The judges finally remembered what their role on Dancing with the Stars is. Too bad this season’s finalists didn’t give them much to judge during the Freestyle Round.
Judges’ Choice Round
Melanie Brown & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Cha Cha Cha
Mel took the floor in an outfit so skimpy, Edyta might’ve thought twice about wearing it. Okay, maybe not. But Mel looked fab, and, apart from a bizarre opening bit, their cute, fun Cha Cha set the tone for a potentially great Finale. Perhaps I was biased by my love of Rose Royce’s song "Car Wash."
Len said of the routine, "For me, one or two funny bits in it. But it was a great performance." Bruno told Mel, "Your visual impact…I tell you, stunning!" Carrie Ann said, "I thought it was really good. I was expecting just a hair more excitement."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 28/30
Marie Osmond & Jonathan Roberts — Samba
Marie didn’t faint this time, but she still seemed winded, despite this Samba’s slow tempo and over-reliance on poses. She showed a flair for the shimmy, but there wasn’t much else to make the performance stand out.
Bruno told Marie, "You never fail to entertain. Technically, it wasn’t your best dance." Carrie Ann, "Your range of motion is a little bit more limited, and it kind of showed itself in this dance." Len said, "Technically, you’re not the best of our finalists. But for entertainment and fun, second to none."
Jonathan frowned and Marie uttered a disappointed, "Wow," when the judges revealed their scores.
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30
Helio Castroneves & Julianne Hough — Jive
Helio & Julianne dressed as bobby soxers, and the routine was very cute. Helio’s moves were pretty good. They just weren’t always in sync with Julianne’s.
When the audience finally quieted down, Carrie Ann told Helio, "It was completely exciting. But your flicks and kicks are still a bit awkward." Len, agreed: "You come out high octane…but unfortunately, so many technical problems with that. It was a disappointment." Bruno said, "The footwork wasn’t good enough, but the performance was great."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 25/30
Melanie Brown & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
After their terrific first round Cha Cha Cha, this was a real letdown. Mel & Maks made a bad song choice for their freestyle: Timbaland’s "The Way I Are." It’s a cool song, but the choreography needed to overcome the song’s dirge-like feel. On top of that, the two vocalists attempting to replicate the song’s double-tracked vocals were singing in different keys.
While the routine’s (too few) tricks were good, the rest of the performance lacked excitement. Maks would’ve been better suited working a few hip-hop moves into a Latin routine, and highlighting it with several stand-out lifts.
Carrie Ann said, "While I enjoyed the routine, I think you’re better than that, and I don’t think it showcased all that you did the past couple of months." Len agreed: "For me it was just slightly disjointed here and there. But great job." Bruno told Mel, "You put in something we don’t usually see. You tried, and I think you did a good job."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…9 = 27/30
Marie Osmond & Jonathan Roberts
Marie sells dolls on QVC, and as a nod to her doll-buying minions, she went all Pinocchio, while dancing to The Rolling Stones’ "Start Me Up." Jonathan used an over-sized key to wind up Marie, The Living Doll. The effect was creepy, and the gimmick enabled her to get away with doing very little dancing.
Len said the routine might’ve seemed like a good idea in rehearsal, but on the dance floor it "didn’t happen." Bruno, "This is the loopiest thing I’ve ever seen. It defies criticism. It’s not a dance." Carrie Ann tried to keep it positive: "You are a risk taker. However, I’m gonna agree with the guys. Sometimes…we just make some odd choices."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 22/30
Helio Castroneves & Julianne Hough
We might need a ban on televised performances to the song "Land of 1000 Dances." The choreography is limited by a literal interpretation of the song’s lyrics, which is fine for weddings and junior high swing choirs. But unless your goal is to become Master Of The Alligator or Mashed Potato World Champion (or you’re doing an homage to the ending credits of the John Candy/Dan Aykroyd film, The Great Outdoors), you probably should pick a different song.
Julianne nailed the one thing that sells any freestyle: lifts. She and Helio had the most exciting tricks — the most lifts of the night, period — so I forgave their excess of synchronized hand clapping. Tom Bergeron said Helio’s gold jumpsuit made him look like a "Brazilian Power Ranger."
Bruno called Helio, "Mr. Irresistible." Carrie Ann told him, "You’ve got technique and the entertainment factor. But you were a little rough coming out of those lifts." Len said, "Best freestyle of the night, by miles."
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 29/30
55 — Mel & Maks
54 — Helio & Julianne
46 — Marie & Jonathan
This week, fans got five votes per phone line or email address. I gave two votes to Mel & Maks for winning the Judges’ Choice Round, and two to Helio & Julianne for winning the Freestyle Round. And my final vote went to Mel & Maks for being the best of the finalists over the course of the season.