Yes, while last week's episode of "Skating With Celebrities" (Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET) brought the competition's first fall; this week's episode drew the first blood. But we'll get back to that.
The night opened with previous favorites Jillian Barberie and John Zimmerman. While their technique overall is still head and shoulders above the other teams, they made the most surprising mistake of the evening when late in the program, it was Zimmerman — the professional — who stumbled.
Their program had none of the charm of their last two, they seemed clearly off their game, and their scores modestly reflected that fact. Their banked advantage in basic skating ability gives them room to fall down without being too seriously threatened, but the door appeared very slightly open for another team to sneak in for the win, just this once.
Jenner steps up his gameThe stealth sneaks of the week were Bruce Jenner and Tai Babilonia. In their fluff practice piece, we saw them rather amusingly practicing under the watchful eye of her longtime partner Randy Gardner. In addition to being their choreographer, Gardner seems to have put himself in charge of making sure that Jenner doesn't kill anyone with all the unskilled throwing and the graceless hurling and so forth.
When they got to their program, Jenner didn't look quite as impossibly clumsy as he did in the first two weeks, although his team continues its unbroken streak of skating to the absolute corniest possible music. Just as they chose "Up Where We Belong" for movie week and "Shake Your Groove Thing" for '70s week, they chose "Endless Love" for Motown week. If there were a "songs about animals" week, they would be the ones skating to "Muskrat Love."
Impressively, Jenner did manage a death spiral that didn't actually cause death, and they survived the program without any noticeable slips. No big deal at first, this is becoming more and more of an accomplishment as the weeks go by. The real shock set in when Jenner and Babilonia finished ahead of Barberie and Zimmerman, a result that would have seemed impossible in the first week of competition. Jenner isn't good, but he isn't as hard to watch as he used to be.
Coulier, you're no Bob Saget!Several teams tried to respond to criticism from judges, with the lamest attempt coming from Dave Coulier and Nancy Kerrigan. They made the "hilarious" decision to cross-dress after John Nicks's criticism last week that Coulier failed to show his "feminine side."
Incidentally, one of the best revelations of this week is that Randy Gardner — also choreographing for this team — obviously detests Dave Coulier, seeing him for the unfunny, self-important hack that he is.
Coulier in comedic drag with a red beehive was the easy, lazy way to get back at Nicks. The better way would have been learning to skate.
Despite the fact that Coulier and Kerrigan's routine would have been exposed for the raggedy skeleton it was if they hadn't been wearing absurd costumes, the judges inexplicably complimented their work, and they landed only one tenth of a point behind Barberie and Zimmerman.
If you ever want evidence that the judging on this show sometimes makes no sense at all, watch the Barberie/Zimmerman and Coulier/Kerrigan performances and note that they are separated by the smallest possible margin.
First bloodKristy Swanson and her mercurial partner Lloyd Eisler skated next, and that's where the bloodshed came into play. They were executing a maneuver in which he flung her around by a hand and a foot — a move they'd been shown practicing so many times during their intro that even someone who hadn't seen the endless previews spoiling this moment entirely would have known something was about to happen.
Eisler conked Swanson's face right into the ice, opening a cut on her chin. Seeing poor Kristy go down in her platinum blonde bobbed wig was particularly sad. Nobody wants to bleed while dressed in whimsical attire; it's just not dignified.
Not only that, but that disaster followed an earlier stumble by Swanson that happened inexplicably while she was doing nothing particularly special. Between those two falls, an exit seemed inevitable.
Pulling up the rearKurt Browning and Deborah Gibson were the last to skate. Swanson and Eisler's multiple difficulties meant that while they've lagged in past weeks, these two should have had a good chance to continue. While they avoided major disaster, Gibson and Browning fell victim to towering mediocrity.
Their thoroughly unambitious program with almost no difficult moves in it was just plain underwhelming. Despite obvious effort, Gibson still skated awkwardly and slowly.
Furthermore, as Browning mentioned himself in their introductory piece, he isn't big enough or experienced enough in pairs skating to throw her around the way guys like Zimmerman and Eisler can throw people around to pick up extra points while using an unskilled partner as ballast.
Gibson and Browning finished firmly in last place, and they prepared for their graceful exit. The evening's most unexpected moment came when Swanson and Eisler had side-by-side synchronized brain meltdowns and initially believed that the scores Gibson and Browning received were higher than theirs, meaning that they themselves would be going home. When co-host Summer Sanders corrected them and said that they weren't being eliminated, their reaction was an odd mixture of relief at not losing and intimidation that they were going to have to keep doing this for another week.
It wasn't clear at the beginning of the season how a format based on judges' scoring rather than on fan voting would affect "Skating" and its odds of success. While the show doesn't have the crazed populist impact of its closest competitor, "Dancing With The Stars," there is something satisfying about eliminations based on judging that, while it can get things wrong like Coulier and Kerrigan, does generally reward skill and doesn't get bogged down in personalities. If Master P had been on this show, he'd have been gone the first week. And that's most certainly a compliment.