'Dancing With the Stars' recap, 'Dynamic Duo' performances

For The Baltimore Sun
Will an injured calf spell doom for Tommy Chong on "Dancing With the Stars?"

It's "Dynamic Duo" night, and I've figured out everybody but Michael and Emma. There's going to be one couple in the first round that gets immunity. The other couples will dance off against one another to get extra points.

The couples all enter, followed by the judges. Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli descend the staircase together. Carrie Ann trips on the hem of her gown and luckily recovers quickly before she falls down the stairs. 

Lea Thompson & Artem Chingvintsev, Jazz

They're dancing as Bonnie and Clyde. Lea is wearing a beret much like Faye Dunaway's iconic portrayal of Bonnie. Then there's a bunch of nonsense with an acting coach brought in by Lea.

The routine starts with them sitting in an old-fashioned car and it feels like a bit too much faffing about. Lea's wearing those articulated sole jazz shoes and they're so close to her skin color it just looks like she has really weird feet. I have no criteria by which to judge "jazz" on this show. At the end of the dance, Lea jumps up on Artem and wraps her legs around his waist. He then carries her across the stage to face the judges like that. Racy!

Len Goodman is grinning from ear to ear. He says it had a bit of a tango feel, but he'd like to have seen a little more conflict. He then tells her she "has to risk it to get the biscuit." I want to steal that.

Julianne Hough says she was a little underwhelmed and feels the choreography was a little dated. Bruno says it needed more of a reckless, "badass" attitude. He doesn't think the execution was insightful.

Carrie Ann is happy that Lea's confidence seems to be back. She does think some of the movements felt mime-ish, more ballet than jazz. She wants Lea to "dig into the ground more" and not dance so "light."

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8

Michael Waltrip & Emma Slater, Foxtrot

Wait, these two are Tarzan and Jane? Then what are Mark and Sadie in those leafy costumes? Oh. Please, Lord, no. Are they going to be Adam and Eve?

There's much discussion with the wardrobe department about what Michael is going to wear. They smartly forego the loincloth. Since they're doing the foxtrot, they want "formal Tarzan." They're dancing to a sped-up version of the Phil Collins song from the Disney version of "Tarzan."

His dancing has improved from atrocious to merely bad, so I suppose that's something. It helps that this is a dance mostly in hold. It seems clear to me, though, that he forgets some of the moves at least once or twice.

Julianne says if all these people (meaning the crowd in the ballroom) are supporting him, he must be doing something right. She does agree with me that he's done better this week than last. She also points out that he lost the plot a little toward the end of the dance.

Bruno says he can see that Michael is applying himself and trying to do it right, but he didn't have the glide required by the foxtrot and he had a stumble going up the stairs at the end.

Carrie Ann is proud of Michael, but the truth is that at week 8 they do have higher expectations and he's just not up to the level of everyone else. Len says it was the best he's seen Michael dance.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 7, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 6

Len's gone soft on us.

Back from commercial, Sharna and Henry are dancing as "The Royal Couple" - they're very carefully not saying William and Kate. If I were Prince Harry, I would be begging my brother and sister-in-law to learn this dance for the family Christmas get together.

Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy, Contemporary

They're doing Romeo & Juliet, without the bummer ending. There's some talk about Janel's strength or lack thereof. But wait? I thought skinny = healthy, always and forever? You can be fit looking but not actually fit? I feel so lied-to.

If this routine is about falling in love, I hope I don't. It looks painful and involves more flapping of one's arms than I'm really comfortable with.

Val has shaved his face! He looks so handsome and clean cut and not at all skeezy. I love it.

Bruno says it was extremely ambitious, yet gorgeous and glorious in every possible way.  Carrie Ann says it was a perfect example of how abstract movement can tell a story. She compliments Val's choreography, saying it's the best he's ever done. Julianne claims it was "breathtaking."

Erin makes Val and Janel feel the goosebumps on her arms. She then pinches Val's cheeks and comments on his "babyface" and he winces. No, no, Erin, we want to encourage this handsome new face.

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

So, if someone else gets a perfect score, will they share immunity? Or will there be a dance-off for the immunity? Erin tells Val he should shave every week, so she's back in my good graces.

Tommy Chong & Peta Murgatroyd, Paso Doble

They're Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash. Tommy met both Johnny and June at the Academy Awards in the 1980s. He compares June setting Johnny on the right path to his journey with Peta. That's not the most terrible comparison; Peta is putting him through the paces, with longer rehearsals and fewer breaks.

Tommy's about half-a-beat behind her on some of the moves, like he's not remembering what he's supposed to do until he sees her do it. It's also more blatant than usual that she's calling the steps out to him and counting beats. It's not great, but it's not terrible. Tommy has more grace and natural ability than Michael, so even when he messes up just as much, it still doesn't look as bad.

Carrie Ann likes Tommy's mojo, but does point out that he was about half-a-beat behind for most of the dance. She praises his connection with Peta. Len's affection for Tommy knows no bounds, even if the content isn't there in his dances. Julianne likes his charm and says that even when his timing is off, his attitude and persona carry him far. Bruno says that Peta didn't skimp on content with Tommy and he admires him for the attempt.

Erin lets us know that Tommy injured his calf in dress rehearsal and he says he's running on pure adrenalin.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 7, Julianne: 7, Bruno: 6

So, that's one point more than Michael. The dance-off is going to be crucial for Tommy & Peta.

Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas, Paso Doble

Mark was totally ticked off after last week's comments. He says that Len doesn't like "things that are out of the box, he doesn't like creativity, he doesn't like things that are artistic." Oh, Mark. Don't be such a brat.

Sadie's happy that they're doing a Bible story. And of course it's the interpretation in which Adam is led to downfall by Eve. As a popular bumper sticker of days-gone-by used to say, 'Eve was framed."

This is so pretentious, this routine. Costuming, choreography, staging, the whole lot. Pretentious as all get out.

Len is tapping his pencil and looks super angry. His first words to Mark are, "Does this mean we're not going clubbing tonight?" Len tells Mark he loves his creativity, his passion and his commitment to this show, but he has to be honest when he's judging. He likes tonight's performance.

Julianne says there was a maturity they haven't seen before, and Tom interrupts to ask if she's talking to Mark. Snerk. Bruno echoes the maturity comments. Carrie Ann is impressed that they went for another intense routine after last week's. She adds that they did get a bit off sync in a part near the end, so she'll have to deduct for that.

During the interview segment with Erin, there's a cut to the other cast members, all eating apples. I'm amused.

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

Alfonso Ribiero & Witney Carson, Cha-Cha

Alfonso is excited to learn they're doing Batman and Robin and it's adorable that he asks if he gets to be Batman. Most guys, I think, would just assume they get to be Batman and the woman has to be Robin. It just shows you how nice he is.

During the camera blocking session on Sunday, while doing a test of the zip line on which Alfonso is planning to make his entrance, the zip line stops. Alfonso is suspended in mid-air, hanging from the handles of the zipline. Crew members immediately run over to stand on chairs and support his feet so he's not having to use his arm muscles alone to keep from plummeting to the ground while they wait for a ladder to come in.

It turns out they shoved him a little too hard at the start and the handle apparatus jumped off track, causing it to stop moving. He tells the production crew that he'd rather have a late entrance than risk jumping the track again.

My editor has taken away my caps-lock privileges, which is probably for the best because I'd be all upper case for this whole paragraph. Y'all, they are dancing to "Trust," a moderately deep cut from the Prince soundtrack to Tim Burton's "Batman." The zipline entrance goes smoothly and Witney's choreography is terrific, combining solid cha-cha elements with some dashes of superhero kicks and punches to sell the Batman and Robin theme. It's great. I rewind it and immediately rewatch it.

Julianne says every time Alfonso comes out, he's pure energy. She describes one of the sequences and says it made her want to get out there and dance with him. She does warn Alfonso that he needs to keep his legs straight. Bruno says Witney is the hottest Robin ever. And, y'all, I love me some Chris O'Donnell and even some Joseph Gordon Levitt, but he's right. Carrie Ann says it was super tight, super in sync.

Erin has them redo the move that Julianne was referring to and then asks about the zipline incident. Alfonso says he just stayed in character as Batman so he wouldn't panic. Erin thinks he must have been panicking a little bit. He says the real panic was when they brought a ladder that was too short. He says, "They had two guys holding my feet, like that was going to do anything. I mean, I've lost some weight, but not that much."

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10, Len: 9, Julianne: 9, Bruno: 10

Bethany Mota & Derek Hough, Paso Doble

They're portraying Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. I wonder if Bethany has ever seen an episode of "I Love Lucy?" When someone in rehearsal wonders the same thing, she explains that her mom watched it every morning. Aww. She watches clips of Lucy online to be able to mimic some of Lucy's facial expressions. There is an unfunny skit in which we learn that Derek can't do a Cuban accent and Bethany is not an actress.

I don't remember Lucy's dress exposing her bare midriff. I've got to hand it to Derek, though, he makes every dance look so easy and effortless. I think that's the biggest thing that sets him apart from Mark. Mark needs everyone to know how hard what he's doing is, Derek just makes it look super easy no matter how difficult it actually is.

Bruno lapses into Spanish to compliment Bethany and then praises her ability to go from last week's high drama to this week's high camp. Carrie Ann loves it, but she did see one mistake. Derek looks up to the ceiling as if he's trying to figure out where there was a mistake, but Bethany is nodding, so she must have a guess at what Carrie Ann is referring to.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9, Len: 9, Julianne: 9, Bruno: 10

They're both pretty happy with that score.

Janel & Val, with their perfect score, have immunity and are excused from the dance-off.

Dance-off Round

The couples get to choose which couple they want to face off against and the winner of the dance-off gets 3 extra points. They've had to prepare a rumba, a jive and a cha-cha, because they won't know until the live show which style they'll be doing.

Peta says that realistically, the only couple they can compete with is Michael & Emma, otherwise they're "screwed." Artem encourages Lea to pick an opponent higher than them on the leaderboard or people won't vote for them.

Dance-off 1

Alfonso & Witney get to choose first and they choose Lea & Artem because Lea & Artem were ahead of them on the leaderboard last week. Lea & Artem get to choose the dance style and they choose jive.

Alfonso & Witney dance first. The song is one by Little Richard. Whoever's picking the music this season is my soulmate. It's a pretty basic jive, but well-executed. They've had less time than Lea & Artem to rest, since they danced earlier.

Lea & Artem don't look quite as polished. Something's off with Lea's legs and she misses a few steps to my eyes.

The judges are equally complimentary to both couples, even when Bruno points out that each couple made some mistakes. I guess Alfonso & Witney covered theirs better, so I didn't notice them.

Artem tells Erin that they chose jive because it was Lea's best dance so far this season.

All four judges choose Alfonso & Witney over Lea & Artem, so they get the extra 3 points.

Sadie & Mark elect to go up against Bethany & Derek, who choose the Cha-Cha. This means Round 3 will be, by default, Michael & Emma vs Tommy & Peta, doing a rumba.

Dance-off 2

Mark & Sadie dance first and it pains me how good Sadie is. The girl was born with dancer's legs, it seems.

Bethany is still in her Lucy hair, even though she's changed dresses. She's not as compelling to watch as Sadie, but I like Derek's choreography better.

I think this matchup was even closer than the first one. Julianne says both couples were ahead of the beat. She says Bethany was a little more tight on her feet than Sadie, who was more swivel-ly. She seems to also say that Sadie had more pizzazz than Bethany. Give the girl, a break! Bethany had less time to recover from her dance than Sadie did.

Bruno says it's a hard choice. Carrie Ann points out that they were so different stylistically, but both so very good. Len wants to see it all again, they were both so good. He says he's picked one, but if he watched it again, he could just as easily pick the other couple.

Votes: Carrie Ann: Sadie & Mark, Len: Bethany & Derek, Julianne: Bethany & Derek, Bruno: Sadie & Mark.

Erin has to explain to us what happens in the case of a tie: Len's vote as head judge determines the winner. So that means Bethany & Derek get the win. Hey, Mark, how good are you feeling now about that dumb interview criticizing Len?

Dance-off Round 3

Tom tells us that Tommy reinjured his calf during his routine in Round 1. He's dancing anyway, because he's a trooper. Rumba is about the perfect choice for Tommy - it's slow and requires a smoothness.

I'm not comfortable seeing Michael try to play sexy. Emma's trying her best to dance around him as he stands still, but even his limited movements are awkward, including one at the end where he looks like he's trying to use a camp toilet.

Carrie Ann says one couple captured the essence of the dance while the other had more steps. Len waves off Tom because he's trying to think. Julianne says one dance was comfortable to watch, endearing and charming, while the other one was uncomfortable to watch. She's directing her comments to Michael when she says, "You did more steps, but they were messy steps."

Michael clarifies, via Tom's microphone, that he was being sexy. The awkward silence and reaction suggests that may be why Julianne was uncomfortable.

All four judges vote for Tommy & Peta. No shocker.

Oh my gosh, there's still an elimination to get through tonight? This has felt like the longest show ever.

We already know Val & Janel have immunity, so they're not up on stage for results.

Alfonso & Witney are safe. Bethany & Derek are safe. Sadie & Mark are safe. Lea looks so discouraged, but she and Artem are the next couple announced safe.

Erin gives the standard disclaimer about Tommy & Peta and Michael & Emma not necessarily being the bottom two.

And Michael is out! Praise be! Peta and Tommy are laughing because they can't believe it. Don't worry, guys, you're probably going home next week, unless Lea's fanbase is criminally small.

Scoreboard:

Janel & Val: 40 + 3 (as a default winner in not having to do the dance-off) = 43
Alfonso & Witney: 38 + 3 = 41
Bethany & Derek: 37 + 3 = 40
Sadie & Mark: 38
Lea & Artem: 32
Tommy & Peta: 26 + 3 = 29

Looking at the scoreboard now, I think it's not impossible that Tommy & Peta could have the fanbase to make up that three-point difference between them and Lea. Lea really needed to win that dance-off, in retrospect.

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