If any further proof was needed Strictly is now following Syco’s dark arts rulebook it came on Saturday when a never-seen-before ‘rule’ emerged.
With Anastacia unable to reprise her salsa due to injury, there was no dance-off vs Melvin and instead the contestant with the lower public vote was eliminated, namely Melvin. This was a first in Strictly history.
You can always tell when the Beeb is squirming – it backs up its actions on It Takes Two in an attempt to persuade the public it is all legitimate. Zoe on Monday read from the allegedly long-established rules of the show to try and appease viewers. More likely, they were hastily drawn up on the back of a fag packet while it was all kicking off backstage.
The reading of the incident here is, they were happy to sacrifice Melvin for the sake of saving their big American signing. In many ways it was an odd decision because given Anastasia is hamstrung by injury she is presumably going to be severely restricted in terms of future choreography. But her appearance fee must have been so vast the Beeb probably wants a minimum of maybe 3 to 4 weeks out of her.
The consequence of this is, it looks on the cards we can expect a major ramping of Anastacia tomorrow night to ensure she avoids the dance-off. She has a VW to ‘A Thousand Years’ which will be easy to eulogise and score highly, keeping her (in theory) safe.
As anticipated last Saturday, Ed’s Charleston proved a triumph. He has already got the public behind him and a samba to ‘Cuban Pete’ gives him the chance to further cement his status on the show as a plucky underdog throwing himself into the Strictly experience, and showing at least glimpses of genuine dance skill.
A quickstep to an iconic Garland and Astaire track is right in Anton’s wheelhouse and could help Lesley impress and more importantly gain them enough votes to avoid the dance-off too. So it starts to look like we could have a surprise bottom 2 on our hands.
The question becomes, who looks most vulnerable among the remainder of the field? Claudia and AJ have an ideal Charleston track to produce something fun and memorable. It’s going to be very fast and is going to suit Claudia’s rapid, bouncy gymnastic feet. It also looks a likely table-topper which may well lead to a short-term price drop on Claudia.
Judge Rinder and Oksana don’t have such a suitable track for their Charleston and one wonders how they will be outfitted to The Flintstones theme. Early training VTs this week showed JR dancing barefoot and this made him look rather odd in some of his movements.
It has been surprising to see him trading as low as third favourite on Betfair this week given he has so far been scored 25 and 27 and the judges have focused mainly on the strange faces he pulls and his lack of technique. The view here is, the market is over-rating his winning chance at the moment despite him building up some early goodwill for his entertaining cha, cha, cha in week 1.
The feedback the contestants have been receiving this series has been informative with Claudia clearly ‘on message’, doing her best Dermot O’Leary impression, and Zoe helping out on ITT as well. In the case of Ed and Greg they have been going out of their way to tell the audience they are doing especially well given they are absolute beginners. You get the impression TPTB have been annoyed by the dance training some of the other contestants have had pre-series.
Will and Karen have an impactful track in ‘Jai Ho’ for their salsa and along with Claudia this could be one booked for a later slot in the running order and a high score. Laura and Giovanni also have a salsa but based on Laura’s struggles with the cha, cha, cha, in week 1 and what we have seen in the training room this week this could prove tough for her to execute to a high standard.
Daisy has a quickstep set to ’Spoonful Of Sugar’ which might not be quite as impressive or impactful as her week 1 waltz. Both Daisy and Laura will need to achieve a position high up on the leaderboard to avoid a surprise bottom 2 appearance while Louise, dancing CCC, and Danny, dancing the paso doble, should be comfortably safe.
Greg found the tango tough due to difficulties with posture. American Smooth is a much more free-flowing ballroom dance, in which he will get the chance to lift Natalie into the air. He should do a much better job with this dancing to ‘Everything I Do…’.
Ore also has more chance to impress dancing the AS as well to the iconic ’Singing’ In The Rain’. Both he and Greg definitely have the window to improve on their series best score of 27. Ore, for one, is going to have to score well because there remains a nagging concern he isn’t the most voteable among this year’s male contenders.
A tango to the Mission Impossible theme is certainly teed up to be dramatic for Naga and Pasha but she has disappointed so far, and has come across as far too serious. If this routine proves more of a miss than a hit she will be in danger. Tameka has a tango too, to the ‘The Heat Is On’, and has looked to be struggling in training. Whichever of these gets the earlier slot could end up looking especially vulnerable.
It is a shame we have no bottom 2 prices issued by the high street. Pre-show Ed, Anastasia and Lesley look well capable of escaping the bottom 2, and there is a case to be made for any of Laura, Ore or Daisy potentially falling into the dance-off this week but the advice here would be to dutch the two tangos – Naga and Tameka – because one of them will have to be on early and whoever is will likely find themselves in big danger.
The potential fly in the ointment remains Ed. If he is on early and the judges try and damn him with faint praise his public vote may not be enough to lift him out of the bottom 2 as he will very likely be anchored to the bottom of the leaderboard. In this scenario he will be worth a savour. The hope is, producers are keen to run with Ed’s entertaining and surprisingly twinkle-toed performances on the show so far.
With Louise and Danny starting to look head and shoulders above the rest of the field, it is easy to envisage the judges talking up of some of the other contestants and inflating their scores to make it look like more of a competition. Certainly Claudia and Will look best placed this week to emerge from the chasing pack.
Will has started to drift to an appealing price in the Outright on Betfair. The view here is, he is a superior dancer to Judge Rinder and he is a better fit with Strictly’s middle England voting audience.
But value is value and it is irresistible to advise Greg again after his price has drifted to 14-1. He remains this year’s stand-out potential journey contestant, with the TPTB showing signs they are keen to build up his challenge.
Greg and Natalie have been coming across really well in interview so far. Natalie just needs to eke out gradual improvement over the weeks and keep coming up with great choreography. In this respect Greg couldn’t be in better hands as she is undoubtedly one of the top pro dancers on the show.
This week’s dances and songs:
Anastacia and Brendan will be dancing the Viennese Waltz to ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri (from the Twilight Saga)
Claudia and AJ will be dancing the Charleston to ‘You Give a Little Love’ by Paul Williams (from Bugsy Malone)
Daisy and Aljaz will be dancing the Quickstep to ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ (from Mary Poppins)
Danny and Oti will be dancing the Paso Doble to ‘The Train’ by James Horner / ‘El Sombero Blanco’ (from The Mask of Zorro)
Ed and Katya will be dancing the Samba to ‘Cuban Pete’ (from The Mask)
Greg and Natalie will be dancing the American Smooth to ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’ by Bryan Adams (from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)
Judge Rinder and Oksana will be dancing the Charleston to ‘Meet The Flintstones’ (from The Flintstones)
Laura and Giovanni will be dancing the Salsa to ‘Rhythm of the Night’ by Valeria (from Moulin Rouge)
Lesley and Anton will be dancing the Quickstep to ‘A Couple of Swells’ by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire (from Easter Parade)
Louise and Kevin will be dancing the Cha Cha to ‘Flashdance… What A Feeling’ by Irene Cara (from Flashdance)
Naga and Pasha will be dancing the Tango to ‘Theme from Mission Impossible’ by Lalo Schifrin (from Mission Impossible)
Ore and Joanne will be dancing the American Smooth to ‘Singin’ In the Rain’ by Gene Kelly (from Singin’ In The Rain)
Tameka and Gorka will be dancing the Tango to ‘The Heat Is On’ by Glen Frey (from Beverly Hills Cop)
Will and Karen will be dancing the Salsa to ‘Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)’ by A.R. Rahman and the Pussycat Dolls (from Slumdog Millionaire)
Next elimination – Naga Munchetty – 9-2 – William Hill – 2pt win
Tameka Empson – 9-1 – William Hill, Coral – 1pt win
Outright – Greg Rutherford – 14-1 – 1pt e/w – Betstars