Saturday, October 25, 2008

"That was the end of the joke, by the way": Strictly Come Dancing, week 6

And so this week we had the dance-off we should have had last week. Sigh.

Anyway, Mark Foster wound up going out, while Andrew Castle survived, and, well, it was comfortably the least close-run thing of the series. Having worked on his problematic arse, posture, face, feet, shoulders etc., Castle was finally starting to look at home in the main show; come the dance-off, he was veritably blossoming, the smile on his face suddenly becoming irrepressible as, for probably the first time, he finally felt everything starting to click.

Mark... wasn't. He'd blundered through OK when he was on the ballroom dances, but the pace of the Latin numbers well and truly did for him - though there was no repeat of the mesh-shirt-pelvic-grind disasters of last week, this week he was just incapable of keeping up. He tried to remember to perform, but forgot his steps; then he tried to remember his steps, but forgot to perform.

The dance-off also meant the judges got to uncork some truly choice sporting tripe in their comments. Arlene Phillips started the bidding by insisting that when Mark was a swimmer, he must have had a RIVVUM (Mark: "Well, I didn't have to turn round when I was a swimmer..."), but Len Goodman took the biscuit with his advice for the dance-off. "Androo, whatchoo've gorra fink is that you're love-for'y daahn, second serve... you've got to serve an ace! And Mark, whatchoo've gorra fink is that you've got 10 yards left to go..." At that point, I decided to nip to the kitchen.

Apart from that... well, it didn't feel like a heck of a lot happened this week, really, aside from lots of people who improved last week being less good. Chief among these was Christine Bleakley, who took on the paso doble and lost quite grievously, turning in comfortably her worst performance of the competition - her body shape was dodgy throughout, and the rest of her went with it, apparently due to her continually trying to remember to be angry and such.

Christine's anger, unfortunately, chiefly manifested itself as blankness, which meant she had something in common with John Sergeant. Then again, it resulted in John's best performance for a bit - at least he looked like he was going for a spot of attitude this week, even if he did wind up coming off a bit like Arthur Lowe as a result. Still too much leaning on the public vote from him overall, though - somebody really badly needs to take him to task about that.

And then, erm... well, it's difficult to say, really, mainly cos I can't remember very much. Austin Healey topped the leaderboard with 34 and was annoyingly good, again. Our Tom split the judges but carded 32, albeit that his reactions to their criticisms suggested that he thought he should have got rather more. Rachel Stevens also got 32, and was A Bit Stressed in the training montage, again.

All three of them did Viennese Waltzes, and this generally seemed to be a higher-scoring dance than the Paso Doble; not only did it sort of get Castle out of the mire, it also resulted in a heart-warming renaissance for Heather Small, who appears to have been re-invigorated by her two dance-off appearances. It can't have been a coincidence that her name was read out first in the list of couples that would be pariticipating again next week - her relief, and delight, was palpable. Heather seems acutely aware that in terms of having a base of voters to rally behind her, she's now some distance behind the rest of the field, and so she needs to make sure that she stays as close to the upper echelons of the scoreboard as she can.

If nothing else, this week was good for establishing who has cause to worry. At the moment, it's neither Christine nor John - both finished behind the previously-Teflon Castle on the judges' scores, but got saved by the public. Despite turning in his best performance of the series thus far, Castle was in the bottom two, and it seems fair to assume that without a marked improvement, that's going to be where he ends up from now until he eventually goes. Heather's 27 points this week saved her; the question is whether or not she can push on from there. If she can't, then she's in the bottom two next week as well.

It seems safe to assume, then, that these two will be the next two eliminated contestants. Who goes after them? Well, Jodie Kidd is the only remaining contestant apart from Andrew and Heather to have participated in the dance-off, and her Paso Doble suffered from a certain amount of clumsiness - at one point, Ian Waite picked her up and whirled her around, and her legs seemed to splay out in the manner of Bambi on ice (seriously, that is the best comparison point I can come up with). She's progressed in recent weeks, but whether that's firmed up any public support for her remains to be seen. The slightly suspect temperaments of Rachel and Lisa Snowdon also seem very likely to be tested in the coming weeks - they seem more likely to end up in jeopardy than Our Tom, Austin or Cherie Lunghi, all of whom have been consistently among the highest scorers with the judges, or Christine and John, who have now been proven to be strongly backed by the public.

It's interesting times ahead on SCD, basically. It's just that none of those interesting times happened during this week's episode.

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