Dark Arts To Rule

Dec 8, 2017 by

Dark Arts To Rule

Looking back at last week’s Strictly quarter-final, it seemed pretty clear watching the show live that Davood was the target. Producers may have been hoping with the aid of the pimp slot Alexandra would avoid the bottom 2.

Studying the permutations, if she hadn’t been bottom of the public vote it was most likely Mollie who would have joined Davood in the dance-off, and who would have been saved, based on the fact both Bruno and Shirley tellingly scored Mollie one point higher than Davood.

In tomorrow night’s semi-final it will again be out of the hands of the contestants in terms of who makes the final and who doesn’t. Producers will have already decided and, ‘If your name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in’.

The dark arts will be in full flow. The judges will deliver their appraisals and score the contestants according to their pre-ordained plan. They will manage the leaderboard and thus manage the dance-off.

In tomorrow night’s semi-final it will be out of the hands of the contestants in terms of who makes the final and who doesn’t

Claudia Fragapane found herself harshly targeted for elimination in last year’s semi-final. Will the producers be so brutal as to target AJ and his partner again for a second successive year? Probably not, which has to be a major concern for Gemma’s survival chances.

The decisions regarding who makes the final and who doesn’t often have far more to do with the Strictly Tour. They want and need the winner of Strictly to be on the tour, whereas a contestant who is popular with the audience but isn’t on the tour ends up a dangerous threat, and very likely surplus to requirements.

We have two contestants who have avoided the dance-off series long but their respective treatment has been vastly different. Joe has avoided the dance-off aided by the support of TPTB since week 4; Gemma has managed to avoid the bottom 2 despite having the worst of it running order wise series-long and a clear lack of support from TPTB since Blackpool Week. The indications at this point seem to suggest Joe’s name is on the list and Gemma’s isn’t.

Gemma looks like she has been polling consistently in the top 2 or 3 series-long, her public vote withstanding early r.o. slots, a focus on criticism and low scores in the last 2 weeks. Along with Mollie she still hasn’t enjoyed a single pimp slot series-long.

Worryingly for her, unless she is polling at the very top of the vote, TPTB can guide her into the dance-off tomorrow night quite easily by placing her bottom of the judges’ leaderboard and ensuring no ties.

A focus on criticism and middling praise and scores will help dampen Gemma’s support while the likely eulogising of Joe once more will ensure he beats her on the public vote.

Worryingly for Gemma, unless she is polling at the very top of the vote, TPTB can guide her into the dance-off tomorrow night quite easily

Critically, if Gemma is in their sights, we will see Mollie’s waltz scored higher than either of Gemma’s two dances (ditto all of Alex, Debbie and Joe’s highest scoring dances), meaning it will be impossible for Gemma to beat Mollie in the dance-off (or any of the others).

If we see a leaderboard tie this will enhance Gemma’s survival chance and an Alex vs Mollie dance-off would start to look more likely. But after the furore this week following Alex being in the bottom 2 two weeks running, you would have thought TPTB will want to ensure Alex is not in the dance-off for a third successive time.

If the show is being ultra-cunning we might see Mollie even placed 3rd on the judges’ leaderboard and Mollie awarded the pimp slot so they can pull out some 10s for her waltz. Should they really go to town ramping Mollie and over-scoring her, Debbie will come under threat of landing in the dance-off with Gemma.

One ray of hope for Gemma backers is, two series ago the non-touring Katie Derham won the semi-final dance-off defeating the touring Anita Rani. And the non-touring Kellie was pushed hard in the final against the touring Jay. Trouble is, that was a series dogged by ‘fix’ allegations so it had to make a big public show of trying to prove it isn’t fixed before returning to business as usual since.

Mollie has survived two dance-offs, noticeably killing off the non-touring Aston along the way, which might also suggest Mollie is on the tour. Alex and Debbie are the two outstanding dancers in this series and as such you would have to presume the producers will want them both in the final. More so if they are both touring.

Mollie has survived two dance-offs, noticeably killing off the non-touring Aston along the way, which might suggest Mollie is on the tour

Up to this point Joe has had dream treatment and TPTB’s backing of him has continued to surprise. While Joe has been enjoying their endorsement it is also worth recalling series 11 in which Patrick Robinson similarly received a baffling succession of generous scores and glowing praise before being ruthlessly bundled out in the semi-final to ensure an all-female final.

One key difference might be that Patrick was a non-tourer and Joe’s Holby City character has been written out of the series clearing the way for him to tour next year.

It is a strange dichotomy that the show is eager to endorse a contestant in Alex who is proving unpopular with its viewers, and ditch one in Gemma who has been embraced by the audience, seemingly due to Strictly Tour considerations.

The advice has to be to back Gemma for elimination because based on all of the above she should be favourite for the chop.

Joe has become an ever-shortening favourite to win the series but bear in mind the final is a very different beast compared to everything that has come before. Viewers and votes ramp up significantly and they can create a completely different dynamic on final night as we saw classically last year with the pimping of Ore to ensure he won.

Semi-final songs and dances:

Alexandra and Gorka – Salsa to Finally by Cece Peniston and Viennese Waltz to Tina Arena’s version of R.E.M’s Everybody Hurts
Debbie and Giovanni – Foxtrot to Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder and Jive to I’m So Exited by the Pointer Sisters
Joe and Katya – American Smooth to Have You Met Miss Jones by Robbie Williams and Argentine Tango to Human by Rag n’ Bone Man
Gemma and Aljaž – Rumba to Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth featuring Emeli Sandé and Tango to My Sharona by The Knack (Royal Blood cover)
Mollie and AJ – waltz to Angel by Sarah McLachlan and Samba to Whenever, Wherever by Shakira


  1. Stoney

    If they really want Joe beaten, they will have to go for him this weekend, and throw their weight behind his biggest threat, which I believe would be Gemma. Then they would be in a position to topple him in the final.
    A lot has been mentioned on here about them wanting a female winner, yet up until now they have been allowing Joe to turn into a runaway train.
    Obviously im biased but up until now I’m still awaiting someone to give me a solid argument as to how he doesnt win this next weekend. Him and Katya are the dream partnership. Watching them on itt last night was even quite touching in itself.

  2. Steve Curran

    Mollie v Gemma
    Mollie out

  3. M8

    Bodes very well for Debbie to have avoided the dance-off IMO. Granted she got the pimp slot but was in a vulnerable spot on the scoreboard and I would not have been surprised had Gemma outpolled her. A potential sign of her vote looking strong ahead of the final.

    • Bruce

      True enough but I think Joe is probably well clear and justified in being odds on. TPTB would have to actively de-ramp him (which seems improbable having given him free reign up to now) or he needs to self-destruct a little like Danny Mac did last year to get beat.
      Yes they did everything to get Ore to win but imo without Danny messing up in 2 of the 3 dances he would still have been safe.
      Another factor in Joe’s favour is that the final can be won or lost in the showdance and of all the couples I would have most faith in them finding something special together.

      • Bruce

        and yes Stoney he’s green now 😛

        • Stoney

          Good man. I’ve now got everyone max red apart from Joe. Brave or stupid, we shall see. Honestly can’t see him being beat now. He should be 1.5 when betfair re opens later.

  4. James

    Since the dance off was introduced to the semi-final stage in series 10, no celebrity who reached the final via the dance off went on to win the series (Denise, Natalie, Mark, Katie, Danny).

  5. Tim B

    Does anyone know how the public vote will have gone last night? Other than Joe being at the top, I can’t figure it out myself.

    • Craig

      Gemma couldn’t have been higher than third in the PV (Debbie and Joe’s must have been above) and if she was third then Alex wasn’t bottom.

      I think

    • Stoney

      This broken clock has had a very successful year by the way.

  6. Stoney

    If last night was the beginning of the Joe dampening ahead of the final they didn’t even come close to doing enough. They will need to do a full on Jay Mcguiness style hatchet job on him next weekend to stop him winning. Not only that as I previously said they need to throw everything behind 1 other contestant. The continued joint ramping of both Debbie and Alex is diluting the competition.
    Eagerly awaiting the dance reveals in the week.

  7. Tim B

    The Judges’ Pick

    Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice will perform a Salsa to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Boys Town Gang
    Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez American Smooth to Wouldn’t It Be Lovely from My Fair Lady
    Joe McFadden and Katya Jones will Viennese Waltz to Somewhere My Love from Dr Zhivago
    Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec dance the Paso Doble to Viva La Vida by Coldplay

    Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice will Showdance to One Day I’ll Fly Away by Vaults
    Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez will Showdance to There’s No Business Like Showbusiness by Ethel Merman
    Joe McFadden and Katya Jones Showdance to You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates
    Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec Showdance to Show Me How You Burlesque by Christina Aguilera

    • M8

      Looks like Debbie’s going the husband eulogy route for her freestyle based on that song. Lots of high points in the song as well leaving room for big lifts. A good sign for those that have her backed surely. Can’t see her not picking up some serious sympathy votes from that dance especially if they throw in the uber emotional VT,

  8. James

    Hi everyone. Ladbrokes/Coral have created a couple of new Strictly markets to bet on.

    1) In the 14 previous series of Strictly, there has only been two occasions (series 2 & 10) in which the celebrity heading the semi-final leaderboard didn’t go on to top the leaderboard in the final as well.

    2) The difference in the number of 10s awarded between the semi-final and final over the past six years shows an interesting pattern.

    2011: 15 -> 27 (+12)
    2012: 15 -> 31 (+16)
    2013: 15 -> 27 (+12)
    2014: 9 -> 30 (+21)
    2015: 6 -> 18 (+12)
    2016: 13 -> 27 (+14)
    2017: 8 -> ??

    So in five of the six years the number of tens increased in the 12-16 range. One difference to remember this year is that there will be an additional dance in the final, as no couple will be eliminated after their second dance.

  9. Stoney

    No signs of deliberate sabotage from the producers which is good. Looks like they are going to have a fair final. May the best/nicest dancer win 🙂

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