Dancing With the Stars launched a new element on the next-to-last performance night of Season 12: a winner-take-all cha cha cha playoff, which would net the victorious pair an additional 15 points, and pretty much guarantee a spot in next week’s finals.
This is pretty clearly an attempt to ensure that any future finals are free of contamination from weaker dancers with big fanbases (hi Bristol, and congrats on the new series). The judges were surprisingly upfront about their goal being to offer extra support to a good dancer who might not be getting the votes he or she “deserves”—as if ABC is running a real dance competition now and not a glorified popularity contest. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Chelsea Kane, who doesn’t have the traditional support base of football fans (Hines Ward), women who identify with tabloid celebrities (Kirstie Alley), or women indulging 30-year-old crushes (Ralph Macchio), would be the big beneficiary on Monday night.
OUCH! We heard all about Kym Johnson’s injury in rehearsal on Friday, so it was good to see her in apparently fine shape on Monday night. But that didn’t make footage of her injury look any less scary. The couple fell while trying a lift, and Hines – a football player, remember – landed on top of Kym, bending her neck at an ominous angle. But despite the missed practice time, they seemed better than ever, and Hines in particular appeared more relaxed than he typically does. Their opening Argentine tango landed the season’s first 30, and they followed that up with another perfect score for their salsa. The second dance might have been treated with kid gloves, but the judges weren’t taking any chances with this pair.
Lost in the shuffle: Kirstie has been attracting attention all season long, but here we are at the final four, she’s gone farther than any plus-60 performer ever on DWTS, and yet it was a strangely quiet night for her. Both her Viennese waltz and her paso doble received 9s across the board from the judges, and while she can’t match the athleticism of Chelsea or Hines, they were good efforts and she seems to be really taking things seriously now. It’s been a long time coming for Maksim Chmerkovskiy to get back to the finals, and it appears just a formality now. His yelling in rehearsal isn’t convincing us he’s truly worried.
All grown up: This was the week for the little bio segment on everyone still dancing, and it was amusing to see the one for Chelsea Kane, since the look back at her childhood took us all the way to … the mid-2000s. She looked believably elegant in her Argentine tango, but while Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman both had little complaints about her leg placement, they each gave her a 9 while Bruno Tonioli added a 10. She followed that up with a 30 of her own for the rumba, a score I really didn’t understand – aren’t you supposed your hips a little in that dance? Like I said, the judges really want her (and Ballas) to stick around. One thing I wish Chelsea would stop doing is singing along as she’s dancing. Wrong show for that!
Thanks for participating: True to his promise, Ralph was back in relatively good health this week, exhibiting only a little stiffness as a reminder of his knee issue. But the judges obviously believe he’s gone as far as he can, giving him just a 25 for his Argentine tango and a 23 for his salsa. The first score was understandable because he went first, but the 23 – we almost never see 7s this late in the season unless there’s a mistake that can’t be ignored – was really hard to understand. The differences between Ralph and Hines aren’t nearly as stark as the judges would have us believe from their numbers. You have to assume the show was surprised he was able to survive his low scores from last week, and made extra sure it wouldn’t happen again.
Hines loses another playoff: Sorry, Steelers fans – had to say it. There wasn’t much doubt the winner-take-all would match up Chelsea against Hines, after the night’s second-place scorer Chelsea edged #3 Kirstie, and Hines topped cha-cha-challenged Ralph. Chelsea and Mark had a little more energy in their head-to-head, and that might have made the difference even if the judges hadn’t already sort of known who they wanted to give those extra 15 points to.
Oh, Brooke: If anything has ever summed up Brooke Burke’s tenure on DWTS, if not her entire life, it had to be the coin toss to determine who went first on the winner-take-all. She directed Hines, the top scorer on the night, to call heads or tails. He called tails, and the coin landed heads – so naturally, Brooke turned to Hines and asked him if he wanted to dance first or second. He seemed surprised and mumbled “second,” and then everyone stood around looking confused before Hines reminded her that, uh, he hadn’t actually won the toss. Who could have guessed that seeing Hines almost break Kym’s neck would be only the second-most cringeworthy thing about Monday’s show?
Bad Bruno: A running theme this season has been off-color remarks from the male judges, but Bruno might have gone too far when, after Karina and Ralph’s salsa, he informed Ralph, “You were too rough with your pussy.” Because Karina was dressed in a leopard-print costume, of course! The couple seemed stunned, and even the audience was audibly surprised.
Pet peeve: Memo to people on the coasts, especially Kirstie’s Scientology buddy Kelly Preston: not everyone in the Midwest grew up in a “small town!” Kirstie said she was from Wichita, which is pretty big – the largest city in Kansas, in fact. A small town it is not. We actually have running water and books now too!
Give this man an Emmy: Quite a night for Tom Bergeron: He kept his composure when Maks leaned over and kissed him on the cheek; poked fun at Brooke after the coin toss; and covertly alerted Kym that she might be flashing a portion of her cleavage that’s not meant to be seen. All in a night’s work.