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‘Dancing With the Stars’: Lance Bass shines; everyone else falters

October 28, 2008 | 10:54 am

This was not the best week for the celebrities on “Dancing With the Stars” — whether because of injury or illness or ill-advised choreography or fatigue or simple missteps, everyone aside from Lance Bass had a rough go of it. On the surface, you might think the scores looked all right, but that’s mostly because guest judge Michael Flatley was being overly generous. I don’t know about you, but I found his comments to be at best gracious but unenlightening — and at worst completely off. Maybe my impression would have been different if he had authoritatively exclaimed, “And I am the Lord of the Dance!” at the end of each comment. He dispensed an unearned 10 to Brooke Burke, possibly just because she looks so good. That said, even he couldn’t muster up more than a five for Cloris Leachman, whose cha-cha was her worst dance yet. And Cloris, usually so full of bluster, couldn’t stop laughing after her dance — she knew it was a catastrophe, and I sensed she may be ready to go (off the show, not off this Earth).

Now that we’re in week six, each couple was assigned a dance that they hadn’t performed before. I liked the variety of this, but unfortunately two of the pairs were assigned the rumba — yawn. Let’s start with the best: Lance and Lacey were assigned the jive, which was probably just the dance for them to get after the harsh commentary they received last week on their West Coast swing. In rehearsals, we again heard Lance bemoan the fact that everyone in 'N Sync thought he was the worst dancer. OK, OK, we get it. Fellow bandmates Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick stopped by to offer Lance encouragement, and Lacey was determined to create choreography that focused on Lance more. All of it paid off: Their jive was sassy, fast and Lance-centric. Michael’s one useful comment of the night came in response to this dance, when he told Lance he didn’t want to hear any more about Lance’s lack of dancing confidence. Hear, hear. Score: 27/30.

Brooke and Derek ended up in second place with 26/30, but this number was artificially boosted by Flatley’s 10. Brooke, you see, injured the tendons in her foot during last week’s jitterbug, and she and Derek lost a few days of rehearsal. Their rumba didn’t wow me, but then few rumbas ever have. While Michael never took his eyes off of Brooke, he said, Bruno and Carrie Ann were not so enchanted. Bruno said the execution was not as sharp as that of their other dances, and Carrie Ann said that Brooke’s lines were off.

In third place were Warren Sapp and Kym, who also performed a rumba. Kym’s approach to this was to create a narrative arc of a lover’s quarrel for the choreography, and this did make it more interesting to me. Carrie Ann, however, pointed out that they had made a mistake in the middle of the dance and that it showed on Warren’s face. Bruno echoed that the character was right but that there was more than one mistake. Score: 25/30.

Tied for fourth place were Susan Lucci and Tony and Cody Linley and Julianne, but I would say that Susan and Tony’s 23/30 should be read as more discouraging than Cody and Julianne’s. In a nutshell, Cody and Julianne got dinged for points because their samba, while sharp, really didn’t look much like a samba — as Bruno pointed out, it was more of a pasodoble, with lots of intense, hard-hit poses, whereas a samba should be bouncy and fun. The fact that Cody got his skin deeply spray-tanned and his hair darkened to look more “Rio” apparently didn’t offset this error in choreographic strategy. On the other hand, Susan and Tony’s mambo was just mediocre (and, again, too careful) all around. While Carrie Ann said that Susan had broken out of her “glass box,” Bruno and Michael pointed out that the timing was repeatedly off, and even Carrie Ann’s praise didn’t translate into huge points.

After their comeback last week, Maurice Greene and Cheryl again slipped in the rankings. They were assigned the Viennese waltz, and Maurice shaved his moustache for it, which was a good move. But Carrie Ann flagged them for lack of chemistry, which is an observation I agree with. They always seem so irritated with one another or just depressed. Score: 21/30.

And way, way down there in last place were Cloris and Corky with a 15/30. Their cha-cha was very, very, very slow and careful, and it bore little resemblance to a cha-cha. At the end, Cloris messed up by attempting (it appeared) to go into the final swinging move when she should have been going into a spin. Bruno said she’s the only person who can “sell such nonsense.” Michael said he’d promised his father not to say a bad word about her, so he just pointed out how lucky she was to have Corky. Carrie Ann, though, laid down the hammer. She felt sad, she said, that they’d lost Toni Braxton for this. She did say that at least she’s learned from Cloris that you don’t have to behave when you’re old.

The other big event of the night was a group hip-hop dance choreographed by Shotyme. This dance, co-host Tom Bergeron informed us, was not for the judges’ benefit but purely for the audience to incorporate into their own scoring decisions. And the routine really showed who had rhythm and who didn’t. If you were wondering how they would employ Cloris in a hip-hop number, it was to have her come out and strike some poses at the beginning and at the end and to have her disappear in the high-energy middle. Pros Lacey and Derek were both excellent in this dance, and Lance was also good. Maurice was heavily featured but not that great, I thought, while Warren and Brooke did well enough. But poor Susan. She got a great deal of camera time, and she just did not have the beat. That won’t help her chances. She’d better hope that Cloris gets the ax tonight. (The costumes and styling in this routine, incidentally, were great, particularly Lance’s mullet.)

In other show-related news, we did get confirmation that Julianne will have her appendix out today because she has endometriosis, and Edyta will serve as Cody’s partner until Julianne can return. Cody has really scored in terms of his pairings.

So, as I do every week, I must ask: Will Cloris be going home tonight? Or will she hang in still longer? And if she doesn’t go, who will?

— Sarah Rogers