'Dancing With the Stars': The final three
And on Monday night they performed half of what Tom called an “unprecedented” four dances going into Tuesday’s results finale. The first was what was called a “Redemption Dance” – assigned by the judges based on what they should have excelled in, but didn’t. And then there was also that make or break wild card -- the freestyle -- where anything goes. These dances are always eye-catching like a bright sparkly spangle, and a highlight of any season. But whether they turn out horrifically heinous or happily heartening is always a toss-up.
After tonight’s performances, however, I have to say that I’m glad that we’ll have another chance to see our finalists do another routine. The revered and reviled freestyle dance turned out to be a mixed bag. High expectations were set, but not necessarily met, and there were no perfect 30s awarded throughout this fast-moving hour.
Which is not to say that there wasn't any drama, as Monday night’s performances resulted in a bit of a topsy-turvy upset to the leader board standings.
In the surprise twist of the evening, tied for first place were (expected) Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough and … (drum roll)
Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy! The ESPN sideline reporter made her bid for the big show with her redemptive samba, performed in a skirt that looked like it was on fire. The dance was full of energy and spice and showed her shaking her hips like Shakira, her booty like a “Crazy in Love” Beyoncé and working that hairography like a raging lioness. The showmanship worked, as the judges unanimously showered the pair with praise. “You were hotter than noon in the tropics!” roared Bruno. Carrie Ann said Erin moved herself “up three notches”: “It was just fantastic.” And Len was happy that Maks made his dream come true: “I always wanted to be kissed by a man with a beard.” Len’s joyous wish fulfillment was enough to give Erin and Maks a perfect 10 for their performance. Bruno, however, was a little chintzy with his score, and gave them a 9, despite being the one to help them out during rehearsals. The 29 did prove high enough for Maks to bust out the bare chest for a hot second, though.
Maks kept his mannaries covered for their second dance, a “risky” freestyle that went contemporary, took a page straight out of the “So You Think You Can Dance” handbook and was suited towards Erin’s sultry and leggy strengths. They even employed “SYTYCD” choreographer Mandy Moore to help them out with the performance. Erin put on a little negligee and danced a passionate contemporary romance set to Heart’s “Alone.” And not to douse cold water on the whole routine, but while I loved the intense emotion between the two, I can’t say I was as enamored with the dancing. And there was a little stumble on the bed. To Maks’ defense, however, “it wasn’t the bed rehearsed on.” (Fair enough.) Still, the judges were a bit mixed with their critique. Carrie Ann praised both Erin and Maks for taking a risk. Bruno called it a “psycho drama … some of those steps you pulled off was quite incredible.” Len thought it was a “mix for me of emotion and commotion. I liked it … but I didn’t love it.” Erin and Maks earned a 26 for their freestyle, which combined with their samba made for a grand total of 55 out of 60.
Which was tied with Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. Fun fact: Nicole and Derek have earned a whopping 363 judges points coming into Monday night — the highest score ever at this stage of the competition. They also brought the goods in this first part of the finals. The couple’s redemption dance was their rumba, which fans might remember was tentative and shaky the last time around. Well, Nicole’s confidence has shot up in spades since that last bedroom dance, and there was nary a shaky ankle to be found on the dance floor during this performance, set to Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red.” Again, Derek made good use of his partner’s amazing flexibility, and they did an impressive Cirque du Soleil, “Look, Ma! No hands!” move with Nicole wrapped around Derek at the end. Too bad Lift Police Captain Carrie Ann “The Enforcer” Inaba smacked them down with a citation for an illegal carry. “The song wasn’t done!” she squeaked. Len loved the “subtlety of the choreography” but thought Nicole “should have settled more into [her] hip.” Bruno thought it was “superlative:” “Eroticism, sensuality, romance, seamlessly woven into extreme beauty.” The couple earned a 28 for their do-over.
Their freestyle dance was about a thousand watts of pure fun (made even shinier by their sequined tuxes, and then by the yellow highlighter fluorescence of their outfits underneath) that went about 1,001 mph and threw in just about everything but the kitchen sink. It was a shame that that last helicopter lift faltered on take-off, though. “It was like this crazy high-octane octopus,” exclaimed Carrie Ann. “Ah. Ma. Zing,” purred Bruno. “There was a slip at the end because what you’ve tried to do has never been done.” “I saw Lindy Hop, I saw salsa, I saw quick step, I saw jive, I saw fun, I saw entertainment,” said Len. “I saw a fantastic freestyle.” Not content to conclude on a low note, Derek and Nicole reenacted the botched lift in the celebraquarium, ended with a “Superstar!” pose and earned a 27 for their efforts. Total: 55.
Bringing up the rear were Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya. The judges deigned EA sports’ Week 1 Viennese Waltz as their redemption dance, which at first seemed to be a bit of a gimme. I would have thought Evan’s stiff-hipped samba needed the most work. But I rewound the hosts’ explanation, and it turned out the redemption dance is based on what the star should have excelled in, but didn’t. That made more sense. Nobody expected Evan to excel in the Brazilian party dance. So the Viennese Waltz it was, and Evan ably connected with his partner and delivered a lovely and lilting performance. Anna played on a theme started with Brooke Burke earlier in the season and donned a keyboard dress, as the dance was set to “Piano Man” (wow, first “Glee” and now “DWTS!” It’s a good week for Billy Joel). There was even a move where Evan tickled Anna’s ivories, put his fingers on Anna’s abdomen and “played” her at the end. Bruno said the “fluidity and lyricism was as good as always … and I liked to see the connection between you two.” Len praised the dance for its “grace” and “elegance,” though Evan “collapsed a little bit through your standing leg.” Carrie Ann thought the whole thing was “a beautiful, emotional, endless, enchanting dream.”
The dream turned into a bit of a nightmare with Evan and Anna’s freestyle. Turned out Anna would rather do a hundred pasos or jives than to have to choreograph a freestyle, and Evan was intent on being less razzle-dazzle “cheeky” Broadway, more movie audition for their “Footloose”-themed set. Some words were exchanged, a surly “whatever” was uttered and there were some frustrated tears. And then couples counselor/choreographer Bobby Newberry was called in to mediate and join their conflicting styles. And while I thought the resulting routine was a high-flying, high-energy romp with Evan as the (again, tuxedo-ed) string bean who just wants to dance, the judges were not so kind. “Evan, you went demented,” said Bruno. “I didn’t know if I was watching ‘Footloose’ or ‘Screwloose!’” “That was odd,” decided Carrie Ann. “You have to match your lines. You guys were like dancing two completely separate dances.” “I think you took the path of least resistance,” said Len of Evan and Anna’s compromising routine. “And it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to see.” Yikes. Evan and Anna earned a 28 for their waltz, and a slap in the face 24 for their freestyle, for a total of 52.
Which means that Evan and Anna are set to be the odd couple out going into Tuesday’s finale. Though there’s still one more routine that all three couples will have to perform before the field is narrowed down to the final two.
What do you think? Do you think Evan and Anna will be the team to go, or do you think the judges’ critical comments will spur viewers to vote them into the final two? Who has your vote to win it all?
Photo credit: ABC / Adam Larkey (3)