By my count, there were six different dances tonight, with four of them only being performed by one couple. This season had left behind the variety-heavy format of last season, getting back to the much simpler two dances per night format. I personally would prefer producers to simplify it even more, going back to the original format of all the women stars performing one dance, and all the men performing another. It makes it so much easier to compare apples to apples.
At least we've culled all the rotten apples from this season, leaving seven hard-working stars, all of whom tonight showed remarkable growth since week one. Tonight, Melissa took the lead solo for the first time with a sleek Argentine tango, and Shawn cha-chaed her way to a second-place finish, with her highest score so far. Last week's top scorer, Li'l Kim, slipped to fourth place with a too-tame rumba. Here's a rundown of how it all played out, and stay tuned for a bit of talk on the retro group dance.
Melissa and Tony: With a dramatic dance that allowed lifts and super-intricate choreo, Melissa registered what appeared to be a pitch-perfect Argentine tango. Len's eagle eye did catch a one-point deduction error, but from my seat, that routine looked flawless. Judges' score: 29/30
Shawn and Mark: This cha-cha, performed to Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T.," was an adorable mix of sassy and sexy. Shawn's hip action was leaps and bounds better than in the first few weeks, and she looked like she was having more fun than in any dance so far. Her first ten of the season was well-deserved; I really can't see why she didn't get more than just Bruno's. And can I just point out that Mark's King-of-Pop suit was embellished with sequins, all the way down to his peeking white socks? Gotta love it. Judges' score: 28/30
Chuck and Julianne: Finally, Chuck goes for it all the way! Up until now, his movements have read like a man who's still making fun of the way men do ballroom dance, rather than a man actually putting genuine, whole-hearted effort into a dance. With tonight's red-hot samba, he worked those hips and chicken-winged like he meant it! And he even rocked the head-to-toe red silk, a la Mark Ballas! Woot! Judges' score: 27/30
Gilles and Cheryl: These last two weeks, the Frenchman has made a pretty compelling argument that he is a one-trick pony. When it comes to aggressive and sexy, he's a perfect 10. But at last weeks' fun, bouncy jive, he faltered, and in this week's understated, romantic Viennese waltz, his technique was a bit off. However, he's probably still one of most naturally talented dancers this season, along with Melissa. Judges' score: 27/30
Li'l Kim and Derek: This booty-licious rapper scaled back her hip action for the earthy rumba, and the surprisingly, the judges protested the lack of sexiness. My heart hurt for Derek, who seemed to be working so hard at striking the right note with his choreography in the practice footage. If the judges want to mark down for technique, I can't really argue with that, my knowledge of ballroom technique consisting of an introductory course in ballroom dancing in college (where I scored a perfect "P" for pass, thank you very much.). But to deduct point for dancing an understated, graceful, well-executed rumba, but without enough sex appeal? I object! Judges' score: 26/30
Ty and Chelsie: This classic waltz brought back the Ty we saw acing the foxtrot. As this champion bullrider said, "I'm good at holdin' on." The judges gave unanimous approval with no criticism — except Carrie Ann's comment about his fearful facial expression — but then all docked him two points each! I wanted to crack a bottle of strawberry wine over their heads, those sorry suckers. Judges' score: 24/30
Lawrence and Edyta: This waltz brought out the gentleman in Lawrence, and I agreed with Carrie Ann's comments that he seemed to make stronger, freer movements this time. And wow, that was the most beautiful dress I've ever seen Edyta in, designed by LT himself! Well, I doubt he could show us his sketch of it, but nevertheless, Edyta actually can dance in more than legwarmers and a bikini! He did make some mistakes here, but his dancing was certainly improved from his performance in previous ballroom dances. Judges' score: 21/30
The first group dance of the season certainly lived up to the group-dance standard of being a little out of control and a lot of fun! I wasn't around back in the '60s, but was the standard of dress really so unevenly matched? The girls rocked white go-go boots and miniskirts while the guys nerded out in cardigans, buttoned-to-the-neck polos, and sweater vests? And I didn't realize Jeff Daniels' Dumb and Dumber 'do, which Chuck sported with aplomb, was popular back then. Anyway, historical quibbles aside, I love seeing the hand jive, death-defying lifts, and the duck walk all in one dance. The guys' moves did get a little "Dancing with the Clowns," as Lawrence, who was the only dancer dressed in sleek, totally modern black, put it.
Whew! What a wild night! After last week's halfway point, every elimination becomes tough, as all these stars have worked so hard to get to this point. I suppose I'll go out on a limb and guess it will be Lawrence, but who knows? I haven't gotten a single prediction right this season, although last week's was a no-brainer! My previous failures made me hesitant to make any claim at all. Tune in tomorrow night at 9 pm Eastern / 8 pm Central on ABC (at the end of the hour) to find out!