The Battle is back, and just when the world needs it most!
Yes, Battle of the Blades returned Thursday night with a two hour premiere on CBC. Eight new pairs took to the ice for the first time to give us a taste of what we’re going to see this season.
In case you’ve never heard of this show before, Battle of the Blades is a reality TV show that teaches hockey players how to skate by pairing them up with figure skaters. Think Dancing With The Stars, but on figure skates. The first episode was fantastic, and you can watch it for free on CBC Gem!
As a longtime fan of Battle of the Blades, I personally find that the best strategy in week 1 is to focus on being entertaining, rather than good.
The thing is, nobody knows how to figure skate at this point in the competition. If you try to put together something technically difficult and emotional, it’ll end up being forgettable. But if you show everyone that you’re having fun? That you know you’re bad but you’re going to try it anyways? People remember that stuff.
Some of my favourite week 1 performances of all time were Sinead and Grant in season 4, and of course Sheldon and Kaitlyn’s performance last year. Very few hockey players are even remotely comfortable on figure skates at this point in the game, so demonstrating that you’re having fun is a great strategy.
Anyways, the competition looks real tough this year. I love all these pairs. I was smiling throughout the entire episode, except during the parts where Ron MacLean opened his mouth, which unfortunately happened way too often. Do you know how long it took him to make a bad pun? About two minutes and twenty seconds. We weren’t even three minutes into the show, and he was making a joke about high picks and toe picks.
Let’s talk about the routines.
#1: Kaitlyn Weaver and Bryan Bickell
You know? I’m starting to think the figure skaters don’t get enough credit on this show.
I was curious to see how Kaitlyn Weaver would do with a different partner this year, and honestly I think she’s going to stick around again. The energy in this performance! The lifts! The wink! Bryan’s skating! He’s much faster than a lot of the other competitors, and seems a lot more comfortable on the ice. Also, they skated to The Arkells, which is an automatic win in my book.
This was a good performance.
#2: Violetta Afanasieva and Anthony Stewart
See, this is what I mean when I talk about first performances needing to be about the energy.
Is Anthony Stewart the best skater in this competition? No. But was he having more fun than just about anyone else? Absolutely.
I could not stop smiling throughout this performance. Violetta’s energy is infectious, and Anthony’s hips did not lie. Violetta was even laughing at him a few times! I think this is a perfect pairing, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with in later weeks.
#3 Megan Agosta and Andrew Poje
Ooof. Alright. So here’s the thing: I wanted to love this pair. I was a fan of Megan’s when she was playing hockey, and Andrew is wonderful.
However, the constant reminders that Megan is a cop just made this whole thing extremely uncomfortable. The fact that Battle of the Blades explicitly made an effort to include more Black skaters and (based on their introductory videos) probably encouraged those skaters to talk about racial justice on the show, and then balanced that out with constant bootlicking is, in my opinion, extremely inappropriate. It reeks of both-sides-ism, and I wish I were surprised, but I’m not.
Ron’s comment about appreciating “first responders” for all they do? The joke about her arresting people for speeding? Just. No. That’s not funny. And it feels like they’re trying to set up this pair as the Blue Lives Matter pair, in opposition to Akim and Vanessa, and it’s just gross.
So yeah, that ruined the whole thing for me, which is unfortunate because it really was a good performance. Megan’s one of the better skaters in this competition, for sure. I just now feel like I can’t root for them.
#4 Vanessa James and Akim Aliu
I love this pair, and I’m so excited to see what they do later on in the competition. The song choice was excellent, and there were definitely a few great moments. That said, Akim was definitely the most nervous of the hockey players. I felt bad for him! I’m sure that’ll change with time, though.
Nina Cried Power by Hozier, though? The Black power fists at the end? I love them.
Also, skating off the ice before getting their scores? That’s me submitting assignments and then refusing to ever think about them again.
#5 Carlotta Edwards and Kris Versteeg
I think this pair wins for the best introduction video. Tag yourself, I’m Carlotta saying “his body type is a perfect male figure skating body.” I love her.
Also, “I’m definitely here to beat Bryan Bickell. It’s gonna fuel me,” and “if he goes further than me, I will not put on skates ever again” are A+ quotes. Starting strong right out of the gate here. Definitely kept the momentum going with Kris’s kids in the crowd.
The skate itself was pretty good, though I’m not a huge Ed Sheeran fan. Kris looks pretty comfortable on figure skates. I’m interested to see what they put together next week.
That said, Ron MacLean saying “‘Cause I know you’re so great with the children” to Kris Versteeg’s wife was definitely at least one of the top 5 worst Ron MacLean moments of the episode.
#6 Jessica Campbell and Asher Hill
Wow. Just… wow.
This was easily my favourite performance of the night. Of all the hockey players, I think Jessica did the best job of keeping up with her partner. She was clearly having so much fun, and clearly so comfortable on the ice. I love this. I can already tell these two are going to stick around.
#7 Jennifer Botterelli and Eric Radford
I said at the beginning of this post that I’m not a huge fan of the slower numbers in week one, but I thought this one worked pretty well. They weren’t that remarkable, but Jennifer is a really smooth, graceful skater and I think she and Eric are a good match.
#8 Megan Duhamel and Wojtek Wolski
“My secret weapon in this competition… is Megan.” Finally, a man who knows his place.
This performance didn’t wow me, but Wojtek’s lip syncing did. I already love these delightful humans, and as I said, I love it when the hockey players look comfortable on the ice, which he certainly did.
What a great first episode.
The best moment of the episode, however, was David Ayres being the zamboni driver. I’m not sure this show will ever be able to top that.
Battle of the Blades airs Thursdays at 8pm ET.