be because her hair is straightened kind of a bit. They are dancing the first American Smooth of the series, death-defying lifts and all. I'm not sure we like it quite as much as the judges, but I love Anita's face as she scores four 8s. She looks like she's having some kind of paralysis episode. I only love it when I realise she's not actually having some kind of paralysis episode.
Robbie has his hair flying free for the jive tonight. Like a reverse-Samson, he seems to gain power when his hair is reined in because tonight is definitely a step backwards from last week. The whole thing is a little manic and out of control, as Robbie throws himself and his hair around like a randy afghan at Crufts who has slipped his leash and is rumming amok, striking fear into the hearts, and hind quarters, of highly strung miniature poodles.
Last week, Craig told Russell Grant he needs to take a more macho approach to his dancing, so for his tango this week he's wearing guyliner. This is probably exactly the kind of thing that Frankie Cocozza would do, and he's shagged LOADS OF BIRDS. I mean, it says so in the tabloids, so he must have done. In Russell's training VT, he has a dream in which he is a lot more bald than he is on the dancefloor. That is the magic of dancing. And/or spray-on hair and a combover. It's heartwarming business as usual for him and Flavia.
During the results show, everyone is shocked at Rory's departure, apparently overlooking the fact that he was third from the bottom of the judges' leaderboard, just above the teflon-coated Russell Grant. Meanwhile Anton and Nancy lurch on towards the Halloween special. Till next week...
38. QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, LONDON
4 months ago