'Dancing with the Stars': 'Turn up, keep up and shut up'
Which meant there were a whole slew of star-pro clashes going on during rehearsals. The pressure was up, and these strong personalities would not back down. It was enough to send a couple pros walking out. For the viewer, of course, it led to some riveting drama. Though it also got to the point where head judge Len Goodman -- whom host Tom Bergeron called “a vision in yellow and blue” -- admonished the stars for giving their pros such a hard time, when really, what the contestants should do is “turn up, keep up and shut up. ... Get on with the dancing, and trust in your pros.”
And with that, let’s get on with the dancing.
Monday night’s program had the contestants doing either the fox trot or the jive. It also broke out the first 10 paddles (and not just for spray tanning, mind you). At the top of the leader board were ...
Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. And someone send out an SOS, because their Rihanna’ed jive earned them the first two 10s of the season. If someone had told me over a week ago that 10s were going to be given out in the first round of the competition, I would have taken a prompt from Chad Ochocinco’s shirt and said, “Girl, you trippin.” But Nicole showed a freakish ability to do whatever it was that Derek choreographed, and she jived her Rihanna off and flipped her ponytail to boot. Not only that, but she did it all while sporting the fringey, disco equivalent of a cavewoman outfit. Though, again, I think they’re breaking out the top-scoring paddles a little early. We’ve barely had time to get acquainted with the stars, and already you’re breaking out the good stuff? People already think the Pussycat Doll’s a ringer, and methinks people are going to get tired of those 10s -- I don’t care if she makes up a ditty about her ponytail in rehearsal. But for now, Bruno called her “phenomenal” and Carrie Ann said her dance was “ridiculous perfection.” Len, however, wasn’t jiving with the other two and said he was a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Nicole and Derek got a whopping 28 out of 30 for their dance, which, coupled with their Viennese waltz from the week before, put them way ahead of the pack with 53 out of 60.
Also adding to the competitive spirit was a short-skirted Brooke Burke, who showed traces of a little green monster when she threw down the gauntlet and asked Derek straight out who was more fun to dance with: Nicole or her. Rowr! I liked how Brooke has upped her energy a notch, but those few awkward pauses had me wishing she was a little quicker on the microphone uptake.
But back to the competition: Holding steady in second place were Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya. Fun facts: Evan originally hails from Naperville, Ill. He likes cheesecake. He can be cheeky, as shown in his rehearsal footage, where he pinched the sides of his partner’s face. He also has “amazing chemistry” with Anna. And despite his statuesque size, the Olympic gold medalist can start his routine off with an impressive split leap and handle a rocking jive with relative ease. Too bad his feet were almost clowny in the way that they flopped about. Carrie Ann credited him for having “great energy” and for connecting with his partner, though Len took issue about “something strange going on down below” (maybe it’s the pink socks?), and Bruno cautioned the ice skater to “be careful you don’t go wobbly.” Evan and Anna got a 24 for their jive. Total: 47.
In third place was Erin Andrews. And from what I’ve seen, this ESPN reporter is shaping up to be quite the dark horse in this competition. I like how Erin’s a tomboy who can belch with the best of them, and I like her and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s increasingly entertaining rapport. While her cha cha last week was a little ungainly, Erin was all extended limbs and princessy elegance in her Taylor Swift storybook fox trot. Bruno said she took to dance “like a duck to water,” Len said the movement was fluid but the footwork wasn’t too clever. And Carrie Ann praised her lyricism and flexibility, while cautioning her to watch her death grip on the hold. Erin and Maks received a 23 for their dance this week, though she got extra credit in my book for her funny bicep quip and that dig at her partner when she revealed that Maks had stopped eating when they were in a fight. (“I’m actually worried that Maks’ ego will not survive the season,” Tom responded.) Total: 44.
Taking the prize as the biggest surprise of the evening had to be Pamela Anderson, who proved that she could move on the dance floor with a fair amount of fluid ease and grace. That is, when she wasn't looking at her partner Damian Whitewood like he was a slab of meat on the barbie that she’d like to tear into. Or when she and her partner aren’t putting a dirty spin on everything like they were characters in a skin flick. Sure, it probably wasn’t a stretch for Pam to channel Marilyn Monroe during her fox trot, set to the icon’s “I Wanna Be Loved by You.” Nor was it a stretch when Tom subsequently said, “a busload of Kennedys just pulled up” after her performance. But after last week’s feral cha cha, it was nice to see that Pammy can rein in the sex, the hair and still be riveting. Charming, even. Carrie Ann commended her on going from character to character. Len chose the perfect time to present us all with a vocabulary lesson: “You’ve been titivating yourself, haven’t you?” he said with a straight face. (Though Len also cautioned Pammy to get her bust away from Damian, and work on her center.) Bruno yammered on about waves of sensuality and deliciousness, and added “and the dancing is good, too.” Pam earned a 22 for this routine, with the 21 for the cha cha, for a total of 43 out of 60. Extra points should be awarded, however, when she breathlessly replied to Brooke's question as to whether we’ll see more sides of the actress this season: “I think everybody’s seen all the sides of Pamela.” Ha!
Stuck in the middle of the pack was the Bachelor, Jake Pavelka, who performed the jive with Chelsie Hightower. Though honestly, other than his apparent problem with authority, the Huey Lewis and the News song and the nerdy plaid jacket, I had a hard time recalling this routine at all. Bruno noted that Jake wants this badly, though he needs to work on his precision and technique. Len said he was “a bit heavy sometimes,” but said he had potential, and Carrie Ann “Down with Lifts!” Inaba docked him for the unintended upheaval. He got a total of 20, which matched last week’s 20, and with an even steven total of 40.
Just one point behind them, but miles ahead in my heart was Niecy Nash, who has quickly become my favorite contender in the bunch. First of all, she’s hilarious. Secondly, she speaks food -- a woman after my own heart (and loved how partner Louis Van Amstel played along and told her to “schmear that piece of toast” like butter as they glided along the rehearsal room floor). Thirdly, she radiates such unbridled joy -- how can one not be thoroughly charmed by her effusiveness? She had me captivated from her first sassy satiny shimmy. Love her, I do. Tom called the comedienne “graceful and sultry,” Len deigned Niecy “a revelation,” which elicited peals of joy. Bruno called her “light and frothy … like a strawberry milkshake.” And Carrie Ann called her “spectacular,” while also recommending that Niecy go a “little bit bigger next week.” To which Niecy so perfectly answered, “I can do big.” Again, how do you not love this woman? She was awarded three sevens for her fox trot, which, added to the 18 for the cha cha the week before, gave her a total of 39.
Also on the upswing was Shannen Doherty, who said she didn’t want such a complex routine from Mark Ballas, but ended up getting one anyway (darn you, pada bouree!). Mark, who hasn’t met a pair of short pants that he didn’t rock, seemed intense and gunning for the win, and ratcheted up the choreography and the difficulty to frustrating levels. It all worked out for the best, however. Maybe it was because it was the happy jive, but Shannen seemed like she was having more fun on the dance floor, which warmed her up and made her seem a lot more approachable and winning. Not to mention that the “Heathers” outfits were a nice throwback, and just so very. Carrie Ann said it was nice to see her brighter side and Bruno called her “the mean girl that does the mean jive.” Len liked Shannen’s energy, but said the legs could have been a bit sharper. Shannen and Mark got a 20 for their jive, along with the 18 for their Viennese waltz, earned them a total of 38 out of 60.
Fumbling a bit in the standings was Cincinnati Bengal Chad Ochocinco, who, despite looking quite dapper in his light gray suit and winner of a shirt that said “Girl, You Trippin,” made a mess of his fox trot with Cheryl Burke. Maybe they were distracted by all that flirting and kissing during rehearsals. It looked like he was all thumbs out there, and the concentration on his face were evident. Len called the NFL star out for his terrible posture, and complained that the routine “was like the snow -- you’re just glad when it’s all over.” Bruno told Chad he looked uncomfortable and needed a reboot. And Carrie Ann said he needed to understand his movement and be in the moment. Tough words, and even tougher scores. The C + C dance factory scored a lowly 16 for their fox trot, lowering their total to 34. Maybe less showmance, more dancing?
At least he didn’t get elbowed in the face, á la Aiden Turner. Edyta Sliwinska, perhaps subconsciously (or not so subconsciously) getting back at the soap star for upsetting her and her legwarmers during rehearsal, managed to whack her partner not once, but twice during the live performance. To his credit, Aiden made like a Timex and took the lickings but kept on ticking. Bruno said Aiden showed a glimmer of hope, though he needs to stop getting his “knickers in a twist” and keep focused. Carrie Ann said it was a “solid, solid dance.” And Len said it was an improvement, but that the routine has “got to flow more.” Aiden improved on last week’s dismal 15 with a 19, earning him and “Edyter” a total of 34.
Three points behind on the leaderboard were Kate Gosselin and Tony Dovolani. Though her jive and their score were like afterthoughts to the drama that played out during rehearsal. Basically, Kate maintained that nothing about dancing was natural to her and asked Tony to break it down for her even more so she could learn. Tony got frustrated when it appeared that Kate was trying to tell him how to teach her how to dance, and he walked out. And of course, the “DWTS” producers played this episode to the hilt, repeating Kate’s teary “I don’t get it” line ad nauseum and even adding in a cliffhanger of “To Be Continued…” and breaking to a commercial in between. Later, Tony came back and attributed his temporary exit as a “weak moment,” and Kate thanked him for not walking out for good. “A lot of people quit on me in life,” she said.
Still, the whole exchange was exceedingly uncomfortable to watch, particularly when it re-exposed those all-too familiar shades of a contentious and controlling Kate on screen. I don’t envy her position as a non-performer and non-dancer in this competition. Nor do I envy Tony’s position as her pro partner assigned to teach someone who apparently does not handle criticism well. Though from the way this whole drama panned out -- and by the really amateur jive that Kate subsequently performed -- it doesn’t appear that Kate is doing much to repair her image or win over any new fans. Nor is she learning to dance, for that matter. You know it’s bad when Carrie Ann commends you on merely getting through the routine. Bruno poured lemon juice onto this already gaping wound by remarking that she went through the motions like a Stepford wife. And then he chided her for turning his great memories of dancing with Elton John in the south of France to “I’m Still Standing” into a nightmare. Len encouraged her to come out and really go for it. Kate and Tony received a 15 for their jive, for a total of 31.
Which leaves us with America’s hero, Buzz Aldrin. Who, despite his shaky fox trot, still has the heart of a champion. And it’s hard not to root for someone who reminded you what a hero he is every time he appeared on screen, whether it was the astronaut T-shirt he sported during rehearsals, or the lunar backdrop he danced against (even saluting the American flag at the outset), or the tune of “Fly Me to the Moon” he danced to. Not voting for Buzz would be like a vote against America. And Len and Carrie Ann largely steered clear of the criticism. Carrie Ann chose instead to focus on his silver tie, while Len said one would be hard-pressed not to be a Buzz fan. Bruno, however, let ‘er rip and remarked that Buzz looked like he was “avoiding craters” when trying to go in a straight line, and then gracelessly tacked on a “but you know, great to have you” at the end. Buzz and partner Ashly Costa received a 15 for their fox trot. Total: 31 out of 60.
Again, it appears that Buzz could very well be the first contestant kicked out of the Season 10 orbit. And Aiden Turner and Kate Gosselin may very well also be in the danger zone with him -- although Tom did mention that there would have been a huge upset had someone been eliminated last week. Who do you think will get the boot? And what do you think of all of this week’s drama? Post your comments below, and then check back here tomorrow for the results.
-- Allyssa Lee
Photo credits: Adam Larkey / ABC