Dancing With The Stars Recap: The Final Seven Soar And Stumble

Teammates. They can drag down the best performer, or pull a benchwarmer across the finish line to a championship. And we might just see examples of that once the vote totals come in for this week's Dancing With the Stars, because a team dance proved to be as important in determining scoring as was the individual dance, leading to some stunning results. How about Mya standing in fifth place out of seven?

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Michael Irvin, who led off the evening, has been in trouble since the first week, so getting him to put the game face on was easy enough for partner Anna Demidova. Irvin is no stranger to tough practice, and that background has come in handy as the season has progressed, since his dancing has legitimately gotten much better. While his foxtrot wasn't that difficult, he tends to get through these simple routines without major mistakes, and he is obviously having a great time. His score of 23 was his highest yet, although it was only the sixth highest of the night; that and the fact that he went first will likely, finally, mean the end of the road this week.

While Donny Osmond had to do little more than walk on stage during the first half of the season to insure his safety, he too has picked up his game at just the right time. Partner Kym Johnson had some issues with Osmond's posture in rehearsal, so she introduced him to the posture bar as a reminder not to slouch. He still looks awfully tired in rehearsal, but for this week's quickstep, he pulled it together for a solid routine that was nonetheless marred by several bobbles that the judges all took note of. His score of 24 was only in the middle of the pack for the individual dances, so his automatic grace period will likely be expiring after this week.

No sooner did Mark Dacascos seem to emerge as a solid contender than he experienced a true week from hell, one that could very well mark the end of his time on DWtS. He had to travel to New York for Iron Chef America duties that took up an entire day, and when it came time for him to finally rehearse, partner Lacey Schwimmer was ill and in no condition to help. Dacascos was assisted the following day by Tony Dovolani, who happened to be back east, and not until Saturday did he hook up with an emergency partner, Anna Trebunskaya. It appeared the pair decided that since a full samba rehearsal would be impossible, the best solution would be for Dacascos to toss in every gymnastic trick he knows and hope the judges would not notice the lack of content. Unfortunately, he got hammered, with Bruno Tonioli referring to the routine as "Kung Fu Panda does the samba on the planet of the apes." His score of 19 was by far the night's lowest, and that won't be easy for viewer votes to overcome. A pity, since he and Schwimmer had built up a strong rapport in recent weeks.

How clear is it that Mya and Dmitry Chaplin don't always seem as close as dancing partners ought to be? Obvious enough that octogenarian Cloris Leachman, who Chaplin brought to rehearsal so she could infuse everything with the spirit of old-time Hollywood, was able to point it out. Judge Len Goodman has gotten way into the heads of these two, because even after a foxtrot that looked perfectly solid, Goodman still beat up on Mya for "too many gimmicks." How he can score Mya below Irvin for the same dance is utterly ridiculous. The other two judges gave her 9s for a total of 25 -- "Len is officially smoking crack," said Carrie Ann Inaba -- but it's a second straight week where the whims of one judge kept her far from the top.

So what does Goodman like, anyway? The answer appears to be Aaron Carter, who got a 10 from the ever-grumpy judge (and another from Tonioli) after a jive that was packed with energy. The kid seemed revitalized after being kept out of the bottom last week, and now that he thinks he can win again, the extra effort is really showing up in rehearsal and performance. His movements were well synced with those of Karina Smirnoff, and the studio audience is buying into him for the first time. Carter's 29 led the individual portion of the evening, and though he was not helped by his team dance, it would be a major surprise if he were to go home.

It was the seventh week of competition, which made it the seventh time we have heard the judges praise Kelly Osbourne for overcoming her fears. How can they continue to be surprised by this when they say it every week? In truth, it looked like Osbourne and Louis van Amstel were overscored for their salsa, which didn't seem to have much movement built into it. It's also not a good sign that she raged against van Amstel in rehearsal, upset that her partner is no longer quite as patient as he was earlier on, when there was less pressure. I think the pro has the right idea; while Osbourne has not come close to elimination yet, she is a distant third in skill among the three women remaining, and likability alone can't get her any farther. Still, she got a decent 24, and after getting the luck of the draw in the team dance, odds are she will be back next week.

Am I alone in not finding Derek Hough the least bit seductive? The run-up to his rumba with Joanna Krupa was filled with a pointless dream sequence that featured the pair canoodling on the beach. Hough's sexy face should not be witnessed on a full stomach. However, their rumba was solid as this duo always is, if lacking in truly memorable elements. Krupa got a 9 from each judge, and she now appears to have replaced Mya as the favored female in their eyes. Not even the fact that she caught her heel in clothing for the second time in three weeks could convince them to mark her down.

The evening was capped by the team dances. Team Paso Doble was made up of Mya, Carter, Irvin, and Dacascos. Petty squabbles marred the rehearsal until Irvin called up all of his football savvy and impressed the value of teamwork upon everybody. The eight dancers worked in sync, followed by a brief showcase at center stage for each pair. As the judges pointed out, it isn't as easy to look synchronized with the paso doble as with the tango, which the other team performed. But even accounting for that, the overall score of 24 had to be seen as a disappointment, especially for dancers like Dacascos who really needed the point boost (the team score was added to one's individual score). Only Mya really stood out in the group.

The three tangoers, Osmond, Osbourne, and Krupa, were helped immensely by their partners, who decided to work out the choreography in total before teaching their charges. All three had also done a tango earlier in the competition. The entire routine was easily more impressive than what Team Paso Doble had managed, and the resulting score of 28 (Tonioli doled out a 10) was well-deserved. The four point gap between the teams shook up the overall scoring in a big way, lifting Krupa over Carter into first place, and pulling Osbourne and Osmond ahead of Mya into a tie for third.

There likely won't be any surprises in who goes home this week unless something very strange happens with the dance-off, such as Krupa being paired up against Mya (and this is not impossible -- these two are obviously the dancers who get the least response from the studio audience). But barring that, there doesn't seem to be any way that Dacascos and Irvin can overcome their low scores.