The new Specsavers advert is a bit weird.
It’s our semi-final and everyone is at the limits of their sanity because they’ve had to practice 2 dances and deal with the BBC trying to film a multitude of VTs with them. But whose Strictly finale dream is about to be cut short?
To kick off the show we get a dramatic montage of our semi-finalists talking about how much it would mean to them to get to the final. The only real observation is that no matter the setting it is physically impossible for Bill Bailey to not look like a magician
And then amongst all the high drama action shots (set to Destiny Child’s “Survivor”) there’s this delightful shot of Giovanni and Ranvir
Just helping with Zoe Ball’s fanfic moodboard. But could they not have let Giovanni take his hair out of his little whale spout bun?
It is one of the highlights of his and Ranvir’s training footage but it does kind of kill the tension of the VT when you see it bobbing around up there.
Over in the studio where Claudia and Tess have come in with rather disparate aesthetics
Claudia in a series of things that never managed to sell during the Debenhams closing down sale and Tess as Boutique Hotelier Barbie, pull her string and she’ll say one of her hilarious Four In a Bed catchphrases
Shirley Ballas has finally worked out that blue is her power colour and has come looking the most high glam she’s looked all series
Motsi is out here on saturday night looking like the antagonist in a Marilyn Monroe led Hollywood musical
I’m obsessed with her style – it’s a level of campy glamour that soothes my soul.
And Craig decided to jazz it up with some black on black leopard print
It’s a valiant attempt.
Jamie and Karen
Salsa / Last Dance – Donna Summer
Because it’s the semi-finals we are being treated to an abundance of family well wishing which does mean we at least get to meet Jamie’s dad who apparently spends his time chilling out with his jazzy safari friends
and a shout out to his tiny little string and bead necklace – that is a man that has never left the 70s behind. And speaking of the 70s…
I thought we had all agreed that Karen and Jamie should be twinning all of the time? What a missed opportunity for A. Shared bedazzled headbands and B. Karen in a billowing 70’s shirt. I will be submitting a formal complaint to Vicky Gill.
I feel like if this routine achieved anything it’s that it completed the transition salsa has been undergoing to just become Full Disco – none of it had any sort of a Latin dance flare and felt gratuitously like the song and dance number done over the end credits of the umpteenth Shrek sequel – so it’s enjoyable and fun but is it salsa?
I will hand it to Jamie he handled the first few lifts very well – and the first one even felt effortless, it wasn’t quite Janette levels of defying gravity but it went smoothly and then the finalé of the routine – the acclaimed Cunnilingus Lift (sorry gran) doesn’t seem to go as expected but again, I’m not sure how much of it was a mistake or how much of it was Karen deciding on some weird choreography and story telling?
It is a mostly very solid number but it becomes a bit laboured in the mid section – mostly the parts that bookend his gender equality bum spin that goes slightly awry and looks almost as graceless and Lawyers4U-y as his breakdancing did
But we love a politically engaged bum spin that challenges the notion of toxic masculinity.
Craig pulls him up on the fact he still hasn’t learned what to do with his free arm which for most of the dance is kind of just doing a velociraptor impression – and there’s an idea for a Movie Week routine, make whichever soap opera hunk they cast dress up as Chris Pratt and his partner has to be the velociraptor. They can have that one for free!
I’m just glad that they at least let Karen and Jamie do this dance first and saved them the indignity of having to do a Last Dance salsa in the dance off – unless they force them to change in which will make me HOWL. Although there is also a certain amount of indignity if they have to do their Ben Fogel and Country Yokel Halloween quickstep in the dance off. But he’s definitely in the bottom 2 right?
Ranvir and Giovanni
Waltz / A Time For Us (Italian Subs) – Josh Groban
Big shout out to the sound person who didn’t turn down Tess’ mic down fast enough after her introduction of Ranvir so there’s a brief manic laugh over the star of the VT.
Ranvir unfortunately used her Sad Family VT coupon last week so this week she has to settle for messages from her Good Morning Britain Family who rudely seemed to hurried film these in the middle of the ad breaks
Ranvir is absolutely not allowed to win based purely on the fact I don’t want Piers Morgan and Dan Walker to start some sort of GMB vs BBC Breakfast Strictly winner vendetta – I don’t have the time, the patience or the mental stability after this hell of a year to deal with that level of clownery.
She’s been given a lob of a first dance – having danced an American Smooth, a Quickstep and a Viennese Waltz it seems weird to give her a Waltz IN THE SEMI-FINAL. She could have done the Tango or her Couple’s Choice and got away with still doing ballroom – unless for reasons unknown she and Giovanni want to follow the trend and do a street dance?
The dance is very good – it’s Ranvir, she’s done more complex ballroom dances so we knew this would be. What I hadn’t expected was for this to just be another Phantom of the Opera themed dance in stealth mode
The ringleted updo? The pale ballgown? The abandoned theatre setting? The massive chandelier? Shirley Ballas sinisterly looming in the shadows?
The dance is everything a waltz has to be – it’s romantic, dreamy, light and smooth. There’s not much more to say than it was a very accomplished piece of dancing but I don’t think there was much of an elevation to it and we could have seen this exact routine from her in Week 3 – and I think it’s quite telling that Motsi spends an inordinate amount of time praising Ranvir’s updo and dress. Craig was not quite so glamoured and this whiplash of his critique after Motsi being overtly positive completely short circuits poor TessBot
Craig points out that the very pretty dress hid a multitude of sins – much like’s Maisie’s did in her American Smooth and Giovanni is ready to kill
Whether it’s Craig or Vicky Gill on his hit list remains to be seen but someone is getting an angry DM tonight. But at least they maintained body contact throughout, not that that’s hard for these two…
While chatting with Claudia, Ranvir gets a lovely message from past dance disaster Kate Garraway and really someone could have used a tighter shot and not shown her house in the midst of what looks like a particularly gruelling home renovation
The rudeness of that camerawork <3
The Magician and His Long Suffering Wife
Charleston / (Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey – Ottilie Patterson & Chris Barber
JJ may have got a message from Prince Harry but that quite frankly pales into insignificance when Bill gets a message from The Emma Thompson and it should surprise absolutely nobody hat she filmed it in portrait with half her face cut off
She’s not giving you the whole Emma Thompson treatment FOR FREE. How pissed do we think the producers are that in a year when they’ve got a contestant getting messages from the like of Janet Jackson, Emma Thompson, Wonder Mike and Master Gee from The Sugar Hill that they can’t have them in the studio audience? Because I’d be FUMING. But the pièce de résistance? NHS frontline Niece:
That my friends is an ace of Family VT cameo. Ain’t nobody beating that, and I imagine the #DefundTheBBC crowd were handled a NHS worker taking 20 seconds out of their day to send in a message to a headline BBC show very well. No unhinged discourse at all…
He’s dancing his Charleston to (Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey, his namesake song and how long do we think they’ve been sitting on this? I’d have thought they’d save this sort of thing for the final which to me suggests they’re a bit worried about Bill’s audience vote this week but enough of my cynicism let’s get to the dance.
The dance is the story of a long suffering wife in the 1930s left to languish at home putting on a welcome party for her unscrupulous husband returning from his world tour of his travelling show of illusions and wonderments
It’s a mostly very good dance – there are a few moments where the two of them are ahead of the music, particularly the first lift where Oti is lifted a good 2 seconds before the slide whistle goes off
His footwork is also not great, it’s a little penguin-y but in many ways you can get away with that in a Charleston, it’s such a character focused dance that if you manage to sell the mistakes as part of that you’re fine and to be fair he did neck a glass whiskey in the middle of the routine
It’s not quite the IV drip of gin Shirley rigs up in the second half of tonight’s show but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The judges are pretty wild for it, I don’t think they’ve ever seen a Charleston that they aren’t gaga for to be honest. Their only quibble is that they would have liked him to actually move his body and look less like a penguin on stilts. I take minor issue with Shirley saying they were perfectly in sync because while some of it was there were definite moments where Bill lost is slightly.
And yes, I did spend an evening with people in my mentions on Twitter telling me that Motsi only gave Bill a 9 because Oti is her sister and it’s not at all because the Charleston is readily overmarked every week.
Maisie and Gorka
Street / Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It – Will Smith
I cannot tell you how much I loved Claudia handing over to Tess by saying Maisie and Gorka were dancing to their dance: Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It and Tess being Tess has NO IDEA how to respond and just says “Happy memories!” like she’s thinking of a pleasant winter’s evening knitting with her grandmother.
Maisie is obviously missing he family the most – she’s certainly had the least experience living on her own, HRVY has at least had the experience of a tour and being on the road. And she’s realising how attached to her family is and she wouldn’t be here without her mum and dad. I’m just glad Maisie didn’t fail first year biology.
She is treated to a very special VERY SOCIALY DISTANCED visit from her sister who has come dressed as the training room wall
How much is a Socially Distanced Sister worth in Sympathy Wars? The slight melancholic tragedy of it must be worth at least a sixth of an NHS Frontline Niece? Now remember, Maisie had very little training time this week because of a hectic EastEnder shooting schedule and Gorka looks mildly annoyed by this interference
She also gets a video message from her Grandad, who she’s called “Grandy” which is new and adorable to me.
So after that very schmaltzy, sappy VT Maisie declares “I’m going to dedicate this dance to all of my friends and family” and the dissonance between that lovely statement and then going out and doing a street dance to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” is INCREDIBLE.
It’s of course the return of the dreaded Couple’s Choice: Street which means Vicky Gill has once again raided a JD sports and forced one of her wardrobe elves to spend an entire week bedazzling two puffer jackets
They went blind stoning those things.
I don’t want to say it’s bad, because it obviously wasn’t but I just think it felt really slow and I’m sure that has more to do with the fact she was also learning how to do a Viennese Waltz on the side than it does her actual ability. I think I genuinely preferred the manicness of Jamie and Karen having a sugar high in a Blackpool arcade than I did this weird Fresh Prince / Space Jam amalgamation – thank God copyright forbade them from CGI-ing Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny into the scene.
There’s some impressive stunts in the routine – the running along the wall was fun
And the drop down into the demi-split was impressive but would have been more impressive had they don’t it unison (Gorka was late btw) and also why was it done in the first 30 seconds of the routine? That’s the end move, GUYS. You finish on the drop. And I can’t even blame Gorka for that because they don’t choreograph these routines.
Craig had his GOAT moment with HRVY so this time it was Shirley’s turn to be the grandparent using a phrase they read on a Facebook meme and dubs Maisie “The Queen of Pop” – first of all, that was a hip-hop track, second of all, Madonna would like a word.
It’s not the most tone deaf thing said because Motsi is proud that Maisie is out there representing the Hip-hop community. I’m so pleased that a white British woman has found herself as the face of the largely African-American lead hip-hop movement in 2020.
Before her results are revealed Maisie gets a lovely message from a member of her EastEnders family
She’s Natalie Cassidy, and she’s just doing this now.
We really need to talk about the excessive overmarking of couple’s choice routines because the judges clearly have no parameters for the scoring and are kind of just blindly throwing top tier scores at them which is coming across as more a justification of keeping them within the Strictly rotation instead of just keeping an end of series show dance.
I’d personally even settle for a smaller April/May dance series which specifically focuses on Street / Theatre and Contemporary.
HRVY and Janette
Rumba / Only You – Kylie Minogue AND NOBODY ELSE.
Fun fact: did you know HRVY has music sales awards? Because his family REALLY want you to know that he has musical sales awards
I like to think that’s just their HRVY shrine room where they light a votive candle every evening and leave a single slice of bread in the silver dish to appease the Strictly Gods.
I’m so mad that we only get to watch one couple dance like a pair of drowning swans this year and it wasn’t Ranvir and Giovanni and instead we’re saddled by chaste Victorian schoolboy and the encroaching sexy thoughts he doesn’t want to think
because HRVY’s desperate attempts to think unsexy thoughts is almost as obvious as his step counting – HOW HAS NOBODY ON THE JUDGING PANEL MENTIONED IT!? His lips are moving like a goldfish’s!
It’s one of the more awkward rumbas we’ve ever seen, not quite stepping into complete tragedy but certainly on the periphery of forcing me to hide behind a pillow – the portions of it that are out of hold are particularly toe curling as he softly sways like an anxious child plucking up the courage to ask his parents for something. And it’s never been more obvious that Janette is the star of the show as she gets a roof raising cheer when she effortlessly drops into an egregious split
Well, it’s as roof raising as an audience of under 50 people can be.
I don’t know what dance Motsi was watching because she loved the romantic connection – that was nothing but pubescent fear! Craig is slightly more on it and found the awkward red light, green light movement of the whole thing to be rather baffling and unpleasant to watch – and now it’s Janette’s turn to be filled with a simmering murderous rage
She will not let ANYTHING get in the way of her reaching the final. Blood will be spilled.
Ben Fogel and Anne of Green Gables
Quickstep / Thank God I’m a Country Boy – John Denver
Because there’s no room for comedy VTs anymore the couples are now spending their time watching the Judges have a Red Table Talk about their Strictly journeys and the only real notable feature of Jamie’s (other than the randomly generated scoring system) is Karen just about wetting herself as she watches Jamie contend with his Hercules wig.
The judges’ concesus is that Jamie could certainly pull off the Quickstep and I would have agreed but they’re making him dance it in cowboy boots
For the last few weeks they had at least been somewhat more restrained with the graphics – nothing nearly as egregious as the two massive castles that blotted out Maisie and Gorka’s American smooth like some sort of Disney eclipse and we’ve all been pretty happy with it. Well, I regret to inform you that the gateway to the CGI Animal Kingdom Nightmare Realm has been reopened
The gummy looking cow and the horse from The Sims (2000) aren’t quite as unnerving as the gelatinous looking elephant slowly Roomba-ing its way across the dancefloor but they’re still pretty hideous. In fact the graphics for this entire routine were bonkers because what the hell is this:
My initial gut reaction is that Jamie and Karen are actually working on a GMO farm and that is in fact a giant corncob but I’m pretty sure its meant to be a haybale? Or a tree being sawn down like a rotisserie chicken? But that seems like a very niche thing to have in your graphics arsenal.
An while yes the initial shock of the animated livestock takes a while to wear off ou do eventually hav to soak in the fact Jamie is dressed up as Ben Fogel presenting Lives in The Wild and Karen is in her best Anne of Green Gables cosplay
This whole routine is an acid trip but personally my absolute favourite part is where Jamie runs across the dancefloor like a chicken with the hiccups
I think this routine may have been that special combination of being so bad but with such a strong aesthetic you don’t even notice because this was terrible, and yet I feel like it’s the most fun we’ve had since his Twinning Mariachi Samba.
My second favourite part of the routine was the ghost of the chicken running around in the back haunting the studio
Aardman can have that Chicken Run sequel idea for free – I’m so generous.
The judges, seemingly fearful of an Animal Farm style uprising lead by that awful computer generated horse and his bovine accomplice are in love with it with Shirley seemingly on the verge tears and imploring us that we need to have an open mind about it and while yes, I do love Jamie’s sheer joy for the show and getting out there and being insane – I would love it if he made the final but this routine tested the limits of my sanity.
Ranvir and Giovanni
Jive / Candyman – Christina Aguilera
Tonight on Zoe Ball’s FanFic Extravaganza: Ranvir and Giovanni in the back row of an empty theatre
What could possibly happen?
My favourite thing about Giovanni and Ranvir’s VTs (other than the vague allusions to sex) is how much Ranvir HATES filming them
It’s almost a level of disassociation she achieved during her Cha Cha Cha. She’s doing the Jive this week and the judges note that “This dance could be a disaster for some people” and guys, just say Clara.
And if you were wondering how worried about this jive Ranvir and Giovanni are they opened like this
Well that’s just pornographic. DID ZOE BALL WRITE THIS?
Before we get to the actual dance (anything to delay talking about it tbh) the staging:
I get that the song is called “candy man” and Christina Aguilera was dressed as a sailor in the music video BUT PLEASE PICK ON THEME because this looks like a level in Candy Crush and it is breaking my brain.
This dance certainly helps confirm my theory that the more of Giovanni’s chest on show the worse the dance because yikesies. It’s mostly fine at first and then it comes to the side-by-side-kick-a-thon and Ranvir is LOST – her feet have completely abandoned her and are playing football in Wigan while she’s trying to look at Giovanni’s and is clearly exhausted when they’re only 30 second in meaning there’s a whole minute more to dance through. But at least we have Giovanni to watch who is somehow camper dressed as a sailor than he was dressed in full drag
And then it ends and Giovanni just screams “IT’S DONE! IT’S OVER! IT’S DONE!” like Obi-Wan Kenobi screaming “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!” during the immolation of Anakin.
The judges do find some things to praise – it’s mostly just compliments on the beginning when she had a death grip on the steering wheel and was ogling Giovanni – it’s her comfort zone after all.
The fact Ranvir’s jive got 1 mark less than Clara’s Jive Meltdown is a bit weird – more the fact Clara was so clearly overmarked than anything else.
Bill and Oti
Tango / Enter Sandman – Metallica
If you were wondering what Bill Bailey cinema snack of choice was, it’s a nice cup of tea
Oti is very excited for the routine because it’s the most Bill Bailey routine “What with the eyeliner” she says and I’m not sure I’ve ever associated Bill Bailey with excessive eyeliner? And then we wasn’t even wearing any for the routine but they did unnecessarily decide to straighten what little hair he has left into the worst mullet I’ve ever seen
This was better than it had any right to be, and a lot of it, not all of it, but a good majority of it was because Oti’s styling was absolutely FIRE
The tangos have really brought it this series: Karen’s shoulders, Maisie as the gothic giftbag and Clara’s Lady Claramalade Tango? All pretty fab.
It’s all very dramatic, very angry and feels like a throwback to the days of the Rock Tango with the red lightening? The dark setting? The excessive pyrotechnics? It’s a Brendan Tango of yore.
And it’s all going swimmingly until the bloody cameraperson gets involved and Bill just about takes them out
They do remarkably well at maintaining composure and don’t even bring it up during the judging and I can think of many a pro and contestant who would have promptly thrown the camera operator under the bus.
And while I did like this routine I do draw the line at air instruments in ballroom dancing
It’s a firm no and a deduction of at least 2 points from me. But hey, at least Dave Arch got to live his absolute best life for 90 seconds
He deserves nice things.
Motsi and Craig are both reasonably positive about it, Motsi isn’t entirely sure what she watched – I’m sure it was easier to take in than the raw sexuality of that time she watched her sister dance the rumba with Kelvin Fletcher. They do bring up his awful posture – he was eternally hunched over like he was looking a little Igor-y.
And then we come to Shirley who despite being a heavy metal fan
She wasn’t overly fond of the routine and during her (to be fair accurate) critique Craig insists that everyone stop and boo her for a bit
and Shirley is having NONE of it. And somehow manages to side-eye an entire room and tells to “Learn!”
And then fully breaks down every mistake Bill made including his “congested shoulders” – I’m sure a Gaviscon will sort that all out!
Maisie, Gorka and That Damned Guitar
Viennese Waltz / A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
If you wondering what Gorka’s cinema snack of choice is it’s a latte in a tumbler
I have such a hatred for any coffee that serves coffees in a handleless cup so I have no choice but to call for the complete and utter cancellation of the BBC canteen.
The main cause of concern for Maisie in the Viennese Waltz is her footwork which everyone seems to have unanimously decided is AWFUL because she was bad in one dance in Week 3. So how did their faintly John Lewis advert of a Viennese Waltz go?
God bless the fact Bill Bailey, a musician and demonstrable guitar player, had to settle for air guitar during his Metallica tango and Maisie got to walk out looking like Diana Vickers and pointlessly wielding an acoustic guitar like it’s the biggest tuna catch of the day, and the routine is then lumbered with the guitar for 35 seconds
Maybe don’t use it? It’s fine, sometimes the dancing can be the focal point.
Maisie’s spins and turns are by far the best we’ve seen this series, she copes with the rapid and many changes of direction extremely well and manages to not look to seasick afterwards.
Once again Vicky Gill has worked wonders because while this dress looks dowdy in stasis, when she’s moving it in, it’s pure magic
I just want Vicky Gill to give ME a princess moment.
The one thing (other than the guitar being an unwelcome third wheel) was that Maisie does the most amazing gliding splits and it is COMPELTELY obcured from view
WORK THIS IS OUT IN THE REHEARSALS GUYS! I’m so mad, that it such A MOMENT and it was ruined and didn’t get nearly the recognition it deserved.
Shirley, very much 50% gin at this point, compares Maisie to a musical instrument, says her fingers were like a porcelain and comments and the twitching internal device hidden within Maisie – and if she goes below 50mph she explodes, Strictly Come Speed, in cinemas next summer!
It’s lovely that Maisie’s family could be in the audience for what has been her best night on the show, even if they did have to dress up as Black Mirror Teletubbies.
DON’T YOU DARE CHARLIE BROOKER.
Gentrification: The Musical
Charleston / Another Day of Sun from La La Land
I did find it very funny that Craig says HRVY’s garden gnome Cha Cha Cha was his one misstep and we’ve just had to sit through that rumba… I love it when pre-recorded bits bite you in the ass.
There’s very little to say about HRVY’s Strictly journey because he hasn’t been on one – he came in swinging big, continued to swing and in a Lord of the Rings-ian journey narrative he has barely left his Shire whereas Jamie has been to Mount Doom and back, Maisie is somewhere in the Marshes of the Dead, Ranvir is fighting a Latin dancing Balrog and Bill is chilling with the Elves in Rivendell. A 6 in a cha cha cha does not an epic saga make.
Over to his underarmed lob of a Charleston, which is being danced to a song from the La La Land soundtrack – it’s almost like Movie Week was pointless. And do you remember Clara’s Cafe?
Well, I have news for you
Don’t you just hate gentrification? You know he’s selling imported boxes of American cereal for £8 a bowl. And does somebody want to tell me what a Jelbonnis is? Because google denies its existence. Also you spelled “Macchiato” wrong, and who the hell is Lando and are his cookies good?
And while HRVY is busy polishing the glassware Janette bursts into the café looking alarmingly like Velma Dinkley
And I am willing to bet he wrote “Janet” on that coffee cup
I’m sure it was a lovely routine but I spent most of it being very distressed by HRVY’s lack of socks
Not to sound like a Victorian patriarch but I don’t enjoy this much ankle.
The other thing is I think of anyone HRVY would have benefited from a visit with an acting coach the most because I have no idea what he was trying to tell me with the dance but it was Jim Carrey comedy vehicles levels of insane facepulling
And while it’s a Charleston and this is expected there’s just something about HRVY that doesn’t connect his face to his dancing and it looks one of those apps that digitally renders your face onto famous music videos. LET’S START THE CONSPIRACY THEORY.
I think we all saw 10s coming from the moment it was announced that these two would be doing a Charleston – I imagine Doctor Strange would even be hard-pressed to find an alternate universe where they didn’t. I did very much enjoy the pterdactyl flap across the dancefloor, mostly because of Motsi dancing in the background and having the best time
And after the awful week she’s had online in which she was hounded off of Twitter, she deserves nothing by joy. Although she does deserve a slap on the wrist for even joking about bringing HRVY back a pro-dancer. DON’T TEMPT THEM MRS. MABUSE – they’re looking for a charming young blond boy after losing AJ.
And that’s that, so let’s first look at the leaderboard for all of the dances:
- Space Jam Budget Cuts
- Gentrification: The Feel-good Musical of the Year
- Post Glow-up Diana Vickers does The John Lewis Advert
- Stealth Mode Phantom
- This Was On The Nose Even for a Charleston
- The Sims: Farm Life
- Isn’t it Ironic? Just a bit. Don’t you think?
- The MetalliTango
- Think unsexy Thoughts. Think unsexy Thoughts. Think unsexy Thoughts. Think unsexy Thoughts.
- The HMS Horny.
And that leaves us with a scoreboard looking like this:
- Maisie and Gorka
- HRVY and Janette
- Jamie and Karen
- Bill and Oti
- Ranvir and Giovanni
Oh how I wish HRVY had been scored a modicum less and truly thrown everything into disarray – it’d have been the most chaotic Strictly leader board in modern Strictly history. I think we might still be in for some shenanigans on the Results Show depending on what dances everyone has to do if they end up there.