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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: '80s Week

October 17, 2011 | 10:57 pm

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Fire up the flux capacitor party and pump up the volume, because it’s ’80s Week on “Dancing With the Stars.” The producers decided to commemorate the halfway point of the 13thseason with a celebration of the decade of decadence. Yeah, boyyyyy! And after witnessing Brooke with her big hair and royal blue sequin dress and the remaining contestants in their period-piece get-ups, it all became Crystal Carrington clear: The ’80s were, in fact, hideous.

But first: Close your eyes, give me your hand. The Bangles were in the house, to remind us that they were still on tour and to sing a couple of their classics. Susanna Hoffs and Co. started with a medley of “Eternal Flame” and “Walk Like an Egyptian,” with assistance from the DWTS Troupe and props that looked like they were left over from Chelsie Hightower and Jake Pavelka’s archaeological dig back in Season 10. The judges gamely did their best hieroglyphics impressions with the Troupe at the end. Later, the Bangles regrouped to perform their paean to the most dreaded day of the workweek: “Manic Monday.”

All in all, this show seemed a lot like the ’80s themselves: fun in theory and at a distance, but kind of a mess when you really get into it. A lot of songs didn’t really lend themselves to ballroom dances. Oh, well. At least we had a decade’s worth of references to bandy about. Legwarmers to put on (wherefore art thou, Edyta?!). A disturbing picture of head judge Len Goodman from the decade, which Tom said looked like “a cross between Gene Simmons and Orville Redenbacher.” And a two-hour marathon program that gave way to a new “top gun of the ballroom.”

That honor went to veteran and actor J.R. Martinez, who effectively ended Ricki Lake’s three-week long reign at the top of the leader board. How fun was J.R. and Karina Smirnoff’s samba? Though you knew it was going to be a hoot when Karina jokingly blew off J.R.’s ’80s rockin’ hair metal wig with a blow dryer right before commercial. Anyway, the dance that ensued was a perfect storm of Latin goodness: the samba, Latin-born Jose Rene, and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Ay, Gloria said the “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” and oh-ey-oh-ey, it did! Bruno mentioned that the sambas that the men perform on this show are usually forced and don’t nail the rhythm. Well, chalk it up to J.R.’s time at the Conga Room or his Latin roots, because it was as if the rhythm bore down deep into his hips and didn’t let go. This guy was en fuego. “Way to go, Jose!” praised Len, who said J.R.’s samba set a new standard. “You have so much fire down below it was like a volcano!” erupted Bruno. “Ooh, papi, muy caliente!” Carrie Ann purred. J.R.’s red-hot samba had this judge talking a blue streak. “I want more of that, because that was [expletive] amazing!” Total: 28 out of 30.

Carrie Ann likened Rob Kardashian to the tortoise in Aesop’s tortoise and the hare fable: steadily making improvements and inching his way along. Last week, Rob tapped into his inner superhero; this week for his rumba, he had to tap into his inner sexpot. Rob said he wanted to become the sexy leading man “that I know I am.” USC pal and Season 12 contestant Romeo stopped by rehearsals to teach the young Kardashian the ways of the rumba and “to make [pro partner Cheryl Burke] beg for you.” Um, “Hello”? Is it he you’re looking for? The Harold Wheeler band’s rendition of the Lionel Richie classic seemed to have some odd tempo issues, but his rumba didn’t fare too badly, save that shaky split effort at the end. “Well well well! Rob the heartthrob!” Bruno crowed. “For the first time, I’m starting to see you use Cheryl as a partner, not hiding behind her.” Carrie Ann said Rob was “sexy as heck, even in a bright green shirt.” Len commended Rob for taking command of the dance. But “don’t be trying to do the splits, because you would be trying to ruin your potential.” Agreed. Total: 25.

It’s amazing what a difference five weeks makes. Take David Arquette, for instance. He’s not only gained confidence since his shaky Week 1 premiere, but the actor and producer has now taken to helping partner Kym Johnson choreograph routines, reminding her to keep their tango in hold and doimg a pretty impressive impression of Len “Chuckles” Goodman. Who knew David was a street artist and break dancer? That spray paint rendition of the Mirrorball on the brick wall could be a pretty good consolation prize for an also-ran. And I agreed with Len that their “Anarchy in the Ballroom” tango, set to Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” had the best ’80s feel of all the dances. Despite David’s cheeky Len impression (or perhaps because of it), the head judge had a lot to praise about the routine. The self-proclaimed “old fuddy-duddy” said he “thought the phrasing and the choreography were great.” (Best shot of the night: daughter Coco ecstatic from the positive feedback.) Bruno called the routine “a tango with a rebel yell.” Carrie Ann thought David needed to “work a little bit more on musicality” but said she sees him “coming up to be a contender.” Total: 25. 

Ohh, whoahh, contentious partners Hope Solo and Maks Chmerkovskiy are halfway there. And ooh, whoahh, Hope and Maks are “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The Bon Jovi-themed tango was particularly suited toward the soccer star and her hotheaded pro partner, because the dance is based on a love-hate relationship. And while there were a lot of pyrotechnics and a lot of aggression, I agreed with Len that the dance wasn’t as sharp as I had hoped it would be. And thank goodness Hope abandoned that candy apple red Matrix jacket right off the bat. Len gave his 7 pounds and 10 shillings’ worth of a thought and said Hope was “too willowy.... There was no strength in you.” Bruno said the World Cup star got the “’80s super bitch down to a tee” and was in full Alexis Carrington Colby mode. Carrie Ann landed somewhere in between. “It was totally strong” but “it’s almost like you attacked it so hard that your lines got a little bit awkward,” she said. Also a little bit awkward: Hope and Maks’ side-by-side baby photos. “Back in the ‘80s, Maks looks like a Keebler elf. That’s cute!” remarked Tom. Still doesn’t explain the generous scores, though. Total: 24.

“I blew the Roger Rabbit!” As if the ’80s didn’t harbor enough cringe-worthy memories, now Ricki Lake has to add another one to them. There are certain songs that lend themselves well to ballroom dances. Movie scores. Gloria Estefan. But Phil Collins and Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover”? Not so much. Particularly when its dancers are doing the running man and the Roger Rabbit in between fox trot steps in a four-tiered satin prom dress. “Hairspray” director John Waters lent his support to Ricki in rehearsal but wasn’t at the actual performance show. But perhaps that was for the best, because this was far from Ricki and Derek Hough’s strongest routine. Ricki’s comment seemed to sum it all up: “It took a lot out of me, and I look ridiculous.” The judges took more issue with the ill-timed ’80s stylings than the fox trot itself. “You did the Roger Rabbit, and you were way off!” Carrie Ann gasped. Bruno said the inclusion of the ’80s dances “didn’t gel, and it was off timing. But you can’t be a genius every week.” Len said he was “all for the funk,” but “it’s not really a mood I appreciate in the fox trot.” At least Ricki and Derek got to redeem their Roger Rabbit up in the sky box. Total: 24. 

Nancy Grace wanted to improve on her lukewarm paso doble from last week, but the hard-hitting prosecutor (who showed some pretty good hip action, demonstrating cheerleading moves from her days back in Georgia) was having a hard time taking direction from her pro partner, Tristan MacManus. Since Nancy and Tristan were dancing a rumba to Spandau Ballet, I thought they’d be more fitting in softer pinks, rather than a hard black and fuchsia frock that made her look more burlesque than “True.” Carrie Ann said the dance was nice and appropriate, but wanted to see “real passion when you’re dancing.... I don’t feel a connection necessarily to the dance.” Len, however, didn’t want to see “an older lady trying to act like some young floozy,” and thought their rumba was just right. “I thought it was simple but it was very effective,” the head judge said. “There was an ease and an elegance about it which I enjoyed very much.” Bruno also thought Nancy “pitched it exactly right.... It was sensuous, it was sexy, it wasn’t slutty,” but “some links could have been more fluid.” Bruno also called it was one of Nancy’s best performances, and awarded her an 8 for it, which left Nancy overwhelmed with emotion. “I’m so happy to have gotten an 8,” she said happily. “I have to go lay down.” Total: 22.

Chaz Bono was able to ride last week’s “Rocky”-themed momentum into this week’s samba with Lacey Schwimmer. In his corner: a clean bill of health, and an able assist from Lacey’s dad and the king of swing, Buddy Schwimmer, who encouraged Chaz to go bigger because bigger guys “actually have more shake, so hey!” Chaz took all that advice to heart and booty for the samba, which took a page out of “A Night at the Roxbury” and was shimmied to Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It.” It seems like Chaz is on a high, ending both routines up on a platform with his arms up in triumph. Carrie Ann said it was “so nice to see you going strong from last week. That’s the most dancing I’ve seen you do in all your routines.” Len called it “a gallant effort” and said Chaz “came out and really gave it a go.” Bruno likened Chaz’s bounce to “a dribbling basketball” but said having to do the samba after J.R. was “a tough act to follow.” Total: 21.

Mr. Personality Carson Kressley isn’t one for subtlety. It’s clear this erstwhile "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star is not a natural dancer. His coordination technique in the styling department may be top-notch, but leaves a lot to be desired in the ballroom. It also leaves him with the lowest total of judges’ points now two weeks in a row. So now have he and Anna Trebunskaya totally abandoned the technique in favor of pure entertainment and glittery turns of phrase (like how Carson was able to so naturally insert the very ’80s “What you talking about, Willis?” when faced with the idea that he would last longer than Chynna Philips) to get him through week after week? It sure seems that way. Because when you take away the Wham! soundtrack, the Punky Brewster-colored sweatsuits, the cheerleading outfits and what Tom called “Big Bird wristwarmers,” you’re left with a jive that was terribly out of sync and more dance-ish than dance. But man, does he have a lot of heart. And the crowd certainly showed their appreciation with their thunderous applause. Bruno said the routine “was loopier than a Looney Tunes.... You managed to squeeze so much wacky fun out of a really minimal jive.” Carrie Ann said it was “definitely fun,” and spied “Richard Simmons watching you envying your outfit,” but for a Week 5 performance, “I didn’t see much technique anywhere.” Len said that were he to judge with his heart, Carson would be here next week. But since he has to judge with his head, he gave Carson a 6. Total: 19.

Which, alas, again puts Carson in danger of being auf’ed. And while I know he has no way of winning this competition, I can’t help but agree with Anna: a “DWTS” without Carson would not be as exciting. This guy is practically his own Mirrorball, so shiny and reflective and pleasant to be around. And I love Carson’s bon mots. “Our love affair is shoes, and we work around that.”

What do you think? Will Carson go home on Tuesday night, or will someone else fall victim to voter apathy? How did ’80s Week work for you? “Class of ’87, shout out!”

Related:

‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Movie Night

‘Dancing With the Stars’ results recap: Mission Incomplete

Complete ‘Dancing With the Stars’ coverage on Show Tracker

—Allyssa Lee

Photo: Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian Credit: Greg Zabilski / ABC

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