Recapping S5 ‘Battle of the Blades’ third episode

A little bit country, a little bit ... no, it was completely country

It’s week three of “Battle of the Blades” and we’re still keeping an eye on two pairs of skaters who have a women’s hockey angle — Team Canada player Natalie Spooner, and NWHL coach-to-be Colton Orr. This week, neither of them is on the chopping block (and the Connecticut Whale players will have to wait at least another week to practice with their head coach).

The official theme for the week’s episode was country music. But the secondary, unofficial theme for the week was getting hockey players to portray scripted emotions through their expressions and movements. Many contestants are starting to get comfortable with the “acting” aspect of figure skating — but not all of them.

The performances

Orr and partner Amanda Evora went first of the six remaining pairs, skating to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) — which Orr said he’d requested right from the start. Orr’s skating isn’t what you’d call fluid, but he’s more than comfortable with lifts and spirals that rely on his strength, particularly the showstopping one-armed star lift.

Head judge Kurt Browning said Orr has made progress in his efforts to loosen up and really improved from the previous week. “You weren’t scary at all,” he exclaimed.

Guest judge Marie-France Dubreuil observed that “The tricks are getting awesome — you really have a performer in you.”

Colby Armstrong (now being called the show’s “permanent resident judge”) recalled the judges’ comments from previous weeks and noted the progress Orr has made in applying their advice. “Talk about being coachable ... great job. You’re really finding your way here, buddy.”

Orr and Evora earned a combined 16.7 from the judges. (I know these totals seem to fluctuate wildly from week to week — don’t get hung up on it. The numbers only really matter in relation to other pairs within a single episode, and there’s also the fan vote that has some mathematically imprecise bearing on the contestants’ standings. It’s just a rough ranking, honestly.)

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Natalie Spooner knows she’s not a natural figure skater. Few of the hockey player participants are — that’s essentially the point.

In the prerecorded video that led into the performance, she said, “I’m hoping I can work on my facial expressions, which is something that’s out of my comfort zone.”

She and partner Andrew Poje skated to Jason Aldean’s “You Make It Easy” — they told a sweet story through their performance, and pulled off a neat upside-down lift, but to my untrained eyes a lot of the routine boiled down to Spooner holding a pretty pose while Poje skated literal circles around her. But it could be that that’s what it’s really about, for this show.

Browning said, “I feel that you carried the music. The audience was viscerally reacting at the end, and I’m very impressed.”

Dubreuil went there, telling Spooner “We see a sensuality, and your femininity coming through.”

And Armstrong admitted that the performance made him blush.

Spooner and Poje earned a combined 17.4 from the judges.

The results

By the end of the episode, Spooner and Poje were near the top of the leaderboard. Orr and Evora were in the bottom spot. In the next episode, we’ll find out if fans liked both pairs enough to keep them safe from elimination. (I already suspect that Spooner and Poje will be. I’m starting to think they might win this thing.)