'Dancing with the Stars: All Stars' recap, Michael Jackson night

This is what dancers like to see from the "Dancing with the Stars: All Stars" judges.

Tonight is a tribute to Michael Jackson's "Bad" and the show starts with pros and the troupe performing to two of the album's "monster hits" — "Smooth Criminal" and "The Way You Make Me Feel." I wish we were getting a "Thriller? tribute instead of a "Bad" tribute, but "Bad's" the one that's turning 25 and getting a Spike Lee-directed special on this same network later this week.

We're calling the remaining couples "semi-finalists." Whatever. The first round is going to be those weirdo made-up themes/styles and the second round is going to be the Michael Jackson music.


Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani

"Caveman Hustle"


Based on the theme/style, I'm guessing their music is going to be Was (Not Was)'s "Walk the Dinosaur. Melissa reminds us this is not a "traditional ballroom dance." Then they're trying to work out the motivations of the cavemen doing the hustle. I am not making one bit of this up. I love it when they parody themselves.

Sunday during "camera blocking" Tony fell to the floor with a back injury, but the doctors have cleared him to dance tonight.

This routine starts with a terribly bad CGI dinosaur in the ballroom. Because this show has completely gone off the rails this season. Shoe watch: they're both barefoot. Because cavemen didn't have shoes, don't you know? But apparently they did have false eyelashes, spray tan, and tooth bleach.

Oh, hey! Look at that, I was right about the song. I'm so smrt, sometimes. Since this routine is weird and lame, let's talk about how this album, What Up, Dog?, turns 25 next year. If you haven't heard it in a while give it a re-listen - it holds up well. If you've never heard it, remedy that immediately.

Len says Melissa never disappoints. Bruno points out that she lost her footing in a couple of the turns. Melissa liked the "caveman" sections better than the "Hustle" sections.

Tom quips, "You gotta love the prehistoric dental work." I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9.5; Bruno: 9

Shawn Johnson & Derek Hough


"Knight Rider Bhangra"

So, it's an "Indian folk dance" - go ask the kids from "So You Think You Can Dance" how well those "folk dances" tend to go over.

Does Shawn know what Knight Rider is any more than she knows what "banghra" is? Given that it went off the air six years before she was born? Yeah, take a moment if you need to realize how old that makes you.

I'm not sure I see what the difference is between Bhangra and Bollywood, at least the way it's being presented here.  There are a couple of great lifts - not sure whether they're forbidden.  Oh, and shoe watch: Derek gets to wear them, Shawn doesn't. Wimmen don't need shoes.

Carrie's impressed that Shawn is actually out of breath. Len says, "Shut up. Close the door. Call me Mary." All of that apparently adds up to, "he liked it."

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10


Tomorrow night Paula Abdul will perform "four of her biggest hits" - if there's no MC Skat Kat I'm leading a revolt.

Apolo Anton Ohno & Karina Smirnoff

"Big Top Jazz"

Before the rehearsal footage, Karina and Apolo are on the ballroom floor with one of those big rings you can dance with (a "Cyr wheel"). If you've never seen such a thing, here's a good example.

So the ring seems mostly to be just for Karina to pose on/around at the beginning of the routine. Apolo is dressed reminiscent of a mime. You know how some people get freaked out by clowns? That's me and mimes. So I'm only watching this with one eye to avoid nightmares later. ¿¿But even with just one eye I can see Karina lose her footing a couple of times. And some really weird "jazz" moves.

Carrie Ann loved the concept, but says it was disjointed and out of sync a lot. She also thought the "dismounts were sloppy." Len says there were a couple of "awkward moments" but then calls Apolo a "fighter." Bruno calls it edgy and surreal, a blend of Cirque du Soleil and A Clockwork Orange - see? the stuff of nightmares. And then they replay Apolo slipping during his entrance as Bruno references it.


Scores: Carrie Ann: 8.5; Len: 9; Bruno: 9.5

Emmitt Smith & Cheryl Burke

"Espionage Lindy Hop"

The story is that Emmitt's going to be the good guy and Cheryl is the bad guy. They're going for a "cartoon style," which they claim is difficult for Emmitt. I don't understand that, given how genial he is. Their song is "Secret Agent Man" which I heard for a good part of my life as "Secret Asian Man." I never understood why he had to keep being Asian a secret.

There are a lot of lifts in this routine, most of which come off ok, but a couple look a little wobbly.

Len, while liking the concept, lifts, fun, and energy, would have liked a little more Lindy but "the whole package was fantastic." Bruno calls it a "Looney Tunes version of James Bond." And adds, "I don't know what it was, but it was a lot of fun." Carrie Ann gets tongue tied and does a credible Porky Pig without realizing it.


Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 9¿¿Tom says he's on a "lot of cold medicine and even that doesn't explain tonight." Oh, Tom. Some of us are facing this without pharmaceutical help. (Way to be a pro, though, and show up for work anyway.)

Kelly Monaco & Val Chmerkovskiy

"Surfer Flamenco"

Kelly's really horse during rehearsals - hope she's not sick like Tom.  This works surprisingly well,l mostly because the music doesn't sound too far off from flamenco. Also, Val rips off his shirt halfway through. I approve. Whatever it takes to get the vote.

AND THEN SHE RIPS OFF HER DRESS AND HE RIPS OFF HIS PANTS. And his swim trunks are TINY. They finish the dance in a pool of shallow water, which causes some really cool splash effects with their footwork. Also TINY SWIM TRUNKS.

Bruno talks about the flamenco having a very distinct placement and that they didn't have the required precision. Carrie Ann agrees with Bruno that it was more Paso Doble than flamenco, but liked the surfer elements. Len says if this dance was poker, they went all in. And he liked it, even if he wanted to see more flamenco.


Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 9; Bruno: 8.5

Lowest score of the first round. Val thinks it's bullhockey.

Michael Jackson Round

Melissa & Tony

Argentine Tango - "Dirty Diana"

Melissa says during rehearsal that this is the most difficult thing she's ever done. She gives great reality tv sound bite.


Melissa does this really great move where she falls in a spiral down around Tony. It's slinky and cool as anything. This whole routine is slinky and cool and Melissa is nailing it.  Their last move, though, is a lift/flip that's a little awkward - I wish they'd ended with the move they did near the beginning.

Tom hugs Melissa as she comes over and says she did a good job, adding, "I know how worried you were about that." He's the best.

Len tells Melissa he'd be really disappointed if they're not back for the finals next week. Bruno calls the sequence of lifts "absolutely extraordinary." He also says they deserve to be in the finals. They're selling the "underdog" story hard for Melissa, mostly by pointing out that she's the only dancer left that's not a former champion.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Shawn & Derek

Argentine Tango - "Bad"


Derek needs a haircut, which is maybe why he's wearing a flat cap during rehearsals. I'd also like to request he shave. Shawn is able to say with a straight face that she's worried about getting into the finals. I can't think of a surer thing than her being back next week.

What the heck? We come back to some random dancers I don't recognize in the middle of a song I don't recognize. Oh, turns out it's a couple of the troupe dancers and it's an unreleased single from the album.

I'm enjoying this routine a lot more imagining it's Weird Al's "Fat." Try it - it really livens up Shawn's perfect but unemotional performance.

Bruno says they took a different interpretation of the dance than Melissa and Tony, emphasizing shapes, lines, and style and it was breathtaking. "Stylistically it was perfect," he says. Carrie Ann says the movements were amazing and breathtaking. But then she says Shawn lacked the passion and the drama. Len says there are two parts to every dance, learning the dance and selling the routine and they nailed both.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

We come back from commercial again to a dance mid-routine, this time a previously unreleased demo. It's weird; joining these dances in the middle makes me think my DVR messed up somehow.


Karina & Apolo

Rumba - "The Man in the Mirror"

It's a little weird to be all sexysexy to a song about personal accountability. Apolo and Karina are certainly selling the romance part of this routine. But, yeah, it's a rumba. And you know how bored I am by rumbas.

Carrie Ann talks about how you don't have to overdance to do well in the competition. Len liked its subtlety and calmness. Bruno says he nailed it, with a perfect "flow of movement."

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Emmitt & Cheryl


Tango - "Leave Me Alone"

Remember the video for this song? With the tunnel of love animation stuff? Remember when a Michael Jackson video would premiere and we'd all turn over to MTV to watch it?

There's nothing particularly wrong with the routine, but it feels like Emmitt's doing something wrong with his feet and that Cheryl is doing the leading.

Len says Emmitt "coped marvelously well" with two dances that aren't really in Emmitt's wheelhouse. Bruno mentions Emmitt's footwork (hey, I'm impressed I noticed it). Carrie Ann agrees with Len and Bruno, talking about how they have to judge on technique.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 9

Another mini-dance, this time atop the judges' table. It's a remix of a song you've never heard of.


Kelly & Val

Rumba - "I Can't Stop Loving You"

Given how much it seems like these two are totally doing it, their rumba should be smokin'. Kelly tells us she has problems with intimacy, which is effecting her concentration on the rumba. She says that when she's on her soap opera, it's someone else's story, not her own.

She discusses how she wasn't the best dancer the season she won, and when she was called out on it, it made her insecure. Aw, poor Kelly.

She's wearing the traditional bathing suit/bedsheet rumba costume. They're also dancing in only a small circle of the ballroom floor that's ringed with footlights. They do on really dramatic spin into a drop that goes over well with the crowd.

Bruno discusses their chemistry and says they gave it their all. Carrie Ann thought some of the moves might've been a little clipped, but it was beautiful. Len liked how they changed up the speeds and the lines of the dance.


Scores: Carrie Ann: 9.5; Len: 9.5; Bruno: 9.5

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Scoreboard, with both dances combined:

Shawn & Derek: 59

Melissa & Tony: 57.5

Apolo & Karina: 57

Kelly & Val: 54


Emmitt & Cheryl: 54

Tomorrow night is another double elimination - I really don't like a double elimination this late in the season. My guess, Apolo is definitely toast but I have no idea who the other goner is.