I demand a steroids test on Dancing With the Stars! Couples broke records right and left. You're telling me they got this good in four weeks flat, with half of them flat on their backs wailing in pain half the time, and two all-new dances to learn?
First up, essaying the Lindy hop, were
David Alan Grier and sparkly-smiling Kym Johnson. They studied the new routine in the first non-contrived field trip of the season, to Pasadena's Lindy Groove, where amateur dance fans showed them how it's done for fun. More lively real-life intervals like this, please. David and Kym didn't ace it the way they did the foxtrot, but he was winningly lighter on his feet than he has been, and the last move -- she straddles and waddles over him, collapsing in his lap -- showed nonchalant panache. The footwork wasn't flawless, though. More important, the dance failed in its crucial mission: To make one feel like age 19 on V-Day, 1945. The score of 22 was fair. They won't get offed this week, but they'd better keep improving or their weeks are numbered.
As Derek pointed out, each week Lil' Kim and
Derek Hough's scores have been going up. But I frankly doubted she had what it takes to tackle the notoriously tricky Argentine tango, which is to ballroom tango what multiple-personality disorder is to sanity. How could she leap from the hip-hop stage to the land of Evita with that jut butt and those stubby fireplug legs? Iron will, that's how. Kim evinced impressive precision, and even though she never could quite straighten her muscle-bound midget legs, she inspired the judges to emotional transports just shy of her own winsome weepiness after pulling it off. "You looked like you were, like, four inches taller than you are!" chirped Carrie Ann, perhaps alluding to Michael Fox's quip when he won the Emmy ("I feel four feet tall!"). Still, she didn't deserve no 27 score, and certainly not the first ten of the season (from excitable Bruno). Host Tom compared Bruno to "a very tan Bela Lugosi," but if Bruno has a habit, it's definitely not Bela's heroin habit. If they ever run out of True Blood on True Blood, they can use Bruno Blood to revive all the vampires.
Bottom line on Kim's performance: Good, sharp, but there's more to the Argentine tango than precision, and Kim didn't have it.
I had no doubt that Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough could Lindy hop to the top -- but I was wrong. The best thing about their performance was the costumes, out of the Happy Days hamburger-joint hopper. Chuck didn't feel a beat, just pure fear: He explained that ever since he fell on his head long ago, he's been terrified of doing so again. Sensible, but crippling to a Lindy hop contestant. It's got to radiate sheer love of life, of this moment eternal and damn the rest. The Bible says, "Perfect love casteth out fear" (John 4:18). For Chuck, perfect fear casteth out love -- the love the Lindy hop requires. If you ask me, their 22 score was a gift. Keep this up, Chuck, and you'll be "cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:12).
Samantha apologized for her husky voice -- "a sick kid at home equals sick mom on the show" -- but it's the first time she's ever been interesting. Her rasp inspired comparisons with Brenda Vaccaro, Wilford Brimley, and Steve-O. Let's have more bad things happen to Samantha, so she has something to offer besides a cute face, infinite vapidity and superfluous uselessness!
Lawrence Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska joked about how their tango was going to be so hot his marriage might be in danger, but the joke was so forced it wasn't funny, and so was the dance. Bruno said he was "stomping" when he should've been "gliding," but pulled his punches even so. Len had it right: "He was walking around!" Moping around, more like. Why not have him do something unexpected, like throw Eydyta across the room in a long-bomb pass? Their 19 score was too high.
Ty Murray and Chelsie Hightower just keep getting better. Ty knew he had an advantage with the Lindy hop: It made use of his brute strength (which looks more flattering on him than on an NFL star), and being athletic instead of all sensitive would "help me with my nerves." Ty has the moves. All he has to fear is fear itself. He knew no fear this time around the floor. "I know there was a little tiddly blunder," Len admitted, but he still raved, "Hot dawg and darn my britches!" A 25 score, including Ty's first 9.
But I'll tell you what scares me: Chelsie's giant false eyelashes. They look like tarantulas escaping from inside her face.
The champion low-scorer of the past six seasons, Steve Wozniak, who perpetrated what Bruno last week termed "the worst samba I've ever seen," defied Bruno's demand to get down on his knees and beg forgiveness. Instead, Woz fans (and probable Apple fanatics) voting en mass sadistically kept him and Karina Smirnoff in the race, Edyta resplendent in an all-red outfit like the recent ketchup-colored production of Cabaret, with a diagonal sash like the Happy New Year baby, only not so fresh -- this baby needs changing. All right, their tango wasn't quite as revolting as their samba, but that's like saying Dick Fuld is less revolting than Bernie Madoff. Deliver us from both of them!
"I'm trying to think of something positive to say," confessed Carrie Ann, "and I'm still searching." Ever chipper, Woz was shameless about scoring 10 last week and 12 this week: "We grew 20 percent!" Does infinite success burn out the brain's pessimism centers?
Obviously, Melissa Rycroft, all perky in polka dots, was going to nail the Lindy hop -- she's a cheerleader, for God's sake. But the routines Tony Dovolani devised were the kind that tend to send cheerleaders to the quadriplegic ward. "I almost decapitated myself and punched your face out," she said afterward. She did pull it off, of course, very nearly perfectly, thanks to Tony's clever tactic of sticking toilet paper to her shoe to train her to kick it off with an adequate snap. Melissa is kind of a dull, dumb girl when she's just talking -- I wouldn't marry her either -- but when she dances she's a genius, a sexy, innocent, radiant angel soaring with no need of wings. They got the best score so far for the best dance so far. However, Len was justified in busting them down one point from a perfect 30: They did blow that last lift. Melissa could be a real star, if only somebody could write a show that did not require her to talk or act, just dance.
Pity Holly Madison. Tragically born without a butt, painfully burdened with breasts God may or may not have cursed her with, with a face plain as a Quaker outhouse and less physical grace than a newborn colt, she's not the ideal dance partner. A corpse has more feel for music. She couldn't find a beat in Fatboy Slim's limo. Her every step is hesitant, as if the stage were land-mined. I mean, the girl can't even get up off a stool! "A bad start, and it kept getting worse," said Bruno. I know, I know. Holly was in pain. But so was the audience. And the most painful moment of her performance was afterward, when she faced the judges and kept emitting a horrid little nervous titter. That could be the title of her spinoff series, Horrid Little Titter. Her score of 16 was an outrage. I'd rather watch Woz!
Steve-O gave Holly a run for her money in the can't-feel-the-beat competition, though I can't see why they gave him a 15. Her tango was worse than his Lindy hop. Lacey Schwimmer's choreography stank, too. The worst thing about their segment was the training routine: He put on his clown costume and balanced a chair on his nose, proving he does have talent. What was wrong with the bit was the utter stupidity of the excuse for airing it: It was supposed to cheer him up by getting him in touch with his inner clown. Stop writing stupid scenes like this, writers! Send the dancers to real places, have them do real things. DWTS cannot bear too much unreality.
The night's highlight, and the lightning strike of the season to date, was Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke's tango. That's what I'm talking about! The dance is supposed to be slow and slinky, then real sharp, tense and kinetic and ever changing. As Len put it, "It's a mix, hard, soft, big, small, fast, slow." These two did it all to a T, and finished with a stylin' upside-down Cheryl finale. And besides, they look the part. She has the requisite haughtiness and just enough hotness; he is, as Bruno said, for once without hyperbole, "the quintessential Latin lover." "I can't feel my face," Carrie Ann said. If they hadn't gotten the season's first perfect 30 score, the standing-ovation audience would've rioted. So who's it going to be in the final showdown? Melissa or Gilles?
Last week, Shawn Johnson was in the running for that final rivalry, and I thought the Lindy hop would make it a three-way race for the lead again. So did she: "This week I don't have to be romantic and mature and stuff," she said, adorably wrinkling her nose. What could favor her more than a dance that's half flashy gymnastics?
Boy, did Shawn and I call that wrong. Her routine was all gymnastics and no flash. This wasn't choreography; it was calisthenics. Her stubby legs were incapable of high kicks, and she landed thumpingly on lead feet. And the costumes were like bad athletic jerseys. They were lucky to get a 25 score. How strange. The scarily alienating foxtrot put Shawn at the top, and a dance right up her alley made her likely to lose the competition. Shawn and Mark Ballas wore shirts that read, "SHARK" (get it? Shawn and Mark). If they don't get moving next week, this shark may be dead in the water.