It's Blackpool time for Strictly this weekend, and the legendary dance venue plays host to the eight remaining celebrities on Saturday, with Alan Dudman on hand to look at the best bets...
"As the 17/10 Sportsbook favourite for the exit door, Jonnie could be in trouble. His 21 points from last Saturday's Foxtrot was a big step backwards, as was his first appearance in the dance-off."
What Happened Last Week
The tactic of trying one too many lays with Ruth Langsford finally came a Roy Cropper (but we cannot complain) last Saturday, following the news that the TV presenter was voted into the dance-off to join Jonnie Peacock. Ruth was likened to a horse with her galloping and trotting, so in the end the routine looked a bit lame. However, I would fancy her chances over fences at Haydock in the future with her galloping style. Maybe a tilt at a Grand National trial?
Bad news with Ruth going, good news we'll no longer be seeing ever-present Eamonn Holmes in the audience. He had a season ticket! In fact, it seemed he was on this channel more than his other ones.
It was a fairly quiet weekend last Saturday with the Highest Scorer bet landing - but with a split on profit as Davood Ghadami's Charleston scored well. It was a quirky dance and earned the Eastender his first 10s and personal best of the series, but Alexandra Burke's Argentine Tango was ultra-impressive. I had never heard of the Gotan Project before Saturday, and I liked that song for her. The first modern music I have listened to since Herman's Hermits.
Judge Bruno T called Burke a "magnificent creature", and it seemed her and Gorka were enjoying an appearance on It Takes Two this week. However, Gorka took the trouser lengths to new heights with his slacks halfway up his legs. Is he waiting for puddles?
The current Sportsbook 6/4 favourite to win is Debbie McGee - and she only managed 35 points with her Salsa. Her partner Giovanni Pernice threw her around like a hula hoop, but there were plenty of errors in the set - something I am glad professional Erin Boag picked up on this week. McGee clouted Gio around the head at one point and missed a few steps - but the judges were happy enough to go high again.
My fears of some over-marking happened with Susan Calman too - who took a gamble with a no-gimmick Tango. She's a crowd favourite, but quite how Shirley Ballas and Bruno deemed the routine to be worth an 8 is anyone's guess. The comedienne gained 27, which was five more than the annoying Mollie King - who avoided the dance-off for a third time.
The Charleston gained top marks last week with Davood - and the lucky recipient of the rag-time routine this Saturday is Mollie.
Judge Craig Revel-Horwood described her as awkward and wooden, or awks I believe she would say. On the points tally so far in the series she is well down with just 205 - a whole 62 points behind leader Alexandra. That 205 figure is almost as high as the amount of times her and AJ say the word 'like'. It's a real bug-bear of mine.
King is an interesting 7/2 bet here on the Sportsbook for 8th Elimination as she is the only celebrity left who has faced the dance-off more than once. She will perform to a Little Mix song this week called Wings. Interestingly, the tribute act for said band called Little Fix are switching on the Christmas Lights in Whitehaven next month. If ever there was a date to put in your diary...
I mentioned Calman's undeserved 8s last week, and her tally on the points board is even worse than King's - she is bottom with a series aggregate of just 182. However, she has made Blackpool, and Blackpool is the home of Kevin Clifton (well, apart from Grimsby). He has been badgering the show's producers for five years to include a "Strictly Ballroom" routine for the Tower Rooms - and he gets his chance this Saturday.
Susan was around [1.64] on Thursday for the Bottom Two, and despite the fact she has trained in some sort of Rick Wakeman cape this week, the ingredients are there for her to scrape through - especially with this promise from Clifton.
The favourite for Highest Scorer this week is Burke again at around [1.90], and I can see this being a showstopper Quickstep. Remember, the Blackpool floor is very bouncy so it's perfect for this. Gorks makes the Quickstep quick with a capital Q. I hope he sorts out these silly trousers.
I went against Debbie last Saturday, and I will do so again this weekend at around [3.0] for Highest Scorer. The 59-year-old has struggled a bit with a back injury by all accounts, but I usually take no notice of these injury stories. The celebs always make it to the show, just like how they struggle with the lifts and drop people on their head, but all is fine come Saturday.
She has a Spice Girls medley dance to a Samba - a routine that is very technical. She's got backing dancers here that I presume will make up members of the once-huge girl group. Who will Debbie be? I suggest Magic Spice, although one of my cruel friends offered Old Spice. Heartless.
As the 17/10 Sportsbook favourite for the exit door, Jonnie could be in trouble. His 21 points from last Saturday's Foxtrot was a big step backwards, as was his first appearance in the dance-off.
The 24-year-old is an unbackable [1.31] for Bottom Two, but could be a shout for Lowest Scorer at [2.12], as Mollie and Susan look to have better routines. The runner dances to the Eurythmics song "Sweet Dreams", which is desperately dull.
I flagged up Gemma Atkinson as a potential shock exit a fortnight ago, but she is another that could garner plenty of support. She loves Blackpool and goes there on holiday with the golden beaches. Her dance partner Aljaz I think is expecting the Maldives.
Gemma is a north west girl through and through.
Those two danced on a train platform with no train last week (a common problem for peak time travellers) - and they can bounce back this Saturday with an American Smooth. Aljaz missed Blackpool last year and it's Gemma's birthday weekend. People would be pretty mean not to vote for her this Saturday?
Week 9 Recommended Bets
*Strictly airs this Saturday on BBC One at 18:45 to 20:10 with in-play markets available, with the results show Sunday at 19:15 to 20:00.