RECAP: Dancing With The Stars: The Final Six Trick And Treat

Dancing With the Stars celebrated Halloween this week – not that the average night of performances doesn’t provide us with enough to get legitimately scared about. With “spooky” costumes and sets, and music appropriate for the day (if not always for the dance), the final six hit the floor.

The results were nearly as iffy as Bruno Tonioli’s had-to-be-bleeped comments about fellow Carrie Ann Inaba’s cat costume. This was the first night the dancers had to perform twice for the judges, and the strain of divided practice attention seemed to show. With the possible exception of Rob Kardashian, no one came near their season’s best; and presumed co-favorite J.R. Martinez might actually need to sweat out the results on Tuesday.

J.R.’s experience came close to confirming one of the complaints Maksim Chmerkovskiy made in his anti-Len rant a week ago, the part about how the judges have different standards for different dancers. While judging his tango (to “Ghostbusters” – good grief), they all but admitted they were holding J.R. up to a higher standard than the others based on his success so far this season. Karina Smirnoff choreographed a difficult routine, and their timing got a little off – it was the first time in a while we’ve been able to notice J.R. having to think about what he was doing. Their scores weren’t bad – two 8s and a 9 – but paired with his placement in the group dance, he’s much closer to the bottom than the top this week. (Aside: I love how it’s the pros who are native speakers of Russian/Ukranian who are the most comfortable cursing in English. Way to bring it like a soldier, Karina!)

Also in possible trouble this week: David Arquette. Would America really do that to Coco? It just may. David and Kym Johnson had the cha cha cha with a magician’s theme, and the judges seemed to take issue with his lack of proper hip movement. They weren’t especially critical and he got 8s from everyone, but he also danced first – a possible problem on a night when many voters may have been distracted by trick-or-treating duties. And I don’t know that he’s had a big breakthrough moment yet where he’s been singled out for praise, the way Rob and even Nancy Grace have been. My crystal ball foresees a nervous results night for the already twitchy actor.

As for Nancy, the good news is that she still around after seven weeks, something few would have thought possible in mid-September. The bad news is that she couldn’t avoid the jive this week. Tristan MacManus issued a guideline of “just have fun,” possibly realizing that “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” isn’t cut out for ballroom dancing (or anything else). Whether the music was just too manic or the dance was too athletic, Nancy just had numerous timing problems from the start, and by the time she needed to do the leg flicks, it was clear she was worn out. There wasn’t much the judges could do for her, although giving her 7s might have kept her close enough to survive one more week.

A question this week about Rob was whether public disgust with his family, more specifically with a certain fraudulent bride, might somehow affect his vote totals. It might, but it’s also looking like that won’t make a difference (it was interesting that Khloe wasn’t in the audience this week – I can’t imagine her rudeness is helping Rob any). I think some of his recent work has been a mite overpraised, but his tango to the theme from The Addams Family (decent tango music) managed to both entertain and show off the dance. He might actually make the finals now, and I suspect no one is more surprised than partner Cheryl Burke, who is doing some of her best work ever this season. Rob nabbed a 25 for the solo dance.

It took a while, but DWTS has managed to concoct a second underdog storyline for Ricki Lake (the first being, of course, “I used to be fat”), never mind that she’s been up with the leaders almost every week. She now has a wonky nerve in her rib cage (I translated that from the Latin), which isn’t going to start to feel better without rest. She caught a couple of breaks this week (I know, imagine Derek Hough’s partner having breaks). Her dance certainly seemed shorter than everyone else’s, and she got to perform her paso doble to a real song (Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”) instead of to something Halloween-related. They were good if unspectacular, and the judges rewarded them with 9s across the board. It will be interesting to see if Derek can work around this injury for another three weeks.

Maks had a toe injury this week, which instantly got me thinking about what (or who) he kicked to get that way. To save his body the strain of rehearsal, Teddy from the Troupe was brought in to guide Hope Solo through the intricacies of the samba. They seemed to get along well, so naturally Maks now had something new to be pissed about. Their samba was to “Werewolves of London,” of all the sacrilegious choices (Maks was bearded out for the occasion). It doesn’t look like Hope is ever going to be that believable on a Latin dance (she has no natural fluidity), but the judges gave the pair 8s across the board, which seems to be a default score for anyone who isn’t obviously good or bad.

The team selections for the group dance were critical – since Derek never loses these things, getting on his team could mean survival for a marginal dancer. The lucky two were Hope and Rob, though we can question how lucky Hope ever is when she’s rehearsing with Maks. He seemed to get a little carried away demonstrating the passion of the paso doble. The other dancers stood around watching. Remember when your parents used to fight, and you always wondered what to do? Derek always manages to bring a sense of drama to these numbers, creating a sense that something big is happening, and the judges were enraptured, giving them two 9s and an 8 (Len Goodman’s).

Team J.R. had Nancy and David as fellow members, and the main task was bringing Nancy up to speed on the tango, which she hasn’t performed yet in competition. It didn’t seem to me as if this was noticeably worse than Team Derek’s effort (except for Nancy, who is getting harder to hide), but the judges were surprisingly harsh. Len referred to everyone’s solo as a “disaster,” which seemed a stretch. The upshot of their team score of 23 is that J.R. slipped to fourth place this week, behind even Hope; and if his voters are at all complacent, we could be in for a shock on November 1 to exceed anything you’d see on October 31.

The greater likelihood is that either David or Nancy will become a ballroom ghost for real.