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'Dancing With the Stars': Will Marlee Matlin get the ax?

April 22, 2008 |  8:30 am

Do you ever feel as if Tom Bergeron has been sent to "Dancing With the Stars" to offer up irony in an otherwise irony-free zone, and that maybe he's speaking directly to you and the other self-satisfied, clever people you're watching the show with? I thought so. Tom had a few little ad-libbed gems on Week Six's competition show, but I doubt most of them will translate. Here's one: After Samantha Harris questioned Shannon Elizabeth and Derek about whether they're, you know, more than just dancing partners, Tom said that next week, "Samantha will be grilling inmates at Gitmo." The spiny ripple of derision beneath Tom's plastic, game-show-host facade makes me love him more than a tiny bit. I'm obviously drinking the "DWTS" Kool-Aid. Maybe I'll start detecting more nuance in Samantha's interviews and begin comparing her to Terry Gross or Christiane Amanpour. So far, that seems unlikely.

Well, fans, right now it looks as if Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark are pulling ahead of everyone else, though Mario and Karina aren't too far behind. The Week Six competition featured a variety of dances, as well as a group dance/hoedown. Some of the performances were very strong, and it was particularly interesting to compare this week's dances with those that had gone before them -- for instance, to compare Kristi and Mark's jive to the jives that many couples were assigned the second week. As you would expect, the stars were better, but it was also very clear that the choreography has become much trickier as the stars improved.

Marlee300 I suspect the next star to be eliminated will be Marlee Matlin, whose mambo with Fabian just seemed, as Len put it, "uncomfortable." It was as if she was afraid and overly cautious after last week's missteps, despite the fact that she'd received a pep talk from The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, during the rehearsal scenes, and despite the fact that Fabian was the World Mambo King in 2006. The mambo was definitely Fabian's dance too -- he was sharp and extremely happy, perhaps because it gave him occasion to recall his mambo coronation. Carrie Ann tells Marlee that she looks amazing (true) and Bruno says everything she does is life-affirming, but after a while all of these semi-pitying compliments begin to sound like insults. Score: 21/30. Will Marlee's fans come through for her?

Jason Taylor and Edyta slipped a bit this week with their cha cha cha, even though Jason got a freestyle lesson from Sho-Tyme, a hip-hop choreographer. Edyta appears to be wearing a bikini with a one-armed cape during their dance. The judges are vaguely positive but cite some messed-up footwork and timing, as well as some awkwardness in Jason's arms when they (the arms) are not engaged. Also, because Jason and Edyta were dancing to "Best of My Love" by the Emotions, I thought I was at a wedding. Score: 24/30.

Shannon and Derek needed a comeback after last week's disappointing performance and Shannon's rather defensive reaction to the judges' feedback. They go to the beach with hula hoops, which is supposed to get Shannon used to giving the judges the hip action that they so cravenly desire. Perhaps to create the illusion of hip action, the wardrobe people put Shannon in an interesting dress that's short like hot pants in the back and long and flowy in the front. Not what you'd wear to a board meeting. They performed a rumba to "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper, and while their acting was solid and some of Shannon's poses elegant, the judges again flagged a lack of hip action. Score: 24/30.

Shannon looked as if she were about to cry while receiving the feedback, but she expressed satisfaction with three 8s. She and Derek were cagey about their relationship, but isn't she, like, a lot older than he is? And isn't he Mormon? That doesn't seem to be the most promising profile for a steamy, illicit affair.

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl, stung by their position in the bottom two last week, danced an excellent foxtrot. Although the rehearsal scenes on "DWTS" generally seem contrived, this one actually seemed helpful: Cheryl gets Cristián to practice the fox trot arms in a pool, and it does make his movements much more controlled. For their performance, Cristián really looks the part, both in terms of his suit and slicked hair and in terms of his bearing and expression. He resembled Gregory Peck, if you will. The judges are impressed -- so impressed, in fact, that Len says that if they end up in the bottom two, Len will bare his bum in the supermarket. I'm not sure if that's an incentive to vote for or not vote for Cristián. Score: 27/30.

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony are currently in the lead for "most improved," which would usually be another one of those insulting compliments but which I suspect Marissa will embrace. In order to teach Marissa not to get dizzy during all the spins required by their Viennese waltz, Tony takes Marissa to get really dizzy at some aerial arts class. Apparently, now that she's experienced true dizziness, the Viennese waltz no longer seems intimidating. I'm not sure what it was, but the music was hideous. Their dance, however, was strong -- lots of spins and much livelier than the Viennese waltzes performed a couple of weeks ago. Marissa even spun into one of those nifty spiral things at the end. Score: 26/30, which causes Marissa to squeal and then crack up. If I had one-quarter of her energy, I'd be eight times as energetic as I am. Do the math.

Mario and Karina decide to "bring sexy back" with their rumba this week, which Mario dedicates to his 6-year-old brother Ray, whom he advises to cover his eyes if anything in the dance is risqué. Which turns out to be pretty much the entire dance. For starters, Karina is wearing a ripped bedsheet. And the song is "Let's Get It On." The dance is good -- don't get me wrong -- but I was sort of with Len when he said that they shouldn't get it on in the ballroom and that the rumba is a story of a developing romance, not about "a strumpet and a gigolo." Bruno thinks Len is a prude. Carrie Ann calls it "better than good sex" but does point out that they did an illegal lift. In the end, despite Len's stern warnings, he gives them a 9, as does Carrie Ann, while Bruno goes for the 10. Score: 28/30.

And you knew it was coming -- the first 30 of the season -- and you probably knew that Kristi and Mark would get it, right? Well good for you, smartypants. Kristi and Mark danced a jive that was about 10 (million billion) times more fun and flashy than the jives performed back in week two. Carrie Ann and Bruno both say this is the best dance of the entire season, and all three judges cough up 10s. The only question in my mind is whether the other contestants seethe with rage after each of Kristi's dances. It's probably more of a sense of resignation. One of my fellow viewers wondered aloud whether it was a mistake to include her on this show because she's been so good from the beginning.

Finally, all of the dancers performed a Western-themed group dance, where the women were sheriffs and the men were outlaws. There were lots of lifts and a general atmosphere of chaos. In the end, the outlaws appeared to have won over the sheriffs, anarchy ensued, and "DWTS" descended into a lawless, postapocalyptic dystopia. Oh, wait, that was "The Road," by Cormac McCarthy.

I'm not sure I caught all of the upcoming features and guest stars, but here are a few. Tuesday night: Ashlee Simpson and Riverdance. Next week, two judged dances for each pair and also Def Leppard. In two weeks: the 100th episode, featuring performances by many past contestants and pros.

What are your thoughts on who will be eliminated?

-- Sarah Rogers

(Photo courtesy ABC)