Last week, thanks to dark lord David Pelletier and his trio of sixes, Battle of the Blades pared the pairs down to a final three: Scott Thornton and Amanda Evora, Jason Strudwick and Violetta Afanasieva, and Mathieu Dandendault and Marie-France Dubreuil. This week, all three skated for the title, to be decided in next week's finale.
I had wondered how they were going to fill an hour of airtime with just three pairs, and my concern was that they would do so by letting each couple redo a skate from earlier in the competition: as it turns out, that's exactly what they did. My hope was that the producers would want to avoid just a bland, shameless and redundant attempt at filling the space, but considering we basically got the Anson Carter elimination episode twice in a row, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
That said, the good news is that it gave us a chance to see how these three pairs have improved over the past several months, and man alive, have they ever.
Scott and Amanda went first. In the mini-doc, Scott talked about the butterflies he felt in week one. "Facing your fears of getting on the ice and actually figure skating in front of an audience, and national TV," he said, "was a fear that I wanted to conquer." I can safely say I have never been driven by a desire to conquer that fear. I fear I can't eat 15 pancakes in one sitting. That's a fear I hope to one day overcome. Figure skating on national TV? I'll live with that fear, thank you very much.
Anyway. They skated to Metric's "Underwater", which led to Ron MacLean's worst line in a night of bad lines. "Can mere mortals walk on water?" he asked. "Yes! If you freeze it first." Go home, Ron.
The performance was really strong, maybe the best of the night. They did the triple twist that's become their signature, and they pulled off a throw as well. For a minute-long skate, it was packed full of stuff.
On the flipside, it was strangely effortless. Scott has achieved this sort of weird, total nirvana on the ice, where he doesn't even look to be entirely present. He's just sort of floating around in a trance, this vacant smile on his face, going through the moves without any thought or intent. It was a little off-putting to watch, and I wondered where, exactly, Thornton goes during these skates, but hey man, he's doing some high-level trickery in this trance. If you have to have an out-of-body experience to become a good figure skater, then I say, by all means, go for a brief walk into the mirror world.
I was less interested in their second performance, where they reprised last week's skate to Ravel's "Bolero". It was good, just like last week, but, again, it happened last week. Part of me wishes the producers would have insisted on something a little older, so we could really get a handle on the progress they've made, but, again, this show did the Anson Carter elimination episode twice. In a row. It's a wonder they didn't let Scott and Amanda do the "Underwater" skate as their reprise.
The judges had very little to do this week. After determining the bottom three with no help from the viewer, this time around, the judges were removed from the process entirely, scoring nothing and apparently just there to fill airtime with a few platitudes before handing the final decision over to the voters. It was a little disappointing, to be honest. I would much rather they have some say in choosing a winner, since they know more than the click-monkeys at home, but they didn't even seem all that interested in shaping public opinion.
Jason and Violetta skated to Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory". All through this competition, their strength has been, well, Jason's strength. They do lifts like nobody else. Jason remains crazy stiff when Violetta is on the ground, but that stiffness allows him to do some cool stuff with her in the air.
Jamie Sale's best/worst moment of the night came after their skate. "Everybody here was on the edge of your seats but we were on the edge of glory with you." No. Just no.
Their second skate was a reprise of the Pink Panther skate they did a few weeks back, a great moment that involved Strudwick wearing Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau moustache.
It was another stiff skate from a man who is clearly half-lamppost, and they even had a little awkwardness going in and out of the lifts, which could hurt them if anyone voting even noticed. But they deserve extra points, in my opinion, for being the only team to incorporate a fake moustache. Put some effort in, other teams.
Mathieu and Marie-France were the night's third pair, and we learned in the mini-doc that Marie-France has really gotten him to open up. "Credit to M," he said. "She was able to get through [to me], and now I'm in touch with my emotions a lot more." Sorry to hear that. I'm in touch with my emotions, and it makes it impossible to watch a Toy Story movie without weeping uncontrollably. Welcome to Hell.
Sure enough, their first skate was probably the most emotional moment of the night. This pair doesn't do lifts like Violetta and Jason or the tricks like Scott and Amanda, but Mathieu is the loosest of the three guys, and it makes for the most passionate and least jarring performances. I'd say if anyone deserves to win it's these guys. Mathieu looks the most like a figure skater out there, which is astounding since he looks nothing like a figure skater.
Finally, they closed the evening by reprising their skate to Psy's "Gentleman", one of the high points of the competition, in my opinion. It was patently ridiculous, but the fun kind, and it was fun to see again, especially since they really improved on it from last time. Most notably: Mathieu's footwork. It's important to note that this was the skate from the focus on footwork week, a week that everyone else happily forgot about. Not these two, and kudos to them for returning to something everyone hated.
My guess is this skate pushes them over the top and gets them the votes they need to win it, and truthfully, I think they deserve it. They're the best overall pair.
Stay tuned next week when we discover who wins this thing, and then I celebrate an entire year where I don't have to think about it or forgo Boardwalk Empire to watch this nonsense every Sunday night. Can't wait!
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