It was another busy week beneath the BBC glitterball, complete with showmance rumours, body-shaming controversies and positive Covid tests. Frankly, we were relieved to get back to the actual hoofing – and nothing says a snuggly autumnal Saturday evening quite like Strictly Come Dancing.
On a night of high standards, and even higher scores, who’d hotfoot it to the top of the standings? Who’d waltz through to next weekend’s Halloween spooktacular? And who’d find themselves in dance-off danger? Here are the top 10 talking points from the fifth live show:
1. John and Johannes swivelled to summit of scoreboard
Lancastrian baker John Whaite hit a bump last week, registering his lowest score yet for an awkward American smooth. He needed to bounce back and, boy, did Whaite do so in style. Set in a Parisian boulangerie and soundtracked by Édith Plaf, his Charleston was trés chic and fantastique.
Alongside pro partner Johannes Radebe, he pulled off the manic pace, can-can moves and kooky choreography. The lifts were lovely, the synchronisation was spot-on and it had a retro Broadway appeal. There was even a spot of baguette-ography, just to remind us of Whaite’s Bake Off-winning days
There was almost an awkward moment when John’s local pub landlady appeared via videolink and said “I’m wet”, but it turned out to be due to sweat because of the sheer speed of the dance. Cue Claudia Winkleman wiping her brow with relief.
“Team John-hannes” notched another two perfect 10s and topped the leaderboard for the second time in five weeks. For two of the other times, they were second. The couple to beat? Mais oui, monsieurs.
2. Fabulous foxtrot was best revenge for Tilly Ramsay
Teen chef Tilly Ramsay hit headlines this week, and not for the reasons she would’ve wanted. A kerfuffle kicked off when she was called “a chubby little thing” by LBC radio host Steve Allen. Why a 67-year-old man (no Adonis himself, let’s face it) felt entitled to publicly pass judgement on a 19-year-old girl’s body is anyone’s guess.
Tilly hit back on Instagram, saying Allen’s comments were a “step too far”. She was inundated with supportive messages from her Strictly stars. With this week’s dance, she went out and showed the haters that she’s a real contender. Back to ballroom for the first time since week one, her foxtrot with pro partner Nikita Kuzmin had grace, glide and elegance. Her footwork and frame were much improved. They were glued together throughout and flowed around the floor with aplomb.
A clean sweep of nines was Tilly’s best score and put her third on the scoreboard. A surge of support could take her a long way. Steve Allen might just want to avoid running into her fearsome father Gordon in the near future. Yes, chef?
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3. Rose Ayling-Ellis waltzed into second spot
EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis has performed several high-energy routines so far – but she’s a helluva ballroom dancer too. Slowing it down and deploying her acting skills, rather like that Titanic foxtrot a fortnight ago, her Viennese waltz with pro partner Giovanni Pernice was just gorgeous.
Portraying a married couple in a meltdown, their captivating narrative had passion, magic and drama. Head judge Shirley Ballas said it reminded her of her past husbands. Craig Revel Horwood had just one word, signed as well as said: “Fab-ew-lous!” Three near-perfect nines and a maximum 10 was Rose’s best yet, and left her a single point behind the baker boys.
Watching her, it’s easy to forget that Strictly’s first ever deaf contestant can’t hear the music – in this case, “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys. Her and Gio have formed a great partnership, which looks likely to continue all the way to the grand final. Could the glitterball trophy be up for grabs too?
4. AJ Odudu notched her first 10 for sizzling Argentine tango
“World championship standard,” said head judge Shirley Ballas, giving a standing ovation. Looking to recover from last week’s slight dip, TV presenter AJ Odudu and pro partner Kai Widdrington performed a sharp Argentine tango to a top tune: “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks.
From Blackburn to Buenos Aires via Borehamwood, she clocked up the air miles in style. It was crammed with content, full of close hold, lovely lines and fast, flicking footwork; the drama was intense, the characterisation crackled. With 35 points, AJ can consider herself unfortunate to finish fourth on the leaderboard, but it was that kind of night. She looks a likely finalist at least.
5. Adam Peaty shrugged off showmance gossip
Social media lit up last week when Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty appeared to almost kiss his pro partner Katya Jones at the climax of their Argentine tango, before remembering where he was. Cue the usual tabloid headlines about “the Strictly curse”. Katya has form in this area, after all.
The story seemed to be all hot air. Peaty said he was playing a character and passion was “part of the game”. His girlfriend, Eiri Munro, even made a tongue-in-cheek TikTok video about it. Happily, tonight’s routine was a party dance, rather than a romantic one.
The pair’s double denim-clad, 1980s-styled samba to George Michael’s “Faith” involved much pelvic-thrusting, pointing and pose-striking. The judges had trouble tearing their eyes off Peaty’s “snug” spray-on jeans and hip gyrations, which made both Anton du Beke and Craig Revel Horwood go “a bit twitchy”.
A score of 29 points left him in the bottom half, but Adam should be fine for another few weeks. He probably played the “nana” card too early, with grandmother Mavis visiting him in training; he should have held her back for pre-Blackpool.
6. Another Covid casualty meant a trimmed-down show
Just 10 couples grace the dance floor rather than the expected 11. Loose Women’s Judi Love tested positive for Covid-19 this week, so she and Italian pro, Graziano DiPrima, were isolating. All being well, the pair will be back for next week’s show – albeit with less in-person training time. The double dance-off survivor could struggle but, hey, she was widely predicted to bow out this week anyway.
This episode’s running time was trimmed by 10 minutes, starting at 7.15pm rather than the advertised 7.05pm to allow for Judi’s absence. Many Strictly fans would have tuned in expecting to see dancing, only to be confronted with the last rounds of mediocre music quiz The Hit List.
It was another hiccup in a series that’s been plagued by problems for its first month – Tom Fletcher also testing positive, Robert Webb’s withdrawal on health grounds, Ugo Monye’s back injury, and now Judi. Producers must be praying the choreographic wheels don’t come off completely.
7. Sara Davies’s stilted rumba left her at risk
Entrepreneur Sara Davies has been the contest’s surprise package so far. After a rocky start, she’s topped the leaderboard twice with elegant ballroom routines, which had the judges purring with pleasure. However, Davies is far less confident in Latin and it showed in her rumba with pro partner Aljaž Škorjanec.
It was sweet rather than sensual, lacking earthy hip action and Cuban motion. Craig Revel Horwood called it a “non-event”, although the other judges were more positive. A score of just 25 points left Davies second from bottom. Durham residents and Dragon’s Den fans might need to mobilise.
Still, at least the highly likeable Sara also got to dance all week to her favourite song, “You’re Still The One” by Shania Twain. She had it on “cassingle” during her teens and wore it out with repeated rewinds. That don’t impress me much, but she looked happy.
8. Tom Fletcher’s salsa was his best dance yet
McFly frontman Tom Fletcher and Welsh pro Amy Dowden missed a week and have been playing catch-up ever since. However, they hit their stride tonight with a party-starting salsa to “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles.
It was a fast, full-on number, featuring their first lifts. Tom handled the risks with aplomb, stayed rhythmic, and hit his boyband-esque lines beautifully. It lacked a little sexy hip rotation – I’ve seen spicier chicken kormas – but two nines weren’t to be sniffed at. Tom isn’t in the top tier, but he’s a solid bet to survive well into November.
9. High-flying Rhys Stephenson couldn’t quite take off
CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson’s friends call him “Tigger” due to his bouncy energy. He calmed down here to showcase his romantic side in a swinging American smooth to “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Michael Bublé. Last week, he and Asian pro, Nancy Xu, were cinema ushers. This time around, they were airline pilots in a cleverly styled airport setting, complete with wheely suitcases. The Apprentice, anyone?
Dancing last, Rhys was buttery soft, jazzy and suave with lovely lifts. Sadly, he lost his balance and went flat in hold compared to his more expressive solo work. He was left mid-table, but deserves to be nowhere near the departure lounge.
10. Ugo Monye and Dan Walker in dance-off danger
That darn lumbago. Rugby pundit Ugo Monye pulled out of last week’s show with the recurrence of a back injury from his Harlequins and England playing career. After a week of spinal injections and intense physio, Monye was unlucky to be saddled with the rumba upon his return – a notoriously difficult dance for celebrity males to tackle.
Going from rugby to rumba proved a dance step too far. His effort with reigning pro champion Oti Mabuse lacked musicality, looked tentative and was cursed with some godawful silky 1970s styling. A right old rucking, mauling mess left Ugo rock bottom with a mere 20 points. I fear for his survival come Sunday night.
Who might join him in the dreaded dance-off? Well, Sara Davies was second-from-bottom, but deserves to stay for her ballroom ability. Instead it’s BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker who could be in danger; after last week’s infectious MC Hammer cha-cha, dapper Dan was back in hold for a show-opening Viennese waltz.
It was set to “She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel, one of his wife Sarah’s favourite songs. She’d contributed to the choreography, visited him in training and he played endearingly soppy tribute to her in the studio. The routine was a floaty, romantic affair, set in a cherry orchard and sweetly choreographed by Ukrainian pro Nadiya Bychkova. However, it needed more swing, sway and got the first “spatulistic hands” comment of the series from Craig. A score of 28 points was Dan’s best yet but, in such a strong field, leaves him in a precarious position.
The judges’ scores will now be combined with viewer votes and at 7.10pm on Sunday, the bottom two face the dreaded dance-off. Whoever loses will dance off into the sunset.
The rest, hopefully including the recovered Judi Love (get well soon, Queen Judi), take to the ballroom floor again at 7.10pm next Saturday for the annual Halloween feast of freaky fancy dress. Please join me back here afterwards to tuck into the twinkle-toed tricks and treats. In the meantime, the usual applies: keeeeeeep dancing.
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