Everyone knows that when it comes to TV entertainment, you’re supposed to save the best for last. But Monday night’s installment of Dancing With the Stars front-loaded the good stuff with delightful “team dances” set to the self-empowerment anthems “We Are Who We Are” and “Born This Way.”
Hines Ward, Kendra Wilkinson, and Kirstie Alley delivered a synchronized cha cha in which their derrieres shook with the speed and intensity of Home Depot paint mixers. (In a stunning turn of events, Hines’ booty managed to steal the spotlight from Maks’ legendary moneymaker.) Over at the competing routine, Ralph Macchio, Romeo, and Chelsea Kane worked themselves into a writhing knot of pleather pleasure, although Karina’s tongue-over-teeth maneuver was probably my favorite part of the choreography. Celeb MVP went to Ralph, for finally bringing the fire down below — and for successfully lassoing a flying Chelsie at the end of the dance. (Runner-up goes to the women of Team Hines, for suppressing the urge to violently vomit at Len’s unnecessary comment: “I know which team of girls won the booby prize.”)
The judges — joined by ballroom legend Donnie Burns — scored both teams a total of 30, which evened the ballroom playing field going into the individual dances, in which the pairs received additional coaching from either Luca Baricchi or Shirley Ballas, superstar dancers/instructors respectively known for aggressive use of hair product and giving birth to DWTS pro Mark Ballas. The ten paddles came out on a couple of occasions, and the judges’ feedback was typically flowery, but I thought the overall energy in the ballroom seemed muted and perhaps even a little strained. Maybe it was the challenge of learning two routines in one week. Maybe it was the way the judges’ table was packed tighter than a Tokyo subway car. Either way, here’s how it all played out.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas, Paso Doble
Ken and Donnie expressed confusion over Mark’s newfangled choreography, but I thought the problem was less in the concept and more in the execution. Chelsea seemed to be working so hard at turning herself into a “piece of angry fabric” that her standard operating fluidity seemed to abandon her: I noticed her stumble a bit the first time Mark tried to pull her up from a seated position, and her arm positioning looked too loose and unfocused for a dance with the paso’s precision. Of course, maybe Chelsea and Mark were feeling a little self-conscious: The former because she’d been trussed up in a black lace bodysuit and Batman’s cape, the latter because America got to witness footage of him executing passionate and sensual dance moves with his mama. Question: Anyone else think Mark and Chelsea could be at risk this week, especially after Mark expressed annoyance with the judges’ scores and then proceeded to petulantly rattle off a list of technical moves that proved he’d performed a classic paso? Scores: Donnie, 8; Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 34.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel, Tango
Speaking of petulant attitudes, I found I couldn’t help but laugh at Kendra’s response to the judges’ scores this week. “It feels good. It feels good,” were the words coming out of Kendra’s mouth to describe the combined “31″ she’d received from the judges, but the tone of her voice betrayed irritation, disappointment, and shades of incredulity. As the judges noted, though, Louis choreographed a particularly demanding tango (to the week’s most unappealing tune, Billy Fury’s “Jealousy”), and while Kendra’s facial expression on the floor alternated between “benign smile” and “frozen terror,” her legs and feet this week were swift and crisp. I can’t say she’s my favorite (or even fifth favorite) celeb left in the Season 12 competition, but I thought Kendra was underscored this week — particularly in relation to Chelsea. Scores: Donnie, 8; Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 31.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Jive
“That’s not a kick. That’s a f*** grandma ****,” grumbled Maks during the pair’s rehearsal footage. Unfortunately, he could’ve (and probably should’ve) made the same remarks about Kirstie’s nonexistent execution of their jive this week to Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.” Yes, Kirstie delivered on the performance aspect of the dance — which painted her as a reticent young lady in a spangly bodysuit and ridiculous tutu initially rebuffing her boyfriend’s advances, then turning into a hungry lioness — but as she put it herself, she got so caught up in the acting, “I just forgot to move my feet!” (Tom’s response — “Understandable oversight, Kirstie” — was his best zinger of the night.) Lucky for Ms. Alley, Donnie insisted that “talent is in between the steps” (translation: “I’m a big Cheers fan who still cherishes my Look Who’s Talking VHS box set”), resulting in some seriously inflated scores. Which, if I’m being honest, is okay by me: I mean, isn’t the season going to be a lot less joyous when/if Kirstie goes home? Scores: Donnie, 9; Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6; Bruno, 8. Total: 30.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff, Quickstep
I’m sorry, but is anyone else completely obsessed with Ralph’s face? Whatever his skin regimen — elephant dung, puree of tadpole, human sacrifice — please bottle it, label it, and get it on QVC. I’m buying! Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can praise Ralph and Karina’s routine — which found her dressed as a genie with a flapper’s headband, and him as a a gangster with a matching green hat band and pocket square. The footwork here was dizzyingly quick, and despite his rehearsal aches and pains (“ow, ow, ow, ow, bend”), Ralph executed it with joy and panache. I loved Ralph’s almost balletic leap at the front of the routine, and their floperoo over the prop bar at the end. Karina is really bringing it with the choreography this season, no? I appreciate the way she always showcases Ralph’s best assets while never oversimplifying things. Apparently, so did the judges. Scores: Donnie, 10; Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 36.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson, Tango
I’ll admit it: I howled with laughter watching Hines get a case of the giggles as he took a lesson from Luca Baricchi and struggled to determine which one was supposed to be the man. But once he was on the floor, the “silent assassin” put aside his standard operating grin and got into his James Bond character by donning a white tuxedo and a draped, sexy Kym, whose lace dress was cinched at the hip by a single red flower. (Talk about potentially lethal scenarios!) I loved the rise and fall of the routine, the intricate footwork, and the percolating passion the couple showed as they looked into each other’s eyes. If the pickle wasn’t always sharp and crisp (Len’s word choice, not mine) I was too intent on the spy thriller to notice. Bruno’s 10 was completely justified, in my book. Scores: Donnie, 9; Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 10. Total: 36.
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower, Samba
Could Romeo go from last week’s leaderboard topper to this week’s evictee? It’s possible. The rapper-actor seemed to be responding well to Shirley Ballas’ instructions (he was “maybe a little too responsive,” said Mark’s mom, as her pupil’s hips went into overdrive) but once he hit the ballroom, there was no precision in his moves, and he seemed to fall out of synch on several occasions. Even worse, I couldn’t tell if the befuddled look that “soldier” Romeo showed “tiki-bar car-hop waitress” Chelsie (that’s what her costume was, right?) at the top of the routine was part of the storyline or a genuine moment of confusion. If nothing else, though, Romeo’s struggles resulted in the evening’s most ludicrous misstep from Robo Brooke Burke, who despite the judges’ generally harsh comments, kept asking if Romeo would score any 10s, rank higher than Ralph and Hines, and take sole possession of the top spot on the leaderboard. Spoiler alert: He didn’t! Then again, maybe one of Brooke’s circuit’s shorted, since her comment that “we saw a 10 from Hines a 10 from Romeo” right before Romeo’s scores seemed to infer she couldn’t tell the difference between the two black men in the competition. There was also a discrepancy in the score Donnie gave to the producers, and the one he held up on the paddle/had whispered to him by Carrie Ann. I’m going to take Tom’s word that there was no foul play intended, but still…whoops! Scores: Donnie, 7; Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 30.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Who was your favorite? Who do you think will head home, and who do you think should head home? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!