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Dave Coulier comes up empty on ‘Skating’

Reality television can be temperamental, but now and then, everything goes just as it should. So went the elimination of the swaggering Dave Coulier on this week's "Skating With Celebrities" (Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET). Not only did Coulier get the comeuppance he deserved, but he was eliminated in favor of a team that didn't even remain on the ice during the entirety of the performance.

Coulier has been phoning it in all along, especially compared to good-humored has-beens like Bruce Jenner. He and Nancy Kerrigan never performed a routine that wasn't obnoxious, including last week's dated drag bit. This week, their practice footage focused on Coulier's reluctance to take on a jump, apparently because his past in hockey has led to so many broken bones and concussions.

Their routine did include a jump, technically, though it was a slow and labored one during which Coulier clearly wished for a net. Aside from the jump, the rest of the number was dull, and Coulier and Kerrigan became lost at one point, blundering weakly back into the routine as best they could. There was no timing and no excitement, and Coulier still acts like he's too cool to be there.

(Note to all celebrities appearing on similar shows: You can't actually go on a show like this and then act like you're too good for a show like this. If you're that far above it, get a role playing against type in an HBO drama and keep your conscience clear. Once you agree to be a spectacle, at least be a good sport about it.)

Swanson makes stridesKristy Swanson is a good sport. She took a physical beating last week with two mishaps in her performance with Lloyd Eisler, one of which resulted in her landing face-first on the ice. She could have been forgiven for playing it safe this week, but she didn't. She and Eisler came back with more impressive lifts, this time without the bleeding.

Furthermore, not to focus on shallower considerations, but Swanson wore her first flattering outfit of the competition. After the disasters of her "Boogie Fever" sparkle pants and her ill-advised platinum bob, this week's sleeker outfit and plain ponytail were a nice recovery. And rather than being cowed by the problems last week, Swanson came out stronger and more confident than ever.

Swanson and Eisler were followed by heavy hitters Jillian Barberie and John Zimmerman, who had a couple of rare screwups last week that cost them their expected first-place finish. In practice, Barberie took a blow to her ribs that sent her for X-rays. While she was apparently free of fractures, it's clear that her injuries are accumulating.

On the ice, Barberie and Zimmerman were still the most skilled pair, but the routine looked tentative, as if Barberie's injury had slowed her down enough that she was losing confidence just as Swanson was gaining it. The judges still gave them high scores, and Dorothy "Paula Abdul" Hamill went so far down the road to hyperbole as to make the patently silly comment that she knows pros who aren't as good. It isn't clear what entirely naïve audience is the intended target of that remark.

The end result was a tie between the once-mighty Barberie and Zimmerman and the once-pitiful Swanson and Eisler. With Coulier and Kerrigan behind that bunch, elimination came down to the performance of token oldsters Bruce Jenner and Tai Babilonia.

Swanson's bloody chin had already been upstaged by Barberie's nearly fractured ribs, but both were pushed well out of the way by Bruce Jenner, who took a header on the ice and went to the hospital to receive 16 stitches along his eyebrow. As they say, it's all fun and game until an Olympic decathlon champion loses an eye.

Jenner strugglesBrave or not, Jenner still really can't skate, and he and Babilonia continued their unbroken streak of horrid musical selections by choosing the "American Idol"-spawned non-classic ballad "Inside Your Heaven." As usual, Jenner looked like his full concentration was being poured into remaining upright, until the moment when he and Babilonia eased into a move in which he glided behind her, supporting her as she floated in front of him, one leg outstretched.

And then, as they blissfully moved across the ice, a strange thing happened: they ran out of ice. The ice on this show is flush against the platform, lifted a few inches off the ground, where the skaters sit on a couch with Summer Sanders to await their scores. Babilonia's foot crashed into the stage, and she actually covered quite well by smoothly stepping up onto it and hopping for several steps before hopping gracefully back down to keep skating. Jenner actually followed her, jumping up onto the stage for a step or two.

So is a general lack of grace and an exit onto terra firma enough to push out a couple of much-loved athletes, one of whom is sporting a giant scar on his face? It turns out that the answer is no, at least when the result of such an exit is the rescue of a smarmy sitcom refugee who isn't finished believing that his hockey skates make him tough.

Babilonia and Jenner stayed, and Coulier and Kerrigan headed home at last. It is now a three-team race between two youngish blonde women and the strapping men who throw them and one old guy who tries hard not to leave the ice while the music is still playing. Betting types would expect it to come down to Barberie and Swanson, but a guy who will put up with 16 stitches just so he can and twirl to "Inside Your Heaven" is not to be trifled with. Jenner will probably be the victim of his own awkwardness next week, but there is always the possibility that Barberie will break sprain something crucial or Swanson will be hurled face-first into a wall.

At least there will be no more smirking Dave Coulier to contend with.

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