Published April 28, 2009
“Bachelor” star Melissa Rycroft was unable to perform on tonight’s live broadcast of “Dancing With the Stars” because of an injury. Her one-night absence may lead to her elimination from the show.
According to the show’s arcane rules, if a star can’t dance live, the judges score him or her on the most recent rehearsal footage. In this case, Melissa and her partner, Tony Dovolani, clearly weren’t even trying to put on a good performance. And Melissa took another hit in the team competition, in which the remaining contestants were divided into groups of three to perform ensemble numbers. Her team was soundly defeated, partly because the judges (here’s those rules again) were unable to factor in the performance of Melissa’s replacement, Lacey Schwimmer. But the team’s poor score will be added to Melissa’s total.
Melissa’s combined scores left her solidly at the bottom of the judges’ rankings, just a week after she had come in first. The new leaders are rapper Lil’ Kim and actor Gilles Marini, both of whom were members of the winning team.
Gilles and his partner, Cheryl Burke, were the first to perform tonight, and their rehearsal footage was all about Gilles’ injured shoulder. We saw him going to the doctor and getting a scary-looking shot of cortisone, which, he told us, relieved the pain sufficiently to allow him to keep dancing. He was still having trouble with lifts, however, and Cheryl seemed to be getting genuinely impatient with him.
Their performance, a Lindy hop, was generally trouble-free. Gilles, who was sporting a several-inch-high pompadour, was trying to show his comic side, which turned out to be no substitute for his romantic, dramatic side. And some of the landings on those lifts were a bit clumsy.
Judge Len Goodman said that we could now add the Lindy to the list of things the French are famous for—in addition to toast, fries and kissing. Len seemed to be relying on a team of cut-rate comedy writers tonight. Bruno Tonioli could have used a writer; he praised Gilles’ sense of comedy while pointing out a “tiny bit of a mee-mee-ew-ugh-gagh.” Carrie Ann Inaba said the performance was “fantastic.” The judges gave Gilles and Cheryl straight 9’s.
Lil’ Kim turned in a clearly superior performance but got only one point more. In rehearsal, she and her partner, Derek Hough, said that to come back from their fifth-place finish last week, they would have to follow the judges’ advice and let Kim be Kim. “You know who you are?” Derek asked her. “You are a performer, and you are Sassy Queen Bee.” “I know,” said Kim, “and she is back with a vengeance.”
Despite all that blather, the couple’s paso doble was the best dance of the night. Kim moved with a grace and elegance that made you forget how lil’ she is. The couple took advantage of the drama inherent in the “dance of the bullfight” without resorting to mime or playing with capes.
“The bitch is back, and she means business,” yelled Bruno. Carrie Ann lapsed into dance-critic jargon: “Your pictures were so refined, so elegant. The resistance in your shape was gorgeous.” Len (apparently) went back to the notes from his writers: “I was expecting ‘Oh, no,’ and I got ‘Olé!’ ” (What do you do if you’ve paid for a writer to come up with a line like that, and then the performance is bad? Would Len have said, “I expected ‘Olé!’ and I got ‘Oh, no’ ”?) Carrie Ann and Len gave 9’s; Bruno gave a 10 with his customary fist pump. (“The new rule of thumb,” said host Tom Bergeron, “is if Bruno stands up for the entire critique, it’s a 10.”)
Country singer Chuck Wicks and his partner/girlfriend, Julianne Hough, didn’t really have a theme for their rehearsal footage, so before it, she slapped him and kneed him in the crotch for no reason. In their cha-cha, Julianne wore a tight, sparkly, fringey blue outfit that highlighted all her tight, sparkly, fringey charms. When you were able to turn your attention to Chuck, he seemed to be keeping up, but the performance was all about Julianne.
Carrie Ann, however, claimed to have noticed that Chuck had good hip action, and she said he was definitely in the game. The guys, who probably had forgotten Chuck had been dancing, jumped on Carrie Ann’s observation and praised his hip action while saying that his arms were off.
“I know you were enjoying the lower regions,” said Bruno, sounding dirty as usual. After Carrie Ann and Len gave 9’s, Bruno smirked a little and gave an 8.
Another professional who was a little too front-and-center tonight was Mark Ballas, who started things off on the wrong foot by telling his celebrity partner, gymnast Shawn Johnson, that she needed to be more feminine when dancing the samba. Then he tried to demonstrate himself how to move like a girl. It was probably a good idea to bring in his mother, Shirley, who’s a Latin-dance champion.
Performing to Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down on It,” Mark was a little manic, and Shawn was (literally) perfectly competent. The judges were all over the place, but they were all correct.
“Good isn’t good enough,” said Len. “The dress was doing most of the work.”
“It was a good samba,” said Bruno. “You’re not a wild child. You’re not Lady GaGa yet.”
“I don’t think the goal of this competition is being Lady GaGa,” Carrie Ann said sensibly. (“It is for Bruno,” said Tom.)
“What I’m looking for is great technique, a solid performance, nailing every step,” said Carrie Ann. “That’s what I saw tonight.”
Then, deviating further from the truth, she added, “You are sort of getting this sexy thing on.”
In an unusually diverse set of scores, Carrie Ann gave a 10, Len an 8, and Bruno a 9. Again, they were all correct.
Because “Dancing With the Stars” cannot let an injury pass unreplayed, we got to see Melissa Rycroft hurting her rib (or re-hurting it) while rehearing the jive with Tony Dovolani. She evidently suffered a hairline fracture, but she managed to make it through dress rehearsal, where she provided the footage that might prove her undoing.
Wearing just a black bra and jeans (does a lower-back tattoo go with her America’s-sweetheart image?), she was clearly, as the judges pointed out, just “marking” her performance (literally going through the motions).
“It’s a bit like judging a race-car driver on the warm-up lap,” said Len. But rules are rules, and the judges gave her and Tony straight 7’s, by far the worst score of the night.
Rodeo champ Ty Murray and his partner, Chelsie Hightower, had by far the best rehearsal segment of the night. First Ty tried to explain to her Len’s comment from the week before about his Viennese waltz: “Had more rise and fall than a bride’s nightie.”
“Like on the honeymoon,” Ty said to Chelsie.
“What?” she replied, looking puzzled.
“You’ll figure it out one of these days,” he said, smiling.
“Ewww!” she said.
Then Chelsie tried to get him to shimmy for their salsa, to predictably bad results. After pro Dmitry Chaplin came in to help Ty, Chelsie pointed out that Ty literally paled in comparison and told him he needed to go in for a spray tan. His nonplussed expression as they slipped a hairnet on his head made up for the so-so dance that followed.
Maybe having Ty and Chelsie dance a salsa to the Ides of March’s “Vehicle” was the producers’ way of continuing the comedy from the rehearsal segment. But Ty worked through it, putting Chelsie through some impressive spins but eventually losing the beat and looking more as if he were doing a two-step.
“I loved it,” said Carrie Ann. “That was a salsa.”
Len launched into an extended simile about how Ty’s time on “Dancing With the Stars” is like a bull ride, then got down to brass tacks: “Unless you really perform in this group tango, I think it’s time you hit the trail.”
“Maybe it was the spray tan,” said Bruno. “You just went wild.” Then Bruno went wild showing Ty how to move his hips.
Carrie Ann gave a 9, Len a 7, and Bruno an 8.
For the group-dance competition, the stars were divided into Team Mambo, with Shawn, Chuck and Melissa (to be replaced by Lacey), and Team Tango, with Gilles, Lil’ Kim and Ty. After their rehearsal footage, Team Mambo performed to Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies.” Tony and Lacey took the first solo, which was probably not a good idea because her performance would not affect the judges’ score. Shawn and Mark were tight as usual, and Chuck and Julianne did some tricky moves. But the entire performance was overshadowed by the end, in which the guys tore off their partners’ skirts, then hopped up on the judges’ table, where they removed their own shirts and trousers to reveal sparkly black leotards and white tights.
Len praised Lacey for stepping in at the last minute. The predictably overexcited Bruno said, “Something definitely stood out tonight. Boys, could you step forward?” Tony and Chuck kept their hands crossed over their crotches, so it’s not clear what Bruno was referring to.
Carrie Ann said she found the end “a little distracting” and said the music was more fun than the performance. She and Len gave 8’s; Bruno a 9, with a rather fey hand wave, as if to say he wasn’t going to get excited about topping the others’ score unless it produced a 10. Therefore, each of the three couples had 25 added to their individual score.
Continuing the male-exhibitionist theme, Team Tango’s routine started with the shirtless Gilles and Ty carrying Kim onto the stage. (The song, Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” didn’t really work with that bit of choreography.) Kim and Derek looked like potential champs in their solo; Gilles and Cheryl were, surprisingly, a little low-energy. (The rehearsal footage showed them bickering again.) The end of the routine, with all three couples dancing in sync, looked like a professional number. (Which raises a question: If that’s high praise, why are we watching a show in which most dances fall far short of that standard?)
“Team Tango, you were like a pack of voracious raptors,” said Bruno. “The end sequence gave me goose bumps.”
“I think Team Tango takes it,” said Carrie Ann.
“The unison work at the end was flawless.” Len pointed out that Lil’ Kim made a mistake and Gilles had bad footwork, but he concluded by saying that Ty nailed it, as Len had said he would need to do in order to stay in the competition. Carrie Ann and Len gave the performance 9’s; Bruno gave it a 10, but with that little flourish again instead of the fist pump. (If he can’t pretend to care, can he expect us to?) So each member of the team received an additional 28 points.
Things got odd backstage with co-host Samantha Harris. As Team Tango received its scores, Chelsie’s and Lil’ Kim’s hair clips or earrings got stuck together. Then Derek wheeled around and fell to the floor; he either fainted or was goofing around. Samantha took this in stride, saying, “I’ll get him in a second.”
We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see if Derek is all right, if Kim and Chelsie have been separated, and if Melissa is going to be sent home because of two performances she didn’t get to make.