Strictly 2023, Week 5, Main Show: Premature Millinery Ejection

The projectile hat can also be a shield.

This recap is meditating.

In keeping with the BBC’s Inform, Educate, Entertain directive, this week they were teaching us all about the days of the week with a handy little rhyme:

Monday’s Child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go

Friday’s child is loving and GIVING

Saturday’s child works hard for a living

and the child born on the Sabbath day is bonny, blithe, good and gay

the more you know.

Nigel Harman & Katya Jones
Foxtrot / I Just Want To Make Love To You – Etta James

To celebrate the success of their salsa, Katya and Nigel went out for celebratory drinks in a suspiciously empty and daylight filled bar with no bartender in sight and helped themselves to whatever they could – and because being compared to Patrick Swayze was enough of a buzz for him and he had to get in his 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, Nigel was just drinking lemon and ginger tea out of a martini glass

and there is no better time for Katya’s creative juices to flow than after her 3rd purloined cosmopolitan

fortunately for Nigel the “smooth people” did not involve getting a chest wax with a Wowcher coupon because obviously Nigel is already Barbie smooth

the “smooth” mostly just meant he got to wear a hat

so, DUCK!

POV: you’re in the front row of the Strictly studio audience

after 5 weeks they have at least managed to finally train Tess to fetch the projectile hats

and as a treat she got to be a little bit horny for the foxtrot – which is truly a sign that we need to start loading up the Argentine Tangos

imaginably she wasn’t talking about the face of pure constipated fear he pulled when he accidentally kicked Katya’s shin and off-set a good chunk of the middle of the routine

which was a shame because the routine had started with real promise of being a rarely sighted Actually Good Foxtrot™ albeit a lot of it was distinctly musical theatre faffing about as Nigel screams “I’M NOT TOO OLD FOR GUYS AND DOLLS!” from the rooftops

BUT! I will accept that before I accept a full 15 seconds of sitting down and pretending to spray perfume and fix your hair during a Charleston – NO NAMES MENTIONED, JOHANNES RADEBE.

The judges did focus on the relatively momentary error A LOT as well as the jumpiness in the studio

which is potentially explained by the fact that Just Stop Oil had apparently made an attempt to interrupt the show

so with that in mind, I imagine when you’re dancing and you keep seeing a swirling cloud of orange out of the corner of your eye you do begin to panic slightly

but Shirley had some very helpful meditative advice for the man who has made meditation his entire gimmick


In the end the critiques did end up sounding a little harsher than the scores ended up reflecting and both Nigel and Katya seemed a little confused by the spread of litmus test 7s they started receiving

but they were spared being locked in the 28 holding pen because Anton has never met a foxtrot he won’t slightly overmark

Nigel’s going to put a quarter spoon of honey in his lemon and ginger fauxtini as a treat.

Craig: 7
Motsi: 7
Shirley: 7
Anton: 8

Eddie Kadi & Karen Hauer
Samba / Calm Down – Rema & Selena Gomez

Eddie is clearly suffering from a chronic case of Whomst? Syndrome and because he doesn’t have a variety of polar bear related anecdotes to overcome that hurdle with, instead the show has no choice but to ply us with Vocational Training VTs in the hopes that the audience learning more about Eddie stops him from polling extremely badly in the fandom exit polls – last week he had to tell several non-jokes to an empty room

and this week he got to interview Karen on his 1Xtra show that she’d just found out she wasn’t getting paid 1Xtra day’s salary for

lads, it didn’t work for Nikita Kanda, it certainly wasn’t going to work here which is probably why Karen sounded like her soul had left her body when she told us about her secret weapon…

Babe, I don’t think they’re a secret if you’ve managed to shoehorn them into every routine you’ve done so far – two of which were straightforward ballroom numbers!

and Eddie’s hips were having to do a lot of heavy lifting because Karen was this week’s victim of Trouser Crimes

the fringing is too thin and sparse to give the full Disco Tumnus effect so she kind of just ends up looking a bit like an ostrich wearing flared trousers

please don’t tell work that this is what I use the photoshop subscription for.

*jots it down in the list of very dedicated Christian celebrity friendly Halloween routines*

But not even the hippiest hips in all of hipdom could really salvage this routine which for the most part felt like it was slowly collapsing in on itself as it failed to find any connective tissue between sections as it awkwardly stopped and started like a barely restored 1959 Volkswagen Beetle trying to climb a hill and nothing was more damning than the resolute stoic silence from the judges behind them as they finished the routine

tag yourself, I’m Anton tapping his pencil like he’s struggling with this weeks Times cryptic crossword. But shout out to the two (2) people at the back who desperately tried to get a standing ovation going for them, it was only marginally more awkward than Eddie’s upper body during this entire routine.

The judging continued in Week 5 Grumpy Week fashion with not even Motsi being able to truly defend the routine as she sort of stumbled her way through a limp praise of the scintilla of rhythmic flow she detected before having to confront the footwork with an open-handed shrug

and that’s when Karen mentally checked out to Cuba again

don’t worry babe, you’ll be there in body soon too.

Craig: 5
Motsi: 6
Shirley: 6
Anton: 7

Krishnan Guru-Murthy & Lauren Oakley
Quickstep / The Lady Is a Tramp – Frank Sinatra

While last week was a sort of hodge-podge of paso doble trappings, there is very little more Strictly by numbers than a The Lady is a Tramp quickstep, of which this is the fourth iteration – its three predecessors being Kelvin Fletcher’s perfect 40 where Oti got to enjoy champagne and a Haribo platter

Sophie Ellis Bextor and Brendan Cole’s Big Blackpool Blow Out

and Brendan Cole’s series 1 quickstep with Natasha Kaplinsky that has sadly been lost to the Strictly archives and they wont give me the key so enjoy the closest thing to it I could find

a literal woof.

And this was very much a classic top hat and tails quickstep, although the top hat was there in vibes only because the front row has still not quite recovered from Lauren’s last millinery missile strike

so the only thing she could throw this time was her own armpit straight to camera

we get it! You’re all very smooth people.

Given that Krishnan’s last in-hold routine was his Audiobook sponsored foxtrot 3 weeks ago, this was a great improvement, or at least in certain areas, his feet at least seemed to know what they were meant to be doing at all times and he was at least counting his own steps, perhaps a little bit too audibly but don’t worry it’ll be fine for their cursed ventriloquist dummy tango next week. But most of all, Krishnan has finally learned how to look like he’s having fun in a ballroom routine, the ending of this quickstep is a perfect capturing of genuine, unbridled joy and I greatly enjoyed it

they didn’t *need* the pyrotechnics at the end but I am glad they went for them purely because the set up reminded me A LOT of the Mr. Mistoffelees staging from the original Cats stage musical

and because I don’t think Strictly will ever touch Cats with a 20 foot barge pole ever again, I have to get my kicks from somewhere.

Most of the judges seemed fine with this routine – they did all notice that his frame was a little bit rattly but were willing to overlook it for the other improvements, except Craig who apparently hadn’t got the memo to stop being such a sourpuss because the audience at home have noticed the vibes are off

so guess who’s getting a trilby to the jugular next week

Bonnie and Clyde can be for Halloween.

Meanwhile, with Claudia Winkleman…

the BBC are absolutely trying to lure Jay Guru-Murthy into a Newsround deal by leaving a trail of Toblerone triangles into the broom cupboard they keep Tess Daly in for 8 months of the year. Meanwhile Krishnan’s wife, daughter and incredibly anxious chihuahua stand there wondering if they’re chopped liver

where’s Doggy Guru-Murthy’s studio audience invite and novelty t-shirt?

Craig: 6
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 8

Angela Scanlon & Carlos Gu
American Smooth / Cherish – Madonna

In order to make Angela feel better after their Viennese Mauling, Carlos took Angela on a daytrip that felt like he was trying to gaslight her into thinking she was in Amsterdam by making her look at barges and handing her incredibly out of date bunch of tulips from the gas station that had not survived the journey

What do you mean you don’t remember the ferry ride? No, that’s… Lon Don’s Waterbus.

Sadly the prop department did not have enough time to build Carlos a medium-sized canal boat because they had to build two cocktail bars and a giant can of corned beef for Amanda to emerge out of for her terminated Canned Heat cha cha cha

Giovanni was looking so forward to dressing up as a giant can opener which is why he had to look verifiably solemn all evening. So instead Angela and Carlos had to make do with a very small bridge and some luridly coloured cherry trees

this did rather feel like it was an apologetic refund of their slightly dud Viennese Waltz last week, I know there’s only so many ways you can characterise a ballroom number but I feel like Carlos is sort of still choreographing to the Molly Rainford CBBC Checklist where everything had to be quite cutesy which is probably why you could hear the cogs turning for the last portion of the dance

*the Kill Bill siren rings in Carlos’s ears*

But Angela isn’t tethered to the Nova Jones brand, she’s the house lady who secretly hates everyone she works with

I’m just ready for her to do something that feels a little bit more grown up, and a pelvic skimming skirt slit doesn’t count

I think they’re ready to throw her an Argentine Tango or that foreboding Rumba that Shirley has scryed within the leaves of her gin-laced tea and she’s going to need it fast if she wants to get any momentum into a journey arc

I like to think this is all a long game setup for her Black Swan paso doble and she’s just doing Natalie Portman method acting.

Craig: 6
Motsi: 7
Shirley: 7
Anton: 8


Given that Couple’s Choice has been rubbing everyone’s backs up a lot recently, I thought for this week’s Retro Recap Supplement we could throw it all the way back to the genre’s inception as Strictly tried to modernise – because do you know what The Kids™ like? They really like 30 year old C list celebrities doing street dance to 80s hip hop, that’s what’s happening on the TikToks.

Couple’s Choice was started in series 16 – a time when nobody knew that so much as uttering the word “street dance” would mean an instant boil in the bag 9, Rose Ailing-Ellis hadn’t broken the system and a pair of nipples could still come careening around the corner like the headlights of a car on a misty night

that’s right, Lauren Steadman and AJ “I’m Doing Questionable Instagram Content Now” Pritchard were the very first couple’s choice, and if you hadn’t guessed from the brazen shirtlessness and solemn facial expressions – the amount of fog, power fists and floor to ceiling bedsheets will certainly give away the fact this was the waftiest of contempowafts

they really, REALLY came out of the contemporary gate at 100 miles per hour with this one, and somehow just kept going as AJ threw 12 lifts into this routine – many of which looked a bit like someone struggling to put away a fold-up bicycle in their London studio apartment

but that’s THEME! The dance was all about the support she received from her family to realise her Olympic dream, she’d won silver in the Triathlon at the Rio Paralympics 2 years prior which is why she was dancing to Runnin’ by Beyonce and being lunged across the ballroom like a baby sea turtle that was so close to the water before being nabbed by a seagull

and given the prominence of AJ’s nips, they were clearly symbolic of her parents, who were actually in the room for the routine

which you would think would mean a spread of politely positive scores from the judges…

you can see why so many people started opting for the Street/Commercial option when Charles Venn scored a spread of 9s in the same episode and didn’t have to make his family cry.

Ellie Leach & Vito Coppola
Paso Doble / Insomnia – Faithless

In order to burn off some of the frustration that Ellie didn’t manage to scream out during the samba which she very much hated doing they gave her the paso to stamp the ever loving shit out of. But a rock paso wasn’t going to cut it, they needed something that went even harder and so Vito cracked the safety glass of the Emergency EDM Paso

unsurprisingly it was a completely instrumental version, which does mean there’s an alternate universe where Angela Rippon did an Argentine Tango to a completely acapella version, complete with tearing tights off with teeth. But Vito did make sure to have a not-at-all-recreational-substance-induced-freakout in the stairwell to ensure this was certified EDM and not just sparkling Dubstep

meanwhile Ellie was across from him descending the stairs as gingerly as she possibly could because for some reason Vito had decided to take this from Paso to Ninja Warrior obstacle course by starting this routine at the very top of the staircase and including a ramp that Ellie had to full on sprint down

apparently he just has a thing for slanted surfaces now

this rooftop routine did come with 100% less metaphorically homophobic bedsheets but it did have a giant gaping maw of a skirt as Vicky begins practicing optical illusions for Halloween Week

once again, I have to talk to the wardrobe department about their application of glass beading, nobody wants a fringed optical uvula.

It was another incredibly complex routine from Vito, although after the slight misfire of a samba, he had enrolled Ellie into extra dance lessons where she got to learn about the super secret 6th toe which is like the galaxy brain of dance

Vito is an absolute gem and I would very much like to play Pictionary with him.
I did feel bad because Vito was *trying* to explain the complexity of the routine to everyone during their interview with Claudia but he was buzzing like a labrador you accidentally said “walk” in front of and the show has a… not great habit of laughing at anyone who doesn’t speak English as a first language trying to explain anything – but what he was trying to talk about was the Fregolina, which I believe was the part where Ellie manoeuvres around Vito without breaking contact (I think, I mostly worked this out by watching a Polish YouTube video about it and I do not speak Polish so…)

and because the Paso Doble is just a continental breakfast’s fruit salad, it’s name comes from the Italian word for Strawberry because *maybe* it looks like a strawberry? And because “conduttore di traffico passivo aggressivo” is a bit of a mouthful.
And now you can enjoy Vito’s torso reacting to their scores

the happiest abs in all of Europe.

Craig: 9
Motsi: 10
Shirley: 9
Anton: 9

Layton Williams & Nikita Kuzmin
Salsa / Quimbara – Johnny Pacheco & Celia Cruz

If Adam Thomas thinks trying to find time to train during Waterloo Road is hard, Layton’s having to fit in Salsa training around his gig as the back end of a pantomime cow from Jack in the Beanstalk at the Buxton Pavilion

and if you’re wondering who’s playing the head

note to self: the Strictly wardrobe department has a pearl harness.

We all know that a large part of the Strictly experience is a game of wig roulette and there are many, many, oh so many bad options but none radiates a cursed aura quite like The Strictly Afro™ and the victims it has claimed – aside from the multitude of Halloween iterations which in hindsight seem insensitive at best and like microaggressions at worst, there was Aston Merrygold’s Viennese Barbershop Nightmare

Tyler West, Porn Train Conductor

and rounding out The Brotherhood of the Cursed Afro is of course my Roly Poly King, Cameron Lombard, robbing me of 70% of my Results Show recap content

truly I am the victim here.

So there were some nervous butterflies when Layton came out sporting the 4C menace

and in the other corner, Nikita’s hair was having a dreadful time with the fake humidity in fake Cuba

but consider this an exorcism of sorts as the bad vibes were banished through the medium of an enemies to bronemies combative salsa at yet another ballroom cocktail bar

I did feel a little bit like I could have been watching a late 2000s advert for Nesquick starring a dance duo who made it to the Semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent arguing over whether synthetic Strawberry or even more synthetic Banana was the better flavour

make sure you vote in the Bebo poll!

I think that dance battle narrative really gave this routine a more authentic freestyle-esque feel that I think Karen has been trying to instill into Eddie’s routines but it is also a slightly easier concept to sell in a same sex partnership, slightly harder to relax during a routine if a man seems to constantly be threatening to sweep the feet out from under a woman. But one of the hurdles that the same sex partnerships have had to overcome in the past is lifts but we did see Nikita playing human shotput with Layton last week so I had faith

and with but a single lift Zara watched the one thing going for her in her American Smooth go up in smoke

And everyone loved it and then Anton had to go and ruin it all by saying something stupid like…

the show is very much still in its apologetic “sorry we didn’t normalise this sooner, if we had maybe we wouldn’t have to deal with a stupid number of complaints from complete shitheads” era in terms of same sex partnerships and I just feel like making male sexuality the punchline of a joke while critiquing a partnership of two men is maybe not the best thing he could have said right now.

They still go a fabulous score for it and it was a nice little precursor to the inevitable Halloween Week 40

I have high hopes for their Olivia Rodrigo Vampire Tango.

Craig: 9
Motsi: 10
Shirley: 10
Anton: 10

Bobby Brazier & Dianne Buswell
Viennese Waltz / Golden Hour – JVKE

They seem to have realised that it’s impossible for Bobby to say anything that doesn’t sound how this image looks

so this week they designed a VT that required as little talking as possible and because it would cost too much money to go to space where nobody can hear you ick, they did the next best thing

if he needs a master in astral projection, you know who to go to

The complete and total neutrality of mind very much continued into their Viennese Waltz where Bobby and Dianne were dressed for two very different perfume adverts – Dianne is doing the flowery Natalie Portman Dior thing and Bobby is doing Jean Paul Gaultier where everyone is trying to pass off underwear as outerwear

it is truly wild to me that they get a model who would look extremely good in very nice tailoring and they opt for bedtime on the Oregon Trail, albeit with better results in total

because this was a good Viennese Waltz and I’ll happily say it’s Bobby’s highest quality of dance so far and probably a better execution of the coy flirtation that Angela and Carlos keep trying to do in their ballroom routines and certainly managed to feel less… encroaching than their samba

and it was enough for most of the judges to heap praise upon because they were feeling bad about completely torpedoing Bobby The Big Red Fashion Boy last week. Except Craig who thought the whole thing was a bit lacking in technical demand which is tough because they were following Vito’s paso dipped strawberries and the black belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu Salsa so I don’t blame Dianne for having the face crack of the year because she’d only included 1 fleckerl

I am mostly curious to know what Johannes thought though because faces were being pulled

but Craig did at least say he would put the routine into a movie which does make me fear they’re adapting a Hank Green book into a movie musical because this did have a feel about it.

Craig: 7
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 9

Adam Thomas & Luba Mushtuk
Couple’s Nonsense / A Backstreet Boys Omelette

Once again, Couple’s Choice proves to be a tonally disparate wildcard as Adam talks incredibly lovingly about Clone Batch 7 and his twin

only for the show to then deadcut to the ballroom as we’re accosted by two people mostly just jumping around in what felt like a Daz advert parody of mid-90s Top of the Pops

and truly this performance was whiter than white in every sense of that phrase – probably made slightly worse by the fact Luba was going at it like this was her unrealised childhood passion project and Adam was her younger brother that got roped into it

you can spot the precise moment he accidentally made eye contact with his brother and was yeeted back in time to the moment Ryan walked in on him practicing the choreography from the Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) music video

which is PERFECTLY GOOD Halloween Week fare, who could possibly forget the time Karen’s wig got stuck on Chris Ramsay’s sock as he started dragging her wig glue first across the stage?

truly a magic moment

but instead of having someone doing a highly questionable Latin number as a dommy mummy next week

we’ve wasted it on such a lot of jumping around

I hope Adam enjoys his Halloween Jive dressed as David Cronenberg’s The Fly to Flip, Flop and Fly BECAUSE IT’S WHAT HE DESERVES. But because this is Strictly and they’ve managed to find 4 judges that are woefully out of their depths the moment anyone mentions the word “street” it was ludicrously untrue statements at dawn

sir, their waltz was only 7 days ago! IT’S BARELY COLD! But do you know what? Good for Luba getting her first 9

and given that they’ve now shot through Adam’s Requested Waltz and Adam’s Couple’s Choice in the last two weeks, he is now just an expendable hanger on – the joke about David Cronenberg’s The Fly started as a joke but… the call of the Halloween stitch up calls

I’m still waiting for the 2000 word essay about how exactly they ended up landing on Undead Apiarist and the Bumblebee That Hates Him as a concept.

Craig: 7
Motsi: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 9

Zara McDermott & Graziano Di Prima
American Smooth / Can’t HYUNK the Moonlight – LeAnn Rimes

Previously on The New York Penthouse Apartment of Relationship Woes… The Affair of the £3 Plastic Necklace from Claire’s

we rejoin our everchanging heroine, cold (EXTREMELY COLD, ACTING FOR HER LIFE LEVELS OF COLD) and alone beneath the Brooklyn Bridge

I have to say trying to overcome Zara’s awkwardness with narrative hypothermia was a valiant effort at making this routine work however at the end of the day Zara still dances like she’s stuck in a 90 second side-step shuffle with someone in the post office

She moves how Michael Cera characters speaks, it needs to be studied by science.
She does at least seem aware of her imminent glittery death though

and oh my what lifts they were, we’ve seen some wild lifts on Strictly, however this is probably the time I’ve most thought “the last thing this girl is going to see is Graziano’s scalp”

I get a sympathetic hernia every time I watch her drop out of that angel lift, it is truly insane and you all made her do it twice – sadly not pictured was the attempt in her parents’ kitchen-diner

they promised not to cook lasagne.

As was probably to be expected, the lifts were deemed the saviours of the dance with more praise being lavished upon the integrity of the silk pyjamas she was wearing than her actual dancing

extremely “I’m in danger” energy

but she better brace for Halloween Week because Motsi gave Graziano a great idea – if hypothermia didn’t work, perhaps artificial intelligence will

brace yourself for ZaraDroid 3000 *beep* *boop* *beep* *boop*

Craig: 7
Motsi: 7
Shirley: 7
Anton: 7

Angela Rippon & Kai Widdrington
Rippontine Tango / Tanguera – Sexteto Mayor

In keeping with the grand tradition of the Strictly Argentine Tango, the ice breaking couple did have to take a field trip to the most erotic places on earth – we’ve had abandoned public pools in the freezing October weather

that garage from Taskmaster where Johnny Vegas destroyed a chocolate Orange

and truly the only place steamier and more lubricious than that is the set of Rip-off Britain during a cost of living special

truly thigh rubbing stuff.
At least Kai can rest easy, safe in the knowledge that Gloria Hunniford has already been through the glittery meat grinder

but he’s absolutely getting the M&S mannequin they call Julia Somerville next year

the classic technique of luring them in by letting them do one successful boxstep with a well suited man. It’s that or lock them in the studio if they come to sit in the audience

nothing but respect for *MY* 2024 Disaster Champion.

I had high hopes for this Argentine Tango after last week’s rumba of Faustian erotica and the fact she looked suitably like someone who spent the last 30 years outsmarting and killing off the rich young husbands that tried to kill her off, my excitement was piqued

and then to me it was just… kind of ok? I think a lot of it was on the staging, I would have liked a little more contrast between Angela in all black, Kai in all black and a stage lit like it was the poster for The Exorcist

*adds Regan MacNeil and a Priest tango-ing to Heads Will Roll to the forbidden Halloween routine list*

And yes, that is a hat you can spot, sadly Kai suffered from an unfortunate case of premature millinery ejection so has been disqualified from the hat tossing olympics


Other than not knowing when to toss a hat, this was a very shrewd routine from Kai because he did most of the more technical, crowd pleasing complex kicking and flicking around Angela, while she got to do her Rippon-y thing

and in another life Angela would have been a superb women’s football player if her bicycle kick is anything to go by

the unrealised potential of Angela Rippon’s pinwheeling hip is the greatest travesty to ever face the sporting world.

Horndog Tess’s verdict:

suitably overcome.

Craig: 8
Motsi: 9
Shirley: 8
Anton: 9

And that’s that! See you in the Results Show on Thursday as we brace for Spooky Week. (I am succumbing to the MasterChef: The Professionals siren because a very nice chef asked me to please do it)

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