This week’s “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET) featured the quickstep (for the men) and the rumba (for the women), meaning that the women were tested on slinky sex appeal and the men on their ability to freely prance without embarrassment. The good and the bad sorted out with striking similarity to last week.
Stacy Keibler, wrestling hottie, and her partner were saddled with Nelly Furtado’s icky “I’m Like A Bird” as their rumba, and they still pulled it off. This is thanks, in part, to the fact that Stacy’s partner either has a transparent case of wanting to sleep with his celebrity dancer; or is an evil genius cynically trying to exploit the impression that he has a transparent case of wanting to sleep with his celebrity dancer.
Stacy received a 9 and two 10s, the kind of score inflation that makes it easier to understand how Kelly Monaco managed three 10s for a performance in last year’s finale. What will the 10-giving judges do if Stacy improves at all next week? Underline the “10” on the paddle? Apply glitter?
Also having another strong week were Drew Lachey and partner Cheryl, who is the pushiest and therefore most effective of the professional coaches. Drew looked good in practice, so it was no surprise that his quickstep was strong. It was, on the other hand, a surprise to see the song “Neutron Dance” revived after years of invisibility. Come to think of it, many of us wouldn’t mind seeing Drew Lachey actually do the Neutron Dance, whatever it may be.
Wastin' away again in RosaritavilleThe most notable improvement of the week from someone who wasn't wretched last week came in the form of the lovely Giselle Fernandez, whose swoonworthy partner Jonathan (fortunately) helped bring out “Rosarita,” her inner sex kitten, for their rumba to (unfortunately) “Take My Breath Away.” While Giselle’s rumba may still not have been as kittenish as Stacy’s, it was one of those dances where the celebrity has such a good time that you want to applaud at the end.
Still hanging around in “fair to middling” territory was Tia Carrere, who met a hula coach and not only loosened her hips, but wound up throwing her partner a few deadly lustful glares of just the type that make the rumba difficult for people like last season’s Trista Rehn Sutter, who has never given a lustful glare to anything except a pink sandal with ribbon roses on it.
Also mid-pack: George Hamilton, who took another step toward self-caricature by being unable to perform the suave quickstep as a result of his bum knee, despite the interventions of his chiropractor and sports medicine guy. George’s goofy top-hat-clad dance, as the judges noted, incorporated everything from Charleston elements to tap-dancing, lacking only anything resembling a quickstep. More on-target was George’s Master P mockery in his post-dance interview, where he claimed to be doing it all for the guys back in the ‘hood.
Jerry Rice was quick (har har) to see the parallels between the quickstep and his previous career in football, so he took Anna, his partner, to run some footwork drills at the stadium. It doesn’t take a genius, incidentally, to note that the silly practice-footage segments are going to get very stale in a hurry once the most obvious gimmicks are exhausted. Someone had better be working on some backup plans.
Still, once Jerry and Anna got out on the dance floor, it was hard not to root for the big lug. When an unlikely candidate like Jerry Rice is happy to commit to something conventionally believed to be as sissified as ballroom dancing, it actually seems infinitely less sissified than… well, we’ll get to Master P. Jerry, for the moment, is near the middle of the rankings.
Near the bottom? Lisa Rinna and her partner Louis, who looks more and more like a freeze-dried version of Rinna’s husband Harry Hamlin. Lisa went to a pole-dancing class this week in order to set her hips free, not that they have ever appeared particularly inhibited to those following her soap-hopping career. She later made cat noises and implied that this was going to be the sexiest, the down-and-dirtiest, the FCC-provoking-est rumba ever. And then the rumba started, to… “Your Song.” Apparently, production hasn’t heard the informal rule that you can’t convincingly caress your own body to Elton John music. Unless, of course, you are Elton John.
The bitterest dancer was Tatum O’Neal. She was uniformly called out for weak legs, the sort of thing that we would never notice, but in retrospect, we can credibly pretend to have seen. “Ah, yes,” we say. “Weak legs. Just what I was thinking.” Tatum was very snippy after receiving her poor scores. In fact, she was petulant enough that it was easy to understand how she once got along with John McEnroe, “got along” being a relative term.
The dancer everyone was waiting for, of course, was Master P. Unlike last week's cha-cha, which allowed him to largely remain stationary while partner Ashly danced, the quickstep requires a fair amount of movement that’s very nearly skipping by many definitions. Would he even try?
To his credit, P improved markedly from last week. He had learned the entire dance and he executed all of it — even the parts with flouncing. (And yes, he mentioned again that he was doing it all for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.) He could not quite let go of his symbolic resistance, however, and again wore inappropriate shoes on the apparent theory that he would still be himself as long as he had his “lucky shoes,” but that if he put ballroom shoes on, he would be someone else entirely. Someone embarrassing.
Master P, by not being quite as egregiously neglectful of the project as last week, may run out of luck. If he’s not going to be an awful spectacle, after all, then he’s just big and ungainly, like Evander Holyfield. Tatum, however, probably has less of a natural fan base than the other two of the bottom three, and she has to be seen as a strong candidate for booting, especially if audiences decide that watching a clumsy guy in the wrong shoes is more entertaining than watching a snooty pill in the right ones.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.