Compared to last week’s season debut of “Dancing With the Stars,” Monday night’s episode was pretty drama-free.
First-to-go star Lolo Jones wasn’t there to stomp and pout. Zany Betsey Johnson put on her grownup hair and dress and kept her incoherent ramblings to a minimum. Even Val Chmerkovskiy and Janel Parrish forgot to pretend they were in love.
Not to worry, though. The producers kept things interesting by trotting one of their time-tested tricks: Manufacturing the drama. This week, they used the “practice was catastrophic” ruse, complete with footage of rehearsal stomp outs, frustrated confessions and furrowed brows of concern – followed by near flawless live performances.
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The best example of that was last week’s leader, Alfonso Ribiero, whose rehearsal tape lead us to believe he’d never get the samba because he body just wouldn’t move that way. But it did, of course, and his dance was once again smooth and fun – though the judges seemed to agree that his moves were too bouncy/groovy and needed more serious Latin discipline. (Kind of tough when the music is “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” but Ribiero promised to try harder.) He finished “My Jam Monday,” where the stars each got to pick a favorite song to dance to, with a 32, which still kept him in the top four.
This week’s leader was a member of last week’s “In Jeopardy” club. Movie star Lea Thompson and her partner Artem Chigvintsev (who it was revealed earned his American citizenship this week) performed a lively jive to “Land of a Thousand Dances.” Thompson moved like a pro and looked great in her twirly cougar-print dress, even when she nearly fell out of it off-camera. She finished with the highest score of the night – 35 out of 40.
In second place were Parrish and Chmerkovskiy, who performed a pretty fox trot to “Call Me Maybe” that judge Carrie Ann Inaba described as “close to perfect.” It earned them 34 points. Internet star Bethany Mota and her pro partner Derek Hough were right behind them, earning a 33 for their playful fox trot to “All About the Bass.” (Is it just me, or are these two full-lipped brunettes going to be easy to mix up?)
In last place this week was race car driver Michael Waltrip, who hammed his way through a samba to “Girls in Bikinis.” His saint of a partner Emma Slater looked great, and although the dance was fun to watch, it was not good. Judge Len Goodman summed it up best when he said: “I don’t know why, but I did like it.” Waltrip got a 24 and, more notably, earned four fewer points than Johnson.
The notoriously loopy fashion designer truly lives in an alternate universe, and last week, only a portion of her brain had returned to earth. She seems perpetually strung out and confused, and it’s uncomfortable. This week was a little better because she cleaned up nice and showed amazing flexibility during her dance to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” But I want her to go because it’s all so hard to watch.
On the other hand, it’s no more difficult to watch Johnson than it is to endure the race car puns that accompany Waltrip any time he’s on camera. Tonight, he and the judges and hosts wheeled out a long list of them, including “spinning my wheels,” “have to get some traction” and “he needs his tires inflated.” If either Johnson or Waltrip goes home in week two, it’ll be long overdue.
Many of the other dances were pretty unremarkable, so I won’t remark on them, with the exception of one. I have high hopes for the adorable septuagenarian Tommy Chong, but sadly, this week, he proved that his fun routine from week one was probably just a fluke. He delivered pretty much an exact replica of that performance – same moves, same facial expressions – only with a pink costume instead of a blue one. It was fun to watch, and it was shocking(ly awful) to see him rip his shirt open to reveal his bare (shaved) chest, but it appears he has only about three moves, and now he’s used each of them twice.
A couple of observations: I love it when they let the judges dance, as all four did briefly on Monday, to remind the audience that they in fact do know of what they speak. My favorite is always Goodman, who dances with a giant smile and a gentleman’s flair, and Inaba, who’s as saucy as any of the professional women on the show.
Also, although I’m no Erin Andrews fan, to put it mildly, she seems to have hit her stride this year and has moments where she’s genuinely funny and relaxed, something no other hostess has ever achieved on this show.
Next week’s “movie week.” Any wagers as to which “Back to the Future” hit Thompson chooses?
Tomorrow I’ll recap the results show, which airs at 7 p.m. on ABC.