Battle of the Blades IV, Week 6: David Pelletier goes crazy, selects the top three on his own

I missed Battle of the Blades last week, but as it turns out, I didn't really miss anything. Week 5 was basically a do-over of Week 4, featuring the exact same bottom two, with Anson Carter and Shae Lynn Bourne skating off against Grant Marshall and Sinead Kerr. What's more, it featured the exact same ending, with Anson and Shae Lynn eliminated. The difference? This time around, the judges didn't have a save with which to negate the entire episode and officially waste your time -- so it was goodbye, Anson and Shae Lynn.

This week, the program decided to make up for lost time, doing two eliminations instead of one. One group would be sent packing via the skateoff, as usual, but a second group would be eliminated simply based on the judges' scores at the end of the night. Lowest score outside of the skate-off went home.

That in mind, this week actually featured three eliminations, as Battle of the Blades lost two pairs and did away with the importance of the voters. That doesn't strike me as the best strategy from a viewer outreach perspective, but I'm cool with this because the judges have proven to be pretty capable this year, and it means this program will end a week sooner. (This may surprise you, but I do not like this show.)

The program opened, as it does every week, with Ron MacLean announcing the bottom two: Jessica and Brian, and Marie-France and Mathieu.

After that, we learned of another change: no Kurt Browning, who had a prior commitment of some sort. In his place, we got David Pelletier, last year's winner with Tessa Bonhomma, as well as the former partner of current judge Jamie Sale. So basically, we're eliminating 40% of the show's competition with a guest judge. I'm less cool with that now.

Pelletier made a good first impression though, harkening back to the controversy surrounding Jamie Sale and his gold medal and the infamous French judge, then pointing out, "I am the French judge." I took this as a tacit admission that either a) his judging would be highly suspect or b) he could be bullied into awarding first place to an undeserving couple. In the end, it was option A.

It was Olympic night, with each of the couples doing a skate in tribute of a legendary past performance. Scott Thornton and Amanda Evora went first, skating a modified version of Torvill and Dean's routine from the 1984 Olympics.

The performance had its flaws, with some awkward moments here and there, but they managed to pull off a triple twist, which I gather is hard to do.

When it came time to judge them, the panel ignored every other aspect of the program, praised the twist, and gave them a perfect score. This was dumb. So basically they could have just rolled around aimlessly on the ice for two minutes, then gotten up, done a triple twist, and called it a night.

I don't know much about figure skating, but it was my understanding that perfect scores were for perfect performances, not skates where even an ignorant boob like myself can spot numerous errors. But what do I know? I'm just an ignorant boob.

Total score: 18.0.

Grant and Sinead went next, and they did a tribute to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's gold medal-winning skate from the Vancouver Olympics, which I recall to be a truly awesome moment.

This was less so. They basically did a lamer version of the thing, and the whole performance looked less like a tribute than a parody, like two SNL cast members doing an impression of it. To add insult to injury, they blew the signature lift and had to come out of it as soon as they went in.

The judges weren't all that into it.

Still, David Pelletier praised Grant's "edge control", and pointed out that some of his footwork was harder than just lifting a girl and holding her up there. This is a good point, and something Grant's been doing for weeks that's made him stand out to me. He's clearly adapted to the figure skates faster than anyone else, but he's struggled with the lifts, I think in large part because he's probably the smallest competitor. It actually drives me a little nuts about this show. The emphasis on the lifts is all well and good, but these guys can all do that stuff pretty easily, and the long feats of strength get tiresome after awhile.

Anyway, they got bad scores.

Total score: 17.3.

Violetta and Jason danced in tribute to Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall, who won bronze, a.k.a. Canadian gold at Calgary in 1988. They were ice dancers, which got me very excited, because Jason is a very bad dancer -- watching him try to move to music is like watching an oil tanker turn. I was all set for inadvertent comedy.

Unfortunately, while there were some cringe-inducing moments, this skate was actually a lot of fun. The judges loved it, and David started another parade of sixes. Three of them in a row, like the church of Satan.

(I did find it sort of cute that Sale and Pelletier gave near-identical scores all night. After all these years, they're still in synch.)

Total score: 18.0.

Brian Savage and Jessica Dube skated to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", in honour of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov's memorable 1994 comeback performance. All in all, it was a very lovely skate, apart from the throw, which was pretty much the worst thing you've ever seen.

And unfortunately for the couple, the judges focuses on that throw at the exclusion of all else, just as they did for Scott and Amanda. The result: bad scores.

Total score: 17.2.

Mathieu Dandenault and Marie-France Dubreuil somehow got stuck doing a tribute to Sale and Pelletier, who, I remind you, were two of this week's three judges. That's pretty much the worst. Fortunately, they were fantastic. This lift was pretty spiffy:

My favourite moment of the night came when Jamie Sale opened the judges' comments by asking, "I don't know who it's more awkward for, you guys or us?"

"Or me!" said P.J. Stock, which was a new kind of awkward, and actually pretty funny, since literally no one in the building cared at all what he had to say about the skate.

Jamie gave a 6.0, because that's what he was all about this week, and the others came in with 5.9s. Good score for a good skate.

Total score: 17.8.

With that, Mathieu and Marie-France won the skateoff, meaning Brian and Jessica were eliminated. And, since Grant and Sinead had the second-lowest score of evening, they were eliminated as well.

A word on the judging, which was silly this week: David Pelletier basically chose the final three, giving perfect scores to the three pairs that made it through to next week. I find that a little absurd, since he wasn't judging all along, and since the judging this season has actually been pretty okay.

That said, in past years, the judging has been truly nonsensical, and in a week where history was being honoured, the wackadoo judge stylings of David Pelletier were a nice nod to the three seasons of Battle of the Blades before this one.

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