Published March 25, 2009
On Monday’s episode of "Dancing With the Stars," Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, looked like dead meat after receiving a total score of 10 from the judges, the lowest score on the show since season 2. And Steve-O of "Jackass" looked like only slightly livelier meat, having received a very generous 15 and landing in second place.
But after the viewers’ votes were tallied and combined with the judges’ scores, neither Steve was in the bottom two. That dishonor went to the show’s two hotties, Hugh Hefner’s ex Holly Madison and actress Denise Richards, who went on to compete in the show’s new elimination-night dance-off. And even though Denise outscored Holly in the dance-off by two points, she was sent home.
What happened? Well, it’s complicated. At the end of Monday night’s show, the judges’ ranking stood as follows:
Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas: 27
Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke: 27
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: 27
Lil’ Kim and Derek Hough: 25
David Alan Grier and Kym Johnson: 24
Ty Murray and Chelsie Hightower: 23
Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough: 23
Lawrence Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska: 20 Holly Madison and Dmitry Chaplin: 17 Denise Richards and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 16 Steve-O and Lacey Schwimmer: 15 Steve Wozniak and Karina Smirnoff: 10
After the usual recap of Monday night’s action, with taped reactions from the couples (Wozniak and partner Karina Smirnoff gave viewers a preview of a new move they would debut next week, a surprisingly accurate rendition of the Pillsbury Doughboy belly poke and giggle), hosts Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris began naming—"in no particular order"—the couples who were "safe." Surprisingly, they named the judges’ three favorites first (usually the first ones announced are a mix of the obvious and the semi-interesting), then dropped the real bombshell: Steve Wozniak was going to have to dance again.
Karina shrieked, and the audience burst into wild applause. "I’m more shocked than any time in my life except maybe when I got served with divorce papers," Steve told Samantha later backstage, prompting a rare unforced laugh by Sam.
That left the other Steve, who continued to admit in interview segments that his poor performance on Monday was due to his forgetfulness and not any injury. But he still had to wait till the third elimination segment to hear that he and partner Lacey Schwimmer would be returning next week. (For no particular reason, Ty Murray and partner Chelsie Hightower were also left hanging until the end.)
Then it was up to Holly and partner Dmitry Chaplin to try to redeem themselves in the dance-off, but their samba looked like a replay of last night’s tepid, rickety affair. Still, the judges claimed to have seen a difference: Len Goodman said he detected extra hotness but also an extra mistake; Bruno Tonioli said that whereas yesterday Holly had been hotter in her much-discussed top area than in her neglected bottom area, today "you have no worries about the hotness, top, middle or bottom"; and Carrie Ann Inaba, praising the "party atmosphere" Holly always brought, noted approvingly that in the illegal lift, Holly’s foot spent significantly less time off the ground. That was enough for Carrie Ann to raise her score one point, giving Holly a total of 18.
Backstage, Samantha gave Dmitry a chance to make up for his failure yesterday to say that he liked working with Holly as much as with his original partner, Jewel. He rose to the occasion, saying, "I’m truly, truly, really proud of Holly and what she’s achieved already."
Denise’s dance-off performance was stiff, off tempo and unpleasant to watch (just like last night’s and, for that matter, like Holly’s two performances): You kept expecting either her high heels or her knees to shatter underneath her. Her hip motions were about as sensuous as a grandma playing with a hula hoop. It’s hard to imagine that Denise and Holly have ever seemed as unsexy as they did this week.
Somehow the judges and the studio audience (which gave Denise and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy a standing ovation) saw improvement. Bruno said, "I cannot believe, under this extremely difficult circumstance, how much you’ve improved from last night." Carrie said she showed a "different persona," and Len said she had proved that she deserved to stay. (Sorry, Holly!) Carrie Ann went up from a 5 to a 6, Len from a 6 to a 7, and Bruno from a 5 to a 7. Did the judges know that Denise’s viewer vote was so low that she was unsavable, so they might as well send her home feeling good about herself?
Adding ineptitude to injury, Samantha Harris had one of those brain-freeze moments that hardcore "DWTS" fans find so endearing. She apparently had been handed a paper with the judges’ scores before they were announced, and she said that Carrie Ann had held up the wrong paddle. (Confusingly, the onscreen display reversed Carrie Ann and Bruno’s scores.) Tom did his best to straighten it all out, and Maks lightened the mood by removing his shirt before the cut to commercials.
As we know by now, Denise’s higher score wasn’t enough to save her from what must have been a truly abysmal viewer vote. (Has she lost her sheen?) Denise and Holly were clearly a toss-up, but how did they both score worse than the Woz and the O? Maybe the thirtysomething-hottie-who-has-posed-for-Playboy voter bloc in the viewing audience is much smaller than the blocs of pudgy computer geeks and jackasses. Or maybe this outcome can be blamed on the dance-off: Viewers just couldn’t stand the idea of seeing either Steve dance twice in one week.
The usual elimination-night filler was a mixed bag. Hall and Oates appeared and performed their ’80s hit "Maneater." (They apparently didn’t sing this week’s snarky last-dance song for Denise, "She’s Gone.") It always makes one nervous when a pop group reappears after lying low for a while. Hall looked and sounded fine; it was probably just Oates’ makeup, but he kind of looked like he’d been to a plastic surgeon who actually works with plastic. As usual, the musical guests were upstaged by the dancers, in this case a heavily permed Karina, looking every bit the title character of the song. It’s always nice to see the pros who are stuck with the worst dancers get a chance to shine. Playing court to her were Dmitry, Tony Dovolani, and Karina’s fiancé, Maks, wearing various hot-guy tops (respectively, a silk shirt open to the waist, a wife beater and an open vest). At the end of the routine, Karina blew off Dmitry and Tony and chose Maks. Awww…
Then Adele performed her more recent hit, "Chasing Pavements," while Edyta Sliwinska and Alec Mazo, a show veteran, danced. Edyta’s blue bikini and matching mosquito netting totally stole the show.
Is it possible to be a Cloris Leachman fan and still hope she never appears on the show again? She and her partner from last season, Corky Ballas (Mark’s father), starred in a segment, narrated by Len, that described the new dances that will be featured next week, the Argentine tango and the Lindy hop. (According to Len, "lindy" means "young woman," but most dictionaries say it comes from Charles Lindbergh.) The joke during the Lindy demo was that Cloris is too old to move; the joke during the tango demo was that she was trying to seduce Corky by rubbing his crotch with her foot. Unless you enjoy watching Grandma play with a hula hoop, you probably didn’t laugh.
Worse was a taped segment in which the stars explained the dance-off rules. David Alan Grier said, "The bottom two are over here [gesturing toward the right]. What’s over here? [Gesturing to the left] The rest of the people." Chuck Wicks helpfully pointed out that "the good thing about the dance-off is that you get a second chance." And Ty Murray summed it up: "Everyone needs more ballroom."