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Recapping S5 ‘Battle of the Blades’ seventh episode: the finale

The nail-biting conclusion arrives at last

Joanna-Bell Henkenhaf - INSIGHT; Courtesy of CBC

Greetings, fellow ice-sport fans! We made it through to the final, deciding episode of the captivating (and very, very Canadian) entertainment experience called “Battle of the Blades.”

Whew.

To catch everybody up: The season started out with two women’s hockey players and one NWHL coach among the competitors.

All the contestants were on hand for the finale (we see you, BestKessel)
Joanna-Bell Henkenhaf - INSIGHT PRODUCTIONS/CBC Battle Of The Blades; Courtesy of CBC

By this week’s finale, just one of them was still standing — Team Canada darling Natalie Spooner.

It’s all come down to this. How nervous are you? (I’ll miss you most of all, “The Cutting Edge” clips...)

The performances

The finale didn’t exactly follow the format of the six episodes that preceded it. First, the full complement of contestants were reintroduced, and they all skated together to Bishop Briggs’ “Champion.” Because this is a show where everyone’s a winner on some level.

Host Ron MacLean introduced the judges: special guests Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and permanent resident judge Colby Armstrong. (Hey, Armstrong entered on skates this week! That’s a great sign for his recovery from the training injury that prevented him from participating in the competition as originally planned. And while I’m sorry he hurt himself, I’ve certainly appreciated the personality he brought to the show as a judge.)

MacLean asked the judges to share their insights on the season overall and the contestants’ development. Head judge Kurt Browning observed that everyone starts the show worried about falling, or about hurting themselves or their partners, and praised everyone’s “enormous journey from stumbler to artist.”

After several performances by the legit figure skaters associated with the show, the three remaining competing pairs did a group program to “Dancing With a Stranger” by Sam Smith — fitting, as the routine included some partner switching. It also featured lots of fluid, interwoven figures, as well as the top moves from each pair’s previous routines. It was lovely — although when two hockey players ended up skating together as a pair, things were noticeably clunkier.

A highlight from the finalists’ group performance
Joanna-Bell Henkenhaf - INSIGHT PRODUCTIONS/CBC Battle Of The Blades; Courtesy of CBC

However, the win–place–show positions had already been determined by the previous week’s audience vote, so none of the pairs got the chance to skate a program that was critiqued by the judges. Their comments after the group skate were broad and uncritical.

“I love that the hockey players [competing on the show] have shown figure skating so much respect,” Browning said.

“Each one of you brings such a different aspect to the show,” Moir said. “You have such unique styles ... You should all be very proud of yourselves.”

Virtue added, “You have touched the hearts of so many Canadians.” (And this American, for sure.) She made a point to highlight the show’s charitable purpose, too: “You’re being brave for really meaningful organizations. Thank you for making such a difference.”

Armstrong wrapped up with a litany of thanks to the hockey players, figure skaters, coaches, and choreographers who helped make the show an “amazing” experience.

The results

First, the third-place pair was announced (Bruno Gervais and Ekaterina Gordeeva, who’ll each receive $15,000 for their charities), leaving Spooner and her partner Andrew Poje in contention for the trophy.

Then the winning pair, as determined by the fan vote, was announced: Sheldon Kennedy and Kaitlyn Weaver, who will receive $100,000 for their (jointly selected) charity.

The last ones standing
Courtesy of CBC

Spooner and Poje, as runners up, will each receive $17,500 for their charities.

Spooner reiterated her belief in her charity, Fast and Female, and said, “I think even being here is showing so many girls and women that it doesn’t matter what your size is — go for it.”

She concluded, with passion, “Even if it inspires one little girl to go out and try figure skating or to try hockey, I think that that’s what it’s all about.”

Final thoughts

And that was that. The finale was a bit of a letdown, honestly — and not only because Spooner fell just short of winning it all. We didn’t get to see new routines from the remaining competitors as separate pairs, there was lots of filler, and it had very little of what made all the past episodes fun. But overall, BotB was a great ride. CBC made an excellent decision in including Spooner (and Amanda Kessel) in their talent pool.