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'Dancing With the Stars': Grin and bare it

March 24, 2009 |  1:28 am

Steveo_2 It was samba and fox trot night at the old "DWTS" corral, which had the unique distinction of featuring  what host Tom Bergeron called “the best mostly dressed cast on television!” And truly, there seemed to be a rash of scanty bra tops and bare midriffery going around. Even Maks caught it, first breaking out his bright pink bra top for a kinda funny, mostly endearing Carmen Miranda segment, and then opting for an open flowy mesh number that once again showed off his rock-hard mannaries.  But I digress. Here’s how the dancers stacked up:

The top of the leader board had not changed: Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke impressed once again, first by matching his hot-tamale outfit to her pinkish-red getup, and then by burning the house down with their smoldering samba that, according to Bruno, “throbbed like a red-hot poker” and scored a 27 out of 30. Gilles’ mother, visiting from France this week, spouted out tearful, encouraging Gallic superlatives like “super” and “incredible” to her son during rehearsals. Thus, Gilles dedicated the über-sexy routine to her, which was either really sweet or kind of creepy. Much like Samantha Harris’ comment afterward: “She must be so proud of her little boy just making all these ladies out here go nuts.”

Also scoring a 27 was Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani. After making a quick stop to Dallas to show not only that Melissa had a life before her infamous “Bachelor” stint, but also that she possessed a football the size of a small blimp, Melissa and Tony delivered a fox trot in which Bruno called Melissa “beautiful to look at, easy to love.” And it was a fun, elegant routine, made classier by the sparkly river of fabric that trickled down from her top to her skirt. But mostly their segment was memorable for Tony’s “arms like a martini glass, and head is like an olive, on the edge of the martini glass” instruction. Which may be the best lay reference to carrying one’s frame since the immortal “spaghetti arms” from 1987’s "Dirty Dancing."

Speaking of "Dirty Dancing," anyone else envision Mark Ballas as Johnny Castle, the older pro who takes Baby Shawn Johnson out of her rigid gymnastics corner and teaches her a thing or two about how to dance and carry herself as a woman? Anyone? OK, so maybe I’m the only one. But Shawn and Mark also stepped up their game and scored a 27 for their graceful fox trot as well. And it really was like they were gliding on ice. I may not know why they named themselves Team Shark, but I sure do love their endearing rapport. And Mark has really grown on me this season with his little chin scruff glimpses and for getting in touch with his feminine side and shimmying like a woman. And also because he abandoned his annoying penchant for leaving his mouth agape during performances.

Though he seems to have passed his gaping guppy syndrome to Lil’ Kim. Don’t get me wrong: I love this rapstress’ unbridled enthusiasm, squeals of delight, and more-than-willingness to growl and get down and dirty in a bright canary yellow sequined bra top and fringe during a samba. But it’s a little distracting when her mouth is ajar during the routine. Her open-mouthed expressions didn’t seem to bother the judges, however, who gave Kim and her equally canary-yellow partner Derek Hough a hot score of 25 for shaking that “bionic booty.”

Making his bid for "DWTS" contention (and possibly Broadway as well) was David Alan Grier. DAG really stepped up his fox trot with Kym Johnson, got a solid “two snaps up” from former "In Living Color" fly girl Carrie Ann and was awarded a total of 24 for his efforts. And he still had breath enough to deliver a hammy Jerry Lewis impression. After a harsh first couple of weeks, it was nice to see the judges finally give Davy G some glittery paddle love (though it seems like they’ve gone back to the old paddles for good, no?).

In the most improved department was Chuck Wicks, who put aside his potato-farm upbringing, tapped into his inner Billy Elliot and finally got down to “biz-nas.” And it didn’t go unnoticed: His fox trot with girlfriend Julianne Hough got many accolades from the judges; Carrie Ann remarked he could be a real contender, and Bruno took it to the next level as only he could: “Glad to see you in the driving seat, finally. On the stick shift.” Total score: 23.

Also holding his own in the most-improved category was Ty Murray, also earning a score of 23. Though to be fair, the rodeo rider may have been given a slight advantage for getting to perform two ballroom dances in a row. Last week’s was the quick step, and this week he traded his cowboy duds for tails and a top hat for the fox trot. Len called the routine “fantastic,” and Bruno credited partner Chelsie Hightower for “carving a mini-Fred Astaire” out of our rugged cowboy. But Ty gets the my hero vote of the night for not breaking form when Chelsie slipped midway through the routine. And then earned my undying devotion for being so rootin' tootin' adorable about it afterward: “We didn’t practice that one,” he drawled good-naturedly. That Jewel sure knows how to pick ’em!

Slowly making his claim in the competition is football Giant Lawrence Taylor. I, for one, am enjoying the way LT is letting more of his personality show. Like when he said he forfeited his golf game for more samba practice: “And I don’t give up golf for nobody.” And when he made the joke to Samantha about how he refused his wife’s request to take ballroom dancing lessons because “I don’t dance with amateurs.” Despite some praise from the judges, however, his samba routine with Edyta earned him only a total of 20.

In the fembot category were Denise Richards and Holly Madison, neither of whom were able to break free of the rigor mortis to deliver an upstanding samba. Holly’s routine with Dmitry Chaplin was definitely the better of the two, and thereby earned her a point more than Denise for a total of 17. But that hard-won advantage was promptly lost when Dmitry, when asked to come up with some positive words about his partner, could only muster, “It’s hard. It’s hard.” Ouch. And — that’s what she said. Actually, "The Office’s" Michael Scott would have had a field day with this segment, considering Len called Holly's dance “hot on the top and wooden on the bottom.” Again ... that’s what she said.

OK, so not every day can be a Holly day, but I still prefer Holly over Denise, because the Girl Next Door  at least sported some fun knee-high tube socks and gave entertaining sound bites (“Dmitry’s not used to working with someone so uncoordinated, and I bet he wants to be back with Jewel right now”). Denise seemed to have permanently inherited the deer-in-the-headlights stance from Ty. She delivered another awkward routine with Maks, replete with lost hairpiece, that earned her a total of 16 points. Carrie Ann observed that her face made it clear that she was “frightened to death,” so she needed to “find a way to mask that.” Usually, this is when the judge might suggest the contestant use his or her acting skills to cover up their real emotion, but alas, Carrie Ann did no such thing with Richards. Maybe because Richards is, oh, yeah ... an actress.

Rounding out the bottom two were Steve-O, who earned a 15 for his fox trot despite his best efforts to clean up and wow the judges, and Steve “the Woz” Wozniak, who earned a total of 10 from the judges despite his insistence that he deserved lower. Poor Steve-O. You could tell that he was doing everything that he possibly could to make a triumphant return from his injurious last week, and his earnest attempts at making a comeback were written all over his clean-cut suit sleeves. But after a promising fox trot beginning, he kind of lost it, and the disappointment was evident. He’s not a great dancer, but you can’t help rooting for the guy. He kind of looked like Buster Keaton in his get-up, no? Though judging by the raucous applause he received in the ballroom, he still may be safe from the dreaded dance-off.

The same can’t be said about the Woz. Despite his funny little line that “you mix a little dancing with a little Smirnoff, and you might end up in the hospital,” I’m afraid the Woz has worn out his welcome. The judges didn’t hold back on their criticism of the Apple co-founder, even though he was hampered by a pulled hamstring. Bruno claimed it the worst samba he’d ever seen. “They don’t even give a discount for courage,” clucked Tom. I think the Woz will have to dance for his life again Tuesday night. And I think Holly Madison will be the one to join him in the "DWTS" Thunderdome.

Who do you think will end up in the bottom two? Who are your favorites? Were the new paddles eliminated too soon? Post your thoughts below!

-- Allyssa Lee

Photo of Steve-O and Lacey courtesy ABC