Dancing With the Stars Recap: Can't Help Falling

Many a yarn was spun as Dancing With the Stars tackled a storytelling theme Monday night that asked contestants to pick songs to which they had personal connections, then create routines which communicated significant events from their lives. Wendy Williams told us the tale of how she rose to fame as a radio DJ and why she’s destined for a tenth-place finish on DWTS‘ twelfth season. Kirstie Alley and Maksim(mmm) Chmerkovskiy reenacted the biography of Chumbawamba (they got knocked down! but they got up again! you’re never gonna keep ’em down!). Hines Ward celebrated the perseverance of his adorable mother by putting his impressive backfield in motion. And Brooke Burke enacted a fable about a beautiful android who sought humanity by donning a heinous garment with shoulder straps that looked like badly dyed hair extensions. Those cheeky DWTS cue-card writers kept having the sad robot ask the contestants about their “emotions,” a word so foreign to her that it might as well have been in Latin or French, not source code. Here’s how the stories played out — in chronological order:

Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani: Foxtrot
DWTS‘ British Voiceover Guy promised us at the top of the show that Monday night’s proceedings were “liiiive!,” and it was only my implicit trust of this disembodied/God-like/unrelentingly peppy entity that allowed me to believe Wendy and Tony’s lethargic foxtrot wasn’t pre-taped and played back in slow motion. “I’m not a dancer,” declared Wendy, in what would turn out to (not surprisingly) be the first of 10 supremely awkward post-peformance interview segments with Brooke Burke. Unfortunately, I think the subtext here was that Wendy knows she’s never going to become dancer, either. I mean, the woman is no stranger to hard work, and she’s a hoot as a talk-show host, but she moves with all the grace and fluidity of a refrigerator getting dropped down a flight of stairs. So while Wendy unleashed her inner Kraken and roared “VOTE!” to the audience as Brooke gave out her phone numbers, I think deep down she knew she’d squeezed Tony’s buttocks for the last time. “You made a great choreograph,” she offered, not even getting the terminology right. Le sigh. Scores: Carrie Ann, 5; Len, 5; Bruno, 5. Total: 15.

Mark Ballas and Chelsea Kane (and a little more Mark Ballas!): Cha Cha Cha
There was a lot of joshing around in rehearsal surrounding Mark’s ability to work his hips like a female stripper looking to make quick change for a fifty-dollar bill, but things got less engaging when Chelsea shared her “story” about her first love (some dude in a band called The Summer Set, if Google is to be believed) declaring his affections for her in a song called (what else?) “Chelsea.” The judges lapped up this routine, with Bruno howling something about “quivering anticipation” for a “delicious first bite of love,” but I honestly felt like Mark (in his saddle shoes, which give the probably correct impression that his feet barely ever touch the ground) was doing most of the work, playing zippy hummingbird to Chelsea’s gold-tassled blossoms. Len made some crazy comment about his first amour (“ol Sally frosty knickers wasn’t a lookah!”) and Chelsea told Brooke she now had “another awesome memory” to attach to a song none of us will ever hear again. At this point, Chelsea is like the barely noticeable fourth lead in the sitcom of her life on DWTS; unless she finds a way to make a stronger impression, I feel like she could be an early “shock” elimination. Anyone else with me? Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 8; Bruno, 8. Total: 23.

Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke: Rumba
I truly appreciated Chris’ jaunty “devil horns” gesture before his interview package, especially because the season’s resident good-time guy went super-serious for a routine set to “Let It Be” that paid tribute to his late mother. I think the performance would’ve resonated more with me had Chris and Cheryl not opted to include a low-hutch set piece complete with ’80s-era record player and a framed photo of Chris’ mom — I’m not un-sentimental, I’m just not crazy about literal touches mucking up the abstract beauty of the dance — but there’s no denying the wrestler is turning into a true hoofer. I liked that trick where Chis draped Cheryl over his back, then spun her smoothly while she intertwined her leg with his. Better still, though, there was a tenderness to the performance that, as Chris pointed out, was free of masks and walls to hide behind. I mean, how can you criticize a guy who, for the first time in over 20 years, was performing as his true self, Chris Irvine, not as his wrestling alter ego. What’s that, Carrie Ann? “Your hip action? A little strange. But emotionally you were amazing.” Alrighty then. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21.

Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel (and his prominent chest hair): Rumba
I can’t say that I have strong positive feelings when I’m reminded that Kendra used to do the dance of love with Hugh Hefner, but I do love the way the former Playboy Playmate hasn’t tried to erase the crumbs of her past life like birds gobbling up Hansel and Gretel’s trail of bread. I mean, it’s not every woman who would choose to set the interpretive dance of her love and marriage to a song containing the line “I wouldn’t care if you were a prostitute.” Female empowerment FTW! Ignoring the opening 20 seconds — in which some overzealous dry-ice technician was apparently attempting to get Kendra to perform the “stop, drop, and roll” — I actually thought this was one of the evening’s best dances. Kendra is nothing if not a hard worker, and while the rumba wasn’t necessarily the most packed or complicated, it was, as Bruno so succinctly put it, “teasingly erotic,” “hot and arousing,” and enough to make a certain segment of male viewers turn purple. (Side note: Bonus points to Kendra for always offering hearty and heartfelt applause for her opponents — a habit not shared by each and every one of her ballroom compatriots.) Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 23.

Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: Rumba
Welcome to DWTS, where the rhumba can take a rare vacation from sexy — and relax on the beaches of heartfelt, vulnerable, and sometimes even sad. Like Chris before him, and Kirstie after, Romeo chose to dedicate his dance to deceased relatives, in this case a pair of cousins who died tragically young. And yet while I appreciated Romeo’s emotional commitment to the dance (if not his griping about his dance shoes), his execution of the required moves was about as crisp as a teething biscuit after an hour of toddler gumming. At some point, the guy needs to strap on his un-macho footwear, quit his kvetching about looking silly, and fully commit to the performance. Bruno and Carrie Ann applauded the routine, but Len managed to separate the intent from the finished product, calling it a “huge step back” before getting distracted by Tom Bergeron and his “big googly eyes.” Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6; Bruno, 7. Total: 20.

Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: Samba
Everyone appreciates a nice young gentleman paying tribute to his mama through the art of the samba — especially if it contains a double dose of rump-shaking (“Two for the price of one! Happy hour!” shouted Bruno). Indeed, Hines and Kym’s routine — set to Earth Wind and Fire’s “Fantasy” — was far and away the night’s most energetic and demanding, with whimsical hip thrusts, at least a dozen spins, rapid-fire footwork, and a genuine smile plastered to the NFL star’s face from start to finish. The judges seemed to ignore a near catastrophic slip as Kym bounced back from that “between the legs” slide, but maybe they were just distracted by the reemergence of Hines’ best-in-show glutes, non-Pro edition. (Who knew a tucked-in vest with yellow-trimmed neckline and collar could be responsible for so much sexiness?) Carrie Ann was right that the guy dances the samba like he’s been doing it for years. “My whole life experience has been great,” said Hines, before shouting out to his mother, who was in the audience: “We’re going to the moon, Mom!” Adorable! Ten! (Okay, not quite.) Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 8. Total: 25.

Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin: Waltz
Look, I understand why Len identified Petra as “The One” this week. Her waltz with Dmitry to the strains of “You Raise Me Up” was indeed the picture of grace, elegance, and fluidity, but at least in part because it was the only waltz of the week! It’s easy to glide like a salmon heading downstream when the other fishies are shimmying to a Latin groove or plodding their way through a foxtrot. And while, yeah, it would be nitpicking to point out some of the stiffness in Petra’s movements, or the way she sometimes stalls when transitioning from one move to the next, I also can’t sit here and pretend the routine was worthy of the “Nine” Paddle from our Head Judge. Still, if Petra wants to win the hearts and votes of DWTS viewers, her bigger challenge will be to quash her fourth-runner-up pageant-style answers when she’s confronted by the BrookeBot 8000. I swear I squeaked a “no!” to every word out of girlfriend’s mouth — up to and including the bit about how people who are struggling can “rise above, and rise to vote as well!” Let’s just applaud Petra’s involvement in the Happy Hearts Fund and pretend that last part didn’t happen. Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 9; Bruno, 8. Total: 25.

Sugar Ray Leonard and Anna Trebunskaya, Paso Doble
Unfortunately for Sugar Ray, his “personal story” was closer on the scale to “a guy wrote a song about me” than “dedicated to a deceased loved one,” but the judges didn’t seem to care, and graded him on the forgiving scale of “compared to last week’s debacle.” I liked how before the performance, Anna did her best impression of a Price Is Right girl by “displaying” her partner’s “championship” belt, but once things got underway, it was clear she’d loaded the routine with props and gimmicks to distract the crowd from the boxer’s middling moves. To me, this felt a little less like matador-bull and more like county dog catcher-cockapoo mix. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6; Bruno, 7. Total: 20.

Kirstie Alley and Maksim(mmm) Chmerkovskiy: Rumba
In retrospect, there was plenty of “foreshadowing” to Kirstie and Maks’ Tumble Heard ‘Round the World. “I almost died dancing the quickstep,” said Kirstie, recalling the prior’s week’s fleet-footed theme with mock horror. Then we had the former Cheers star sadly recounting how she lost her mother (and nearly her father, too) when they were hit by a drunk driver on the week she’d gotten cast in her first major move Hollywood role. Choosing “Over the Rainbow” as her theme song, Kirstie then said she sought to portray “the agony and the ecstasy” of her life at the time. But who’d have thought that seconds later, we’d see Maks’ thigh give out after attempting a low bend with Kirstie’s leg wrapped around his hip.

Please tell me I’m not the only DWTS viewer who gasped, covered his face with his hands, and started chanting “ohno-ohno-ohno-ohno!” the moment Maks and Kirstie collapsed into a silk-swathed heap, then attempted to get up while Maks grimaced in pain and attempted to find an opening for the couple to reenter the dance. What followed this gut-wrenching mishap, however, was a minute of pure DWTS magic. Kirstie barely let her confusion pass over her face before surrendering to Maks’ lead and delivering a rhumba that transcended reality-show “success” and quite possibly passed into the realm of genuine art. Yeah, I said it. I’m corny that way, but it doesn’t make what I’m saying any less true. Maks and Kirstie’s rumba was downright gorgeous, her footwork swift and elegant as she swayed in front of him, his spins sharp and precise as he whirled around her. I know you’re not supposed to break out the “10” paddle for a couple who committed a catastrophic error, but I kinda wish at least one judge — Carrie Ann or Bruno (or maybe even Len) — had had the audacity to do it. “Sometimes tragedy leads to amazingly beautiful moments,” said Carrie Ann. “You can’t keep good talent down,” added Bruno. “My heart stopped beating back here,” chimed in Brooke, almost convincing the audience she was made up of real human-like organs, not just wires and gaskets and synthetic hair. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21.

Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: Rumba
My husband pretty much summed up the appeal/terror of Ralph as he watched the preternaturally youthful star’s intro package and demanded to know, “How is anything about Ralph real? I don’t understand!” But ours is not to question the swiftly aging portrait in Ralph’s attic, but rather to revel in the fact that the undeniably awesome actor chose “Stay Gold” (or “So Gold,” as the sheet music indicated) and not Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” as his theme music. I loved Ralph’s disastrous rehearsal attempts at making sexy face, and having him tell Karina, “it’s worked for my wife for 24 years…I think.” And while this was his weakest dance of the season — Ralph occasionally fell out of step with Karina, and his extensions all seemed kind of wobbly — the sight of the guy kissing his wife’s hand and high-fiving his son at the end of the performance must have activated many a viewer’s speed-diailing fingers. And who could blame ’em? Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21.

So to put our judges’ scores in perspective, Carrie Ann gave 7s to Chelsea, Chris, Sugar Ray, Kirstie, and Ralph. Bruno gave 8s to Chelsea, Kendra, and Petra. And Len scored Sugar Ray and Romeo only a point higher than Wendy. Chew on that and let me know if you see any fuzzy math going on. And in the interim, what did you think of this week’s DWTS overall? 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.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Sally in Chicago says:

    I’ve been writing for some time, Kirstie is too big and Wendy is too big.

    • Gina says:

      Too big? Their human beings. People come in ALL shapes and sizes. They aren’t professional dancers trying to have a career. No such thing as too big – the professionals have to work with what they’ve been given. If a deaf woman can dance, can’t see any reason a big woman can’t either.

    • Josh says:

      Your opinion is too ignorant.

      • Sally in Chicago says:

        Well then, if it’s ignorant, let me clarify. Maks is going to have simplify the moves, which are going to be boring to watch. Because she cannot do what a tiny woman can do in terms of difficulty.

        maybe George Lopez was right – she is an elephant, but so is Wendy, and they are not pleasant to watch on the dance floor. I know her aim is to lose weight, but come on — these women are too top heavy and hippy.

        • Teresa says:

          That was the least boring dance I’ve ever seen on DWTS.

          As impressed as I was with Maks getting up and getting the dance back on track, I was more impressed with Kirstie. Another partner might have fallen to pieces, but she kept up and went right along with him.

          I have the feeling that a lot of the second half of their dance was improvised, but you’d never know it from their faces or body language.

          • Julie W says:

            You know, you could be right. Didn’t Kirstie say something like, “Yeah, we’ve done it a million times…” Kudos for her (and Maks) for going on as if nothing happened. That’s the sign of a professional.

        • TVJunkie says:

          He called her a pig and still, it was wrong.

    • tina says:

      I love watching Kirstie dance. She’s light on her feet, elegant and sexy without trying to hard. Wendy on the other hand is a little disappointing. Not because of her size, but because she’s so fun and fabulous and that just doesn’t come out on the dance floor. Not sure where you’re coming from saying they’re too big.

    • Day says:

      It matters how long you’ve been writing as to two women’s relative sizes? Wow, I should start writing so I can make judgmental statements like that!

    • Georgia says:

      Why are heavy women criticized for being on this show, while heavy men aren’t? It is such a double standard. Warren Sapp was huge, and he wasn’t criticized for being too heavy…and he was very light on his feet and a surprisingly good dancer.

      • Lime says:

        Agree! Warren was definitely a big boy, and a great dancer too! They are not mutually exclusive. Kirstie is really quite good, she has excellent feet and lines. She would have these attributes if she was thinner, so what’s the big deal?

        Wendy just hurts me though. It’s like she’s not even trying, just marking her way through every routine. Don’t sign up for the show if you’re not going to give it your all!

      • cash is king says:

        Because the women aren’t dragging the fat men around the floor. He was trying to carry 200 lbs plus on his thigh and it gave out. It was bound to happen.

    • Jenks says:

      @Sally in Chicago: Your comments are so predictable. And sad. Oh, and ignorant.

      • Sally in Chicago says:

        Sorry you feel that way, but with the big men that I’ve seen dancing (Warren Sapp) at least they could DANCE and were very good with their feet. I thought in the first show she was very good, and surprised me….but the more I see her and Wendy, they look out of place because they are TOP HEAVY.

    • Angela says:

      Kristie and Wendy may be “Too Big”, but Sally dearest, your heart and mind are way TOO SMALL. It seems you live a very small, provincial, and closed life, with any enjoyment crushed with narrow confines and borders and WAY too many rules of how things should be in order to suit you. It must be claustrophobic.

      • Sally in Chicago says:

        Because Kirstie and Wendy (who’s destined to leave) are top heavy, busty and hippie, the choreography has to be simplified for them, because they can’t throw their body around like the slim girls can. I give her/both credit for going on the show. It’s not flattering to see yourself hop around and try to be graceful, but I equally feel sorry for Maks because he’s never won (to my knowledge) and he deserves to win at least once. He’s a good sport.

      • maryann says:

        To Angela, what a lovely comment and oh so true!

    • Ally says:

      What does ‘writing for some time’ have to do with Kirstie’s size? Regardless, I love watching Kirstie on this show!

  2. nitemar says:

    Some were very hard to watch, but they are not professionals, and they knew what they were getting into, to some it could be more challenging than others, but everybody gets to dance! :)

  3. Lorie says:

    For the 2nd week in a row, Hines’ dance was my favorite. His samba to “Fantasy” was great! Ralph is my sentimental favorite, but Hines is quickly becoming a serious contender. Can’t wait to see Hines do the paso doble.

    Speaking of Ralph, I don’t think his dance was as bad as the judges said. I do think, though, he’ll have trouble trying to do “sexy”.

    I pray Maks is OK. What an amazing recovery! Kudos to Kirstie and Maks!!

    Wendy has to go tonight. It looked like her foxtrot was done in half tempo. Poor Tony.

    • Sally in Chicago says:

      I LUV watching Hines. Such a great personality and he can dance…I live him better than Ralph, who’s the leader, but I think Hines can take it.

  4. elizabeth says:

    Tight writing Michael! Very entertaining astute summary. What is with the DWTS co-hosts??I didn’t think anyone could get more unprofessional than the former co-host Samantha who always looked terrified with the live audience, as if she was concentrating hard on stepping onto an escalator at the right second while waiting for Tom Bergeron to finish speaking each time, in hopes that she would not mess up her next scheduled comment. But, the BrookeBot- OMG! Even my 16yr old son (watching uninterestedly from the other side of the room) said she was “mean” after observing her detached responses to everyone’s heartfelt answers to her “I couldn’t care less questions”. He noted she was showing body language that looked as if she wanted to run away from her interviewees and was constantly trying to subtly adjust her stance for the most boob-job revealing and flattering camera angle. What a waste of time those painful segments are! Thanks for pointing it out. ABC are you listening??

    • twinmom says:

      Excellent analogy re: the escalator. Very funny!

    • Elizabeth in Canada says:

      I’ve now read your comment three times now and l laughed every single time!!!! I was thoroughly entertained by the actual review but your comments amused me even more. Thanks for cheering me up!! You should get your own column…

  5. Spencerf says:

    UGh! I haaate Brooke! Mom and I talk about how fake she is every time we watch the show!!!!!!!!!! ;) But I love Ralph and Kirstie.

  6. Bree says:

    Did anyone notice that when Brooke was interviewing Maks and Kirstie, Maks was trying to say Happy Birthday to his dad, and Brooke took the microphone from him and shouted, “Happy Birthday Dad” over him? The look he gave her was priceless.

    • Dorothy Harris says:

      Yes I did notice the interview with Maks. I think she is really full of herself. I did not like her last year and snd even less this year. Tom is the head honcho and not Brook.To me she acts like she is competing with the female dancers. The way she dresses and moves ever so close to Tom is disgusting. Tom is GREAT in what he does and does soooo well. All of the females who are not professionals, really impress me in doing their best. No one needs to feel they are a failure. Yes, some dance better than others, and look better than others. Some of us are too big, too fat and maybe too thin. Just do the best with what you have and learn from mistakes if any and MOVE on. No one is perfect. I really enjoy DWTS and look forward to it every week. I may not always agree with the Judges but hey, I am not perfect either.

      Too everyone associated with DWTS, thanks for the great entertainment. Have a great season.

  7. Sam says:

    Hines Ward is mopping up the dance floor with the competition. All those hip swiveling runs after the catch are helping him on the dance floor…the rhythm that enables him to run routes and catch just about anything Big Ben throws at him is also paying off. Love watching him dance and that mega-watt smile is infectious.

    I am just so sorry about Kirstie and Maks falling…hope he’s able to continue and nothing is permanently damaged. I feel bad for Kirstie because you know the jokes are gonna start. She’s amazing for her age and size…very graceful…should not be compared in any way with Wendy Williams who is not graceful.

    • wendeeloo says:

      Maks was on Good Morning America and says it was just a charley-horse so I guess he’s ok – He said one of the new troupe of pros started freaking out because those new kids are understudies for the pro dancers and he thought he’d be asked to step up already.

  8. Steven says:

    My younger sister’s favorite band is The Summer Set. She only watched last night because of that song. It’s music for teenage girls.

    • Betty says:

      My 15 year old daughter loves the song too and sang along. Who wouldn’t want to have song written about them. I liked it too.

  9. JR says:

    The Summer Set is totally awesome!!! everyone should check them out!!!!

  10. Jen says:

    Hines continues to impress! He looks so good in black and gold even wearing heels!

    I give so much credit to Kirstie (and Maks) for not letting that fall mess them up. It must have been terrifying for Kirstie, I mean, how do you pick it up from there? But they were fabulous. They’re so much fun to watch on and off the dancefloor.

    Kendra was much better this week, but she just grates.

  11. jaime says:


    I’m not sure Chelsea will be the first shock elimination. I, personally, think she’s great and hope she sticks around.

  12. ASH says:

    It’s patently unfair that you do NOT get to hear the collective laughter of all that are reading your reviews. You are SO funny!!

  13. Ballas' Blunder says:

    Why didn’t Mark “make a great choreograph” that would showcase his partner’s talents/strengths instead of showboating his? It was more painful to watch his desperate whirling dervish watch me spins as he attempts to be the star in the wake of Derek Hough’s absence than watching maks and kirstie’s unfortunate tumble. That is why Derek and Julianne always won, they made their partners appear as talented as them, so both would gloriously shine and make america vote them for the mirror ball trophy, so Mark take it down a notch and try to make her sparkle instead of showing us what u can do so much better than her

    • jaime says:

      while i tend to slightly agree with you, i also want to point out that Mark has won the trophy twice too- which was tied with Derek and Julianne until Derek won last season with the chosen one.

    • amber says:

      I think Mark is just really excited to have a partner who can dance well, hence why he’s pulling out everything he’s got. =)

    • lori says:

      Ugh. I can’t stand to watch Derek. In my opinion, he’s the biggest showoff the show has ever seen. He always tries to steal the spotlight even when the show’s going to commercial. Glad we don’t have to put up with his mugging this season.

      I like Chelsea. In my opinion, she has the most natural talent as a dancer. I’m cheering for Ralph, though!

  14. Amber says:

    Michael, your reviews on this show are incredibly funny and incredibly true.

    I think Hines did the best last night, but I still like Ralph Macchio the best. I was kind of turned off that Chelsey picked a song to dance to that was written about her, it seemed really egotistical. But she’s still very talented, even if last night wasn’t her best performance. I cringed and cried out when Kirstie fell, because the last thing I want to see on TV is anyone making jokes about her weight. It’s so old, and such high school behavior. Poor Max…charlie horses are extremely painful. I’m impressed he was able to keep dancing with one.

  15. Cass says:

    “slowly aging portrait in the attic”

    Thank you, sir, for making me laugh out loud. I do, however, choose to believe that Ralph is genuine. I’m sure there are plenty Dorian Grays in the world, but I sincerely hope he isn’t one of them. As for the “too heavy” debate with Kirstie and Wendy: being heavier makes it more difficult to move, I’m sure, but some people can move gracefully and with rhythm at any size. And these two are a good contrast: Wendy cannot, while Kirstie can.

  16. Stephanie says:

    How long have you been writing recaps of DWTS Michael?? And why am I just now discovering them?!? Hilarious!!!! I was literally LOL throughout the entire section on Wendy’s “lethargic foxtrot.” (catches breath)…I’m definitely gonna be reading your recaps every week…love it! :)