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'Dancing With the Stars': Hustle and 'fro

October 20, 2009 |  8:08 am
117299_D_3669_pre We've reached the halfway point in the competition, ballroom fans ... the "double dance extravaganza," in which contestants performed their first group dance of the season (the Hustle!) along with either the Argentine tango or the paso doble. Monday night also marked the night Len must have taken his happy pill, because the usually curmudgeonly head judge was as sunny and bright as his dapper fuchsia tie and matching 'kerchief. Though why six couples did the tango and only four did the paso was beyond me.  

Also beyond me: Samantha’s hair. Remember that Week 2 results show where she looked like a “Lion King” understudy? Well, this one had that beat. How many cans of Aqua Net were needlessly sacrificed so that thing could live? That afro puff was so out there and bird nesty, I would be afraid just to get near it. It was like a black hole that threatened to suck in anything that dared get too close (luckily Carrie Ann’s wayward earring just fell on the table, 'cause had it fallen in Samantha’s mop, it might never have been found). Along with Lacey’s flame of a coif, this week featured, as Tom said, “hairstyles by Fellini.”

But back to the competition: Everyone scored in the 20s! Only eight points separated first from last. And we have a new leader!

Shooting into first were Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson. Despite his grueling schedule of having to fit in ballroom rehearsals with his four-night-a-week Vegas show, Donny was able to deliver a sharp, crisp Argentine tango that was intense with passion. Though it might have helped that his partner Kym was outfitted in a sexy ruffled black dress that appeared to have its whole left side missing (maybe it got lost in Samantha’s hair?). Donny seemed happy just to make it through the routine, but the judges heaped it with raves. “There’s a whole new side of you,” admired Carrie Ann. “It was so darn sexy!” Len liked his intensity. Bruno: “Finally, Donny Osmond is turning into Donnie Darko, broody, moody, dangerous and sharp as a blade!” Donny, ever the upstanding guy, couldn’t take all the credit. “You took me there.” Total: 29 out of 30.

Sliding into second were Mya and Dmitry Chaplin. Technically, I thought their Argentine tango, set to Jem’s “They,” was more difficult and accomplished than Donny’s. But the judges had issues with the routine’s “emotional connection,” and not even a detour to help build houses with Habitat for Humanity could assuage their quibbles. Carrie Ann went on to say the routine was “distant without any inner dialog,” but Len, who admitted to being a stickler about props and “messing about,” actually said he enjoyed that the two dancers kept their performance mostly contained to the small stage area. “To be honest with you, I never really know what I like until I see it,” the notoriously mercurial head judge said. “And I’ve got to say, I like that.” Total: 27.

Leaping into third with their best score ever were Mark Dacascos and Lacey Schwimmer. And this, despite Lacey’s blazing flame of a hairdo. Though maybe it also helped turn their ignition on, because she and her “Iron Chef America” partner channeled their inner bull and matador to great effect for their paso doble. Lacey’s extremely risky idea to have Mark do the flamenco solo at the beginning on his own (and without a cape, even) paid off handsomely, as did his awesome side flip at the end. “Talk about sharp!” bellowed Bruno. “Tonight you were in your power,” admired Carrie Ann. Even Len, continuing in his goodness and light, lavished them with praise, leaving Lacey slack-jawed and speechless. “You need posture, you need passion, you need performance,” he said of their paso. “You had all three.” Total: 26.

On the road to redemption were Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff. After last week’s lambada letdown, Aaron was able to turn it back on for their Argentine tango — not just for the audience, but for self-proclaimed “cold-blooded” Karina as well (ha!). With the help of pros Parissa and Sandor, Aaron mimicked the passion that goes along with a well-executed tango, smoothed down his hair for another week, and his black suit complemented Karina’s sultry fire engine red dress (with sparkles, of course). And though Aaron still looked a little weak when dancing on his own, he partnered Karina very well, delivered on the intricate foot flicks, and more than held his ground when his partner wrapped around him like a moth to a flame. More importantly, it got Aaron back in the judges’ good graces (“Make-up judging is always fun, isn’t it?” quipped Tom). “Excellent,” praised Carrie Ann. “It was grounded, it was dramatic, it was centered.” Len rattled off something about Aaron coming home to daddy. And when Bruno likened him to “a little bit like Robert Pattinson tangoing in ‘Twilight,’” it looked as if Aaron’s bulging forehead vein was about to burst with happiness. Total: 24.

Which was the same total as Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel. The “DWTS” producers must be thanking their lucky stars for being able to capitalize on that rare crossover opportunity to mesh ballroom and death metal. Where else can you get an image of a skull on the rectagon and a paso doble set to Harold Wheeler's version of Ozzy Osbourne's “Crazy Train"? And Louis went heavy on the makeup again, sporting eyeliner and a faux hawk and looking like a cross between the prince of darkness and Joel or Benji Madden. Kelly, on the other hand, looked strikingly like her mother, Sharon, as she stifled giggles and did her best cape impression. Len praised Kelly on performing with more authority, though said she needs to work on “getting the character of the dance,” while Bruno and Carrie Ann said she needed to “stay in it.” Wonder how much the foot injury will hamper her future dances? Total: 24.

Tied with Kelly and Aaron was Joanna Krupa, who gets this week’s “trupa” award after partner Derek Hough was sidelined with the flu (“I shouldn’t have taken my shirt off,” sighed Derek mournfully of his bare-chested lambada). Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who gamefully stepped in for an ill Derek, was more than an able partner for Joanna — I would even argue that Maks' height and power made their love-hate Argentine tango better. And had it not been for that near-disastrous slip-up mid-routine, I dare say their scores would have been much higher. “I was living my fantasies up until that stumble,” sighed Bruno. Though Carrie Ann cautioned Joanna to work on her flexibility, positive Len said it was a “great job under the circumstances.” Total: 24.

Dropping off five points from last week’s lead were Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Ballas. Though, to be fair, the couple was also hampered by the flu, with Mark relegated to wearing a mask and coughing and blowing his nose between counts. Anna Trebunskaya filled in for the ailing Mark one day, and encouraged the actress to keep her assets front and center. “Head up, boobies up,” Anna said. “Try to lift the girls up.” And I thought Melissa did a good job with keeping up with both Mark and the character in their Argentine tango, given the fact that she was thisclose to Mark’s germiness for most of the routine. Len and Carrie Ann gave her a pass for making it through the contamination area, but Bruno was not convinced. "I never believed you were a harlot and a woman of the night,” he pouted. And if it wasn’t for Bruno’s grumpy 7, Melissa would have lived up to Mark’s high standard of not earning “lower than three 8s.” Total: 23.

On the lower end of the spectrum were Natalie Coughlin and Alec Mazo. And I was really looking forward to their routine: The stomp-heavy paso doble is one of my favorite styles on the show, and an Olympian-like Natalie should have been able to channel her elite-athlete aggression, ahem, swimmingly into this powerful dance. Unfortunately, however, their paso ended up a little bit soggy. Maybe it was her odd Rocky-esque “American Woman” outfit, complete with what looked like a blue sequined boxing belt. Certainly, it was a great showcase for her rock-hard abs, but to really channel the passion and aggression of a bullfight? Not so much. While Natalie didn’t go so far as to show her dimples (“Dimples don’t intimidate me,” remarked Alec), their paso “lacked a little bit of aggression,” said Len. Bruno said Natalie needed artistry, and Carrie Ann told her to “remember to go out past your body,” and docked her on a negligible lift (lifts were verboten on the paso, even though the tango dancers could get carried away to their hearts' content). Total: 22.

Also scoring a 22 were Louie Vito and Chelsie Hightower. You know, I was really on board the Louie train from the get-go, and thought this pocket-sized powerhouse was a dancing force to be reckoned with. But now it just seems like he’s plodding through the competition, and it’s getting a little tiring. Although his laser-like intensity returned for his and Chelsie’s Argentine tango (and I liked the bit with the sliding chair, and his head in his hands dramatics. Plus, Chelsie looked great in that sparkly red dress), Louie’s dancing still left much to be desired. The judges said the snowboarder was “a little bit pedestrian” but was “pleasantly surprised” by the routine overall. Carrie Ann gave him props on taking care of his woman. “I really like…the way you partner her,” she said. Total: 22

Sadly, not even a nickel clenched between butt cheeks could keep Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova from last place. Their paso doble, however, was tons better than, well, any other dance that Michael has done — perhaps because he was able to channel the aggression of his football days. Or because he was given more to do. Or perhaps, again, because he had that silver coin squeezed tightly between his glutes. Their dance, set to Bizet’s “March of the Toreador” from “Carmen,” was a little too upbeat for my brooding taste, though I did enjoy Anna’s long black/gold lame skirt that turned into a cape. Len loved Michael’s knee walks and admired his posture, Carrie Ann said he danced it with intensity, authority and dignity. “The recession is over, your stock is rising again!” crowed Bruno. But will it be enough to save him from elimination? Total: 21.

Which brings us to the group dance, the ’70s era hustle. Which featured all of our favorite contestants and pros in hilarious wigs and outfits. In terms of the dancing – well, Aaron and Karina looked like they were taking this very seriously and Mya and Dmitry looked the most comfortable getting their groove on. Loved how Donny and Kym got wiggy with it – Kym looked like she was channeling Dorothy Hamill, and Donny looked Shaggy-licious. And, oh, those wigs! Alec’s gets my vote for road kill of the week, though I also quite enjoyed Mark Dacascos’ Starsky ’do (though not so much a fan of Louie’s mutton chops – too hobbitesque). And Dmitry’s endless locks and Michael’s fro threatened to give Samantha Harris’ huge mane a run for its money. All in all, a hair-raising good time.

What do you think? Who do you think will get the boot today? Will Kelly’s foot injury hinder her from the competition? Who do you like better: Joanna with Derek, or Joanna with Maks? How much would you bid for Michael Irvin’s nickel on eBay?

—Allyssa Lee

Photo: Kym Johnson and Donny Osmond; Credit: ABC / Craig Sjodin