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Monique can’t catch a break on ‘Dancing’

Despite scoring her first 10s of the season, it's looking like the final three will be Mario, Joey and Emmitt. By Linda Holmes
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

For the Halloween edition of “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Tuesdays/Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET), we got pumpkin decorations, judge Len Goodman sporting fangs, unflatteringly dark lipstick on several of the women, and spooky echo effects applied to the voice of the already creepy co-host Samantha Harris. The dances were geared to the theme in ways ranging from subtle winks to outright camp. Everything was different, everything was special, and Monique still came in last.

The ballroom or “standard” round kicked off with Joey Lawrence’s unusual tango, which he and partner Edyta performed to the theme from “The Addams Family” in one of the evening’s less delicate holiday shout-outs. It’s difficult to judge a tango delivered complete with props and mugging, but the gimmick didn’t swallow the dancing nearly as much as it could have.

Joey gamely posed and roared through his vampire fangs, but he also danced crisply and confidently most of the time. Joey and Edyta may have earned a little extra goodwill for being such good sports about the evening’s theme, and this was probably the dance that made the best use thus far of Joey’s weird-looking bald head, but it still seemed like he was awfully lucky to walk off with two 9s and a 10.

Joey’s cheeky tango was followed by Mario’s rather mawkish waltz, which he described in the introductory footage as a dance in which he portrayed a man mourning his lost love. The judges went wild for the routine, calling it “poignant” and “beautiful,” but it approached self-parody at times, based simply on its sheer earnestness and moist, moony-eyed schmaltz.

There is something smarmy about Mario, no matter how friendly and dimpled he appears. Seeing him openly attempt to yank tears from the eyes of women wasn’t as moving as it was unseemly. Still, Mario pulled down the same two 9s and one 10 that Joey had received, although the two routines had almost nothing in common other than seeming a little generously scored.

Monique’s tango lacks biteThings took another turn when Monique suffered through another bad music selection, stuck doing a tango to the ’80s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” which is mostly forgotten for good reason. It was evident from early in the routine that Monique was overmatched by the intricate footwork in the vampire-themed dance, and the judges made precisely that point. They went so far as to suggest that perhaps Louis needed to do a better job of matching the choreography to Monique’s abilities — a suggestion at which both Monique and Louis visibly bristled during the judging and vowed to defy in post-dance interviews. The judges hammered home the point, however, by slamming Monique with three 8s, which are low scores for this point in the competition.

Emmitt Smith was born to foxtrot, given his smooth athleticism and infectious charisma. He’s certainly ambitious about dancing well — during a rehearsal with Cheryl, he eyeballed the picture of her and Drew Lachey winning last season’s championship and wondered whether the same might be in store for him.

Their foxtrot to the wittily chosen “Witchcraft” was ostentatiously charming in the best way, full of smiles and smooth moves and good feeling. The audience devoured it with the biggest spoons it could find, but the judges hit it with a surprising bucket of cold water. Carrie-Ann admitted she was “nitpicking” over Emmitt’s moves not being sharp enough, while Len complained that there wasn’t enough straight foxtrot for a ballroom dance. Both Len and Carrie-Ann gave the foxtrot 8s, but Bruno boosted Emmitt a point past Monique with a 9.

Joey and Edyta kicked off the second round, consisting of Latin dances, with a paso doble — yet another one done to unusual music in the tradition of past paso dobles performed to “Thriller,” “The Final Countdown” and “The Reflex.” It seems surprising that the show was able to afford “Sympathy For The Devil,” and it didn’t make the most obvious music. But given the overall Halloween theme, Edyta’s thigh-high boots and a couple of matching capes were able to (sort of) make it work.

Joey did seem to have fun with both of the potentially gimmicky dances Edyta devised for him this week, and their chemistry has improved markedly from some of their early performances, which tended to be stiff and uncharismatic. Still, the paso doble didn’t seem particularly rich in the stomping, dominating energy that usually distinguishes it. The dance got an 8 and two 9s, keeping Joey in the hunt but leaving room for others to wiggle in.

Mario samba is a Halloween treatThe judges then went wild, for the most part, over Mario and Karina’s samba. Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” might not strike anyone as an obvious samba, but it’s a good song, and the dance was fast and high-energy. Just as Emmitt has a built-in advantage in any dance involving smiling, Mario has one in any dance involving hips, in which category the samba most emphatically qualifies.

His footwork was snappy, but as Len noted, there was something that didn’t quite hold together about the dance as a whole. Bruno and Carrie-Ann had absolutely no complaints and gave 10s, but Len held out with a 9, and Mario and Karina moved into the lead.

Monique’s music was unusual yet again when she and Louis performed a cha-cha to “Ghostbusters.” There appeared to be sections of the dance without so much dancing in them, but there were also moments of sharp footwork. Monique didn’t seem as overwhelmed as she had by the choreography in the earlier tango, despite a couple of apparent mistakes.

The performance went over surprisingly well with the judges. Monique was overjoyed to pull down two 10s and a 9 — her first perfect scores for what certainly didn’t look to be her best dance of the season.

The rumba is a tough dance for an untrained eye to judge, and Emmitt’s was no exception. While the judges went wild for the elegance and romance of the presentation, there didn’t always seem to be a lot happening. While Emmitt and Cheryl have lovely chemistry, nothing Emmitt did during this dance looked like it even approached the difficulty of what he’s done in other dances, including the earlier foxtrot.

The judges rewarded the rumba with a 9 and two 10s — Carrie-Ann being the spoiler who gave it less than a perfect score. Emmitt’s rumba wasn’t as entertaining as his foxtrot, but it was the one the judges loved — and it was the one that put him into a tie with Joey for second place.

So at the end of the evening, Monique had eked out the 10s she’d been salivating over for weeks, but she was still in last place. She could still pull off an upset, but she has to be considered most likely to go home Wednesday night, given her repeated trips to the bottom and the fact that her dances this week didn’t seem to be the inspiring kind that would get people to jump off the couch and vote for her. It’s shaping up as a Joey/Emmitt/Mario final—just as it looked like it might way back in the very first week — and Monique may need to cast a few spells herself to stay in the game.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.