A change of plans: After Monday night’s shakeups (Gilles Marini, down; Lil’ Kim, up), viewers were looking at two familiar guys at the very bottom of the judges’ ratings. Steve-O and Ty Murray have both struggled in the past, though Steve-O has consistently stunk, while Ty was down, then up, then back down. The two of them seemed destined to share space under the ominous red light of the bottom two. But host Tom Bergeron surprise-announced early on that there would be no dance-off this week, for reasons he did not share.
The long goodbye: The show revealed that Lawrence Taylor and Lil’ Kim were safe first, then Shawn Johnson and Melissa Rycroft, then Gilles. This left Ty, Chuck Wicks, and Steve-O. Unsurprisingly, Chuck was safe, so that left Steve-O and Ty — two guys who have genuinely made an effort and have showed a lot of good humor, and one of them had to go. And the one who left was Steve-O, after a lot of bad scores and a firm shove out the door from judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, who fairly clearly gave him disproportionately terrible scores last night in an effort to get past his fans.
And now, we vamp!: Lil’ Kim and Derek repeated their delightful jive to kick off the evening. Fun to watch (again), it gave way to a surprisingly lifeless and slow performance of “America” from the cast of the current Broadway revival of “West Side Story.” It should have suited the show perfectly, but the lack of context — and seeing with a close-up television eye what is designed and acted to be seen from the back of a theater — made it surprisingly ineffective. Later, the “Macy’s Stars Of Dance,” along with Carmen Electra, returned to perform a burlesque number for no conceivable reason.
Not all that special: The evening’s “special guests,” country-pop band Rascal Flatts, performed as you would expect: neatly, and with no surprises. An accompanying dance from Tony Dovolani and Julianne Hough was only okay, and was repeatedly interrupted by generic shots of the band. Rascal Flatts returned later for a performance of The Beatles’ “Revolution,” which made the Carmen Electra number look wildly inspired by comparison. Of course, if you have always believed that “Revolution” needed only a country-pop band and military-garbed ballroom dancers to reach its true potential, this may have been right up your alley.
Backstage hijinks: The show introduced an upcoming segment in which the professional dancers will wear costumes “vengefully” designed by their celebrity partners. Melissa threatened Tony with a teeny bikini, Lawrence threatened Edyta with modest attire; the gags were fairly obvious, to say the least. It could be a funny bit next week, but it didn’t merit an entire preview ahead of time. A body-language segment was more interesting, calling out Shawn’s tendency to shrug (showing insecurity) and Melissa’s way of responding to stress by putting her hand on her belly. At least someone is paying attention to the details.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com