'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Rock ballroom with a KISS
Break out the pleather and guyliner, ballroom fans. It’s rock week on “Dancing With the Stars”! To kick things off on an appropriately headbanging note KISS(!) came out in full makeup and armor, horns on shoulder pads and all, to kick off the proceedings with their signature hit “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night.” KISS on “Dancing With the Stars” — the coolest get for a ballroom dancing reality show competition ever, or first sign of the apocalypse? Discuss. Sure, they’re out to promote their summer tour with Motley Crue. But Gene Simmons and Co. didn’t just end their appearance with that opening number. The band stayed for much of the rest of the two-hour program, stealing partners up in the sky box and lending some support to dancers midway.
But hey, it’s Rock Week! And the producers really seemed to have fun getting into this week’s theme. As the judges showed, it was time to turn the volume (and the paddles) all the way up to 11.The judges’ table itself outfitted with metal and rivets for the event. Electric guitar solos soared within the Harold Wheeler Band, and the bandleader himself gamely put his rock face-paint on and his tongue out. Brooke Burke-Charvet had hair out to there and caught unsuspecting contestants in it. The “DWTS” Troupe girls stripped down to their skivvies and writhed like rock groupies, while the guys apparently drew the shorter end of the ballroom stick and dressed up in face paint and unitards, as if Marcel Marceau had decided to pursue his rock fantasies. Or, as Tom mentioned, “Mimes Gone Wild.” And in a “This Is Spinal Tap” homage, a tiny Stonehenge floated its way onto the dance floor. “Oh yeah,” confirmed Tom Bergeron. “It’s Stonehenge.” Rock on!
As it turned out, the pyrotechnics, Mimes Gone Wild and the promise of rock delivered more than the actual dances themselves, which were touted with a lot of strum und drang but performed without as much oomph as the songs that inspired them. The scores, also, didn’t reach quite the levels of a well-executed high kick. There was no 11 paddle to be found after the KISS performance. But we did end up with a new leader! Cue the air guitars:
Watch out, ladies and Bruno, Donald Driver’s bringing out the big guns. And pecs. And tattoos. And not even a crocheted granny sweater could take away any of this Green Bay Packer’s masculinity during his paso doble with Peta Murgatroyd. William Levy, watch out, indeed: there’s another bare-chested hunky dunky man coming down that great ballroom staircase. And “scuse me, while I kiss the sky!” because this paso doble was a psychedelic “Purple Haze” of a ballroom trip. Loved how Donald committed to every last arm extension and move, had his tongue out while lifting Peta’s leg up like a guitar, and left his partner twirling like the arrow on a Twister board with his arms raised at the end. Bruno looked like he wanted to devour the NFL pro. “Great guns, Donald!” the judge bellowed. “Muscular. Masculine. Magnificent.” Carrie Ann went through a litany of adjectives, calling it the most “psychedelic, bizarre, sexy … hot damn! … That was just spectacular.” Len “never thought he’d get excited seeing a man with his shirt off,” and offered to compare tattoos at the show’s end. “No one can accuse you of holding back,” the head judge said. “Without a doubt, your best dance.” And Donald’s best scores! Total: 27 out of 30.
In the non-rock part of this program, Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower danced the Viennese Waltz to David Cook’s rock(?) ballad “Time of My Life.” And the way that they wore fuchsia and twirled around on the floor as a galaxy of stars was beamed onto the ballroom floor beneath them was straight out of a scene from prom. “You’re flying so high you can touch the sky,” swooned Bruno. “Elegant and romantic. I loved it.” “It was like watching the climax of a Disney movie,” Carrie Ann said giddily. But in all seriousness, “You, I think, out of the men, are the best dancer.” (“That feels great -- that she called me a man!” responded Roshon). Len, however, gave arguably the greatest praise of them all, saying the three words Roshon wanted to hear the most: “Good job, dog.” It was so nice he even said it twice. Total: 26.
The injuries to Maria Menounos just don’t stop. What’s a couple of broken ribs when you can break your foot as well? Turns out she’s suffering not only just a couple of stress reactions and bad bruises, but an outright stress fracture on one bone of her left foot. But for Maria, quitting the show has never been an option, and Maria vows to keep pushing through. “This girl is a warrior,” said partner, Derek Hough. And you can’t help but admire her moxie. And the fact that she showed no semblance of pain during her tango to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” Maria played the good schoolgirl gone bad. Derek was the Mohawk-sporting tagger with a bad attitude. John Stamos, Nia Vardalos and Rita Wilson all liked their dance. Carrie Ann thought the routine was earring-gnawing good. They had such great chemistry. Len thought she had the aggression, but occasionally lost a bit of control. Bruno thought Maria’s “beauty, attitude and sex appeal” were top notch. Total: 26.
Katherine Jenkins had to tamp down her classical roots even further, to go from the Welsh Wiggler to the Welsh Warrior for this week’s paso doble. Mark Ballas wanted her to channel her intensity, aggression, impact and rotation, so he took her to his muay thai gym to throw some punches, have her way with a blue dummy, and get her aggression out. And while she had spikes on her shoulders, big hair extensions, and a fantastic cape, her paso doble was more soft rock than metal. Bruno called Katherine “on kick-ass mode, unleashing a whirlwind of fury,” but said the routine “wasn’t as clean and precise and defined as a paso doble should be.” Len said the routine “had promise, but it didn’t quite deliver.” “Tonight, you weren’t on your feet,” said Carrie Ann. “The intensity was there, but I think it threw you off your footing.” Alas, we can’t all be rock warriors. She’s still my favorite, though. Total: 24.
Perennial bottom-dweller Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff needed a rock 'n' roll miracle to get them out of their precarious leader-board situation. Gavin’s a self-proclaimed “ideas man,” but Karina wasn’t always so receptive to his thoughts and would rather duct tape his mouth. Gavin hoped that with his rock music background, that this week would be right up his alley. Karina wanted her partner’s rock stage presence to translate to the tango. And while the posture was a bit off-kilter and that tumble on the floor looked like a terribly awkward roll in the hay, the routine worked in its own gothic, Tim Burton-y kind of way. Len was a bit hesitant in his praise. “I didn’t like it that much, but I liked it,” the judge said, citing his “flair” and “attitude.” The only thing: “You’ve got to tuck your bum under, get your top away from Karina.” Bruno said Gavin’s frame was bad, and likened him to a turtle: “Your shoulders kept going up and up and up and up and up.” Carrie Ann felt like she was watching “Johnny Depp on the stage – you took me there.” While the posture was a bit wonky, she praised him for having “intention behind every move.” But Gavin, ever the realist, told Brooke that he had no illusions about this dance moving him out of the bottom two. Give him points for his honesty, at least! Total: 23.
Jaleel While moves like Jagger. Or is it Jefferson? Turned out the “Family Matters” star didn’t grow up listening to the Rolling Stones, so for his tango to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the sitcom star donned a scarf and strutted like TV icon George Jefferson instead. So his dance was based more on a sitcom than rock. Kym Johnson had a lounge room. As long as they end up looking the same, so what? Though while Jaleel’s initial chicken cluck had all sorts of pluck, the rest of the tango seemed to be out-dramatized by the song itself. And the judges couldn’t give no satisfactory remarks to his routine, despite the initial cluck and Jaleel’s floor spin at the end. Carrie Ann said she “loved seeing you bring George Jefferson to the tango,” but warned Jaleel not to be too smooth. “I’d like to see some staccato,” she said. Len agreed. “It needed more attack,” he said. More “pantherlike stalking across the floor.” “A little bit under powered in the under carriage,” decided Bruno. (Mostly) good critiques tonight. Total: 22.
Melissa Gilbert delivered her best routine yet. Even though Jennifer Love Hewitt’s fave Maks Chmerkovskiy introduced the paso doble to the TV star as passionate and powerful — “basically everything you’re not.” But unbeknownst to Maks, Melissa had an inner bad girl. And perhaps the thought of slaying her partner was too good to resist, because she really brought it to the dance floor with the paso this evening. They had great costumes, and Melissa brought a great intensity to the routine. And despite Maks’ little slip-up at the end, he still ended up in a pool of bloody red light, killed by Melissa’s power. Did she step on his jewels? It was hard to tell. “First time I’ve seen him out-bulled,” Tom said, regarding the “death” scene at the end. Len thought Melissa “came out with confidence, and attacked” the routine. Bruno thought there was “hot-blooded drama a ’plenty” and finally pointed out that Melissa was “running for it, instead of being on top of it.” Carrie Ann thought it was Melissa’s “best performance by far” but she needs to be better in hold. "When you’re in hold, you don’t consider yourself equal with Maks,” she astutely observed. Total: 22. And then Brooke’s big hair got stuck in Melissa. Alas, Melissa didn’t make it to the final curtain call because she had injured herself and was rushed to the hospital. Will this hurt her chances to be saved with viewer votes?
Rock Week found William Levy way out of his element. First, he thought the jive was “the drive.” Second, the Cuban wasn’t allowed to listen to American music. Third, clearly, the actor is all man, so was not dressing in tight pants and permed hair. Anyone who shows up as such are dismissed as ugly women. So while Cheryl Burke was there to show him the steps to the jive, it was up to Michael Starr and Satchel of Steel Panther was around to give the Cuban dish a tutorial on hair metal dress and choreography (a.k.a., the sprinkler). Who, despite their rockin’ pedigree (they toured with Guns ‘N Roses), aren’t too high to show a burgeoning ballroom dancer some rock star moves, some high kicks, and admire a man’s thighs (“God, he’s got some good thighs”). And while William started his jive with Cheryl Burke off on the right foot, before long it all went very, very wrong. Like, leopard-print spandex pants and ripped mesh shirt wrong. They were off time, there was a move between the legs that failed to launch, and Cheryl lost a shoe at the end. “It is what it is,” clucked Len. “You went wrong, you lost timing.” “Your performance always rocks the house,” said Bruno. “But you did go off. … You cannot be complacent.” Carrie Ann told William to “watch the routine and stay focused.” Despite the clumsy routine and the judges' comments, which were a verbal equivalent of being ripped to shreds, the scoring was surprisingly high. I know he's beefcake, but really, Bruno? An 8? Total: 22.
Val Chmerkovskiy says he loves Quiet Noise. But what he really wants is a Quiet Riot. With Sherri Shepherd. Unfortunately, there was too much quiet, not much riot with their resulting tango on the dance floor. Val was tough on Sherri this week: Pushing, pulling, making her wear a belt, and looking at himself in the mirror. Basically, not giving Sherri enough love. Wait, did he just call her fat? Grr!! It was all part of the grand plan to make her love-hate him. I know she was supposed to hold back her boundless happy-happy joy, joy, but at times Sherri looked positively bored being flung around by her Ukrainian partner. Come on, Sherri, feel the noise! Despite a deliciously nasty grind on the judges’ table for Len at the beginning of the routine, her tango seemed devoid of emotion. Len said that Sherri “coped very well” with dances that didn’t really suit her personality. Bruno liked it when Sherri’s “mean and moody,” though he thought the dance “needed to be a little sharper.” Carrie Ann thought it was good, but “what was lacking was your normal exuberance,” she said. “There wasn’t any sparkle. … I saw it in the package, but I didn’t see it in the dance floor.” Total: 21.
Did you know Gladys Knight was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Though she worried that they might take it back if she didn’t dance her tango with Tristan MacManus. Alas, the Empress of Soul couldn’t get rid of her class and “be a real slut” like she promised with her routine, set to the mercurial “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen – or Que?, which consisted of the three judges and Tom. The beat got a lot better when the flames and the kicks came out during the head-banging portion of the song. And then when Tristan played Gladys’ midsection like a guitar. Carrie Ann called it “by far, your most ambitious routine,” though “it didn’t quite come together to the place I was hoping for.” Len commended Tristan on the choreography, though her “posture…needs to be a little strong, and your feet and legs need to be crisp.” Bruno called this tune “the most difficult song to pick. The tempo changes all the time,” he said. “Because of that, it lacked a little bit of impact.” Total: 20.
Which puts Gladys (Ms. Knight if you’re nasty) squarely in the danger zone for elimination.
What do you think? Will Gladys go home this week, or will Little Richard and other fans vote her safe for another week? Think Melissa’s injury and rush to the hospital will affect viewer votes? How scary were those Mimes Gone Wild? Be honest: Was William Levy over-scored? Will we ever see the 11 paddle again?
Photo of Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC