If the first two weeks of "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, Thursdays, 8:00 p.m. ET) showed the fickle nature of an audience that would keep Master P around rather than Kenny Mayne or Tatum O'Neal, the third week showed that the judges don't always make much sense, either. The politics of scoring are becoming interesting indeed as the favorites and underdogs become more firmly established.
First up on Thursday night was Jerry Rice, who chose to do the jive rather than this week's other option, the tango. While Jerry's commitment was clear and his effort admirable, the dance was plodding, and at times he didn't seem to know where the beat was. Nothing brings out imperfect rhythm quite like a jive, so this was not a great week for Jerry. Accordingly, he scored a low 19, boosted by a very generous 7 from judge Carrie-Ann.
Giselle Fernandez, on the other hand, was as dramatic and crisp with her tango as Jerry was watery with his jive. It was here that Carrie-Ann began to get really baffling. While a misstep or two sneaked into Giselle's routine, she was clearly far better than Jerry, and Carrie-Ann's decision to score them both with 7s demonstrated that she is indeed the worst offender in the previously noted pattern of scoring the men higher than the women, as if men are to be given little gold stars just for effort. Neither of the other judges scored Jerry as highly as Giselle. In fact, Len, who appears to be the most knowledgeable judge, had Jerry two points behind Giselle in what is generally very compressed scoring that rarely extends outside the 6 to 9 range.
In less confusing news, the most purely entertaining dance of the evening came from Drew Lachey. His jive with his dryly funny, nonsense-hating partner Cheryl (who deserves a fan club all her own) reflected both their obvious affection for each other and his musical background. Unlike Jerry, Drew knew exactly where the beat was. His moves were speedy and seemed to pop effortlessly. Furthermore, the music — "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" — will go down in history as one of the only good song choices the show has ever made. Given some of the choices of the past, the teams are lucky they were not asked to jive to "America The Beautiful."
Playing favorites?George Hamilton followed Drew with another of his inexplicably overscored performances. Breaking the evening's pattern of male jives and female tangos, George performed a tango that was dull, imprecise, and not particularly obedient to the rules of a tango. He nevertheless received the same total score as Giselle and Jonathan's far superior work, in part because Bruno gave George a preposterous 8 for "entertainment." George is fun, but what Bruno gave was an 8 for self-parodying shtick. It isn't fair, really, to give George Hamilton extra points just for being George Hamilton, or for being weird.
Lisa Rinna also broke the pattern by doing the jive, perhaps mindful of the fact that the judges didn't respond warmly to her rumba last week and might not reward her if she went back to steamy appeal. Indeed, her jive much more successful, and her biggest challenge seemed to be her cartoonishly high heels, which inhibited the fast footwork that the jive requires. But Lisa's feet didn't fail her in the end, and her jive was her best-received performance yet. And then backstage, she announced that her family had to put their dog to sleep this week. Just in case you were wondering.
Stacy Keibler has been emerging as the favorite, and given the extravagant tongue-bath that her rumba received last week, it seemed likely that her tango would do just as well. But something was missing from her oddly flat performance. There would be no 10s this week. As has been the case with subjectively scored competitors across sports and throughout history, Stacy's scores seemed inflated compared to the quality of her dancing, probably based on lingering respect for the work she did last week and a resulting expectation that a judge would logically grade her down from the expected 10, not up from, say, a 6, as you would if you were scoring Lisa or Giselle. After being told that her tango lacked passion and looked fake — both true — Stacy was very lucky to get straight 9s, which tied her with Drew and Cheryl.
Another stay of execution for Master P?The least surprising news of the week? Well, Master P still can't dance. In fact, after showing some improvement in last week's quickstep, he was back at zero this week, barely able to remember what he was doing and looking like even when he does make a sincere effort, he simply isn't a guy who can dance. Carrie-Ann's utterly insane judging reared its ugly head yet again when she gave P a 6, a mere one point below what she gave to Giselle, Jerry and Lisa. If Master P deserves a 6 and Giselle a 7, we are dealing with intervals so absurdly wide that Carrie-Ann could not give an 8 to anything short of Fred Astaire coming back to life and bringing cherry cheesecake. The other judges gave P a still-generous 4.
The evening's last dance was its loveliest surprise in the form of Tia Carrere, who has seemed to struggle to find confidence in past weeks, not even wanting credit for good scores when she's gotten them. This week's tango showed her off to beautiful effect, and if Stacy was looking to see what the judges meant about how her tango lacked expressiveness and passion, she should have watched Tia and Maxsim. In every detail, their work was affecting and intense, and Tia showed impressive versatility in alternating between a traditionally fiery, lip-licking tango and something that was more suggestive of a prolonged Latin swoon. At the end of the performance, even the goofy Carrie-Ann announced that she had goosebumps. Bruno was wise to praise Maxsim's choreography, which indeed included a few moves that raised eyebrows in just the right way. The only problem with Tia and Maxsim's 26 was that they should have easily scored higher than Stacy and Tony.
The strange politics of the show continued in the post-mortem as Tia revealed that she's lost more than 20 pounds of baby weight since she started training for the show. As if it was any of anyone else's business, of course, and as if there was anything wrong with her to begin with.
So as viewers consider their votes, Stacy and Drew are in the lead, followed by Tia. Then Lisa, Giselle, and George are clumped up in the middle, and at the bottom are Jerry and P. One senses that in all likelihood, Master P's luck has finally run out.