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'Dancing With the Stars': Marlee Matlin drama

April 23, 2008 |  8:55 am

All right, "Dancing with the Stars" fans, let's cut to what you really want to know: Did musical guest Ashlee Simpson look pregnant, as has been rumored? I thought I might have detected a not-one-hundred-percent-flat stomach underneath her flitty little skirt, but, then again, the wardrobe people seem to make skinny Samantha Harris look pudgy about three-quarters of the time (including tonight), so who knows?

Oh, that's not what you wanted to know? Was it which pair of child dancers won this week? Let me say this: They were both formidable competitors. Brandon and Brittany, both 13, performed an incredibly clean and sharp cha cha cha, earning raves from the judges, even though Brittany is deaf in one ear. The other pair, Austin and Liza, both 12, danced a highly entertaining samba, though in the end they perhaps fell victim to that most insidious of enemies -- puberty. You see, Liza was a good bit taller than Austin, and even his fabulously fancy footwork couldn't save them. Brandon and Brittany will compete again later in the season, even though you could tell everyone just had more fun during Austin and Liza's dance.I'd like to tell you about the special performance by Riverdance, but the thing about Riverdance is that it is basically a form of hypnosis. The (many, many) dancers don't move their arms much, so you just see their rigid upper bodies while their feet stomp and tap in impressive unison, and the next thing you know, you come out of a trance in an Eastern European capital, holding a briefcase full of state secrets and having no recollection of how you got there.

Dtws290 Now, whoever's in charge of these things at "DWTS" decided to stir up a little drama Tuesday night. Yes, Marlee Matlin and Fabian were the first couple of the night consigned to the Red Light of Abject Degradation but instead of throwing in another plausibly imperiled couple, three high-scoring couples remained endangered until nearly the end of the show: Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark, Jason Taylor and Edyta, and Mario and Karina. I just want you to know,
America, that if Kristi had been in the bottom two, I might have had to move to another country. Another English-speaking country. Where the dollar is strong. New Zealand, maybe. Actually, I just looked that up, and it isn't promising.

Now, Shannon Elizabeth and Derek were the first couple saved, which I found somewhat irritating. You see, I've been rooting for Shannon, but the last couple of weeks she's been so petulant about receiving criticism, and this violation of the sacred "DWTS" ethos of cheery persistence didn't sit well with me. And this week, we see footage of her crying and complaining about the judges, who dared criticize her when she's trying so hard, and I wanted her to suffer in the red light for a bit.


Samantha again tried to press Derek and Shannon about their show-mance to no avail. Shannon did apologize to the audience for being so heated after the competition, but I didn't think she meant it. Adjust that attitude for next week, young lady!

In the end, the other couple in the bottom two turned out to be Mario and Karina, which surprised me a little. He is clearly talented, and also young, and therefore he should have young fans, and young people are famously good at using the Internet and text messages and whatnot, so you'd think his fan support would be strong. Apparently not.

Having been eliminated, Marlee very graciously thanks the judges, Fabian, her family, her children, Henry Winkler, and all the fans. In a brief departure from his normal role, Tom Bergeron reveals that he and Marlee have been friends for years and that he's so proud of her. It was very sweet. I'll miss Marlee because she has a good sense of humor and wears heavy eye makeup well.

What else do you want to know? The other filler this week basically boiled down to the following: The judges feel anxiety about criticizing people, and sometimes they later feel they scored someone too harshly or generously. The encore dance was the western group dance, which meant that everyone started out in western wear and then changed into their performance costumes during the filler, which was impressively quick.

So we're down to six now. Who do you think will be the next to go?

-- Sarah Rogers

(Photo courtesy ABC)