The countdown to the final is officially on as we cross the halfway mark into week 7 on Strictly Come Dancing. It was perhaps less colourful than Halloween in parts, but the evening proved itself to be the most entertaining yet.
Kicking off the show was singer Alexandra Burke, setting the tone by scoring a strong '39' for her classic and classy cha cha cha set in a jazz club. The strength was tangible across the following performances, as popstar Mollie King came back from last week's dance-off with a romantic foxtrot.
Despite a couple of hiccups, Mollie and partner AJ Pritchard continue to provide sweet and suave entertainment week on week. However, this week's biggest improvement came from Holby City actor Joe McFadden who danced a cartoonish, charismatic charleston.
Always a sucker for good storytelling, the actor brought acrobatics and a Nutcracker level of enjoyment, dressed up as a drumming soldier with partner Katya Jones. The pair scored their first '9's of the series and left judges with a smile "on more than just my face", according to judge Craig Revel Horwood. Make of that what you will.
However, some were feeling the pressure of expectations, as former JLS member Aston Merrygold struggled this week. Although he performed a viennese waltz to one of his favourite songs, 'Who's Loving You' by Jackson 5, the judges were less impressed. "Some things don't always work out darling", Craig suggested, before scoring Aston's dance with a harsh '4'.
His second '4' of the night was given to TV presenter Ruth Langsford's paso doble — which may have provided the most sensational moment of live TV on the series so far. Focusing on the entertainment value of parody as opposed to conventional darkness bestowed in the paso doble, the routine ended with an incredible tumble. Enjoyable for all, surprising for many.
Debbie McGee may as well start making room for her glitterball now, as after being crowned "Queen of Latin" by head judge Shirley Ballas last week, Craig Revel Horwood left his seat to physically bow at Debbie's feat after an electrifying tango.
The judges were in awe and all agreed — it was time to award the first perfect score of the season. The earliest a '40' has ever been awarded in the show, Debbie is clearly here to stay.
What could have felt like the morning after last week's colourful party packed a real punch in the end. Closing the show with an A-list American Smooth, Eastenders actor Davood Ghadami left a resounding message: there's no more messing around, everyone is in it to win it now.
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