Here we are, midway through the sixth season of “Battle of the Blades,” and we had to start things off with heavy news. To make up for last week’s reprieve, hosts Ron MacLean and Keshia Chanté announced that there were three pairs in the bottom group, and that two of those pairs would be eliminated at the end of the show.
They also announced that the all-Canadian cast would be skating to all-Canadian music — because this show is, more than almost anything else, an undaunted expression of maple leaf pride.
First, we saw performances by the pairs that were safe from elimination. The top-ranked pair on the leaderboard, Jessica Campbell and Asher Hill, started things off with their skate to “Got Your Number” by Serena Ryder.
I am really enjoying the way both of them tell a story through movement and facial expression, and how their routines are capitalizing on Campbell’s sassy, bubbly personality. In this routine they turned figure skating on its head a bit by having Campbell throw Hill into an Axel (I think it was an Axel) and, later, hold him up in a lift where he balanced on her knees. In addition, of course, to the more traditional style of lift where the man holds up the woman.
Judge Elladj Baldé said it was “Such an entertaining piece; I absolutely loved it. Both of you did such a good job with the acting” while still paying attention to the technical aspects of the performance. “That shows a lot of skills.”
Judge Scott Moir said, “I was buying what you guys were selling. You were totally in the performance.” He added that it seemed like Campbell had found her legs, and “It was a ton of fun to watch.”
Judge Natalie Spooner, who recalled that Andrew Poje didn’t let her lift him in a routine until the final episode last season, had a lot to say about Campbell’s performance. “My favorite part was the strength you showed. I know you’re inspiring so many young girls and so many women to embrace their strengths, [showing that] it’s OK to have muscles … and when you use them you can accomplish pretty amazing things, like you did tonight: lifting Asher; throwing Asher … Not only did it show strength, but it also shows the trust that you guys have in each other. That is a testament to your partnership.”
Campbell and Hill earned a combined 17.6 from the judges.
After the other safe pairs performed their routines — and after figure skating expert Kurt Browning did this — we arrived at last at the bonus-sized skate-off.
Meghan Agosta and Poje skated first. Their routine, to “Mine” by Felix Cartal and Sophie Simmons, was meant to emphasize the development of Agosta’s balletic elegance — but I think she’s still letting her own limbs get in her way too much. The routine featured a sequence of solo waltz jumps by Agosta and several new skills, including a gravity-defying waist lift. (Poje’s supportive hug when they finished the performance was too sweet.)
Moir said, “You’re showing us moves I don’t think we’ve ever seen before ... that was very original, very cool. It looked like you were having fun. It allowed us to really enjoy that performance.”
Baldé added, “You really stepped up, Meghan, in your performance quality. I felt the connection.”
Agosta and Poje earned a combined score from the judges of 17.0.
Next, Jennifer Botterill and Eric Radford skated to “It Was in Me” by Avril Lavigne. Botterill’s innate poise was well highlighted in the many big tricks that Spooner had suggested they try during last week’s skate-off, and the routine culminated in a tremendous pressure lift.
Spooner was agog. “That was beautiful.” She focused on Botterill’s skating, which she said is “so graceful and … so elegant, and that’s what makes your performances so captivating.”
Moir agreed. “The way you finish your push looks like you’ve been figure skating for years and years.” (I’m sure that’s not the figure skating equivalent of “finishing one’s check,” but ... maybe it is?)
Baldé said, “There’s so much effortlessness in your skating. And tonight I found also there was no restriction in your movement. It felt free; it was beautiful, and I really really enjoyed that.”
To heighten the suspense, the judges recorded their scores but didn’t share them aloud prior to the night’s final performance by Akim Aliu and Vanessa James (which I’m linking here for reasons — wow).
Botterill and Radford’s combined score of 17.0 tied Agosta and Poje’s score but was lower than the score earned by Aliu and James. A sad finale for two of the three female hockey players in this year’s competition, as champions Meghan Agosta and Jennifer Botterill were eliminated on the same night.
Of the remaining five pairs, Campbell and Hill held the top spot. Things could always change once the fans’ votes are tallied, but I’m comfortable predicting that she’ll be around for at least another couple of weeks.