Dancing With the Stars Weekly Recap November 15, 2011
“Dancing with the Stars” travels to Argentina for the semifinals – at least spiritually.
The four remaining couples have three dances to test their mettle. Each has a Latin dance and a part in a cha-cha relay, but most anticipated may be the Argentine tango. Carrie Ann has to relax in her role of lift police officer, as women’s feet can leave the dance floor. It’s the perfect blend of sex and sensuality, or as Len puts it, “The ballroom tango is the dance the husband does with his wife. The Argentine tango is the dance the husband does with his girlfriend.”
Round 1: Remaining Latin dances
It’s fitting Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovsky, not exactly the most mellow of couples, begin their evening with the intense paso doble. For once, their rehearsal footage doesn’t include fighting or passive-aggressive behavior. We do hear for the first time of Hope’s aches and pains, notably a torn labrum that requires shots she’d been saving for the Olympics. Hope’s hair and wardrobe “Can’t Be Tamed,” and neither can her technique. Much like when she did the tango to “You Give Love a Bad Name” earlier this season, Hope becomes more about the character elements than the dance ones. Maks is hurling and flinging her around the dance floor, and at times she doesn’t even have to dance. The judges all say basically the same thing: The attack was good, but in capturing that, control was lost. Score: 21 (Carrie Ann 7, Len 7, Bruno 7).
After their perfect night last week, J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff have sky-high expectations. Their rehearsal footage also consists of an injury: J.R.’s twisted ankle. One has to wonder how much Karina tried to choreograph around it, based on the cape twirling at the start (more than usual for a paso) and her swirly dress sashaying in front of J.R. in such a way that the audience doesn’t see his footwork. When one does see the dance, something seems off, as if J.R. is favoring the weak ankle. Indeed he is: He confirms to host Tom Bergeron that he twisted it again during the dance. The judges are apologetic but say they must take his hunched-over posture into account when scoring. Score: 23 (Carrie Ann 8, Len 7, Bruno 8).
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke start the sambas, and as Rob says, “Apparently my butt is a secret weapon in the samba.” They come out on a parade float, which seems like a Maks move to delay a mediocre dance, but once he’s on the floor, Rob has the emotional breakout he needs to make the finals. Sometimes, he smiles in a way that suggests he’s reminding himself to do so. This time, the happiness and joy flow from him. He and Cheryl are in sync, and he’s moving faster than he ever has. Yes, that butt is an asset. The arms remain floppy and lack crispness, though. Carrie Ann gushes – Rob is her boy toy this season. She and Len had concerns about the parade float, too, but the dancing eliminated that. Score: 28 (Carrie Ann 10, Len 9, Bruno 9).
“DWTS” clearly wants a redemptive arc for Ricki Lake and Derek Hough, sticking them in the finale spot. Derek is surprised at how easily the samba, considered the toughest of the Latin dances, is coming to Ricki. The moments are drama and neurosis free. (See the Argentine tango footage if you’re looking for that.) The live version of the dance follows through on that, as Ricki is sharp and clean. She’s trying, and succeeding, at following Carrie Ann’s advice about her shoulders and Len’s about her footwork. It’s not as punchy and fun as Rob’s, but it is tighter all the way around. The judges take note of Ricki’s hard work. Score: 30 (10s from everyone). The perfect score felt inevitable – the producers so very much want to have a J.R. vs. Ricki finale.
Round 2: Argentine tango for all, and family introductions
The best Argentine tango dancers in the world, Sandor and Parissa, choreograph an incredible routine. Yes, it has pros (Tony Dovolani, Kym Johnson, Anna Trebunskaya) and Troupe members, but it’s all about the world-renowned masters. The others are just the appetizer for complicated lifts, amazing leg extensions and heat.
Before the Argentine tangos, we go all Lifetime with our stars.
Hope grew up a tomboy in Washington; her talking heads include Mom, Grandma, Brother, Sister, two World Cup teammates and a man I’d enjoy seeing on “DWTS,” men’s soccer star Landon Donovan. The story doesn’t shy away from the difficult, both Hope’s controversial statements about goal-keeping during the 2007 World Cup and her relationship with her father, whom Hope adored despite his time in jail and on the streets. As for the Argentine tango, it begins with Hope writhing on the judges’ table for an extended period. The dance has ambition and lifts, but those lifts aren’t always pretty. Hope’s entrances and exits lack grace. Still, Maks does a fist pump afterward. The judges are pleased, though Carrie Ann expresses the same issues with the lifts. Score: 24 (all 8s).
From the emotional rumba of Week 3, we know about J.R.’s accident in Iraq and the 33 subsequent surgeries. This time, we hear from his mother, who gave him strength and support during his darkest days. She’s also the person who told him even as a child that he should just smile, despite what he’s going through. Other talking heads: his girlfriend, three former “All My Children” castmates (including former “DWTS”ers Cameron Mathison and Susan Lucci), a retired Army sergeant and an executive director of Operation Finally Home. J.R.’s Argentine tango with Karina has a smoky, back-street, forbidden taste. J.R. masks whatever pain he’s feeling during the potent lifts. He curses immediately afterward – the dance’s ending seemed off – but the judges are thrilled with what they saw. They especially like the mounts and dismounts (Carrie Ann) and the sexually charged nature of the Argentine tango (Bruno). Score: 27 (all 9s).
Rob’s “getting to know you footage” goes more in-depth with the relationship with his father. Poor Rob was tortured by his older sisters, as seen from a photo of him in a dress and makeup at their doing, but had his father as an escape and inspiration. Robert Kardashian Sr.’s quick death from cancer seemed to shake his son’s self-confidence at 16 and made him obsessed with fulfilling Dad’s wish of USC. But then what to do with life? “DWTS” has opened him up, according to Mama Kris, stepdad Bruce, sister Khloe and friend Jesse. (Where’s Season 12 contestant and fellow USC alum Romeo?)
The Argentine tango is Cheryl’s dance, she says, and viewers agree. She and Season 8’s Gilles Marini are responsible for the show’s second-most-popular dance of all time, according to voting tied to the 200th episode of “DWTS” last fall.
It seems once a night, the judges and I disagree, and so it goes with Rob’s Argentine tango. I thought he was disconnected and lacking energy; the judges felt passion and power. I will agree with Len that Rob is peaking at the right time. Score: 27 (9s across the board).
As one might expect, Ricki’s footage focuses a lot on her body-image journey, which began when she was molested as a child in her home. We also hear about her time as a talk-show host, her tough divorce and move to L.A., but, oddly, not her work in educating people about more-responsible childbirth. As one also might expect, Ricki has concerns about the lifts based on her former fat-girl self, and practice with Derek turns into a therapy session. Derek is selling the heck out of this Argentine tango. Ricki looks physically stronger than she has all season, though she’s breathless and worried afterward. (Carrie Ann later compliments her improving core strength.) She could use more passion – the coldness, which should appear as intensity, comes across more as “nervous.” Len says, “I don’t think you know how good that was.” Score: 29 (Carrie Ann 10, Len 9, Bruno 9).
Round 3: Cha-cha relay
From the ABC press release: “In the Cha Cha relay … all couples will dance to the same song. Their Cha Cha will not be scored, but it will be ranked by the judges: The couple who takes first place in the ranking will receive 10 points, the second-place couple will get 8 points, the third-place couple will get 6 points and the fourth-place couple will take 4 points.”
The couples draw numbers backstage, and Ricki and Derek go first. It’s a lot of dazzle from Derek, neat steps from Ricki. Hope and Maks follow with fringed pants and an inability to keep in time. J.R.’s hips look great, the steps ginger. (That ankle really is bothering him.) Rob and Cheryl finish with fun. The winner: Rob and Cheryl, who get the 10 points. Ricki and Derek get 8 points, J.R. and Karina 6, and Hope and Maks 4.
Final totals for the night: Ricki and Derek 67, Rob and Cheryl 65, J.R. and Karina 56, Hope and Maks 49.
The two pairs in danger of going home were Hope Solo (who was criticized last night for not matching any artistry with her aggression) and JR Martinez (who the judges disappointed with his reserved movements). But ultimately, Hope Solo was sent home, and she told Brooke Burke, ""This competition is one of the toughest competitions I've ever been a part of. Instead of trying to win a Mirror Ball Trophy, I'm going to try to win a gold medal this summer at the Olympics. Maks was amazing, the producer of the show! Thank you, Maks, for having me on your show."