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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Leaderboard:
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.

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