Monday, March 23, 2009

Dancing with the Stars: Top 13 Part 2

Full disclosure: I did not watch this episode in real time. Monday night, I was violently ill with a debilitating stomach-ache, the likes of which I’ve never known. Seriously, the cramps were so bad, it felt like whatever I had eaten was trying to punch its way back out. I even had to leave work early – but that was more for my co-workers sake than mine. There’s nothing worse than trying to work with someone who appears only minutes away from heaving their lunch all over the conference table. I am nothing if not considerate. Anyway, I went home and got right into bed to sleep whatever it was off, thus missing Dancing with the Stars.

However, since ABC is a compassionate and merciful network, I was able to watch everything online afterwards. American Idol should take note.

Anyway – let’s review from last week. Melissa Rycroft, Gilles Marini and Shawn Johnson emerged as early frontrunners, while Steve Wozniak, Ty Murray and Lawrence Taylor struggled through their first dances. Round Two will feature the Quickstep and the Salsa, and after both nights’ scores are combined, the contestant with the lowest score will get the boot.

Last week, all eyes were on Holly Madison and Melissa Rycroft, who were brought on at the last minute to substitute for the latest victims of the DWTS curse: Jewel and Nancy O’Dell. This week, those eyes are turned upon Steve Wozniak and Steve-O, both of whom have been rumored to have new dancing-related injuries of their own. Sure enough, Lacey Schwimmer descends the grand staircase all by her lonesome because Steve-O had a mishap during dress rehearsal and left in an ambulance. FUN!

A blow by blow account after the jump…

Holly Madison and Dmitry are first. It seems pointless to care about Holly because I seriously doubt she’ll get further than the Top 8 or so, but Dmitry is a stud, so I’ll humor them. Their quickstep is kind of boring, to be honest, even though I appreciate Dmitry’s ass in those tight, gray pants.

I notice that this dance isn’t as strong as their cha-cha, and I also notice that Dmitry looks like he is struggling just as much as Holly. Am I the only one who thinks his kicks look wild? He’s like… out of control out there. I think he almost kicked one of the cameramen. Anyway, the judges aren’t jumping out of their seats, so I guess they were bored too. She scores an 18 – same as last week.

David Alan Grier continues to confuse me, but I think he realized that last week’s antics didn’t really pay off. This week, he seems more himself, cracking jokes his schizo faces from last week and mocking Bruno’s accent. He’s motivated to try some harder moves in order to set himself apart from the rest of the pack, and the pre-package shows him falling and flailing and sweating, etc. so it seems Kym delivered with the more difficult choreography. Their Salsa certainly has some challenging elements in it, and he is clearly working hard, but the choreography is kind of all over the place. I will say this: as tangential as the choreography is, he keeps his face from wandering. He plays the same character the whole time, which is what I was really looking for, so… nice job there. And wow… his little slice about Bruno’s accent must have gone over like a groin-punch. Bruno is uncharacteristically cold and analytical in his critique. He compliments David’s character, but pointedly attacks his rhythm and timing. This is hard to watch, to be honest. Carrie and Len are equally vicious and it makes me wonder if David said something else during those interviews that we didn’t see. His Salsa wasn’t great, but it wasn’t as bad as all that. They score him 6,6,5 – which seem unfairly low. God, David – what did you DO?

Denise Richards and Maksim are next with their Quickstep. Max seems to be more medicated this week; he’s so much nicer in the rehearsal footage. He’s almost warm and encouraging, if you can believe it. The routine is set to Grease’s We Go Together, which is kind of fun, but the dance is strangely slow for a Quickstep. I don’t know if Max dummied down the choreography for Denise or what, but this was just dull. The judges remark on Denise’s obvious improvement and send her off with a 21.

Next to Salsa are Belinda Carlisle and Jonathan. Belinda is still smarting from the critiques she received last week, and Jonathan has to state the obvious that being criticized is part of the experience. Has she ever seen this show? Lucky for her, they get to do the Salsa this week, which is a much looser, free dance – one in which she can really let her hair down and just have fun. Jonathan is even throwing in some Go-Go’s moves to help the process along, which is… nice of him, I guess, but I really can’t think of two dances MORE incompatible and mutually exclusive than 80’s girl-group gyrations and the Salsa. This should be interesting. I will say, after watching, that she did seem to have fun, but I thought the dance was just weird. They never danced in hold – they had like, what has to be the minimum amount of interaction, actually – and most of the movements were corny. Oh, and this is how they chose to end the dance:

Come on – really? That’s just stupid. The judges compliment her sense of fun in the dance, but call out her lack of hip-action and musicality. So… what? She doesn’t have the beat after all? She scores an 18.

Ty Murray seems to have left some of the gay panic behind thanks to lots of encouraging phonecalls from friends and neighbors. Apparently, none of them called him a fag like he feared. See, straightees? It’s all in your heads! His next obstacle is having a good time when he dances, which I can relate to – I’d probably have the same problem. He and Chelsie are putting together a Quickstep this week, and the posture and the steps make it difficult for him to relax and have fun. So Chelsie tells him to change his concentration face from stern to this…

Hmmm… keep working on that, Ty. As their Quickstep starts, I immediately notice that he’s light on his feet and his posture is impeccable. I think the Quickstep might be his dance. At the end, I clapped, not because it was particularly great but because it was unexpectedly competent. He’s just full of surprises. After the audience calms down, the judges rave about his posture – something they credit to his bull-riding, which I didn’t think of, but they might be right – and Len pulls out the caterpillar-butterfly metaphor. After all of that, he scores a 20. I expected higher.

You guys, I can’t take it. Mark Ballas drives me crazy. Can we just send everyone home and have two hours a week of Shawn and Mark rehearsal footage? I’m totally being serious. I remember two seasons ago when Mark tried to teach Kristi Yamaguchi how to be sexy – in fact, that video is still on my YouTube favorites – and tonight we are treated to Part 2. I could watch him shake his ass all day long. I even took screenshots – I’m going to make a desk-top collage out of them later.

So their Salsa is fantastic, because no one does sexy but safe like Mark Ballas. And I know I’ve talked about what a huge fan I am of Mark’s open-vest look. It’s really interesting how all this is playing out, because Shawn is so similar to Kristy in her strengths and weaknesses, and Mark was able to get Kristy through to the end. The judges praise the routine and Shawn’s crispness and execution, but they agree she needs to up her game in the sexy department. It’s true: no one wants to see Shawn Johnson be vulgar, but the Latin dances do demand a certain amount of hip-action, so she can’t be afraid to let it all hang out. All in all, though, it’s an excellent routine which earns them a 24.

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this, but Steve Wozniak is a big man. That’s why it’s no surprise whatsoever that he encountered some problems with his feet. He’s got a lot of weight to pound around, and his body is very top heavy, which upsets his balance. Add all of that to the fact that he is dancing in ballroom shoes, which have a particularly high heel, and it is absolutely no wonder that he is crushing his foot into a fine powder. But let’s be serious… the producers didn’t cast him because he would be any good. Alas, Steve Wozniak is here to fill the I-know-I-suck-but-I’m-having-a-good-time slot, so let’s not feel too terribly sorry for him, mmmk?

Tonight, he and Karina will perform a Quickstep. Well, perform might not be the best word. How about attempt? Or destroy? At the end – the blessed, couldn’t come sooner end – the judges hand out their paper-plate-award platitudes about how he is so fun to watch and how happy they are that he is enjoying himself, but we all know how bad it was so… they score a 17, which is so generous I think the judges could turn those scores in for time out of purgatory. The only thing that saved this 10 minute segment for me was catching a glimpse of Kathy Griffin in the audience. Hey girl Hey.

Nothing brings out the gay-panic like a Latin dance, and here comes Chuck to prove me right. I don’t know if this rehearsal package was supposed to be funny, but it left me liking this couple even less than I already did (I’m still a little perturbed about the whole real-life-couple competing thing). And Julianne, who I usually like, totally participates in the homophobic banter, even going so far as to throw her own brother into it. I mean, geez, JA – I’m sure Derek has enough trouble proving his heterosexuality already. At least the wardrobe department and I get revenge, for they have sent her on national television dressed like a Carnival Fraggle. HA!

Chuck seems to believe that moving his hips and doing sexy dance moves make him look feminine. Well, if the above photo is any indication, he should be worried about sexy dance moves making him look like a massive TOOL. He does not do sexy well. It doesn’t help that Julianne’s choreography is uncharacteristically crappy. I’m not an expert, but even I could tell there was very little Salsa going on. Thankfully, the judges back me up and hand over a 20.

I’m having trouble connecting to Lawrence Taylor, which makes me sad because I just adore Edyta. I vaguely remember that they performed a passable Quickstep which was much improved over last week’s dance, but that’s about all I got… They score a 20.

Oh, the trials and tribulations of Steve-O. If we will recall, the judges were relatively pleased with his performance last week, but because they didn’t rip off their clothes and perform a ritual celebration dance, Steve-O thinks they weren’t satisfied. So here he is, pressuring Lacey into concocting a wild and crazy Salsa that will be remembered for all time (for good or for ill). He insists on adding stunt elements to the routine, despite the fact that he is having some pre-existing back problems. He even convinces Lacey to add a front-flip to the end of their routine just minutes before taking the stage for dress rehearsal. Well… like all things involving Steve-O, nothing goes exactly to plan. They perform their bizarre, un-Latin-y Salsa for the cameras at the dress rehearsal, and when he goes for his aforementioned front flip at the end, he lands on his mic-pack… hard… and exactly on the bad part of his spine.

So, medics and ambulances and pain-killers and X-rays later… he will not be present to dance his routine during the live broadcast. Rather, the judges will base their scores on the rehearsal, and Lacey will have to stand by herself and take the heat for that garbage. And garbage it is: very little Salsa to be observed, ridiculous stunts, and of course… the fact that he got hurt. They score a 14, which is as low a score as this show goes. If Lacey doesn’t mind some free advice: she needs to rein that boy in. A lot of what happened this week can be traced back to her – don’t let Steve-O choreograph the routine. He’s kind of crazy, after all, and she’s supposed to be the professional.

With her Quickstep, Lil Kim wants to prove that she is elegant and refined, and I’m very interested to see that because everything I know about her seems to indicate otherwise. Well, she’s off to a good start: she looks cute in her red dress and loads of bling. But then I get distracted because the music is Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend, which makes me think of Moulin Rouge, which makes me think of Lady Marmalade, which makes me think of that music video with Lil Kim and her posse (P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Mya and Missy Elliot) – and she is definitely NOT refined or elegant in that video, so none of that helps her make her case here. But, as usual, Derek’s choreography is stellar, and they perform a delightful little routine that allows her to be cute AND materialistic at the same time. The judges nit-pick about body contact, but ultimately reward her with a 23, which is a high score for the night.

It’s Melissa Rycroft’s turn, but before I get to her dance, I must address the controversy surrounding her appointment to this show. Ok, so… Melissa has a background in ballet and cheerleading, which, according to some, gives her in an unfair advantage in the competition. This is true. But I’m going to go on the record as saying that none of that crap matters, and I’ll tell you why. It’s true that Melissa has more dance training than the others which might help her in some ways, but if we’re going to follow that logic then we would have to kick out every pop star that has ever been on the show, and MOST of the athletes. Melissa’s ballet and cheerleading skills do not necessarily translate to ballroom dancing any more than Shawn’s gymnastics training does. In the same way, it could be argued that just because Joey Fatone and Drew Lachey and Lance Bass happened to be in boy bands doesn’t necessarily make them better at the Foxtrot than an actor or a former professional football player. Further, we have to accept that every single athlete who has participated in this show has an unfair advantage because they are AT LEAST in good physical shape. In a way, every contestant has some kind of advantage over at least one other contestant, whether it’s their pop-music background or athletic background or their ability to find shoes that fit. None of them have ever done ballroom dancing, and that is what balances everything out. And to bring my argument home: we have to remind ourselves that Melissa was brought into the competition a mere two days before the premiere, which means she has had the least amount of preparation and training. I think that obvious disadvantage mitigates whatever alleged advantages she might bring to the table. Am I right? Of course I am.

Melissa’s and Tony’s Salsa is a crowd-pleaser! It’s fast, energetic, tricky and sexy – everything the Salsa is supposed to be. I have no idea what those outfits are about, but hey… can’t win ‘em all. I will say that their amazing performance might have something to do with their choice of music, The Cup of Life, which was one of only a few songs tonight that actually said Salsa to me. It’s hard to capture the spirit of a Latin dance when the music is completely incongruous to it. The producers certainly gave them a hand-out with that one. Anyway, the judges are rabid with praise – the hips, the energy, the great turns and footwork – and I can’t disagree. They end up with an astonishing 26 (two 9’s), and you know Tony is just loving this. After years of kind of getting screwed, he finally has a great partner.

Closing the show is Gilles and Cheryl, with a Superman Quickstep. You know, this would have been a whole lot more interesting if we hadn’t already visited the Superman thing already (Helloooo, Cameron Mathison). Before we get to the dance, though, I have to mention – AGAIN – how obsessed this show is with his ass. I swear they zoom into it every chance they get. I’m not complaining – like, at all – but I just want ya’ll to know that I’m noticing the subtle manipulations at work here. The music is that Kryptonite song, which is just odd if you ask me, but the dancing is beautiful. He makes such a pretty picture out there on the dancefloor. It probably helps that he is the embodiment of romance with his tallness and darkness and handsomeness.

He ends all splayed out under the camera with his shirt ripped open with a giant purple G on his chest, and I’m… turned on, I suppose, but I’m also rolling my eyes a little because that was seriously the stupidest thing I’ve seen in a long time. The judges, however, are ALL OVER IT! They love his French class and American flair, and award him with three 9’s. I’m not going to say he didn’t deserve a score as high as 27, but I don’t think that was my favorite dance of the night.

The standings for the night are as follows:
Gilles – 27
Melissa – 26
Shawn – 24
Lil Kim – 23
Denise – 21
Chuck – 20
Ty – 20
Lawrence – 20
Holly – 18
Belinda – 18
Steve – 17
David – 17
Steve-O – 14

Ok, the very idea that David Alan Grier got the same score as Steve Wozniak is preposterous. I know he pissed the judges off, but if they can’t even give a reasonably unbiased score than this whole show is a joke.

The combined scores don’t change the order much (well, at least at the top):

Gilles – 51
Melissa – 49
Shawn – 47
Lil Kim – 44
Chuck – 40
Denise – 39
Lawrence – 36
Holly – 36
David – 36
Belinda – 35
Ty – 34
Steve-O – 31
Steve – 30


So, the big news is that the bottom two will have a dance-off. I’m not a fan of the dance-off, really, because I like the idea of the public vote being FINAL. And at this stage, I wouldn’t mind seeing any of the people towards the bottom of the leader board head home, so I see all of this nonsense as a way to delay the inevitable. But nobody asked me.

I think the Bottom 2 will be Steve and Ty. Steve is so terrible, America has no choice but to show mercy and NOT vote for him. And so few people know who Ty is.

But of course, there’s 45 minutes of show before the eliminations come up and there were some good moments.

I loved Cameron Mathison’s survival guide, it’s nice to see him and his chest again.

And did anyone else notice Chelsea Trail in the Stars of Dance segment? Chelsea… you know, from the last season of So You Think You Can Dance?? Thayne’s partner? Together they were the Chayne Gang? Oh nevermind.

Ok, eliminations: The Bottom 2 are Steve (check) and Belinda (what?!). Wow, I’m actually quite surprised. I’m not going to lie, I skipped the dance off, but I do know that Belinda got the boot. Strangely, I couldn’t care less about her – I just feel bad for Jonathan. I mean, he so rarely gets good partners, and even when they’re decent, they faint or want to dress up like dolls. The man just Can. Not. Win!

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