All-American Peanut Girl (Episode 2-8)

Drew and Cheryl performed two of the season’s best routines on tonight’s Dancing with the Stars performance show finale. They dare you to vote for anyone else.

DWTS faced stiff competition from other networks tonight, going up against not only weekly CBS rival Survivor, but also a special edition of American Idol on Fox, and the Olympics on NBC. Consequently, the first hour of DWTS was full of recaps, and none of live dances aired until the second hour of the program — after Survivor and American Idol had finished.

The finale began with a recap of each of Drew & Cheryl’s past performances. Carrie Ann used a great word to describe the couple’s relationship on the floor. Rather than the oft-used term “chemistry,” Carrie Ann called their relationship a “partnership.” Throughout the footage of their practices and performances, both members of the couple seemed equally committed to making Drew into a great dancer.

Cheryl pointed out that, after Drew’s raised shoulders were criticized by the judges, the couple made lowering his shoulders the focus of the next week’s training. For all of the grief the judges take from the contestants and the audience, it’s nice to know the dancers really take the advice to heart.

During a montage of Jerry’s performances with Anna, Jerry admitted that he was so self-conscious early on that he had trouble enjoying the dances. Anna always tried to make things as comfortable as possible for Jerry. But, with all of its required hip action, the Tango will never be one of Jerry’s favorite dances.

Stacy & Tony were shown last, and watching her Samba again was a reminder that she had a couple of stellar performances in her repertoire worth repeating for the finale. Instead of the Samba, she chose to repeat the Jive, another dance that had earned her a perfect score from the judges. Drew chose to bring back his thrilling Paso Doble, and Jerry selected his elegant Fox Trot.

Before any of tonight’s live performances, the judges nominated some of their favorites among the exhibition routines performed by the professional couples this season. Louis was singled out for his choreography of the four-couple Paso Doble to the theme from Rocky. The dance demonstrations were followed by a brief montage of the season’s musical guests.

The night’s first live performance wasn’t by one of the competing celebrities. Co-host Samantha Harris teamed up with Anna’s husband, Jonathan, with whom she Jived to Prince’s “Delirious.” Samantha committed herself to the performance, and she finished her moves well. Assuming she’s back for season three, she should push the network for another chance to dance.

After Samantha’s Jive, the competition finally began.

Round 1 – Favorite Dance

Jerry Rice and Anna Trebunskaya: A second opportunity to perform the Fox Trot was just what Jerry needed. He looked more relaxed than he had in any other performance, and, though Jerry will never fool anyone into thinking he’s a pro, his attitude and improved skills allowed the dance to flow smoothly. Len said it was the couple’s best performance, and Carrie Ann said Jerry finally looked like he was having fun. Bruno offered the only criticism, saying the performance lacked drive. Len told Bruno he was just being “judgmental.”

Jerry appreciated the kind words from the judges, but Anna challenged Bruno to a showdown on the football field.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 9, Bruno – 8. Judges’ Total = 26/30

Stacy Keibler and Tony Dovolani: Following Carrie Ann’s orders to take more risks, Stacy and Tony spent a day at trapeze school. Conquering her fear of heights gave Stacy more confidence for the lift they’d be performing during their freestyle routine. Early attempts had Stacy hanging like a bag of laundry over Tony’s shoulder.

The reprise of their Jive was just as flawless as before. Carrie Ann praised their synchronization of timing and movement, and Len congratulated Stacy for meeting the high standard she’d set for herself.

Bruno caused some confusion when he called Stacy an “All-American Peanut Girl.” Tom asked Bruno if he’d said “peanut” or “pin-up.” In his heavy Italian accent, Bruno shouted, “Peen-up! Peen-up!”
Scores: Carrie Ann – 10, Len – 10, Bruno – 10. Judges’ Total = 30/30

Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke: Drew and Cheryl prepped for their freestyle dance by riding a mechancial bull and partying with friends and family at a Western bar. Tonight’s performance of the Paso Doble was actually their third, as they’d also performed it for a results show encore. It was as strong as ever, and the Thriller hands are always a hoot.

Carrie Ann showed her appreciation by waving her hands in the air, and Bruno said Drew had become “a believable leading man.” Len said that Stacy and Drew were, respectively, the best female and male celebrity from any season he’s judged (USA and UK). When Drew finally stopped screaming and jumping on the backstage couch, he credited Cheryl for all of his success.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 10, Len – 10, Bruno – 10. Judges’ Total = 30/30

Round 2 – Freestyle

Jerry Rice and Anna Trebunskaya: Jerry put weeks of judicial criticism to rest with his freestyle routine. He and Anna danced to the song, “Celebration,” while wearing jumpsuits and afro wigs. The disco-heavy routine suited Jerry perfectly and included exciting lifts and tricks, which played to one of Jerry’s greatest strengths: his strength. If he’d been able to do lifts all season, Jerry’s scores could’ve been a lot higher.

Bruno, who said the couple looked like Shaft and Jackie Brown, complimented Jerry for being a big enough man to pull off such a “cheeky” routine. Len said that he hadn’t had this big a laugh since his last wife left him.

Backstage, Anna attributed Jerry’s newfound looseness to his wig. He said it was just time to get funky. When Anna started to boogie as Jerry was interviewed, he stopped her by saying, “Slow down. Daddy’s talking.”
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 9, Bruno – 9. Judges’ Total = 27/30

Stacy Keibler and Tony Dovolani: Stacy and Tony also tried to woo the crowd with disco, dancing to “Staying Alive.” While Tony channeled John Travolta effectively, and Stacy hit every move, the routine felt slow and uninspired. Even the big lift at the end looked sloppy. Their first choreographic misstep couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The judges felt so, too. Carrie Ann appreciated that Stacy went for the lift, but said she expected more from them. Tony lashed back that he “wouldn’t expect any different” from Carrie Ann. But Len cautioned that his opinion wasn’t any more favorable than Carrie Ann’s, and neither was Bruno’s. Stacy’s consistently good performances had set her bar very high, and this just wasn’t as good as the previous routines Tony had choreographed.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 8, Len – 9, Bruno – 9. Judges’ Total = 26/30

Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke: Dancing to the boisterous Big & Rich tune, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” Drew and Cheryl dressed up in western gear and gave an enthusiastic, entertaining show for the audience. During the performance, Cheryl hopped onto a writhing Drew, and held on as if he were a mechanical bull. The dance ended with Drew pantomiming a pistol with his finger, and Cheryl blowing off the smoke.

Carrie Ann called the performance fearless, and Len said it was “everything freestyle should be.” Bruno said that Drew was ready to play the lead in Brokeback Mountain: The Musical, prompting Drew to cover his tush with his cowboy hat.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 10, Len – 10, Bruno – 10. Judges’ Total = 30/30

1 – Drew & Cheryl (60/60)
2 – Stacy & Tony (56/60)
3 – Jerry & Anna (53/60)

While tonight’s performances were the last that would be voted on by the public, the three remaining couples will have to dance for the judges one more time on Sunday night. The final judges’ totals will then be tallied, and the ultimate outcome will be determined that night.

As always, audience votes make up half of the score, and Tom explained how the winner will be determined. The couple with the most audience votes is awarded 3 points, second place earns 2 points, and last earns 1 point. Points are awarded in the same manner for the judges’ scores: first place gets 3 points, etc.

It’s possible that the couple ranking third with the judges could win if they score first with the audience. In case of a tie, the winner of the audience vote wins. So if the judges’ champ comes in last with the audience, the audience winner is the overall victor.

But it looks like Drew and Cheryl have this in the bag. They should finish no lower than second in the audience voting, and, unless Drew’s pants fall down during their final dance, they’ve locked up the judges’ vote.

In addition to one more dance from the three finalists, Mary J. Blige will perform Sunday. And all of the eliminated couples will return to dance again. That can mean only one thing: MAX.

My vote this week: I gave my votes to my favorite couple from each round. Stacy’s Jive was my favorite from Round 1, and Drew easily won Round 2. Only a few short days until we find out… whose Beguine reigns supreme?