Welcome to the semi-finals! The competition has been whittled down to two smiling Texans, a springy Iowan, and a Frenchman who won’t quit. This week Ty, Melissa, Shawn, and Gilles are charged with performing one Ballroom and one Latin dance each, two last chances to wow us before the judges and the viewing public will decide who goes to the finals, and compete for the (probably) coveted trophy.
Last week, we had 90 minutes to watch five couples perform two dances each. This week, we have two hours to watch four couples do the same. So, either tonight’s dances are going to be done reeeaaalllllly sllllllooooow, or else this show is going to have more padding than a pro hockey player. Sure enough, the episode begins not with the contestants descending the staircase, but with a pro performance set to “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash. As padding goes, they could have done a lot worse – the dance is hot, and the band and singers manage to do the song justice. Louis van Amstel choreographed the razor-sharp moves, and is one of the featured dancers, as is Ty’s partner Chelsie, who really must have had a busy week! Is she just assuming that she’s going to have a lot more free time after tomorrow night?
The pro dancers take their bows, and finally we are greeted by Tom, and by Samantha’s cleavage, as they introduce the four remaining couples, none of whom seem to be hobbled by injuries. Will we be able to go an entire episode without seeing the inside of a doctor’s office? Place your bets.
Memories, Like the Corners of My MRI
Before any actual competitive dancing can occur, first we must watch taped segments of each couple viewing and discussing their “breakthrough” Ballroom and Latin dances from this season. I can tell already that this exercise will take us well into the first half-hour, and I begin thinking about preparing a late snack. First, Melissa and Tony revel in their Fox Trot from Week 3, and speak rather technically about frames and feet. Tony remarks that the difficult moves aren’t difficult for Mel; it’s the easy things, like walking that trip her up. He kids, he kids! Then they break down their Samba, and Mel’s rump-shaking solo, showcasing her bedazzled tramp stamp. She remembers it as the first dance where she didn’t have to think about steps, and was able to let go and enjoy the dance. Tom ends the segment with some live banter, and a good zinger about the pair of blindingly white teeth blazing before him.
Next, Gilles and Cheryl talk about their Fox Trot, remembering it with a mix of confidence and fear. They remember Len’s critique, and Gilles says “well, he had to pick a little bit on the Frenchie.” Now now boys, you’re in one big union now! Then the duo (and I) wipe some drool remembering their hot Paso Doble. They tore up the floor that week, and it’s actually a treat to see it again.
Shawn and Mark appear next to dissect their Quickstep, where they feel Shawn’s personality finally came out (also when they broke the rules by breaking their hold). Then they recall their Paso, when Mark finally got her to stop laughing while dancing, and when she accidentally (?) slapped him kind of hard in the middle of the routine.
Finally, Ty and Chelsie remember surprising the viewers with their pretty-decent Quickstep in Week 2, which established that Ty might not disappear in the blink of a bull’s eye after all. Then they dissect their Lindy Hop, where Ty managed to loosen up (well, for him, anyway) and finally achieve some solidly high scores.
At this point, I’ve finished my turkey sandwich, which must mean that the live dancing will finally begin! Let’s start with the Ballroom dances:
Melissa & Tony – Quickstep
The challenge for Melissa this week is to make Len forget about her feet, which he targeted last week as her weak spot. During practice, we hear Tony say “Heel!” more times than Cesar Milan in an entire season of The Dog Whisperer. Will Mel’s dogs perform on command for the judges?
Melissa wisely covers up for this dance; there’s no belly-button or tramp stamp in sight as they glide around the floor to Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” The choreography is light as air, and while they dance gracefully and cleanly, they don’t seem ever to achieve total liftoff. At judging, Len is captivated, but Bruno and Carrie-Anne are left wanting a little more (to Len’s shock). 9 + 10 + 9 = 28
Gilles & Cheryl – Waltz
Somebody mixed up the practice footage in the editing room, because after being declared “over the top” for a provocative floor-rolling move last week, we see Cheryl preparing Gilles for their Waltz…by having him shake his rump about a thousand times while calling on the spirit of Lil’ Kim (aw, I miss ya darlin’) to overtake him. What the--? Things settle down as Cheryl invites champion Jonathan Roberts to act as an Elegance Drill Instructor to Gilles, to help instill some cleaner lines and quiet grace to counter the ever-burning fires inside him.
Right off the bat, I’m concerned to find Gilles seated in a chair on the dance floor. What kind of theatrics has Cheryl cooked up for the judges to criticize now? But, as soon as she reaches Gilles and he rises to take her in his arms, they seem to float effortlessly for the next couple of minutes. It’s all somewhat understated, but apparently very effective, as the judges fall over themselves declaring Gilles a contender. Gilles and Cheryl actually get misty in the kiss-and-cry segment. 10 + 10 + 10 = 30
Shawn & Mark – Argentine Tango
Shawn needs to put on her serious face again for the AT; rehearsals look tense. Rather than trying to hide her sturdy frame, Shawn’s dress for the dance is short-short, but cut just right to accentuate her strong moves on the floor. The dance is serious, but also dramatic and intricate; I think it’s the best dancing I’ve seen this pair do. It’s so good that I forget that it’s Mark dancing with her! The judges seem to agree, as they follow up one perfect score with another. 10 + 10 + 10 = 30
Ty & Chelsie – Viennese Waltz
In their practice montage, Ty provides us with the line of the night: “The samba is supposed to be like a party, but it’s more like a pain in th’ ass with a whole lotta steps you gotta remember.” To demonstrate, he tries to shake his rump as we saw Gilles do earlier, but he can’t separate his rump from the rest of his frame, and he ends up looking like he’s being electrocuted. Ty also lets us know that he is all too aware that a better dancer went home before him last week, but he resolves to justify his fans’ voting power this week with his Viennese Waltz.
He does his best, but dressed in white tie and tails, he looks like the tux never left the mannequin as he guides Chelsie (or hangs onto her for dear life) in her long flowing turquoise gown. The judges can’t stop complimenting how hard he’s worked, and how far he’s come, but then the same odd thing happens as before: Len says the dance was wonderful, but Bruno and Carrie-Anne argue with him over how flawed it was. Their arguing gets loud and heated, this time to the point where Tom can barely control them! Ty and Chelsie run back to Samantha to avoid the fireworks, and the judges manage to calm down enough to present their paddles without bashing each other in the heads with them. 8 + 9 + 8 = 25
It’s now time for the Latin section, and since we’ve already seen footage of those dances being rehearsed alongside the Ballroom pieces, the producers have to come up with a different time-killer. They’ve decided to fly to the stars’ hometowns and interview their friends and family, and of course, get them to produce baby pictures by the handful.
Melissa & Tony – Cha-Cha-Cha
Melissa loves Dallas, Texas, and her family. Her family talks about how tough she is, as we revisit scenes of her working through her agony in rehearsal. Then we are treated to most of Melissa's demo reel: shining as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, and holding hands with that Bachelor weasel as he tells her he loves her (I love how she jumps up and down at this news as if she’s won a car on The Price Is Right). Then we see her sitting and bitching the guy out at the reunion, and so goes Melissa’s career to date.
Melissa goes back to her bedazzled roots to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha, shining like a disco ball as she and Tony breeze confidently through the overall fun routine. But the judges think something is missing; Bruno didn’t see enough “hard thrust”, C-A thought the size of their steps was off, and Len (whose Novocaine has finally worn off, apparently) wasn’t as thrilled as he hoped he’d be. With all the criticism, you’d think the scores would be lower than: 9 + 9 + 9 = 27. (Total score: 55)
Gilles & Cheryl – Salsa
Some lucky DWTS crew got to fly to Cannes, France to tape Gilles’ hometown segment. He grew up in a simpler, tougher part of town, away from the glitzy home of the legendary film festival. He says the men use dancing there as a way to seduce women (see, it’s not his fault, he was born that way!). A bunch of French people speak well of him, and one friend spills the beans about Gilles’ love of Michael Jackson (hence the moonwalking earlier this season). His father was a humble baker with his body, and a huge mustache. Gilles is happy to be living the American dream, and hopes to win “the biggest trophy on national TV in America” – and I hope he starts watching some other channels.
Expectations are high to say the least. Gilles comes out of the gate shaking maracas, again a cheesy Cheryl touch, but the crowd whoops as expected. What follows is a pretty fiery salsa, set to a driving beat, and the pieces seem to come together. C-A pronounces Gilles a finalist, Len wishes he had an “11” paddle (!), and Bruno declares that Lil’ Kim is alive and well and living in Gilles’ pants! I think you know what happens next… 10 + 10 + 10 = 30, for a perfect 60.
Shawn & Mark – Jive
Des Moines girl Shawn started walking at 9 months, and hasn’t stopped since, says her near-identical-twin mother. We see lots of footage of her as a budding child gymnast, and an interview with her Karate Kid mentor, Chow, as well as kind words from her friend, future rhinoplasty recipient Sami Shapiro.
Oy vey! If you loved Melissa’s pink polka-dot Minnie Mouse get-up, you’ll flip for Shawn & Mark’s outfits, which make them look like Minnie’s cousins from outta town. Their Jive is fun but frantic and a little sloppy, and they come up with a cheesy ending where they jump on the judges’ desk and hold up fake “10” paddles. The judges wish there was more jive, and less jiggling and jokes. 9 + 8 + 9 = 26 (Total score: 56)
Ty & Chelsie – Samba
Most little boys want to be cowboys; for Ty it was just a matter of getting into the family business. He began calf-riding at the tender age of two. Celebrity wife Jewel lets us know that he is a very determined individual. Ty tells Chelsie that all of his friends voted unanimously that he wouldn’t make it past the first week, and they fist-pump to celebrate proving those yahoos wrong.
Napoleon had his Waterloo, and Ty has his Samba. Determination is admirable, but neither a sleeveless vest showing off his guns, nor a frilly dress that Chelsie seems to have borrowed from Julianne’s closet, can save the day. I’ll say this, though: he did get better at the rump shake. The judges congratulate Ty’s progress and Chelsie’s mentorship before the band plays them off. 8 + 7 + 8 = 23 (Total score: 48)
Will Ty be heading back to Texas tomorrow night, or will the fans provide a shocker to top last week’s Lil’ Kim send-off? Watch this space for iguanachocolate’s spine-tingling Results Show recap to find out!
Can you shake you rump like Gilles? I can! But PM me to talk about something else, please…