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Helio quicksteps his way to a perfect score

The Indy champ takes the lead heading into the semifinals, while Marie Osmond seems most likely to head home on Tuesday. By Ree Hines
/ Source: contributor

In a night lacking the usual host of personal tragedies and illnesses making up so much of this season, Monday’s “Dancing with the Stars” was all about the dance. This performance night showcased why some stars are destined for next week’s semifinals, and why a couple of couples could skip it all together.

While the show continues to boast an impressive batch of celebrity talent, the gap is widening. The judges even put away their sunshine pep talks, and took nitpicking to a new level. And, finally, Mel B and Maksim Chmerkovskiy aren’t the only obvious pick for the end. Now, it’s a serious dance competition.

Last week Jennie Garth’s lack of confidence made up the biggest criticism from the judges. In a bizarre effort to deal with that, her partner Derek Hough brought in some self-esteem boosting support from Richard Simmons. Yes, the “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” guru worked on Jennie’s issues.

When Richard told her she was “worth more than all the pearls in the ocean,” she looked like she might laugh, but instead wept. “You have to do that foxtrot and jive and believe in it,” he urged her. Somehow his sparkling tank top and fuchsia pompom didn’t distract from the message.

It must have worked, as Jennie hit the floor with mounds of confidence for the jive. Maybe a bit too much. It was an overload of energy and gusto, much like Cameron Mathison’s crazed foxtrot last week. Her enthusiasm led to some sloppy moves, and Derek couldn’t cover for the obvious timing gaps.

Head judge Len Goodman put aside his usual kind words and let the actress take some heat. “Jennie, I’ve got to be honest; I’m not sure if that jive tonight is deserving of getting in the semifinals.” Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba agreed, leading to a score of 24.

For the first time, Jennie looked surprised not to get some praise. She was so wrapped up in believing in herself, she didn’t sense it coming. “I thought I did great!”

With a chance to redeem herself in the foxtrot, Jennie, decked out in an old Hollywood glamour gown, improved. The judges considered it a come back, but didn’t back down from their overall “needs improvement” message. Still, with a total of 50 out of 60 for the night, Jennie and Derek can’t complain.

Not quite perfectAfter his mixed showing last week, Cameron promised, “This is my week to bring home a 10!” Then again, he seemed shocked he didn’t earn a perfect score for last week’s jive, so maybe he’s not his own best judge.

Dancing the Viennese waltz to “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter movies, Cam and Edyta Sliwinska started out strong. Len wasn’t wild about Cam’s choice to bare his chest in a non-Latin routine, but as the turns and counterturns grew, the routine grew on him, too. The all nines fell short of the soap hunk’s goal, but there was still the cha-cha to go.

That’s when it went downhill for the couple. Cam made all the right marks, but struggled in the finesse department. Carrie Anne pegged it when she said, “You hit the lines and they’re beautiful. It’s all the in-between moves you need to work on.”

Len simply found it wooden and “dancing by numbers.”

When the set of eights were revealed, the disappointment showed on Cameron’s face. But he took some solace when the audience booed the judges. And much like Jennie before him, he shrugged it off and exclaimed, “I thought I did alright.”

Little bit too much countryReturning to the game following the death of her father, Marie Osmond relied on her dad’s “the show must go on” mentality. Rehearsals saw her dancing well and looking good. Really good. Glance back to footage of the first week to see what the ballroom workout can do. Wow!

Unfortunately, that’s where the wows ended. She and Jonathan Roberts performed a good-for-her rumba, but didn’t deliver a performance to prove last week’s spot-on quickstep was more than just a fluke.

Len couldn’t articulate the problems with the boring number, as he was too busy putting his foot in his mouth. “I knew this was going to be a tough dance for you; it’s meant to be a young couple dance.” Ouch. He tried to dig his way out, saying that the oldest woman in the competition and her partner put a “sophisticated tweak on it.”

Marie clearly got good marks from her brother Donny Osmond, who clapped and cried for her efforts. Of course, his scores don’t count, so it was just eights from the officials.

The take-two dance for Johnny and Marie, the jive, fell flat as well. Kicking up more of a country sidestep line-dance than a jive was the issue. But Marie looked so much more comfortable with the country moves.

Bruno and Carrie Ann debated whether the dance even was a jive, and Len tried to make up for last time by just saying the jive is fun and “you came out and gave us fun.” Must not have been enough fun, as they still landed in last place with a total of 49.

Second time’s the charmHelio Castroneves and Julianne Hough weren’t going to repeat their past missteps. Julianne took Helio through a video of the last dance and pointed out the problems, before bringing in a “pit team” of ballroom heavyweights, including the recently booted Tony Dovolani, to show him how it’s done.

Usually, those rehearsal montages just seem like set-up filler, but something must have clicked for the Indy champ. In their first dance, the paso doble, Helio worked the cape like a pro and his footwork was markedly better than it’s been in three weeks. He even took on the matador character without making the scary faces he’s assumed in past acting attempts. Progress!

The audience loved it; the judges loved it; and with 27 points, no one could have expected things were going to get so much better. But they did.

Jumping from the stage step (Cam style!) in a bright yellow zoot suit, Helio launched into a flawless quickstep. He and Julianne worked in perfect time and gave not only their best performance but possibly the best of the show so far.

After the prolonged cheering and standing ovation, the judges continued clapping as though they were as stunned as the crowd. “I thought you looked like a big dancing banana,” Len quipped. “It was fantastic.” And if they had any doubt of that, their first perfect 30 of the season should put it to rest.

They can’t all be 30sThe only other perfect scoring couple in the game, with two 30s under their belts for past performances, Mel and Maks took the stage next. The passionate and aggressive tango they performed harked back to last week’s paso. Once again in all black, they even rehashed a couple of their own steps. The dance was great, but it felt redundant.

Without the eerily similar feel, they might have managed 10s instead of nines for the routine. But there was still time to see some 10s for their mambo. They received two of them, in fact, and a nine for the surprisingly standard interpretation. That’s standard in a good way.

The classic, hip thrusting fun and fast mambo was no frills, strictly ballroom material. If Carrie Ann didn’t dish that nine, M&M would’ve tied Helio and Julianne for night. But Carrie Ann did point out one thing that speaks volumes to Mel’s success so far. “Maks looks like he’s having a great time with you.” The usually grumpy pro does seem positively pleased with his partner — a big change from seasons past.

Going into Tuesday night’s results show, Jennie and Cameron are both red zone possibilities, but they aren’t the ones that need to worry the most. As host Tom Bergeron put it when he announced the standings, “Languishing at the bottom are Marie and Jonathan.” The fan base loves Marie, but even if she sticks around one more week, it’s clear the competition is beyond her now.

Ree Hines is a regular contributor to