Monthly Archives: March 2007

DwtS 4, Week 2: Power Rankings

The early departure of Paulina & Alec was a real shock. I’d pegged them to last at least several more weeks. Their elimination — and some unexpected gymnastics by Heather Mills — caused a bit of an upheaval in the Power Rankings.

10. Shandi Finnessey & Brian Fortuna
Standing alongside Paulina & Alec in the Bottom Two gave Shandi & Brian more than enough reason to be nervous. To paraphrase Carrie Ann Inaba, there’s been nothing special about the couple’s performances. They’ll be dancing the energetic Jive next week, which should give them plenty of opportunities to work in some show-stopping moves.

9. Leeza Gibbons & Tony Dovolani
Leeza got a pass this week because it was her birthday. As nice as she seems, she just doesn’t have the dancing chops to warrant a long-term spot in the lineup.

8. Billy Ray Cyrus & Karina Smirnoff
Billy Ray made some real improvements after his disastrous Cha Cha Cha, but I’m not sure that his ceiling’s as high as those of his competitors. If he can’t do something absolutely dazzling in the next few weeks, then I doubt he’s ever going to be able to.

7. Clyde Drexler & Elena Grinenko
Like Billy Ray, Clyde showed some real improvement with his Quickstep. But also like Billy Ray, Clyde’s best dancing probably won’t be as good as Apolo’s, Joey’s, or Ian’s best dancing. Not that there’s any shame in that.

6. John Ratzenberger & Edyta Sliwinska
Fans seem to like John, and Edyta definitely knows how to choreograph for the older gentlemen. But, like the two guys who precede him on this list (Drexler and Cyrus), there may be limits to what he can do. If he lasts past the top six, it will likely be at the expense of a more talented dancer.

5. Heather Mills & Jonathan Roberts
Heather’s marvelous back walkover totally upset the applecart. She’s dancing to win, and showing she’s capable of doing it. Her limitations may become more apparent as her competitors continue to improve, but that won’t happen for several more weeks.

4. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
They’re so cute and nice that I really want Anton & Julianne to do well. I don’t know if they’re good enough to win it all, but they’ve got plenty of time to prove me wrong. Bonus points to Apolo for ditching the headbandana this week; too bad his soul patch looks like a fixture.

3. Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke
At the end of this week’s Performance Show, there was a contained fury in Cheryl’s eyes as she and her partner were announced as "middle of the pack" competitors. That should scare the sequins off of the other couples. Cheryl’s going to take advantage of Ian’s work ethic and do whatever it takes to get them to the top of the leaderboard.

2. Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Joey & Kym have been fun to watch during their first two performances. We’ll see if he has the range to pull-off the more serious dances, like the Tango and Paso Doble, but Joey’s the man to beat for the moment.

1. Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Laila has been the most pleasant surprise of the season thus far. She’s feminine and graceful, and boy can she move. As Canadian 80s icons Loverboy once said, "Everyone’s watchin’ to see what you will do." And I predict everyone will be keepin’ their eyes on Laila until the finale. I also predict that someone will have to dance to a crappy Loverboy song at some point between now and then. (Sadly, that prediction is probably a safer bet than any of my preseason guesses.)

Survivor Fiji: Episode 7

When both of the castaways targeted for elimination are pretty much despicable, it’s going to be a happy ending for Survivor viewers, no matter who goes home.

The day after their first victory with the new Moto tribe, Earl and Yau-Man enacted a plan to find the hidden Immunity Idol. While Earl led everyone on a mission to rescue Moto’s stranded boat, Yau-Man stayed behind to tend camp. As soon as everyone was out of sight, Yau-Man started digging.

Thanks to the pick and shovel Moto happened to have at camp, Yau-Man quickly unearthed the Idol. He celebrated for a bit, smooching the protective turtle pendant (it looked like Soap-on-a-Rope with an exoskeleton), before hiding the evidence of his excavation.

His tribemates didn’t suspect anything after they returned to camp, and Yau-Man made up an excuse to get Earl away from the rest of the group. He showed Earl the Idol, and the two agreed to continue protecting one another. "I would have never thought a big, strong black man would become one of my best allies in this game," mused the wee, Asian Yau-Man.

Later that day, the teams met for a Reward Challenge, Ravu’s first with new tribemember Lisi — not that they were happy to have her. Last episode, when sent to exile island, Lisi nearly broke down, and started babbling about how she was excited to go home. Now that she was on Ravu (replacing Anthony, who’d been voted out), the other guys were counting the days until they could get rid of her.

At the challenge Survivors faced off one at a time in a game of giant, fiery jai alai. Each team had to light three targets on fire by flinging a flaming metal sphere.

In an effort to impress his teammates — if his teammates were all 10-year-old boys — Mookie mocked Yau-Man’s shaky throwing technique. Fittingly, Yau-Man hit the target with his first fling.

Unfortunately for Moto, Yau-Man was the only one to hit a target. Ravu won its first challenge ever and earned a trip to a Fijian arcade parlor. They also sent Earl for his third trip to Exile Island — or as he renamed it, Earl Island.

At the arcade, the men of Ravu (the biologically male members and Lisi) gorged on hot dogs, brownies, and beer, and then played pool and video golf. When the gang complained about overeating and feeling sick, Rocky complained even more loudly about their complaining. I’m sure he was just trying to be helpful.

Meanwhile, Yau-Man waited for his fellow Motites to take their afternoon siestas before enacting an absolutely brilliant plan. He sanded and decorated an empty coconut shell, wrapped it up in the Immunity Idol’s original packaging, and buried it exactly where he’d found the real idol. If someone finds and actually tries to use the fake Immunity Idol at Tribal Council, it will have to go down as one of the best moments in Survivor history.

Earl rejoined his team at the Immunity Challenge, which was another resurrected classic. One tribe member stood on a raised platform shouting instructions to his or her blindfolded teammates.

One at a time, a blindfolded tribe member walked across a field, following the verbal commands of his caller to where a skull hung above his head. He then swung a club, pinata-style, to break the skull, dropping a bundle of puzzle pieces to the ground. He dropped the pieces on a puzzle table at the far end of the field before heading back. After all the pieces had been found, the team removed their blindfolds and worked together to solve a word scramble.

Moto got a slight lead thanks to Michelle’s accurate directions. It’s just a shame that her blindfolded teammates never saw Michelle, in her enthusiasm, actually fall off of the platform while shouting at Yau-Man to "go forward!" (They probably saw it for the first time on TV, like the rest of us.)

Alex’s slightly less specific instructions had even more painful results, but not for Alex. At least twice, Mookie took a bamboo pole to the gut because Alex didn’t tell him to stop quickly enough.

Moto’s slight lead and superior brain power enabled them to solve the puzzle first, forcing Ravu back to Tribal Council again.

Rocky and Mookie were in agreement that Lisi should go because she’s a chick, and chicks are wimps and they talk too much. Okay, they might not have said that out loud, but you know that’s what they were thinking.

Edgardo finally realized what the viewing audience learned long ago, and shared his discovery with Alex: "Rocky just has this bad vibe about him, and I think one of the reason’s Ravu didn’t ever win is his attitude about stuff." Too bad none of the original Ravu-ites realized that in time to save Jessica, Erica, Sylvia, Rita, or Anthony.

At Tribal Council, Rocky was pretty confident, since the one girl on the team was the obvious boot. He didn’t notice that Lisi — who’s just as socially and intellectually savvy as Rocky — was acting a little over-confident herself.

Turns out Lisi had Alex, Edgardo, and Dreamz on her side. Well, not really on her side. She just happened to be slightly more bearable than Rocky. He became the first member of the jury.

Rocky’s exit interview was, well, not surprising. First, he screamed at the top of his lungs. Then he vowed to use his jury power to single-handedly prevent Lisi, Alex, Edgardo, or Dreamz from winning the million dollars, should they make it to the finale. I’m sure none of the producers had the heart to explain to him that he only gets one vote.

Next week, the Ravu guys take advantage of the fact that Lisi was foolish enough to tell them the (other) hidden Immunity Idol’s whereabouts. As Lisi and Dreamz sleep mere feet away, Alex, Edgardo, and Mookie dig for the idol.

Ox Notes: March 29, 2007

Robert Forster, Career Counselor
Reality Blurred linked to a Jam! Showbiz interview with Survivor host Jeff Probst, in which he revealed the best piece of career advice he ever received. It came from actor Robert Forster,  who’s best known for his career-resurrecting role in Jackie Brown. The advice? "Don’t you ever walk away from the show."

It’s why Probst stays with Survivor, even when Producer Mark Burnett does stuff that Probst hates — including this season’s rich tribe / poor tribe gimmick.

SOS: Save Our Sleuth
Pop Candy posted a reminder to vote in Kristin Veitch’s Save One Show campaign. The TV shows in the race — and therefore in danger of being cancelled — are Veronica Mars, The Class, Studio 60, How I Met Your Mother and Gilmore Girls.

My vote goes to Veronica Mars, which has managed to maintain high standards for its writing despite misguided network interference. The VM Season 1 DVD is the perfect entertainment on a rainy spring day.

Heche Ho, Let’s Go!
In an odd move, ABC is reportedly bringing back a show next season that it’s stopped showing this season. Men in Trees has several unaired episodes already filmed and ready to go. But ABC has apparently decided to integrate those shows into next season, after the show returns in the fall.

DwtS Video Updates
As videos of this week’s Dancing with the Stars performances find their way to the web, I’ve added them to our recaps. The Week 2 Performance Show recap has videos of Apolo & Julianne, Shandi & Brian, Ian & Cheryl, Billy Ray & Karina, Laila & Maks, and Joey & Kym. And for all the mothers-in-law out there, including mine, the Week 2 Results Show recap has video of both performances by Dionne Warwick.

DwtS 4, Week 2: Results Show

Monday night’s surprisingly good performances were followed by an equally surprising elimination on Tuesday.

The first Results Show of the season got off to an ordinary enough start. Samantha Harris looked lovely in purple and wore her hair down, after sporting a shoulder length ‘do at the Performance Show. The shorter hair style was very flattering, and I hope it’s not a fluke.

But enough with the girly stuff. Laila & Maks were awarded the season’s first encore because their Mambo "took the biscuit." (Len’s words, not mine.)

After the performance, two of the couples moving on to next week were announced. Heather & Jonathan and Clyde & Elena all survived, thanks to their fans. Clyde promised to show more personality and creativity in his next performance.

(As an aside, I hope that, before the next show, someone tells Clyde that he doesn’t need to try to grab the microphone away from Samantha during interviews. Her evening gowns won’t look as flattering if her arm is in a sling.)

Then it was time for another performance, this time by the legendary Dionne Warwick. She sang her hit "I Say a Little Prayer," with the dance accommpaniment of Cheryl Burke, Jonathan Roberts, Anna Trebunskaya (Jonathan’s wife and Jerry Rice’s partner in Season 2), and Pasha Barsuk (Anna’s professional partner). The performance was a great reminder of just how talented Anna is.

After last night’s Performance Show, show producers had filmed some audience members’ comments. Since celebrities are the only people who matter, I’m only including the celebrity comments. Brian Austin Green was impressed by Laila, and Sela Ward gave Billy Ray a "Woo!" The ever diplomatic Chuck Woolery couldn’t — or wouldn’t — say who he thought would be first to go.

Robbie Williams, whom I love, was a little more forthcoming: "There were some lazy feet. I noticed some lazy feet. I’m not gonna say who. It wouldn’t be fair… Leeza Gibbons."

Another two couples were then announce as safe from elimination: Ian & Cheryl and Laila & Maks. When asked to describe what it was like to stand under the lights and await his fate for the first time, Ian said, "It’s a lot of pressure, but pressure makes diamonds."

In preparation for next week’s dances — the Jive and Tango — two demonstration dances were performed. First, the DwtS pros (minus Cheryl, Julianne, and Jonathan) danced a Jive, choreographed by Tony and Maks, to Queen’s "Don’t Stop Me Now." The dancers went into the audience, including the balconies, for a little direct interaction with the fans, before posing in front of the judges’ table to end the routine. To ensure a little future goodwill, Maks smooched Carrie Ann on the cheek.

The Jive demo was followed by a Tango lesson… from Jimmy Kimmel. Considering that his dance partner was his parking lot attendant, Guillermo, you can imagine how helpful the instruction was.

Finally, it was time to announce the first couple in the Bottom Two. Surprisingly, it was Paulina & Alec, who’d been positioned directly in the middle of the Leaderboard.

What better way to recover from the shock than another performance by Dionne Warwick. Her remix of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" was accompanied by two sexy dancing girls — Yessenia Adame and Claudia Velasco — who could’ve passed for twins. It felt like some raunchy scene in a B-movie, and I was half expecting the girls to kiss.

In a pretaped segment, the celebrities talked about some of the surprising things they’ve encountered during their participation in the show. Heather said she feels like a "drag queen" when she’s made up for show day. Related to that, Ian said Cheryl wears so much glitter that she’s "slippery."

But it’s certainly a good workout. Shandi said, "You could bathe in bacon and you would never gain an ounce." That explains how she stays so thin. She doesn’t eat food, she bathes in it.

To help prepare this season’s couples deal with the pain of being ousted, the first couples eliminated from the previous seasons offered their thoughts. Unfortunately, Trista Sutter, Kenny Mayne, and Tucker Carlson weren’t helpful, since all of them are still a little ticked about it. Kenny summed things up for all of them: "Damnit. Why’d they kick me off?"

Paulina & Alec were then told who’d be joining them in the Bottom Two: Shandi & Brian.

It was at this critical point in the show that someone at ABC’s Chicago affiliate decided to take a coffee break. Just as the show was scheduled to come back from commercial, the screen went dead for well over a minute.

When the show’s feed finally returned, the first eliminated celeb had already been announced. It was Paulina, who was in the middle of telling Tom about how bummed she was to leave.

"I guess my family was my fanbase," she said, "and it just wasn’t extensive enough."

The first humorously cruel outro song of the season was "One More Night," by Phil Collins.

I’m still reeling from the shock, as I was all but certain that Shandi & Brian would be eliminated. And there were several other couples that I thought were in more danger than Paulina & Alec. Hopefully, Alec will continue to participate in the professional demonstration dances, because it’s a shame to see his return to the show cut so short.

DwtS 4, Week 2: A Second Opinion

Throughout this season of Dancing with the Stars, our new contributing writer, Carole Pinhey, will add color commentary to our usual play-by-play. This week, Carole weighs in on… this week.

After last week’s marks, I was optimistic that the DwtS judges were finally going to use the scoring system the way it was designed. Their individual scores varied from a low of 4 to a high of 8, and their combined scores ranged from 13 to 24. However, tonight the scoring once again clustered around 7s and 8s, and the totals fluctuated between 18 and 27. While the judges were spot-on with most of their comments, their scoring did not appropriately reflect their verbal appraisals. Their overly generous marks made the performances appear to be much closer in quality than they actually were.

Here’s my two cents’ worth on this week’s Performance Show (before the elimination was announced).

Leaders of the Pack

Laila & Maks
Wow! Double wow! Maks-nificent! Laila & Maks certainly brought their "A" game tonight. Their Mambo was hot, hot, hot — no Tabasco required! Clearly the best dance of the evening.

My only concern is that their interview and behind-the-scenes footage still comes across as somewhat entitled, if not arrogant. Laila seems more personable and conveys a better image than does Maks, unfortunately. This couple would fare better if Maks left the PR to his partner. Laila presents just the right balance of confidence, enjoyment and commitment that is more likely to draw in the votes.

Joey & Kym
What a dynamic couple. Their Quickstep was fast, energetic and entertaining. Joey is a true showman. I think that this pair is going to give Laila & Maks a run for their money. Kym’s choreography conveys a mischievous streak that I find mesmerizing.

I actually thought that the judges should have awarded them higher marks (not as high as Laila & Maks, but higher than Apolo & Julianna). I appreciate Joey’s comic relief in their behind-the-scenes clips. He exhibits just the right amount of irreverence that I find both amusing and engaging.

Apolo & Julianne
Way to step it up! I did not expect this pair to be quite so good — especially so early in the competition. Their routine was fresh, exuberant and totally captivating. Apolo did a fantastic job given his limited training time.

This couple may prove to be the dark horse of the field if they continue to perform as they did tonight. Their youth, enthusiasm and playful natures come across positively, both on the dance floor and in their behind-the-scenes interviews. I just hope that ABC doesn’t spoil their natural rapport by concocting another showmance between this pair.

Ian & Cheryl
Another solid performance. Their Quickstep had good unison, crisp footwork, and undeniable entertainment value. I felt that Ian’s behind-the-scenes segment — reminiscing about his mother and bringing his dad to the practice set — smacked a little too much of manipulating viewers’ feelings, similar to the way Mario used his baby niece to tug our heartstrings.

Ian seems more sincere than Mario, but I still had the impression that I was being played. Ian appears to have enough skill and natural musicality that such tactics are totally unnecessary.

Still Contenders (at Least for Now)

Heather & Jonathan
Good show — again! I was almost as speechless as Carrie Ann. Heather & Jonathan certainly performed way beyond my expectations. Heather’s shoulder shaking and hip wiggling were first-rate (better than several of her competitors). She’s one celebrity who successfully connected with her "inner Latina."

This couple is emerging as a PR dream team. I can almost foresee a Jerry Springer-like public opinion transformation for the ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney. If Heather continues to project a humble image, then I predict she will stay around for longer than many of us anticipated. I was also very impressed by the sincerity of Jonathan’s praise for his challenging student.

John & Edyta
Another entertaining performance from the oldest buffalo in the herd. John looks very comfortable on the dance floor and is surprisingly light-footed. He sincerely appears to enjoy dancing and performing. His competent acting skills combined with his natural musicality and charming personality lead me to predict that John will be around for quite some time. As far as natural ability goes, I think that John is the most talented senior that DwtS has had to date — even better than John O’Hurley!

Clyde & Elena
An A-okay effort from the basketball legend. The height disparity of this couple is an almost impossible challenge to overcome. Fortunately Clyde has a real crowd-pleasing personality that will go a long way towards helping him stay in the competition. He is another light-footed competitor with a healthy amount of natural rhythm. If his fanbase is as strong as rumour claims, then Clyde the Glide will be around for a little while longer. Perhaps Samantha should requisition a stepstool for her backstage interviews with this gentle giant!

Paulina & Alec
Good effort, but not up to last week’s standard. The height disparity between this pair was much more obvious in this week’s performance. Paulina seemed a bit "stiff and starchy," as Len put it. I found their routine rather disjointed, with an obvious stop partway through. Paulina evaluated her performance quite well when she claimed that she (unlike Heather) had trouble locating her "inner Latina." However, Paulina remains very charming in her behind-the-scenes clips, and that attractive quality could keep her in the running for a few more weeks. (Editor’s note: I thought so, too! But apparently it was not meant to be.)

Out of the Running

Karina & Billy Ray
Better, but not good enough. Billy Ray may be the most improved dancer, as Carrie Ann claimed, but he also had the furthest to go. I still think that the rest of the field leaves him in the dust. Billy Ray’s routine was somewhat sluggish, and there is absolutely zero chemistry between him and Karina. He just doesn’t exhibit the same drive that many of the other celebrities exude.

Shandi & Brian
Nothing special in this pair’s performance. Shandi’s Mambo was stiff and seriously lacking in hip action. Once again this self-professed "All American" couple came across as too entitled and too full of themselves. Their behind-the-scenes clips are annoying and have a tendency to alienate viewers rather than attract them. I found their routine boring, and I anticipate that this couple will be in the bottom two.

Leeza & Tony
Better than last week, but still a disappointing performance. Leeza just doesn’t appear to feel the music. A serious disconnect exists between her facial expressions and her body movements. While Leeza was a little more relaxed in this week’s Mambo, she still looked stiff and uncomfortable. Her hip action was not nearly as fluid as Laila’s or Heather’s.

I love Leeza’s positive attitude, and she is Fabulous at Fifty, but the judges were overly generous in awarding her decent marks for this evening’s routine. I fear this pair’s days are numbered. At least Leeza has a genuine appreciation for being able to participate in DwtS , and I find her attitude quite endearing. I’ll be sad to see her go (whenever that is), but there are more deserving couples in the competition.

Ox Notes: March 27, 2007

Still Immortal, Just Demoted To Basic Cable
Hercules is back, and he’s just where you’d expect to find a son of Zeus: The Hallmark Channel. Kevin Sorbo plays the strongest priest in the world in Avenging Angel.

I Would’ve Preferred Piper Laurie
According to TV Guide‘s Michael Ausiello, Piper Perabo will be appearing as a love interest on Fox’s House. Hopefully, that won’t interfere with any potential commitments she might have to Cheaper By The Dozen 3.

Smelling Like A Melrose
For those who prefer that their TV show titles be puns based on character names, Heather Locklear has taken on the title role in ABC’s See Jayne Run, where she plays an investment banker who has sex with various 1980s rock stars, or something to that effect.

Real Hookers Make More Money And Don’t Get Caged
One of my daily must-reads, Whitney Matheson’s Pop Candy, has a new podcast in which Matheson interviews a professional background actor: the anonymous people who stand around at concerts, sit in classrooms, or play "hooker in a cage" on your favorite show, while the principal actors do their thing in the foreground. The interview begins about six minutes into the podcast.

DwtS 4, Week 2: Performance Show

There were some real surprises in tonight’s second performance show. Fortunately, all of the surprises were good.

Quick Note: Tuesday night’s show is in two parts. The first hour (at 8:00 Eastern), will just be a recap of the dances so far. The official Results Show doesn’t begin until an hour later.

As you read, just assume that the crowd booed anytime the judges awarded anything below an 8. Why ABC still insists on encouraging the audience to do this — and yes, it is at ABC’s insistence — is beyond me. It’s dumb. Not everyone deserves straight 10s. Especially not during Week 2.

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Quickstep
Julianne described her relationship with Apolo as that of a brother and sister, which she exploited by making fun of his lack of upper body strength. As she screamed commands at him during practice, Apolo said, "I honestly feel like I’m being tortured."

Their performance was all smiles and pep — just what you’d expect from the youngest couple in the competition. The Quickstep also suited Apolo’s fleet feet. Julianne looked especially pleased after their nonstop routine.

Len Goodman told the couple, "You’re gonna stay for weeks and weeks." Bruno Tonioli had no shortage of adjectives to describe the performance: fresh, uplifting, cool, young, and exciting. Carrie Ann Inaba told Apolo, "You are the surprise of the season to me. You’ve had the least amount of training. "

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…9, Bruno…9 = 26/30.
Total for both weeks = 47/60

Shandi Finnessey & Brian Fortuna — Mambo
Shandi had some trouble getting comfortable with the overt sexiness of the Mambo: "It’s hard for me to be like, ‘Hello, strange man I’ve only known for three weeks. Let me rub up all over you." I can’t say I blame her. Brian has an eerie Jim Breuer-esque quality about him, and the way he ogled Shandi in her bikini top and miniskirt didn’t help.

During their performance, they seemed fixed to a small portion of the dance floor. Shandi struggled to compensate for being taller than Brian, and they had some trouble executing some of their hand holds. With a few more weeks of training, and possibly a different partner, Shandi might stand a chance. But she should be very concerned about tomorrow night’s elimination.

Carrie Ann was blunt with Shandi: "I think you look beautiful, but I didn’t think there was anything special about it." Len said, "In coping with the [difficult] choreography, you forgot to come out and really sell it." Bruno recommended that Shandi "forget about Barbie and turn into a Brat."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 20/30.
Total for both weeks = 39/60

Clyde Drexler & Elena Grinenko — Quickstep
To give Elena a better idea of what kind of footwork he was capable of, Clyde took her to a basketball court. When she tried to dribble a ball, Elena showed exactly why she went into ballroom dancing, and not the WNBA.

Even though the concentration was still apparent on Clyde’s face the entire time, this performance was much better. Their routine was fast and fun, and in the closed hold of the Quickstep, Clyde & Elena moved like a real couple.

Bruno told Clyde, "You really moved tonight so much better." Carrie Ann complimented their "great use of space" and called Clyde a "crowd pleaser." Len joked that the comparatively diminutive Elena should always stand on the stage’s top two steps and the couple should "just dance up and down the stage."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…6, Bruno…6 = 18/30 (earning loud boos from the crowd).
Total for both weeks = 34/60.

Leeza Gibbons & Tony Dovolani — Mambo
At Leeza’s 50th birthday party, she and Tony practiced this week’s dance in front of her family and friends. She enthused, "I love the mambo! I love the hips!"

Leeza took the judges’ advice from last week to heart, and she looked much more relaxed, embracing the bawdiness of the dance and just having a good time. It wasn’t the best Mambo of the night, but it was certainly enjoyable to watch. And the routine had plenty of Tony’s signature shimmies, which are always entertaining. Audience member Robbie Williams (cast member for DwtS 5, please!) applauded politely after the routine.

Len joked, "I just hope I look like you when I’m 50." Bruno told Leeza, "You did a proper Mambo, but like a debutante on a first date. Forget that. You should be a tramp. Let the tramp out." Carrie Ann wished Leeza a happy birthday and said, "I love watching people laugh while they’re dancing."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30.
Total for both weeks = 36/60

Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke — Quickstep
Ian’s dad came to watch one of the couple’s practice sessions. He was very impressed with Cheryl: "She is so light on her feet." Ian asked his dad, "What about me?" His dad looked down and said nothing, which cracked Ian up.

It was another super performance by Ian. His hard work is paying off, and it seemed like he really internalized the routine. There was lots of speed, with cool kicks and slides. And as a bonus, Cheryl wore an uncharacteristically revealing outfit. Audience member Brian Austin Green approved.

Carrie Ann told Ian, "You still have so much more potential. I’m just dying to see you open it up and pour it all out on the dance floor." Len noticed a few problems with Ian’s execution: "Your right elbow keeps dropping, and I can see Cheryl keeps pulling it up. It was a little bit skippy and hoppy, but it was a very good performance." Bruno mentioned the same problems that Len did, and was quickly drowned out by boos. The audience must not have realized that, when the judges criticize something minor — like a saggy elbow — this early in the show, it’s because they expect the celebrity to be around until the end. Remember Drew’s droopy shoulders?

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…8, Bruno…7 = 22/30 (more boos from the crowd).
Total for both weeks = 43/60

Paulina Porizkova & Alec Mazo — Mambo

The Mambo is not Paulina’s forte. She was terrified as they trained for the big "Death Drop" move at the end of the routine. "The funny thing is," said Paulina, "I know Alec will not drop me." Then, in a separate interview, Alec said, "I have dropped people. Yes."

While she never found her "inner Latina," Paulina promised to channel her "inner American tourist visiting Havana the first time, and go out there and Mambo as hard as a Czech girl can."

Their cute routine had a lot of variety, giving Paulina plenty of opportunities to succeed. She’s got great speed, gorgeous extension, and she even survived the Drop.

Bruno said, "Sometimes you lost your way to Havana, but you got down to Puerto Rico maybe. Overall, it was quite good." Carrie Ann told Paulina, "You gave it your best, and you were looking pretty sexy." Len said, "It was a bit sort of stiff and starchy. It wasn’t raunchy." When the crowd booed yet again, Len retorted, "It’s all right for you to boo. I’m just telling you what happened."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30.
Total for both weeks = 40/60.

Billy Ray Cyrus & Karina Smirnoff — Quickstep
Billy Ray was depressed after last week’s low-scoring routine, and the Quickstep wasn’t doing anything to boost his confidence: "There’s some stuff in the Quickstep that just don’t feel right. It’s almost like going against the laws of nature, a little bit." But he did perk up when he started imitating Karina’s teaching style, shouting in mock anger, "Concentrate! Have fun with it!"

This was a different Billy Ray from last week. He moved with confidence and appeared to have really internalized the routine. The performance ended Karina and him dancing side-by-side in separation, and this is where things got a little dodgy. Billy Ray performs much better when he’s holding Karina than when he’s left to his own devices.  Afterward, the couple received a loud ovation.

The judges were as surprised as the audience by Billy Ray’s improvement. Len said colorfully, "You came out like the Wild Man of Wongo doing the Okeefenokee two-step. Suddenly you sort of took a musical Valium. You calmed down, and the rest of it was perfectly ordinary and very, very good." Bruno had trouble with the "Michael Flatley impersonation at the end" of the routine. But Carrie Ann told Billy, "You looked like a proper ballroom dancer."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30.
Total for both weeks = 34/60.

Heather Mills & Jonathan Roberts — Mambo
After executing last week’s routine without a hitch, this couple has switched their focus during training. Jonathan said, "Heather and I are not even thinking about her leg. We’re just working on her dancing well to win this competition." And Heather was eager to try a fun dance that she felt was more reflective of her personality.

Seconds into the routine, Jonathan flipped Heather into a back walkover! The routine had lots of energy and was executed extremely well. More than most of the other female celebrities, Heather seemed to embrace the spirit of the Mambo, letting go and just having fun.

Carrie Ann stammered, "What in the world? You did a back walkover! The level of difficulty in that routine was far higher than anybody else’s routine tonight." Len said, "It was much better than your Fox Trot last week. It was absolutely great." Bruno told Heather, "You were at warp drive tonight. Red Hot Heather."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30.
Total for both weeks = 42/60.

John Ratzenberger & Edyta Sliwinska — Quickstep
In order to take advantage of John’s training in Karate, Edyta worked a few kicks into their routine. She promised, "Our Quickstep is gonna kick butt," and raised her hands in a fighting gesture, shouting, "Cha!"

Understandably, their Quickstep wasn’t quite as quick as the rest. But they kept moving the entire time and didn’t cheat with any long pauses. And John looked like he was having effortless fun — which may be the real proof of what a good actor he is.

Bruno told John, "There is plenty of life in the old wolf." Carrie Ann said, "In the beginning, you kind of got off to a slow start…but by the end, you guys pulled it all together and gave us pizzazz." Len reminded John, "This is just another performance. Instead of learning your lines, you learn the steps. You just come out and get on with it."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30.
Total for both weeks = 38/60.

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Mambo
Maks felt that, since Laila is in such great shape, perhaps he should hit the gym and bulk up a little himself. As his weightlifting coach, Laila tutned the tables on Maks and made him pay: "Who told you to stop? Can’t you bring it up a little faster? One more…never mind, two more." I’m okay with gratuitous footage of Maks working out every week.

With such a naturally talented partner, Maks gets to choreograph the routine he wants, rather than figuring out how to work around shortcomings. And if that’s not the case, he’s doing an impressive job making it look that way. Their routine was the most relaxed and fun of the evening, and Laila is a real star. She’s not just the most dangerous woman in the competition, she’s probably the most dangerous competitor period.

Len said the performance was "the best Mambo we’ve seen tonight." Bruno called Laila, "The mistress of the art of seduction." Carrie Ann was effusive in her praise for Laila, "That was hot! Sexy! The way you move is so great."

During their interview with Samantha backstage, when she asked how Maks’ arms were feeling after his workout, he said he was ready for more. But Samantha said, "He’s just toughing it up for you guys at home. He was crying earlier." As the studio audience and his fellow dancers laughed, Maks stated, "It’s all about the end result," and flexed his bicep.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…9 = 27/30.
Total for both weeks = 50/60.

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Quickstep
Joey’s DwtS philosophy: "We have a job to do, in a sense. But have fun with it."

That philosphy influenced their performance, as Joey opened the routine with some goofy dance moves before jumping into their Quickstep. Even Joey’s classy tuxedo tails were adorned with a his initials — in rhinestones. The meat of their routine was more straightforward than the beginning, as Joey & Kym allowed their speedy, challenging footwork to express their fun-loving natures.

Carrie Ann told Joey, "When you come to the floor, I’m gonna expect you to give us the complete package. And you do. You did it again tonight." Len said the routine was "light, bright, and fast-moving."
Bruno told Joey, "You’re a great performer, and you sold it. Just drop the ‘George Michael’ [moves at the beginning]."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30.
Total for both weeks = 48/60.

50 — Laila & Maks
48 — Joey & Kym
47 — Apolo & Julianne
43 — Ian & Cheryl
42 — Heather & Jonathan
40 — Paulina & Alec
39 — Shandi & Brian
38 — John & Edyta
36 — Leeza & Tony
34 — Clyde & Elena, Billy Ray & Karina

My vote went to Laila & Maks. Their wonderful Mambo earned the night’s highest marks for a reason. I was in no way influenced by Maks’s biceps.

The couples in the most danger for Tuesday night’s elimination aren’t necessarily the ones at the bottom of the leaderboard. Billy Ray’s improved performance should buy him another week, and Leeza may get some votes just because it was her birthday. Clyde and Shandi gave acceptable but mostly forgettable performances early in the program. As the evening progressed and stronger performers danced, they might have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Apprentice L.A.: Episode 10

Customers aren’t keen on buying things from roller skating women wearing Kevlar vests. Go figure.

Trump kicked off the latest episode of The Apprentice by forcing one of the members of Arrow Corp. to join the women of Kinetic. When no one volunteered, Trump told Project Manager James to choose someone. Quickly.

James explained that, because of whatever talents Stefani and Frank purportedly possess, they were indespensible. That left the love birds, Tim and Nicole, and James picked Nicole to join Kinetic’s coven.

There was much eye rolling from his fellow team members — as in, "How can you separate them? They’re in love!" Yet no one objected aloud or volunteered to take Nicole’s place. Not even Tim.

The reorganized teams met with Trump and Ivanka to received their task. At Universal Studios, teams would be responsible for using a new, mobile sales technology (basically a wireless credit card reader) to peddle discounted season passes to patrons as they entered the theme park.

Upon arriving at Universal, Nicole adopted a "take no prisoners" mentality and vowed to crush Tim and her former teammates. She (correctly) predicted that Arrow would erect a large tent with flashy signage in order to attract customers, and she set about crafting a plan to undermine their efforts.

Nicole’s winning sales strategy? Roller skates. The skates would allow the the girls to be more mobile than tent-bound Arrow, and who wouldn’t want to buy passes from four hot babes on wheels?

Apparently, a lot of people.

The babe effect was substantially lessened by the bulky vests that supported the portable digital display/credit card machine. The bulky, bulletproof flotation devices didn’t pair well with the retro black roller skates.

Arrow’s tent gave them an air of legitimacy, which they used to undermine their competition. They offered free bottles of water to their customers, and James even broadcast over a bullhorn that the women on roller skates were charging more for the passes (which, as far as I could tell, they weren’t).

Arrow was able to sell $30,000 worth of passes, beating Kinetic by more than $7,000. That makes me wonder: who the hell are these people buying these freaking expensive annual passes? I like the Jurassic Park boats and Mummy coaster as much as the next reality show recapper, but how many times a year do you want to see the Waterworld show or break your neck on that Back to the Future ride?

Back at the mansion, Tim learned the hard way what a bad idea it is to get romantically involved with another Apprentice candidate. As Frank and all of the women of Kinetic listened on, Nicole confronted Tim through the hedge that separates the pool area from the tent compound.

Nicole said, "I didn’t think you and Frank would’ve let me go."

Tim responded, "You wanted us to say something?"

As the Kinetic gals tried to explain that Nicole had just wanted Tim to speak up in her defense when James suggested her, Tim countered with some reasoning that, by not saying anything, he was really doing what Nicky would’ve wanted: displaying loyalty to the team.

The conversation didn’t last very long, once Nicole realized that Tim’s loyalty was not to her. But Tim still couldn’t reconcile why she’d be upset by that, and he didn’t make the connection that, as a member of the losing team, Nicole was in serious danger of being fired.

In the Boardroom the next day, Project Manager Angela did go after Nicole for her roller skate idea. But everyone else on the team blamed Angela for not considering anything beyond the roller skates.

Trump, who’s been impressed with Angela’s Olympic medals all season, tended to agree with the majority. Reluctantly, he fired Angela. She was sad not to have won, but said she probably learned more through the experience of losing. It figures that a high-level athlete would understand how to put losing in perspective.

Next week, one of the teams screws up big time. Even bigger than usual, apparently.

Ox Notes: March 26, 2007

You Will O-bey
On Wednesday, Oprah is scheduled to announce the next title for her book club. And since nobody knows how I should live my life better than Oprah, I solemnly swear to buy it, put it on the bookshelf, and pretend to have read it.

Sending Out An SOS
E! Online’s Kristin Veitch has begun her Save One Show campaign, where she helps readers in their efforts to save a single show from cancellation. Even if you have no plans to join the cause, the article has some good info on which shows are safe for next season, and which ones are on the bubble.

Mere weeks after giving birth, Tori Spelling is already planning to make herself unrecognizable to her child. According to the National Enquirer (who would never lie), Tori and her husband, Dean McDermott, are ready to enjoy regular botox sessions. And Tori’s got some other augmentations scheduled, too. Joe E. Tata must be rolling over in his deep fryer.

A Lot To Live Up To
Sadly, the time came this past Friday for Tara Conner to pass the Miss USA crown to a new queen, Tennessee’s Rachel Renee Smith. Miss Smith’s drunken/topless/drugged out/simulated sex photos should be online somewhere by the time I post this.

Congratulations. You’re The Ones That A Consistently Dwindling Viewing Audience Wanted
The winners of the Grease casting show, You’re the One That I Want, were revealed on Sunday’s finale. If you’re a fan of the show, you probably know that already. And if you’re not, you probably don’t care. Forget I ever wrote this.

TAR All-Stars: Episode 6

If you’ve ever considered applying to be on The Amazing Race, this episode might make you reconsider — unless spending several consecutive days in African airports is your idea of a good time.

Teams left the Pit Stop late at night and were forced to wait until 5 a.m. for the ticket counter to open at the Maputo, Mozambique, airport. There was only one direct flight that day from Maputo to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania — the racers’ next destination — and that flight was full.

While all of the other teams elected to wait on standby for the 8:30 a.m. flight, Charla & Mirna took a risk and caught a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, in the hopes that they might be able to get a connection at that (larger) airport.

With the help of an airport employee named Cristo — who was gracious enough to kneel down and look Charla in the eye when answering her questions — the cousins were able to board a 9:55 a.m. flight to Dar Es Salaam.

Meanwhile, none of the teams was able to board the direct flight out of Maputo. They were told to try to get tickets for an 11:45 a.m. flight from Maputo to Johannesburg on South African Airlines, which connected with an Air Tanzania flight from Johannesburg to Dar Es Salaam. Unfortunately, the connecting flight was fully booked, so teams would again risk going standby.

The SAA ticket counter didn’t open until 9:45, and Joe & Bill and Teri & Ian dutifully lined up to wait for it. But the other teams creeped upstairs to the SAA office, where they were able to convince an employee to sell them the tickets to Johannesburg and place them first on the standby list for the flight to Dar Es Salaam. (Who knew Dar Es Salaam was such a popular place?)

All of the teams made it to Johannesburg successfully, but only the four teams that booked their tickets at the upstairs SAA office were cleared to board the 1:15 p.m. flight to Dar Es Salaam. The four teams boarded the plane, and Joe & Bill and Teri & Ian were left to curse their rotten luck.

But just then, luck took a turn in their favor. Eric & Danielle had mistakenly been given someone else’s seats, and they were removed from the plane. As Dani cried, an airline employee assured them that the best he could do was put them on the standby for the SAA flight to Dar Es Salaam at 9:55 the following morning — a full day behind Charla & Mirna.

The employee also made the same offer to the Guidos and Teri & Ian.

At 2:52 p.m., Charla & Mirna’s flight arrived in Tanzania. There they took a taxi to the ferry terminal, where they took a number for the first boat to Zanzibar. The trip would take several hours in a traditional open-air dhow, and, due to an impending storm, the launch was postponed until 5:30 a.m. the next morning.

The Air Tanzania flight with Ozzy & Danny, Dustin & Kandice, and Uchenna & Joyce landed at 6:30 p.m. Ozzy & Danny got seats on the 5:30 a.m. boat with Charla & Mirna. The second boat, carrying Uchenna & Joyce and the Beauty Queens, would leave three hours later, at 8:30 a.m.

Early the next morning, as the lead teams set off on their sea voyage, Mirna mused, "It’s like the ancient time." In keeping with the ancient ways, Ozzy quipped, "We’re gonna trade you for food now."

Mirna, not getting the joke, flatly said, "Okay," before pausing and asking, "Can I have some of the food?"

When the second boat launched, later that morning, Uchenna also mused about ancient traditions. He told his blonde competitors, "500 years ago, they took the slaves this very same path, ladies. Now it’s your turn!"

While Uchenna, Ozzy, and Danny were contemplating how to use their female companions as barter items, the last three teams were still trying to get out of Johannesburg. Because of their traumatic removal from the plane the day before, Eric & Danielle were give the only two available seats on the 9:55 flight.

Luckily, the Guidos and Teri & Ian were able to get seats on an Air Malawi flight to Dar Es Salaam at noon. As they boarded the plane, Bill exclaimed, "I’ve never been so happy to leave a country in my life!"

Back on Zanzibar, the lead teams found a clue giving them their choice of Detour: Solve It or Schlep It. In Solve It, teams walked to a nearby hotel to complete a 62-piece puzzle.

For Schlep It, teams walked one mile to a lumber yard, where they loaded two 50-pound logs onto a cart. Then they pushed the cart to a shipyard one mile away.

Both the cousins and the Cha Cha Chas chose Solve It, and they completed their puzzles relatively quickly, with the Chas just a few minutes in front of Charla & Mirna. Their clue sent them 15-miles to the Maasai village of Kikungwi. Ozzy & Danny squandered the small lead they had, when they at a roadside stand to buy fruit.

At Kikungwi, teams found a Roadblock. The task required one team member to learn how to properly throw a rungu: a stick with a knobby end used for hunting. Once the chosen member destroyed a clay target with the rungu, the team would receive its next clue.

Mirna broke her target first, and she celebrated with a cartwheel and much screaming. The clue sent them to the next Pit Stop, at the Old Fort in Stone Town.

When they arrived in first place for the second time in a row, Phil Keoghan told Charla & Mirna that they had each won a catamaran. In unison, the cousins asked, "Huh? What is that?" When Phil explained that it was a sailboat, there was, again, more screaming.

When the second boat arrived on Tanzania, the teams split up. Uchenna & Joyce had a much easier time with the puzzle, and made it through the Roadblock, to the Pit Stop, and even served their 30-minute penalty from the previous leg without seeing the Beauty Queens.

Dustin & Kandice chose Schlep It, and kept telling themselves that they’d made the smart choice even as they spilled the contents of their lumber cart onto the road. It was dark by the time they finished, but they were happy with fourth place.

It was already dark out when Eric & Danielle arrived at Zanzibar. They completed their puzzle, and then Danielle succeeded in breaking the clay target by hitting the post it was tied to and knocking it to the ground. They finished in fifth place.

The final dhow didn’t even leave Dar El Salaam until 8 p.m., so it was plenty late when the last two teams arrived. The Guidos gave some thought as to which Detour to choose, but decided it was best to keep an eye on the competition. So, they stayed with Teri & Ian and completed the puzzle.

As the Guidos methodically placed their fish-shaped pieces, Teri & Ian floundered. By the time they realized that the pieces were double-sided, the Guidos were nearly finished. They got their clue and headed out into the early morning light to find the Roadblock.

Bill was able to finish the Roadblock before Teri & Ian even arrived, and the Guidos reached the finish mat in sixth place. By the time they finished the leg, Teri & Ian had made peace with their elimination. "We had fun," said Teri. "We’re sorry to be eliminated."

Next week, All-Stars is back for two hours of Dani freaking out about something. And Charla tries to walk in a full suit of armor.