It’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for: Tom Daley’s got a semi (-final, that is. TAKE YOUR MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER).
We’re at the semi-final stage now, which means we no longer have the potential excitement of celebrities signing up for this show and realising that they actually can’t dive at all and are set to humiliate themselves on national television – anyone who’s made it this far ought to be able to dive reasonably proficiently. At least, that should be the case if one-third of the semi-finalists hadn’t maimed themselves on the way here: not only had Charlotte Jackson’s broken toe not healed itself in time for this week’s episode (to the surprise of precisely no one), but it turns out Anthony Ogogo managed to revive a previous injury to his Achilles tendon during last week’s dive, which left him unable to train all week as he tried to get himself back to competition fitness – but all in vain, as it turned out, because he still wasn’t 100% on the night and ultimately decided that it probably wasn’t worth risking a permanent injury just so he could dive for just under five million people, although he did stress that “everything in my persona is telling me to get on the board”, whatever that means. So we were left with five semi-finalists instead of six, and it’s to the show’s credit that it never really felt like it was desperately trying to fill the airtime that it would’ve otherwise given over to Anthony’s performance, which I think is the result of everyone involved starting to actually feel confident that they know what they’re doing. Just in the nick of time, as well.
So, once we’d had the obligatory opening showcase of Tom diving into a circle of synchronised swimmers waving tealights (sure?) and established that Anthony wasn’t going to win the whole thing after all, it was time to discuss serious semi-final business. In his initial VT, Tom explained that at this point we were going to need to see some real skill from these people, that the judges would award more points for a technically difficult dive from the lower boards than for an easier dive from the higher ones. This was a little bit confusing because that’s exactly the opposite of how the scoring has worked in the previous three episodes, but at least it meant we were going to get some exciting dives to watch this week, right?
Well, for the most part, yes. Omid Djalili set the tone for the evening when he set out to do a more technically challenging dive for his second time out – his swan dive from the TEN! METRE! BOARD! in the first episode was impressive to watch but relatively easy to execute (even if Dom Joly made it look a lot harder last week). This time, he was attempting a forward pike – so, leaping into the air, touching his toes, and then fully extending and hitting the water vertically – once again from the TEN! METRE! BOARD! It didn’t go quite as flawlessly as his previous attempt, as he only just managed to touch his knees and he overextended going into the water. Nonetheless, the judges were impressed and rewarded him with 22 points, and Gabby even told him “come on, Omid. I believe you can fly too. I believe you can touch the sky” – completely deadpan, which actually made me love her a little bit. Also, Tom informed us that they’ve been working all week on Omid jumping in the right direction, which I assume is a matter more complicated than “towards the water”. (Can we talk about Tom’s belt this week? It was snazzy and everything, but I felt like it needed a sensitive content warning from the continuity announcer beforehand, because if the lights caught it in the right way I’m fairly certain it could have given somebody a seizure.) Meanwhile, it became clear that Jo’s jokes were ignoring the “no bombing” sign on the wall, which was uncomfortable for all of us.
Next up was Linda, who the show seemed determined to sandbag by playing ‘Hottest Girl In The World’ by JLS for her intro music and devoting a fair chunk of her VT to discussing how THE PAPERS CAN’T STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW AMAZING SHE LOOKS, which is generally not a good way to get the audience on side for a female contestant who’s previously struggled in the public vote. (I imagine the papers were a lot more interested in last week’s cameltoe, to be honest, but strangely enough the show decided not to focus on that.) However, Linda was determined that her diving and not her torso should be doing the talking, as she became the first woman in the competition to scale the TEN! METRE! BOARD! and attempted an inward tuck – so, jumping off the board backwards and tucking in mid-air before extending again. Like Omid, Linda struggled a little bit from the increased complexity of her dive – she did the jump and the tuck well enough, but there was clearly an “oh shit” moment halfway down where she panicked a little bit and as a result she wasn’t entirely stretched out in time to hit the water – though it was still an admirable effort, and she got a very respectable 25.5 for it.
Not to be outdone, Jake had planned something even more impressive – a handstand into a forward somersault from the 7½m board. This, I think, was rather a canny move, because the anticipation is heightened even further when someone has to do a bit of gymnastics before they even leave the board, and the camera was right up in Jake’s face all the way through, watching him strain as he prepared for the handstand. I’m sure at professional competitive level this would look amazing, but here the lack of rehearsal time was evident – he looked uncomfortable getting his balance in the handstand and basically just flipped right up and over, although the somersault and entrance into the water were impressively neat, which was reflected in his score of 27.
Next was Charlotte. Oh, Charlotte. This turned out much as we all thought it would – she still wasn’t in much of a position to jump from the board, and after a botched-dive in training that severely affected her bottle, she decided to do a pike fall from the TEN! METRE! BOARD! Those of you who have been paying attention will have spotted that this is the exact same dive she did in the first round, only from a slightly higher board – the exact sort of thing Tom told us would not cut the mustard this time round. Sure enough, the judges’ collective response could best be summed up as “meh” and she got a comparatively paltry 19. Still, I liked her blatantly acknowledging that she was essentially fucked on the technical skill front so she thought it was at least worth trying to blind the judges with her bravery on the TEN! METRE! BOARD!, since even if it didn’t work out she had nothing to lose. Also, Gabby continued her excellent work at hiding her shame this week by describing Charlotte’s dive as “toe-tally terrific” and winking at the camera. I think she might secretly be having fun at this point.
Rounding the evening off was Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who’d already impressed with his skill in week two, so he really brought out the big guns this week by deciding to do a 1½ inward somersault from the TEN! METRE! BOARD! So essentially he was doing what Linda did, but a much showier version thereof, and – as it turned out – a much more technically-finessed version. At this point it’s a little bit awkward how he’s clearly so much better at diving than everyone else on this show, and given how much the British public like an underdog victory I’d be surprised if he didn’t win the whole thing. Certainly the judges could barely contain their glee, with Leon offering him a standing ovation and Jo getting her 10 out, giving Eddie an overall score of 29. (Also, the towel budget has not been increased, because Vernon’s shirt was absolutely soaking by this point. Hee hee hee.)
Perhaps the week’s greatest excitement came not from the competition itself, but from the interval entertainment, as not only was it performed to ‘Starships’ by Nicki Minaj (and I’m sure the TEN! METRE! BOARD! is indeed higher than a motherfucker) but we got to see AN ACTUAL WOMAN DIVER! The big climax to the piece was Tom doing a synchronised dive with Tonia Couch, who is a professional diver and also a GOOD FRIEND OF TOM’S, who has known him since he was seven, when he was “small and goofy”. As opposed to now, when he’s taller, less goofy, and has abs you could zest a lemon with. And believe it or not, there was actually a point (of sorts) to this part of the display, because it turns out the three divers in the final (not four, as it was reported earlier in the week, and whether this has anything to do with Anthony dropping out I have absolutely no idea, but I think rather a lot of this show gets done on the fly and if it gets a second series, I rather hope it’ll come in with a clearer plan for the run as a whole) will have to do a synchronised dive with Tom. Or, if by some miracle Charlotte were to get there, a synchronised lean-off-the-board with Tom.
So, to the important part: the public voted, and this week there were two guaranteed slots available in the final, with the other three contestants all taking part in the Splash-Off. The first person to be announced safe was Linda, which was impressive considering she had a less favourable position on the leaderboard than she did last week, but apparently she does have a fanbase after all, or at least a more motivated one than Jake Canuso. The other guaranteed finalist was, of course, Eddie, leaving Jake, Charlotte and Omid to dive again. Omid’s pike was a little out of control the second time around, and his legs were apart as he hit the water, Jake was clearly HATING EVERY MOMENT of having to do that dive again and had to attempt the handstand twice, and when he left the board he didn’t quite complete the somersault and hit the water in the foetal position, while Charlotte…was Charlotte. Let’s not kid ourselves by pretending she’s going any further.
The final decision was down to the judges, with Andy’s vote being the casting one if they had a three-way tie because apparently he’s the head judge. Did we always know that? I think it’d have been funnier if they’d given Leon the casting vote, because he’s such an attention-seeker and would’ve made SUCH a meal out of it, but sadly this was not to be: Leon voted for Jake, Jo voted for Omid, and Andy told Charlotte that her dive was too easy to allow her to make the semi-final (so either he doesn’t know which episode this was, or he’s just a stealth shady bitch), and while both of the men made mistakes, apparently Omid’s leg-split was a bigger sin, so Jake gets to advance to the final.
Strangely enough, I actually feel like Jake/Linda/Eddie makes for a reasonably satisfying final line-up. They’re probably the three most skilled and ambitious divers in the competition, and I think they should put up quite a fight in the final round. Also, a woman actually made the final under her own steam, so the show can stop publicly lambasting itself for its inbuilt gender inequality like it has done the past couple of weeks. So we’re all happy, right?