‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Story time
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This third week of competition marked Story Night in the glittery Rectagon, the first of what seems to be a series of theme nights on “Dancing With the Stars.” Props were not just allowed: They were encouraged! And the stars and their pro partners danced out everything from love in a coffee shop to gay pride to an ode to an Alpine flower from the “Sound of Music.”
The top story, however, was not the time machine that took the Situation to a place where mesh and pleather joined forces to make an outfit. No, it was the waltz that propelled “Hills” show pony Audrina Patridge and partner Tony Dovolani to the top of the ballroom pack. It also earned the first 9s of the season! (Oh Tony, how far you’ve come since “Paparazzi.”) The story was about a wife dreaming of being reunited with her Marine husband, and the props included a vanity table, a military cap and the Smoke Monster from “Lost.” The waltz was undeniably well danced, and lilted in all the right places, though I didn’t see as much emotion from the dancers as the judges did: Len thought it was “the most touching dance of the night.” Carrie Ann said it was “beautifully acted” and “beautifully danced,” though Audrina should point her toes a bit more. Bruno said it was “compelling and touching storytelling … every move was connected to an emotional journey.” Audrina dedicated the dance to the armed troops. And Tony waxed his legs. Total: 26.
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough’s samba did not make quite the same grade as their previous routines, and the couple who spent the last two weeks at the top of the leader board had to settle for a three-way tie for second place this week. I liked the hot-for-teacher idea, and thought Jennifer wore those glasses well, but the routine just didn’t let loose and have fun the way that I hoped it would. Was that because of the dragging version of Erasure’s “Respect,” or due to the mess-up in the middle? Too bad there aren’t any do-overs, like that exercise in futility Jennifer and Derek attempted in front of the judges’ table. Still, the mess-up and the copiously fringey black pants didn’t really hurt these contenders, as they still got 8s for their efforts. “It’s nice not to have to be perfect and still get an 8,” said Jennifer. Tell that to Margaret Cho. Total: 24.
One thing we found out this week: Maksim Chmerkovskiy is a smacker. Brandy’s pro partner is not one to tell a person they’re out of line, when he can smack someone into form instead. Yes, we always knew that Maks had a very my-way-or-the-highway M.O., but this slap-happy rehearsal segment did make him look a bit like a bully, something that Len “Spanky” Goodman did not appreciate. Still, Maks got an awesome routine out of his celebrity, a “Bodyguard”-themed samba that hit all the right notes and marks. “It had energy, it had punch, there was good rhythm, nice hip action,” said Len, though he chastised Maks in the process: “Slapping on the ass is not the way to train.” Bruno saw “the comeback of the diva” for Brandy. “Way to go, girl!” Carrie Ann wanted to smack “naughty boy” Maks for his bad boy ways (take a number, girl!), but had to admit that Brandy was “hot and on fire.” It also got Brandy to second place. Total: 24.
Tied with Brandy and Jennifer were Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke. And you knew that they were going to have a good routine because the producers put them in the final performance spot. And what’s not to like about an ex-basketball player shaking his maracas to the beat? If I was nitpicking, I would say that Cheryl did most of the work, dancing circles around the ex-Laker and oops! undoing his buttons and letting his open chest fly, but you do have to give him credit for his musicality and that shoulder shimmy. Perennial “DWTS” attendee Eliza Dushku loved it though, as did the crowd. Not to mention the judges: “You’ve gone up a notch tonight,” commended Len. “It was hot, it was sexy, you were right on the music,” Carrie Ann purred. Total: 24.
What is it about Disney star Kyle Massey that makes him so gosh darn likeable? Maybe it’s because he’s such an assured performer. Or that he’s so light on his feet! His waltz with Lacey Schwimmer was like watching a confection in a bedazzled sweater. I have to say, I had my doubts that Kyle could rein in his boundless energy to deliver a suitable waltz, but turns out anything is possible when you’ve got the pop and fizz of a just-opened can of soda. Well, as long as the dance is not to the Eagles, that is. (“Who are the Eagles?” asked Lacey. “Are they like the Beatles?” Ah, youth). “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop” suited them to a tee. The story was sweet, Kyle was convincingly smitten and Lacey looked like a genie from a bottle that came in with a menu and left with his heart in a take-out container. I liked their matching purple pants, and that chopper-grinder turning move that could have diced a green pepper along with the ballroom floor. Tom said Kyle was “such a smoothie.” Bruno said the Disney star was “so expressive,” but still needs to work on his feet. Carrie Ann was besotted: “You just bring the fun to the floor! I giggle when you dance!” Len said Kyle’s acting and performance levels were high, but “you’ve done nothing with your footwork at all. It’s atrocious.” Kyle and Lacey got a 23 for their waltz. How does it feel? asked Brooke. “It feels atrocious,” said Lacey cheekily. Ha!
Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya had my favorite story props of the night, with a British telephone booth, Big Ben in the background, an umbrella and some dancing in the rain. Who can really frown when a dashing 6-foot-2 former football player comes waltzing to your rescue with a wind-resistant umbrella? Anna’s drab overcoat gave way to a lovely pastel garden of color, and their waltz was as sunny and warm as a brilliant spring day. “It was soooo charming,” raved Carrie Ann. “I loved it!” While Len said Kurt’s arms lacked musicality, and Bruno said “the brief encounter in London Town worked.” Unfortunately, the frying pan hands didn’t, which is why he clonked them with a 7. Total: 23.
Florence Henderson played Maria in the theater version of the “Sound of Music” before she became Mrs. Brady, and I loved seeing a thoughtful side during hers and Corky Ballas’ waltz, set to the Rodgers and Hammerstein ode “Edelweiss.” She delivered an emotionally sweet routine, dedicated to her late husband, that was simple and lovely in that understatedly sparkly dirndl. Props go to that flowy satiny green skirt for being the best supporting player. “Simple, effective, very very very sweet,” lauded Bruno. “It was poignant, it was emotional, it was sweet,” said Len. Too bad “the technique in your feet was nonexistent.” Total: 20.
Speaking of technique, “you can’t fist bump pump if you don’t know the beat, right?” Totally, Situation. The Situation totally has musicality. Partner Karina Smirnoff had the unenviable task of choreographing a fox trot to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” AND skirting “any elimination Situation.” And while this was no futuristic paso doble a la Derek and Joanna from Season 8, I do have to say that the Sitch’s routine was entertaining. Maybe it’s because I loved how the Situation raised his arm like an Olympic gymnast when the British announcer said his name before the performance. Or maybe it was because of that luscious mesh/pleather outfit. “Boom boom wow!” exclaimed Carrie Ann. “You are baby-stepping your way to becoming a dancer.” Bruno got caught up in his own word play: “The time machine got the Situation in the land of the lost fox trot,” he yammered. But he also said that it was “in a very weird way, very very entertaining.” Total: 20.
Bristol Palin is not a performer; she just delivers her testimony. Homeless Mark Ballas “will dance for food,” and just wants her attention. They’re trying to see each other “Just the Way You Are,” which for Mark was in a suit, and for Bristol involved a Grecian column dress. There was a cute contemporary part at the beginning of their fox trot that led to Mark lifting his entire homeless outfit like those Mission: Impossible movies and magically revealing that suit underneath. The judges, however, thought this was a routine better suited for the trash bin. “I love that story, but I didn’t quite get it from the performance,” said Carrie Ann. “I didn’t like it that much,” Len said bluntly. “It was all a bit too contemporary for my taste.” Bruno praised her execution but said Bristol was “not Meryl Streep yet. You have to express,” he said. “Show it to me, baby!” Total: 19.
Margaret Cho was all about expressing her pride during her samba with Louis Van Amstel. She came out in a whirling dervish of rainbow fringe. He came out in a bright blue resuscitated Jack La Lanne outfit. She exclaimed, “This is the gayest thing I think has ever happened!” And both shimmied their way through the “Copacabana.” Though was it too girl gone wild with reckless abandon, rather than a proper routine? The judges felt that it was. While Len was encouraged by the good hip action at the beginning, he said Margaret lost her timing and “got a little bit heavy in the legs.” Bruno praised her for “waving your rainbow flag…but I think you lost your way out of the Copa,” he said. “You had too many drinks, my darling.” Carrie Ann loved her rainbow brights, “but yes, you sort of lost control.” Total: 18.
Margaret Cho was all rainbows and smiles coming into Monday night’s performances, but will she leave on Tuesday under those horrible red elimination lights? As much as I love what she’s doing, and seeing her adorable parents rooting for her in the audience every Monday night, I’m not sure she’s improving as much as people would like (and the judges seem intent on keeping her scores low), so it may be her time to go.
What do you think? Who will get the boot come Tuesday night? Were you impressed by the night’s stories? Was the 9 paddle brought out prematurely? Is Maks a naughty boy? Can a well-executed fist pump be counted as musicality? Discuss!
-- Allyssa Lee