'Dancing With the Stars' recap: The final stretch
We've made it to the final week of “Dancing With the Stars” Season 11, ballroom fans! Can you believe that just three months earlier, the contestants were just meeting their professional partners for the first time? We barely knew who Kyle Massey was. Jennifer Grey didn’t know what she was getting into. Bristol Palin didn’t want to go home first.
And now here we are, night one of the finals competition. Brooke Burke was appropriately dressed for the occasion and looked like a Mirrorball trophy personified. Steve-O was in the audience. And Disney star Kyle Massey, teen activist Bristol Palin and movie star Jennifer Grey are the last three contestants standing.
So it’s been nearly a week since the Bristol brouhaha, and one can only hope that the nation has calmed down over last week’s voting outcome enough to focus on the things that are most important: bright spangly costumes and lots and lots of fringe.
And let’s not forget the dancing. Each finalist has to perform four dances before the coveted Mirrorball trophy is given out: There was the redemption dance and the freestyle routine Monday night, followed by two more routines Tuesday. Here’s how the three remaining finalists stacked up:
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, the couple who spent the most weeks at the top of the leaderboard this season, stayed strong for another performance round. After her perfect 60 performance last week and her stellar two routines on Monday night, there really is nothing (aside from a Mount Everest of votes for her competitors) stopping this movie star from achieving “DWTS” domination. For their redemption dance, the judges assigned Jennifer and Derek the paso doble that they famously debauched during Rock Week (though one wonders if these do-over dances were scored so low not only because they were poorly danced but also because they had to be shoehorned into some ill-fitting songs and themes) and which prompted Carrie Ann to say that Jennifer was out of control. Carrie Ann came to visit the couple during rehearsals and honed in on the subtleties that would make her much more open and dynamic. As a result, Baby Derek were the picture of control and precision and passion with their redemption paso, danced to a rocking version of “Habanera” from “Carmen” — a tune that fit the couple as snugly as Jennifer’s sexy form-fitting black dress. Loved how the top part of her skirt became a cape! And while there seemed to be a weird hand-holding bobble midroutine, the performance was nevertheless met with deafening applause from the audience and her cheering section, which included dad Joel Grey, husband Clark Gregg, No. 1 fan Jamie Lee Curtis and Melanie Griffith. And the judges refused to see anything but perfection. “This is the meaning of redemption!” Carrie Ann exclaimed. Bruno started out painting “an evening in sultry Sevilla” and ended it with “from dusk till dawn, I don’t want this night ever to end!” Even Len got caught up in the fuego of Jenougher’s performance, took a page from his oft-rising cohorts, and stood up and clapped! And Len doesn’t get up for just anyone.
And while Jennifer was reluctant to do lifts and risk further injury to her neck, she had to do Baby and the Catskills justice for her freestyle. She carried a watermelon. She carried a watermelon! It was smart of Derek to bring back all that “Dirty Dancing” nostalgia to the freestyle dance, from the song choice of the Contours’ “Do You Love Me” to the watermelon to the ’50s grind, front and center for Len’s pleasure. (“Judges table getting a lot of action tonight,” observed Tom.) Can you imagine them doing this dance on the main floor, home of the family fox trot? Max Kellerman would close the place down first! But this is the freestyle, and we’re not actually in the movie “Dirty Dancing,” so all those coffee-grinding hip swivels worked in great fun. It was just the right amount of nostalgia mixed in with proper execution to put Jennifer over the top once again. Carrie Ann thought it was simply “amazing.” “You’ve been consistent, you’ve been persistent, you’ve been an irresistible force,” said Len, who added that Jenougher were barreling like a “juggernaut” toward the Mirrorball trophy. Bruno said the two dances on opposite ends of the spectrum were “both equally brilliant.” Jennifer and Derek scored perfect 30s on both the redemption dance and the freestyle. Total: 60 out of 60.
Remember Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer’s “Charlie’s Angels” fox trot from TV theme week, when Kyle donned a porn stache and Lacey sported Christmas tree hair, and cranky Len slapped them down with a punitive 5? Well, thankfully they had a second chance to make a first impression, because this redemptive fox trot blessedly closed the book on that TV-themed nightmare. Perhaps it was because of Len Goodman’s hands-on instruction, in which the head judge would proffer fatherly kisses of approval to the back of the Disney star’s head and say things like “Let me just hold you.” And there was nary a facial hair to be found in this do-over routine, in which Kyle really focused on his technique. The graduate of the Len Goodman School of Dance showed marked improvement with his steps, though Carrie Ann thought Kyle focused a tad too much on the footwork and the performance suffered. Len praised that “the footwork was much better. Overall, you’ve gone from messy Massey to marvelous.” Bruno called Kyle “slick, sharp and sexy ... when you have to deliver, you still do!”
Kyle took a page from Will Smith in Bel Air with his freestyle number, set to 69 Boyz’s romping ditty “Tootsie Roll.” Outfitted in a blindingly bright yellow shirt and matching blinged out graffitti’d hat, Kyle and Lacey threw caution to the wind and went to the left, to the left, to the right, to the right for their freestyle routine. And the crowd pleaser really did put his whole heart and soul (and both lungs) into the performance, as evidenced by Lacey having to peel him off the dance floor at routine’s end and his complete and utter breathlessness in the celebraquarium. And I love myself some Kyle and think he’s a consummate performer. But was it just me or was his routine just a tad bit … expected? I wish he and Lacey had incorporated some of their hard-earned ballroom moves to the hip-hop to bring it all full circle. “The Tootsie Roll — one of my favorites!” Len joked. “I’m not a great lover of the boogaloo dancing, but this was great fun, great entertainment.” Carrie Ann gently corrected the head judge’s description. “It’s called old-school hip-hop,” she said, "and this old fly girl loved it.” She also deigned Kyle “the Fresh Prince of ‘Dancing With the Stars!’” Word. Kyle and Lacey got a 27 for their redemption fox trot and a 29 for their slide baby slide freestyle for a total of 56.
Third-place finishers Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas had to reprise their jittery jive from Week 5’s TV theme episode — that one with the ill-fitting gorilla suits, danced to the “Monkees” theme. Except Bristol was still smarting from the torrents of viewer outrage that proclaimed that she didn’t deserve to be in the competition. Bruno arrived to rehearsal to help get her mind into the dance and “to get the wild child out of you.” He had her doing exercises to get her out of her shell, which basically consisted of Bruno and Mark shaking with abandon while Bristol hung back in embarrassment. “I’m not &*@#ing in the final, you are!” an exasperated Bruno said. Still, the high-octane judge felt like the teen activist got the message. (Either that, or “I scared her to death,” he said with a laugh.) Actually, I think she did get the message. Because Bristol’s do-over jive was a huge improvement from her monkey debacle, even though those unfortunate blue slippers didn’t do her any favors in toe points or flattery. And kudos to Mark for putting everything out there and for pulling off that ginormously big split leap over his partner (though why he’d remind everyone of that unfortunate gorilla gag by putting on that ape mask for the judges is beyond me). Carrie Ann said Bristol was “vibrant and brighter,” though the toes could have been more pointed. Bruno said, “You revealed yourself, you had a good time, we didn’t care, and we all enjoyed it!” “Last time a gorilla, now a thrilla,” Len rhymed.
Though Bristol and Mark’s freestyle wasn’t very much of a freestyle as we have come to expect it in the shiny bejeweled “DWTS” universe. Rather, it seemed like Bristol and Mark kept it close to form for their second dance, performing a well-known (and therefore risky) routine to “Chicago’s” seminal “Cell Block Tango.” And if the standard didn’t already set the dancing bar high enough, it turned out that Bristol had never even heard of “Chicago,” much less seen a Broadway show. And while she was able to pull off the sultry moves to good effect, Bruno and Carrie Ann thought there was much to be desired in her performance (maybe she had it coming?). “This is an iconic number,” explained Bruno. “You did very very well but not quite at the level that this song requires.” Carrie Ann agreed, though she gave Bristol props for dancing in a cage. Len, however, thought Bristol “was fantastic.” Bristol and Mark received a 27 for their redemption jive and a 25 for their freestyle cage dance for a total of 52.
Again, this puts Jennifer in prime position to claim the Mirrorball trophy and Bristol in the hot seat for elimination. Though who really knows how the votes will turn out? As Tom said, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” Most importantly: “Don’t shoot your television.”
What did you think of Monday night’s performances? Jennifer is definitely the competitor to beat, but will an outpouring of votes put the Mirrorball trophy in another star’s hands come Tuesday? Did you vote? What’s more, did you follow host Vernon Kay from the caliente “DWTS” soundstage to the cool icy caverns of “Skating With the Stars”?
— Allyssa Lee
Photo: Lacey Schwimmer and Kyle Massey. Credit: Bob D’Amico / ABC.