I now see no way fate can stop the dimpled, winsome juggernaut that is Brooke Burke, the hoofer ahead of all contenders on Dancing With the Stars and the only female civilian (non-professional) dancer left. I call her The Last Woman Alive. But as the cast shrinks faster than the staff of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, it's interesting to see that the race to find the winner is only half the story. The real contest is between each contestant (or couple) and their immediately previous reputations.
Undeniably, Brooke and Derek Hough did a whiplash of a tango with mistakes only Judge Len could see. Then they came back with an also ambitious mambo, executing her requisite solo routine right in front of the judge's desk. The judges were clever to devise the 15-second solo requirement, depriving the pros from disguising the ineptitude of non-pro partners by muscling them around like Bela Lugosi wrestling a rubber octopus in Bride of the Monster.
Brooke and Derek were clever to locate her solo so as to deprive hanging judge Len and the rest of any glimpse of her feet, which could've been screwing up for all they knew. Len had warned that the solo bit left "nowhere to hide," but Brooke found one.
After their unprecedented perfect score last week, they trained like fanatics for this week, knowing that Len would say something along the lines of "It was riddled with errors!" (as he did). In the rehearsal, Derek conveyed his pitilessness by slapping Burke's face into place with all the gentleness of Jimmy Cagney mashing a grapefruit in Mae Clarke's mug. After they got a good score but worse than last week's, Brooke humbly said she's "tryin' to do a fraction of what the pro girls do." Honey, on this show, everybody's a pro.
But despite her cunning and remarkable pro impression, it was inevitable that Brooke would get a comeuppance after last week's victory lap. It's necessary for the drama of the show. For the same reason, Cody Linley was foreordained to do better after last week's hair-raising visit to dance-celebrity death's door. It was, as every one of these interludes is, stupid and contrived when his helium-voiced pipsqueak pals dropped by to bolster his ego, yet his terrified craving for reassurance seemed highly convincing. It's not like he has a big non-DWTS career to fall back on. When he strode out there for his fox trot to "Call Me Irresponsible," he strove to look as responsible as possible. Dwarfed by a suit with enormous lapels and collar, he looked like the child gangsters in Bugsy Malone.
The perfect setup to grow up before our eyes, as he seemed to. His score of 24 belied the enthusiasm of the wowed crowd and judges. Even Len was "pleasantly surprised." What surprise? It had to happen, because it makes a better story than blowing it two weeks in a row. Besides, Cody can't get fired while he's still dancing with the mousy-haired audio-animatron Edyta Sliwinska. The audience demands a rematch with hospitalized blonde hottie Julianne Hough. The fans would riot otherwise.
Though Edyta is in fact sexless, Cody had a snappy comeback to judge Carrie Ann's question about whether a year ago he ever thought he'd be dancing with a naked (or half-naked) woman: "I may have imagined it, but I didn't expect it." And he was brilliant to do the opposite move from Brooke's, leaping right up onto the judge's table and lolling like Ingres' Grande Odalisque. He earned a standing ovation -- and the quality of the dance was almost beside the point. Len gave identical scores to Brooke and Cody, proving he's not really Mr. Standards after all. He's grading on the curve for entertainment purposes, punishing Brooke as a pro, favoring Cody as a mewling newbie. And after milking his reunion with Julianne, they'll toss him like snotty Kleenex.
I'm really worried about Maurice Greene and Cheryl Burke, because they have no story. They're a lot better than Cody, as amply demonstrated by their pulse-quickening quickstep to "Puttin' On the Ritz," but they may well lose before he does, since their arc on the show is less dramatic. I'm crazy about Cheryl (and fans who say she's too fat to be glamorous are fat in the head), but her paso doble this week made me start to turn against her. That dress made her look like a bloated tropical fish, playing right into the fat-haters' hands, and the solo she devised for Maurice -- standing there whirling a red cape like a matador with no bull to play with -- was inert. Naturally, the judges and audience ate it up. Philistines! She also had him schlep her along the floor, reminding me of the Lynda Barry cartoon with the lovestruck cavegirl saying to the caveman, "You're the best man I've ever been dragged by." Get a good look at Cheryl's lovely, gummy grin: we may not see much more of her.
Lance Bass and Lacey Schwimmer's foxtrot and samba were intolerable. He winks like Sarah Palin, and she makes cheesy, loud gestures with her hands, campy as a drag queen. Robert Crumb would do a Tex Avery eye-pop at the sight of Lacey's muscled haunches, but I find her increasingly graceless and tasteless. Again, I think the judges like the narrative of Lance's Len-enraging barefoot transgression, followed by this week's dutifully shod show. I don't know why they don't boot Lacey's feather-clad jut butt and her sub-Vegas choreographical imagination right out the door.
Warren Sapp and Kym Johnson are another couple who get more than they deserve for non-dance reasons. This show is a sucker for football stars -- don't ask me why. Maybe it's a Beauty and the Beast thing. He blew it last week ("I didn't even do my head right!"), so now he is allotted a comeback. I admit, he showed 007 panache tangoing to a Bond song, his jive jibed with Johnson's, and he survived his solo. But I think he got a break better dancers didn't. Oddly, there was no sign, nor mention of Johnson's shoulder injury, which required medical attention. I guess the injury storyline has been overworked this season.
Stay tuned to see who loses first, the real point of DWTS. All I can predict with confidence is this: the results won't be fair.