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'Dancing With the Stars': Off their marks

April 28, 2009 |  6:42 am

115636_D_3200_pre Just when we thought we were finally free from the injuries this season, another contestant bites the dust. This time it was reality-TV star Melissa Rycroft who was kept from performing this week, due to complications from a bruised rib (she is expected to continue in the competition, however). How sad was it when partner Tony Dovolani glumly made his way down the glittery staircase solo? He looked so dejected and, well, alone when all the contestants lined up on the dance floor — hands clasped behind his back, gamely trying to bop his head like a little bird. Someone please give this man a hug!

And sadly, the judges had to treat Melissa and Tony's routine like they did Steve-O’s when he landed on his mike pack earlier this season — by judging their last taped rehearsal. It’s too bad, because even in its stripped-down format, their jive looked totally fun. Had Melissa been there to compete all out, their routine would no doubt have been somewhere up near the top. Not to mention that the dance featured a nod to a previous competitor by being set to the Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” (oh Belinda, we hardly knew ye!). But although Melissa looked great in a bra top and jeans, alas, the judges called the routine out for its “marking” — just hitting marks, without any of the performance aspects — and gave them a 21 for their (half-hearted) efforts, placing her and Tony at the bottom of the leader board.

Regaining the lead were Lil’ Kim and Derek Hough, whose paso doble earned a 28 from the judges. And Lil’ Kim was back to being “sassy queen bee” after receiving a slap on her demure wrists for not bringing on the raunch last week. Their routine this week was very sharp and aggressive and on point, and the nasty snarl that came roaring back was enough to distract me from the sparkly face decals. (Really? Kind of feels a little fantasy convention, doesn’t it?) As Bruno so excitedly exclaimed (to Carrie Ann’s open-mouthed shock), “The bitch is back, and she means business!” Carrie Ann loved the routine, and head judge Len did the backhanded-compliment thing again when he announced, “I was expecting 'oh no,' but I got olé!” Which was a little surprising, considering Lil’ Kim has consistently pulled off great routines.

Hopping their way to the second-place position were Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke. And they seemed more than happy to receive a 27 for their Lindy Hop. As the judges said, it was a treat to see Gilles show off his comedic talents, though I found this routine to be a little hectic and all over the place for my taste. I wonder if the producers are priming Gilles to be in the finals, because the judges seem incapable of giving the Frenchman a bad critique. He got three nines from the judges — though, as Tom said, Gilles’ “hair gel gets an unofficial 10.” And it did seem like many, many cans of Aqua Net were sacrificed to make his ginormous Adam Lambert-style ’50s ’do expand the way that it did. (Though after watching the program, I was beginning to think that big pouffy hair was a theme for the night; did you see that girl with the mountain of lock sitting right behind Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic from “Castle”? It had more lift than that couple who danced with Celtic Woman.)

Also scoring a 27 were Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas. Shawn was having a tough time wrapping her head around the samba's female moves (Mark’s shimmying apparently wasn’t enough for her), so for an added treat this week, we were introduced to Mark’s mom, Shirley, who is British and also a dance champion (and whose voice reminded me a little bit of Mary Poppins). No wonder Mark’s dad (and former Cloris Leachman partner), Corky, was in the audience. And no wonder Mark is so good at what he does. And though this routine didn’t have the same jazzy pizazz as last week’s, I liked that Shawn had the same look of letting loose on her face. And tons of thick aqua blue fringe. When Mark spun her around the floor at the end, it looked like her dress could have picked up some dust bunnies along the way. Bruno and Carrie Ann both thought the routine possessed all the elements of a classic samba, though Len said it had too many running promenades, “lacked hip action,” and her dress did most of the work.

Also trying to make lightning strike twice were Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough. It seemed they even attempted to wear outfits similar to the ones they donned for their sizzling-hot samba last week, except in blue. Their cha cha cha was still fun, and Chuck was able to maintain his loosey-goosey, to-hell-with-my-dignity-I’m-out-to-have-fun attitude. Julianne’s outfits, though running on the same theme, seem to be disappearing, however. Last week she wore red fringe, and this week she wore blue, but there seemed to be less fringe -- and less outfit, really. Wonder whether she’s paying homage to a gone-but-not-forgotten Edyta or trying to muster up more votes? I’m afraid if they make it any further in the competition she'll just be left with pasties and a thong (fringed, of course). The judges liked Chuck's rampant hip action, though Len and Bruno told him to work on his arms, and Carrie Ann warned him to tuck in his chin. Their score: 26.

Coming in two points behind them were Ty Murray and Chelsie Hightower, with a total of 24. And their routine was hands down my favorite of the night. Maybe it’s because I already have a soft spot for this uptight cowboy, but I just loved his and Chelsie’s backstage rapport, how Chelsie brought in Dmitry Chaplin to work out the “man parts” of their salsa, and the complete and utter transformation from Ty Murray, pasty rodeo champ, to Ty Murray, spray-tanned ballroom dancer. “We better get at least a 7,” Ty insisted. “I’ve gone way outside my comfort zone for the salsa.” I think the spray-tan bit did wonders for this adorable cowboy: Not only were we treated to his most excellent physique, but the indignity of having to put on a shower cap and be sprayed with bronzer really did seem to loosen Ty up, and his samba was easily his most comfortable and most confident (and hot!) dance. Plus, I thought Chelsie looked great. In a night filled with fringe (see: Shawn, Julianne), I thought her solid-gold number shined the best and the brightest. Mostly, though, I was proud that Ty was able to keep up with the salsa’s speed and add his own down-home spice to it. The routine turned out to be pretty divisive among the judges, however: Carrie Ann absolutely loved it; Bruno said it was “just wild,” but all the hip action came more from the knees; and cranky Len said that unless he killed the team dance, it was time he hit the trail.

Which brings us to the group dances. Team Mambo was made up of Shawn & Mark, Chuck & Julianne, and Tony & pro Lacey Schwimmer filling in for Melissa at the last minute. Team Tango was made up of Gilles & Cheryl, Ty & Chelsie, and Lil’ Kim & Derek. And the routines were set to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” respectively.

Although both were fun, I really liked Team Mambo’s routine and thought it was the more entertaining of the two. I loved the transition from Lacey and Tony’s solo to Shawn and Mark’s, how the couples incorporated some hip-hop dance into their mambo moves, and the fact that more and more surprises were revealed as the song went on — such as  the ladies removing the ruffles and doing the Beyoncé video’s dance, and  the men in leotards and white tights up on the judges table. Though the biggest surprise, I have to say, was Carrie Ann’s sour attitude toward the routine in general (“I thought the music overpowered you”) and toward the reveal at the end. I thought it was a fun nod to the song and its parodies (and Bruno pulled a Paula Abdul and commented on “men that shopped in the women’s department”), but suddenly she turned all Lennish and said it was all a little too much. Does she have something against men in tights? Total score: 25.

To be fair, Team Tango was more classically tango and technically superior. I liked how they had just the three contestants out on the floor at the beginning — Lil’ Kim made for a great womanizer — and I liked even more that Gilles and Ty were shirtless. Even when they donned jackets, I still was riveted, which I guess is a testament to the routine. I loved that Ty did not betray a deer-in-the-headlights look once. As Len said, he really “nailed it.” “You were like a pack of voracious raptors going for the attack!” said Bruno. “ I think Team Tango takes it!” praised Carrie Ann. Total score: 28.

With the group dances now making up half of the contestants’ overall scores, I wonder if Chuck and Melissa are in danger of being eliminated. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if Chuck left. I feel like his talent has plateaued and don’t need to see him dressed in another set of pajamas next week.

Who do you think is going to be sent home this week? And which group dance did you like better? Should Ty’s physique automatically save him from elimination? Post your comments below, and check back in Wednesday for the results!

— Allyssa Lee

Photo: ABC