May 21, 2012 at 10:36 PM ET
The pre-finale performance show usually sees mellow ballroom behavior from the judges on "Dancing With the Stars." After all, at this point in the competition, the dancers are presumably the best of the best and the routines are bound to be fairly good. So the panel tends to focus on the positives and let their scores speak for themselves -- except not this time.
No, on Monday night, head judge Len Goodman went rogue and broke from the friendly banter and high-praise his fellow panelists dished out and instead revealed exactly what was on his mind.
Fans of real criticism on the show would normally cheer an unexpected treat like that, but there was just one problem: Len's outburst wasn't exactly well aimed.
After heaping accolades on finalist William Levy when the star delivered a 30-point cha cha in the judges' pick round, Len attacked the actor over his follow-up freestyle.
William hit the floor with a sexy, mash-up Latin routine that transitioned from a tango beat to a smooth salsa, with dashes of cha cha and samba along the way. It was the perfect pick for the hip-shaking star who started out as a dance newbie, but mastered many Latin routines over the past few weeks.
But Len didn't see it that way.
"For me, it was too predictable," he ranted. "All you do is shake your butt and get the women screaming. I wanted more. I wanted to see something different. I'm fed up with it! ... I didn't want a salsa with lifts!"
And when fellow judge Carrie Ann Inaba dared to claim the routine was groundbreaking, Len interrupted her to shout, "What ground? It was a salsa!"
The freestyle effort won William a score of 29 points -- yes, after all of that guff, Len knocked off only one point -- but it didn't win the head judge any love from the ballroom crowd. The audience booed the "Dancing" vet.
Host with most Tom Bergeron summed it up best.
"I think Len's suffering from bum envy, frankly," he said with a knowing nod to the audience.
But that wasn't the only point in the night when Len broke away from the shared opinions of the panel, and it wasn't the only time the audience booed him.
The second incident happened when Green Bay Packer Donald Driver put on his first dance. In a reworking of his Argentine tango from week five, Donald offered an improved version of the earlier effort.
Carrie Ann applauded the "crispness" of the dance. Bruno Tonioli found it "effective." But Len thought the wide receiver played it too "careful" and knocked off a point from what would have otherwise been a perfect score. The boos were back.
Now, eagle-eyed dance fans might have noticed that Len had a point with that critique. Donald's partner, Peta Murgatroyd, did the bulk of the work in the number while the NFL star hardly had more than a couple of flicks and one strong pivot as his claim to fame. But considering the fact that Katherine Jenkins performed an equally careful paso doble in her first round without so much as a negative word from Len, one has to wonder what the judge's selective problem was.
Luckily for Donald, the problem didn't last long. Once he hit the dance floor for his country-themed freestyle, complete with synchronized line-dance moves and one of the longest and most dangerous lifts the show has seen, Len couldn't think of a single bad thing to say. And for the first time all season, he couldn't think of a reason not to give Donald a well-earned 10 (as Carrie Ann and Bruno did too).
Despite the standout performances from William and Donald, it was Katherine who took the top spot on the leaderboard.
After raking in 30 points for the aforementioned paso (and her first 10 from Len too), her frenetic freestyle scored the same from the panel. Oddly enough, out of all the routines on Monday night, it was the one most worthy of Len's (or Carrie Ann's or Buno's) criticism. While the routine was filled with fast-paced, big-swing content, it was so fast paced that it led to sloppy leg lines and awkward lifts.
Despite all the hubbub of the night, by the time it was over, only one point separated the stars in the judges' ranking. That means viewer votes will have a big say in how things play out on Tuesday night's finale, but possibly not the deciding say. There's still one more dance to go -- a routine the dancers have only 24 hours to prepare for -- and the judges will have the only say about that one.
With the final performances over, which star do you think deserves to waltz away with the mirror ball trophy? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page and be sure tojoin me and Anna Chan for our weekly "DWTS" live chat Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
More in The Clicker: