Despite a male contestant being due to depart Strictly tonight, Rob Furber puts forward the case for elimination favourite Dan Walker's survival...
"Contemporary is a genre that can easily fall flat and regardless of the emotive backstory associated with it, the judges may decide to give it the cold shoulder, with a male contestant due to exit the competition, leaving an even, three female, three male split heading into week ten."
Sara Davies's exit from the show was another winning bet last week and, pause briefly to exhale onto fingernails and rub lapel, that is now four of the last five eliminations called correctly here.
In truth, this series of Strictly has largely been going to form and we are long overdue an elimination upset. And if it is ever going to happen, then tonight's Musicals Week could be it.
Underdog status aids Dan
In reality shows like Strictly, and X Factor back in the day, you often get a contestant who defies a lack of talent in becoming a firm viewer favourite, and you can end up making hay laying them for elimination.
In past series, we've had the likes of John Sergeant and Ed Balls on Strictly; Jedward, Wagner and Honey G on X Factor. The British tv audience loves the chance to get behind a likeable underdog.
Step forward Dan Walker, the Breakfast presenter who, the tabloids and keyboard warriors will all resolutely scream, is the worst dancer in the competition and should be long gone.
It's a fix, he is enjoying BBC favouritism, it is making a mockery of a serious dancing contest... Despite the chorus of naysayers, Dan now has a Charleston to the classic 'Good Morning' from Singin' In The Rain which looks perfectly in his wheelhouse to deliver another vote-winning routine among Strictly's older viewers, where Dan has been reigning supreme.
In Nadiya Bychkova, Dan has struck up a great rapport with his professional partner and this is another reason why the audience has bought into the Dan journey.
Dan is the last remaining contestant not to have enjoyed the pimp slot, and his Charleston looks the ideal, feel-good closer for Musicals Week. He is also yet to break 30, and has been handed a dance which looks poised to be a triumph, so there are more than enough potential ingredients there for the elimination favourite to escape the dance-off.
Tilly's revolt set to charm
It gets more interesting when factoring in elimination second favourite, Tilly, being granted a Couple's Choice which will be a Theatre-style number to 'Revolting Children' from Matilda.
Tilly has found herself in the bottom two in the last two weeks, but a fun, energetic routine with freestyle choreo components, and one she can really go to town with playing a character, looks the sort of thing that will suit her very well.
After opening last week's show, she can have high hopes of a late running order position, and the judges may see this Theatre routine as a chance to offer Tilly a reprieve, by scoring her highly and thus ensuring her safe passage through to week 10. Tilly may even be worth considering to be week 9 highest scorer.
Jive risk for Rhys
Rhys has a jive to 'Footloose'. It's a fast Latin routine many thought would suit Rhys well, but training VTs and last night's rehearsal footage has cast some doubt over how it will go for him tonight.
There is a strong suspicion Rhys is polling last among this year's remaining field so given the fact there is scope for him to drop down the leaderboard, following his perfect 40 last week, he could easily find himself in the dance-off and under threat of elimination.
At odds of around 7.06/1 or bigger on Betfair he looks well worth chancing for a surprise exit from the show.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house last week after Rose and Giovanni's inspired Contemporary routine which has seen Rose shorten further in the Winner market on Betfair, and matched as low as 1.222/9.
Rose hasn't had a poor week yet and there's just a hint that a Quickstep to 'Love Is An Open Door' from Frozen The Musical could be a banana skin for her, and lead to tough critiques and low scores.
AJ endured a massive fall from grace with last week's paso, and she was placed last on the judges' leaderboard having topped the scoring chart the week before with her Charleston.
The topsy-turvy nature of this year's competition seems to be a theme the producers are keen to run with, and while Rose could easily drop down, AJ has strong prospects of bouncing back to the top of the leaderboard with a waltz to 'Edelweiss' from The Sound Of Music, having already scored 37 for her week six Viennese Waltz.
John has been cruising through the competition up to now and a VW to 'Chim Chim Cher-ee' from Mary Poppins should be straight forward enough for him to land another high score.
Misery for Tom?
There is perhaps more uncertainty regarding how Tom will fare performing a Couple's Choice (Contemporary) routine to 'On My Own' from Les Misérables.
Tom may have been very close to landing in the dance-off last week, but escaped by managing to outpoll Sara. This is a number he has said will mean a lot to him as it was the first song his sister performed live in the West End.
Contemporary is a genre that can easily fall flat and regardless of the emotive backstory associated with it, the judges may decide to give it the cold shoulder, with a male contestant due to exit the competition, leaving an even, three female, three male split heading into week ten.
With Craig missing tonight's show due to Covid, stage and screen actress Cynthia Erivo will replace him on the judging panel.
This might be another factor that tilts the battle of the Couple's Choice routines in Tilly's favour given she is performing a Theatre routine which should be right up Erivo's street as a West End and Broadway actress herself. So Tom looks well worth backing for eighth elimination around 5.04/1 or bigger on Betfair.
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