Tim Swift again. So, full disclosure: I'm not a huge fan of the show, and I mock it often. So here's my bitter take on the first part of the extended finale of Dancing with the Stars:


Laila Ali and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

In the judges' choice round, Ali said she was a big girl who wasn't getting thrown around — but she still liked the frilly dress. While not as flashy as the performances of the other couples, the pair showed structure, discipline and adherence to the theme. Ali capped it all off with a mock punch sending the corny judges into a tailspin of praise. They earned 29 of 30 possible points.

In the freestyle round, it was a whole lot of sparkles and booty shaking to Michael Jackson's "Shake Your Body (To the Ground)." To my untrained eye, it was a hot mess that reminded me of Striptease (yes, I'm thinking Demi Moore, not Ving Rhames). Speaking of a striptease, things got fake-steamy at the end when Ali ripped Chmerkovskiy's shirt off. Carrie Ann Inaba, my favorite judge (well, the one I could understand), summed it up perfectly, saying it lacked sophistication. The other whack jobs hated it, too, and the couple earned a disappointing 26 of 30 points.

Status: In third place, scoring 55 of 60 possible points.

   Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough

Dancing to "Midnight Train to Georgia," Ohno and Hough took on the rumba in their best noir-period gear: him in suspenders, her in a skimpy nightie. The results were uneven. While the performance was energetic, the theme of the dance was lost in their decision to quicken the pace. At points, Hough looked too much like a piece of furniture being lugged around the stage. The ever-manic judge Bruno Tonioli said they were "a joy to watch" and insisted, "They made love on the dance floor." But the calmer Len Goodman correctly observed that the dancing lacked romance. They scored 28 of 30 points.

In the interview clip, Ohno said he really wanted to breakdance in the freestyle round. And breakdance he did. Evoking showtune-friendly Crips (they even had gang-style bandannas to shimmy across their butts!), Ohno and Hough broke it down to "Bust a Move" with some impressive spins and fancy footwork. The judges — flummoxed by what just transpired — had no choice but to love it. "So original" Tonioli screamed. Dude, have you seen a movie from the '80s? In the end it earned them a perfect score.

Status: In first place, scoring 58 of possible 60 points.

Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson

The opening clip foreshadowed trouble, telling us that Fatone's fat and tired, and his shoulder hurts. Johnson is clearly over it. The judges selected the cha-cha for them. And the pair whole-heartedly ignored them. Stealing a routine from his NSYNC glory days, Fatone held Johnson as she mimed as a puppet on a string; then they did a quick change into a spastic outpouring of aerobics/jazzercises. The judges weren't amused that Fatone and Johnson didn't actually dance what they asked them to do. Tonioli said it was cheeky and entertaining but correctly noted that it was "Just a cha."

In the freestyle, the pair started slow and formal. But it was all a sneaky trick. The body of "Last Dance" kicked into gear, and the couple burst out of their prom wear into gold pleather! What is with this show and tear-away clothes? Weird. Fatone geeked out, and this time the judges actually liked it. Inaba was happy that Fatone incorporated all of his training into one of his final dances. Goodman was pleased that finally (after five dances), a woman got picked up and thrown about the stage. "I wish we had more than a 10 to give," he said.

Status: In second place, scoring 56 of 60 possible points.

Coming tomorrow: There is one more dance to be danced — even though the audience votes tonight and the winner is named tomorrow. Confused? Yeah, me too. I have just convinced myself that they use the Da Vinci Code to determine the winner, and the votes and scores are meaningless.