After the presumed dancing queen, “Cheetah Girl” Sabrina Bryan, was banished from her throne last week, the remaining stars were put on notice: Bring your A game and play to the fans if you want to stick around. On Monday night’s performance show, they had two chances to do just that.
In a half classic ballroom/half Latin night, the couples took on challenging, new-to-them dances. While the resulting moves were all over the place, the scores weren’t too far apart, with a couple of notable exceptions. Meanwhile, the judges gave everyone an honest earful, and one didn’t limit his criticisms to the dancers.
First on the floor, Comeback Kid Helio Castroneves needed another strong routine to continue reestablishing himself as the male celeb to look for on finale night. Luckily for him, in a night of second chances, he did that.
Rehearsal footage showed that Helio wasn’t comfortable with the first dance, the tango. He struggled as he maneuvered around his partner, Julianne Hough. Once they hit the dance floor, things improved, but not much.
The first challenge facing the pair was song selection. David Bowie’s “Jean Genie” doesn’t carry a classic tango beat, and although Helio kept time beautifully, both he and Julianne appeared to work hard around the odd rhythm. When it came to judging, Len Goodman had more complimentary things to say about Helio’s black velvet jacket than the dance. Carrie Ann Inaba liked their moves and credited her youthful years to the difference. Brave move, Carrie Ann.
Coming out of the tango with a total of 25 out of 30, Helio found his form in the samba. “The samba is the home dance of my country, Brazil,” he beamed. And it was obvious that he was no stranger to the beat. Helio and Julianne recaptured their old chemistry and tackled the hip-swinging moves to near perfection. That’s when head judge Len made the most memorable comment of the night.
“Just because you come from Brazil, it doesn’t mean you’ll dance a good samba,” the elder official mused. “Just like, just because you come from Texas, doesn’t mean you’ll make a good president.” The shock and awe effect on the audience left host Tom Bergeron laughing, “Well, luckily, you only annoyed 33 percent of the people!”
That samba earned Helio and Julianne three nines, bringing their total for the night to 52 out of 60.
Starting with their best material With a tough act to follow, Marie Osmond and Jonathan Roberts presented their quickstep to the tune of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Marie was dressed and styled in the perfect Andrew Sisters getup and, what followed was the best dance the couple has ever performed.
The retro pastiche allowed Marie to use her full-on camp style without distracting from the number. If anything, it only added to the high-energy, high-entertainment factor. The dance ended when she planted a big crimson wet one on Len’s cheek. Oh, he loved that. They all did, leading to a score of 28.
But the high Johnny and Marie felt after their early success took a nosedive once they returned for their cha-cha. Marie lost all her early cred for costuming when she debuted her exotic dancer look in black and fuchsia, complete with boa accessory, and that was only a little worse than her footwork.
Len thought is was a good effort, but there was “a little much messing around going on.” A blunter Bruno told Marie, “You peaked early on.” Ouch. Their total for the night stood at 52.
A perfect repeat
With a perfect score in their back pockets from last week, Mel B and Maksim Chmerkovskiy went into the fox-trot with a little too much confidence. She worked some great arm lines, but as Carrie Ann pointed out, “Last week we saw what perfection looks like from you.” And this wasn’t it. Len complained, “Every time I was expecting a heel, I saw a toe.” And the resulting 24 drove the point home.
One thing that can be said of M&M, they know how to stage a same-night comeback. If the remarkably well-synched paso doble didn’t give it away, then the constant clapping from the judges’ table throughout the number sure did.
Bruno repeatedly chanted, “Top that!” Len raved that the dance contained everything: “It had the passion and the aggression!” M&M flaunted their Sabrina-supporting cheetah-paw tattoos — Maks’, not surprisingly, resided on his pec! — before receiving their second perfect score for the paso. The 54 for the night left them firmly in the lead.
Still stumbling Now recovered from the food poisoning that kept her from last Tuesday’s results show, Jane Seymour decided to dedicate her first dance to her friends, the late Johnny and June Carter Cash. Sadly, dancing a quickstep to “I Walk the Line,” she and Tony Dovolani attempted a bouncing number that fell flat early on.
The lack of precision footwork was obvious, not least of all to the judges. Len was the most critical, pointing out “a total lack of body contact and poor footwork,” and Bruno had a hard time getting past Jane’s distracting dress. The white shredded ensemble was truly awful.
Jane seemed hurt by the criticisms and unhappy with the 24 they earned. But if she hoped to bounce back with the cha-cha, well, that didn’t happen.
While no one can deny the 56-year-old actress looked stunning in her gold lame minidress, the dance did not impress. But this time the blame should stay with Tony, as the choreography wasn’t up to par. While they scored better than round one, the total of 50 kept them in last place.
Lacking confidence This week, Jennie Garth was on top of her game, and once again, the primary weakness stood with the pro when it came to their Viennese waltz. Jennie and Derek Hough both moved gracefully and in perfect time, but Len spotted the problem.
“For me that was not enough Viennese waltz,” Len said. “Not enough reverse turns and I’m a fan of [Derek’s] choreography.” Derek accepted that, but once backstage with Samantha Harris, he added, “I thought it was an American-style Viennese waltz, not international style.” Still, Jennie didn’t suffer too much from the fault, getting two eights and a nine from the gallery.
And that was with their rumba still to go. In rehearsal, Jennie was shy about the sexy dance. But why? Doesn’t she remember their ooh la la tango? “Dancing the rumba with Derek was weird, but he says he can dance it with his sister — which is weirder.” Well, maybe she had a point.
Nothing looked weird on the dance floor, though. Jennie and Derek delivered a smooth and romantic rumba, prompting Carrie Ann to call it a comeback. For his part, Len kindly pointed out to Jennie, “The only person who isn’t convinced you’re a really good dancer is you.” Adding 28 to their overall score, they waltzed away with 53.
Needs improvement Cameron Mathison started the night whining about his schedule again. We get it! It’s hard to mambo and be Mr. Daytime TV. This time he’s playing the “busy” card in response to last week’s standings. “Having a hectic schedule makes me worry even more about being in the bottom two.”
Then again, after seeing the mad-dash mishmash of fox-trot he and Edyta performed, maybe he has a point. Carrie Ann dutifully mentioned that he missed a step. Actually he missed more than one. The generous 24 Cam and Edyta got for that one made no sense.
With the sloppy and clumsy portion of the evening behind them, at least the jive gave them a chance to redeem themselves. Cameron opened with a giant leap from the stage steps. How many times has he done that move now? It’s practically his signature step. But what followed what vast improvement from the faulty fox-trot.
As each of the officials pointed out, the jive isn’t a tall man’s dance, and Cam is big boy. Somehow he overcame that handicap and highstepped his way to some kudos. Bruno boasted that it had more “kicks than a rodeo!” This time the score, 27, was just about right, but still left them with a higher-than-deserved 51 for the night.
After the two-for-one night of dance ended, the only real question was who’s going home Tuesday night. Last week proved it could be a coin toss, but if it’s down to dance, Cam and Edyta may see red again, along with the lowest scorers of the night, Jane and Tony. With the numbers so close, it’s all down to the fans and their dialing preferences.
Ree Hines is a regular contributor to msnbc.com.