If it hadn't already been clear that we have reached the phase of the Dancing With the Stars season where viewers are just voting for who they like and aren't even paying much attention to the performances anymore, Tuesday's results should cinch it. Despite being tied for the highest score in the individual phase on Monday, actor and former NBA star Rick Fox is very surprisingly leaving the show in sixth place in Season Eleven.
The judges appeared stricken after Tom Bergeron announced the news, but to some extent they have only themselves to blame, as it has been their scoring that is keeping the couples bunched so closely that fan votes are all-important. Like Audrina Patridge last week, Rick ended up falling through the cracks: Not as skilled as Brandy or Jennifer Grey, not as appealing to young voters as Kyle Massey, not an ex-NFL star like Kurt Warner, and not as able to inherit the fans of another family member as Bristol Palin (and how much are the judges now wondering if they made a big mistake by giving Bristol's Gorilla Dance two weeks ago such kid gloves treatment in their scoring).
For the most part, Rick fell in line with the DWtS tradition of affable athletes trying to get in touch with their artistic sides on the dance floor, and being praised for their willingness to conform. He had to manage the bad knees that he developed in the course of a long basketball career, and added a new wrinkle in that his height -- he is over a foot taller than partner Cheryl Burke -- made choreography a struggle. But with his good looks, outgoing personality, and growing support from the judges, Rick had seemed to have a decent chance of getting at least to third place. His departure is also a blow for Cheryl, who has never before finished so low with someone who wasn't a senior citizen. Rick was unable to even match the finish of Cheryl's previous partner Chad Ochocinco, who was arguably less skilled and definitely less likable.
While she seems to be improving slowly and hasn't truly embarrassed herself except for one misguided costumed week, Bristol is by acclimation the weakest remaining dancer. Now that she has outlasted Audrina and Rick, both of whom consistently scored better, one has to wonder just how far she might be able to go. There's no precedent for three women making the finals, and yet with the two best remaining dancers being Jennifer and Brandy, Bristol will have to either fall in the next two weeks, or knock off one of the heavyweights. Talking on the results show about how much she misses home might turn off a few voters, but there's a good chance that will all be forgotten by next week.
As DWtS continued its 200th episode celebration, viewers were treated to some lighthearted awards based on the show's history, giving us the chance to once again see Marie Osmond hit the floor and Kenny Mayne move like a wounded zebra. Taylor Swift was on hand to promote the upcoming CMA Awards and to demonstrate if she has yet learned anything about singing live (verdict: she's done worse). And ABC took the unusual, generous step of airing a rerun of the premiere of The Walking Dead for the benefit of those viewers who don't have AMC -- er, say again? Oh, I'm sorry, that was actually former rock star Rod Stewart trying to sing. My mistake.
Next week, another new twist in the "instant dance," as the couples learn a dance without knowing what the accompanying music will be until just before going on stage.