Hands up – we got that completely wrong. We had expected Amelia Lily to be tonight’s sacrificial lamb. She got the pimp slot. We had worried that the show’s favouritism towards Little Mix was in danger of becoming painfully obvious. They got the death slot.
Our initial reaction to this show is therefore nicely summed up by Jack in the comments: “I haven’t got a clue what they are thinking. Unless they read Sofabet and are trying to be unpredictable…”.
It was a major surprise to see Little Mix come out first, in the Strictly overlap zone, and get what we would usually interpret as some classic vote-dampening comments – lukewarm from the other judges, coupled with overconfident-sounding (“you have a huge fanbase… you can win this”) from Tulisa.
Their second song returned to the theme of Jesy’s insecurity about her weight, which had started the Little Mix steamroller steamrolling in week 4, and looked like an all-out pitch for the does-my-bum-look-big-in-this vote. It looked all set up for “Beautiful” to be their much-anticipated breakout moment, where they would be pimped to high heaven for the purity of their harmonising.
Nope. As Gary noted, the vocals were not as tight as they could have been, and the reaction from both the studio audience and Betfair punters was surprisingly muted. Gary’s comments went on to reference two of the themes that were pummelled to death in One Direction’s journey last year – friendship and hard work. Then he turned that positive into an unexpected negative by saying that was all that was keeping them in the competition. Ouch. Then Tulisa made a “they are not safe” appeal.
What do we make of all this?
Either it’s a sign of great confidence indicating that their vote performance last week must have been strong. Or possibly it’s a sign they are struggling in the votes and the show wants to get them into a singoff now, so they can be saved and sympathy-bounce through the semi and into the final. This would imply us believing that they wouldn’t want to risk negative publicity by having a singoff at the final four stage next week.
It’s a head-scratcher. But if the latter, save them against who? Step forward the second act to perform, Janet Devlin – at least, that is the view of the markets, who backed her in to 4/6 favourite to be the next eliminee.
Janet’s first performance saw her second lyric flub of the series. And her third. Oh dear. Much more worryingly, though, as Kramer pointed out in the comments, Louis’s phrasing after her second song was unlikely to have been accidental. “Everyone in Ireland is picking up the phone”, rather than “everyone in Ireland, pick up the phone!”
Translation: No need to vote, people, everyone is Ireland is voting for her anyway.
We have said repeatedly over the last couple of weeks that Janet’s treatment makes sense only under one of two scenarios – they are desperate to get rid of her, or they are confident she is safe and want to dampen her vote as much as possible to give Little Mix a chance of beating her. The most obvious explanation has always been the former.
We have felt the need to entertain alternative explanations because she was so relentlessly pimped all through the audition stages and up to the second live show. But it’s certainly now looking like the obvious explanation is the right one after all.
It still wouldn’t be a huge surprise to us if Janet is called safe tomorrow, though. Gary’s comments did explicitly praise her for being authentic and true to herself, a theme which we have pointed out that the show has been hitting often. And, as Nugget said in the comments: “It is actually better in my opinion to do a really bad performance and mess up than an average one. Sympathy vote.”
What’s for sure is that Janet is going to need a whole lot of sympathy in the next 24 hours.
One of the few predictable things of the evening was that Misha B’s first VT started by reminding us of Gary’s comment last week, wanting the “real Misha B” back. And we got it, with full-on urban styling. The trouble is, that urban styling didn’t make a great deal of appeal to middle England in the early part of the series, hence the radical softening that started with ‘Proud Mary’.
In particular, the hoodie dancers are unlikely to have done her many favours.
Was this an attempt to get Misha back in the game? Maybe – though you could equally read it as a valedictory blaze-of-glory to set her up for 2012. Gary even explicitly talked about setting her up for 2012 after her first performance, which felt surprisingly meta.
As for Marcus, they couldn’t have done more for him if they’d tried, or made him look more humble – which had started to be a concern after his crucifixion pose last week. As we still find it hard to believe they would want Marcus as a winner, our conclusion is that he may not be doing brilliantly in the vote and could be in need of help to get to the final.
The pimp slot which Amelia Lily got, entirely against our expectations, really ought to be enough to see her safe along with the sympathy bounce she is due after last week – although the fact that she is no higher than 9/2 after being pimped tells you that she hardly knocked it out of the park vocally. What this portends for the show’s intentions for Amelia after this week is something we’ll have to cogitate on further in due course.
Back to tonight, though, and looking at the elimination market odds, we reckon there might be a bit of value in Misha B to be eliminated at 7/2 with Ladbrokes. Nobody could be surprised if Janet leaves us tomorrow, but 4/6 does seem a bit skinny for an act who has never touched the bottom two, when compared against 7/2 for an act who has been there twice already and is due a comedown from her latest sympathy bounce.
Can you make sense of tonight? Do let us know below.