With just seven dancers left and four places up for grabs in the Grand Final - Alan Dudman looks ahead to Saturday and Sunday in his latest installment for Strictly Come Dancing....
"If ever there was a routine for the 59-year-old, this is it. Her ballet training and lines will be absolutely perfect for this."
What Happened Last Week
Paralympian Jonnie Peacock may have been voted off last week, but in many ways he was the true champion of the series following a tremendously touching speech praising the panel of four for (in his words) "judging him as an equal". The 24-year-old really has been a true gentleman throughout, and I would offer up his comments as probably the finest moment in the show's illustrious history.
Peacock also said to the judges: "You've been critical of me, and I want that criticism." I think he enjoyed his experience, and he bowed out in style courtesy of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling".
He lost out to Debbie McGee in the dance-off, and she was very much the surprising turn in the red zone. The veteran ex-magic assistant (words I have never typed before) danced in a bonkers Spice Girl-themed routine dressed as Geri Halliwell for a Samba. It was a shock considering she's been a big contender - and there's been a fair change in the Sportsbook prices now with Debbie at 11/4 to win.
It seems no one is quite convinced she can win it. The points tally tells us she isn't the best.
A couple of things from her Spice Girls' medley from Saturday. Firstly, the Dave Arch Band was more in tune than the fab foursome. Secondly, Debbie dressed as Geri seemed an almost perfect double. It was uncanny. Also the backing dancer dressed as "Posh" had more moves than the real version ever had.
Big scores usually go hand-in-hand with Blackpool week with some generous marking from the joodges (in Tess speak), and that was the case with local lass Gemma Atkinson who gained her first 10's of the series with an exquisite 38 points for her American Smooth. It was all rather good. She's now 21/10 for Top Female honours on the Sportsbook - but Alexandra Burke is in her way there.
We hit the mark with Burke's 39 for the Quickstep - and she really is some performer. There's nothing she cannot do. Dressed in full Hollywood regalia and glamour, her and Gorka found the top of the leaderboard for the second week running. She's by far and away the best dancer in this by an absolute country mile - but headlines do seem to be continually quite negative towards her - and I have no idea why.
With immature markets still waiting for liquidity come the Saturday show, I am trying to second guess what sort of price Debbie will be this weekend. Despite all the usual nonsense about 'another' injury (remember she had one last week and seemed perfectly fine) - she has the best routine coming up.
Add to the mix Alexandra's brilliance over the past couple of shows - we just might be able to use some tactics here and get a price on McGee for her Argentine Tango.
If ever there was a routine for the 59-year-old, this is it. Her ballet training and lines will be absolutely perfect for this, especially aided by the music of Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pena with Por Una Cabeza. Actually I've never heard of any of that, but it sounds good doesn't it?
This routine needs to take us back to the 1950s in downtown Buenos Aires. And I guess with Debbie's age she probably could. If we can get anywhere near the [3.50] mark or bigger she is the bet. After all, I cannot keep tipping Burke every week.
And back to the singer - she will go all Beyonce this Saturday to remind us of that famous 2008 duet on the other channel from her X Factor days. She was around the [1.60] mark on Thursday, but I would be surprised if she was that short come showtime. However, it could be the right moment to take her on as Ian Waite pointed out on ITT this week that this will be a big challenge without the fast pace.
Susan Calman has a classic American Smooth to Bobby Darin, which could be nice. Gemma will be dancing a Samba to Billy Joel's "The River Of Dreams" (the song is not so nice). Whilst the lucky-to-be-here Mollie King goes for a Quickstep to "The Baseballs" version of Umbrella.
The Beeb really do like a Billy Joel song.
There was a fair bit of liquidity a couple of days before Saturday's show, with Susan priced up as the [2.20] favourite for the chop. I like her routine this Saturday, but she has been over-marked on several occasions this series. The second favourite for Ninth Elimination is Mollie at [3.15]. The former netted 25 last week with the singer hitting 29. Bear in mind King had a Charleston which usually scores highly, so she could be in trouble if she hits the Bottom Two.
Indeed, Mollie is really a high-20s sort of dancer, which at this stage is nowhere near good enough. Mind you, neither is Calman.
Davood Ghadami has been the big improver recently and is now in a straight match-up for Top Male on the Sportsbook at 8/11 against Joe McFadden at Evens. The Eastender against the Holby City-er.
Both have good routines planned for this Saturday with Davood's Waltz to a Billy Preston and Syreeta song (OK, the only Billy Preston and Syreeta song). Whilst Joe has the ever-popular Quickstep - which usually nets high marks.
However, we have potential for a shock here. Debbie popped up last week, so no one is safe as she was deemed to be rather popular. McFadden isn't exactly a massive name (eight letters), and even potential finalists can find themselves in the Bottom Two. As Ali Bastian found out a few years ago.
*Strictly airs this Saturday on BBC One at 18:50 to 20:10 with in-play markets available, with the results show Sunday at 19:20 to 20:00.