A few words of caution for the elimination market this week. I have a theory, based purely on personal experience, that weeks 3-5 are a more reliable period for pre-show elimination betting, and in some ways things get a bit trickier in weeks 6-8.
That might seem curious given there are fewer contestants involved by this point. Let me explain. I like weeks 3-5 more than weeks 1-2 because we usually have an act on a sympathy bounce, and one coming off it. Also, with plenty of acts still around at this stage in the competition, it often takes a week to soften someone up before producers go in for the kill. This was best displayed by Jack and Paul this year: both got the 1-2 killer combination of suggested rebellion one week succeeded by acquiescence in something worse the following week. This signposted their subsequent eliminations in advance.
With the deadwood largely gone from the competition, weeks 6-8 sometimes see producer U-turns not so easy to guess beforehand. And with less fodder left in the competition, these can often be decisive, as can a performance that fails to catch on – just ask Ella Henderson. There were some tortuous twists in producer favour from weeks 6-8 last year involving the likes of Sam Callahan, Hannah Barrett, Luke Friend and Tamera Foster. With that caveat in mind, what to make of the elimination market this weekend?
The remaining eight acts are sharply split into two groups of four: the first lot dominate the elimination market, with the remaining four all big prices. Only The Young head lists at 9/4. I think that’s deserved, despite some sections of the Sofabet forum suggesting one such twist in producer favour might benefit them this week over Stereo Kicks. Their Miss Dynamix-style messy staging last Saturday, and on Sunday being left for 20 minutes in the last three awaiting news of the singoff contestants, don’t bode well to me. The last one announced safe has signposted an act in imminent danger a few times already this series.
Their song choice of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ taps into what they’ve largely been performing up till now. You can say it delights the demo, or give a more pessimistic take if you believe this vein only just saw them clear last week’s singoff. Still, the song was considered interestingly quirky enough for a Katie Waissel pimp slot in 2010, and I can’t rule out a producer switcheroo, especially as market movements on Betfair yesterday indicated growing confidence behind them. A waiting brief until tonight’s show is advised.
Up till now, Stereo Kicks have been alpha group, despite two singoff appearances. Staging and running order slots are just two indications of that. Yet this is already their second attempt to avoid another bottom two appearance after a sympathy bounce – the first attempt failed in week 4. They’ve shortened into a best-priced 7/2 in the elimination market after a last-minute change of song yesterday – still unknown when this article was posted. My first cynical thoughts were: what a useful way to make the band a talking point; and it offers a useful excuse for a save should they appear in the singoff again. Blame Louis! Unless producers have indeed switched horses in this category.
If they are looking to keep Stevi Ritchie (3/1 for elimination) in the competition beyond week 6 – they did for his novelty precedents such as Jedward, Wagner and Rylan, though not for Kitty Brucknell – a Stereo Kicks and Only The Young bottom two would be the most obvious alternative given that the two groups have three singoff appearances already. Many have already tired of Stevi’s shtick, but I can’t back the novelty to fall below the Katie Waissel Memorial Position of seventh (Kitty Brucknell didn’t either) at that price before the show. He’s also partly following the Jedward/Wagner playbook with a ‘Mambo Number 5’/’She Bangs’ medley.
Still it would be best for Stevi to avoid last place in the televote if a controversial singoff save was a minimum requirement. As I’ve mentioned before, the two groups have early bottom two appearances and are thus the most obvious candidates for last place this week – so long as producers decide to work with a Jay James sympathy bounce rather than against it.
JJ has a rather challenging ‘Empire State of Mind’/’New York New York’ medley, though the latter was used to continue the Sam Bailey re-ramp in Big Band week last year. If the assumption is that producers want to avoid getting rid of Stevi – which not everyone agrees with – it would be easier for them to work with Jay’s sympathy bounce, as it would be very hard to justify a Stevi save in a singoff against him. But again, I’d rather wait on tonight’s show.
That leaves the four outsiders in the elimination market. Some have wondered whether Lauren Platt or Fleur East have a surprise bottom two appearance in them this week. The former’s song choice of ‘Smile’ doesn’t particularly appeal and she’s not reached the heights of her first two live show performances since. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Louis was name-checking her as a finalist in last week’s show, where staging as well as judges’ comments continued to be wholly positive.
Fleur returns to ‘Bang Bang’ after her acclaimed rendition of it at judges’ houses. I don’t have anything against returning to audition songs: Alexandra Burke and Matt Cardle are just two high-achieving examples. You could carp by saying it’s a return to a rap-heavy number that bears little resemblance to the theme. I think producers are trying to play safe by returning to her breakout performance.
It will be interesting to see if Andrea gets a continued re-ramp, as Sam Bailey did in 2013 for Big Band week after an acclaimed mid-season pimp slot. Some have questioned how good the song choice ‘Summertime’ is, but it’s hardly ‘That’s Life’ (with its 100% elimination record for the theme). Ben’s choice of ‘Cry Me A River’ suggests continuing producer favour – it was the song chosen to relaunch Tamera’s bid for glory last year after her previous week’s singoff save. I don’t expect either in the bottom two.
A reminder for punters that there’s a 15-minute Strictly overlap tonight. That leaves the first up in the running order looking exposed, though Ben Haenow took it in his stride for week 4. What are your continuing thoughts? Do let us know in the comments section below.