Strictly 2023, Week 4: Compensatory Italian

Images that precede unfortunate events.

This recap is having a very bad birthday.

Apologies for the lateness of this recap – I lost quite a few days of writing this week so it is a slightly different style of recap, I hope it still offers the same amount of fun and humour, I really wanted to get *something* out this week instead of skipping it because the amount of support and generosity that has been shown to me so far this series has been appreciated beyond measure and all I can offer is a sincere thanks and some mildly mortifying gifs.

Week 4, the beginning of the liminal space between Movies Week and Halloween Week as everyone recovers from the trappings of ~theme~ but tries not to set themselves too high a bar because scoring 10s in Halloween Week is like shooting fish in a glittery barrel. Unless of course you’re Zara McDermott who is rapidly burning through all her possible Halloween costumes having gone from Sexy Felix The Cat last week

to my personal favourite recurring Strictly concept: dancing with the ghost of my former lover

the lovingly printed off unframed grayscale A4 test shot suggests that Graziano was last seen Charlestoning around Judi Love

and if you want to know the exact circumstances of Graziano’s untimely demise, it was of course death by bastardised lasagne

the amount of substandard Italian food Graziano has had to endure for the sake of a series of perfectly mid partnerships is staggering – they’re going to have to toss him Alex Polizzi or one of the Dolmio puppets as a compensatory Italian sooner or later.

Given that Zara had been in the bottom 2 last week, they decided that this week she would get all of the nice things and the wardrobe department really went all out with her dress

they could produce an entire high concept reality TV show in which 15 women compete for the opportunity to win that dress, I’m willing to scheme, scrap and betray for it. Then of course as an added bonus they flooded the entire studio with enough fog to hide any potentially questionable footwork

if it works, it works

Shirley can’t threaten you with a pair of passive aggressively tiny shoes if she can’t see yours! Because Shirley was on one about feet this evening – Angela Scanlon bore the brunt of it because she danced the majority of her Viennese Waltz on the balls of her feet

and I will eat a pair of children’s ballroom shoes if Shirley doesn’t bring them out to berate someone’s sickled feet with this saturday, which is tomorrow because I dropped the ball this week.
Despite everyone going in on her footwork and missing technique, Angela still managed to land in the 28 Holding Pen with a spread of 7s, much to her own shock

I am going to be taking away the 7 paddles, at this point they mean nothing, they’re basically the complimentary mint at the end of meal – you either eat it and end up erasing the flavour of the tiramisu you were savouring or you put it in your pocket and end up gluing it shut when you wash you one pair of good palazzo pants with the mint still inside. This is my The Matrix.

The harshest critique of the night however was reserved for Eddie and Karen who were doing an American Smooth to a cover of Sex Bomb that sounded like the sort of thing they make the 40 year joke contestant perform during Big Band Week on The X-Factor. Shirley had apparently awoken from her 5 day Movie Week bender looking at last week’s 10 paddle like it was an unknown stranger spooning a traffic cone in her bed and decided she was going to try and take it back by deeming this a dance disaster thus sending Karen back to her mental holiday in Cuba

which was a bit harsh, especially as she went on to score it a 6 as opposed to Jody’s Extremely Bad Birthday Salsa 5 – safe to say Karen was a little blindsided by the seemingly not too bad scores they ended up getting

because the entire last quarter of the routine is just Karen dancing through a simmering rage and offering Eddie the most curt “thank you” and pursing her lips into nothingness at the end

this was Eddie’s first time back in hold, and whenever they entered it he did dance it like he was Homer Simpson desperately trying to think unsexy thoughts

which might be a little bit on Karen because she did make him start the dance with a bit of mid-coital double bass strumming

I tried to find out if this was the first time Sex Bomb had been brought out for a routine on Strictly – mostly because I assumed that after 15 years of Brendan Cole’s whole thing being “I DO SEXY ROUTINES, LOOK AT ME SEX GOOD!” I thought it must have cropped up before and Len would have hated it, as he would have hated this routine, but I can’t find anything because it’s all buried by the Daily Mail talking about Nadiya in a way that only The Daily Mail can

it’s 1 degree of separation away from writing “She walked boobily into the room”.
What this routine did really highlight is how much Karen is using very specific things as a crutch for Eddie – I don’t think they’ve done a single routine where there isn’t a whole 5 seconds of knee slapping and shimmying like there’s 100 volts going through him and it becomes a little more glaring in a ballroom routine that you’ve tried to make as unballroomy as possible.

It was not a great night for ballroom, which is exemplified by the fact the highest scoring routine was Adam and Luba’s Death Slot Waltz of which we are sadly none the wiser as to quite why he was so excited to dance it – but what we do know is that WATERLOO ROAD IS AN EXTREMELY DEMANDING SHOW TO MAKE PLEASE WATCH IT

it’s a miracle that he’s found the time to train for the waltz between Waterloo Road apparently being a physical endurance test and having his stem cells scraped for the cloning vat they keep growing Thomas brothers in, but he pulled it off – although people did mostly want to talk about Luba

which is fair because Adam was not giving all that much beyond technique in this routine

the only emotion here is “I am a man doing a dance” – he really is #a truly axis defying neutral-neutral alignment, and it’s not like he doesn’t have the range

rest assured, I did not expect him to have a breakdown in the middle of this waltz – we all know how that turned out for Will Mellor’s mental health rumba, but even Angela Sanlon managed to make her Viennese Waltz about having gastroentersis in the woods

and there was an aggressive saxophone solo that Luba could have done a little more with.

The last of the ballroom contingent were Bobby and Dianne with a tango

nothing confirms that Bobby is comfortably winning this series quite like them allowing him to do a routine that is explicitly themed around the fact he’s hot and he knows it because this was, for some reason, an extremely sincere David Bowie Fashion Tango played 100% straight – there was no fun, there was no camp, there was barely any fashion, there was only red

why was this so dull? And perhaps they were slightly up against it because Strictly set the bar quite high for Fashion Week routines between Oti Mabuse basically ending a routine before it began

and Pasha and Neil going the full Zoolander

obviously I didn’t expect Bobby to come out dressed like the ghost of Karl Lagerfeld and Dianne is Choupette but you know, it might have helped?

we’ll jot that down in the list of potential Halloween Week routines. But they could have at least had some sort of a costume change, Layton had a big red coat he could have shrugged off

at the very least let him throw a red hat at the audience! Nadiya might have one

there’s worse ways she could try to fill the gangly man-shaped void in her life than hats.
The other thing going up against Bobby was the fact he was in an all red routine following another all red routine and I’m afraid Angela Rippon Presents: Faust! is always going to trump Tom Ford’s Autumn/Winter “19 collection

and the judges seemed to agree as they torpedo’d Week 4’s big closing routine as the siren song of a week 4 elimination began to play in Dianne’s ears

not that I think Bobby will ever dip a toe anywhere near the bottom 2 but I won’t lie, I always get a thrill when the judges decide to hate a routine that is 100% more sincere than it ever needed to be

it keeps me young.

Over in the Latin corners, Ellie started the show off with a samba that had all the trappings of a winning routine – there’s not much in this world that pleases me more than a shocking pink samba

the only problem was that Ellie danced this samba like it was a salsa that had just ruined her birthday

it was perhaps a little bit too soon for Vito to have cranked up the complexity to levels of active screaming, but you might as well throw the Latin spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks early on when there’s about 3 couples very obviously circling the drain and the judges could have been a lot harsher on this given Ellie’s track record but she went first so she was a litmus test 28


There is a long established canon of Terrible, Horrible, No Good Birthdays: Harlan Thrombey’s, that birthday party from Parasite, Elizabeth of York’s was pretty terrible, anyone whose birthday falls between the 20th and 31st of December and of course Dreamchip Gemstone’s birthday which for some reason really harrowed me as a kid and made a LONG lasting impression despite the fact most people I’ve ever talked to about it have no idea that The Flintstone Kids was even a thing

quite why I spent 20 minutes hunting down a 180p quality screenshot that explains NOTHING about what happened, I don’t know but please, enjoy my fondness for completely obsolete media.

However, rocketing to the top of that list of awful birthdays is Jody Cundy being forced to do a salsa that he clearly hated with every fibre of his being

and you can pinpoint the precise moment that it becomes The Worst Birthday

but remember, we did this to him, we could have let him slip away peacefully on 15% of a not good Foxtrot but no, we thought we were doing him a favour

I fear we accidentally took this very nice man hostage and put him through hell by accident

were any of us gagging for the return of the chest waxing VT, the likes of which I’m not sure we’ve seen since Gavin Henson’s Guide to Metrosexuality some 13 years ago?

that paso doble is burnt into 17 year old Ariadne’s mind forever.

And Jody’s waxing screams were only half as loud as the internal screaming through 90% of this salsa – the only other time I’ve seen such a palpable hatred for a routine was about 30 minutes later when Karen seemed to be wondering if she could somehow erase the American Smooth from history – it was a big night for when it goes wrong it goes HORRIBLY wrong, however at least the dancers have the excuse for getting nervous halfway through a routine, the costume department has no excuse for THESE TROUSERS which I will be blaming for at least 40% of Jody’s failures

did they get them from a utility uniform outlet store? Adam’s Mario Dungarees were better fitted! I was mildly convinced that the truly awful fit of them was because they were also coming off halfway through and Jody was just a well waxed Matryoshka doll.
It really was not a good performance and Jody just seemed to get more and more self conscious every time he accidentally made eye contact with someone in the audience and despite most of Jody’s routines having portions where he has clearly forgotten what comes next, Jowita still went with as many lifts as she could

which the judges did praise as the best parts of the routine so… I’ve got good news and bad news – you get to see them again, unfortunately…

the rarely sighted completely aborted lift – and power to Jowita for still committing to every subsequent lift – I have a panic attack if a plane is delayed 20 minutes because the flight attendants are being too slow in stocking the disappointing airline paninis, I would not let a man throw me in the air if he was actively having a panic attack in the middle of a salsa.

And if you’re wondering what to wear during the 3 month mourning period of Jody’s Salsa, Nigel and Katya have you covered

all black is certainly a left field choice for any Latin dance outside of an Argentine Tango but if anyone is going to salsa like it’s their husband’s beachside funeral, it’s Katya Jones. Although this was less salsa and more incubus entrapment ritual because apparently the ghost of Patrick Swayze has been bouncing around the studio ever since last year’s Movie Week when Will Mellor briefly served as its mortal vessel

the opening of Nigel’s routine certainly had a similar Swayze vibe, or at least he also moved around like a slightly too sexual crab which is how I imagine Swayze manifests himself

I do now of course have to put £3 in Motsi’s Swayze Jar for using the comparison

the comedic timing of Motsi’s full on “J’ACCUSE!” point was sublime – a highlight of the series for me, personally.

It’s high praise when the judges are fighting over who gets to throw the Swayze brick and it was a very good routine – and fun fact! This was Katya’s first score above an 8 since Motsi rather bafflingly threw a 9 at Mike Bushell’s quickstep in 2019, a routine that ended with her sobbing while clutching a cone of chips like it was the end of a Freshers Week night out

if you want to know why she went quite so apeshit for this week’s 9

and they’d had a difficult job because they were following Layton and Nikita doing a cha cha so shiny that it defies my bandwidth

He’s doing wonders for the bedazzled jumpsuit economy – he’s absolutely keeping them right? They fit right into his wardrobe of things that could maybe have been a muppet at some point

I’m not sure how cha cha cha this felt, it was more just purely distilled joy and disco but it’s hard to be mad a routine where someone gets yeeted out of a pot stirrer and into the splits

but for every truly jaw dropping move, there does have to be a counterweight

You’d think that a Whitney Houston disco number while dressed as a drag porcupine would be the campest routine on the menu, however we were treated to Angela Rippon vamping it up to beyond the back row and all the way to the mid-Atlantic in the premier of the Madwoman Rumba

I am going to go on record and say this is the campest routine we’ve ever seen on the show. Now, there are A LOT of camp routines – Judge Rinder ran around that stage to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way while dressed as a butterfly for Halloween and it was beautiful

however, what I think makes The Rippon Rumba peak camp is a matter of intent, I do not think Kai Widdrington sat down and thought “I am going to choreograph a rumba that later years Bette Davies would have been cast for” AND YET, that is exactly what we got

the only downside is that this does confirm we are categorically not getting a Eurovision Week because there is no way they’d burn the Rise Like A Phoenix rumba before then, but if my hopes had to die, I’m glad they died screaming “YAAAAAAAS”

I think my favourite part of this routine is just how little Kai actually registers throughout it because the staging is quite dark and he’s in dark clothing so the whole thing did have a bit of a War Horse element to it with Kai being the morph suit clad puppeteer of the mechanical Dr. Faustus

and is then completely absent for the entire final almost 20 seconds in which Angela sells her soul to the devil

it’s pure Psycho Biddy perfection and the room went BANANAS for it – Motsi was crying to the heavens, Anton was… Antoning and best of all Shirley “The Queen of Rumbas” was coming out in a cold sweat

stick that in your passive aggressive shoe cupboard and smoke it! There was also a LEGO man in the audience wearing a white sweater who was having some sort of awakening

and Horndog Tess was just glad to finally get some good food

because sadly this week’s iteration of the Rock Paso had sadly not delivered quite the same impact as Colin the Ringmaster because it was hard to be entirely won over by Weeaboo Juan

God bless automatic subtitling errors – he actually said “I like my wine red and my women ready” which isn’t better and safe to say neither Janette nor Lauren were quite prepared for Krishnan’s paso persona to be a man that hosts a podcast about pickup artistry

real just *cover your drink and walk away* energy.

As for the paso doble, I thought it was just a little bit unfocused all round – the song was a truly baffling choice tempo-wise, the fasts and slows are too disparate and jarring, especially for an ameture and the visuals were… again, a mish-mash, Krishnan was dressed quite traditionally, or at least they had put epaulettes on a pinstripe blazer and given him some high-waisted trousers (and of course the extremely traditional guy-liner)

and Lauren was dressed like a Chiparus bronze, which honestly might just be her cross to bare – I think she can’t not look like an art deco sculpture

and then the staging was just a giant guitar floor projection and whatever lightning effects were left in the system after they tried to fry Jody’s paso doble into oblivion

I just did not like this routine, although it was nice that the one part I did enjoy was the side by side paso breakdown in the middle

and also the brief moment where I thought the whole thing had ended with Krishnan pulling a gun on Lauren?

just a brief silent moment in the living room as everyone wondered if we’d just watched newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy metaphorically shoot a woman – I’m still not convinced we didn’t.

And that’s it for the routine recaps, but because I’m not going to get around to a solo result’s show recap and believe me I regret not giving Nikita’s DeviantArt phase the justice it deserves

I am kind of obsessed with the fact the Strictly Sketchbook is every early teen girl’s sketchbook – just about traced copies of their favourite cartoon characters and then the most lovingly rendered naive pencil drawings of their favourite male celebrities kissing. DON’T YOU DENY IT, WE ALL KNOW.
But for the sake of completionism, I did want to include the Monkseal Memorial Safety Sex Face Gallery because it is my favourite part of the week

and this did of course mean our bottom 2 were Jody and Eddie

which did nearly confirm my early prediction that Eddie would be a Week 4 sacrificial lamb but truly no livestock sacrifice was going to prevent this from being a Jody elimination because of the lift mishap that almost derailed the whole routine in the dance off – he did recover remarkably well (I was expecting a full on slow walk off the stage) but it was still a unanimous decision to save Eddie meaning Jody was the 3rd celebrity to leave the competition

don’t worry, there’s a whole birthday cake backstage with your face on it.

Next week will be a return to the usual recap format and I look forward to it!

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3 thoughts on “Strictly 2023, Week 4: Compensatory Italian

  1. hnotters

    Thank you for writing such a great recap (as usual) 🙂 “A slightly too sexual crab” had me howling with laughter!

  2. Jen

    I forgot I had headphones on, whilst reading this in the Uni library, and snorted out loud more than once at this. Wondered why I was getting odd looks…..

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