Patriotism can be expressed in many different ways: Hanging a flag from your front porch, singing along with the National Anthem at the start of a sporting event, exercising your right to vote. But Monday night’s installment of Dancing With the Stars showed us that national pride can also bloom with the glistening thrust of a sculpted male torso, in the rhythmic heaving of a woman’s overripe bosoms, and through the hypnotic undulation of Kym Johnson’s zero-gravity-loom dress (among other red/white/blue/insane garments). Amber waves of grain? They’re so two-thousand-and-late. As national treasure Tom Bergeron explained it at the top of the show, in 2011, “we pledge allegiance to the mirrorball!”
Yes, my fellow ballroom obsessives, if you missed the memo, ’twas American Night on DWTS, which meant Robo Brooke Burke had to recite a line about “red, white and blue” and wonder why the show’s cryptic teleprompter programmers wanted her to talk about her favorite flavor of snow cone. Without further ado, let’s recap the action in chronological order.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: Samba
Calling Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” an appropriate musical companion to the samba makes about as much sense as, say, booking Insane Clown Posse for a guest spot on Sesame Street. But that’s exactly the ditty Ralph and Karina got saddled with, and even though former Karate Kid’s got lower-body action that resembles the Tin Man during monsoon season, there’s also no denying that he’s one of the most entertaining hoofers in the competition. Here’s a 49-year-old who fills the floor with boyish enthusiasm — his every arm extension fully committed, his every smile completely genuine, his every attempt to infuse the Latin party dance with an added boost of “cowboy” charm utterly “aw shucks, ma’am.” Carrie Ann was right that the routine was vivacious, but I couldn’t disagree with Bruno that it needed “fire down below.” The highlight of judging arrived when the wacky Italian cried, “Give me sex, man!” (much to Len’s exaggerated horror). Later, when Karina suggester her partner take Bruno out for a meal, Tom countered “I don’t know if you were listening, Ralph, but Bruno doesn’t just want dinner!” Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 22.
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke: Viennese Waltz
Chris’ comic timing may not have come in handy during the couple’s elegant routine this week, but it sure didn’t hurt their pre- and post-performance moments. He donned Cheryl’s scarf on his head, babushka-style, gave us a hilarious impersonation of Len rambling about the importance of staying true to a “300-year-old dance,” and recounted how he reacted to meeting Cheryl like a 13-year-old child at a Justin Bieber concert. Chris seemed determined this week to prove himself a true contender for the mirrorball trophy, and while I felt like he let his partner do a lot of the heavy lifting, there’s no denying the bad-boy wrestler tamed his inner beast and floated over the floor like an elegant military officer. The neckline of Cheryl’s dress, which was cut down to the southern tip of Texas, brought an unfortunate comment from Len about his delight in seeing her “rocky mountains,” so if the couple was perhaps a bit overscored, then maybe it was just restitution. Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 26.
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin: Quickstep
Petra grew up in the Czech Republic — with no exposure to Elvis — but whether it’s the fact that English is her second language or that inside her chest beats the highly polished heart of a professional pageant contestant, every one of her on-camera statements makes her sound like she’s wandered in off the set of the direct-to-DVD Miss Congeniality 3, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. (This film does not yet exist, but do you really want to bet that someday it won’t?) Petra is most definitely a sweetie, but much like her personality, her dancing is as stiff as a pair of jeans coming off the clothesline, and that puts her at risk of following Sugar Ray Leonard in the season 12 exit order. Still, while it has to be said that Petra seemed to occasionally fall behind during this quickstep, and that Len is right about her head and neck getting a little “cranky,” it’s also worth pointing out that Dmitry’s choreography was lightning-paced and fairly complicated, and that Petra’s Far From Heaven-meets-Goldfinger gown was the prettiest of the night. In my scorebook, that frock alone should buy her at least one more week in the competition. Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 22.
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: Fox Trot
There have been a couple weeks this season where I felt like the judges scored Romeo a little higher than he deserved, but from where I was sitting, his fun-yet-refined Fox Trot to “New York, New York” was the best of the evening. Romeo’s posture in hold was tremendous, and he brought a little added flair to his solo spins and extensions, without ever abandoning the character of the dance. The tux, tails, and top hat didn’t hurt, either, but more important was the fact that the rapper-actor has realized that it is useless to resist the siren lure of the ballroom. I’m not sure what about this performance warranted a lower score from Len than Hines’ subsequent rhumba, but looking for consistency in the judges’ scores would be harder than keeping a running tally of sequins to hit the floor this season. Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 26.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: Rhumba
Speaking of judging discrepancies, while last week, I complained that Hines and Kym were underscored for their Paso Doble, this week I felt like Carrie Ann, Len, and Bruno were a little too generous with their paddles after the couple’s Rhumba. Don’t get me wrong, there was a sweet sensuality to Hines’ performance, and Kym’s dress brought together magically floating patterns of long, luscious white threads, but the routine itself felt a little too simplistic to snag a trio of 9s. When Hines revealed to Brooke that he spent a lot of his rehearsal time away from Kym this week, I wasn’t at all surprised: Aside from that final move where Hines lifted Kym and she donned his hat, the routine was more about competence than excellence, right down to the overly loose fit of Hines’ white military garb. Then again, maybe the judges automatically upgraded their scores from 8s to 9s to reward Hines for somehow managing to merge the raunchiest dance in the Latin repertoire with the almost absurdly star-spangled
“Proud to Be an American” “God Bless the U.S.A.” Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 9; Bruno, 9. Total: 27.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Fox Trot
Regardless of where they end up on the leaderboard week in and week out, Kirstie and Maks are without a doubt the glittering centerpiece of season 12. Kirstie somehow manages to play it irreverent (the way she reacts with stunned horror to Robo Brooke’s inane questions is a thing of beauty) while still being completely serious about her desire to capture the mirrorball trophy. What’s more, this pairing has brought Maks’ playful, nurturing qualities to the forefront, while obliterating the egotistical taskmaster persona he once worked so hard to maintain. I loved the pair’s rehearsal footage this week, with Kirstie announcing, “I want to be the front-runner,” and Maks replying, “you’re my front-runner.” Even the “wacky” segment with John Travolta as the pair’s “dance doctor” had me laughing, with the actor asking Maks, “do you tell her you love her enough?” and the DWTS pro answering yes, but only in Russian.
Okay, okay…I’m burying the headline: The couple’s fox trot to “American Woman” began with Kirstie writhing sexily on the dais and Maks tearing off his skimpy shirt to and performing in nothing more than a pair of black leather pants (along with a makeshift “tattoo” of the American flag across the right side of his ribcage). Not since Betsy Ross has one person done so much good for Old Glory. There was a lot of bumping and grinding going on during the routine — perhaps more than would normally be tolerated during a fox trot — but Kirstie continued to prove exceptionally light of foot, even if her electric blue pantsuit with sheer, sparkly center panel was not her most flattering wardrobe choice this season. Carrie Ann called the dance “bold, ambitious, and borderline crazy,” while Bruno couldn’t resist the urge to proposition Maksim: “Are you taking direct bookings by the way, or do I have to go through an agent?” he barked, to which Maks leaned into the mic and growled, “I’m expensive.” From his perch above the stage, Ralph Macchio appeared positively dumbfounded by all the exposed flesh, but Kirstie explained that it was all ’60s-era appropriate. “Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix — none of them wore shirts,” she reasoned. “Rightfully so.” Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 8. Total: 23.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel: Fox Trot
My sister Kathy called me at the end of the episode to insist that Kendra is the “poop in the punch bowl” of an otherwise awesome DWTS season, and I can’t say I disagree. The Playboy star spent her entire pre-performance package griping how she was made to feel like “trash” by Carrie Ann’s Classical Week feedback that she seemed “afraid of elegance,” which makes me wonder what Kendra would do if she got one of Ralph’s “monster hands” critiques or if Louis had ever choreographed her crawling out of a doghouse. (Maybe next week?) Speaking of Louis, I’m not sure why he didn’t make use of ABC cross-promotional synergy to call in SuperNanny and give Kendra a time-out on the naughty step, but perhaps forcing his “star” to doff her hat and march around like a parade pony to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — while clad in a skirt that looked like “grand-opening bunting over trollop-y thigh-high socks” — was punishment enough. Carrie Ann called it the “most patriotic dance of the night,” which seemed like feeble praise for a routine that caused her to break out the ‘8’ paddle. Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 22.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas: Samba
The minute Mark started polishing his gas pump (less dirty than it sounds) while sporting an open denim vest (and no shirt), my mind was transported back to Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” video. But nope, it was time for Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” (the polar musical opposite of The Boss’ “Born in the U.S.A.,” according to many respected musicologists). Chelsea was energetic and precise in her moves, but as is always the case in Mark’s routines, he often added a little extra flair to his own steps (particularly in the side-by-side hip thrusts), which made his partner’s spins and shimmys seem somewhat muted by comparison. I’m not sure who Len was referring to when he shouted “yum yum what a bum!” but he’s right that the overall effect was party (and not a Tupperwear one, either). Still, anyone wonder if Chelsea joking to her seven competitors ,”I love everyone and I hate you all at the same time,” might work against her in terms of the viewer vote? Scores: Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 8; Bruno, 9. Total: 26.
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.