Saturday (11 November) night’s live show saw the remaining eight dancers compete once more in the hope of securing a place in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom next week. “Blackpool week” marks an important stage in the Strictly competition, as the remaining couples compete in the historic home of British ballroom dancing.
Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin topped the leaderboard with a near-perfect score of 39 for their Argentine Tango, while Channel 4 News presenter Guru-Murthy found himself at the bottom with 25 after performing his Samba with partner Lauren Oakley.
However, the middle of the leaderboard remained tight, with only four points separating second place from seventh and upsets bound to happen.
In the end, it was Angela Rippon and partner Kai Widdrington who found themselves in the bottom two against Guru-Murthy, facing their second dance-off in two consecutive weeks. On Saturday, the pair had performed a Paso Doble, and picked up 32 points.
Both pairs danced again: Guru-Murthy and Oakley to “Bamboléo” by the Gipsy Kings, and Rippon and Widdrington to “Hung Up” by Madonna.
Proffering his verdict, Craig Revel Horwood praised Guru-Murthy for “upping your game”, and added that Angela “nearly lost your supporting leg, darling, in the kick” but “saved it, miraculously”.
Motsi Mabuse said that she had “never been so undecided” and had been “going back and forth, back and forth”, while Anton du Beke called it “a super dance-off”.
All three, however, voted to save Rippon, sending her through to Blackpool while Guru-Murthy was eliminated from the competition.
However, asked how she would have voted, head judge Ballas gave a different view. “I picked the person that I felt was more grounded on their feet without any technical errors, and I would have saved Krishnan and Lauren,” she said.
As head judge, Ballas is given the casting vote if her three fellow judges disagree on who should stay and who should leave the competition. However, if the other three are unanimous, she cannot override them.
On his exit from the show, Guru-Murthy described Strictly as “the most incredible experience” and Oakley as “the most incredible teacher, partner, friend”.
“I said it has been life changing and it genuinely has,” he said. “I am incredibly grateful to the entire production team, judges, my incredible Strictly family up there. It’s right I am going out this week and I have got to get back to life. The thing that has made Strictly really special is Lauren.”
At home, viewers were split on the decision. Some agreed with Guru-Murthy himself, saying that it was “about time” he left.
“Aw what a shame, I loved seeing his joy every week,” one fan wrote. “Based on dancing ability alone though, it was probably the right choice.”
“Considering I thought he would be out much earlier, he’s done very well to last this long,” another wrote.
Others, however, said that they wished Guru-Murthy had had the chance to dance in the Tower Ballroom.
Some fans claimed that Rippon had been “overmarked” in the competition due to her age, and theorised that show bosses have wanted her to reach Blackpool week due to Rippon’s connection to the ballroom world as the former host of the classic BBC show Come Dancing.
A Strictly source has however told The Independent: “All of the judges are hugely experienced individuals who judge on dance and dance alone in the main show and in the dance offs. Any conspiracy theories suggesting otherwise are simply untrue.”