Russell Grant, bitches. Russell muthahugging Grant. There are some who fear he will be the Ann Widdecombe of this series but I think those people are overlooking some minor differences:
1) He's never suggested handcuffing pregnant women to their beds.
2) He's actually trying.
3) He's awesome.
Along with some surprisingly OK dancing for so early in the competition, Russell was perhaps the highlight of this past Strictly weekend. But, of course, what's Strictly without a bit of intrigue, so I'll just throw this out there: is Jason Donovan a fix?
I've vowed to keep the Strictly updates considerably shorter this year, so, bant â ni straight into the individual performances, starting with the lowest-scoring couples.
Nancy & Anton / Waltz / 12:
What is the dealio with Nancy Dell'Olio? Apparently she sees herself as a sexual predator. Fortunately, she can be easily stopped if you simply throw a feather boa at her. That bit of costume was her undoing; one can see why Anton chose to have her just sit on a chaise lounge through much of the dance. According to a tweet from Russell Grant, Nancy was supposed to have left her feathered nemesis on the couch, which suggests perhaps that even without the boa the dance would have been awful because Nancy is crap at taking direction. How did "Leave the feather boa behind" get translated to "Carry that thing with you to the death"?
She's like that old salt in the eyes sketch from Kids in the Hall.
Edwina & Vincent / Cha Cha Cha / 17:
I find it difficult to criticise too heavily the people who seem to be having genuine fun on Strictly. I imagine that if one had been able to tap into Edwina Currie's thought process during her Cha Cha Cha, it would have been something along the lines of: "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Bless her for trying. And seemingly losing herself in the moment; rolling around on the floor at the end of the dance and flashing her knickers before an audience of millions. Why aren't American conservatives this fun? In terms of actual dancing, however, I'm not entirely sure Vincent is up to the challenge of choreographing for someone who isn't Flavia (his professional partner) or, at least, quite Flavia-esque. The dance was too jokey.
My favourite comment on Edwina comes from the Guardian's live blog: ""
Lulu & Brendan / Cha Cha Cha / 17:
You know it's bad when Brendan concedes defeat. All too often he insists upon defending his celebrity from the "harshness" of Craig's camp villainy. In this case, however, after manically flouncing about the stage with Lulu for a bit -- at one point actually turning to her and raising his shoulders, as if to ask: "What the hell are you doing?" -- he was happy to just stand there and admit that, yes, Lulu had chosen to make up her own steps in the moment. She looked like an inebriated mother of the bride, trying to relive her youth on the wedding party dance floor.
Robbie & Ola / Cha Cha Cha / 19:
Len is right: of all the footballers to perform in the whole of Strictly, Robbie Savage shows the most potential. That isn't really saying much, though, and there was far too much standing rigidly still in his Cha Cha Cha to make an assessment of what he may or may not be able to do. From what little dancing there was, however, I am pained to admit it was not as awful as I might have hoped. I really hate football banter on Strictly and I thoroughly dislike Robbie's taking so much pride in having been a dirty player during his footballing career. It's OK for Ric Flair to be the "dirtiest player in the game" because he is a professional wrestling heel. For an actual sportsman to carry that mantle is embarrassing. I dislike him on principal.
Audley & Natalie / Waltz / 20:
Did they really only have three days to put that dance together? In the "Here's a look at them in training" video package, Natalie said she and Audley Harrison had just three days to work on their dance due to, uhm, some sort of reason that wasn't properly explained. It had something to do with the fact Audley lives in the United States, though, last I checked, airlines are still operating flights between the U.S. and the UK, so I'm not sure why that mattered. From her physique, Natalie looks she could have swam to America, so a part of me feels pity for Audley and the workout that must have been waiting upon his arrival in the UK. But boxers are used to intense training and it seems to have paid off somewhat. He was far more graceful and comfortable on the dance floor than Joe Calzaghe ever was (the only other boxer I can remember being on Strictly). The fact he has hands the size of Shetland ponies was always going to hurt him, though -- especially considering Craig's armography fetish. Indeed, the very first word from Craig after the dance was, simply: "HANDS!"
I fear any attempts at Latin dance. I worry they'll have the feel of the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene in Young Frankenstein.
Russell & Flavia / Cha Cha Cha / 21:
Russell Grant, you magnificent queen, I like you far more than I thought I would. He and Flavia seem to be on the path of embracing his campness and running with it, something I think could work out brilliantly if done right. In this dance, both Russell and Flavia just sort of did their own thing. They need to interact more, with Russell being playfully naughty about Flavia's quite admirable physique. Of course, Russell will need to be able to breathe in order to do such a thing. At the moment, his getting through the whole routine without needing to stop for oxygen seems to be the primary goal.
He'll get time to work on fitness level, though. He's very clearly popular with the audience; that alone will likely carry him to at least week four. If he and Flavia master the camp-burlesque dynamic, and he manages to do the basic steps (as he was this weekend), I would expect him to carry on to the Blackpool show.
Alex & James / Cha Cha Cha / 22:
As I mentioned last week, I have a long history of perving on Alex Jones. But in all that time I had never noticed she has boobs. I mean, it's not that the things weren't there, but they didn't really stand out. On Saturday, however, suddenly, they were there: boobs. Bronnau, as they are known in Alex's native tongue. The Guardian live blog described her as looking like " ." A broken chandelier with lovely boobs.
In terms of her actual dancing, however, it was less than exciting. James, who is my favourite professional dancer for just this reason, managed to get her to work in a few raunchy moves but Alex hasn't yet developed the ability to make you think: "Oh, crikey. They're going to abandon this dance at any moment and just go straight to having sex."
That's the sort of thing I want from Alex Jones: naughty, naughty, naughty broken chandelier and boobs.
Dan & Katya / Waltz / 24:
Before writing about Dan Lobb's waltz I considered watching it again on YouTube, because in my memory I have it confused with Rory Bremner's waltz. I decided against doing that because obviously it was so wholly unmemorable it's not worth watching again. Every Strictly must have its dancers that are there to simply fill out the roster. Dan, it seems, is one of those people.
Chelsee & Pasha / Waltz / 27:
Top-heavy Chelsee Healey annoys me just a little more with each passing moment. Unlike Alex Jones, I noticed Chelsee's boobs because she has no other redeeming qualities. After her dance, as Chelsee and Pasha were making their way to Tess' area, Tess said: "Here she comes, a favourite, running up the stairs."
I think that statement would be more accurate sans one of the commas. That is: a favourite running up the stairs. Men watching the show will almost certainly put her in their top five favourite people to watch running up stairs. But as I said, last week, it's just not enough for me. There is too much wrong with Chelsee to be compensated for by the presence of ginormous breasts.
Her accent, for example. Listening to her speak is like pouring petrol into your ear. In the whole of her video package I only understood a handful of words: "Wahmah mah wah nah gah baby wah nah fah mah wah out wi' me mates wah mah wah nah gah mum."
Frustratingly then, despite looking "" as the Guardian live blog described her, Chelsee was not an awful dancer. She was, it pains me to admit, OK. Perhaps her utter lack of attractiveness, personality and basic verbal skills allow just enough room in her brain to retain dance moves. An awful, deviant, perverted part of me is eager to see her perform Latin.
Rory & Erin / Waltz / 27:
See the above, re: Dan & Katya. Replace "Dan Lobb" with "Rory Bremner."
Harry & Aliona / Cha Cha Cha / 28:
Under marked, yo. Aliona has scored again with a good partner whom Jenn has a girly-type crush on. All through Harry Judd's Cha Cha Cha, Jenn was squealing and giggling, which probably would have knocked my confidence just a little had I not already consumed so much port and the fact Aliona was distracting me by wearing as a top something that basically looked like a glittery sock. Raised amidst the crumbling Soviet Union she almost certainly understands the importance of thrift and seems to carry this philosophy to her costumes, where she wears in a season the same amount of fabric Ann Widdecombe wore in a night. Bless her.
Also it's OK for Jenn to perv on Harry because I may have a wee man crush on him, as well. He wore a Minnesota Twins T-shirt in one of McFly's videos, after all; regional love carries a long way.
Their dance was on par, if not superior, to Jason Donovan's and was probably under marked because they were first to perform on the night. As I mentioned in a recent vlog, I am so confident of Harry's success I'm considering putting money on it.
Anita & Robin / Waltz / 28:
If watching Anita Dobson's waltz didn't make you just a little bit teary-eyed, you have no soul. Robin the big gay monkey seems to have a knack for putting together emotionally stirring waltzes, having done similar with crazy Patsy Kensit last year. I had no idea who Anita was before this. She played the former bitchy wife of an "East Enders" character who was killed off, brought back to life and killed again all before I moved to this country, which means my attitude toward her was tabula rasa. Based on the video package, she seems a nice person who is genuinely excited to be on Strictly, so she has gone from "Person I'm not paying any attention to" to "Person I kind of like." That said, I do not look forward to seeing her perform Latin.
Holly & Artem / Cha Cha Cha / 28:
Having performed first on the Friday show, Holly Valance's Cha Cha Cha may have slipped your memory by now. Wearing what the Guardian live blog described as "" Holly performed admirably amidst the crazy spinny handsy madness of Artem's movement. In high-energy stuff Artem doesn't seem capable of toning things down a little, so, by comparison, Holly looked just slightly as if she had just been roused from a slumber. There's likelihood of improvement, though, if Holly decides she actually wants to be taking part -- which I'm not sure she has yet done.
Jason & Kristina / Cha Cha Cha / 32:
OK, I've gone back and watched Jason Donovan's Cha Cha Cha and, yes, it was good. In the moment, however, I agreed with Jenn, who said he looked like a pervy dad who's getting to dance with a drunken 18-year-old girl and still can't believe his luck. Fair enough; dancing with Kristina might elicit the same response from me. As I say, though, I don't think J-Train's dance was all that much better than Harry Judd's. Certainly not so wonderful it deserved such glowing praise from Craig. The wonderfully camp villain of Strictly suddenly got all regional, referencing the fact both he and Donovan are Australian and then shouting: "Bonzer, mate!"
What? He's never done that with Natalie; he didn't do that with Holly Valance (both of whom are also from Australia). His own Australian accent has been allowed to disappear in favour of a more British one. Where the hell did this Australian patriotism come from?
When you work regionalism into the mix it affects your opinion of a person (see above, re: my opinion of Harry Judd). Perhaps that's the reason Craig dropped an 8 on the J-Train but what's the explanation for the other judges? I feel the J-Train was just so slightly over marked because the judges like him. He's been a frequent guest of "It Takes Two" over the years and I think, perhaps, he's got a slightly different status amongst the judges than the other contestants. They like him and want him to do well and, I think, perhaps, they are allowing that to cause them to score him a bit less harshly.
Not that it matters, of course. The massive ovation given to the J-Train even before he shook his moneymaker is sign he will have plenty of fan support along his Strictly journey. Indeed, unless Harry Judd and Aliona find true love in one another's arms (thus echoing the endearing romance last year between Artem and Kara Tointon) the safe money at the moment is probably on J-Train to walk home with the coveted glitter-ball trophy. And, I suppose that's fine. For some reason I can't really figure out, I like the J-Train. Perhaps one of the reasons I like him stems from the reason behind my nickname for him:
Last week, my friend, Elisa, drew my attention to the group dance from the launch show. At about 2:10 into this video, Jason Donovan throws Nancy Dell'Ollio out of his way like Thor dispensing a frost giant. Nancy learned the hard way: you don't stand on the tracks when the J-Train's coming.
I can't think of too many other things that stood out for me this week. It was good to see Tess Daly again with her crazy hit-or-miss fashion sense. And it occurs to me that somewhere in his great big bag of cliché and pun, Bruno almost certainly has a "Prince Harry" reference ready should Harry Judd perform well in waltz or foxtrot.
Expect to see Harry Judd and the J-Train in the final, possibly accompanied by Holly Valance.