On tonight's Dancing With the Stars, the contestants will take on two dances -- and they'll be allowed one lift per dance. Plus, we'll see how Cristian de la Fuente handles his injured arm.
Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas will be doing quickstep and samba this evening. In the intro footage, Kristi really wants to take advantage of the opportunity to do lifts, but Mark isn't so sure. He finally agrees to add one to their quickstep, which is their first dance. It's fun and fast and seems fairly traditional, though the lift in question ends up being, well, kind of lame after all that buildup. Judge Len Goodman says that dance cheered him up to no end and says it had "great light and shade." Bruno Tonioli says Kristi is a supercandidate with a super ticket for the final. Carrie Ann Inaba liked that they danced toward the judges, but she says that at one point, they got a little hair out of sync. Scores: 9-10-10, for a 29/30.
Mario and Karina Smirnoff practice the jive and the Viennese waltz. Their waltz is first, and he's determined to show that he can be an elegant dancer, since Len said last week that was not his strong point. I'm not a ballroom expert, but he looks pretty dapper to me. Bruno calls him "Prince Mario," and says he had "polish and distinction, poise, restraint." Yeah, he liked it. Carrie Ann says his posture was the best thus far and she thought the lift "completely enhanced your routine." Len says, and I quote, "Normally, your ballroom dancing reminds me a bit of Britney Spears getting out of a car: Not very elegant, you sometimes see odd things you'd rather not, but tonight I thought that was the most elegant I've seen you dance. ... Gorgeous, floating movement, good job." Wow, Len, don't mince any words. Backstage, always on point Samantha Harris tells Mario that he got some fantastic comments from the judges. Um. Eventually. Scores: 9-9-9, for a 27/30.
Host Tom Bergeron: "Coming up, more frightening analogies from Len."
Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony Dovolani are doing the foxtrot and the mambo. Marissa says she's not stressed out by being in the bottom two last week because seven years ago, she survived cancer, and that put everything into perspective. For their first dance, they foxtrot to "New York, New York." They put a little Broadway twist on it (inspired by the song, I'm sure), so it doesn't feel like a traditional foxtrot, but still: fun. Also, they end with a spinning lift. Carrie Ann says she brought more joy out on the floor than anyone. Len says she looks better in hold than separate, which is surprising. Bruno says it was entertaining, but not really the gliding moves that they should be performing for a foxtrot this close to the finals. Scores: 9-8-8, for a 25/30.
Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska prep for the tango and the samba. Their tango is first, and it's got Edyta's usual interesting choreography -- lots of drama, lots of character. They do a fairly intricate lift, not surprisingly since he's probably the strongest guy out there. (Though there are a couple of other moves that I thought also might count as lifts.) Len says they did "a very, very good job," but he thinks it was too much an Argentine tango, which infuriates Bruno. Bruno says he hates them because they are beautiful. He says they were "poetry in motion," and that Edyta has never danced better. "Stunning!" Carrie Ann says they are breathtaking and beautiful as usual, and that Jason is "truly developing as a performer. ... Intriguingly great." Scores: 10-9-10, for a 29/30.
Cristian de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke are continuing in the competition even though he can't "put any force on the bicep," in the doctor's words. They are doing tango and mambo. Cheryl works to create routines that don't stress his injured arm -- and he's still determined to do lifts. Their tango is first, and it is to, of course, "Beat It" by Michael Jackson. Cheryl is wearing the weirdest feather thing around her neck, and it's very distracting. They are both trying very hard and mostly pull it off -- especially a cool one-armed lift -- but you can also tell that Cristian is concentrating very hard on avoiding pain. Bruno calls him the man with the golden arm and says they could see no problems. Carrie Ann: "I saw nothing at all wrong with that tango." Len gives Cheryl credit for her choreography, which covered up any problems. I guess the judges interpreted the facial expression as the slight arrogance needed for the character, not the concentration that I saw. Scores: 10-9-9, for a 28/30.
After the ballroom round here are the scores: Kristi and Mark (29), Jason and Edyta (29), Cristian and Cheryl (28), Mario and Karina (27) and Marissa and Tony (25).
Now ... Latin round.
Kristi and Mark are next, with the samba. In lieu of lifts, they do some spin sequences that I don't think anyone else could have done, but they don't all seem to fit in with the dance all that well. Still, fun, on point, etc. (But I do wish Mark would stop singing along with the music.) Carrie Ann: "I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I didn't care for it. ... It just felt a little bit out of control." Len says dancing is a balance, and this is great speed and energy and spins, but it lost a little of the rhythms. Bruno gives her credit for "eight spins into a drop." And I'm pretty sure he liked it. Samantha, backstage: "The judges had some difficult things to listen to." Let's just move on, shall we? Scores: 8-9-9. for a 26/30 and a total 55/60.
Mario and Karina return for their jive. They've got a '50s-style song and have a lot of fun working the stage. They end with a lift that was probably a little ambitious, as Mario can't quite keep the hold at the end and stumbles just after the song ends. Tom tells Len he is already "squinchy-faced." Len says it had "a roughness about it; it was all right, but ... your feet are bloody big ugly ones." Bruno, however, calls it the spirit of rock and roll. Carrie Ann says the "wildness" he brings to the dance floor particularly works with this dance even though his technique was a little off footwork-wise. Scores: 9-8-9, for a 26/30 and a total 53/60.
Marissa and Tony dance the mambo. There's a whole lot of shoulder-shimmying (hers) and hip-shaking (his), and the dance closes with a turn sequence that almost reads as a challenge to Kristi. Bruno: "Marissa, you can do sexy. I want more of that! ... Really, really nice." Carrie Ann says Marissa gives her joy because she just goes for it, though she dropped a foot during that spin sequence. Len says she came out and performed, but it was just "a little bit dainty." Scores: 8-8-9. for a 25/30 and a total 50/60.
Jason and Edyta return for the samba. As awkward as Jason felt during practice, it doesn't really show during the performance, which is energetic and has a good party vibe. And, of course, they end with a crazy lift in which Edyta is basically doing a handstand on Jason's shoulder while he spins around. Carrie Ann says she appreciated the effort at being flamboyant, but it didn't quite work for her. She says Jason kept looking down and lost some of his musicality, too. Len: "It was all right. ... I just didn't like it a lot, Jason." Bruno says, "After a series of blockbusters, you've got a turkey with the samba. ... You were not as focused as you usually are." OK, shows what I know! Scores: 8-7-8, for a 23/30 and a total 52/60.
Last up are Cristian and Cheryl with the mambo. And I've got to give credit where credit's due: Cheryl again choreographs a dance that fairly well covers Cristian's problem. He's got the injured arm tucked behind him for a large portion of the dance, but these two have way more fun on the floor than just about anyone else this round, which makes for an entertaining dance. Plus, they pull off another one-armed lift to close the dance. Len says it was full of energy and "a fabulous job, well done." Bruno says what he can do with one arm is amazing. "More energy than a volcano in the Andes." Carrie Ann says they are "definitely on fire." Score: 10-9-10, for a 29/30 and a total 57/30.
So after both dances, go figure, the leader board looks like so: Cristian and Cheryl (57), Kristi and Mark (55), Mario and Karina (53), Jason and Edyta (52) and Marissa and Tony (50).
I'm pretty shocked that Cristian came back so strong, but I guess that shows what you can do when you're just happy to be there. I just hope he doesn't injure himself further. Speaking of shocked, I'm still surprised at some of the harsh words Len had for Mario. I know he doesn't (or at least shouldn't) mean it personally, but those were some low blows tonight.
Who do you think is out? I think it's probably finally the end of the road for Marissa, even though she is really opening up and performing on the dance floor these days.