Country Night on Dancing with the Stars didn’t amount to much besides some goofy costuming and songs with a connection to Nashville. For the most part, it was still the same dances, but with the added pressure of knowing that it wasn’t a clean slate for the final eight, since the scores from last week carried over.
The show tried way too hard to convince us that the dancers are feeling the pressure! – seriously, if even Shawn Johnson is having a breakdown, the crying is getting out of hand. But it sure looks like at least six of our dancers aren’t going to have much to worry about on Tuesday night, as the elimination seems likely to come down to Kirstie Alley or Kelly Monaco. And at the end of the night, the judges gave us an indication of which of them they would like to see stick around.
There have been some signs that Sabrina Bryan is having some problems connecting with voters, but she added to last week’s high score by matching it again on Monday. Her rumba (yep, Nashville rumba) with Louis Van Amstel was set up as a tribute to a former boyfriend who was a drug addict. The judges appreciated her showing her “vulnerability,” which in this context means not only sharing an uncomfortable personal story, but proving she could flow with the dance instead of hammering her points home. The judges gave her a perfect 30, and while it’s still asking a lot to expect her to make the finals, she’s going to be safe this time around.
While Sabrina has been a judges’ favorite most of the season, Apolo Ohno has had trouble winning their favor, despite several excellent performances. He and Karina Smirnoff admitted they had a minor argument prior to last week’s show, which explains why they were called out for a lack of connection. But this week, on the Viennese waltz, they finally got the credit for nailing one of the ballroom dances – and the song, which was something maudlin about a woman with cancer, helped in that regard. Apolo matched Sabrina’s 30, so it’s nice that he and Karina won’t have anything to fight about this week. My money would be on her anyway.
Another Viennese waltz, another stellar score, this time for Melissa Rycroft, whose bum neck seems to come and go. When she happened to mention that partner Tony Dovolani hasn’t gotten a 10 for any dance since they originally partnered together, it was easy to guess what was ahead. This was a solid effort, though probably a tick below what Apolo ended up doing. Only Carrie Ann Inaba saw it that way, though: she gave the dance a 9.5, while Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli gave her Tony’s long-awaited 10. Melissa needs to tweak her neck more often, perhaps.
Shawn’s drama this week related to the aggravation of the knee injury that knocked her out of Olympic qualifying. She and Derek Hough had a cha cha that was heavy on the goofy (their song was something called “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”) and light on the usual gymnastic bounce Shawn usually brings to the game. It was still fun to watch, though, which was why it was surprising that Len the Grump called them out for gimmickry. Not for the first time this season, the judges all disagreed on Shawn’s score: Len 8.5, Carrie Ann 9.5, and Bruno 10.
Gilles Marini drew the short straw this week and had to dance first, which probably knocked down the score for his cha cha. Neither he nor Peta Murgatroyd have any naturally affinity for country, but he seemed to enjoy himself all night long, and ordinarily I would say that would pay off with the voters … but even for this show, their take on “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” was way campy, verging on bizarre, and I don’t know how much of it was actually cha cha. The score was 27.5 (Bruno, naturally, liked it more than the other judges), and he will have no trouble making it through.
Kelly and Valentin Chmerkovskiy needed to come back strong after clearly giving the weakest performance a week ago, but it’s unclear whether their tango did the trick. She seemed to have trouble grasping exactly how her frame was supposed to be, and overall it wasn’t as difficult as some other tangos we’ve seen. The pair kissed at the end, a nice little reminder of their alleged passionate affair, but it might not be enough. After scoring a 27, they are still at the bottom of the combined judges’ standings.
You might have gotten the impression in recent weeks that I’m about over Kirstie Alley, and the predictability of her weekly storyline is the main reason why. I’m getting tired of seeing her whine to Maksim Chmerkovskiy that she’s too old to compete with everyone else, Maks pushing her in rehearsal, and then seeing the pair “triumph” on Monday nights by not being completely terrible. Kirstie’s rumba was pretty decent – she can handle the slower, less athletic dances – but a 9.5 from Carrie Ann and Bruno was sort of ridiculous. Len’s 8.5 was more realistic.
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke had the night’s lowest score for their foxtrot, and I think what we’re seeing with him is an early-season winner who isn’t quite matching up with the skill level of more recent seasons. He had a good solo section (solos were part of this week’s requirement), but there were a few issues with timing at the beginning, and this became the rare week where the last dance of the night had the lowest score (8.5 from Carrie Ann and Len and a 9.5 from a very lenient Bruno). Emmitt would be a minor surprise to go this week, but he’s clearly the weakest male left.
The night concluded with a group routine with a vague country theme, interspersed with brief spotlights for the eight pairs. Unlike most such routines, there wasn’t any scoring per se, just a 2-point judges’ bonus for the dancer they thought shone the most. I thought Apolo or possibly Kelly did the best here, but the judges chose to give the two points to Kirstie, whose primary contribution was slapping Maks on the ass. Ugh. The bonus pulled her into a sixth-place tie with Emmitt, and moved her slightly more clear of Kelly, who now appears most in danger of leaving Tuesday.
How are you enjoying the progress of this season?