Team GB medallist Louis Smith notched up the highest score of Strictly Come Dancing so far on Saturday night’s annual Halloween special.
The gymnast – who has established himself as one of the front-runners over the past few weeks – made good on his current reputation as he took to the floor with Flavia Cacace for a spooky tango that landed him 35 points from the judges – and the first nines of the series.
Even Craig Revel Horwood – who appeared hard to please on Saturday night – gave his seal of approval to the routine. “It was ineffable, I loved it,” he said, while Bruno Tonioli added, “The first killer tango of the season.”
It was also a good night for the other sports stars in the competition, particularly Michael Vaughan, who vaulted from the lower reaches of the scoreboard to finish joint second on Saturday, scoring 31 points for his quickstep with partner Natalie Lowe.
“That was more than magical, it was a miracle,” Bruno said, “What a transformation.” Craig, on the other hand, simply showed his approval with a round of applause.
Victoria Pendleton, meanwhile, tied with Michael on the scoreboard after her feisty tango with Brendan Cole which saw her dressed as a ‘corpse’ bride.
Kimberley Walsh also tied on 31 points – her best score of the competition so far – after her Red Riding Hood-inspired Paso Doble to Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf.
“It was a very very competent performance,” Len Goodman told her, “but I’d like to have seen a tad more aggression. At the beginning it was like you were going to Sainsbury’s.”
Further down the scoreboard Denise Van Outen lost her lead of previous weeks as she picked up 28 out of 40 for her cha cha cha with James Jordan, while Dani Harmer won 27 points for a Scooby Doo inspired cha cha cha which featured partner Vincent Simone in a blond wig.
“I can’t look at Vincent, he looks like Denise Welch from Loose Women,” Bruno joked – although the actress won praise for her routine, with Darcey Bussell saying, “If you can dance that fast and achieve that many moves then that’s fantastic.”
Lisa Riley, meanwhile, divided the panel after performing a comedic Charleston with partner Robin Windsor. “I thought it was very well acted but poorly danced,” Craig told her, although Len said the routine was “great”.
Meanwhile Nicky Byrne continued to show signs of improvement as he and partner Karen Hauer performed a tango to the theme from 80s comedy Weird Science, with Bruno saying he approached the dance “like a rooster with a booster”.
However Colin Salmon and Richard Arnold found themselves in the lower reaches of the scoreboard, with the actor notching up 24 points for his salsa with Kristina Rihanoff, and the showbiz reporter amassing just 22 out of 40 for a tempestuous paso doble with Erin Boag.
“You looked like Gary Numan in a bad temper,” Bruno said of Richard’s efforts, while Craig said he had been “disappointed” in his performance.
It was also a less-than-successful week for Fern Britton, who performed the first American Smooth of the series with partner Artem Chigvintsev but made off with only 21 points – although ultimately it was Sid Owen who once again landed bottom of the heap.
The EastEnders actor scored only 17 points for a cha cha cha with Ola Jordan to the theme from Ghostbusters – and won a mixed response from the judges, with Darcey saying, “Fabulous to see more dance content,” but Craig merely summing it up with the phrase “Halloween nightmare.”
The results will be revealed on Sunday evening’s show, with one more celebrity departing the competition.