The barely-mentioned elimination: In keeping with last night’s generally strong performances, the show started with a repeat of last night’s impressive group dance, which showed everyone in a good light. But before long, it was time to start making people safe. Host Tom Bergeron started by declaring the safety of Chuck Wicks, Melissa Rycroft, and Shawn Johnson before forgetting all about the competition while a large number of musical numbers marched across the stage.
When he finally got back to it, the next person safe was Lil’ Kim, followed by Gilles and Cheryl. That left Lawrence Taylor and Ty Murray as the final two. With the show running long, Tom quickly informed Lawrence that his time was up. Lawrence seems to have pulled it together since the period when he seemed the most frustrated, and he wound up making a gracious exit.
Your backstage pass: In a sequence about the physical demands of dancing, we learned that Lawrence Taylor could eat 33 hamburgers a week with all the calories he’s burning — er, was burning — but also that this would technically be a bad idea. (Especially now.) We also learned that all that pounding on your joints can lead to injuries, no matter how pretty the dancing looks, and that several of the celebrities have slimmed down since starting to dance.
Stuffed: In terms of filler, this show was downright packed. Natasha Bedingfield performed the usual overwrought romantic song accompanied by mostly ill-fitting dancing. This week, it came from Lacey Schwimmer and Holly Madison’s one-time partner Dmitry Chaplin (who appeared to be wearing Chuck’s sparkly lace rumba outfit — has the recession hit the costume department?). The cast of a traveling ballroom dance show called Burn The Floor performed an acrobatic dance noteworthy both for strong dancing and the fact that the guys in the group apparently hate wearing shirts. Finally, there was a performance from Celtic Woman, a group of Irish warbling ladies. They were accompanied by a choir, singing Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” and there was pastel-clad dancing. It was rather a lot of schmaltz.
New blood: On top of all this, the show launched a four-week viewer-voting competition to choose a new professional dancer for next season. The six dancers in the running performed in three pairs, and the two individual dancers who receive the fewest votes will be knocked out this week. Tonight’s first couple was Afton and Brent — Afton being Afton DelGrosso, sister of Ashly, the poor thing who worked with Master P back in the day. They were followed by Anna and Mayo, and then Snow and Genya — Genya being the brother of Alec Mazo, who won the first season of “Dancing.”
It was awfully nice to see so much skilled professional dancing that wasn’t wedged into pop-music performances, and the dancers all seem like they’d be perfectly capable of dancing with, say, Steve Wozniak or Holly Madison.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com