Kicking it off: It was no surprise to see this episode begin with an encore performance of Team Tango’s … uh, team tango from Monday night. Viewers were given a review of the situation, including the fact that Melissa Rycroft had to be judged on her rehearsal tape as a result of her rib injury. Melissa told co-host Samantha Harris that she was trying some new treatments, and that she hoped she’d be able to continue if she survived the week.
Down to business: The first celebrity to be declared safe was Lil’ Kim, who had the highest scores from the judges on Monday night. Next came Ty Murray, and then Gilles Marini, to the surprise of absolutely no one, although Gilles pretended to be quite frightened. As Tom Bergeron pointed out, this meant Team Tango was entirely safe, and the members of Team Mambo — Chuck, Shawn, and Melissa — were sweating out elimination.
The fourth person made safe was Shawn, meaning that either Chuck or Melissa would go. And in the end, although Chuck has performed admirably in the last couple of weeks, Melissa’s fan base was big enough to carry her forward to next week, and Chuck was sent home. Everyone was clearly sorry to see anyone eliminated, which underscores the fact that this has turned into a season made up of much more appealing people than usual, because all the eliminations are sad now. Next week will tell the tale of whether Melissa is actually able to continue despite this week’s injury.
Thicke and thin: Early on, the show introduced singer Robin Thicke as the evening’s “special guest,” and he went on to perform in a competent but cheeseball way that would surprise no one who has ever seen or heard Robin Thicke. The easiest thing to notice? He looks more and more like his dad (actor Alan Thicke) every day. The bright yellow costumes on the dancers accompanying him in the first number made the entire thing look like the world’s least hip orange-juice commercial, and something of a chore. The second number was better, in that it was merely boring.
Frankenstein’s dancer: In one bit, the show attempted to assemble the perfect dancer from various parts of the existing celebrities: Chuck’s head, Gilles’s arms, Ty’s “core,” Melissa’s legs, Shawn’s feet, and Lil’ Kim’s expressive face. That is going to make for one funny-looking cha-cha.
Hot for teacher: Remember last week’s contest to find a new pro who would become one of the celebrities’ trainers next season? It continued. Two dancers (Snow and Brent, whom you probably do not remember) were just sort of gone, leaving Genya and Afton (who danced the quickstep) and Anna and Mayo (who danced the jive). The jive was more lively than the quickstep, but both were good and both were praised by the judges (of the four, Bruno was most excited about Anna). Honestly? No one remembers these people from week to week; flip a coin.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com