The ballroom battle took an unexpected turn on “Dancing With the Stars,” but no one would know that by looking at the leaderboard.
That’s because sentimental favorite Jennifer Grey and her constant competition, Brandy, still tango for top honors. “Teen activist” Bristol Palin and the man with the “frying pan hands,” Kurt Warner, continue to bring up the rear. And Kyle Massey? He remains the man in the middle.
Monday night’s biggest action had little to do with the stars and everything to do with the clash of two “Dancing” titans — judge Carrie Ann Inaba and pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
The trouble began brewing early on in the live show, when Inaba decided to take her knack for nitpicking to a new level after Brandy and Chmerkovskiy performed a seemingly perfect waltz. Head judge Len Goodman gave it a 10, as did Bruno Tonioli, but Inaba deducted a point because the R&B singer allegedly failed to fully elongate her neck.
If the impartiality of the panel wasn’t beyond reproach (ahem), one might suspect Inaba had an issue with Brandy (or perhaps her partner). After all, in the first round of dances, most stars received nothing but positive feedback from the judge, even if their scores didn’t match the praise. But there was still another round of routines to go — the instant dances.
The twist du jour involved each couple preparing for a specific dance without any music to guide their moves until show time. It’s a scenario real ballroom pros know all too well. They prepare several routines for any given competition and fire off the moves that best fit the surprise song. That’s great for seasoned hoofers with plenty of time to prepare and talent to fall back on. For ballroom beginners? The same idea had the potential to turn the stage into a laughable, flub-filled dance disaster.
But with the possible exception of Palin’s poorly timed samba, there was no disaster to be seen. In fact most performers turned out their top moves despite — or maybe even because of — the twist. Heck, Grey received the first set of matching 10s this season.
Then there was Brandy, who topped her earlier effort with a powerful cha-cha-cha. Once again the moves were worth a 10 from Tonioli, but not Inaba. She was disappointed with the dance.
“Well, the thing of this instant dance is how quickly you get into the dance and how quickly you make it yours,” the extra judgmental judge began. “And I’m kind of shocked you took four beats to begin your choreography when musicality should come so easy for you.”
Whether or not it was really a four-beat delay or a casually choreographed intro may be up for debate, but Brandy’s performance wasn’t in question, at least not according to the supportive Chmerkovskiy.
“Don’t worry about it,” the Ukrainian dance champ shot back at the judge. When Inaba spoke over him, he attempted to quiet her by adding, “Well, I guess we deserve a 7 then.”
The argument escalated and eventually Chmerkovskiy offered to take the blame for whatever went wrong, but somehow his “It’s all me” sounded a lot more like “It’s really all you, Carrie Ann.”
Brandy, to her credit, managed to maintain a casual smile without telling either party to stuff it. Surely she deserved an extra point for that ... not that she received one. Inaba’s second one-point deduction for the singer meant one more 9 and one more perfect score just out of reach.
Ree Hines maintains her longtime Team Maks status. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and declare your side in the latest “Dancing” feud.