Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dancing with the Stars Episode 3 Top 12

We’ve had our first elimination of the season (sorry, Belinda), so now we enter that part of the season in which the remaining terrible contestants perform terrible routines and provoke pity in the populace, thus surviving longer in the competition than others who deserve to stay but don’t suck quite enough to pull in the votes. I call it the Sanjaya effect – ever since that prepubescent little shit made it so far on American Idol, causing a ratings bonanza the world has never known, every show on the air has tried to capture that same magic. That is the only way to explain how someone like Steve Wozniak, who I really like personally but totally sucks at this whole dancing thing, made it past the first elimination. Y’all… it only gets worse from here.

See what I mean, after the jump…

Tonight’s dances are the Samba and the Foxtrot and Denise Richards (and Maxsim) is first to Samba. Coming off a week in which she was voted one-of-the-most improved, she seems well on her way to making it far in the competition, which is good news for me because I’m all for seeing Maxsim as long as possible, especially when he’s up to cross-dressing shenanigans.

But the rumor mill has been churning with news that she is very unpopular on the set, what with her diva-like attitude and unfriendly interludes with various departments behind the camera. I’m not one to believe rumors – as a rule – but everything that happens tonight only corroborates the gossip. First of all, the wardrobe department has dressed her in a black micro-hoopskirt, which… ugh, not cute.

Second, the producers have asked her to perform a Samba to Filter’s Take a Picture. Now, I had three weeks of Salsa, so I can speak with authority – Latin dancing is 80% feel. The steps aren’t that hard, but making them look good is nigh impossible unless one can feel the rhythms. So handing her this song is the musical equivalent of telling her to go straight to hell. There is nothing Latin about this song, and I don’t know how anyone could dance these intricately rhythmic steps to it. All I feel when I listen to it is how much I would love a latte right about now… or a nap… but whatever… I definitely don’t feel like dancing the night away somewhere in Latin America. When we add all of that to the fact that Denise isn’t very good in the first place… we get a Samba that can only be described as SamBAD.

The judges are quick to point out the lack of Latin feel (which none of them blame on the music, which is where the blame belongs), and Carrie Ann harps on how terrified Denise looks during the dance. I would be terrified too, I think, because dancing Samba to that song probably feels like dancing a waltz to death metal. So… yes, she was bad, but I’m thinking she was sabotaged. She scores a 16.

Next to take the floor is the couple that this show is desperate for me to love (not gonna happen), Chuck and Julianne. This week they have the Foxtrot and Chuck needs to do all he can to move out from Julianne’s shadow and pull his own weight. In the pre-package, Chuck whines about the judges’ high expectations. Just because he is dating Julianne Hough doesn’t mean he’s a good dancer; he grew up on a potato farm for god’s sake. Well, ok… fine, it is unfair to hold him to higher standards, but he IS paired with Julianne Hough, one of the most popular professionals on the show, so EXCUSE the judges (and me) for not kissing his ass and giving straight 10’s. They start in a sleeping pose and dance around a little bit until eventually falling back into another sleeping pose. Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I felt… sleepy. To be fair, it’s all very nice– we all know Julianne can choreograph the hell out of a dance – but I’m just not into them at all. The judges give him credit for improving and score him a 23.

Holly and Dmitry had a rough week of rehearsal – Holly doesn’t seem to be trying very hard and Dmitry seems to be getting tired of talking to a brick wall, or in this case, a blonde wall. The thing is, I think I really like Holly – I’ve seen her other reality show and there’s a quick-witted, smart, funny woman behind those ginormous boobs, if only this show would allow us to see it. Her Samba is hard to watch, not because it’s particularly bad, but because it’s actually kind of good, except for all those times she loses it. There’s potential there, but it’s almost like she doesn’t trust herself. The judges don’t help matters at all – Len says she’s like a match, hot on top but wooden on the bottom. That’s a terrific simile, to be sure, and not altogether inaccurate, but can we talk about something other than her breasts?

Carrie Ann at least identifies the problem, which is that she is disjointed and uncoordinated. Like a lot of models, Holly is tall and pretty, but very weak – blow on her and she’ll fall down. She needs to work on strengthening her core and stand on her own two feet, rather than allow herself to be dragged around by her partner. That’s a good constructive critique, but I’m not sure Holly can improve her stamina and muscle-strength in one short week. She scores a 17.

Steve-O is still convalescing from his back injury, so rehearsals this past week have been low-key, but he is adamant about his desire to be here and wants to show his fans and the judges that he deserves it. His Foxtrot starts well enough, there’s some nice rise-and-fall and he seems to get the character, but things quickly fall apart about half-way through, and they never come back together. He punctuates this giant fail with a slip (and an ankle-tweak) at the very end. I have to hand it to him, though… he never gave up. A lot of people would have thrown up their hands or asked to start over after screwing up like he did, but he just kept on grooving. I don’t think it even showed up on his face until the very end. Performing live is such a scary thing… a big part of being a good performer is getting through it like nothing happened, and trust me… it’s hard to do. The judges feel just awful for him and score him a generous 15. They could have, and probably should have, gone lower, but it doesn’t even matter: nothing brings out the votes like a gaffed routine. Steve-O isn’t going anywhere tomorrow.

It always seems to take a few weeks for these macho athletes to get into the dancing, and so it is with Lawrence Taylor. What he lacks in enthusiasm for dancing, however, he makes up with sheer competitiveness. He has even given up on his golf-game! You know what, spare me, Ok? He’s pulling in 200 grand for doing this show. One game of golf isn’t much of a sacrifice. All that aside, his Samba tonight is really good. Edyta always makes her partners look good, and Lawrence delivers with good basic steps and the perfect party-feel. He dances so much better when he allows himself to get into it, and tonight he is definitely feeling it. The judges praise his lightness and rhythm, but urge him to display even more confidence and perhaps try some harder choreography. He scores a 20. I do have to mention Tom’s crack at Edyta’s outfit, which went something like, and I’m paraphrasing, “Tune in next week… Edyta will wear the other half of this outfit!” That’s so funny, haha, but really… Edyta is totally wearing more than she usually does.

I love me some Shawn Johnson, but I’m getting a little tired of hearing her downplay her skills. Two weeks ago she fed us some lines about how she isn’t elegant or refined, like somehow, as a gymnast, these aren’t things she knows about. I called bullshit because, while performing back handsprings and tucks whilst balanced on a giant stick might not seem particularly graceful, the same amount of balance and carriage required to look elegant and refined on the balance beam is also required on the dance floor. This week in the Foxtrot, she must be smooth and fluid, and we get the same old story: gymnastics is about power and strength - so this is different for her. Whatever, Shawn.

See, Mark even agrees with me…

As they take the floor, all I seem to notice is how buff she is. That girl could totally beat me up! The dance is beautiful… like, one of the best Foxtrots I’ve seen. She’s smooth, she’s fluid, and the choreography is interesting to watch… all in all, I’m a big fan. So too are the judges: Carrie Ann calls her a princess, Len liked her lovely arms, and Bruno thought she was like a beautiful, bejeweled hamburger. Er… hummingbird. They give her a 27 (three 9s), which is the highest score of the night so far.

Next up are Gilles and Cheryl, and Cheryl is like… some kind of monster during rehearsals. I knew she was tough, and teachers are always kind of rough on their best students, and I’m sure she wouldn’t be doing it unless Gilles responded to it, but Geez… relax. This is supposed to be fun, right? Anyway, Gilles mom is in town and she’s pretty and French and obviously just as in love with her son as we are, so it’s really kind of nice to see. Their Samba is sure to heat things up: the costumes are fire-engine red and the music is El Matador (finally some actual Latin music, go figure) and sure enough… we are en fuego!

We start off with the obligatory ass-zoom, which is what I’ve decided to call the weekly close-up on Gilles’s posterior (woo-hoo!), and it’s hot-hot-HOT from there. He shimmies, he shakes, he makes love to the camera – this man is sexy just standing there, so you can imagine what the audience is going through while watching this dance. The judges are equally affected. Bruno calls him a, “throbbing red-hot poker,” which is just about as suggestive as primetime network TV will allow, and Carrie Ann comments that he is sooo good that Cheryl even had to work to keep up. They each give him a nine, but I think they would have gone higher if it weren’t so early in the season.

David and Kym were super-bummed about last week’s scores (as they should be – they were totally snubbed for no reason), so this week David wants to really break out. They agree that he has to take the spotlight more and prove to the judges he can dance. The rehearsal footage promises lots of leaps and kicks, so Kym is obviously challenging him. Did it pay off? I think so… I really enjoyed this Foxtrot. I thought the Broadway touches were excellent, and David certainly proved that he has the ability to do more complicated choreography. The judges are happy with everything and congratulate him on all the improvement. They score a 24, which is David’s best score so far.

Oh dear. You know… I like Steve Wozniak, but this competition cannot be good for his health. During rehearsals this week, he pulls a hamstring, which should go nicely with that broken foot, and yet he INSISTS on continuing in the competition. Isn’t there some sort of mercy rule, like in amateur baseball? Can’t we invoke that right about now? As much as I enjoy watching him floundering around out there like a sequined whale, isn’t it coming dangerously close to cruel and unusual? Their Samba is… not really a Samba. In fact, it’s not even much of a dance. Why would Karina ask him to do the worm?

Is he practicing the worm or dying? Oh, whatever… it’s the same difference…

I mean, I think I’m scarred for life after watching that. You know what, I’m not even going to talk about the dancing. Let’s talk about Karina’s outfit. I think the wardrobe people might have been going for something witty… let’s dress her up in black and white stripes and glue feathers to the hem. She’ll be a jailbird! Get it?! HA! Nevermind that neither the song nor the routine have anything to do with jail or birds, it’s still funny, right? All I see is the offspring of a zebra and an ostrich… who happens to have a bad perm. Sooo many layers of Fail with these two tonight. The judges’ reaction:

Me too, judges… me too. The judges hold up paddles I’ve never seen them hold up before: 4, 3, and 3, which gives Steve the lowest score in DWTS history: a frikkin’ 10. That is HILARIOUS! Well, the judges are dumb, though, because a score like that is only going to inspire the people to vote. See you next week, Steve.

Things can only go up from here, so let’s talk about Melissa, Tony, and their Foxtrot. Melissa has been logging the Reality TV hours pretty much non-stop lately, so she needs to take a quick trip to Texas to tie up some loose ends. As I’m watching, I can’t help but realize that I don’t really care about her, like… at all, but she doesn’t need me to care, thanks to all of those crossover Bachelor fans. The important thing about all of this, though, is I’m coming awfully close to not disliking Tony Dovolani, which I never thought would happen. I can’t even explain it… is it because he has a good partner so we’re seeing a better side of him – the one that likes to be on the show? We’ll get into this more in future recaps – I’m just as curious to see where it goes as you, I’m sure. The dance is superb… she looks fantastic (I love the gown), their rise-and-fall is on point, and the whole performance looks effortless. The judges are complimentary, but Carrie Ann subtly addresses the controversy surrounding Melissa when she says, “it’s obvious this comes very easy for you.”

Melissa and Tony protest, but come ON, Carrie Ann has a point, even if she isn’t directly calling out Melissa’s previous dance training. If anything, Carrie Ann is doing them a favor: in order to stay in the competition, i.e. keep getting votes, each contestant has to improve from week to week, or they at least have to create the illusion of improvement. In other words, if you’re already an amazing dancer, the only way to ‘improve’ is to perform more difficult dances. And I vehemently agree. They score a 27, which is too high for this early in the competition (just like Gilles), but absolutely deserving.

Last to dance the Samba are Lil Kim and Derek. I love Lil Kim because she’s a firecracker and there is no doubt in my mind that this is incredibly fun for her and she’ll do anything to stay in it. That’s what I like to see. She and Derek are excited for this dance because it’s a chance for her to shake her junk, and there is certainly a lot of junk to shake. Dressed in canary yellow and lots of beading, Lil Kim comes out with hips blazing. Honestly, she is only female contestant so far who seems to have mastered her hips (Melissa was good in her Salsa last week, but it could have been much more), and she is definitely the only one who isn’t afraid to get raunchy. These Latin dances are supposed to be a little bit nasty, and Lil Kim is only one who has managed to bring some nastiness to her routines. I really enjoyed this Samba, although I’ll admit that her top was one over-enthusiastic shimmy away from a wardrobe malfunction. The judges echo my thoughts about the naughtiness she brought to the dance floor, going so far as to call her ass a ‘bionic booty.” She scores a 25, leaving her well within striking range of the leaders.

Backstage, the other contestants greet her by shaking their asses at her, which is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen on this show. No, seriously… I’m touched.

The last dance of the night belongs to Ty and Chelsie. He is a revelation, isn’t he? I am always surprised by him. He too seems to have gotten over his phobia of looking queer and seems to be getting into the dancing more and more each week. I love to see it. This week, they have to learn a Foxtrot, and once again, the challenge lies in getting his face to reflect the character of the dance. He comes on to the dance floor looking all dashing in his top hat and tails, and GOD he has come a long way, hasn’t he?

And then Chelsie falls, but only for a second (if you blinked, you missed it) and the recovery is excellent. There were a few more awkward moments (I, for one, couldn’t help but watch the hem of Chelsie’s dress, because it was WAY too long, and she’s lucky she didn’t fall 50 times, much less once), but for the most part, it was another splendid performance from the bull-rider. In a way, I’m happy Chelsie fell, because it brings it home that this show is live, and having things like that happen gives the show integrity. Just like with Steve-O, the way one recovers from a mistake is vital. I’ve learned from experience that a bad recovery is what lowers a score, not the mistake itself. So, yeah, Chelsie fell, but he picked her up and danced on as if nothing had happened, and that’s the trick. The judges applaud him for all of that, nit-pick a little on his posture and musicality, and hand over a 23, which is three points higher than last week, and almost 10 points higher than his first dance.

So, that’s that. It was a typical early-in-the-season episode: three great dances, about five good dances, and four real disasters. In my book, the dancers in trouble are Steve, Steve-O, Denise, and Holly.

Here’s the leaderboard:

Shawn and Mark – 27
Gilles and Cheryl – 27
Melissa and Tony – 27
Lil Kim and Derek – 25
David and Kym – 24
Chuck and Julianne – 23
Ty and Chelsie – 23
Lawrence and Edyta – 20
Holly and Dmitry – 17
Denise and Maxsim – 16
Steve-O and Lacey – 15
Steve and Karina – 10

I fully support all these scores, except for maybe Lawrence, who I think should probably be higher than Ty and Chuck.


I’ve been pondering how I feel about this whole dance-off thing, and I think I’m coming around to liking it… in theory. I think I appreciate the idea that a couple could maybe improve their scores and save themselves, but I wonder how possible it is to trump the viewer votes with a better score. And since the show is never actually going to show us vote totals, just how involved are we, the audience, in this whole affair? Really, I think it’s an excuse for the show to program an hour with what seems like less filler garbage, so I guess I support that, but why on Earth would I want to see crappy dances a second time? Isn’t that why I didn’t vote for them? I guess I don’t have to sort all of this out right now, but let’s say I’m still on the fence.

Tonight we get Hall and Oates and Karina’s spectacularly gross new perm. Also, Adele (my new favorite), some garbage filler about how stressful the dance off is (I guess we can’t get rid of filler altogether, dance off or no dance off), and of course, the dance off, featuring two of last night’s worst dances (again) and Carrie Ann’s Paddlegate 2009.

The results were delivered thus: the first four safe couples are last night’s three top scorers, Melissa, Shawn and Gilles… and… Steve and Karina.

Judges: this man will never go home if you keep being mean to him.

The next four safe couples are: Lil Kim/Derek, Lawrence/Edyta, Chuck/Julianne and David/Kym.

After Steve-O/Lacey and Ty/Chelsie get saved, it leaves us with a dance-off between Denise and Holly, the two Fembots who can’t Samba. Holly goes first and seems to do a little better, but only improves her score by one point. Denise, on the other hand, does much better and improves by four points. The judges seem to be on Denise’s side. Unfortunately, Denise seriously bombed with the viewers, because that improvement in score couldn’t make up for her poor showing in the polls. You know, I didn’t like Denise either, but it seems strangely cruel that she would leave before Steve, doesn’t it? If you had told me at the beginning of the season that Maxsim would leave before Karina, I would have laughed in your face and then smacked you for your insolence. I mean, HOW DARE YOU? But you would have been right. That’s just… sad.



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