Dancing With the Stars: Spontaneous Combustion

They skipped, they swore, they limped. But more importantly, the five remaining couples of Dancing With the Stars‘ twelfth season delivered consistently entertaining routines — one regular dance, and one “instant” round where they received their music less than an hour before performing — in the final episode before the Season 12 semifinals. Still, while Monday’s excellence made for a joyous two-hour telecast, it’ll also lead to a heartbreaking Tuesday-night results show. Because, honestly, who wouldn’t be happy to have Hines, Kirstie, Ralph, Chelsea, and Romeo hoofing their way into our homes every Monday night from now till the end of summer? But that’s not the reality of the ballroom. So without further ado, let’s recap the action:

Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas, Waltz (plus Instant Salsa)
Let’s raise our “TEN!” paddles in honor of Chelsea giving Mark a gentle smackdown during rehearsal about his sense of entitlement with regard to their scores — particularly last week’s tantrum when the judges had mixed reviews of his paso doble choreography. “It reflects on me too,” she said, explaining she didn’t want the viewing audience to think she expected automatic placement atop the judges’ leaderboard. Mark, for his part, looked into Chelsea’s eyes and massaged her neck/prepared to strangle her, but the guy must be reading his fair share of DWTS comments boards about how he consistently tries to out-dance his partners, seeinghow he kept reiterating things like “I want the main focus to be Chelsea.” (What a novel idea!)

Still, no one ever said Mark wasn’t a terrific choreographer, and this week, he gifted Chelsea with a waltz that was absolutely spectacular — with the sole exception of that ocean-surf projection that washed over them as they sprawled shipwrecked on the floor at the start of their dance. I love the way Mark jazzed up the routine with some modern, lyrical elements, and was especially impressed with the way Chelsea’s torso was parallel to the floor for a beat as she stood to begin the dance. I don’t know exactly why Len was griping about “too much emphasis on the story” — and for the record, that was indeed a criticism by Len, not just an observation — but the only thing I didn’t enjoy here was Mark’s metallic paisley-ish pirate vest. Scores: Carrie Ann, 10; Len, 9; Bruno, 10. Total: 29.

For the “instant dance” round, Mark and Chelsea drew Sean Paul’s “Get Busy,” an excellent showcase for the boom-boom-pow of Chelsea’s white fringed Capri pants, which would have been hideous in any real-life situation, but were downright mesmerizing in the ballroom setting. Chelsea kept up with Mark through some lightning fast footwork, and only in the opening few bars of the song did her pro attempt to out-hoof her with an excruciatingly clownish approach in which his saddle-shoe-clad feet flew around like hyperactive eggbeaters. Carrie Ann, though, wasn’t feeling a connection to the music, and when the judges scores came, you could see Mark working overtime to maintain a perky smile and a positive attitude. “It feels great,” he lied to Brooke as nary a “10” flashed on the screen. Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 9; Bruno, 9. Total: 26. (Two-dance total: 55)

Hines Ward and Kym Johnson, Fox Trot (plus Instant Jive)
I loved how Hines spent part of his rehearsal analyzing video of rival Ralph Macchio’s fox trot from earlier in the season, and the way that, for a few brief seconds, it confirmed my personal opinion that DWTS is a serious sporting event, not just a reality show battle for a mirrorball trophy. I thought Hines looked stiff and a wee bit unsteady during the opening 30 seconds of the routine, but by the time he started skipping around the park bench — that’s a literal description of what happened, by the way, not a euphemism — our NFL MVP had relaxed so thoroughly into the exaggerated campiness of Kym’s choreography, began “beaming with a blissful sense of happiness” (as Bruno noted), that I stopped my mental nitpicking and simply embraced the cheese. (Bonus points for Hines’ beautifully executed ballet leap.) Can we throw a penalty flag at Brooke, though, whose inability to separate the engagement-in-the-park storyline of the dance from reality had her asking Hines and Kym, “What is this relationship?” Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 9; Bruno, 10. Total: 28.

Hines and Kym may have gotten lower scores for their “instant jive” to “Chantilly Lace,” but if I’m being honest, it was my favorite performance of the night. The speed and energy of the routine was so intense, there were a few moments (especially during those side-by-side kicks and flicks) where I worried Hines’ feet might fly out from underneath him and result in a ballroom disaster. But nope, the nattily attired athlete kept pace with Kym and her undulating wave of a miniskirt. As Len pointed out, you can tell Hines really puts hard work into his dancing. Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 9; Bruno, 8. Total: 26. (Two-dance total: 54)

Romeo and Chelsie Hightower, Tango (plus Instant Salsa)
It’s anyone’s guess which DWTS couple will get the boot on Tuesday night, but if I were a betting man, my money would be on Romeo and Chelsie, who’ve never quite perfected the art of the pre-performance “personality package.” Chelsie’s insistence that Romeo show aggression in their tango resulted in his awkward barks of “look at me, woman!” and her struggle to find inspiration for their choreography was as jarring as her red vinyl costume, which looked like it was designed for one of Satan’s backup dancers. Overall, this was a pretty solid tango to Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me,” but the dark lighting from start to finish made it hard to determine the precision of the moves, and I felt like there were moments when Chelsie’s extensions were bigger and bolder than her partner’s (especially the forward-marching kicks). Carrie Ann broke out a critique from the Randy Jackson Cliché Handbook (“someone’s in it to win it!”) and Chelsie reacted to their scores with appopriately scripted enthusiasm (“yay!”) but it all felt like the volume had been turned down just a smidge, no? Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 9; Bruno, 9. Total: 27.

Again, the leadup package to the duo’s Instant Salsa — Chelsie and Romeo heading to a salsa club for practice — didn’t really seem to highlight their deep desire to take home the mirrorball trophy, which is pretty much a requirement at this late moment in the DWTS season. I thoroughly enjoyed the move where Romeo spun Chelsie like a muscular dreidel clad in a hideous skirt made of fiberoptic wires, then plunged her to the floor with a dramatic flourish, but I also agreed with Bruno that there were moments where the routine lost fluidity. But, hey, Romeo’s new movie Jumping the Broom opened big this weekend, so it’s not like DWTS is his only reason to exist. Then again, having a reason to exist outside DWTS is kind of a no-no for our contestants, isn’t it? Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 9; Bruno, 8. Total: 25. (Two-dance total: 52)

Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff, Viennese Waltz (plus Instant Cha Cha Cha)
It wasn’t much fun watching the supernaturally youthful actor suffer acute pain from a ruptured baker’s cyst, but Ralph wisely used his final post-performance interview to activate his voting base with a dual strategy of “this would be a terrible way to go out” and “I should be feeling a-okay in two days!” Ralph and Karina only managed to get nine hours of rehearsal before his body gave out, but their dark and dramatic Viennese waltz was thoroughly enjoyable, and brought out a different side of the Artist Formerly Known as Daniel-san: Ralph wore black eyeliner, a sheer shirt (!), and an intense scowl as Karina ended their sparring match by sliding dramatically down his body and to the floor, then maintained his intent gaze into the camera, never once looking to his collapsed paramour. All this had me clapping and giggling with delight. “Am I gonna kill you or love you? It depends on the mood!” squealed Bruno. Correct! Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 25.

The couple’s instant cha cha cha truly lived up to its name, since Ralph’s injury prevented any actual rehearsal, and the couple was forced to rely on steps they learned for last week’s group-round routine. “A performer is what I am, and that’s what I’m gonna do,” declared Ralph, who wisely gave himself a rest for the opening bars of music by playing the role of injured guy who’s unsure about getting on the floor. Ralph’s “pony leg” move at the middle of the dance made me smile, but I wish he’d gone in for something flashier in the wardrobe department than black pants and a black shirt with orange sequined trim on the collar. I realize this was the least effective dance of the night, and I didn’t expect the judges to grade on a curve, but I wished they’d droned on a little less about Ralph’s shortcomings. Cut a guy with a baker’s cyst some slack! Dude practically needed to be carried out on a stretcher, and yet he still had a painfully awkward interview with Brooke ahead of him. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21. (Two-dance total: 46)

Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Argentine Tango (plus Instant Salsa)
I was elated to see Kirstie raise her technical level this week on an incredibly sexy Argentine Tango — especially after that scary incident in rehearsal where she practically collapsed from hunger and exhaustion and fell down the stage steps. (Girl, skipping lunch is never okay!) The dance itself had a strong and vibrant momentum — I was in total awe of that move where Maks dipped Kirstie backward and through his legs till she was parallel with the floor — and Kirstie’s precise flicks and languid intertwining with Maks provided unassailable proof that a lady can still have great gams at 60. Yeah, she looked totally knackered as she got her feedback from the judges, but that exhaustion was never evident during the unrelenting, difficult routine. Len was surprised Maks only took his hat off (while I was a little disappointed), but in my book, Kirstie rightfully scored her first “TEN!” of the season. Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 9; Bruno, 10. Total: 28.

The night closed with the couple’s Instant Salsa, which was preceded by Kirstie’s hilarious rehearsal query, “Will I instantly know how to do it?” I have to admit I wasn’t quite as impressed with the slow, slightly off-kilter execution here, but I appreciated the judges’ explanation that the deliberate pacing accentuated the rhythmic aspects of the dance more than we’d seen with Chelsea and Mark or Romeo and Chelsie. For her part, Kirstie spiced things up by dropping what I think was an s-bomb after Bruno pointed out she’d lost sync near the end, and Maks kept up the PG-13 antics by repeatedly goosing Tom’s backfield as he tossed the action over to Brooke. Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 9; Bruno, 8. Total: 25. (Two-dance total: 53).

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!

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. megslin says:

    Hines and Kym’s second dance of the night was by far my favorite as well! that 8 was sorely misplaced! They’ve got to win this competition! Hines NEEDS the Mirror Ball, the others just seem to think it’d be a nice accessory.

    • eric says:

      Megslin if u think that Hines is the sole person who needs the ‘ball’ then u r not looking over at the one who gives the most competition and is a fierce competitor, Ralph. But it is no cure for anything major lest we forget.

      • Zach says:

        Well, then, let’s be honest, Chelsea is most consistently giving the most technically impressive routines, not Hines or Ralph. But you know what? Kirstie is most consistently underscored, and the win would mean so much more to her than any of the others. Plus she has a lot more style and flair when she dances than the others.

  2. BristolP says:

    Slezak, you pick on Mark as much as cranky old Len does. Let it go. Mark spent 3 years with polarizing partners who couldn’t dance a lick because they gave the best ones to Derek, so now that he has a great partner he’s become a little “frantic” and that’s coming out as cocky. Okay. I don’t particularly find that endearing, but as you said, Mark is a great choreographer. I’ll go further to say he’s a fabulous choreographer and I’m getting tired of Len’s criticism which to me seems biased. Len will criticize Mark on something that the other choreographers get a pass for. He didn’t critique another dancer for the smoke that came out of the ground. He didn’t critique Hines and Kym for the green laser beams. So why pick on Mark?

    Mark hasn’t done half the great things he’s capable of.

    Now…enough about Mark. I thought all the dancers were good and I feel badly for Ralph. He’ll probably get the sympathy vote sending someone who can dance home and that would be a shame. So inasmuch as I’m enjoying both Kirstie and Ralph…it’s time for one of them to hang their dancing shoes up.

    Top 3 should be Romeo, Chelsea and Hines. I’m betting Hines wins, but I’m pushing for Chelsea. Last night she showed a maturity beyond her years by discussing her feelings with Mark. Not only discussing them, but not having a spoiled diva tantrum by playing to his ego…”I know this is your passion”. And hopefully Mark is sensitive enough to get it. I hope so because I really think Mark is one heckuva choreographer.

    • eric says:

      Dude what Slezak is speaking of is all over the net. If you don’t think he is out dancing his partners then you are in the minority and not aware of the dances

    • magreeda says:

      It would be hard for Len to criticize Hines and Kym for the laser beams when it was Chelsea and Romeo who used them in their dance.

  3. kellen says:

    i don’t get the praise for hines’ jive. there were clear flaws in his footwork, and yet he still gets two 9s. methinks carrie ann borrowed more from randy jackson than just a trite catch phrase (ie. over-hyping mediocre performances).

  4. wendeeloo says:

    Michael – You missed pointing out an idle Idol. Did you see Casey? They came in on a close-up of him after Chelsea’s first number. Speaking of him – his performance of Nature Boy on Regis&Kelly was one of his best (no growling).

  5. Amber says:

    Was it an S bomb? For some reason I was thinking it was an F U, but I’m not exactly a lip reader, so I’m probably wrong. I don’t think the instant dances were quite as stellar as they were last season, which is too bad because I was really looking forward to it. But some of them were still decent. Ralph’s plea of “this would be a terrible way to go out” completely broke my heart, and I’m still totally rooting for the guy. Kirstie is still hilarious to watch and I liked her sexy tango the best out of all the dances. Chelsey is a pretty talented dancer, and I liked her salsa the second best out of all the dances. It had a lot of energy, it was fun. She’s still not my favorite personality but I give the girl props for her natural ability to dance. Hines was very good, I liked his jive. I’m very much hoping tonight is the last we see of Romeo. I cannot connect with his performances and there is something very off about his chemistry with Chelsie. I think he believes he’s charming, but I find nothing charming about him. And his shameless self-promotion is annoying the crap out of me!

  6. Amy-Lin says:

    Thank you Michael for making me squeal in delighted laughter. Your comment on Chelsie H.’s costume was exactly what I could not find as I stared at it and fought the urge to vomit. That was truly scary. Was it intern week in the costume shop? I totally agree with the judges’ praise for Kirstie and Mak’s instant salsa. I have to admit, watching it in real time, I saw more salsa content than the others before them who fell back on the old shake it if you got it (or don’t got it, if we’re referring to the steps!) as a fail-safe!

  7. Steph says:

    And here I thought I was the only person who noticed how showy Mark is! It’s gotten way out of hand this season. I keep wondering if Chelsea is ever surprised by what he does… is he that showy in rehearsals?

  8. georgie says:

    Totally agree that Hines is always getting favoritism especially from Len and CARRIE ANN. Whoever voted for Hines, review his jive and look at his footwork. Hines himself knew he did terrible but he knew he would get away with it. Hines obviously gets votes for popularity NOT for his dancss. Do you ever wonder why they (producers) RARELY give him difficult, FAST dances? Obvious reason is that he cannot do them. Look at all his dances and compare to the other contestants and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Hines is very boring and NEVER does he improve or escalate. He does the same thing over and over again. Go home Hines — I think you are a nice guy, but you don’t come close to Chelsea or Ralph (or Romeo for that matter). I know this because I am a teacher of dances (15 years), and I look at your technique and you just don’t have what the others do week after week. Go Ralph and Chelsea!!!

  9. Dotie Robinson says: