You only dive twice.
So after four weeks of heats, we arrive at the semi-finals. With four contestants to sift through, each of them performing two dives, we had to fit eight dives in to a show that was more or less the same length as usual, which meant that everything felt ever so slightly hurried this week. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing – after all, the action portion of the show takes up such a minuscule amount of time that it’s probably a good idea to speed everything else along.
The first semi-final involved Perri Kiely, Keith Duffy, Michaela Strachan and Danielle Lloyd. I’m mildly curious about the sequencing here: at first I thought it was the contestants from the first two heats competing against each other until I remembered that Anna Williamson was missing, and that Danielle Lloyd was actually in heat three. No explanation for this was given – it might have been to give Danielle less time, or to give Anna more, but let’s be honest: the chances of either one of them advancing to what’s increasingly looking like an all-male final were probably slim whichever heat they were in, so I’ve not really got the energy to start calling shenanigans at this point.
At least the competition having moved on a level meant that, for the most part, the dives were a little bit more daring and exciting this time around. With two chances to dive this week, everyone seems to have more or less decided to do one “spectacle” dive and one “technique” dive, although I can’t help thinking the differences between the two are largely academic.
There was bad news for anyone who tunes in primarily for the chance of seeing some Tom Daley skin (which, I’d imagine, is approximately 95 per cent of the audience) this week: he’s been busy training for the British National Championships, so instead this week’s diving demos were filmed by European gold medallist Jenny Cowen. While I’m sure that many viewers were disgusted that they had to watch A GIRL doing diving when they’d clearly tuned in to ogle Tom Daley in a tiny Speedo, at least the show was paying lip service to the concept that women can actually be professional divers – why, combine this with the presence of a female diver in last week’s showcase performance and it’s practically a feminist manifesto by this show’s standards.
ANYWAY, what of the star turns? Well, we all ended up far more intimately acquainted with Keith Duffy’s buttocks than any of us ever expected (/wanted) to be, because both of his dives resulted in a wardrobe malfunction. Perhaps it was a simple matter of physics, perhaps it was the collective will of the nation trying to get rid of those eye-searing green trunks with bedazzled shamrocks all over them, but whatever the reason, every time Keith landed in the water, his trunks came off. This was a matter of some embarrassment to Keith – not because we might have seen his junk, but because apparently he’s spent his entire life trying to hide a “Malteser” birthmark on his buttocks. Keith, I think once you’re a semifinalist on this show, your days of modesty are officially behind you. (Hurr hurr, “behind”.) It wasn’t the best of weeks for Keith leading up to the event: not only did a particularly disaster-prone day of training throw his back out, but the plane containing his wife and kids never actually took off from Dublin airport, so he had no home crowd support to cheer him on. Ultimately both of his dives (a T-start forward pike fall from the TEN! METRE! BOARD! and a forward 1½ somersault with tuck from the 5 metre board) suffered from the same general problem of scruffiness, as identified by the judges: most of the moves and positions were there, but it always looked a little straggly round the edges. There was a touch of over-rotation on the first, a touch of under-rotation on the second with splayed legs into the bargain, but the judges appreciated his ambition and his improvement and scored him 21.0 for the first dive and 23.5 for the second, giving him 44.5 overall.
Second on the bill this week was Danielle, whose presence at this stage in the competition remains a mystery to me, since she is a) not a good diver and b) not a likeable person. I did wonder if Jim Davidson’s recent victory on Celebrity Big Brother was just going to open the floodgates for the public to start supporting anyone with extremely bigoted views, culminating in Nigel Farage winning Strictly Come Dancing 2014, but at least it appears that Danielle’s support was for one week only. (Also, she was in pretty much the lamest heat of the four, and she did have a compelling-ish injury based sob story, so I guess people had to vote for someone.) We were reminded ad nauseum that she had a bad fall from the 7.5 metre board in training for her heat, landing on her neck and causing herself considerable pain, complete with newly-added shots of Danielle, sitting on that same board with her legs dangling over the side, looking forlorn while bloody ‘Someone Like You’ plunked along on the soundtrack, just in case we didn’t get that THIS IS ALL VERY SAD. So this week was all about Danielle conquering her demons (again), and her training seemed to go well, with Tom even going so far as to say that she could “be a dark horse in this competition”. I imagine Danielle was none too pleased with that comment, since she’s heard that dark horses don’t even wash their hooves properly before handling food, and that we’d probably all be better off if they, y’know, just fucked off back to where they came from, wherever that is, she hasn’t been there but she knows they don’t even talk proper English. Anyway, Danielle decided to experiment with a forward 1½ somersault from the springboard for her first dive, before returning to the dreaded 7.5m board for a fuckin’ FORWARD PIKE FALL for her second attempt. The exact same dive she did in the heats, just from a bit higher up. Pretty much the easiest dive in the entire competition. In a semi-final. It’s hard to make a case for this being much of a talent contest when you look at it that way, isn’t it? Anyway, her dive from the springboard rotated far too far, and her pike fall was a PIKE FALL, FOR FUCK’S SAKE, leaving her with scores of 20.0 for both and an overall total of 40.0.
Michaela’s first dive was introduced by a gag that definitely broke Luton Sports Village’s “no petting, no ducking, no bombing” rule as Vernon referred to this as a “make or break” stage of the competition, with Gabby clarifying that if the contestants didn’t “make” their dive, they could “break something”, and not a single person laughed. Well, people did laugh, but they appeared to be laughing in response to the fact that no one was laughing. HIRE BETTER WRITERS! This show is starting to make Strictly Come Dancing look like 30 Rock in comparison. Michaela was a bit worried about being officially the oldest person left in the competition, as well as having to nail two dives for this stage of the competition. A botched dive off the springboard in training resulted in a bellyflop, and Danielle and Michaela had a little bonding moment about how people just don’t understand HOW MUCH IT HURTS. For her first dive, Michaela opted to one-up Danielle just a smidge by doing a 1½ forward somersault pike from the 3 metre springboard, which was pretty well-executed apart from a slight hooking of the legs on entry, prompting Michaela to wail “I’ve had trouble keeping [my legs] together!” to Tom and Gabby afterwards, sending herself into a giggling fit while Tom patted her on the back, drily observing “you kept your legs together, well done Michaela.” while Gabby mock-scolded “you are our most mature contestant, we expect a little bit more.” I know it’s fairly low-level puerile humour, but this did come across quite well on screen – clearly everyone’s better at crass innuendo than they are at delivering DOA bits of leaden scripting. For her second dive, Michaela went for an inward dive piked from the 7.5m board (which she argued was a strategic move, since she doesn’t like heights and it’s easier for her if she can’t see the drop). This was a little less well-done and she didn’t quite get the vertical angle on entry to the water. Her scores were 22.5 for the first dive and 22.0 for the second, giving her a total of 44.5, the same as Keith.
Last in the line-up this week was Diversity’s Perri Kiely (yeah, take that BBC1! We’ve got a Kiely to match your Kylie!), who wanted to take on board Leon’s critique from the heats that his first dive had been a “stunt” and he needed to not do a dive where he’d land on his feet, because he’s too used to that. Perri’s big issue to overcome was the fact that he can’t wear his glasses to dive, which – given that one of his dives involved a run-up – made seeing the edge of the board rather difficult. His first effort was an inward 1½ somersault with tuck, which was pretty much perfectly-executed, earning the highest score of the series so far with 27.5 (also one of the very rare occasions where Jo didn’t give the highest score – Andy awarded it 9.5, while Jo and Leon gave it 9.0). Leon approved, and declared it the “proper dive” that he’d been looking for. I think Leon should come out drinking with me in Dover, I’ll show him what a proper dive looks like. His second dive was the aforementioned run-up one, a forward 1½ somersault with twist from the 5m board. Fortunately for all involved, Perri managed to sense where the end of the board was even without his glasses and thus managed not to sustain a career-ending injury, though his entry to the water was pretty splayed. He scored 24.0 this time, giving him an overall score of 51.5.
Assuming that this show is not coming back next year (which seems fairly likely – although it’s held up surprisingly well against The Voice UKylie and is probably a much cheaper show to make than its BBC1 rival, its most recent rating of 3.75m still isn’t a particularly strong performance and ITV might well just decide to cut their losses and try something else in this slot, especially if they can’t get Tom Daley to commit to a third run), the one thing I will miss more than anything – more than Tom’s jumpers, more than Vernon and Gabby’s awkward chemistry, even more than Leon swaying smugly from side to side in his chair like a Bond villain – will be the amazing homoerotic pro dive numbers. This week’s effort didn’t let the side down (unless you were hoping you might get to see a woman dive again, in which case you were shit out of luck) with a routine to ‘Umbrella’ including lots of prop umbrellas, a mini waterfall on one of the boards, and lots of boys diving in tight red trousers and nothing else. Some poor woman in a tutu had to dance under the waterfall for most of the song (she’ll catch her death!), but she at least got to play a part in the climactic scene where Tom appeared, doing his best to smoulder, she touched him on the shoulder and he immediately walked to the edge of the board and dived off. Read into that what you will.
The results worked out more or less the way I predicted before the show even started: Perri was voted straight through, Danielle was voted straight out, and Keith and Michaela took each other on in The Splash-Off. Keith reprised his forward 1½ somersault with tuck, it was a bit tidier, his pants fell down again. Michaela went for the inward dive piked (interesting, since that was the lower-scored of her two performances) and again didn’t quite get the rotation she needed. All three judges agreed that this was a pretty close contest, and after Andy voted for Keith and Jo voted for Michaela, Leon was left with the casting vote and opted to send Keith through. Michaela seemed fairly grateful to be excused, since I think she was quite worried if she went through to the final she’d have been obliged to go off the TEN! METRE! BOARD! and she clearly didn’t want to do that at all.
So next week Dan Osbourne, Anna Williamson, Richard Whitehead and Austin Healey will fight it out for the last two spots in the final, and it seems entirely likely that both of them will end up being taken by blokes, giving us an all-male final. COME ON, ANNA WILLIAMSON. THE FATE OF WOMANKIND RESTS UPON YOUR SHOULDERS.