Welcome one and all to Puck Daddy's ongoing coverage of Battle of the Blades, and by "one and all," I mean the four of you who read these recaps.
This week's episode of BotB was missing two major players, as both Ron Maclean and Jeremy Roenick couldn't make the live telecast. Maclean was in Winnipeg, covering the Winnipeg Jets season opener (you probably heard about it), meaning Kurt Browning had to host the program alone. As for Roenick, he ran into some travel issues: his plane had to be grounded in New York due to technical difficulties. In his place was former World Champion figure skater Paul Martini, who was disappointingly sensible.
As much as I don't love Maclean and Roenick -- Maclean is awkward, and Roenick contributes little more than inappropriate come-ons -- I have to admit that they make the program a great deal more interesting than it would be otherwise. And, with the show's most interesting couple in Marcy and Todd already eliminated, this week's episode reached levels of blandness that would make oatmeal seem like ultra-bacon.
Not even disco Brad May could save it.
Guest judge Mark Napier, the president of the NHL alumni association, certainly didn't help. He spent most of the night rambling and saying odd things. I knew it was going to be a long night, for instance, when he claimed that Battle of the Blades gave the hockey players a chance to show the world what great athletes they are. Yes, finally, the world will know that hockey players are good at sports.
This week's theme was "The beat," which Browning informed us meant rhythm and footwork. All the teams were given music with a very definitive beat, and they would be expected to stay in time with it. I'll admit I got a little excited when I learned there would be an emphasis on footwork. Heavy footwork means a high likelihood of pratfalls, right?
So did anyone fall on their face?
Tanith & Boyd opened the evening, dancing to "She Wants To Move" by N.E.R.D. Seriously. I can safely say I did not expect to hear Pharrell Williams on this program. Will Pharoahe Monch make next week's playlist?
Also unexpected: the performance was not that bad. While it was still full of awkwardness (especially a synchronized jump that was quickly forgotten by everyone, probably because it was incredibly stupid-looking), it featured some impressive footwork and the pair did well to stay synchronized. Sandra thought it was fantastic. "It almost looked easy for you," she said, and Mark and Paul were equally pleased. Total score: 16.5.
Annabelle & Brad. I'll admit to being a little concerned at this point in the program. Without Ron and Jeremy, and with Tanith and Boyd's passable performance, there had been little to mock. I was beginning to wonder if BotB had stopped being stupid.
Thankfully, Annabelle and Brad brought us crashing back to earth, by opening their routine — set to "I Don't Feel Like Dancin" by the Scissors Sisters -- with some truly awful disco moves.
They also had some brutal timing issues. Still, there were some impressive moments, such as when they treated us to the first attempted (and successful) throw double of the competition. They received a standing ovation and were praised by the judges (except for Mark, who said absolutely nothing of value, then stopped so abruptly that Kurt wasn't prepared for it). I was a little offended when Sandra gushed that Brad and Annabelle were "in sync throughout" and "spot on." Seriously, I wouldn't let this woman judge a chili con carne cookoff. Total score: 16.7
Marie-France & Bryan were next, dancing to "Elevatas" by Robin Thicke, and giving us pretty much the same thing they always do: Bryan stands relatively still, and Marie-France crawls all over him like a squirrel.
I know I've mentioned this before, but they really do bear a bizarre resemblance to Disney's Beauty & the Beast.
Anyway. It was a incredibly forgettable performance. But then Sandra said, "Once in a while a program just grabs you, and this one grabbed me." Seriously? It must be a difficult life, constantly being grabbed by things that aren't special. Total score: 16.7
Tessa & David: I was both impressed and a little disappointed that they got Tessa into shorty-shorts this week. She's a lovely lady, so I didn't mind, but I was kind of hoping that she would continue to thumb her nose at the female figure skater dress code for the duration of the competition, and dance well into next month in track pants.
Dancing to a remix of Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack", Tessa showed that she's the only competitor with an actual sense of rhythm, but she also provided our first fall of the competition, failing to get her legs underneath her as she came out of a lift.
Luckily, the judges weren't too hard on her, especially Sandra, who, like Satan, likes bad things and hates good things. She praised the performance despite the fall and gave it a better score than last week, when Tessa was better and did not fall. Then Mark rambled, and Paul praised the recovery. Total score: 16.4.
Violetta & Cale went next, dancing to "Mr. Saxobeat" by Alexandra Stan. The performance featured the most unfortunate from-behind shot of the competition so far, which, because I had to watch, you now must as well.
Robo rump-shaking aside, those are some stupid dance moves. Make sure you keep watching the clip, by the way, because the sequence immediately following it is actually really neat.
After the performance, Sandra gave us her first informative comment ever, pointing out that the couple's opening lift was the first of the competition to be done while skating backwards. That's something. Then she tried to say something good about the footwork, realized it wasn't good and there was therefore nothing good to be said about it, and moved on. Then Paul said Cale's feet were "the smoothest out there." That's a bald-faced lie, Paul. Total score: 16.6.
Elena & Curtis danced to "Hello" by Martin Solveig & Dragonette. It was boring. Not boring? Curtis' outfit, featured at the top of this post, which was all kinds of ugly. Also ugly? The footwork in this monstrosity. Enjoy.
And then, rather than point out Curtis's footwork looked like a game of somnambulistic hopscotch, Sandra raved about the couple's first lift, which she'd apparently never seen before. I refuse to believe something that obvious has never been done. Total score: 16.3.
And finally, Russ & Kim closed the program with perhaps the simplest performance of the evening. Still, it had a lot of energy. "This program was sunshine," Sandra said, continuing her propensity for drastic overstatement, unless she meant because that it burns if you stare at it for too long. Total score: 16.7
Stray observations and things my wife said:
I love the unsubtle effort the program makes during the introductory credits to remind you that Tessa is a hockey player. It's not enough to put her in a hockey jersey like all the other hockey players in the sequence; she's also the only one shown holding a hockey stick. And, if you still don't get it, the program helpfully includes a shot of her jumping onto David Pelletier's back, in which her hockey skates rise slowly, awkwardly, and unnaturally into the frame. Why not just include a blinking caption that reads "hockey player"?
My wife on song choice: "That's a good song to blades to." I believe the verb you're looking for is skate, honey.
As a segueway to the Mott's Clamato Lounge, Kurt said the following: "Tonight is all about the beat, and it's hard to beat a good Caesar." Then he cringed, and made sure everyone knew that it was Ron Maclean, not he, that wrote that awful, awful pun.
Every week, the intro tells us that "the stakes are higher," and every week, I hear "the skates are higher," and briefly get excited that this week's episode will feature stilt-skates, a product that may exist only in my head.
My wife, mocking Sandra: "This program is the life and air I breathe. Without it I would die."