Photo Finish

Dec 16, 2022 by

Photo Finish

Unlike the last three Strictly finals which, for the most part, looked a procession – Kelvin Fletcher, Bill Bailey, Rose Ayling-Ellis – heading into tomorrow night it is down to the wire.

There was a mad pre-final gamble on HRVY in 2020 after Bruce Millington of the Racing Post tipped him up to his followers, but this year feels closer in nature to Stacey Dooley vs Joe Sugg in 2018.

That 2018 final serves as a reminder of how things can take a surprise turn in finals. Stacey and Kevin got pelters for their showdance and endured a highly-critical evening, seducing the market into thinking Joe had won. Joe’s social media strength also helped fuel belief in him.

This year, Hamza has been leading the way on social media. He has been the revelation of this series starting in week 1 with his 34-scoring foxtrot before reaching a crescendo with his week 4, 39-scoring salsa. Aiding Hamza has been Jowita’s choreo. She has been the break-out star among the new raft of pros, and one of their biggest selling points has been lifts, showcasing her athleticism and Hamza’s strength.

Only a month ago, Hamza was considered a near certainty, being matched at 1.3, but Helen has galvanised a powerful late run fuelled by her quarter-final, ‘Musicals Week’ CC routine set to ‘Mein Herr’. She has all the late momentum and in last Sunday’s exit poll there was less than one per cent between her and Hamza.

Social media stats and sentiment are useful in providing a guide but never give us a full, accurate picture of the public vote, especially with Strictly. There is a significant hidden proportion of older, Conservative, middle England voters who will not be expressing an opinion online, and in this key battleground Helen may have the edge over Hamza.

Aiding Hamza has been Jowita’s choreo. She has been the break-out star among the new raft of pros, and one of their biggest selling points has been lifts, showcasing her athleticism and Hamza’s strength

Helen has been writing a Daily Telegraph ’Strictly Diary’, she is a Radio 5 Live presenter, and going into this series you looked at her profile and if you were trying to build a prototype of an audience-friendly, female contestant it would be her. As much as Hamza has likability in abundance, Helen remains the stronger fit with the core Strictly voter.

One of the most interesting aspects of tomorrow’s final is TPTB giving Hamza his salsa as the judges’ choice, whereas Helen’s CC is her and Gorka’s choice. These are undoubtedly the two series-defining moments for Hamza and Helen, and each contestant’s trump card. Splitting them into two separate rounds of dances makes production sense, in giving both a spotlight on the night distanced from one another.

Votelines usually open after the first round of dances, so if Hamza is granted the pimp slot, viewers will be invited to cast their votes immediately following the reprise of his stand-out ‘Ecuador’ salsa. That looks early advantage to Hamza as you have to think there is an initial stampede of free votes cast via the BBC Strictly homepage.

The judges have chosen Helen’s week 7, 37-scoring jive. This was her highest scoring routine of the series at the time and the moment that signposted her as the main challenger to Hamza, but don’t be surprised to see Hamza’s price go shorter on the back of the first round of dances given the impact of his salsa.

Votelines usually open after the first round of dances, so if Hamza is granted the pimp slot, viewers will be invited to cast their votes immediately following the reprise of his stand-out ‘Ecuador’ salsa

Much like Helen’s jive, Hamza and Jowita’s choice of their week 8, 38-scoring CC to ‘Jerusalema’ looks his weaker routine on the night, but Hamza backers will be hoping he has built up a healthy advantage heading into round two.

Helen’s ‘Cabaret’-inspired number will give her the chance to seize the initiative. Identical to Hamza’s salsa, Craig’s 9 should be turning into a 10, but that’s not a given.

‘Mein Herr’ is and was the pinnacle of Helen’s journey and represents so much more than her trying to emulate Liza Minelli. It’s about her empowerment and given her back story, it feels like this routine has the strongest emotional pull over the Strictly audience. It’s going to be fascinating, and telling to see what road they go down with Helen’s VTs on the night.

In past finals we have seen some clever dark arts used to trip up contestants. We don’t know what lies in the script tomorrow night but heading into the final TPTB appear to have been even-handed this year in giving both Helen and Hamza their optimum choices. Perhaps it is simply a case of them not minding who wins out of the two of them.

‘Mein Herr’ is and was the pinnacle of Helen’s journey… It’s about her empowerment and given her back story, it feels like this routine has the strongest emotional pull over the Strictly audience

There are also many viewers who will hold off from voting until seeing all dances performed. The show always makes a point of reminding the audience of this option, so the showdances, which will be the last round of dances on the night if following last year’s format, still matter.

Helen’s showdance to Emeli Sande’s ‘Shine’ is described as a joyful, uplifting routine, celebrating Helen’s journey and involving tricks and lifts. The title of the track alone is the ideal metaphor for Helen’s transformative Strictly experience, and it sounds like her dress could also play upon the shine theme.

Hamza’s showdance will be a classic top hat and tails, Fred & Ginger number set to Irving Berlin’s ‘Let’s Face The Music And Dance’. He is going the Ore Oduba route who famously overcame outsider of three status heading into the 2016 final by charming the audience with two classic ballroom routines, including his ‘I Got Rhythm’ showdance, and Len leading the way with a standing ovation.

You have to think allegiances are firmly set among the vast majority of Strictly voters heading into tomorrow night, and the floating voter is a much smaller proportion of the total vote. But we do have the not insignificant question of where Will’s votes go after his surprise semi-final exit.

Semi-final (week 12) judges’ leaderboard:

Hamza & Jowita: Charleston – (3) – 9, 10, 10, 10 = 39; Waltz – (8) – 9, 10, 9, 9 = 37 = 76
Molly & Carlos: American Smooth – (4) – 8, 9, 9, 10 = 36; Paso Doble – (9) – 9, 10, 10, 10 = 39 = 75
Fleur & Vito: Paso Doble – (1) – 8, 9, 8, 10 = 35; Charleston – (6) – 9, 10, 10, 10 = 39 = 74 – bottom 2
Helen & Gorka: Waltz – (2) – 8, 9, 9, 9 = 35; Argentine Tango – (7) – 9, 10, 8, 10 = 37 = 72
Will & Nancy: Paso Doble – (5) – 7, 9, 7, 9 = 32; Couple’s Choice – (10) – 9, 10, 9, 10 = 38 = 70 – eliminated

Will has probably been polling in the top three across the series. That’s a huge chunk of votes. The previous two eliminees, Ellie Taylor and Kym Marsh, were certainly pitching for votes in a similar space to Helen, but Will and Hamza could hardly be more diametrically opposed as male contestants on Strictly.

Hamza’s strongest card is his humbleness whereas Will was variously painted as a try-hard and arrogant, in particular, during that brutal semi-final takedown. The show enjoyed portraying Will as something of a medallion man, and it’s hard to imagine the women who were charmed by Will now falling over themselves to vote for quietly-spoken, shy, retiring wildlife cameraman Hamza. Will and Helen are both northern so there is at least some small correlation between the two of them.

By the way, the moment Will tossed his hat in the direction of the judges’ desk following his elimination, reminded us of Argentina’s Leandro Paredes hammering the ball at the Dutch bench during his country’s ill-tempered encounter vs The Netherlands in the World Cup quarter-final.

At time of posting, we are still awaiting news on the last reveals for the Strictly Live tour in 2023. Might the delay be due to Helen not yet committing? This could be a pivotal sub-plot. If Helen is not touring, you would have to expect a big Hamza push tomorrow night, and a subtle Helen deramping.

Molly and Fleur haven’t been mentioned yet which seems very unfair. They are both superior dancers to Hamza and Helen, consistently outstanding across the series, but as is so often the way with ringer types, neither has grabbed the imagination of viewers and four dance-off appearances for both tells its own story.

The floating voter is a much smaller proportion of the total vote, but we do have the not insignificant question of where Will’s votes go after his surprise semi-final exit

They are bit part players on the night, the undercard filling space between the big heavyweight showdown of Helen vs Hamza, Strictly’s very own Rumble In The Elstree Jungle. Helen is going to have to endure some early punishment but it could be the classic rope-a-dope prior to the mother of all comebacks.

Interestingly, this final pits three pro dancer newbies, in their first series with celeb partners – Jowita, Vito and Carlos – vs a comparative Strictly veteran, Gorka, in his sixth series and third final. Gorka’s never won and it feels like now or never for him. Might this be referenced on the night?

This is a year when you would love, love, love to see the grand final pv totals because there is very likely to be little in it between Hamza and Helen, but as usual traders will be left in the dark and all we will get from the BBC is an announcement of the winner of the Glitterball Trophy.

In the event of a Hamza win, be prepared for a long wait for Top Female bets to be settled while bookmakers gradually get their heads around a dead-heat settlement on Helen, Fleur and Molly.

Please do let us know who got your votes when our grand final exit poll opens during tomorrow night’s show.

Strictly 2022 Exit Poll – Grand Final

Grand Final dances & songs:

Fleur & Vito
Judges’ Pick: Samba to Hot Hot Hot by Arrow
Favourite Dance: Couple’s Choice to Destiny’s Child Megamix by Destiny’s Child
Show Dance: Find Me by Sigma featuring Birdy

Helen & Gorka
Judges’ Pick: Jive to Tightrope by Janelle Monáe
Favourite Dance: Couple’s Choice to Mein Herr by Liza Minnelli (from Cabaret)
Show Dance: Shine by Emeli Sandé

Molly & Carlos
Judges’ Pick: Quickstep to Love On Top by Beyoncé
Favourite Dance: Rumba to All The Man That I Need by Whitney Houston
Show Dance: Kiss/1999 by Prince

Hamza & Jowita
Judges’ Pick: Salsa to Ecuador by Sash! featuring Rodriguez
Favourite Dance: Couple’s Choice to Jerusalema – Remix by Master KG featuring Burna Boy and Nomcebo Zikode
Show Dance: Let’s Face The Music And Dance by Irving Berlin


  1. Stoney

    Hi Rob. Absolutely bizzare regarding the live tour. Surely they wouldn’t leave it 5. And surely they wouldn’t leave the announcement til after the final. If Helen isn’t touring it’s bad news for her final treatment. However they surely would have been better allowing Will in the final. They have allowed her to create enough support to seriously trouble Hamza no matter what her treatment is like in the final. If they attempt a hatchet job this will only motivate her fans.
    Also remember Kellie Bright, pretty sure her year they desperately tried to get her past Jay for the win despite the fact she wasn’t touring. Hamza backers sitting a little more comfortably than they should be off the back of the tour question leading into the final.

    • Rob

      Hi Stoney. The delay is a bit of a mystery. I don’t ever recall celebs being announced on the Live Tour post-final but maybe they were worried it would look suspicious if they announced all of Hamza, Molly, Fleur & Helen as touring in that Tweet on December 9, coincidentally the 4 who end up making it through to the final.

      For Helen and Fleur to make the final over Will, who we know is also on the tour… wouldn’t suggest they’re non-tourers. Only time will tell.

  2. Stoney

    Interesting story just emerging in the mirror showing Hamza has had dance training. Is this an x factor style deramp on the eve of the final? The footage is from 2010 so they will have had this for some time.

  3. James R

    Hi Rob. Thanks for another excellent year of Strictly analysis and tipping.

    Fortunately, I have an all green book, so can sit back and see how it all plays out. It could go either way tonight, but personally I think it will be Hamza who takes the Glitterball trophy home.

    • Rob

      Thanks James. Good luck tonight. I can’t call it heading in to the show but it might become clearer during in-running.
      Did see a brief Insta story by Helen last night & she said, ‘Tomorrow it will be almost over’. Might suggest she’s on the Tour cos there’s no more ITT now, & nothing else Strictly-related after tonight bar next year’s tour.

  4. Stoney

    That was my worst strictly result in a long time. Hamza was a red for me unfortunately. But I’ll take that on the chin. Still don’t see how he ended up winning to be honest. Maybe the very strategic reshuffle of show dance and dance of the series order swung it for him. It must have been very close in the voting but I still thought Helen would see him off in the end. Oh well, they got their preferred winner in the end.
    Hope everyone has a nice Christmas.

    • Rob

      Bad luck Stoney. Helen was my main pick to win the series pre-lives so purely from an ego pov it was galling to come so close. Hamza was on my dark horse list from the get-go & I was lucky to back him 40+ early on, but Helen was my bigger profit because she was the value over the last few weeks, whereas Hamza was trading far too short imho.
      I have no doubt it was a narrow margin between the 2. In Hamza’s favour was phonelines opening after the 1st round of dances. If they opened after all 3 dances I’m pretty sure Helen would have won. As it was she was having to play catch up. The nature of the 6 free votes must result in more votes cast early than late. Watching live, it looked like they tried to push Helen for the win. I thought she might have edged it. Would love to see the pv totals.

      • Stoney

        Do you think they pushed her for the win or was Hamza comfortably clear from last week? Had to be the closest strictly final in a long time. I think Helen finishing bottom would have been better and she would have won. I was convinced Helen had it in the bag after Craig’s comment as well.

        • Rob

          It struck me as a subtle deramp of Hamza – on 1st, no 10 from Craig for his salsa, then talk of nerves, foot faults & a general underwhelmed reaction to his showdance.
          Helen had the much more emotive VTs, the support in the studio for her and Gorka came through loud and clear, & her CC stole the night. It was simply too late, as it turned out, but I think they were trying for the Helen win.

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