Dancing With The Stars

Dancing With the Stars: Week 8 (May 6)

Here we are for the 99th episode of Dancing with the Stars. That’s one episode for every Luftballon, you know. (Is it sad that I remember that song got Albert Reed and Anna eliminated last season? It’s probably a little sad.)

Now that everybody’s doing two dances, I’m going to stick with Myndi’s format and list each competitor’s dances together. Basically, I steal all of my ideas from her. I’ll be hosting a seder later this month.

Last week, Cristian de la Fuente’s tendon ruptured, but he stayed in the competition anyway, because he is apparently some sort of cyborg. Shannon Elizabeth was eliminated, and had her ten thousandth crying jag of the competition. Jason Taylor finally outscored Kristi Yamaguchi, and the judges got tired of arguing with Tony and decided that, henceforth, they’d be allowed one lift per dance. We call this the “Jason Bonus”, since he can toss his partner around like a rag doll. Poor Cristian can’t even lift a juice box right now.

Hey, Tom Bergeron! I’m writing a poem and I need a rhyme for “jive”, “strive”, and “endive”. Any suggestions? Oh, yeah – Liiiiiiiiiiiive!!!!

I feel like we’ve seen Samantha Harris’ dress before. Maybe she just wears that color more often. My sister IM’d me to tell me that she loves Samantha’s dress. Tom reminds us that Kristi dropped out of first place last week, and Samantha reminds us that “Shannon’s padded butt was kicked out of the competition.” OK, that’s kind of funny. They remind us about the new lift rule, and also mention that they aren’t required to do the lifts. Naturally, there is a shot of Cristian at this point.

First up are Kristi and Mark. Wow, Len gave them 8’s on both their dances last week. He was in a bit of a mood. This makes Kristi even more determined, or so she says. She does not exactly have the Eye of the Tiger. She is disappointed when Mark says they won’t do a lift in their samba. Really, I think the lifts benefit the male stars more anyway. The act of lifting seems more impressive than the act of being lifted. Mark doesn’t think that lifts fit the samba. Of course, it turns out Jason and Edyta will also be doing a samba, and I’ve got five dollars that say they’ll find a way to work one in.

Mark suddenly has a weird voice at the end of the rehearsal footage. I’m not sure if he’s doing an accent on purpose of if he just went crazy for a moment. I think he becomes British in times of stress. Anyway, he brings out a mat so they can practice the lift for the quick step. (I have never typed “lift” so often in my life, and I once wrote a travelogue about British elevators.) We see them doing a move where Mark lays on his back and he lifts Kristi with his legs. In my family, we call that “Superman”, but there’s probably a proper dancing term. There are some shots of Mark not doing a very good job of lifting Kristi. I fear for her skull.

They lead with their Quick Step (29 out of 30). They actually have an old-timey ballroom song, which helps. It’s a really nice dance, with a lot of changes in tempo. Unlike a lot of performances we’ve seen on this show, it really is quick. When they break hold, Kristi sort of looks adorably goofy. She really seems like she’s having fun. It’s not particularly memorable, but the quality is high. Len really likes it, which is a nice change from last week. Bruno points out subtle things that I will ever notice. Carrie Ann thinks they were out of sync, and the other judges disagree with her. Samantha says they were “rocking it”, which is not a phrase that is regularly used in reference to A) Ballroom dancing, and B) Kristi Yamaguchi.

For their Samba (26 out of 30), Mark appears to be wearing pajamas. The dance has a level of excitement that you don’t usually get from Kristi – she’s usually so technical and precise, but there’s a real energy here. She really seems into it, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. It certainly does not suffer from the lack of a lift. There are some really nice moments where Mark spins Kristi. Obviously, she’s fairly comfortable with this after all the figure skating, but it looks really cool. It’s a very big dance with a lot of quick extensions, and it looks fantastic. Carrie Ann didn’t care for it, which floors me. She thought it was too ambitious and out of control. And after all those weeks of telling her she’s too inhibited… Len likes the routine but thinks it lost the rhythm. Bruno liked it and was impressed by the level of the challenge. I really thought they’d go nuts over this one. Shows what I know. Samantha asks if viewer votes are important. Kristi confirms that they are. How many times do you think Samantha has asked that question in ninety-nine episodes?

Overall Score: 55 out of 60

Next it’s Mario and Karina. Referencing last week, they keep talking about stiffness, and how Mario needs to be stiffer. I giggle, because I’m nine. There’s a montage of Mario dropping Karina. You know, that’s got to be kind of terrifying. To be a professional dancer and have your livelihood depend on perfect movement, and suddenly you’re trusting some dude to not accidentally injure you – that’s got to be going through Karina’s mind, you know?

They decide to practice lifts in the pool. This means Karina gets to wear a bikini. I have no complaints. Mario keeps dropping her in the water. Might be time to bail on those lifts, I would think. Mario hopes to prove that he’s “not just a Latin dancer”. Did he somehow become synonymous with Latin dance when I wasn’t watching?

Their Viennese Waltz (27 out of 30) begins with the most awkward walk down the stairs I’ve ever seen. It looks a bit like a mishmash to me. I get the feeling Mario’s not nailing the tempo, because sometime Karina is a little ahead, and sometimes it looks like she’s struggling to keep up. It’s hard to be sure, because she’s doing all sorts of elaborate poses, but he doesn’t seem to be contributing a lot to the overall experience. The lift at the end seems to be a lift for lift’s sake. It’s impressive, but it didn’t seem to fit. Bruno calls him ‘Prince Mario’ and gushes a bit. Carrie Ann realizes too late that she actually called it “nice and stiff – the way I like it”, and everybody has a good laugh and breathes a sigh of relief that Carolla is nowhere in sight. Len says Mario’s ballroom usually reminds him of “Britney Spears getting out of a car”. Ha! Anyway, Len compliments his elegance this time out. Have to say, I don’t love Mario the way the judges do. Samantha asks Mario to do his impression of Len, and it sounds, well, nothing like Len.

Time for the Jive (26 out of 30)! Mario sort of cartwheels over Karina as she’s sitting on the stairs, which is kind of cool. He does that thing he keeps doing where he stops dancing altogether for a few seconds to get into position for the next move. Why don’t the judges ever nail him on that? It’s always hard to judge the jive because it’s so spazzy – there’s always that bit where they break hold and run in place, and I never know what to make of it. Mario does a few nice moves, but they seem more Broadway than ballroom to me. There’s a lift at the end where he swings Karina around, but it looks kind of awkward. I’m pretty sure I actually saw fear in her eyes at one point. Apparently, Tom was worried too. Len didn’t like the roughness, and thinks Mario’s feet are big and ugly. Bruno loved it, and says it exemplified Rock ‘n’ Roll. Carrie Ann liked his flavor, but not his feet. By the way, Tom introduces the band after this song. I can’t remember a time when he didn’t do it after the first song, so now I’ve lost my bearings. And why does that one singer wear a tiara or other headgear every week? Does she have one of those Suri Cruise forehead divots that she needs to hide? Also, conductor Harold Wheeler will be receiving the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award next month. Good for him! I honestly don’t know him from anything but this show, but I’m sure he’s a good guy. Samantha asks Mario where his positive attitude comes from, and he says a lot of things that don’t match up to the question.

Overall Score: 53 out of 60

Tom reminds us that our next star had her highest scores last week, and still ended up in the Bottom Two. That can only mean we’re looking at Marissa and Tony. She manages to compare being in the Bottom Two to her battle with cancer. True, she does allow that cancer was worse, but still. That’s just not a card you want to play too often. Marissa is excited that they’re “this close to the final three”, which is pretty much all anybody who isn’t Kristi or Jason can hope for. Tony is very proud of Marissa, and he’s putting a lift in the dance because she’s capable of anything. Again, I’m not sure how getting lifted proves that. Now, if she lifted Tony, you’d really be making a point.

For their Foxtrot (25 out of 30), Tony is wearing a shirt for the first time ever, and he seems confused. He’s suddenly overcompensating, because he’s emoting all over the place, and his arm movements have all kinds of extra snap. The possibility that people might be looking at something other than Tony is very upsetting to Tony. It seems a little “family talent show” to me. Something about it just seems like what your weird cousins rehearse in the living room so they can put on a show at Easter. It’s not even that it’s amateurish, it’s just not particularly interesting. The choreography is kind of rote – there’s just not much going on here. Carrie Ann loves her joy and her smile. No mention of dancing, but Carrie Ann doesn’t always keep her eyes on the prize. Len says she looks better in hold than out, which he finds surprising. Bruno compares her to Ethel Merman, and criticizes her for “stumping around”. Samantha asks how it felt to come back from the Bottom Two. Surprisingly, Marissa does not answer with “How do you think it feels to be almost eliminated? Like a warm spring day?”

Their Mambo (25 out of 30) begins with Marissa over-emoting. Seriously, how do you wink that big? It seems kind of sedate. There are some nice sections, but it’s not really bursting with life or anything. It’s hard to find anything to write about because there wasn’t anything notable jumping out at me. At the end, Marissa does a crouching toe spin like Kristi and acquits herself surprisingly well. The beginning is pretty wobbly, but by the end, she and Tony smooth it out. All in all, it didn’t rock my world, but I can’t point to anything that was bad, either. Bruno likes that she “can do sexy”. I think Bruno uses the word “sexy” more than anybody, ever. He probably called his lunch “sexy”. Carrie Ann likes her commitment but criticizes her for biffing the spin at the end. Len thinks it was too dainty, which is really just the British way of saying what I thought. Marissa tells Samantha that she’s happy to be part of the 100th show, “because it’s history”. That might be stretching it, but it really is kind of awesome. I hope she’s not sad when she’s eliminated tomorrow.

Overall Score: 50 out of 60

Last week’s top couple, Jason and Edyta, are up next. Jason wins the Piers Morgan Memorial Award for Excellence in Stating the Obvious when he says that the legal lifts “might” give him an advantage. He then lifts a tractor over his head. Edyta is concerned that Jason might not get into the character of the samba, so the gives him a wig, frilly shirt, and maracas. He looks like South American Little Richard. Next, Edyta takes him to get a spray tan. Jason points out that he has a certain God-given tan, but he still ends up in the box. It does not seem to make a difference, but it’s pretty funny.

I always like a good Tango (29 out of 30), and this is certainly a good tango. It’s nice and aggressive, and he really gives the impression that he’s leading. There aren’t a lot of fireworks on his end, but he’s hitting his steps and holding his poses. Edyta’s doing all kinds of cool things where she wraps her limbs around various parts of him. There’s an intensity that’s noticeable, but not over the top. I thought I saw a misstep right before the lift, but that might have been the camera angle. And then, of course, he hoists her over his head and walks around for a while. Edyta, by the way, is wearing one of those mesh, see-through dresses with solid black obstructing her naughty bits. It makes it seem like she’s dancing without underwear and the censors had to use black bars to protect the children. Len says it’s too much like an Argentine tango, which seems fairly pedantic for a celebrity competition. Bruno cuts him off, so we really don’t get too hear when Len is going with that. Bruno hates how beautiful they are and says that it’s the best Edyta has ever danced. Easy there, Bruno. Need I remind you of one Mr. John Ratzenberger? Carrie Ann loves their posture, and finds them “intriguingly great”. Samantha asks how Jason’s experience as an athlete helps him in this physical, some might say athletic, competition. It turns out, it’s helpful to be an athlete. Jason is very cool to remind Samantha that it’s not just he and Kristi, but that everybody is dancing well. I’m pretty sure next week’s episode is just called Dancing with Jason and Kristi.

You know, if your entire knowledge of the Samba (23 out of 30) came from watching this dance and Kristi’s dance, you’d be very confused. They’re not even mildly similar. I actually enjoyed Kristi’s more, but this one is probably better, technically. Jason always looks like he’s in a pose – you can’t really pause it and see a moment where he’s just sort of hanging out. I like the intensity, and I always like it when guys walk forward in a crouch with one leg dragging on the ground. It always looks cool. At the end, there’s the mother of all lifts where Edyta does a handstand on Jason’s shoulders and he spins around the floor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that move on this show. Carrie Ann appreciates that he was flamboyant but thought he kept his head down and lost his musicality. Len says it was all right, but not good enough for the semi-finals. Bruno was disappointed as well, and says it was more like a rumba. That may explain why it didn’t look at all like the other samba, actually. The judges started getting kind of angry in the second round. What happened? Jason’s happy they didn’t cuss at him. Still, 23? I’m kind of shocked by that.

Overall Score: 52 out of 60

Cristian and Cheryl are up next, and I couldn’t be more nervous. There’s a scene of Cristian’s doctor explaining his injury, and this is really not some minor thing. Internal bleeding, the tendon torn away from the bone, it doesn’t look good. I kind of hope the doctor jabs him with a sedative when he’s not looking and fixes the poor guy. Does anybody else think that he’s more afraid of what Cheryl will do to him than he is of the damage to his arm?

He can hold frame with his left arm, but he can’t pull or push. Cheryl talks about how she has to disguise his injury, and she can do it, too. Remember last season when she had to disguise the fact that Wayne Newton had been legally dead for ten years? He’s wearing a sling in practice, and they talk like maybe they’re going to do a lift. Cristian looks kind of sick.

They’re also doing the Tango (28 out of 30). To “Beat It”. That explains why they’re both wearing a single glove. This song is so not a tango that it’s hard to really judge what they’re doing. They look really out of step to the music at one point, but I’m pretty sure that’s intentional and/or inevitable. There’s not a lot of flash, for the most point. It’s a solid tango with Cristian keeping his left arm out of the line of fire. And then, he lifts Cheryl with his good arm and a boost from his leg. She straddles him and he dips her with just the one hand. Awesome. In the end, his left arm looks a little stiff but nowhere near as bad as you’d expect. The dude’s a cyborg, I tell you. Or, as Myndi believes, a Cylon. All in all, it would have been a good dance even without the arm drama. Man, that Cheryl can put together a routine. Really, that ending covers the fact that most of the dance was pretty standard. I think Cheryl could probably get Bob Dole to the Final Five if you gave her a chance. Bruno liked the attitude and says his arm didn’t slow him down. Carrie Ann agrees, and adds nothing. Len is amazed at how Cheryl worked around his injury. Samantha gets Cristian to agree that Cheryl is awesome, which does not take a lot of prodding. Carrie Ann, for the record, gives them their first “10” of the competition.

Tom refers to the next dance as a “one-armed Mambo(29 out of 30) which totally sounds like a euphemism. The dance opens with Cristian sitting on a box, which usually irritates Len. Cristian doesn’t hide his arm nearly so well this time out, as it’s often just hanging at his side. You’ve got to figure he’s all kinds of sore right now. Still, his footwork is nice, and there are none of the mambo clichés I’ve come to hate. Actually, his useless arm is apparent enough that it almost seems like a creative choice. He does another one-handed lift at the end, and I’m starting to wonder if Cheryl is made of balsa wood. I mean, he holds her up for a really long time. Len really liked it, praising his one-armed underarm turns. Bruno also liked it, saying it made him dizzy. That’s sort of how Bruno starts out. Carrie Ann confirms that Cristian is definitely Latin. Hopefully next week she’ll make the bold pronouncement that Mario is Black. She then makes the craziest face I’ve ever seen. Cristian says he should have been dancing with one arm long ago. Apparently next week, they’re going to pick the dances out of a hat, by the way. Everybody is really happy for Cristian, and he and Jason especially seem to be BFF. That’s really kind of cute.

Well, that was weird. Look at how the standings shake out:

Cristian de la Fuente – 57 out of 60

Kristi Yamaguchi – 55 out of 60

Mario – 53 out of 60

Jason Taylor – 52 out of 60

Marissa Jaret Winokur – 50 out of 60

Jason’s second from the bottom, Cristian had his best night ever, and everything’s gone all crazy. I think Jason and Kristi were depressingly underrated on their sambas. But then, I tend to like things that are fast and shiny. And now I’m torn, because Cristian is so dedicated, but I still want him to get his arm fixed. It’s hard to be inspired while I’m fretting. Yes, I fret.

I predict either Jason or Kristi ends up in the Bottom Two, but it’s going to be little Marissa going home. We’ve got the Top Ten dances from the first five seasons, more than thirty past competitors, and more big 100th Episode excitement than you can shake a padded fake butt at. And yes, I know I ended with a preposition but “at which you could shake a padded fake butt” sounded weird. Meet me here and we can hang on Myndi’s every word!

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