Friends, we made it to the decisive finale of this odd, altered season of “Battle of the Blades.” Congratulations to you; the CBC; and all the skaters, coaches, production staff, and others who participated!
At the end of the previous episode, we learned which four teams would appear together on this night to fight for a big, shiny trophy (and large donations to their designated charities). At the start of this episode, each of those pairs presented a new performance for the judges’ approval. Co-host Keshia Chanté explained that the judges’ scores would combined with the audience votes cast after the last episode to determine which two pairs would go head-to-head in the final round.
Skating to “You Can’t Stop the Girl” by Bebe Rexha, Jessica Campbell and partner Asher Hill took a risk with a performance that was slow, graceful, and almost completely unlike anything they’d already done during the season. There were lifts and spins, there was a sequence of waltz steps, and Campbell did a solo arabesque spiral after a spin.
Judge Scott Moir said, “How bold are you two? You’ve been giving us upbeat complicated choreography [all season]; this week you reinvent yourself while we’re skating for the big trophy ... it’s like they stripped off a layer and just let us enjoy their skating skills.”
Judge Elladj Baldé said, “We saw a different Jessica tonight — we saw elegance, we saw softness ... You can do it all, and it’s absolutely incredible to watch you in this capacity; to see you as a performer in that way.” He also acknowledged Hill’s journey to rediscover his love for a sport that hasn’t always been welcoming to him or to other athletes of color. “You two are a gift to each other,” Baldé concluded.
Judge Natalie Spooner said, “One of the things that makes your team so special is the bond that you guys share, and you guys always look like you’re having so much fun.” In hockey there’s a whole lineup of supportive teammates, but “You guys are solely relying on each other, and you guys look like you have been skating together forever — or been friends forever, at least — and I think that that’s something amazing. Tonight you showed people that it is amazing to be graceful and elegant, but at the same time you can be powerful and strong.”
They earned a combined score of 17.7 from the judges which, when added to the fan vote, was enough to place them in one of the top two spots, facing off against Wojtek Wolski and his partner, Meagan Duhamel.
The two finalist pairs then had to skate for the judges, reprising one of their favorite routines from earlier in the season. Campbell and Hill went second, repeating their “Purple Hat” skate from episode 1 — complete with hair twirls, side-by-side jumps, and a cartwheel lift — likely aiming to show off all the progress they’ve made as a pair since that first night six weeks ago. And they truly have, but, maybe because the routine was from so long ago, there were moments when they weren’t perfectly synchronized or didn’t exactly remember the choreography in the same way.
Baldé said, “In terms of the performance and your growth I’m just really really happy to see everything you’ve done.”
Moir said, “Listen, Jessica, you’re a real figure skater. You went after it; you danced your butt off out there. There were a couple wobbles, but when you’re going for it sometimes that’s the price you pay of living on the edge — literally.”
Spooner said, “You guys have so much fun it’s contagious when you’re out there.”
Campbell and Hill earned a combined score of 17.5, just shy of the winning pair’s score of 17.7. As runners up they each will receive $17,500 each for their charities Do It for Daron and FreedomSchool Toronto (the full list of charities each participant was skating for is here).
Host Ron MacLean asked the runners-up to look back on their season. Campbell said, “We laced up the skates the same way — even though I didn’t know what I was doing — and we put our hearts [into it].” She especially was proud of her team’s growth and the example they were setting: “That’s ultimately what we showed up for.”
It was truly an inspiring season in so many ways. Although I’m sorry a women’s hockey player didn’t win this time around, I can’t fault the judges’ assessments or begrudge the winning pair their success. Here’s hoping that next year there will be a new season of “Battle of the Blades” that doesn’t have to exist in a bubble and that includes even more women as the hockey-playing half of the competing pairs.