Skeletons, she-devils, and werewolves populated the ballroom on this week’s Dancing With the Stars, along with a robot cohost that, possibly experiencing a sugar rush from a “fun-size” Halloween candy, briefly strayed from her cue cards in a moment of giddy awkwardness. Thank heavens for emcee Tom Booo-geron, who presided over the festivities with the kind of campy glee that was absent for too much of the 90-minute telecast.
Tom’s interaction with a giant CGI spider, his references to “Scare-old Wheeler and the Zombie Orchestra,” even his gentle chiding of Bruno’s interminable critiques added a sugary balance to the bitterness of Maksim Chmerkovskiy, muzzled either by himself or the show’s producers, treating his time on the show like the end of a long and miserable prison sentence, and treating his partner Hope Solo like a pesky inanimate object.
I couldn’t believe my eyes viewing that rehearsal footage of Maks violently twirling Hope like a broom — despite her feeble protests — then Derek coming to Hope’s aid to try to teach her the dance steps that her pro partner seemed unwilling to review. I’ve long been a Maksim fan, and I didn’t even scoff last week when he took partial credit for making DWTS what it is — so have all the pros, really! — but regardless of his feud with the judges, it’s his job to bring out the best in his celebrity partner and to entertain the audience, not act like a mean-spirited child who drops a turd in the Halloween candy bowl.
Anyhow, let’s review how Halloween Week played out:
Dance of the Night: Team Paso (Paso Doble)
No surprise that the judges used the “group dance” round to put some distance between their favored child Ricki and her biggest threat for the mirrorball (J.R.) — heck, even Hope is ahead of J.R. on the leaderboard now! — but frankly, Team Paso earned its big advantage. The synchronized cape-whipping was a delight, and each spotlighted duet was sensational — especially the suddenly steely Hope and Maks. The whole shebang was so fun, I even got a laugh from Rob Kardashian sharing that his work with Derek and Maks increased his sexual confidence. (!)
Runner-Up: Ricki Lake and Derek Hough (Paso Doble)
Granted, we’ve already seen Ricki and Derek do the victim-predator act to more spectacular effect — who can forget their “Psycho” tango? — but this week’s performance as Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf (set to Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams”) was full of attack and panache. Ricki’s series of skirt-lifted spins was so lightning fast I gasped with glee, although her rehearsal package raised two questions: Why was that random armoire sitting in the corner of the room? And what kind of doctor doesn’t raise even the slightest objection to his patient’s decision to continue a ballroom dancing competition despite a badly inflamed nerve in her rib? Curious and curious-er.
Will Go Home: Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus (Jive)
The show’s producers did everything short of setting up a tripwire to send Nancy into a nasty faceplant to indicate this should be her final week of competition. I mean, seriously, a ballroom dance set to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”? Why not just set her Jive to the music of the Emergency Broadcast Signal? Alas, Nancy obliged with a dance full of stilted movements, “what’s happening to me?” facial expressions, and even a devil-horns malfunction. The woman might be a bit of a grouch, but did she really need Brooke kicking off her post-dance interview by blurting, “You’re 52!”
Should Go Home: Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Samba)
Hope certainly showed improvement this week with her Samba, but while Carrie Ann was correct that the soccer star showed a “brightness of spirit” (or in other words, her facial expression didn’t resemble someone headed for the guillotine), there’s still something painfully labored about the way she moves across the floor. In other words, Maks and Hope aren’t nearly exciting enough as a dancing duo to make up for the absence of jaunty fun in their rehearsal and post-dance interview footage. Anyone notice how Maks was deliberately mute this week, or how Hope pretty much dissed her pro’s teaching style by noting Maks’ rehearsal sub (DWTS Troupe’s Teddy) “actually helped me learn this very quickly.” Yikes.
Deserved a Special ’10!’ Paddle for Costume Alone: J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff (Tango)
I can’t even remember what J.R. was wearing, and I don’t even care if their dance had a couple of flaws (although, to my untrained eye, the footwork looked equal parts fleet and complicated). Let’s talk about Karina’s ethereal white feather cape over a nude bodysuit with sequined skeleton! Frock of the season, and most definitely among DWTS‘ Top 5 garments of all-time! Add this to the list of reasons I’m rooting with every bone in my skeleton to see Karina hoist that Mirrorball Trophy at season’s end. (C’mon, hasn’t Derek won enough?)
Only People Who Seem to Still Be Fully Embracing the Camp: David Arquette and Kym Johnson (Cha Cha Cha)
David probably isn’t going to show much more of the “improvement” the judges seem to emphasize in their weekly critiques, but I can’t help but enjoy any contestant daft/game enough to channel a “vampire magician,” rock white spats over his black patent-leather shoes, and gleefully endure a silly-string malfunction at the end of his performance. I just wonder what trick got misplaced backstage, which of their rivals stole it (oh, c’mon, you know someone did!), and whether ot not David knew he had the aforementioned silly string attached to his heel as he sprinted up the stairway to get his scores.
Brace Yourselves for Their Inevitable Sprint to the Finals: Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke (Tango)
DWTS is all but acknowledging that Season 13 is all about Ricki, J.R., and a Third Person to Be Determined at the Last Possible Moment. Increasingly, though, it seems like the judges, producers, and now even Robo Brooke Burke are pushing for that third person to be the brother of that chick who filed for divorce after 72 days of her televised-for-profit wedding and yet still doesn’t get any protests about how she’s an affront to the sanctity of marriage. Did you notice how Brooke broke from her cue cards and demanded the “non-P.C. answer” from Rob to her query about whether he could envision himself in the finals? Why is it so hard to see David and Kym or Nancy and Tristan or even Carson and Anna or Chynna and Tony in that slot? (Okay, so two out of four have already been booted. Still…) To their credit, Rob and Cheryl did a nice job of bringing to life The Addams Family theme, but to my eyes, this guy still looks like he’s lumbering around the floor and desperately trying to follow Cheryl’s lead — the same way he has since Week 1.
Injury That Need Not Be Verbalized in Future Episodes
“My right butt cheek is killing me.” –Rob Kardashian
Line of the Night
“There’s nothing wrong with a bum as long as you know what to do with it!” –Crazy-person Bruno “critiquing” Rob’s dance
Brooke-ism of the Night
“Vote, or somebody could be leaving the ballroom.” Um, honey, somebody is leaving the ballroom whether or not I vote. That’s how your show works!
And now, for this week’s scores
Judges’ Leaderboard (Carrie Ann, Len, Bruno: Total + Team Dance Score)
Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: 9, 9, 9: 27 (+26) = 53
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: 9, 8, 8: 25 (+26) = 51
Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 8, 8, 8: 24 (+26) = 50
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: 9, 8, 8: 25 (+23) = 48
David Arquette and Kym Johnson: 8, 8, 8: 24 (+23) = 47
Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus: 7, 7, 7: 21 (+23) = 44
What did you think of this week’s DWTS? Who was your favorite couple? Where do you stand on the Maksim-Hope partnership? Who do you think will and should go home? Sound off below! And for all my reality TV news and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.