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Shandi goes home on an odd ‘Dancing’ night

Clairvoyants, Survivor, Debbie Gibson and more make for a baffling evening. By Victor Balta
/ Source: contributor

If Monday night’s performance show on “Dancing With the Stars” was a head-shaker, then what does that make the results show?

With a four-way tie for first place waiting to be broken, and just four points separating the top nine dancers, there was nothing predictable about this finish — except for the strong likelihood that former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey was headed for the exit after finishing in the bottom two last week. And, though you didn’t need a numerologist or clairvoyant to figure out what Finnessey’s immediate future held, the show brought them along, too.

So it went on a particularly odd night for one of television’s notoriously off-the-wall shows. The evening’s docket included — and we can’t make this kind of stuff up — Ciara, Survivor (yes, that band that sang the “Rocky” song), and the aforementioned fortune-tellers in a random shuffle that would make anyone’s iPod blush.

The evening kicked off with the mandatory recap of the previous night’s events and quickly settled into the encore performance, which lent some real credence to this “Jedi Mind Trick” stuff. The judges asked Joey Fatone and his partner Kym Johnson to trot out their ghastly, over-the-top, campy tango to the theme from “Star Wars.”

The second time around was an even more devastating sequel than “The Phantom Menace.” And, besides the gimmicky performance, the arrangement of the song made it sound less “Star Wars” and more “Love Boat,” though even the venerable Captain Merrill Stubing couldn’t have steered this one back in the right direction.

Everyone gets a say — even Debbie Gibson
The ask-the-audience segment brought few surprises. A couple of people loved Fatone’s Luke Skywalker impersonation and showed support for the often-maligned Heather Mills, while others accurately called out country boy Billy Ray Cyrus and hoopster Clyde Drexler. Then, out of the blue, Deborah (don’t call me Debbie) Gibson showed up! The one-time “Skating With Celebrities” contestant said it’s tough to choose standouts from the crowded field. But, then I wondered, was that really Deborah Gibson? Or was it only in my dreams?

R&B singer Ciara came on to the floor to perform her hit single “Like a Boy,” flanked by dancers who lined up tightly toward the end of the song for an extreme backbend that made one hope for a split second that one of them would slip and send the whole row tumbling like dominoes. It didn’t happen, and since Mills wasn’t set to perform, the potential disaster quotient for the remainder of the night was the only thing that fell dramatically.

Of course, there was still a chance that Laila Ali would throw a left uppercut at her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy for choreographing a routine that broke the rules. Ali said she regretted the move and “we just hope the fans voted and kept us in the competition another week.”

Meanwhile, Maks made mock pouty faces at the camera, looking pretty confident in their position as front-runners.

Fatone and speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno were the first to get the nod putting them through to next week, to very little surprise.

The surprise came when viewers discovered that the whole “Survivor will perform ‘Eye of the Tiger’” announcement was real. The band looked like it’d just been pulled from a barroom stage in Wichita, but one can’t deny the rush of hearing the familiar, Grammy-winning “Rocky III” anthem as four male dancers with oversized hoods over their faces skulked onto the dance floor. Imagine the crowd’s surprise when Mr. T emerged from one of the hoods!

OK, that didn’t happen. But on this night, anything was possible.

Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel and his partner Guillermo gave a quick, silly lesson on the paso doble, and they teased to a commercial by announcing that Josh Groban would perform next. As the camera peeked in on Groban in the green room, the look on his face said, “Eh, well, at least I’m not opening for Survivor.”

The evening gets even more oddAfter the break, pros Tony Dovolani and Julianne Hough danced to Groban’s live rendition of “So She Dances,” and then things really got weird. A numerologist and a clairvoyant added and subtracted and felt auras that gave poor ol’ John Ratzenberger a lower-back problem that he didn’t even know he had.

The numerologist digitized her way to the conclusion that Mills is in a “hard-lesson cycle,” which either means the numerologist is really good at what she does or she watches “Access Hollywood” every night.

They also deciphered that Finnessey gets overwhelmed easily — a condition that should end now that she’ll have some more free time — and that Cyrus doesn’t like people to see his weaknesses, which is kind of refuted by the fact that he keeps showing up every week to dance.

Ultimately, the numerologist decided that Ali most naturally matches the show’s previous winners, while the clairvoyant said Ian Ziering should win after picking up on Ziering’s “purple light,” which also suggests that Prince has a heck of a shot at the title in a season to come.

Next, host Tom Bergeron announced that Cyrus — the Sanjaya Malakar of “Dancing” — was safe for another week, along with Ali, whose illegal move predictably didn’t blow it for her.

That’s when Finnessey and first-time “Dancing” partner Brian Fortuna were told they were in the bottom two. Ziering, Ratzenberger and Mills and their partners were then granted safety, leaving Drexler and Leeza Gibbons as the stars still threatened with elimination. Drexler, who finished a distant last in the judges’ scores, was granted a reprieve and that left Gibbons in danger with Finnessey.

But on a night that was wrought with “say what?” moments, there was little reaction from the crowd when Finnessey and Fortuna were asked to perform their last dance.

Victor Balta is a writer in Philadelphia.