There must be 50 ways to lose your gamma, and we saw a new one tonight – send a vampire on stage mid-song to bite him in the neck. For the fourth Hallowe’en show in a row, producers cleanly hit their target.
Jack came in to odds-on as his VT focused on him being smalltown and not liking being expected suddenly to perform like Beyonce. That foreshadowed Louis’s comments about him being a small-room performer who doesn’t belong on the big stage.
What a show, though. Can’t it be Hallowe’en every week? And who’s leaving tomorrow?
Starting at the beginning, there was only a 15-minute overlap with Strictly this week, but the intention didn’t seem to be to throw Ben under the bus – this looked like simply a decision taken from wanting a strong start to the show after last week’s singoff fiasco. He had a lovely VT featuring his mum and a four-judge standing ovation. There was a “recording deal” from Louis, a “real deal” and a mum shoutout from Simon, and two explicit calls to pick up the phone to vote. This was no hatchet job from the coffin slot.
Up next, catching the viewers turning over from BBC1, was Lola. She got another self-belief themed VT with the John Lewis music in the background, which initially suggested that her disastrous misfire last week might have been more of a detour than a termination of her journey – and this week’s vocals were better, though she’s no natural performer. There were red flags in the staging and styling, with a spider’s web shirt (see our last article for possible significance) and disturbing backing dancers. Significantly, Louis told her “all the Geordies will be voting” (rather than “I want all the Geordies to pick up the phone”), which may have the effect of suggesting that others don’t need to. We’re worried for Lola.
Fleur got yet another heartwarming VT and a big production for Thriller, with justified praise for her performance – though, as Mel pointed out, the performance detracted somewhat from her vocals. Having been well backed in the win market in the couple of days before the show, she drifted out again slightly on Betfair immediately after this performance.
Jay James’s VT featured a Skype call with his navy mates. But it’s possible to question whether the Val Doonican-esque costume and the enormous eye staring distractingly over his shoulder were staging positives. Given JJ’s history of face-clawing over-emoting, it was also surprising that he went upbeat with it rather than doing the tried-and-tested Aiden Grimshaw version. And it was surprising that Simon chose to drop in mention of his previous record deal, something well known to close observers of the show but hitherto unmentioned to the average viewer, who had been introduced to him only as an injured navy veteran. The mantle of alpha over seemed to have settled on Jay when the running order was announced with Ben up first, but now it looks very much open again.
Up next, Doughnuts Faustini was spray-painted gold, sent to hell and called an alien. We’ll have to rewatch that a few times before we can pick our jaws off the floor and think coherently about it. On a personal level, we continue to find Andrea extraordinarily endearing and he was once again vocally imperious.
As if all that wasn’t hilarious enough, Lauren then got advice from Cheryl about how to sing and dance at the same time. Again, repeat viewings will help unpick the bones for the win market implications of this performance and treatment.
It was a very bad week for Paul, whose VT portrayed him as miserable, mardy and ungrateful, with comments from Simon driving home the point. In between, Paul delivered vocally on ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, but the red-eye contact lenses impeded his ability to connect and he had a face like thunder having finished performing.
It will be no coincidence that producers chose to emphasise Paul’s mardiness further by following him with a performance praised to the skies for how much fun it was. Only The Young were due a bounce after last week’s singoff. Their performance then was so poor, punters had made them second-favourites for elimination on the thinking that producers might use it to dampen their bounce – but instead they worked with it, Simon notably giving them praise for their attitude and performance and Louis explicitly appealing for votes. There were a lot of explicit appeals for votes tonight; a second viewing will remind us which acts didn’t get them.
Stereo Kicks got the inverse-Habibis VT, worrying about a poor turnout at their public appearance before camera angles did their best to maximise the size of the teenaged female crowd. The penultimate slot in the running order for the second week running and Simon’s comments about believing in them and being glad they stayed as an eight-piece told a story about producers’ intentions – as did not one but two of them emphasising to Dermot that they’re in it to win it. Let’s not forget that Stereo Kicks are due a comedown from their bounce, and it remains to be seen whether the public is willing to go along with the script.
Stevi got what we assume was his promised payoff for agreeing to play the joke act, the chance to perform his song. You could see it as journey completed, but the combination of the pimp slot, his likeability – the bromance VT with Simon lived up to expectations – and his shoehorning in a promise of fun again next week really should be enough to see him safe.
Who do you see in the singoff tomorrow night? It seems pretty wide-open to us. Do let us know your thoughts below.