This is the story of Cotton-Eyed Woe for comedian Kevin McGahern, who loses a place in the finale of Dancing With The Stars (RTÉ One, 6.30pm) after a jaw-dropping dance. McGahern and influencer Suzanne Jackson finish in the bottom two and must scramble to decide who will reach the big decision maker next week. With so much at stake, the atmosphere is understandably tense.
It gets even more tense when judges Arthur Gourounlian and Brian Redmond differ over who should go through. That leaves the casting decision with Loraine Barry. She notes that McGahern and Jackson — dancing to Rednex’s Cotton Eyed Joe and Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf, respectively — each made a mistake or two.
Based on this, Barry nods to Jackson, who outclassed McGahern earlier in the episode. She advances to next Sunday, joining favorites Brooke Scullion and Damian McGinty and surprise runner-up Carl Mullan.
This allows for breathtaking viewing. Jackson, who dances with Michael Danilczuk, was one of the season’s most impressive contestants. And yet, she knows it’s not just a matter of technical ability. “The public must vote. It’s like that. I’m just happy to participate.”
Carl Mullan is the surprise package. The 2FM presenter, dancing with Emily Barker, had looked like an early elimination contender. However, he put his head down and improved steadily. Tonight he receives his highest total of 26, for a quick step towards Hit The Road Jack by Throttle. “Fie, fi, smoke enemy. I smell the blood with an epic quick step,” enthuses Gourounlian.
But, as has been the case throughout the set, the point guard is Brooke Scullion. She tops the leaderboard with a clear streak of 30 – then wins the dance marathon.
All of this and she provides the show with its big talking point when she accidentally headbutts her dance partner Robert Rowiński during the final endurance test. Talk about bopping until you drop. “I feel awful,” she said. “I headbutted Robert. He’s bleeding.”
Amid the sweat and bloody tears, there are a few eerie moments, like when presenter Jennifer Zamparelli starts raving about Paul Mescal’s Oscar chances. Elsewhere, the “hilarious” School Of Rock-like skit in which Mullan explains the rules of the dance marathon to fellow contestants will haunt viewers’ dreams for weeks.
Yet despite all that, this week’s Dancing With The Stars delivered real tension with the elimination on the wire. Plus, there’s the surprise of Carl Mullan reaching the finish line. It’s unthinkable that he wins – Scullion and McGinty are a cut above the rest. Still, if the final is as exciting as this week’s semi-final, it will be a night to savor.