Crucial tips for success as a Dancing With the Stars contestant were embedded in the lyrics of the songs that accompanied Monday night’s routines. “You gotta be cool, relax.” “Sometimes you gotta work hard for it.” “Do your thing! Do your thing!” “A-woo-HOO! A-whoo-HOO!”
Okay, so maybe not every word to come out of the mouths of the DWTS singers was a priceless instructional gem — there really is no take-home message to be found in “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree” (or else I’m not a critical enough thinker to decipher it) — but really, if we translate those first three examples, it’s clear that a winning personality, a willingness to practice, and a natural musicality go a long way toward avoiding a fate as dark and scary as Broke (intentional typo) Burke’s liquid-sequined-midnight gown.
But in the spirit of Week Two — where someone will be forced to listen to not one, but two Chris Brown songs, then get unceremoniously tossed from the competiton — let’s break down the action in chronological order, with an eye on the stumbling block/blocks our various celebrity competitors and their partners may have to stare down before they can clutch the mirrorball trophy.
Sugar Ray Leonard, Anna Trebunskaya, and Her Shiny Wig: Jive. Stumbling block: Lack of technical proficiency
Sugar Ray (the athlete, not the band, although I think we can all agree it’s inevitable that Mark McGrath will enter the ballroom no later than season 17) is not easily discouraged. “He’s a boxer, for crying out loud!” exclaimed the always animated Anna, speaking of his low Week One scores. And certainly, Sugar Ray fought the good fight on his jive this week, throwing in a little “Walk Like an Egyptian” and some “Deep Sea Diving” (not the technical names of these dances, you’ll be shocked to learn), and pulling off a pretty impressive “lift and spin maneuver” to boot. Unfortunately, Anna’s purple and gold flapper dress exceeded the maximum amount of sequins and fringe allotted per pairing, leaving Sugar Ray’s outfit almost entirely bling-less (save for some sparkle around the lapels of his vest). I think it was this exact lack of razzle-dazzle that made my attention wander just a bit toward the end of the performance, but luckily, I was stunned into alertness by Brooke’s stilted questions. Her total lack of inflection can turn any sentence, long or short, into a single word! (i.e. “Howdoyouprocessthat?”). Len worried aloud that Sugar Ray could be in jeopardy come results time, but I think the old pro’s got at least three or four rounds in him, don’t you? Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 6. Total: 17. (Two-Week Total: 34)
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel: Quickstep. Stumbling blocks: Protruding “chesticles,” tomboy tendencies
It’s week two, and Kendra is working on a compelling story arc! She made her name in Playboy, but she doesn’t feel beautiful. In fact, she feels like a boy, not yet a woman. This inner disconnect to “being a lady and all that stuff” makes her sniff her own armpits and sometimes forget to shave her legs. But Kendra is a classic trier, and so she put on a rather sensational (in a DWTS costume sort of way) sparkly, midnight blue gown with a violet band across her ample bustline, and gave every last ounce of energy to her quickstep. To my untrained eyes, this looked like one of the more ambitious routines of the night, and Kendra’s carriage stayed as crisp as a starched shirt. Unfortunately, Kendra’s facial expression was equally frozen into a smiling mask of barely concealed anxiety. Bruno and Len were pretty tough on the former Hugh Hefner housemate (“Occasionally, your chesticles were pushing into poor little Louis,” declared the latter judge), but maybe I’m overly enthralled with this routine just because it was set to the wildly underrated Amerie’s “Gotta Work.” Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6; Bruno, 6. Total: 19. (Two-Week Total: 37)
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas: Jive. Stumbling blocks: Makeup application by Beelzebub, “too much messin about and larkin’ around” (such stern words from Len!)
Mark and Chelsea finished in a tie for third last week, but their rehearsal footage was all about Mark not wanting his possible partner in showmance to be the first evictee of the DWTS season, seeing how she’s a Disney star that no one (aka my husband, my mom, and myself) has ever heard of. But newsflash to Mark: If you get booted on Tuesday, it won’t be Chelsea’s fault. It’ll be because right this very second, your hideous “weeping mime” makeup is haunting the waking nightmares of 23 million people. That said, I’m hoping these crazy kids don’t pay the price for getting too “creative” with their jive, seeing as how the dance they ended up doing was entertaining, energetic, and featured a crazy/electrifying move that sort of looked like the duo was executing a side-by-side “running man”/Rockette kick while facing in opposite directions. But enough of my description, let’s get Bruno’s take: “Marcel Marceau Desperately Seeking Lolita in a Clockwork Orange!” That didn’t warrant a 10? Dude! Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 7. Total: 18. (Two-Week Total: 39)
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke: Quicktep. Stumbling block: Probably too early in the season for a zero-to-hero edit?
Kirstie, Ralph, and Hines beware! There’s a DW(WE)TS wrestler in the competition with the moves (and the personality) to deliver a full-scale smackdown and turn himself into a legitimate contender for the mirrorball trophy! I was a little worried when Cheryl started the routine on a couch (like Len, I tend to believe too much emphasis on props starts things off on a sticky wicket), but the burly wrestler’s moves are like a well-known brand of cottage cheese — Light n’ Lively! Oh, and speaking of dairy, Chris isn’t so worried about his macho rep that he’s afraid of looking like a total cheeseball (and I say that as a major compliment). “Were my chesticles okay, Len?” he asked the head judge during critique. And in spite of Brooke’s energy-draining gaze and words, Chris still managed a terrific punch line while awaiting his scores, noting that he couldn’t stop smiling because “there’s so much product in my hair, it’s pulling my face back.” Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 23. (Two-Week Total: 42)
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin: Jive. Stumbling blocks: Not good/memorable enough to earn fan votes, not bad enough to earn sympathy votes
Petra seems totally sweet and takes her DWTS duties quite seriously, but while one’s weekly routines should seem well-rehearsed, one’s interview packages should not. Dmitry put together a totally serviceable jive for the couple, and Petra’s legs seemed up to the challenge, but Carrie Ann had a good point when she noted the supermodel makes some “funky shapes” while she’s executing her moves. Plus, it’s not a good sign when your most memorable bit is the ole’ “rip off the skirt to reveal a red, fringed mini!” maneuver. Could Brooke’s inappropriate question — “How much do you hope [the first evicted contestant] isn’t you?” — prove prescient? Who knows! Petra just wants to spread the joy to everyone! Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 6; Bruno, 6. Total: 18. (Two-Week Total: 36)
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Quickstep. Stumbling block: Can’t let the comedy upstage the dancing
It’s typically the curse of funny female DWTS contestants that their routines are never quite as entertaining as their pre-performance packages. But Kirstie doesn’t have to be relegated to mere comic-relief, even if she delivers wicked zingers about wanting to be confident at any weight — 114 lbs or 230 lbs. — without being dead when she gets there. Kirstie’s quickstep began with a bust of vigorous energy and some fleet, fancy footwork, but slowed noticeably at the halfway marker, before ending with a slight stumble. Still, she connects more intimately with her partner than perhaps anyone else in the competition, and her facial expressions are engaged and joyous without ever morphing into forced or ridiculous. Then again, those are easy feelings to channel when you know your routine will end with a dip and a kiss from Maks. I just wish Bruno hadn’t made any reference to Kirstie’s weight in his critique. I mean, just because the woman laughs about her weight-loss goals in her confessionals doesn’t mean she wants a pep talk about body image in front of the DWTS home audience. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6 (srsly?); Bruno, 7. Total: 20. (Two-Week Total: 43)
“Psycho” Mike Catherwood and Lacey Schwimmer: Jive. Stumbling blocks: His utter lack of musicality; her penchant for dancing in rejected prototypes from the Victoria’s Secret Ruffles Collection
There was one moment of jaunty excellence in Mike’s routine this week — the kicks and flicks he showed off during rehearsal, and then again about two-thirds of the way through his live performance. But 15 seconds of success doesn’t equate to “explod[ing] Len and Bruno’s faces with my fiery dance moves,” as the radio host told his professional partner he wanted to do this week. Clearly, Lacey is committed to keeping her guy in the competition; for the second week running, she chose to rehearse rather than deal with the violently awful two-tone hair she ended up with after what looks like an unfortunate chlorine-and-peroxide accident during the DWTS off season. But at the end of the day, Mike moves with the grace of an arthritic octogenarian who’s just been hurled from a mechanical bull. There’s a randomness to his movement, a sense that he’s getting hit in the head with his choreography rather than embracing it, that makes him uncomfortable to watch. Plus, his black pants/white t-shirt/barely bejeweled jacket failed to embrace the spirit of the ballroom, which requires either third-degree sparkle or borderline nudity. Oh, and also, there was something unsavory about the way he made Lacey put a lip print on his bicep. Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 6. Total: 17. (Two-Week Total: 30)
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: Quickstep: Stumbling block: Romeo’s possibly real and certainly existential failure to understand the meaning of the word “charming”
“Chelsie wants me to be charmin’ in this quickstep, but I have no idea what that means. I mean, I was born in the ’90s, not the 1900s,” said Romeo, talking gibberish. Maybe he confused charming with Charmin, the brand of toilet tissue with the horrible ad campaign about things getting stuck to the hindquarters of animated bears? It’s hard to say. Either way, by the time he finished making Chelsie feel his abs and kiss his bicep (let’s not make that a trend, DWTS!) and finally got to the stage, I found myself deeply distracted by the ‘You’re the One That I Want’ Senior Prom banner hanging overhead. Talk about a non-starter of a prop! Just like last week, Romeo displayed good energy, but occasionally he bordered on manic; plus, his posture was inconsistent, and his chemistry with Chelsie almost nonexistent. In other words, I couldn’t understand why Len called it “the best dance of the night.” Did I miss something, or do some of you think the rapper-actor’s moves were overrated? Also, if you missed it, Romeo is “doing it for all the kids.” How inspiring! A vote for Romeo is a vote for the children. And I believe that people — especially young ones like Romeo and Mark, and Chelsea and Chelsie — are our future. Teach them well, Kirstie, and let them lead the way. Enough? Yes, I agree. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 8; Bruno, 8. Total: 23. (Two-Week Total: 42)
Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani: Quickstep. Stumbling block: More suited to a sprint than a marathon.
Oh, if only Wendy could draw the “breakdancing” card for next week, and if only that meant she could take a “break” midway through her performance. In all seriousness, though, the talk-show hostess certainly amped up her energy this week, at least in her post-peformance interview with Brooke. “It’s illegal for anybody over 40 to be dancing that hard. P.S., no girdle or Spanx!” Wendy declared after a routine that showed good energy for the opening 30 seconds, slowed to one rattle short of a crawl at the midpoint, and then leisurely strolled past the finish line. (Oh, it also had Tony getting hypnotized by Wendy’s heaving bazooms.) Len put it oh-so-delicately when he said the routine was “a little bit economical with the movement throughout the dance,” Bruno used the phrase “sassy mama” in his critique, and then I had to go to my happy place. Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 6. Total: 17. (Two-Week Total: 31)
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: Jive. Stumbling block: HE IS MAKING ME FEEL ANCIENT
If I’d gone into this DWTS season with zero knowledge of pop culture, I’m pretty sure you could’ve convinced me that Ralph was this season’s Disney sensation looking to expand his popularity to an adult audience. That is until his teenage son and daughter showed up. Ralph and his magnificent mane (which I’ll admit, I envy) began the performance in a flash of blinding white light, and as the dance went on, his face shone even brighter — exuding the joy of a kid having marshmallows in his hot cocoa for the first time. I agreed with the judges that Ralph’s execution could’ve been a little sharper, and Karina’s black-and-white vertical-striped top a little less hideous, but I thought the 49-year-old actor should’ve gotten a little more credit just for maintaining such unbridled enthusiasm from start to finish.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21. (Two-Week Total: 45)
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: Quickstep. Stumbling block: Tux jacket covered his best assets! (Never let that happen again!)
Oh, come on. I know Tom said he mentioned Len’s “his bottom is the tops” critique from last week just to prove Bruno has not cornered the market on creepy, but if you really think about it, pretty much every mainstay of DWTS except Brooke has made some mention of Hines’ backfield this season — and we’re only on episode two. Anyway, I digress. This week’s pre-performance package focused on Hines and Kim struggling to understand each other’s lingo. (Brooke’s followup questions about the pro and the star coming from “very different worlds” almost veered somewhere dangerously close to uncomfortable for me.) But on the dance floor, there wasn’t a single miscommunication. Hines’ footwork was breathtaking, and he embellished the routine with just the right amount of performance flair, including a shocked little “Oh” when Kym gave him a peck on the cheek. There was also something Bruno said was a “rond de jambe going backwards” that was indeed mighty nice to behold. Carrie Ann resorted to a positive raspberry to convey her enthusiasm, and I can’t say I didn’t understand why: This guy poses a real threat to make it all the way into May. Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 23. (Two-Week Total:44 )
What did you think of this week’s DWTS? Which contestant improved the most? Did you vote for any of the dancers this week? And who do you think will go home on Tuesday night’s results show? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.