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'Dancing With the Stars': Catch a falling star

March 31, 2009 |  7:14 am

Dancing-stars The fourth week of "Dancing With Injuries the Stars" shook things up by introducing two new dances: The Argentine tango and the lindy hop. It also lifted its ban on lifts. But really, was this the best choice for a season already well-versed in a world of pain? It was as if the producers had gotten together and were like, hmm, we’re not really getting the ambulance coverage that we did at the beginning of this season. What can we do to create more visual fumbles? I know! Let’s introduce two new dances where there are fast over-the-head lifts and intricate footwork that they can get tripped up with! And next week, let’s have them do it again, only blindfolded!

So it was falling stars week on "DWTS." But luckily, most of them ended up as part of the routines on the dance floor. This week also introduced not only the first score of 10 in the competition (and this is a 10 from one judge, as opposed to Woz’s total from last week), but a perfect 30! Of course, it went to…

Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke. And really, they tore it up with their Argentine tango. The dance floor was smoldering in their wake. (In my notes, I wrote, “hot,” “precise” and “precisely hot.”) But I knew it was going to be good from the rehearsal get-go, when Cheryl explained to Gilles, “I’m gonna rub your butt with my leg.” And really, things just went up from there. Len called the routine “fantastic,” Bruno trilled off a very Italian “bravissimo,” and Carrie Ann did her part to represent heterosexual women everywhere when she fanned herself with her notebook, moaned, “I can’t feel my face. Am I still here?” and said she couldn’t tell who was the professional dancer and who wasn’t. Plus, it got a great big nod of approval from Season 7 contender Cody Lindley, who was in attendance.

Falling very closely behind were Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani, who were just one point short of perfection with a total of 29. Kudos to Tony, not only for creating a fun lindy hop, but also for making up another real-life dance reference when he stuck toilet paper on the bottom of Melissa’s sneaker and had her try to kick it off. This man is a dancer for the people, ladies and gentlemen! And their routine was drop-me-to-within-an-inch-of-my-life-and-call-me-terrific chock-full of lifts, fun jazz hands and that one gasp-inducing plunge at the end, where I was convinced Melissa was going to crack her head open, liiiive on national television. Talk about a show stopper.

Taking over the third-place spot were Lil’ Kim and Derek Hough, whose elegant and decidedly un-effusive Argentine tango earned them a total of 27. And it was nice to see Lil’ Kim sweep her hair back in a chic chignon and don an understated (yet still sparkly) tango outfit. I was totally impressed by her leg extensions,and was glad to see that Derek had not skimped on the routine’s difficulty. (He also swept back his own bangs for the performance; they were extremely distracting during rehearsals, when they threatened to take over his face.) It was also sweet to see how emotional Lil’ Kim got upon receiving the judges’ mostly positive remarks.

Slipping a little bit in the ranking this week (but hopefully not out of America’s hearts) were Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas, or Team Shark (“Sh”awn + M“ark” = “Shark,” duh, and thank you, reader Steph). In the pre-taped rehearsal segment, the lindy hop seemed perfect for Shawn’s tumbling prowess, and it was cute to see Mark fall awkwardly off the beam and do some adorable roly-poly somersaults on the floor. Though I could tell just by looking at their black track suits (and his nerd glases and headband) that their routine was going to be a risky one. But what I thought was going to be too much cover immediately became too little, when they revealed their sparkly gym outfits and short shorts (even on Mark! Yikes!) underneath. And I agreed with the judges: The routine was too tumbly. Less like a lindy hop and more like a cheerleading exhibition. Though, to be fair, Shawn may have been distracted this week. Still, the judges gave them a total of 25.

Which was tied with my other favorite team, Ty Murray and Chelsie Hightower. The rodeo wrangler continued his meteoric ascent up the leader board, and I absolutely loved their high-energy lindy hop. Plus, anything that would cause Len to break out of his British mode and squeal, “Hot dog and darn my britches! Ty Murray in a hurry!” has to be good (um, right?). The judges were right to credit Chelsie for making a dancer out of this bull-riding man; she shows great choreography skills and seems to have quite a good handle as a teacher. Plus, this girl is tough: Did you see Ty drop her on her back (and maybe her mike pack)? And there was no crying afterward (as Tom so somberly declared, “There is no crying in ballroom”). All she did was jokingly complain, “Ty, I’m your partner! Why are you trying to get me out of the competition?” Someone give this couple a fast pass to next week!

Stuck firmly in "DWTS" purgatory were David Alan Grier and Chuck Wicks. DAG tried to capitalize on last week’s upward momentum, but his and Kym Johnson’s routine, set to the “American Bandstand” theme song, started off energetically but soon lost its steam, and got middling comments from the judges. Julianne Hough tried to emphasize her boyfriend’s goofy personality with their hop, but other than the rehearsal drama that revealed that Chuck didn’t, in fact, like falling on his head (“I’m no Shawn Johnson”), their routine seemed to be a lot of flying limbs with no real purpose. Both scored a 22 for their lindy hops, but only one made me want a burger and chili fries.

Coming in eighth place with a score of 19 was Lawrence “I Can’t Get a Break” Taylor. And sure, his Argentine tango with Edyta may have lacked emotional connection, but I thought his demeanor was appropriately cool and hulking. Certainly, it didn’t deserve to be slapped with a measly score of 5 from “little Lenny hardbutt.” And in what may be a "DWTS" first, Edyta did not sport her trademark legwarmers during rehearsal! Was it to indicate that she meant business or that they finally turned up the heat in the studio? Or maybe it was because her hubby, Alec Mazo, was coming in to help demonstrate the tango’s passion. Sadly, it didn’t seem to help her and her celebrity partner’s plight, as they were still on the lower end of the leader board.

Coming in with a score of 16 were Holly Madison and Dmitry Chaplin. Holly, who gamely soldiers on with her pink shorts, nervous titter and unflappable “This is fun!” attitude, despite a bruised rib and a partner who seems wholly incapable of supporting her. And to her credit, Holly seemed a little bit more relaxed and fluid at the beginning of her tango. If only she didn’t lose it on the stool. But as she said herself, “I recovered in time to do my favorite part, which is the flip.” And indeed, that flip was impressive — it had more twists than a barrel of pretzels. Ah, well. She’ll have another chance to improve on the performance tonight.

As will Steve-O and Lacey Schwimmer, if their scores have anything to do with it. Still frustrated with his lack of dancing skills, the Jackass aarghed through yet another rehearsal. It wasn’t until Lacey brought him a full-on clown outfit, complete with freaky make-up, juggling props and a ladder to balance on his chin, that Steve-O was inspired to loosen up and have fun with it. Too bad it didn’t really work. “This was more hopping mad than lindy hop,” declared Bruno. “You have a problem with timing.” Despite a standing ovation and a Johnny Knoxville in the audience, their lindy hop earned them a total of 15, or, as Steve-O observed, “The same as last week.”

And in the bottom spot, which came as a surprise to absolutely no one, was Steve Wozniak. “The Argentine tango has a lot of love and hate, and that seems right, because the judges seem to hate me and the fans seem to love me,” quipped the Woz. And it’s true: The fans were all over Wozzy bear when he stumped for votes at the Grove. Though, to be fair, his tango was so much better than that world of hurt he called the samba last week. Sure, his face looked more like that of a petulant child than a Latin lover, and Karina’s costume looked a bit like “American Beauty” personified, but at least he was keeping up with the steps and, as Len applauded, performed a proper dance. And like Carrie Ann, I absolutely loved his little leg rub. He and Karina earned a score of 12, to which the Woz perkily calculated, “We improved 20%!” Which just goes to show, you can take the nerd out of the calculation, but you can’t take the calculation out of the nerd.

By your calculation, who do you think danced the best, and who do you think croaked worse than Samantha’s voice? Will the geeks inherit the earth and save Woz from another dance-off? Who would you choose to make their exit in the dreaded double elimination? Check back Wednesday for the results!

— Allyssa Lee

(Photo courtesy ABC)