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'Dancing with the Stars': Kristi and Priscilla triumph

April 1, 2008 |  8:30 am

Kristi This week, our contestants danced the tango and the jive. And, you know, the jive totally wasn’t what I was expecting. I’ll tell you what the judges were expecting: The jive should be fun, and the tango should be angry. The jive must be attacked! The tango requires acting! These dances were really quite different, and the costumes this week showed it: the group was a motley crew of gangsters, prostitutes, flappers, strippers, and something you might call sequined slutty prepsters. It also seemed as if everyone could have used a week to rest up and practice more; they all struck me as a bit tired, even though most continued to improve. That said, we also saw some changes of fortune, some front-runners knocked down a peg or 20, and some laggards catching up.

Let’s start with the three front-runners. Mario and Karina got hammered for their tango, and, frankly, I’m with the judges on this one. For one thing, and this isn’t reflected in their score, they danced to a tango-ized version of “Roxanne,” which was only slightly less grating than the tango-ized version of “Rio” that Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark danced to later on. During the practice scenes, we see that Mario takes Karina on the road with him to practice, and Karina isn’t feeling confident about their chances. I thought this was an attempt at manipulating our expectations, but it turns out she’s right: Their tango is a bit of a mess, as Len describes it, and they have one obvious mistake where they get stuck in the corner of the dance floor. Both Len and Carrie Ann express their disappointment, and we all know what it’s like when your parents say they’re disappointed in you. Score: 21/30.

Jason Taylor and Edyta performed a jive that I found impressive, energetic and well synchronized, but apparently the judges and I were watching different dances, or maybe the dance looked completely different in person. I thought Jason was very elegant, with superb lines (as the judges acknowledged), and Edyta wore so little clothing that her audacity should be worth at least one point per judge. In the end, however, the judges thought that the jive lacked some jive. Score: 23/30.

La_et_dwts_330 Once again, the practice scenes attempted to set up the first-place contestant, Kristi Yamaguchi, as perhaps being unable to meet the demands that the dance will place on her -- in this case, the emotion required by the tango. She even sees a performance coach, who encourages her to let out her messy emotions, but Kristi keeps cracking up when she’s supposed to be all Dick Cheney. Naturally, she still does great in the performance, even though the costume team went way overboard with her '20s-style curls.  As I mentioned earlier, the version of “Rio” they use is distracting to the point of nausea or even suicidal thoughts, but Kristi and Mark are fluid and in complete synchronicity again. The judges criticize the one-dimensionality of Kristi’s anger and make her technical prowess seem like no big whoop, but of course she still gets a 27/30, and deservedly so.

Now, the three laggards. Steve Guttenberg realizes that his unrelenting cheerfulness is getting him nowhere and decides to buckle down: “The tango is a more serious dance,” he says, which requires a more serious outlook. Unfortunately, Anna comes down with some unspecified serious virus, which means that her husband, Jonathan (newly available after having been paired with the recently eliminated Monica Seles), has to provide some “man-on-man” tango lessons. Anna recovers enough for the competition, though, and Steve’s fierceness apparently distracts the judges from the fact that he occasionally moves as if he just had surgery on both knees. Before the judges give him their feedback, Steve puts on goggles and a helmet, but it turns out he doesn’t need protection -- the judges are pleased with his acting and his footwork. And these positive words are enough for the sunny Steve to return: he tells Samantha Harris that everyone else is really awesome, and they’re going to knock our socks off. Score: 21/30.

Now, I admit to not knowing much about Adam Carolla before this show. I live in Iowa, you see, where there has never once been a celebrity sighting not related to politics. So maybe this isn’t a surprise to the rest of you, but I think Adam is a breath of fresh air on this show, by which I mean a gaseous cloud of semi-toxic humor. I do mean that as a compliment. It’s really perfect that he’s paired with wholesome Julianne, too. In the practice scenes, Adam describes the tango as “a very difficult dance, and I make it look even more difficult.” He also tells Julianne that he Googled “tango” and asks her if she know what it’s about. “What?” she responds. He says: “Prostitutes and pimps. Guess which one you are?” Their costumes are kind of hilarious -- he’s got this great orange ruffled shirt, and she’s in a wig of short brown hair -- and their tango is assuredly passable. As Len points out in his feedback, “choreography is like makeup -- it can hide a multitude of sins.” In other words, Julianne’s choreography does a good job of making Adam look like a dancer. They receive a 21/30. Adam tells Samantha that their success is due to what his grandfather always told him: “If you want to learn a dance about Argentinean prostitutes, ask a 19-year-old Mormon.” I hope he sticks around.

I’m sorry to say that the final member of the rearguard, Marissa Jaret Winokur, did not fare as well. She and Tony are assigned the jive, which, as she points out, really should be right up her alley since it’s about performance and energy. At the end of the dance, she even seems psyched about how it went, but the judges criticize it for being too careful, and they also mention the foot faults and other errors. They say they’re being harsh because they know Marissa can do better, but, oh, how crestfallen she is! She really wears her heart on her sleeve. Score: 19/30, which puts them in last place.

Now, onto the stars in the middle. Marlee Matlin and Fabian go first tonight, performing the jive, and while her moves are pretty good, there are several fairly obvious moments when Marlee’s rhythm is off. I thought the dance was on par with her past performances, but the judges are more critical than they had been in past weeks. Indeed, Carrie Ann calls Marlee’s hands a little -- gasp! -- “pancakey.” Score: 21/30.

The judges tell Cristián de la Fuente that he’s improved every week, which is true, and this week is the most noticeable. He and Cheryl perform the jive, and Cristián manages to be smooth and energetic and to really look as if he’s having fun. Occasionally, I thought it looked as if Cheryl was overtly leading him (which I know the female pros are probably doing, albeit generally more subtly), but the dance was strong overall. Carrie Ann and Len offer up solid eights, but an enthusiastic Bruno goes for the nine. Score: 25/30.

Shannon Elizabeth appears to be wearing the gold flapper dress that Monica wore last week but will no longer be needing. She and Derek start off their jive with cartwheels, and I applaud their boldness since that’s the sort of thing that could go horribly awry. I thought they were technically solid but that the dance sometimes seemed low-energy. This was another instance in which the so-called experts and I diverged -- the judges thought they’d gone all out. Score: 24/30.

Pris Priscilla Presley tells us that because she went from all eights the first week to all sevens the second week, she’s got to improve her game. She and Louis are assigned the tango, which would seem to be a nice fit for her, given her success with the classic foxtrot. Their tango is heavy on the acting -- lots of intense gazes and sharp head movements -- but I thought it sometimes seemed jerky. Maybe I was just in a bad mood for a few minutes. The judges, however, loved it. The only criticism came from Carrie Ann, who suggested that Priscilla work on her neck, which I hope Priscilla does not interpret as a directive for a cosmetic surgeon. They receive a very strong 26/30.

Tonight: Kylie Minogue and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform, and then a star goes home. Who will it be?

-- Sarah Rogers

(Photos courtesy ABC)