There’s a simple way of looking at a next elimination market for the second live show. Are the acts that fell into the first-week danger zone and survived, surplus to the show’s requirements? For the last three years – Kiera Weathers, Steph Nala and Shelley Smith – they have been, and were the next to go. For the two years before that – Rylan and Frankie Cocozza – producers had a longer-term narrative in mind, and worked with the sympathy bounce to good effect.
The difference this year is that we know the two lowest polling acts left in the competition. It wasn’t surprising to see Saara Aalto and Freddy Parker in danger after their treatment on the first live show. There was a distracting song arrangement and distracting judges conversations surrounding Saara, whilst Freddy was made to spend the last third of his song warbling and jiggling around on stage to a red illuminati backdrop. Simon said it was the first performance that hadn’t worked; Freddy had been eighth of eleven in the running order.
On that evidence, both appear surplus to requirements. Producers can always change their minds from one week to the next, but these are two acts who have been given scant investment, and seem highly unlikely to win the competition. The running order of the second live show has been indicative in the past: Kiera, Steph and Shelley all got first-half draws, Rylan and Frankie received a more favourable second-half position. There’s a Strictly overlap of 25 minutes tonight.
An elimination market dominated by Saara and Freddy thus doesn’t offer too many opportunities. Next in the elimination odds is Relley C, for whom producers did change things up between a lack of audition screentime, and a very supportive first show. We had said then, that it seemed likely the fortunes of Saara and Relley were linked as one of them would be the most disposable of the Overs (we were wrong in thinking it would be Relley).
There’s a small chance producers could perform a switcheroo between them, but such was the judges’ support for Relley in comparison to Saara last week, that I’d want to see evidence of it during tonight’s show.
The Sunday flash vote to save one of the bottom three, complicates matters a little bit for elimination backers. Last week saw the teen heart-throb saved. Could it come to the rescue of Freddy again? And if fourth in elimination lists, Ryan Lawrie, finds himself down there, will the Scottish vote come to his rescue? Next in elimination lists, Sam Lavery, has a less significant but regional base in the North East.
Saara being foreign (as the show delighted in reminding us at every opportunity) and female, has less of a ready-made fanbase to be mobilised. Those backing her to go have to factor in the likelihood that she will out-perform any of her rivals in another singoff, though this time judges could say, “you’re a great vocalist but you’re clearly not connecting with the audience, and therefore I vote to send you home”.
Most intrigue surrounds Four of Diamonds entering the fray on the back of Brooks Way leaving. Our comments section and the gambling community in general have been very excited about their return, and the girlband are currently fourth favourites to win the show. Surprise returnees such as Monica Michael, have usually been treated very well for their first performance, and it’ll be fascinating to see just how much of a song and dance is made of Four of Diamonds. They’re a matter of great audience interest, but in circumstances that are embarrassing for the franchise.
The other big questions we are looking to have answered include the treatment of Emily Middlemas following the serious mixed messages of the first live show. Her song choice of ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ doesn’t necessarily encourage, but I’ve been shy of discussing the Motown numbers given to each artist this week because so many of them feel uninspired or puzzling.
Gifty Louise is a case in point. She got the most positive treatment among the girls last week, and goes from performing an unreleased track then to wedding disco staple ‘Rockin Robin’. This may be an attempt to soften her edges for the Middle England audience by showing her fun side.
There’ll no doubt continue to be lots of hype around Honey G in an attempt to keep her as the talking point of the show, and given that Matt Terry and 5 After Midnight have already been namechecked as finalists, I’m not expecting anything particularly negative for either tonight. Though the beauty of a live show is always its capacity to provide at least one surprise. Do keep your thoughts coming below.