Do you want more women’s hockey players on “Battle of the Blades”? This week, CBC gave us more women’s hockey players on “Battle of the Blades”! Head judge Kurt Browning and permanent resident judge Colby Armstrong were joined for the episode by guest judge Sarah Nurse, a teammate of Spooner’s for Team Canada and, formerly, the Toronto Furies.
Again this week, the pairs we’re here to see — Natalie Spooner and Andrew Poje, and Colton Orr and Amanda Evora — had earned enough fan votes to be safe from elimination. I’m not really sure why this show has judges. Everything hinges on the fan vote.
Spooner and Poje found yet another new characterization take on for their program this week.
The musical theme for the episode was “stage and screen,” and they picked “Juicy Wiggle” by Redfoo from the soundtrack of Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip (... OK). Spooner said she’d wanted to use the tune from the beginning — “It’s like my personality in a song,” she laughed. Other gems from the pre-performance interview: Poje noted that whenever the pair take a break in rehearsal, “Natalie’s just doing her toe-pick walk ... [we realized] we need to put that in a program.”
Spooner added, smugly, (here comes this week’s The Cutting Edge reference, right in time for show-biz week!) “Struttin’ in my toe picks!”
So what did they do with that toe-pick walk? Well, the jitterbug-inspired program was absolutely bursting with gleeful, youthful energy. It wasn’t just full of impressive new skills, although the pair did add lifts and spins that appeared more difficult than what they’d done in previous weeks. But also, it was a heap of fun to watch. The footwork sequences were fast and creative, their connection and commitment were as high as you could ask, and their energy was intense. Spooner even did “the worm” on the ice. Yeah, I really liked it.
Nurse teased Spooner, “Now that you have all these tricks, our goal celebrations better be ridiculous.” (Watch out, IIHF opponents!)
She continued, “You’re a performer. You’re so fearless ... you’re exuding confidence right now, and it’s your strength, and that’s why you’re so dangerous in this competition.”
Armstrong praised the pair for raising their game every week. “What’s your ceiling?” he asked. The answer, from Nurse: “Natalie has to lift Andrew!” (Please!)
Browning said that by this point, Spooner could probably skate a routine by herself.
Spooner and Poje earned a combined 17.4 from the judges.
Next to skate were Orr and Evora, who similarly took several steps forward technique-wise from their previous performances. Two weeks ago, this pair attempted a trick in which Orr threw Evora into a spin. I’m not a sufficiently experienced spectator of figure skating to know whether his throwing technique was off or whether something else went wrong — but in any case, on that night Evora fell instead of landing on her skates. This week, they did a new skill in which Orr tossed Evora up, and she spun in the air, and he caught her by the waist.
Their performance, to “Believer” by Imagine Dragons, also featured a shoulder lift with an impressively perilous dismount, a prolonged one-arm lift, and a lift that involved Orr spinning Evora across his shoulders like a windmill. As well as this:
Before inviting the judges to share their comments, host Ron MacLean actually noted that, like Nurse, Orr works to further women’s hockey — or will soon — as “a coach with the Connecticut Whale ... a great program there.” So yay.
Armstrong said the pair were the most improved so far in the competition. “Guess what, tough guy — you’re a figure skater.”
Browning concurred: “Figure skating looks good on you,” he said, noting that they’re using Orr’s strength to their advantage.
Nurse admired the complicated choreography and commended the pair for taking chances. “You taking risks really shows that you trust each other as a team, and I think that it’s incredible ... Keep doing that.”
Orr and Evora earned a combined 17.0 from the judges.
At times during this episode, the judges and skaters all gave well-deserved praise to their choreographers — we don’t see much of them during the show, and may not even hear their names as a general rule, but they are obviously a big part of the participants’ success.
In judging the skate-off later, Nurse said, “I honestly wanted to lace up some figure skates and get out there with you.” Browning cut in, “Next year!” (So maybe we’ll have that to look forward to!)
I believe the producers forgot to show the leaderboard at the end of this episode, but if I calculated all the scores correctly then Spooner and Poje were near the top of the standings, and Orr and Evora were near the bottom. But it doesn’t matter, of course. Everything hinges on the fan vote.
[Editor’s note: Although you cannot watch full episodes of BotB outside of Canada, we discovered this week that CBC makes videos of each pair’s program available after the episode has aired. Links have been added to this article and to The Ice Garden’s past recaps.]