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Just four ‘Dancing’ couples remain

Front-runners seem obvious, but will Lisa or Jerry get the boot?
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Another week of “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET), another week of wind-up-toy-style dancing from Stacy, another week of simmering chemistry from Drew and Cheryl, another week of Jerry getting no respect, and another week of Lisa working herself silly only to be patronized like a stupid child.

Things thankfully got busier this week as each couple performed two dances, helping to lessen considerably the filler required, compared to the “Let’s see that dance again!” bloat of previous weeks. Less rehearsal footage can only be a good thing.

Stacy and Tony kicked off the evening with their quickstep. For a quickstep, it was surprisingly sluggish, and Stacy looked neither elegant nor inelegant — she simply looked blankly sunny, as she always does. Given the incessant focus on the appearance of her legs, it was hard not to notice how utterly ordinary her dancing suddenly appeared when she was covered up in a conservative gown. Despite the fact that judges Bruno and Len shouted Carrie Ann down when she tried to even begin to address the fairly obvious failings of the dance, the judges gave Stacy straight 9s, a notable drop from her perfect 10s of the last two weeks. They may not have wanted to talk about her poor showing, but they knew about it.

When Stacy and Tony returned for their cha-cha later, it, too, was ordinary, even with Stacy decked out in her usual bare-it-all style. There are four couples left, and three of them have an interesting dynamic between them. This is the team that doesn’t. That showed up in the cha-cha in particular, given the need for spark and the total lack of it. Stacy and Tony ridiculed Carrie Ann for pointing out Stacy’s unconvincing “angry face,” but as Carrie Ann tried to point out, the problem was that Stacy couldn’t sell the attitude that went with it. Stacy is dull. Dull when dancing, dull when interviewed, dull in rehearsal footage. Carrie Ann and Len gave the cha-cha 9s again, but Bruno — after mentioning Stacy’s legs as he always does — gave it a preposterous and undeserved 10. So once again, Stacy and Tony wound up on top.

Accent on the hip actionSharing their spot, however, are Drew and Cheryl, who managed to pull off a tie when the evening’s two dances were combined. First, they presented their foxtrot. Flirtatious and warm, not to mention set to the absurdly appropriate “It Had To Be You” rather than one of the show’s usual pop clunkers, the dance played nicely on the evident affection between Drew and Cheryl. The fact that it received one 8, from Bruno, dropping it a point below Stacy and Tony’s forgettable quickstep, was one of those bad moments that make people dislike contests that are judged subjectively.

Drew and Cheryl came back with a rumba, which Drew feared because he doesn’t like “hip action.” (Yes, feel free to giggle.) At times, the rumba felt overdone to the point of caricature, as if Drew didn’t quite have enough confidence in his smoky charisma to let it sell itself. When Len called the performance “too hard,” it had the ring of truth. The dance nonetheless received two 10s and a 9 (from Len), so Drew and Cheryl wound up in a tie with Stacy and Tony. It was a good thing, too, because rioting would have followed had there not been atonement for the lousy scoring of their foxtrot.

Speaking of the foxtrot, Lisa Rinna excelled in hers this week, right down to the nifty blue dress she wore, the fact that the song was “Fever,” and the fact that her hometown of Medford, Oregon was shown in rehearsal footage and was as adorable as you’d expect. She and Louis were engaging and graceful, and like many women, she looked far better without the spangles, severe hairstyles, and extreme makeup of weeks past. Again, the fact that the routine pulled one 8 (from Carrie Ann) in addition to two 9s seemed very unfair given Stacy’s inflated score, but Lisa took it in stride as she always does, blooming with happiness when she’s praised and bucking up when she isn’t.

Lisa and Louis returned later for a cha-cha to “Material Girl,” not an obvious music choice, but one that they handled well. The dance was well-executed and well-choreographed, and they looked like they were having a fantastic time. Couples on this show in the future would be wise to remember that audiences are smart, and when they don’t think people are having fun together, they don’t tend to vote for them, Tatum O’Neal. This time, Lisa and Louis got straight 9s, a good accomplishment given that the judges seem determined to deny Lisa a perfect score no matter how well she dances.

The worst of the judges’ treatment, however, was reserved for Jerry Rice and his partner Anna, who have emerged as the season’s lovable underdogs, marked down by the judges every week, only to be saved by the fans. While the judges constantly remind Jerry how much they admire his effort, they seem to ignore the fact that Jerry’s brand of plucky “entertainment” might be as lovable to some as George’s shticky, smoking-jacket “entertainment,” which they encouraged and subsidized for weeks with puffed-up scores.

Jerry and Anna began with a tango. Well, sort of. This show has forced people to do a lot of inappropriate dances since its inception, but alongside Lisa Rinna dancing the paso doble to “The Final Countdown,” Jerry’s obligation to tango to “One Way Or Another” stands in a special place for true disasters.

It was perhaps one of the most satisfying moments of the competition thus far when Len sniffed that it hadn’t so much been “a proper tango,” and the chatty, self-possessed Anna snapped back in all seriousness, “It wasn’t a proper tango! It was Blondie, for God’s sake!” Hearing one of the professionals express how it irks her to be forced to and then be dinged in the scores for not doing them “properly” was immensely satisfying — one of those “I am not alone” moments for viewers.

Of course, the tango also wasn’t very good, and the low scores it received ensured that Jerry would likely be in last place at the close of the evening. That situation didn’t change after they returned for their rumba. The rumba was the best example yet of Anna learning how to take advantage of Jerry’s imposing physicality, and the dance was actually pretty sexy. Nonetheless, there was nothing but pitying assurances that Jerry would get an “A” for effort as the judges waited to see whether he would be bailed out by the audience again.

The alignment of couples at this point is obvious: there are the Front-runners (Drew and Stacy), there is the Underdog (Jerry), and there is the Lovable Supporting Character Offed Near The End Of The Story For Dramatic Reasons (Lisa). The audience voting patterns of past weeks suggest that Lisa will go, but the small number of teams makes it hard to predict. Jerry and Anna may instead have had their last chance to mouth off to the judges, which is really too bad.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.