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.