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Monique’s luck runs out on ‘Dancing’

Just not enough fan support for the ‘High School Musical’ star. The field is now down to three men. By Linda Holmes

If you were expecting a big surprise on Wednesday night’s “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Tuesdays/Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET) results show, you were most likely disappointed. There was no last-minute surprise and no out-of-nowhere victory lap for the underdog. Monique Coleman, who has kept herself in the competition through a few trips to the bottom two, ran out of luck and went home.

Ironically, Monique was booted on the night she got her first encore. She and Louis repeated last night’s “Ghostbusters” cha-cha, which the judges had praised particularly because it constituted her comeback from bad scores for her tango. The encores have an understandable way of seeming like note-for-note retreads of the previous night’s dances, so they’re impressive mostly because they demonstrate the ability of a trained performer to make a carefully rehearsed routine look fresher than it actually is. In this case, though, Monique did seem to be trying to make it as difficult as possible to eliminate her, and some affectionate teasing between her and Louis suggested that they might have chosen to accept their likely fate with as much grace as possible.

Speaking of resigned, it’s unusual to see a booted contestant return in any capacity, let alone a different capacity. But singer Willa Ford, sent home weeks ago, returned to sing “Fame” while a collection of the professional dancers made like ’80s TV stars. They want the ugly trophy, well, the ugly trophy costs… and right here was where they started paying… in sweat.

Complete with leg warmers, the dance was a reasonably authentic throwback. Willa performed adequately, but anyone who thought of her as a generic pop singer wouldn't have much reason to think differently.

Grilled by SamanthaSamantha Harris headed backstage to ask the contestants her usual fluffball questions: How did you feel? Were you nervous? How did you do that? Are you having a good time? Were you glad when you got those 10s? The need for these segments grows less evident by the week, and the need for Samantha herself is not as clear as it might be. Tom Bergeron has a great time with his corny role, but Samantha never quite seems to know that what she’s doing is ridiculous, and the result is a bland, oddly earnest delivery.

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Members of last night’s audience then stepped up to announce that Mario is hot, that Emmitt is charming, and that Monique is driven. The audience is probably even less essential, at this point, than Samantha Harris. In fact, the only useful information gleaned from this segment was that Joey Lawrence’s brothers, who visited him at rehearsal in a segment on Tuesday night’s show, have definitely chosen “horndog” as their identity of choice, given that they offered up another commentary on the hotness of Edyta.

The first couple to receive word that they were not going home were Emmitt and Cheryl. While Emmitt was scored low in his first dance on Tuesday night, his fan support has been solid. Given Joey’s slide to the bottom two a couple of weeks ago, he seemed like a better bet to potentially knock Monique out of the bottom spot than Emmitt could have been, so Emmitt’s survival was no big news.

Next, in the second live performance segment of the evening, Il Divo, an international quartet devoted to crossing pop and opera, performed the oft-covered “Without You.” The song has been done by everyone from Motley Crue to Air Supply to Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Based on Wednesday’s performance, Il Divo’s interpretation means that Clay Aiken will not provide the most overwrought version of the song to be released this year, which is really saying something. There were dancers accompanying the song, but when four formally dressed men are bellowing a ubiquitous ballad translated into Spanish, it’s difficult to focus on anything else.

Tysonia’s latest challenge
This was the first week in which Tysonia, our participant in the Slim-Fast Challenge, was part of a cliffhanger. She learned that she would be competing in the rumba in a sanctioned competition, and at first, she seemed pleased. But as rehearsal wore on, Tysonia got very nervous. In fact, she fairly abruptly wound up in tears. The implication was that she was in tears because she was so tense about the competition, but another possible explanation would seem to be that SHE’S NOT EATING ANYTHING. Apparently, to find out whether Tysonia learns to dance or goes back to eating breakfast, we will need to tune in next week.

The third and final performance of the evening was a number performed by a sizable troupe and choreographed by accomplished dancer Hinton Battle, who has appeared in the famous musical episode of “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer,” so he clearly knows about finding the big pop-culture moment. Despite the tendency of the dance numbers in this show to be surprisingly stodgy and dull, Battle’s swing/hip-hop hybrid was very satisfying — athletic, graceful and genuinely innovative. During the rare moments when powerful professional dancing appears here, it becomes embarrassingly clear that the filler is more substantive than the substance.

When the show next announced a couple who would be staying, they surprisingly named Joey and Edyta, leaving only Mario and Monique as potential bootees. A Mario departure seemed extraordinarily unlikely, so it looked like it was curtains for sure for Monique.

It initially seemed like a horrible miscalculation for the producers to narrow it down to the obvious underdog and the guy who seems bulletproof, rather than leaving Monique standing with Joey, which might at least have left room for suspense. But wait — just how clever are those producers? What if they knew it would seem impossible, and what if they did it on purpose to fake us all out because Mario really was going home?

In the end, the upset didn’t happen, as it usually doesn’t. Monique, who benefited from a farewell video package that hopefully washed away the unpleasant taste of some ungracious video confessionals aired early in the show in which she was a little too insistent about all the 10s she should have been given for almost every dance she’s done so far, went home. Her mother walked right out onto the stage to give her a hug, and she and Louis praised each other in their interviews just as you knew they would.

Monique made a valiant effort this week, but one strong dance and one weak one was not enough to save her from what’s apparently been weak support from living-room voters. From the first week of the competition, it has looked like the men this season were stronger and had a little more spark, and now the three men who were strongest out of the gate find themselves in the semifinals.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.