‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Stripped down

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“Dancing With the Stars,” you just got unplugged! Week 4 marked the first-ever Acoustic Night at the ol’ ballroom corral. The acoustic guitars came out, the songs lost their electronic beats and the Rectagon got its most dramatic makeover yet -- all setting the stage for stripped down versions of the Argentine tango and the rumba.

Speaking of stripped down, anyone else notice how the guys took it upon themselves to bare it all themselves? My, there was an eyeful of chest skin during this performance show. The Situation famously bared his Situation. Not to be dissuaded, Dmitry Chaplin and Maksim Chmerkovskiy followed suit. Mark Ballas doffed his shirt altogether -- and then refused to put one back on. And let’s not forget that Mark’s dad Corky went the Full Monty during the rehearsal segment.


Despite all the mannary action (or perhaps because of it), the judges were pretty tough on the contestants. Monday night also marked this season’s inaugural Double Score Showdown, in which each couple got two sets of scores: one for technique, and one for performance. Pair that with an elevated stage in the round where the performers’ feet stood front and center, and you got some nitpicking scores from some nitpicky judges. And after this night of performances it’s become clear who’s in serious contention for that coveted Mirrorball trophy, and who is just happy to be here. Let’s make some unplugged noise for the leaders of the pack …

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, who also had the honor of scoring the first 10s of the season! Nobody puts Baby in a corner, and apparently nobody puts Baby anywhere other than first place, either. “Jenougher” totally redeemed themselves after last week’s slip with their Argentine tango. The actress was scared that the pinched nerve in the ball of her foot would hold her back, but there was no hesitation or wimping out in this performance. Not only that, but she and Derek took turns playing the piano as well! From that beginning sequence when he dragged her perfectly split onto the dance floor all the way through to the tense, dramatic end, the dance seemed to utilize the newly-designed ballroom properly. “Excellent technique, great performance,” lauded Len. “As performances go, this is really prime-time delight!” said Bruno. “The precision was incredible, the passion was incredible,” raved Carrie Ann. “That was ah-ma-zing.” Baby Derek got a 27 for their technique and a whopping 29 for their performance. Total: a near-perfect 56 out of 60.

Maintaining second place, but still 8 points back, were Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. And Brandy really proved herself tonight with her rumba. All it took were a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and an outside setting for Brandy and Maks to get on the same page. Her rumba, set to the Maxwell version of “This Woman’s Work,” was smooth and sultry, and this was the first time I saw the singer-songwriter exhibit a really convincing amount of emotion. Plus, an extra gold star for helping to unclothe Maks. “Brandy, there you are!” Carrie Ann exclaimed. “It’s like your comeback night.” Bruno loved the mood of “soft sensuality,” but told her to watch the erratic arms and get more strength in her legs. Still, it was all positive for Brandy. She and Maks got a 22 for technique, and a 26 for performance. Total: 48.

A couple spots out of the lead position, but still in the running were Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani. Can you believe just five years ago she was a receptionist at a photo studio? Neither can I. Audrina pulled off a serviceable Argentine tango, even sacrificing potential wrinkles to squint her eyes and play the part of a “bee-yotch” during the performance. And while there were many efforts to eek out emotion from the “Hills” star, I just didn’t see it translate into the dance. Neither did the judges, really. Carrie Ann said Audrina’s legs lack energy after the ankle, and the lifts were “just a little bit sloppy on the dismount.” Len thought “it was clean, it was clear,” though he “didn’t get transported to a seedy club in Buenos Aires” like he wanted to. Bruno said the foot point “wasn’t sharp” and the routine didn’t have drive. But was it the bad toe point, or was it the odd song choice of Jefferson Starship’s “Somebody to Love” that was to blame? Still, they didn’t fare so badly: Audrina and Tony got a 24 for technique and a 22 for performance, for a total of 46.

Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer may not have had the best week, but the Disney star is still growing on me. Yes, he’s cocky (“I’ve got the sexy,”) but he’s also all kinds of positive and tries to do everything he can to improve and do well with each dance. Plus, he’s still so light on his feet. Last week Kyle got schooled for his “atrocious” footwork, so he and Lacey made it a point to emphasize that toe point when doing the rumba this week. But all that focus on his lower half caused a disconnect with his upper, and made for a somewhat disjointed overall routine. Len praised him for his improved footwork, but said the dance had a “staccato feel,” he says. “It was too sharp for me, it didn’t flow.” Bruno agreed, though he said Kyle “always play[s] it well.” Kyle and Lacey got an 18 for technique and a 22 for their performance, for a total of 40.

A mustachioed Rick Fox shaved off the rest of his goatee to play the suave Clark Gablesque lothario who dominated Cheryl Burke in their Argentine tango. But as dashing as he looked in his white tux jacket, I have to agree with Carrie Ann that the routine was a bit tepid. There wasn’t a lot of passion. Even girlfriend Eliza Dushku gave him a concessionary, aw, isn’t that cute kind of clap, which isn’t exactly the reaction one would want after your pro dancer had traveled all the way to Argentina and back to unlock the dance’s secrets. Maybe if he screamed out like an animal it would have elicited more emotion? Because it seemed a little buttoned up for me. Still, Len liked the lifts, though he said Rick’s “legs could have been crisper and sharper.” Bruno said the energy “sometimes didn’t hold all the way through” and “some of the passes were kind of like Megatron.” Rick and Cheryl got a 19 for their technique, and 20 for their performance, for a total of 39.

Florence Henderson was also trying to improve her technique this week, after the judges told her that last week’s routine was a bit simple. So she threw in the kitchen sink with her bedroom dance with Corky Ballas. “Florence and I are the oldest couple doing it,” double-entendre’d Corky. “This rumba is going to be sexy,” avowed Florence. And oh, it was, with Flo strutting out in a sparkly collar and engaging herself in a lot of touches and much dirty dancing, all set to the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” (“And that’s our Season 11 ‘Get a Room’ dance,” declared Tom.) The routine got a resounding “appropriate” from the raucous crowd (which included TV son Christopher Knight, a.k.a. Peter Brady) but a “not appropriate” slap from two-thirds of the judges. “What just happened?” squeaked an uncomfortable Carrie Ann. “You’re Mrs. Brady!” Carrie Ann felt America’s beloved TV mom “went a little too far,” though Len had no problem with all the raunch dressing: “It was much better than I expected,” the head judge said. “Well done.” Bruno’s been a real stick in the mud this season, and did not give an inch. “I’ve seen better,” he sniffed. Florky got a low-scoring 17 for their technique and an 18 for their performance, which was immediately flagged backstage by son Mark as “Not Appropriate.” Total: 35.

Hey, it’s Kurt Warner’s anniversary today. He and his wife Brenda have been married for 13 years! While his union with his wife is still going strong, sadly, his rumba with Anna Trebunskaya was a little worse for the wear. I blame those frying pan hands. Apparently they prevent him from finishing his arm movements, and his somewhat stiff and subpar routine, set to Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” relegated him to the lower end of the scoring scale. Honestly, I thought he would be scored a little higher for performance just based on sheer likeability, even though I thought his hip movement was more cute-uncomfortable than adorably impressive. But maybe it’s the unfortunate position of going first -- or maybe the judges hate anniversaries. Either way, Kurt was slammed with bum paddle calls, earning a measly 15 for technique, and a not-that-much-better 19 for performance, which left him with a 34 total.

In a night rife with low paddles, I thought Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas also got the blunt end of the scoring stick. Because while Bristol had her share of deer-in-the-headlight moments, I thought her hip movement was definitely better than Kurt Warner’s. But the judges made it sound like their dance was an insult to teen advocates everywhere. “There’s no effort,” complained Carrie Ann. “We’re week 4!” “Those moves never go anywhere,” pooh-poohed Bruno. “I’m still waiting.” And this despite Mark ripping off his shirt mid-routine. Was it an act of desperation and distraction, or a shrewd vote-getting move? The judges thought it was distracting. “You don’t see me taking my shirt off and exposing myself to everyone,” chastised Len to the topless Mark. “I want to see more we and less me.” Bristol and Mark got an 18 for technique, and a dismal 14 for performance, for a total of 32. And there was no masking their feelings at that point. “That really sucks,” Bristol relayed to Brooke.

Oy, but the Sitaution’s got a worse situation on his hands. As much as he wants to do well, as Carrie Ann said, it seemed like the ‘Jersey Shore’ star was having trouble even putting one foot in front of the other. Luckily, he chose this week to show off his six-pack. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as his nervousness, inexperience, and general malaise was all over his and Karina Smirnoff’s Argentine Tango, set to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” You could see it right from the start with the painful way he flipped his partner like a sack of sparkly potatoes. It didn’t help that Karina wore a dress that looked like it had been nibbled on the side by a giant sparkle-consuming bunny. “That was a terrible mess,” tsked Bruno. “Really really really really terrible.” (Really, Bruno? Really?) Carrie Ann tried to be nice: “On behalf of all the women, I would like to welcome the Situation’s abs to the show,” she said. Len gave a backhanded compliment. “It was consistent,” the head judge said. “It was bad throughout.” The Situation and Karina earned a 12 for technique, 16, for performance, and a painful 28 total. That’s definitely a Situation,” he said of his low scores. Though “as long as Karina is in one piece, that’s all that matters right now.” What an upstanding guy.

Still, the Situation is in the precarious situation of being the next star to fall from the competition. Is this the first and last time we’ll see his tan abs on the ballroom floor, or will Bristol the Pistol get fired from the program? Do you like the double score showdown? What do you think of that slo-mo play by play recap Brooke took each couple through in the celebraquarium? Bare chests: Distracting, or delicious?

-- Allyssa Lee


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