A change of pacing: One of the advantages of the new “dance-off” format is that the show moved much more briskly through the dancers who were safe. By little more than halfway through the show, they had whittled it down to five, and then to two who might go home and would participate in a “dance-off” to try to improve their judges’ scores: Belinda Carlisle and Steve Wozniak. This meant less time spent on glowing red lights and drawn-out announcements and throbbing drumbeats just to get to the final two. It also meant not too much false suspense over whether, for instance, Melissa Rycroft was going to be eliminated.
The dance-off: Both of the dance-off couples went with their second dances from last night: Belinda and Jonathan Roberts went with their salsa; Woz and Karina Smirnoff went with their jive-flavored quickstep. Belinda’s salsa looked about the same, as she has not become a natural dancer in the last 24 hours. Her score actually went down one point. Steve’s quickstep went awry at exactly the same place as last night, and his score stayed the same — which meant he gained one point on Belinda.
The send-off: Although Belinda’s total score from the judges over the two weeks was a few points higher than Woz’s, she went home anyway, so Steve does apparently have his fans. (Macs have probably held their popularity better than the Go-Go’s.) Next week, we face the foxtrot and the samba, so prepare for white gloves and sparkle fringe.
Steve-O sticks up for his partner: The most urgent question coming off last night’s live show was the status of Steve-O, who had missed the performance with a back injury. It turned out he was in fine shape, and he was also determined to stick up for Lacey Schwimmer, whom Carrie-Ann blamed last night for choreographing a routine that hurt him. He explained that he came up with flip and then made it even worse; then he stressed that Lacey specifically told him not to do it. Now that’s loyalty.
Variety is the spice of life: The musical filler segments included Big Bad Voodoo Daddy supporting a fun swing-dance number, a silly backstage piece with past contestant Cameron Mathison making not-so-fresh spray-tan jokes, something called the “Macy’s Stars Of Dance” unsuccessfully emulating Busby Berkeley, and hobbled ex-contestant Jewel performing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (sitting down) in support of a discordantly sexy dance. All of it was fast-forward material.
Don’t make them talk: The most boring segment, however, came when all the contestants were asked to dish about each other. “Chuck Wicks is so handsome!” “Lil’ Kim is nasty!” “Ty Murray…is a bull rider!” People don’t watch this show for drama; nobody needs to hear about how Denise Richards purports to be intimidated by Steve Wozniak. It’s this kind of segment that could easily be banished to invisibility without being missed.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com