'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Three's allowed
Dancing and emotions ran high during this, the eighth week of “Dancing With the Stars' ” 14th season. There was the threat of Tuesday’s double elimination that loomed above each of the remaining couples as they danced two full dances: an individual ballroom and a first-ever dance trio routine.
And we saw tears and fears aplenty. We’re a week away from the semifinals, and the wear and tear is showing. Everyone’s feeling the stress of the competition. Tempers flared, hurtful words were slung and the tears flowed freely in preparation for this night.
So it seemed like a good thing to introduce another eliminated pro or someone from the “DTWS” Troupe for each couple to perform a threesome with in this dance trio. After all the stress of partnering for eight-plus weeks, it was perhaps a nice breath of fresh air to bring in some fresh meat to rehearsals and change up the chemistry a bit. It certainly looked like the dance trio rehearsals seemed to go over a gazillion times better than the individual routines.
Leading the pack once again were William Levy and Cheryl Burke. Though put this tasty Cuban dish in a good outfit, and you’re practically guaranteed a 10 from Carrie Ann and Bruno. Despite his preference for freedom and all of the fox trot’s rules, William pulled off an impressively dapper routine as a stray cat hoofing it with Cheryl against a Parisian backdrop. And while I thought it was more of a showcase for Cheryl (and that striking black and white feather dress), the judges all seemed to enjoy it enough to warrant “from Len, a 10” as well as the others. “Meow, meow, meow!” purred Carrie Ann. “It was like a super hot sexy Pink Panther.” Len called it “a mix of care and flair: There was care in the technique and there was flair in the movement.” Bruno pouted and called William a “heart-breaker.”
And in a somewhat unusual move, Cheryl brought in male dancer Tony Dovolani to “intensify” their trio paso doble and challenge William to perform at pro levels. “If I do it bad, you do it bad,” William half-jokingly told Tony. Though I thought they both did a pretty good job of keeping in sync. Tony played the evil man in black to William’s chesty Zorro, and Cheryl was the luscious grape who was being tossed and turned and squashed in the middle. Carrie Ann thought “the lines were incredible” but she “didn’t care for the flamenco” at the beginning. Len saluted all three dancers: “I liked the way it all came together.” Bruno loved the “two raging bulls” action but said the out of sync was “too evident.” William and Cheryl received a perfect 30 for their fox trot, and a 27 for their paso with Tony. Total: 57 out of 60.
Disney star Roshon Fegan got some familial support from his grandmothers during rehearsals this week. One of them was very instructive, telling him his feet keep on going when he should already be steady, and calling both him and partner Chelsie Hightower “magnificent.” And Roshon’s resulting fox trot was as a sweet as a spool of cotton candy and a balloon-load of fun. How cute was it to see his grandmas in the studio audience on their feet, whooping with pride? Bruno likened Roshon to “a young Mickey Rooney … no jerkiness in sight,” he said. “Your lines — I’ve never seen them so clean.” “You made your grannies proud, and you made us proud,” said Carrie Ann. Len called them to “two little dancing munchkins” and gave Rohson another “Good job, dog!” High praise, indeed. They got two 10s and a 9 for that performance.
Roshon and Chelsie also took a page out of the William and Cheryl playbook by opting for a pro guy to enhance their dance trio. Chelsie thought Troupe member Sasha Farber would force Roshon to up his game to Sasha’s level. And it did work, somewhat. Their paso doble was a spar between two matadors trying to conquer the bull. Sasha disappeared for a bit in the middle, came back to claim Chelsie, and I loved the way that Chelsie threw him aside and chose Roshon at the end. “You had strength, you had power, you had artistry and a beautiful Spanish line,” crowed Bruno. Carrie Ann thought it was a good routine, but he went off a few times. “Lovely powerful lines, beautiful tight buttocks,” praised Len. “You were like two skinny fries chasing the ketchup” (“Someone just had a happy meal,” said Tom without missing a beat). Total: 56.
Pro football player Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd kicked off the program with a tango. Peta said Donald has an attitude worth catching. Except when he messes up and would rather hide in his orange shirt. Donald admirably took on the first place position with an intense tango set to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Higher Ground.” Donald was in a metallic suit, Peta in an oil slick of a skirt with gold inlay. And while I liked the intensity, I agreed with Bruno that his shoulders got a little high. “Ding dong Donald, a first round knockout!” exclaimed Len. “You set the standard and you set it high.” Bruno said Donald was “just going for it like there was no tomorrow.” “You were in the zone,” confirmed Carrie Ann. “That was incredible to watch.” Tom thought Len was “giddy enough for a 10,” and so did I, but alas, that wasn’t the case. Donald and Peta received three 9s instead.
He ratcheted it up for their dance trio, featuring Karina Smirnoff. Loved Donald’s go-for-broke attitude during rehearsals, where he was falling all over the place and laughing up a storm. And his “Rip It Up” routine really tore the floor and pretty much brought the ballroom down. First of all, Donald’s got great swagger, great energy, and great sync. And then there was that jaw-dropping move where he slid Peta through his legs, then Karina through his and Peta’s legs, and then did a leap frog over the both of them — all without missing a beat. Well done! Len had three words: “Fun, fun, fun!” “It’s so hard to be in sync in a threesome, I’ll tell you,” said Bruno knowingly, “But you handled it.” “I loved your three-way!” Carrie Ann exclaimed. “You kept up the whole way.” D+P received a 27 for their tango, and a 28 for their Karina-enhanced jive. Total: 55.
Classical singer Katherine Jenkins’ emotions were running high, particularly because she feels she’s the least-known competitor. And I admire her for wanting to keep on working that drop spin with Mark Ballas until she got it right. I quite liked their dance, with Mark as the street boy in the Gavin DeGraw hat who wooed upper-class Katherine down the alley for a secret Viennese waltz. Though I did agree that that spin, while impressive, kind of jerked itself into motion, and there was that odd moment of disconnect coming out of the spin and into the hug. But I still like her and want her to do well. Len seemed more annoyed at his fellow judges’ shenanigans rather than the dance itself. “This had plenty of content: Lots in hold, natural turns,” the head judge said. “The only part I didn’t like was the spinning thing wasn’t in character.” Bruno thought Katherine’s “technique is superb” but “you had a sudden moment when you lost it.” Carrie Ann was the harshest of all: “You lost your balance there, you lost your footing” she pooh-poohed. She also went there and called “a little bit of a Cirque du Soleil moment going into” the spin. Ouch. Got a 26 for their dance, with an extremely abrasive 8 from Carrie Ann.
Things turned a little brighter for the dance trio, as Katherine and Mark got some extra secret service help from Irish lad Tristan(!) for their cha-cha. Katherine was the thief who’s trying to steal secret “DWTS” files, and Mark and Tristan were the twirling sunglasses-wearing agents trying to nab her. Big points to Katherine for not letting the remains of a pant leg that got stuck on her shoe dissuade her from the dance steps as Tristan and Mark ripped off her suit, as well as for the fabulously fringey black and red dress underneath. And thank goodness she didn’t trip on that extra-long anklet. Len called the dance “clean, it was clear, and it was clever.” Bruno likened Katherine to Charlize Theron and said she had a “Hitchcock blond coolness.” Carrie Ann lauded the singer for coming out “like you owned the dance.” Katherine and Mark got back on the 10 train and earned a 29 for their cha-cha. Total: 55.
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough have had their share of ups and downs these past couple of weeks. Derek is getting increasingly frustrated with his “amateur” partner, and it’s getting to the TV host. It seemed like the roller coaster of emotions that they experienced throughout the week culminated in the rises and falls of the Viennese waltz. While I wasn’t as swept up in the emotion as some of the judges, Bruno thought it was delivered “with heavenly fluidity, seamless transitions from figure to figure of ever increasing beauty.” Carrie Ann called out “the emotional connection to the movement, to the music, and to each other.” Len, on the other hand, groused that he “would have liked a little bit more dancing in hold.”
Maria and Derek employed Henry Byalikov from the Troupe as the third member in their dance trio samba. Only, Derek wanted to incorporate Bollywood elements into their “Mama Do the Hump” performance. And while it looked appealing and fun to dance, the routine didn’t have as much energy as I had hoped. Bruno thought the choreography was “Incredible because it kept you constantly at the center of attention,” but pointed out that Maria “lost timing a couple of times.” Carrie Ann called the routine “a feast for my Asian senses” — “a beautiful way to showcase Maria,” even though there were “a few little slip-ups.” Len, however, wasn’t buying the Bollywood. “There was no connection for me with a samba,” he harrumphed. “I’m afraid it was false advertising.” Maria and Derek received a high 28 for their waltz, and a 25 for their samba (a.k.a. “two nines and one mood swing,” said Tom). Total: 53.
Melissa Gilbert and Maks Chmerkovskiy were having their own share of growing pains this week. After a particularly frustrating day, Maks let off a barrage of expletives that came off in one long beep, which understandably upset Melissa. But Melissa, a true partner, refused to pin the blame on him. After a couple goes through a tough weeks like this, I always hope they can dance a redeeming routine. Alas, this was not the case with Melissa and Maks’ fox trot. A couple slip-ups at the beginning of the “Maggie May” routine kept them from dancing to their potential. Despite the mess-ups, Carrie Ann called this “your best dance ever.” Len said this was “potentially, this was your best dance so far.” Bruno commended Melissa for finishing her lines, and said, “the presentation was the best you’ve done up to date.” It can’t be easy for the stars and pros see themselves acting badly during rehearsals. Maks, particularly, seemed to have an emotionally contrite moment up in the sky box.
Ideally at this point, there would be a group hug. How about a dance sandwich instead? Lucky Melissa got to fulfill fantasies everywhere by being the shimmying middle of two Chmerkovskiy hunks. And perhaps being the gooey center of such beefcake is the answer to Melissa’s dance woes, because this was, as Carrie Ann said, the best routine the actress has danced so far. She was so relaxed and into it. I wonder if she has the best of both worlds with both brothers. What she can’t readily understand with Maks she understands with Val. Either way, it was her best routine. She was “Hard to Handle,” and she ended up manhandling the Chmerkovskiy brothers’ behinds at the end.Added bonus: The brothers’ chesty outfits, courtesy of what Tom called “the Larry King Chippendale collection.” “Holla for the Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy sandwich!” praised Carrie Ann. “You are a very good little cream filling in the middle there, missy.” Len called it Melissa’s best dance. “It obviously takes two to get the best out of you,” Bruno winked. Melissa and Maks received a 27 for their fantastic samba, which had them whooping with joy. Add that to the three 8s they received for their individual dance. Total: 51.
Which still puts Melissa in danger of being one of the two couples eliminated on Tuesday night. Sadly, I would say Roshon and Chelsie are also in danger.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Which two couples do you think will be eliminated? What did you think of the dance trios? Would you rather be in the middle of a Chmerkovskiy sandwich, or cuffed to Mark and Tristan? Do you also hope that Donald Driver’s dance trio is chosen as the encore performance on Tuesday night?
—Allyssa Lee (now on twitter)
Photo of Chelsie Hightower and Roshon Fegan. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC