'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Latin Night turns up the heat
We’ve reached the halfway point of Season 14 of “Dancing With the Stars,” ballroom fans. What better way to kick off the second half of the season with the sexy sabor of Latin Night? Out popped the Spanish accents and the bright, tropical colors. The wardrobe department generously offered an extra helping of fringe to any couple that needed it. And all the spray tans were set to extra crispy.
It was a mix of Argentine tangos, salsas and sambas for the remaining couples. As an added treat, Latin guitar great Carlos Santana was in the house to add his singular flair. He kicked off the program with a rousing performance featuring the “DWTS” Troupe, outfitted like brightly spinning fruit, on the dance floor. He ground his ax during interstitials and before and after commercial breaks. And he performed his massive hit “Maria, Maria” with a most welcome and able assist from Louis Van Amstel (so nice to see you again!) and Anna Trebunakaya.
All the skin baring and shimmying wasn’t without its rewards. In fact, three couples received perfect 10 paddles from the judges this week (and they were all dancing the Argentine tango).
At the top of the leader board were Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas, and William Levy and Cheryl Burke both of whom danced Argentine tangos. And subsequently smoked them.
Hard to believe classical singer Katherine was convinced she was going home last week after that rocky paso doble. Mark Ballas made sure to be extra hard on her in rehearsals to ensure that they wouldn’t be in jeopardy again. Though Katherine got him back for his disparaging comments by getting “in there” with her kicks and flicks, twig and berries notwithstanding. “I’ve been doing damage to Mark’s naughty bits,” she giggled. Consider them even. Their ensuing tango was my favorite routine of the night. The look of the dance was a different tack from the usual harsh red of an Argentine tango, but the routine was no less barbed. Loved the story, too, of Katherine leaving Mark for his boozing. Len likened the routine to a rose -- beautiful, but thorny and menacing underneath. Bruno thought Katherine and Mark showed “dancing and choreography of the highest quality. “But what really made me tingle,” he continued, “was the perfect pitch of the acting and the storytelling.” “That was poetry in motion,” raved Carrie Ann, who said Katherine’s are “the best legs I’ve ever seen of any contestant.” Total: 29 out of 30. And a celebratory dance in the sky box!
The 29 score tied with William Levy and Cheryl Burke. Though the reports that William had hurt his ankle offered “DWTS” a dramatically juicy telenovella twist. The Latin star getting hurt during Latin week? Nooo!!! Luckily, William made it a point to dance despite an MRI revealing a torn ligament. “I don’t want to be the only Latino going home on Latin week,” he said. And we are all the better for it. His routine with Cheryl Burke, set to the Pussycat Dolls’ “Buttons,” was all sorts of smoldering and sexy. And no doubt visions of William skulking around on the dance floor in an open tuxedo shirt had folks opening up their buttons and fanning themselves everywhere. It was enough to have Carrie Ann twitterpated and patting her braid to gather herself. “That was ridiculously amazing,” she said, ultimately dubbing our William of Levy the “Latin Dancing James Bond.” Len said he saw “mood, I saw passion, I saw sensuality and color.” Bruno found “pulsating passion, throbbing intensity, slick sexy cool.” Total: 29.
TV host Maria Menounos and Derek were keen to reduce the injuries and increase the hotness this week. Well, they got the second part. The injury-ridden Maria did a face plant trying to do a move through Derek’s legs during rehearsals. For a tense moment there, she thought she had lost her lower jaw. Luckily for Dr. Drew, she emerged from that rehearsal with her chin and salsa intact. And boy, was their salsa spicy. It started with Maria grinding up to the “Loveline” doctor. Then Derek revealed where a quarter of the season’s spray tan budget went when he took off his canary yellow shirt. Then came the signature Derek Hough crotch bob. And a kiss! Still, I’m sad that that fabulous headdress didn’t make it further into the performance. The whole thing steamed so much Dr. Drew’s “wife almost staged an intervention,” remarked Tom. “Wow, that was hot,” Carrie Ann said, fanning herself. But she revealed herself a true “fuddy-duddy” like Len when she said the kiss mid-routine wasn’t needed. “Dance is about the illusion of passion,” she complained. “Save it for back there!” Len found two things revealed in this routine: “Derek’s body and your talent.” And while he didn’t care for the body, “the talent was fantastic.” Bruno found the dance lip-licking good. And had three questions: “Was it legal? Want me to get you a room? Can I join in?” The three 9s led to a lot of jumping up and down on Maria’s part, which prompted Tom to observe, “Tassles have a lot of bounce, don’t they?” Total: 27.
Green Bay Packer Donald Driver is a technician. The longtime “DWTS” fan looks at every dance like he’s playing football, and this week’s Argentine tango with Peta Murgatroyd was no different. He observes every move. Every step. And his hawk-like intensity and focus really paid off for him during this sultry routine. As did Peta’s fire engine red dress, though it appeared to be missing its entire left side. “That was divine,” Carrie Ann gushed. “There was so much technique involved in lifting, and you mastered that. … You were just in control all over that Argentine tango!” Len, however, wasn’t such a fan of the stuff apart from the lifts. Bruno didn’t like how Donald and Peta interrupted the amazing buildup. Still, it was enough to eke out a 10 paddle from Carrie Ann. Total: 27.
Chelsie Hightower was trying to teach young Roshon Fegan how to be masculine while shimmying for the salsa. Turns out, the wider and bigger everything is, the more masculine he’ll look. Roshon heard wider and bigger, and naturally, his thoughts went to William Levy. And we have the Disney star to thank for introducing America to that swimsuit shot of William poolside. William told Roshon that if he wanted to be Latino, he had to be suave. And Roshon brought the suave to the ballroom jungle (Hollywood and Vines! Ha!) Monday night. Roshon was the adventurer, and Chelsie was the exotic, shimmying bird he set his sights on (though she almost lost her plumage at the end of the routine). Bruno said Roshon was “wired for salsa” and his timing was “unbelievable.” Carrie Ann told “Roro” not to worry, “You’ve got your mojo … in a Disney way.” Len liked Roshon’s enthusiasm, but likened him to “a young guy with his first car: full-on speed and attack.” The head judge suggested he “calm [himself] on occasion.” Total: 26.
The dreaded Dance Duel was hanging heavily on Jaleel White, who found his scores slipping last week. So the “Family Matters” star was willing to put on a jock strap, get a spray tan with Maks, reveal his 8-pack and guns, work on his technical for Len, and shake his booty for Carrie Ann (and Bruno as well). And Jaleel was the primitive bootyshaker prancing around the fringey fire that was partner Kym Johnson in their samba this week. Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine sang that the “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and it certainly took hold of Jaleel. But truth be told, it was Kym’s outfit that was truly mesmerizing, as the long, fiery fringe wrapped all the way down the left side of her body. “Hip, hip hooray!” cried Len, who said Jaleel’s “bum was going like he was chewing toffee.” Bruno saw a little bit of himself in Jaleel during his shake. Carrie Ann loved that he “came out with attack and fire,” but told him to take care to watch his arm when out of hold – “It goes a little dead once in a while.” Total: 24.
Empress of Soul Gladys Knight has an unflappable, easygoing nature that’s so easy to like. She and her partner Tristan MacManus have been on the bottom of the leaderboard, sure, but that doesn’t bother her. It’s not the first time she’s been at the bottom. She just deals with it, and I just love her aplomb. And her samba this week was her chance to shake everything that she’s keeping inside. And what a treat it is to have her share her inner party, even though it might end at 8 o’clock at night. Tom called the routine “absolutely charming, start to finish.” “You’ve got a naturalness about you,” said Len. “It was simple, but effective.” Bruno agreed. “When you take it, when you’re yourself, you’re magic.” Carrie Ann saw a few tiny mistakes, but “there’s something about watching you dance,” she said. “When you’re out there, you command the stage.” Please let her make it to Motown. Total: 22.
Erstwhile half-pint Melissa Gilbert is back after last week’s unfortunate collision between her head and Maks' leg led to whiplash and a mild concussion. But as she said to Brooke, “I’m OK. I’m right here. I can see one of you.” She just needed to avoid anything that gave her a headache. Only, there was just one thing Maks Chmerkovskiy wanted from his partner in this week’s salsa: “Sex.” And she brought it to the high-energy routine. The dance started off on some Latin street, with Melissa selling fruit and an extremely tanorexic Maks selling his abs and booty. She looked great – loved the flower in her hair, her yellow and fuschia cut-out fringe dress, and how she did her best to own the sexy. Bruno called her “wild and tamed – you’ve got to be on it, precisely all the way through,” he warned. “If not, it loses the edges.” Carrie Ann loved how Melissa’s confidence has grown, but agreed “there’s an element of control that is lacking.” Len saw a dance of two parts: at times, “great rhythm and feel, and at times “untidy and rough.” Total: 21.
Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff needed all the help they could get with their Latin Night samba performance. Gavin even asked his fans to vote for them during his concert. Turned out sexytime in the ballroom did not come naturally to Gavin, and he found himself at sea. Like, literally in a boat while ocean waves projected impressively onto the dance floor. Alas, not even Karina’s spray tan and extremely colorful ruffled dress could mask Gavin’s lack of hip action. Though I didn’t think it was as bad as the judges had said. “You should have stayed on the boat,” Bruno decided, though he did credit Gavin for letting go and “hoping for the best.” Carrie Ann also loved the way Gavin just went for it, but thought it lacked a bit of form. Len, however, called it “more of a shamba than a samba.” Ouch. Total: 19. Double ouch.
And to think how happy Gavin and Karina were by their reprieve from the bottom two last week. Gavin’s really going to need his fans to ring in their votes if he wants to avoid being one of the bottom two couples facing off in Tuesday night’s dreaded Dance Duel.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Who do you think will be competing in the Dance Duel on Tuesday night, and who ultimately will say adios to the ballroom at the end of Latin Week? Were the week’s dances sexy enough for you? Should Dr. Drew offer a “DWTS” intervention for extreme spray tan use? “Don’t molt on me, young lady!”
Photo of Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC