- Debbie McGee tops the leaderboard with romantic rumba
- Joe McFadden jumps to second spot after scoring a perfect 10 for his paso doble
- Simon Rimmer, Brian Conley, Susan Calman and Ruth Langsford all joint bottom
- Bruno Tonioli's week off meant three-strong judging panel for first time in Strictly history
- Results show airs 7.15pm Sunday on BBC One. Join us back on the liveblog then
Missing judges. Magic rumbas. Anton's outfit. Craig's impressions. After a busy night in the ballroom, here's all the talking points and social media reaction from Saturday's show...
Debbie McGee's emotional rumba returned her to the top
She's this year's oldest contestant but there's no way you would know it. Debbie McGee struggled with the cha cha last time out but had worked hard all week on her earthy style and hip action to tackle the notoriously tricky rumba. There were spins, kicks, lifts and extensions. The judges raved about her poise and leg placement. Debbie duly scored a clean sweep of nines to top the standings.
This was an affectingly heartfelt routine, too. After a VT which saw Debbie reminiscing about her late husband Paul Daniels and proudly showing footage of the magician to pro partner Giovanni Pernice, head judge Shirley Ballas revealed that she too had lost a loved one and felt Debbie's pain.
Lovely to see the fiftysomething females bonding - especially on an evening when women dominated the judging panel for the first time in Strictly history. Hear them roar.
#scd Debbie McGee is looking like she might win this. She’s always at or around the top of the scoreboard.— Leanne (@Leanne_Cee) October 21, 2017
Was there more to Bruno's absence than met the eye?
The night's big news was that flamboyant Italian judge Bruno Tonioli missed his first show in 13 years, citing a demanding Transatlantic work schedule. But something didn't smell quite right. The BBC claimed Bruno's break was planned but if that was truly the case, why wasn't he replaced with a guest judge, like when Len Goodman had a knee op? With the couples judged by a panel of three for the first time ever, it messed up the scoring system and negated the need for the head judge’s casting vote on Sunday's results show.
Has Bruno prioritised his role on Strictly's US sister show, Dancing With The Stars? Is there friction with his fellow judges, hence he's lining up a new gig? Has the 61-year-old booked himself into a discreet clinic for a mystery youth-defying procedure? Is something else afoot? Whichever way, it was strange to see a three-person panel with no gesticulating, shouty Italian on the far end, falling off his chair. Although colleague Craig Revel Horwood did an uncanny impression of him, to much amusement.
Shame they didn’t put Brendan on the panel tonight— James Jordan (@The_JamesJordan) October 21, 2017
Oh no .... he’s just a dancer
"A very busy work schedule", i.e. couldn't be bothered to pop back from doing Dancing With The Stars. #strictly— Ian Jones (@metro_land) October 21, 2017
Four-way fight to dodge the dreaded dance-off
The public vote might well change the picture, of course, but we ended the evening with four celebrities locked together down the bottom of the leaderboard, all on 16 points.
Stompy chef Simon Rimmer's charleston was criminally lacking in swivel action, despite his protestations about a long-standing ankle injury. In the midst of Storm Brian, its namesake Brian Conley failed to ruffle any feathers with his flat-footed, holiday camp-themed jive. And Ruth Langsford's air hostess samba was far more memorable for Anton Du Beke's flamboyant outfit than any actual dancing.
The one who surely didn't deserve to be down there was Susan Calman, whose cha cha was packed with content, cheeky character and charm. As Kevin Clifton's rhythm-keeping motto went: "Su-san Cal-man is an awe-some dan-cer". Hopefully viewer votes will see justice done. Simon and Brian deserve to battle it out on Sunday night.
Looks like the Sunday Brunch guy might be toast. Sorry, I'll get my coat. #scd2017— Tony Peters (@tonypetersss) October 21, 2017
Alexandra plummeted as Joe bounced back
Was Alexandra Burke being punished for her near-perfect 39-point jive last week? Her Ed Sheeran samba was spicy, fierce and fast but the judges seemed overly picky, as if taking her down a peg or two. She fell six places down the leaderboard and surely didn't deserve to end up in the bottom half.
In sharp contrast, Joe McFadden was this week's comeback kid. Following last week's awkward cha ch, he came storming back with a powerful paso doble full of commanding character and Spanish lines. It was an impressive performance but Shirley Ballas still surprised us all by pulling out her perfect 10 paddle for the only time this week. Joe finished just one point behind Debbie McGee. If Holby hospital ever finds itself hosting a bullfight, they've got just the man.
Three-person panel was odd but no dance disaster
It might have been a Strictly first but the downsized judges' table had its plus points. Bruno Tonioli long ago descended into self-parody with his yelling, arm-waving and leering, so nobody much missed his input. And with the show's running time not reduced, it meant more room to hear from the other three judges. They responded by giving far more detailed critiques, which were technically interesting if not always much fun, often feeling like they were merely reading their notes aloud. There was occasionally a three-point variation in their scoring too.
Darcey Bussell lapsed back into her old "yes? yah?" tic. Shirley Ballas seemed so anxious not to get any more names wrong, she lacked spontaneity. Thus the show was stolen by Craig Revel Horwood, who was as spikily unpredictable as ever - plus witty, wise and even showing signs of softening in his old age. He'd also clearly been practising his Bruno impression in the mirror, complete with pratfall.
Craig doing an even more convincing Bruno than Bruno �� #Strictly— Sid (@StrictlySid) October 21, 2017
Anton Du Beke was on fab-ew-lous form
Was he pitching for Bruno's seat, perchance? The longest standing pro was on fire tonight, mainly thanks to that extraordinary outfit change. Playing a passenger on-board air hostess partner Ruth Langsford's flight, Anton du Beke was dressed in a dapper business suit - which he promptly tore off to reveal the most colourful samba outfit this side of Copacabana beach: sequin-spangled pink slacks and a cerise shirt with frilly, flouncy sleeves straight off a carnival float. If the plan was to distract from Ruth's faltering footwork, it worked a treat.
Anton proceeded to have the studio audience in stitches with his repartee. He bickered with Craig, gave balcony backchat to Claudia Winkleman and quipped: "For the first time in 15 series, I'm sort of disappointed Bruno's not here. We could've done with that extra four points." Ah, dear old Tony Beak. Don't ever retire.
Anton Du Beke should be co-presenting this show instead of Claudia Winkleman. He makes jokes that are actually funny. #StrictlyComeDancing— Agent S(ean Bassett) (@WhoPotterVian) October 21, 2017
Serious question. Why is Tess Daly in Bruce's place over Anton du Beke? Surely he's a shoo-in? #strictly— Vittoria Gallowe'en (@Vitt2tsnoc) October 21, 2017
Chasing pack are closing the glitterball gap
During the first month of the contest, it looked like former X Factor rivals Alexandra Burke and Aston Merrygold were way ahead of the rest. The leaderboard landscape is now changing. Debbie McGee is definitely a threat. Gemma Atkinson is ever-improving. The popular Joe McFadden and Jonnie Peacock are also both impressing.
With the judges starting to clamp down on Alexandra and Aston's footwork, it's all throwing the glitterball race wide open again.
Saturday night's action in full
Here's your routine-by-routine recap...
Darcey's vocal tic annoying viewers
An email in from Telegraph reader Meryl Tomblin:
"When Darcey Bussell first joined Strictly as a judge, her comments were littered with 'yes?' all the time. This was commented on and she stopped. This series, though, she is doing it again and again and again. She ought to stop as it's becoming extremely annoying."
Standard too high, says reader
This just in from Telegraph reader Martin Davies:
"Bit disappointed with Strictly this year, dahhling. Too many professional dancers posing as amateurs for our liking. The whole point of this show surely is to make people into dancers who have never danced before. It's great to see them start with two left feet in week one, then emerge two months later into really good, accomplished dancers. Another Ore Oduba, please! Oh better still, the lovely Abbey Clancy! So come on BBC, find 'em what can't dance and make them into one."
Voting is now open
While they shake maracas and recap the action on-screen, stay with us for reaction, analysis and your comments.
Jonnie and Oti's quickstep
The blade is back on for a fast, bouncy dance that should suit the gold medal-winning Paralympic sprinter. Last couple out and it's a supermarket theme for no apparent reason. Into hold and a bouncy quickstep full of flicks, kicks, skippy strides and synchronisation. Covering the floor well, even if there's some slight gapping and frame issues. Catches an apple to end. Jubilant Jonnie shouts "Yes!" at the end.
Music: Part-Time Lover by Stevie Wonder
Judges’ verdict: Darcey says "gosh you made it look easy, light and speedy, cheeky character, impressive detail but your right elbow drops, yes?" Shirley says "you put a spring in your step, it was light, pendulum swings, didn't miss a beat, no mistakes and ease of movement, outstanding". Craig says "the stars are aligning and elements coming together". Some awkwardness from Tess and Shirley, though. Eights? A nine?
Judges' scores: 7, 8, 9 for a total of 24 points. His first nine and equal third place.
Alexandra and Gorka's samba
Can she maintain the sky-high standard of last week's Tina Turner jive? "Alexandra Berserk" is going from Tina Turner to Rio carnival queen. It's fast, frilly and flouncy with lots of travel arond the floor and some nice hip-shaking. Sexy, spicy mood, footwork a bit messy at times but full of spirit. Powers, bounce and a pose to finish.
Music: Shape of You by Ed Sheeran
Judges’ verdict: Craig says "you're an amazing dancer, love watching you, loved the tribal touches but your pigeon-toes ruined it". Darcey says "your body doesn't stop moving, you bring the floor to life but work on the tiny details". Shirley says "you have immense power, you're a fantastic performer, upper is exquisite but work on foot and ankle position". Eights?
Judges' scores: 7, 8, 8 for a total of 23 points - tumbling to mid-table.
Joe and Katya's paso doble
Cha cha dis-ah-ster for Holby's Dr Di Luca last time but now he's going from Latin lovegod to butch bullfighter. Macho matador. Traditional jacket, no shirt underneath. Form a queue, female Holby City fans. Commanding character and knee-walks. Dramatic shapes, lacking a little fluidity but arching curves, body resistance, a nice blend of the classic and contemporary. And a kicking kill to finish. Ole!
Music: Diablo Rojo by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Judges' comments: Shirley says "you're back, that was the best male paso doble so far". Craig says "you did it really well". Darcey says "Spanish style, loved it".
Judges' scores: 7, 9, 10 (blimey) for a total of 26 points - second place so far. Wildly fluctuating scores.
Gemma and Alijaz's foxtrot
A powerful paso took the ever-improving Ms Atkinson to second on the scoreboard last Saturday. Can she now nail pro partner Alijaz's favourite dance (and, apparently, her least favourite)? Slightly drab brown frock for Gemma. Slow and moody to open, then rather beautiful once they're into hold. Footwork and lines falters at times but lovely leg extensions and swirling around the floor with style. Storytelling too. Liked that.
Music: Madilyn Bailey’s stripped-back, slowed-down version of Cher’s Believe
Judges’ verdict: Darcey says "you're becoming so versatile, impressive mood, quality and grace but in hold you over-stretched the neck, yes? Have a focus, yes?" Shirley says "last week you were fierce, today you bought romance and classic elegance, lovely and gentle but watch the length of your steps". Craig concludes "the front-runners in this competition need to start looking behind them, darling." Eights a-coming?
Judges' scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points - equal second.
Ruth and Anton's samba
After last week's much improved tango, it's an old-style samba set on an aeroplane. Flicky hair extensions and a drinks trolley for Ruth. And then passenger Anton rips off his business suit to reveal some preposterously flouncy pink sleeves and sequin-spangled slacks. Ruth's arms are equally eye-catching but not in a good way. Severe lack of bounce, hip action and spice. Anton's outfit steals the show but you don't get many marks for that.
Music: Love Is In The Air by John Paul Young
Judges’ verdict: Craig thought he "was at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix from Strictly Ballroom , it was more of a send-up than a samba, loved it for its comedy but not its technique". Darcey says `'you came alive and went crazy, work on your arm but hold onto the energised fun side". Shirley concludes "brilliant parody, hey, who cares about technique?"
Judges' scores: 5, 5, 6 for a total of 16 points - joining the cluster at the bottom.
Aston and Janette's waltz
The pocket rockets are back in hold for a proper, traditional, back-to-basics waltz. Aston needs footwork finesse after last week’s slight dip. Gorgeously romantic and contemporary style. He's leading well. Took too long to get into hold but good body contact. Slow, soppy and exquisite but Shirley might have her red specs and red pen all over his footwork.
Music: Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley - a stripped-back accoustic version with a female vocalist.
Judges’ verdict: Shirley says "emotional, gentlemanly, beautiful positions and pretty impressive". Craig says `'too sharped, lacked flow, your hands bother me slightly but love the contemporary opening and could watch you all night". Darcey found the opening moves "too fussy and overly detailed but once in hold, control and grace was maintained".
Judges' scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points - equal second with Mollie.
Susan and Kevin's cha cha cha
They brought us sunshine last Saturday. Now can Calman 'n' Kev get a Cuban party started? She's playing a heartbroken Bridget Jones type, he's her friend who's come round to cheer her up. Way too much "messin' abaht" to start but much better once they finally launch into a high-impact cha cha. Lots of spins and hip action, Susan looking great in the silver frock that was hiding beneath her dressing gown. Lacking technique at times, sure, but loads of character and sheer joy to watch.
Music: Shout Out To My Ex by Little Mix
Judges’ verdict: Darcey says "packed with content but you step out too much and the technique suffers, keep it tighter, not your best but you sold it". Shirley says "I love you and could never break up with you, cheeky and committed, co-ordinate your arms and work on the details". Craig says "I'm a little upset that you ripped up my photo, I love your energy and performance but it was turned in and no hip action, thought you were going to snap something when you did the splits - I'm still crying, darling, and it's not with laughter".
Judges' scores: 4 (boo!), 5, 7 for a total of 16 points - tied at the bottom with Brian and Simon.
Brian and Amy's jive
A Valleys anthem that means a lot to Welsh pro Amy Dowden. Crowd-pleasing Hi-De-Hi theme, with the couple dressed in banana yellow and royal blue. But will it be hi-de-high scoring? Start with a Gladys Pugh-style announcement and Brian's giving it the full 70s disco dad. Lacks bounce and energy, as you might expect fro the contest's senior gent, and he's struggling a smidge to keep up. But a knee slide, some character, gurning a-go-go and high entertainment value.
Music: It's Not Unusual by Tom Jones
Judges’ verdict: Craig says "flat-footed, no retraction, but energy and facial expressions were to die for". Darcey says "put the facial energy in your body and lift your wight forward, yes?" Shirley says "it had the feelgood factor, transported me back in time, lots of content and basics but stay in hold more". Fives and sixes?
Judges' scores: 4 (boo), 6, 6 for a total of 16 points - equal bottom with Simon.
Debbie and Giovanni's rumba
It's Flexy McGee, Britain's bendiest woman™, tackling the notoriously tricky rumba. An emotional VT with Debbie reminsicing about her late husband Paul Daniels. And then into a moody, slow and sensuous rumba. She looks nervous again. Needs to settle in her hips and get more grounded but some great spins, flicks and leg extensions. Lifts and a rumba walk to finish. Bravo.
Music: Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman (no, Boyzone fans, not the watery cover version by Ronan Keating)
Judges’ verdict: Shirley Ballas says "very emotional, I've lost a loved one so I know what it means, no bells or whistles, classic rumba, poised and balanced, and I've never seen such a beautiful standing leg". Craig "feels the need to channel Bruno:, so shouts Giovanni a lot, waves his arms around and galls off his chair. Genuine LOLZ. Darcey "loved the way you caressed the floor with your feet, that is your best dance". Nines?
Judges' scores: 9, 9, 9 for a total of 27 points - top of the leaderboard. Brilliant, Debbie is over the moon.
Simon and Karen's charleston
He's bookies' favourite for elimination again this weekend but can the Scouse chef continue to defy the odds? Rupert bear trousers. Some messin' abaht with violins to start. He's been stuck on 19 points for the past three weeks, so is desperate to get his first seven. This should suit his cheeky character but Simon doesn't look like he's having much fun. Lacks swivel, pace and energy. Laboured. Some comedy moves at the end but Karen;s dancing her socks off to cover Simon's inadequacies.
Music: Gene Kelly's Fit As A Fiddle (And Ready For Love) from Singin’ In The Rain
Judges’ verdict: Darcey says "you went for it, it was sweet and charming but the recipe was missing some ingredients, lacked swivel, musicality and character". Simon says he snapped his Achilles a few years ago, so can't swivel. Did he bring a sicknote? Shirley says "entertaining, impressed with the change of pace, slapstick comedy was right up my alley, good synchronisation, a step up". Craig says "no swivel on your good leg either, darling, but I loved the train step". Fives?
Judges' scores: 5, 5, 6 for a total of 16 points. Bottom as it stands. Dance-off danger.
Mollie and AJ's Viennese waltz
There'll be a lorra lorra spins to this Cilla classic. Classic white, pink and silver frock for Mollie. Romantic opening on a bridge-cum-pier. Romantic mood, footwork falters at times and her balance looks shaky during some of the spins but floaty, delicate and very decent.
Music: Anyone Who Had A Heart by Cilla Black
Judges’ verdict: Craig "loved the opening armography up on the pier, posture good, swing and sway, a lot of wonderful Viennese". Darcey says "you've grown as a partnership, you were gliding and graceful but relax the topline, yes?" Shirley concludes "believable chemistry (showmance implications?) and great turns". Eights?
Judges' scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points - highest of the night so far.
Davood and Nadiya's jive
Last week's dance-off survivors are first out and trying to shake off the shock with a fast, furious party jive. Wake and smell the random barista theme. Spectacular cartwheel from Kushy. Full-on, fun and furious, high performance level and cream cakey climax but lacking some bounce and knee action
Music: Tell Her About It by Billy Joel
Judges’ verdict: Shirley says "your best performance, posture suits the dance". Craig says "too much upper body, watch your free arm, heavy-footed and lacked retraction but it was bright, lively and you sold it well". Darcey concludes "carefree, light and energised, yes? But fabulous beginning". Sevens, maybe an eight, do we think?
Judges' scores: 6, 8, 8 for a total of 22 points. Out of 30 not 40, remember. Solid start and a nice shot of Davood's lucky socks up on the Clauditorium. The socksy thing.
Here's our Strictly stars
Some eye-watering primary coloured outfits, unwise checks and undone shirts. Joe McFadden's in a traditional paso doble jacket with nothing beneath. Be still your hearts, Holby fans.
Our regular style smackdown. Tess Daly is sporting a restrained-for-her red slashed frock. Claudia Winkleman's in black trousers, white ruffled blouse and undone tie-type affair. Chic Claudia edges it. And here come the judges: Darcey Bussell in red with embellished red, Shirley Ballas in blue with a bejewelled neckline. Craig in dapper black. Bruno invisible.
And we're off!
Roll recap of last week's action, when Alexandra Burke streaked clear at the top of the leaderbaord and Charlotte Hawkins was packed off home. Now we're down to a dancefloor dozen. budding to get through to next week's pumpkin-crazed Halloween spooktacular.
See ya, sizeable ears
Last knockings of Celebrity Pointless on BBC One now, hosted by Alexander Armstrong's ample lugholes. Over to the Elstree Studios ballroom any minute now...
Girl power in the ballroom
A Strictly milestone tonight: for the first time in the show's history, the judging panel will feature more women than men. Smashing the patriarchy, one sequin at a time. Five minutes until that ba-ba-da theme tune. ..
Will Burke go berserk again?
Last week's show saw Alexandra Burke score the first perfect 10s of the series for her big-haired, tassel-frocked Tina Turner jive. La Burke 's dancing a hip-shaking samba to Ed Sheeran tonight. Fifteen minutes to wait...
Ciao, Signor Tonioli?
The judging panel will be without its right-hand bookend tonight, with Italian stallion Bruno Tonioli absent for the first time in 13 years. He's cited a demanding schedule due to jetting between the UK and US versions of the show and says he needs a break. But is Bruno, like his old mucker Len Goodman, prioritising America's Dancing With The Stars over Blighty's Strictly? Does tonight's absence herald his imminent departure from the UK show too? Such speculation is inevitable. Twenty minutes until showtime...
Who'll be the fourth celebrity sent home from Strictly 2017?
We've waved a glittery goodbye to Charlotte, Chizzy and the disco vicar. So who's next for the sequin-spangled scrapheap?
Yes, it's the fourth elimination weekend , with our dancefloor dozen hoofing for survival once again. The night's big news is that, for the first time ever, it's a three-person judging panel tonight because Bruno Tonioli has the week off.
Ballroom battle commences at 6.35pm on BBC One. Can anyone match Alexandra Burke's spectacular 39-point Tina Turner jive from last week? And will head judge Shirley Ballas remember the celebrities' names?
I'm Michael, the Telegraph's sore feet and spatulistic hands correspondent. I'll be liveblogging from 6pm, providing build-up, rolling coverage, recaps, analysis and flippant gags, so do join me and watch along with this blog.
And please join in too - you can email me on michael.hogan@ telegraph.co.uk, tweet me on @michaelhogan or leave comments at the bottom of this blog. I'll keep an eye on them all and report the highlights here.
Nearly time to staaaaart Saturday night dancing!