See you next year!
And that’s the end of another Strictly, and as ever it’s been an absolute joy, made infinitely better by all of you in the comment box. After another difficult year for many, Strictly remains a much-needed retreat for comfort and joy - also this blog is one of the few remaining corners of the internet that feels like a warm hug, so well done everyone.
My liveblog duties are over for another year, but you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @heidistephens if you want to say hello, and I also write books of a romantic comedy nature so you can definitely buy those too. They make lovely stocking fillers, just saying.
Have a wonderful Christmas however you’re celebrating, and please stay safe and warm and healthy – there’ll be a blog open for the Strictly Christmas Special if you fancy some company. Hopefully we’ll gather back here next September to do this all again, but in the meantime I’m sending the warmest of wishes to you and yours. Keeeeeep dancing!
Time to announce the winner of Strictly 2022! And it’s…HAMZA AND JOWITA!
Well, that’s a lovely finish to this year’s show – Hamza has captured the spirit of Strictly and the heart of a nation. He described Jowita as ‘an angel disguised as a human’, and shares some lovely Hamza wisdom. But every one of those finalists absolutely smashed it tonight, they all worked so hard and gave us one hell of a show.
Hamza and Jowita lift the glitterball, and some rubbish fireworks go off. One final rendition of ‘Hold On’ by Wilson Phillips and we are DONE.
Another montage! This time from members of the public, saying what they love about Strictly. I’ve never watched it like a normal person, I have no idea what that’s like, but it looks nice.
It’s a plug for the Christmas Special! I didn’t put that in the Bingo this year, but drink anyway. There will definitely be a blog open for you to play in, albeit entirely unsupervised.
The voting is closed!
Time for a dance featuring the entire Class of 2022, opening with ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor, then swiftly morphing into an eighties megamix. This is obviously a hot mess fever dream, but I’m actually loving it – the props and transitions are entirely mad. I’m going to have to watch it again later to catch all the details.
Also ‘The Only Way Is Up’ is the title of my latest novel. Come on, you didn’t really think I was going to let that pass, did you?
Let’s recap of the entire series, shall we? Still a bit sad that we lost Richie and Giovanni and Jayde and Karen so early on, but it’s been a really great bunch this year. I know not everything has been perfect, but I’ve loved every minute.
Time for a musical interlude from Florence and the Machine singing ‘My Love’. We don’t get many Glastonbury headliners on Strictly, so let’s embrace being momentarily cool and give festive thanks that we were spared Boe and Ball this season.
Where’s the sound gone? It sounds like Florence is singing whilst trapped inside the machine.
For the music, it has to be Molly – Beyonce, Prince and Whitney is very much my jam. For being a genuinely beautiful human, it has to be Hamza. For being the best dancer, it’s got to be Fleur. For the journey, it’s Helen. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?
That’s it’s for dancing, although we inexplicably still have 25 minutes to go. At least 15 of those minutes will be used by Tess pausing before she announces the winner – presumably the rest is going to be recaps and montages and Florence and The Machine.
Who do you reckon is going to lift the Glitterball? The leaderboard has Fleur at the top, then Helen, then Molly, then Hamza at the bottom. But those scores mean NOTHING – it’s all down to you now. Who’s it going to be? VOTE NOW!
Scores: 10,10,10,10 – a full house for Helen and Gorka.
What a dance, says Motsi – Helen closed the show and it was amazing. Shirley thought Helen peaked at the right time, it was clean and polished and they are superstars. Anton says he has danced in a few of these (what, finals? Just the one, isn’t it Anton?) – Helen has discovered her inner performer. Craig thought it was a dance that should win a final – it was incredible.
Shirley has full faith that the public will make the right decision. I mean, years of election evidence suggests otherwise, but sure.
I’d forgotten about Gorka’s corset, it’s quite something. For me this loses something without the chorus line – it was a brilliant ensemble performance but this isn’t working for me. It feels more like a Charleston – less sexy, more slapstick. Maybe just me – it’s been a LOOOOONG night and I need a wee.
Next up - Helen & Gorka!
Their Favourite Dance is their Couple’s Choice to ‘Mein Herr’ by Liza Minnelli (from Cabaret). This was from Musicals Week only two weeks ago – on that occasion the backing dancers featured quite heavily, so interested to see how they’re going to adapt it.
This dance was the point at which we all realised that Hamza really did have some competition for the Glitterball, and Helen showed up for wronged women everywhere. Again please.
Scores: 10,10,10,10 – another full house for Fleur and Vito. Incidentally, that was also one of my mum’s favourite dances of the season.
Craig thought it was incredible – Fleur gave Vito a run for his money. Motsi spotted Craig dancing during that, which is apparently quite rare. Shirley loved watching Fleur and Vito as a team – Fleur has been a marvellous student and that routine will go down in history. On days like this Anton wishes he had a 12 paddle – in ten years’ time we’re still going to be talking about that dance.
This dance was a pretty special moment, when Fleur basically made her own music video on Strictly and Vito just came along for the ride. LOVE Motsi busting the moves behind the judges’ desk. Whatever you feel about Couple’s Choice, this is an extraordinary performance from Fleur, and I didn’t mind seeing it again.
It’s Fleur and Vito!
Their Favourite Dance is Couple’s Choice to Destiny’s Child Megamix by Destiny’s Child. This was from Blackpool, and before tonight was the only dance this season to have scored a perfect 40. So I can totally see why Fleur would want to dance it again – will be interesting to see if it still has the same impact on a much smaller dancefloor.
Vito is never going to let Fleur go, apparently. Has anyone checked with Fleur’s husband on that one?
Scores: 9,10,10,10 – a total of 39 for Molly and Carlos.
Anton thought Molly chose perfectly – Molly has wonderful Rumba leg action and she brought a womanly mature character to the dance. Craig loved the storytelling – it was controlled and measured. Motsi thought it was beautiful and classy. Shirley wants Molly to know that she fully deserves her place in this final. AGREED.
The good thing about this is that it reminds us what a Rumba is supposed to look like, and also Andrea does a phenomenal Whitney vocal. It’s a brilliant Rumba from Molly, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of dance you want to end on. Just my opinion.
Next up it's Molly & Carlos!
Their Favourite Dance is the Rumba to ‘All The Man That I Need’ by Whitney Houston. Without a doubt the best Rumba of the season (it got them a 10 from Shirley), but I question the wisdom of wrapping up your Strictly adventure on a Rumba. Nobody loves a Rumba – even a good Rumba is still a Rumba.
Scores: 10,10,10,10 – a full house for Hamza and Jowita. Hamza has absolutely lost it, what a lovely finish for him.
Shirley says lovely things and now I’m getting bit weepy. And now Anton’s set me off – he’s rarely watched a dance partnership that’s given him so much pleasure. Craig thought it was amazing, and Motsi vowed not to cry but Hamza broke her – it was a dance that brought everyone together.
I love this dance so much – definitely one of the highlights of the series for me. There were some timing issues first time round, but this feels much better – Hamza is giving this everything he’s got, which is PLENTY.
First up it's Hamza and Jowita!
Their Favourite Dance is their Couple’s Choice to ‘Jerusalema’. This was from Week 8, when Hamza and Jowita brought Afrobeats to the Strictly dancefloor and Motsi pretty much died of joy. I loved it, and it’s a fantastic dance for Hamza to finish up on. Can he get a ten from Craig this time?
The final round is each couple’s favourite dance of the series – three out of the four have chosen their Couple’s Choice, so it’s basically Couple’s Choice squared.
Luckily Molly and Carlos DIDN’T chose their Couple’s Choice, so we don’t have to sit through that Grange Hill hot mess again.
So currently Fleur at the top of the fake leaderboard, and Hamza at the bottom. Can he still pull off a win? I’m not so sure any more.
It’s time for round three – are you still with me? I’m a bit boggle-eyed and my back hurts, but I’m trucking on regardless.
Scores: 8, 10, 9, 10 – a total of 37 for Helen and Gorka. Have a drink for Shirley’s 9.
Motsi could see the joy in Helen’s dancing, she enjoyed it. Shirley thought it was light and bright and told Shirley that Helen has set herself free. Anton was thrilled that Helen was able to do that dance, because Helen is fabulous. Craig thought it was great, but agrees with Shirley that some of the transitions in the lifts were a bit ropey.
I’m loving the random pair of crossed legs in the gap between Shirley and Anton. Are they wearing Shirley’s tiny shoes?
Helen’s silver dress is gorgeous, and this dance is pure joy from start to finish. Helen is a fabulous dancer and it really is great to see her SHINE. Enjoyed that – a lovely montage of their Strictly journey together.
Last but not least, it's Helen and Gorka!
They’ve chosen ‘Shine’ by Emeli Sandé for their Showdance, which is the kind of uplifting anthem that gets used for Olympic montages. Helen doesn’t do anything by halves, and I have extremely high hopes for this being a fitting finale to her Strictly journey.
‘You have made me remember who I am, and that is the biggest and kindest and best thing you can do for someone,’ said Helen to Gorka. Bit dusty in here.
Scores: 9,10,10,10 – a total of 39 for Fleur and Vito.
Craig loved that it was passionate, striking and bold – he loved it. Motsi showcased her power and no matter what happens today, she is a queen. Shirley thought it was absolutely amazing, they were lost in their own world. Anton was most impressed by Fleur’s skill as a dancer, she delivers complete performances.
Ooh, flames! This showdance is very much my kind of sexy filth – Vito’s got his chest out, Fleur’s in fishnets, and it’s all quite intense. It would have been very easy for Fleur to bang out a commercial routine, and I absolutely love her for going full Latin goddess. HOT.
It's time for Fleur and Vito!
Their Showdance is to ‘Find Me’ by Sigma featuring Birdy. This starts out in the Contempo-waft zone but then goes full drum ‘n’ bass, so very much up my street.
Apparently this is a mix of Argentine Tango, Paso and Rumba. On paper this is a cocktail I could probably finish, but I’m not sure if I’d want another one.
Scores: 8,10,9,10 – a total of 37 meaningless points from the judges. DRINK.
Anton loved the attitude, it was a bit edgier and darker. Craig thought it lacked commercial attack – he wanted fierce and it was a but cutesy for him. Motsi loved that Molly represented her generation – she should take what she needs from the judges comments and forget the rest. Shirley loved the opening sequence with the cane but it got out of synch in the middle.
Molly’s in a catsuit and red gloves, and this is definitely a side we haven’t seen to her so far this season. It’s a sassy and fierce commercial routine, although the timing goes off a couple of times and it’s hard not to watch Carlos, who is SPECTACULAR. Enjoyed that very much.
Next up it's Molly and Carlos!
Their Showdance is to ‘Kiss/1999’ by Prince, which I am VERY excited about. Fully expect this to be full of sass and attitude, and to bring out all of Molly’s amazing performance skills and Carlos’s brilliant choreography. I know she’s had a rough ride this year, but she fully deserves to be in the Grand Final.
Poor Hamza, he’s in bits. Such a shame that didn’t go the way he wanted.
Scores: 8,9,8,9 – a total of 34 for Hamza and Jowita. DRINK x 3.
Shirley points out the mistakes and the wobble, but Hamza is a beautiful dancer. Anton acknowledges the details and the incredible transitions in and out of the lifts. Craig thought it was a bit rocky and underwhelming and it did go a little bit wrong, but it was classy and classic. Motsi loved that Hamza showed his human side – he made a mistake and carried on.
The Strictly wobbly lamppost is BACK for the final! This is all kinds of joyous, but Hamza’s ballroom footwork is just as wobbly and he looks less comfortable in this kind of dance than he does in Latin. Amazing lifts though, and an incredible spinning lift at the end. More understated than I expected, and it definitely went wrong at the beginning. I’m not sure Hamza is going to be hugely happy with that.
First up it's Hamza and Jowita!
Their Showdance is to ‘Let’s Face The Music And Dance’ by Irving Berlin, so I’m hoping for full-on Fred & Ginger old-school Hollywood class.
There is much crying and talk of journey – DRINK.
It's Showdance time!
It’s the second round of dances, which is the Showdance. It’s an anything-goes free-for-all, so kind of like Couple’s Choice but with less crying.
Since three of the couples have chosen their Couple’s Choice as their third dance, I’m hoping these Showdances are going to include some Latin and Ballroom. Call me old-fashioned, but I wouldn’t say no to a cheeky fleckerl.
First recap of the night! DRINK. So many of these to come.
Scores: 9, 10,10,10 – a total of 39 for Helen and Gorka. Round one is done, and Fleur is at the top of the fake leaderboard with a perfect 40, and everyone else has 39.
The voting is open! But you might want to wait until after the showdances, unless you have an absolute fave and don’t really care what they do next.
Motsi was happy the first time, and she’s happy today. There were no missteps for Shirley this time, but bags more attitude. Anton gave it ten last time with the mistake, but he likes it more this time. Classic. Craig enjoyed it without the error but would have liked a bit more retraction.
OK well this is fabulous, isn’t it? The standard is SO high this year – have we ever had a four-couple final where they’re all this good?
Finally for Round 1, it’s Helen & Gorka!
Their Judges’ Pick is the Jive to ‘Tightrope’ by Janelle Monáe. This scored 37 in Week 7, including a 10 from Anton. I don’t really remember anything about this, so very happy to watch it again.
Scores: 10 (DRINK), 10, 10, 10 – a full house for Fleur and Vito.
Craig is furious because he couldn’t find anything wrong with Fleur’s Samba, and the crowd goes wild. Motsi thought Fleur smashed it – she’s replaced Danny Mac and is now the queen of Samba. Shirley doesn’t have a paddle high enough for that Samba, and Anton says ‘Sarmba’ a lot. Bonus DRINK.
A rendition of ‘Hot Hot Hot’ is an opportunity for me to invite you to take a moment to acknowledge how spectacularly hot Fleur and Vito are. I will miss looking at them both every week, they are two incredibly beautiful humans. Also that dance was (insert flame emoji here when the Guardian FINALLY updates this platform to let me include emojis).
It's time for Fleur & Vito!
Their Judges’ Pick is the Samba to ‘Hot Hot Hot’ by Arrow. This scored 39 in Week 8 so again I have NO IDEA why the judges have chosen it. I’m not complaining though, I love a Samba and this was a good one.
Jowita’s parents have flown in from Poland, and Carlos’ mum and dad have come from China. Drink if you had ‘Air Miles’ on your Strictly Bingo card.
Scores: 9,10,10,10 – a total of 39 pointless points for Molly and Carlos.
Anton was delighted to watch that again, and it was SO improved – Molly’s line is much better and it was ‘smooth as a Werther’s Original’*. Craig agrees there was a marked improvement, he absolutely loved it. Motsi and Shirley both concur – it was absolutely superb.
*Advertising on the BBC, Anton. Tsk.
I’d forgotten the superfluous umbrellas and how insufferably CHEERFUL this dance is. But blimey, she’s good. Hard to believe this was a Week 2 performance – it was great then, but considerably more polished now. Nice work, Molly.
Next up it's Molly & Carlos!
Their Judges’ Pick is the Quickstep to ‘Love On Top’ by Beyoncé. This scored 34 points way back in Week 2, and I vaguely remember it for the dreadful Jazz Beyonce and super-fast footwork. I can only imagine that the judges have chosen it because otherwise there will be no standard Ballroom performances at all this evening.
Scores: 9,10,10,10 – a total of 39 for Hamza and Jowita. Remember the scores from the judges mean NOTHING this evening – the votes are all down to you. But not yet.
Shirley thought Hamza improved it even more – the lifts went higher and the turns were spot on. Anton loved the freedom of Hamza’s Salsa – he is joyous. Craig wanted a better free arm, but otherwise brilliant. Motsi loved it more than the first time – Hamza has definitely improved. Does she have an 11 paddle?
That veil is giving Shirley evil Disney villain vibes. Love it.
I’ve watched this dance on YouTube at least twice a week since Week 4, so I feel like I know every move. The lifts are spectacular, and that one at the end is a MOMENT.
First up tonight it's Hamza and Jowita!
Their Judges’ Pick is the Salsa to ‘Ecuador’ by Sash! featuring Rodriguez, which scored 39 in Week 4 and pushed Hamza straight into the contender zone.
I have no idea why the judges have chosen it because there’s ZERO room for improvement, but I’m also absolutely thrilled because it’s one of my fave dances of the season.
Out come the stars! They’re dressed for their first dance, which is Judges’ Pick – a Samba for Fleur and Vito, a Jive for Helen and Gorka, a Quickstep for Molly & Carlos and a Salsa for Hamza and Jowita.
I’d forgotten about Fleur’s ghastly Christmas tree dress. At least it feels more seasonal now.
Right, first round of dancing. Is everyone ready? We’re going in.
Out come the judges! Shirley has gone full Disney Princess ballgown, and I kind of love it.
TESS AND CLAUDIA DRESS WATCH – GRAND FINAL EDITION
Tess in a set of sparkly black shelves paired with a dog collar, Claudia in a white pantsuit with matching cape. Like Vegas Elvis without the cheeseburgers.
Time for our final opening pro dance, which involves scaffolding and ankle fog in some kind of geodesic dome, like they’re dancing at Centerparcs.
The fireworks start, and our finalists appear on revolving plinths. It’s all splendidly joyful and I love them all. Those tinsel outfits looks really itchy, though. The CHAFING.
We’re off and it’s our first recap of the night! None of the couples want Strictly to end, and only three dances stand between them and the glitterball trophy. EXCITING.
It’s nearly time! Are we all ready?
Watching the Weakest Link, and they’re all dreadful. I went on a TV gameshow once, and can confirm it’s hard to answer general knowledge questions under pressure. But I still beat 48 other contestants and won two weeks at Disney World in Florida, so I’m not having it. Do more pub quizzes, Strictly alumni.
So my annual not-very-scientific Strictly Twitter poll thinks Hamza is going to win by a country mile this evening, but I’m not discounting Helen just yet. Twitter was right in four out of the past six years, and this one feels like a pretty confident vote. What do you think?
Time for this year’s FINAL Strictly Come Bingo – have a sip of something fizzy for any occurrence of the following:
Recaps and montages
Craig scoring a ten
Other judges scoring anything other than a ten
Phone hands/heart hands/other acts of vote-winning desperation
The word ‘journey’
I strongly recommend you pace yourselves - it’s going to be a VERY long night.
Evening all, and welcome to this year’s Strictly Grand Final liveblog! Let’s face it, it’s the only Final happening this weekend that really matters.
Tonight our final four couples battle it out for the glitterball with three final dances, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s between Hamza (for being a national treasure) and Helen (for the revenge journey). Dance-off history suggests Fleur and Molly don’t have the same level of public support, even though they are arguably the better dancers. But you never know what surprises the Grand Final might bring, so let’s not count our glitterchickens.
Tonight’s running order is as follows: all four couples will dance three routines back-to-back – judges’ pick, an anything-goes Showdance, and then finally each couple’s favourite dance of the series. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour MARATHON of a show, padded out with recaps, montages, musical interludes and pro dances, so stock up on supplies for a long but joyful night ahead.
Keeping me company on the liveblog sofa this evening is Mabel the Labrador, because my partner has gone to an 80th birthday party (rave on, neighbours). But luckily I’ve got all you lot down below to be my emotional support crew, so get stuck in. Kick off is at 7.05pm – see you then!