Monthly Archives: May 2007

DwtS 4 Finale: Performance Show

A finale featuring the most evenly matched trio in the show’s history was fun, though it lacked some of the spark of previous seasons. That spark: Cheryl Burke.

The first round of dances consisted of styles chosen specifically for each couple by the judges. The chosen dances were styles that the couples struggled with the first time around, giving them a second chance to perfect them.

JUDGES’ CHOICE ROUND

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Paso Doble
Song: Erich Kunzal, "Espana Cani"

During rehearsal, Laila expressed relief that her size presented some challenges: "I’m not that fond of being lifted up and thrown around, anyway." As for the judges’ choice of the Paso Doble: "I’m glad they picked that dance for us, because, you know what — I’m gonna bring it."

This Paso Doble was much better than their first time around, as was evident in Laila’s emotional intensity during the performance. She looked much more comfortable in character — especially when she was able to duck a punch from Maks (a reference to her day job).

Beaming, Len called the performance "fantastic," though he also thought Laila didn’t point her feet in a few spots. Bruno told Laila, "This was like a tidal wave of passion and drama. Your best performance to date as an actress." Carrie Ann said, "I’m so glad you finally pulled the punches because I’ve been waiting for you to throw that punch in there."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 29/30

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Rumba
Song: Gladys Night & The Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"

In preparation for their freestyle, Julianne brought in a breakdancing coach to help Apolo. But he seemed more concerned about the "advanced" moves Julianne had introduced into their Rumba.

Their slightly-speedy Rumba featured a lot of cool poses that were certainly more advanced than what they did in their original Rumba. But the poses interrupted the flow of the dance at times and distracted from the romance. Still, the improvement in Apolo’s skills is undeniable.

Bruno was enthusiastic: "You have such chemistry, you two together." Carrie Ann told Apolo, "I thought you over-performed it just a hair. It wasn’t your best." When Len said, "It lacked any romance," Bruno shouted, "They made love on the dance floor!" Len called Bruno a "big gob," but Bruno wouldn’t stop talking, at which point Tom Bergeron had to tell Bruno to let Len talk.

Len finished by offering a few examples of what he didn’t like, as well as the pseudo-compliment, "I didn’t dislike it…intensely."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 28/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In The Heart"

By this point in the season, Joey is exhausted — and the effects started to show themselves in rehearsal. As they trained for their freestyle, Kym said, "Sometimes when we’re doing my lifts, I fear for my safety…just a bit." And, like Apolo, Joey was surprised at the difficulty of relearning a dance style he’d already performed.

Their Cha Cha started with a nod to the ‘N Sync video for "Bye Bye Bye," in which the band pretended to be marionettes. This time, Joey pulled imaginary strings to control Kym — who made a fine puppet. Their routine was entertaining and full of plenty of tricks, but it almost felt more like a freestyle routine than a ballroom dance.

The judges all felt that the performance had problems. Carrie Ann said, "For a Cha Cha, it wasn’t quite right. There wasn’t enough content to it." Len agreed:"It was far too theatrical. The more tricks you do, the further you go away from the roots of a dance." Bruno added, "It was an odd Cha Cha — and not that ‘Cha,’ you know what I mean?"

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

FREESTYLE ROUND

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Song: Michael Jackson, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)"

Even before the music began, the routine had a problem — Laila’s outfit. It was supposed to be, I believe, the ballroom version of boxing ring attire, but Laila looked like she’d been attacked by a Bedazzler during cheerleading practice. Her glittery silver sneakers may have been comfortable, but they weren’t aesthetically pleasing.

The dance itself was very energetic and full of Laila’s favorite hip-hop-slash-wedding-reception moves — complete with the running man. Since they executed only one lift, Laila & Maks included a couple of other tricks. But more than anything, they made a point of dancing together — a nice statement about their partnership.

And then Laila ripped open Maks’ shirt.

Carrie Ann said, "I love the fly girl moves, girl. I think I would’ve really liked to see it a little more sophisticated." Len agreed: "Your strength is elegance and sophistication — what those other two (meaning Joey and Apolo) can’t do." Bruno agreed with both Carrie Ann and Len.

Laila good-naturedly protested to the judges, "I thought you wanted to see something different." She didn’t get an answer, and their appraisals of her competitors that would follow probably only increased her confusion as to what they really expect from the celebrities.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
Song: Young MC, "Bust a Move"

Apolo & Julianne went for a straight breakdancing routine, vaguely reminiscent of Mario Lopez’s Season 3 Freestyle. The dance was full of tricks, including Apolo flipping Julianne with his feet. If a studio ever decides to film Breakin’ 3, Apolo should audition.

Len said, "It was up-to-date. It was everything I’d like freestyle to be." Bruno enthused, "This was so original! It was a surprise." Carrie Ann simply hugged Apolo & Julianne.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Song: Donna Summer, "Last Dance"

In keeping with their song, the performance started with some slow and romantic spins. But the tempo of the music changed, Joey & Kym quickly doffed their classy duds in favor of something a little flashier, and it was time to hustle.

There were a number of spins and lifts that required a great degree of strength, balance, and flexibility from both of them, in particular a lift in which Kym actually jumped onto Joey’s shoulders. Throughout, they incorporated some partner dancing in hold, which Joey later said was their way to show off what he’s learned over the course of the season. For that reason alone, it was the smartest choreography of the round, and the couple performed it well.

Bruno called the routine "a hit parade of dance." Carrie Ann said, "I just love that you brought all that you’ve learned throughout the ten weeks of this competition into that dance, and you still had a great time." Len told Joey, "You flew off that stage like Harry Potter on a Nimbus 2000. I wish we had more than a 10 to give."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Leaderboard:
58 — Apolo & Julianne
56 — Joey & Kym
55 — Laila & Maksim

All of tonight’s Freestyle routines were entertaining, but none was as memorable as either of Cheryl Burke’s winning routines from Seasons 2 and 3. While Ian might not have been as strong a dancer as Joey, Apolo, or Laila, I sure would have liked to see what he and Cheryl could do with the Freestyle.

Tomorrow night, the final three couples will dance one last time, and that performance will be scored by the judges, as well. Their final totals will be out of 90 possible points, and those totals will be combined with the audience votes to determine the winner.

I split my votes between my favorite performance from each round. Laila & Maks’ Paso Doble was my favorite from the Judges’ Choice Round, and Joey & Kym gave a great Freestyle performance.

Since each phone line and email address is allowed five votes this week, I cast my tie-breaker for Joey & Kym. They’ve given great performances all season, and they never copped an attitude with the judges. And maybe, if I’m really nice to Joey, he’ll take me for a ride in KITT.

Ox Notes: May 21, 2007

I Quit
Before NBC had the chance to tell Donald Trump that they wouldn’t be bringing back The Apprentice, Trump announced that he’s done with the show. He said he’ll be moving on to "a major new TV venture," although who knows if his dwindling legion of Apprentice fans will move with him.

Photogenic Fish
Corey Arnold, a crabber on the Rollo during the second season of The Deadliest Catch, wrote an article with advice for aspiring fishermen that includes some of the amazing photographs he’s taken during his years at sea.

Corey’s photographs are currently on display at the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California.

Bachelor Interview
Only slightly less fishy than the above-mentioned article is an interview with the current Bachelor, Andy Baldwin, who insists that he and the woman he chooses* in tonight’s season finale are really engaged and in love. That’s what they all say, Andy. (*Possible spoiler in the linked article)

DwtS 4: Pre-Finals Power Rankings

The Season 4 finale features probably the most evenly matched trio of competitors in the history of Dancing with the Stars. Any of the couples could win — provided that certain conditions are met. I’ve attempted to break down some reasons why each of the couples could win or lose.

I should admit that I’m rooting for a Laila & Maks win. Not only do I think they deserve it, but I think a victory by a woman bodes well for the show’s future. Plus, I just think Laila’s neat.

But just because I want her to win doesn’t mean I think she will. Here’s why:

3. Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Laila & Maks are in the most difficult position going into the finals. The fact that Laila is nearly the same size as Maks puts limitations on the kind of tricks they can do in their freestyle, as do her injured knees. They’ll have to get very creative about crafting a routine that can stand up to the flashy tricks that Apolo and Joey will be able to do with their partners.

But Maks is certainly capable of developing an entertaining program that doesn’t sacrifice skills for stunts. And Laila’s love of hip-hop and campy moves like the butterfly can only help. I wouldn’t be surprised if they revisit some popular dance music from Laila’s (and my) preteen years and bust out some C + C Music Factory or Technotronic for their freestyle.

Also, Laila & Maks were assigned the Paso Doble by the judges — a perfect routine to showcase Laila’s stregth and her femininity. If they nail their Paso and create a fun freestyle, they’ve got an excellent shot.

2. Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Joey is so skilled that he’ll be able to execute any moves that Kym asks him to. I won’t be at all surprised if they have the best freestyle of the night (and I’ll be even more impressed if they have the audacity to dance to an ‘N Sync song).

Joey & Kym are the only couple in the finale who’ve ever been in the Bottom Two, which means they may have the weakest fan support. But there’s no reason that a couple of clever and well-executed routines can’t overcome that.

1. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
These two are in the best position — they’re cute, popular, and they have a knack for crafting routines that the audience likes. But I have this feeling that their cuteness may be wearing a little thin. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that people have realized that Julianne is the cute one, and that there’s just not all that much to Apolo.

While I have no doubt that their freestyle will be entertaining and memorable, they could run into trouble with their judge-assigned dance: the Rumba. Apolo’s had problems with the more romantic dances, and if the judges aren’t opposed to awarding scores other than 10s, that could mean trouble.

Ox Notes: May 18, 2007

Dancing with the Stars News
The final three couples were on Larry King Live last night to talk about the season and Monday night’s final performances. In addition to their freestyle routines, the judges asked the couples to perform a specific dance style for the finals — although the dancers didn’t explain if these would be new or old routines. Joey & Kym will dance the Cha Cha Cha, Laila & Maksim the Paso Doble, and Apolo & Kym the Rumba.

Video clips from the DwtS cast’s appearance are available at the Larry King Live page at CNN.com.

National Bingo Night
If the endless promotions for National Bingo Night have convinced you to watch the premiere tonight, ABC has instructions on how you can play along at home.

Television Insanity
VH-1’s Best Week Ever has compiled at list of the 10 Greatest Completely Insane Television Shows of All Time. The list is dominated by beings from outer space, the coolest of which is undeniably Alf.

Gone Fishin’
Throughout the NBA playoffs, the hosts at TNT poke fun at teams as they are eliminated in a segment called Gone Fishin’ (a reference to what the players will be doing with their free time now that their seasons are over). The heads of (TNT co-host) Kenny Smith and stars from each losing team are PhotoShopped into a picture of regular — usually shirtless — guys holding up the fish they’ve caught.

NBA.com has posted a gallery of this season’s fishermen that’s worth taking a look at, even if you’re not a basketball fan. When the Washington Wizards were eliminated, Kenny and Wizards’ star Gilbert Arenas were pictured alongside George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — with Donald Rumsfeld floating in the water behind the boat.

The Chicago Bulls’ Fishin’ picture will be revealed on tonight’s broadcast, and I won’t be surprised to see Oprah reeling in a swordfish alongside Ben Gordon.

And Finally, For No Good Reason, There’s This…

Apropos of nothing

Ox Notes: May 17, 2007

DwtS News
ABC has rearranged its Tuesday night schedule so that the two-hour Dancing with the Stars Finale will start at its regular time (9 EST). That means that the winner won’t be announced until just before 11 p.m.

USA Today featured an article on athletes and reality television, and Laila Ali is quoted several times.

Upfront News
Fox and the CW announced their fall schedules today — and Veronica Mars appears to be gone for good.

In reference to the most recent VM episode, Pitchfork Media posted an album review written by Piz.

Spanish-language network Univision also announced today that they’ll be producing 30 new shows, including a reality show about life in the circus.

And in case you wondered about the real reason behind the upfronts, it’s another place where celebrities can get free stuff. Lindsay Lohan grabbed seven pairs of sunglasses from one retailer because, allegedly, she wears a pair of sunglasses one time before throwing it out. Classy.

Ahoy, Indeed
After disgusting celebrity excess news, there’s only one thing that can cheer me up: Bruce Campbell.

Ox Notes: May 16, 2007

Backstage at Dancing with the Stars
TV Guide and People filed reports from last night’s Results Show. Len Goodman and Alec Mazo told TV Guide that they were concerned about Laila & Maks’ upcoming freestyle routine. Apolo and Joey will have no problem tossing their petite partners about in exciting lifts and tricks, whereas Maks will have to compensate for the fact that Laila is nearly the same height and weight as him.

But Laila gave People a hint that their freestyle might take advantage of one of Maks’ special attributes: "We’re going to bring that sex appeal because he’s hot!"

CBS’ Fall Lineup
CBS announced its fall lineup today, and The Amazing Race wasn’t in the schedule. But fear not, Race fans — TAR will make a midseason return.

Speaking of TAR, MSN City Guides published a guide to all of the finish-line destinations featured on the show.

New Shows Hit the Net
Two cable networks are producing new shows that will run solely on the Internet. TLC’s new show Makeover Train will feature stylists riding the subway to look for passengers in need of a new look. And E! is creating four series that will post new episodes weekly.

DwtS 4, Week 9: A Second Opinion

SITTING PRETTY

Joey & Kym

Mr. Showbiz — need I say more? Joey delivered two spectacular performances that embodied the perfect blend of dancing expertise and Hollywood razz-ma-tazz. Both dances were chock full of content, captivating floor work and well-rehearsed, eyebrow-raising maneuvers. Without a doubt, Joey & Kym rebounded from last week’s shocking red-light setback with a matched set of over-the-top routines. As Joey claimed in his behind-the-scenes footage, the Fat-One isn’t done singing yet! And I can hardly wait for next week’s follow-up.

Joey’s Fox Trot was light, fun, and floated across the dance floor. The combination of Kym’s Hollywood-themed choreography and Mr. Showbiz’s execution made for an enchanting routine that mesmerized the audience. Kym managed to incorporate moves that played to Joey’s comedic personality, his great sense of rhythm, and his wonderful ability to effortlessly and authentically portray the character of the dance. Joey’s number looked the most polished of all the ballroom routines, both in terms of technique and performance. Like Carrie Ann, I thought it was irrefutably the best of the four ballroom dances.
 
Joey’s Jive was absolutely incredible! It was energetic, infectious and filled with innovative movements and comedic choreography. Joey’s fast footwork, animated facial expressions, and amazing tricks totally sold this routine. The natural exuberance that Joey brings to the dance floor is hard to replicate and difficult for his challengers to surpass. Joey unquestionably captured top spot in this week’s round and deserves to challenge Apolo and Laila for the distinction of being the Last Dancer Standing!
 
Apolo & Julianne

Mr. Excitement ignited the audience with a pair of exceptional routines. Although Apolo fell just short of completing his Mission Impossible task – earning six waves of the #10 paddle – I thought that his Week 9 performances should have ranked second instead of third. Apolo’s charismatic routines were electrifying. And the studio audience was noisily enthusiastic in their appreciation. The quest for this Olympian’s sixth gold remains within reach!
 
Apolo’s Quickstep, the first routine of the night, set the bar at the highest level for this round of the competition. It was fast, fun, and wonderfully entertaining. His exceptional footwork was light, precise, intricate, and flowed across the floor with skillful control and consummate ease. Apolo’s speed, athleticism and cheeky sense of humour were perfectly showcased by yet another of Julianne’s superbly crafted routines. I thought the dance was fabulous and made a profound statement of just how far Apolo has progressed in his transformation into a ballroom dancer. The Apolo Express certainly shot out of the starting gate at full throttle!

Apolo’s Cha Cha was energetic, cheeky, and exploded with electric movements. Julianne’s routine was so sexy that Carrie Ann felt dirty just watching it! Apolo’s flawless technique, swift footwork and total immersion into the character of the dance totally sold this routine. While Len may have labeled his hip shaking and pelvic gyrations as raunchy, I thought his performance was exhilarating. I felt it was equally as good as the Cha Cha delivered by Laila, if not marginally better. Apolo is at the top of his game as the finals approach, and his competitors will have to maintain the pressure if they hope to eliminate this resilient challenger.

Laila & Maks

The Queen of the Dance offered up two more outstanding performances. Laila remains determined to beat the boys to the finish line. Fortunately this week her routines contained enough content and excitement to virtually guarantee her a place in the finals. Laila is a force to be reckoned with, whether in the ring or on the dance floor. Her confidence, strong personality, and admirable work ethic have earned her a well-deserved spot in this season’s finals.

Laila’s Quickstep was fast, smooth, and filled with Cleopatra-themed movements that significantly enhanced the entertainment value of her performance. Laila was light on her feet, relaxed on the dance floor, and provided the audience with a sophisticated — albeit technically basic — version of the Quickstep. However, I didn’t think that some of Laila’s fast-paced footwork exhibited as much control or was as clean as that performed in Apolo’s routine. I also didn’t feel that Laila and Maks complemented each other as dance partners as well as either Apolo or Joey and their respective partners. Although Laila received a perfect score from the judges, in my book her ballroom number ranked third — marginally behind those of Joey and Apolo.

Laila’s Cha Cha was a knockout blend of cheekiness and dancing precision. Her hip movements were wonderfully sensual, her footwork confident, and her delivery technically proficient. Laila exudes allure and magnetism on the dance floor. Although some of her arm movements were still a little loose, overall she brought a polished and captivating routine to the floor. The entertainment component of her performance has evolved nicely and movements that showcase Laila’s playful personality have been successfully integrated into Maks’ choreography. Laila and Apolo, in my opinion, are running nose to nose for the number two spot in the competition.

WAITING TO EXHALE

Ian & Cheryl

A mixed package from Mr. Perfectionist. Ian supplied us with a solid hit and a slight miss in this week’s installment of DwtS. Despite his diligence, Ian’s results rank clearly below the exceptionally high standards set by the other celebrities still competing for the disco ball trophy.

Ian’s Tango was solid, but lacked the pizzazz that his competitors regularly bring to the dance floor. On the plus side, Ian was technically competent in his floor work, appropriately aggressive in his movements, and effectively sound in his execution. Cheryl’s choreography was a perfect fit with their musical selection and included a delightful balance of clipped movements, dramatic poses and sharp footwork. Unfortunately, Ian remains unable to stop mentally focusing on the execution of his dance steps long enough to relax on the dance floor and enjoy the entertainment aspect of his performance. Even his behind-the-scenes instruction from a life coach failed to unleash Ian’s "true" inner self. While I agree with Len that this Tango was Ian’s best routine to-date, unluckily for Ian he is participating in a season that includes three more highly skilled celebrities.
 
Ian’s Elvis-inspired Jive, complete with pompadour, was fun, relaxed, and solidly performed. Finally Ian managed to loosen up and feel the character of the dance. Of course, the audience’s familiarity with the King of Rock and Roll combined with one of Elvis’ most famous recordings, helped reinforce this long-awaited breakthrough. Still, Ian’s kicks were sharp, his footwork precise, and his dance technique competently executed. Ian has certainly done everything humanly possible to retain his spot in the competition. Unfortunately, his connection with his inner-self came too late. 

DwtS 4, Week 9: Results Show

There will be no Dancing with the Stars threepeat for Cheryl. She and her partner, Ian Ziering, were sent home a week before the Season 4 finals.

When introducing this evening’s encore, Len said that the judges were pleased to have so many great dances to choose from. But only one dance began with one of the stars kissing Carrie Ann on the cheek, so Joey & Kym were asked to reprise their Jive.

Tonight’s musical guest was Enrique Iglesias, and DwtS pros Alec, Edyta, Louis, and Karina danced as Iglesias performed his hit, "Hero." The pros will be performing the same routine on the DwtS summer tour.

The dancing was great, in particular a lovely spin by Louis and Karina. Yet, it was not the most impressive move I’ve ever seen set to the song "Hero"…

The performance was followed by reaction from last night’s studio audience. Jane Seymour (a.k.a. Dr. Quinn) likes Joey: "He really made everybody who doesn’t dance want to dance." One fan suggested that Len’s might improve if he incorporated more bran into his diet.

After the fan segment, Joey & Kym were told that they would be moving on to the finals next week. The rest of the couples were left to sweat it out until the end of the show.

The next performance of the night was by Flamenco star Joaquin Cortes. His dancing was very interesting, although I couldn’t see it becoming a regular part of Dancing with the Stars. The four musicians accompanying the dance were the real highlight of the performance.

Enrique Iglesias then returned to perform a new song, "Do You Know." However, this performance did not feature any dancers.

Two pretaped segments followed the live performances, one featuring the judges’ opinions of the couples, and another featuring the stars’ assessments of their competitors. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much fresh content in either segment. Len told us that the athletes are good at training and the performers are good at putting on a show.

The three at-risk couples took the stage to learn their fate. Laila & Maks were told that they were safe. Apolo & Julianne only had to worry for a moment, as Ian & Cheryl were sent home.

Ian felt that the perfect score he received for his Jive last night was victory enough, and he was just happy to have learned how to dance. A gracious Cheryl said that she considers Ian as much of a winner as her previous champion partners, Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith.

Ox Notes: May 15, 2007

DwtS News
In People’s latest What You Didn’t See article, Monica Rizzo confirms that Laila’s knee problems are so severe, she may be forced to have surgery once the season is through. And Ian’s former co-star Jason Priestley told Jam! Showbiz that he won’t be following in Ian’s footsteps.

TV Guide’s behind-the-scenes report from last night’s show was primarily an interview with Music Director Harold Wheeler, in which he reveals he’s not ultimately responsible for selecting the songs — he just has to try and make them work.

In off-the-dance-floor news, Apolo described his perfect woman to Extra. People is also reporting that DwtS lovebirds Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff are now living together.

ABC’s Fall Schedule
According to the schedule released today, ABC plans to keep Dancing with the Stars on Mondays and Tuesdays when Season 5 starts in the fall. They’ve allotted 90 minutes for each Performance Show, so it looks like the number of couples in the cast should be about the same as this season.

It’s in the Contract
Cynics have always suspected that the "life changing" prizes given by reality shows might not live up to their claims, and here are two cases in which the cynics were right. Andy Denhart writes at Reality Blurred that neither of the previous winners of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen received the prizes they were promised.

And according to a lawsuit filed against ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a family of orphaned children was allegedly evicted from the gigantic home their caretakers received through the show. ABC maintains that it had no obligation to help the kids after the episode had been filmed.

Regardless of what happened between the families, ABC is taking the wrong approach to this problem. Instead of settlement with the kids out of court, they’re coming across as a bunch of greedy corporate thugs willing to exploit orphans for profit. Instead of acting like a fairy godmother, the Disney-owned network seems more like a wicked stepmother.

DwtS 4, Week 9: Performance Show

All of the couples were great for the semi-final Performance Show. Heck, the judges thought they were all so good that, even after two dances, the last place couple was only two points shy of a perfect score.

For this semi-final round, each couple had the opportunity to pick two of their favorite dance styles and create entirely new routines — complete with new music and costumes — in those styles. As in previous weeks, the performances were split into a Ballroom Round and a Latin Round.

BALLROOM ROUND

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Quickstep
Song: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, "Mr. Pinstripe Suit"

Apolo looked very smart with a shorter haircut, and Julianne’s dress was beautiful. The bulk of the routine was a straight Quickstep, and they saved their tricks for the very end. Julianne swung Apolo into a kind of a toss, and he landed on his bum (deliberately, of course). It was a cute performance and a nice way to start the show.

Len was pleased: "I’ve gotta say, it was fantastic. I think you’ve got Restless Leg Syndrome — your feet are so fast!" Bruno agreed, telling Apolo, "Your footwork is incredible." Carrie Ann said, "Thank you for setting the standard way high for the semi-finals tonight."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke — Tango
Song: Nelly Furtado, "Maneater"

Ian’s attempt at projecting a look of strength with his facial expressions looked a little like he was sucking in his cheeks while smirking. That said, this was Ian’s most confident and sexy performance, so far.

Bruno told Ian, "The demon inside is starting to come out. If you make it to the finals… you have to be a little bit cleaner in the placement of your feet." Carrie Ann had some advice as well: "When you travel, you’ve gotta travel like you mean you’re going somewhere, not just put your foot there." Len had no complaints: "That was your best dance! I loved it!"

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…10, Bruno…9 = 28/30

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Quickstep
Song: The Bangles, "Walk Like an Egyptian"

Laila & Maks chose this song because a Cleopatra-style costume would allow Laila to wear flat sandals — a necessity because of her aching knees. While it was certainly an odd song choice for a Quickstep, it was memorable. The tongue-in-cheek song allowed Laila to show a lot of personality, and she did a great job staying up on her toes throughout the performance.

Carrie Ann told Laila, "You bring a whole different sort of vibe to your dancing that I find so unique. It’s so sophisticated, so elegant." Bruno dubbed Laila "Cleopatra Ali — Jewel of the Nile."
Len complimented their Quickstep: "It was a little bit more basic than what we saw from Apolo & Julianne, but in its own way, it was equally as good." Maks said, "Basic is much harder to do." Len wasn’t pleased with the interruption, and responded, "My job is to talk. Your job is to listen." Laila tried to make peace: "I’m sorry for both of us." Len finished his comments by saying, "It was great."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Fox Trot
Song: Mary Wells, "My Guy"

Wearing all white, Joey & Kym gave the most polished performance of the night. More than any other routine this season, this performance most closely resembled a show dance I’d expect to see from a pair of pros — at least in terms of its choreographic elements and character. It was charming, crowd-pleasing, and interesting, but free of gimmicks.

Len said, "It’s called American Smooth, and that was so smooth." Bruno agreed: "This was a Fox Trot with perfect Hollywood credentials. I was absolutely enchanted." Carrie Ann told Joey, "You do have what it takes to win this competition. You won the Ballroom Round, hands down."

It’s too bad that Carrie Ann had already given out two 10s, because that left her unable to support her statement with her scores. Her winner of the round could do no better than tie with two other celebs.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

LATIN ROUND

Before the dances began, Tom Bergeron introduced some clips of Len visiting each of the couples during the week. Since Len used to be a Latin champion, he offered advice on their Latin dances. He showed Ian how to kick and Apolo how to position his feet. He also helped Laila with her arms.

Perhaps his biggest concern was Joey’s butt. He described the way Joey tends to lead with his top half: "Here’s my head. My butt’s coming in a minute."

Joey said he was happy to receive Len’s help, since "he’s been dancing for…what…95 years?"

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Salt-N-Pepa, "Push It"

It was a good thing this performance came during the second half of the program, because it deserved a PG-13 rating. There was no way to play it safe with a song like this, and Apolo & Julianne definitely didn’t hold back. Apolo did a fine job, but Julianne’s moves were so flashy, it was hard to even focus on her partner at times.

Bruno told Apolo, "You are like a shot of adrenaline." Carrie Ann said, "That was the sexiest Cha Cha I think I’ve ever seen. I felt dirty watching it." Len was impressed by Apolo’s feet, but he felt that "for me, it was too raunchy."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 29/30

Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke — Jive
Song: Elvis Presley, "All Shook Up"

Ian dressed up as Elvis. We’re talking a full-on, Las Vegas Elvis impersonator get up, complete with pompadour wig. Somehow, it worked. The costume allowed Ian to really let loose, and he danced with tons of energy and personality. He even ended the routine with a round-off.

Carrie Ann cried out, "Hallelujah! Finally, Ian!" Len told Ian, "You’ve just gotta wear the wig every week." Bruno joked, "I don’t know if you’ve based yourself on Sanjaya or Liberace, but somehow, it works."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Tom Jones, "She’s a Lady"

The purple costumes were a little to close to the color of a certain friend of the Fry Guys for my taste, but the couple executed a solid routine. The Cha Cha gave them the perfect opportunity to incorporate some funky moves, including Laila’s butterfly maneuver.

Len said of the routine, "It had far more content than I’ve seen in the past. You won me over with the butterfly." Bruno told Laila, "There is no doubt, you are a knockout." Carrie Ann said, "Your technique really shined through."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Jive
Song: The Brian Setzer Orchestra, "Jump, Jive, and Wail"

Joey wore a bright yellow jacket that almost eclipsed Kym’s slinky black dress. At one point, Joey appeared to lose his place during a sequence of kicks. I don’t think any of the other couples should even bother to attempt a Jive in next week’s finale; this dance belongs to Joey.

Bruno said the routine had "more tricks than Houdini." Carrie Ann said, "That was fantastic." Len wore Joey’s yellow hat for his comments, and he may have made the censors nervous for a second when he told Joey, "You’ve got something that everyone’s got, but yours is much bigger… Personality!" He concluded by saying, "If you’re not in the final, this show will be missing a great dancer. You should be in the final."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Leaderboard:
60
— Laila & Maksim, Joey & Kym
59 — Apolo & Julianne
58 — Ian & Cheryl

The majority of my votes this week have to go to Joey & Kym. They gave my two favorite performances, and I think they deserved to be ranked at the top by themselves.

I’ve got to throw a vote to Laila, just for her general fabulousness. Besides, another all-male finale would be a disappointment. And Ian deserves a vote as well, for finally performing as well as many of us always believed he could.

Honestly, everyone did a good job this week. It’s great to see that the season’s four best dancers were also the four who made it furthest on the show.