Chelsea. Kirstie. Hines. Three rich, successful celebrities who decided to take 5 months off from their careers and enter into a mock ballroom dance competition. Fueled by their ambition and drive (and the agents constantly reminding them that this will be good for their asking prices), they left all the other hopeful celebrities in their wake to reach this night: The Battle for The Tacky Trophy!
Insert music from every 80's training montage here.
This is how the show basically began, only Tom’s voiceover was deathly serious, and the clips edited as if this was the Olympics. Oh well, help yourself…
Liiiiiive, it’s the end of another season of Dancing With the Stars! It was a good season. Not a great season, but a good one. But more on that later. For now, let’s enjoy the extra video screens, additional floor-mounted lights, better-dressed audience, and oh look! There’s The Troupe and the noncompeting pros, who dance their usual energetic best to introduce this season’s losing stars, who will each get another moment in the spotlight tonight. After all, it’s a two-hour show, and the rest of the actual competitive dances and results will fill about 20 minutes tops. As the stars walk the floor, the confetti drops and Tom and Brooke appear to summarize what we’re in for: a lot of hype and filler, and in the last 2 minutes, the results! Let’s go!
First up is an edited package showing some behind-the-scenes footage from last night’s dances. Chelsea is pumped because they got 10s, so she has no regrets, no matter what happens. Kirstie and Maks can feel the crowd on their side as they score 9’s for their efforts, so they know all is not lost. Hines & Kym feel nothing but pride and a sense of accomplishment. Are they unstoppable?
Our first official filler is a performance by the Black Eyed Peas, who still refuse to rename themselves Fergie, Will.I.Am and The Other Two Guys. They choose a song that features very little Fergie, which causes me to scratch my head. There aren’t so many lyrics in the song as there is a lot of patter and chanting about being the best partier you can, no matter what the obstacles. I appreciate that they’re looking out for me in this way. But the song sucks, and the four main band members move like it’s a high school talent night. Filler nutritional value: 4 (out of 10)
"Ya, Bristol couldn't make it. She's at home, detailing the bus."
Next up, a video piece features the judges’ commentary on the three finalists: Hines is the best football star they’ve ever had on the show; Kirstie is the best old lady they’ve ever had on the show. And Chelsea is the best overachieving young blond princess without a care in the world that they’ve ever had on the show. (I won’t score this as filler as it’s a built-in part of the finals.)
And with that, the three finalists descend the stairs and ascend three platforms that Fergie and Will forgot to take with them after their number. The crowd goes crazy, as instructed, and as the stars and their pro partners stand there waving and wondering what to do, this is of course a perfect time for a commercial.
When we return, first eliminee Psycho Mike Catherwood is featured in a staged video clip. He gets dressed up in his tightest camo dance tights, and goes to an “audition” for new Troupe members. The only non-evil thing to come out of this piece: we get to hear the Irish guy from the Troupe speak. Hawt! Filler nutritional value: 3 (Mike is a total troll, but he does rock those tights.)
Back on the floor, Mike and Lacey dance to EMF’s "Unbelievable." Mike knows none of the steps. Thankfully it’s as brief as it is painful. Aaron Carter cheers from the audience. Bye, Mike! Don’t feel the need to come back, we already have Jeff Ross.
Next, Tom and Brooke narrate an overview of the first two weeks of the season, when we discovered that Kirstie and Ralph and Chris were going to last, and that Mike and Wendy Williams were should have stayed home.
Moving on to Week 3, Petra is shown talking about her charity work. After this, Petra and Dimity recreate their storytelling dance to her friend Josh Groban’s rendition of “Raise Me Up” -- only this time, Josh walks out on the stage, singing it live! Petra is overwhelmed, but she and Dmitry still manage to perform the most beautiful dance of the night, finalists included. She should have lasted longer.
Now that's good TV.
Tom & Brooke then introduce Kendra Wilkinson & Louis, but Kendra gets greedy and brings along several other male pro dancers for the ride. But she lets Louis wear the splashy, colorful vest so he won’t feel bad. They all shake their hops and have a good time, and what the heck, we have a good time with them. Laughs are shared as she almost falls off the judges’ desk at the end. Bless her…
Classical Week, a viewer favorite, is profiled next. We see Kirstie’s shoe come off again, and we hear Carrie Ann accuse Kendra of being afraid of elegance again. Then we see Mark & Chelsea commit an assault on Harry Potter. But that’s nothing compared to next two segments, when we see the entire show and cast commit assaults on America (the hopefully one-time-only America Week) and harmless pop music (Guilty Pleasures Week).
These two awful weeks also cause us to lose two beloved stars, Sugar Ray Leonard and Chris Jericho. To make it up to them, the show stages a “battle” dance between them. I like seeing Chris & Cheryl’s paso doble. Talking with Tom after the dance, Chris shines one more time with his latest impression: Bruno! It is perfect, right down to the chest-stroking. Continuing the tradition set by Donny Osmond, the bit ends with Bruno making out with a male star. Carrie Ann caps the moment by flashing her 10 paddle, and Chris basks in his first and only perfect score. Tom beams at all of this, and we can see why he still gets such a kick out of this circus.
Watch that right hand, Bruno!
What happens next is – it’s just – I’m still at a loss for words. Wendy Williams taped a segment where she interviews herself and Tony on her talk show set. I think they meant for the jokes to be bad, since they edited some obviously fake audience reactions in between the bad jokes. But the whole thing was just a senseless mess with no point of view, or any real reason to exist. I need some Pepto. Poor Tony just can't catch a break on this show. Filler nutritional value: Zero
Rather than dance, Wendy and Tony stand next to Tom & Brooke as they introduce this year’s Macy’s Design-a-Dance performance. The creator of the winning concept (a cop dances with some hookers, or something) is shown sitting in the audience – I’ll have to remember to make an entry this fall. This year, Maks is chosen as the male pro, but three female pros are chosen: Cheryl, Chelsea and Lacey. Musical accompaniment is provided by DWTS alum Belinda Carlisle and The Go-Go’s, who are still together and touring as we speak. (By the way, Jane Weidlin is still a hot little pixie.). Despite the fact that he still has to compete later, Maks gives his all as he shakes and shimmies with his three scantily-clad female colleagues. It’s nice to see a rare DAD of quality! Filler nutritional value: 8
Next, Romeo takes the stage and is lauded for his words of inspiration for children, and he and a quickly-changed Chelsea dance while a children’s choir pops up in the background. The orchestra’s singer hurts herself trying to copy Whitney Houston. It ends with a love fest between the star and the hosts. Looks like Romeo has finally erased the bad memory of his father’s past disgrace after all.
The next week of the season is profiled with surprising honesty: Len critiques Mark’s choreography, and Mark is shown having a profanity-laden hissy in the Star Tank, as a helpless Chelsea yearns to crawl into her trailer rather than be associated with this tantrum. Then, Kendra is shown dancing elegantly and receiving praise from the judges…and is then shown being eliminated instead of Chelsea & Mark. I like that the show doesn’t let viewers forget things like this, because ultimately the viewers are culpable in situations like this.
Next, Hines is shown getting his first 10, while Ralph injures himself and Kirstie is shown falling all over the place in rehearsals. Romeo is shown the door, followed by Ralph and his bum bag. We also see Kym’s awful accident, which devastates Hines. After all this, the finalists (remember them? This is the finals) are shown standing on the dance floor again…for no other reason than to lead us into another commercial. Sigh.
After the break, the finalists are gone again, but this time it’s okay, because Ralph and Karina take the stage to recreate their winning jive-flavored quickstep. Injuries and bad luck aside, Ralph shows us once more that he was the most elegant male dancer of the season by far. He was a real asset to the show.
So, it’s time for the final dances, yes? No! But this last bit of filler is pretty dang good: basically a rap video is made from a syncopated mix of the judges’ most colorful comments from the season. Everyone is tickled by this quick flash of brilliance, as am I. Filler nutritional value: 8
Now will we get to see the final dances? Apparently so, for there stand the finalists, dressed in familiar costumes, ready to recreate their favorite dances for a final round of
10’sscores, hoping to make a difference to the previous scores and the viewers’ verdict.
Tom interviews each of them, first asking Chelsea when she changed her tune from being non-competitive to a hair-pulling honorary Fight Club member. Chelsea giggles and offers a demure, humble answer. Tom then asks Kirstie how it feels to revisit her very first dance ten weeks later, with her new, slimmer body. Kirstie giggles and offers a demure, humble answer. Tom then finally loosens up a little, and chats with Hines about visualization, joining Emmitt Smith as a fellow NFL DWTS champ, and setting up a rivalry between the two footballers for the official Inaba-crowned title of “Twinkle Toes.” And we all finally exhale. And now we dance? Yes…right after this! Sigh.
After the break, Tom does as he is told and introduces the newest Bachelorette, whatshername, who is sitting in the audience and smiling, as per the terms in her 200-page show contract. And with two-thirds of the show over, Tom finally introduces the first couple to dance, Mark & Chelsea. Sorry, I mean Chelsea & Mark!
In the taped rehearsal package, we see them unanimously agree to recreate their Harry Potter-themed Viennese Waltz as their final dance. It’s a surprising choice to me – the judges were decidedly mixed about it, and it was one of the dances that caused Len to single out Mark and his pushy, showy choreography as part of the problem. Beyond that, it’s one of several dances in which Mark doesn’t give Chelsea much to do beyond standing there and waving her arms, supposedly causing him to break out in moves that make him look like the Scarecrow in The Wiz 2: Electric Boogaloo. The lighting effects give it a little polish, but in the end it’s still a lopsided, unfocused showcase for Mark. After it’s over, we all brace for the judges’ comments.
But what’s this? All of a sudden, Tom, Len, Bruno and Carrie Ann are all in love with the dance, with Chelsea, and with Mark, and the dance is suddenly thrilling and beautiful to behold. Ten! Ten! Ten! WHAT??
Something is up here.
Kirstie & Maks are next, and Kirstie chooses the cha cha, their first dance, or as Kirstie calls it, their “first date.” As they run through the routine this time, Maks observes that Kirstie isn’t passing out or needing to sit on the floor every ten minutes, like she did in the beginning. This show has really been transformative for her.
They take the floor one more time. It’s still not perfect, but Kirstie is twice as confident as in Week 1, and her footwork is twice as sharp, and she and Maks have a great time, and the audience has a great time with them. But again, it’s hardly a “finals” caliber dance, and it wasn’t perfect. What do the judges say? Ten! Ten! Ten! In a quick cut to Chelsea & Mark, Chelsea is beaming and clapping, while Mark is stone-faced and robotically clapping. The kicker: Maks is so happy, he forgets to grab Tom’s butt on the way to the Star Tank.
Yep, something is definitely up here.
Finally, Hines & Kym take the floor with the last competitive dance of the season, which will be…well they can’t decide, they loved all of them. But Hines’ mom loved their samba, so the samba it is. Hines is still prone to bounce a little more than he should, but otherwise, it’s a pretty flawless and elegant samba. It’s the kind of “Ten! Ten! Ten!” dance that actually earns the scores, something that has been sorely lacking this season.
So, all the couples finished their seasons with perfect 30’s. So yeah, something is up. Could it be that the scores aren’t that close, and the final dance won’t make a difference, so maybe the producers subtly hinted to the judges with a wink that they could go easy on the dancers tonight? Or maybe they just felt like keeping things light and celebratory in a season that was (thankfully) drama-free? Hmm…
It’s all over but the ranking. So, why not have one more bit of filler? Season 3 alum Sara Evans returns to send off the season with her #1 hit "A Little Bit Stronger," which serves as a fitting backdrop to a compilation of the best and most dramatic moments with the three finalists. In three minutes, we are reminded that yes, this was a very good season, and in some ways a return to form for the show. Tom is touched, and so am I.
It’s time to announce the third-place finisher: I’m thinking it will be Kirstie, with her lower judges’ scores. But surprise! It’s Chelsea & Mark! I must say, it didn’t seem to come as a surprise to them when they heard the news. Maybe they read that site that tracks viewer votes, like the rest of us. An emotional Chelsea and a resigned Mark take center stage one more time and say their farewells.
And with that, we are left with Kirstie & Maks, and Hines & Kim. If Chelsea and her 10’s came in third, then the viewers really did decide the winner this year. And that winner is: Hines & Kym! They are thrilled, but the more interesting reaction is when Maks spins off camera with his face buried in his hands. He really wanted it this time. He could taste it. Kirstie is disappointed, but Maks looks devastated.
But back to the winner! Either Hines or Kirstie would have been a good sentimental choice, but Hines has the added distinction of having actually been the best dancer as well, so there’s really no cause for complaint. They cut to a crowd of people cheering with signs in Pittsburgh, the epicenter of Steeler Nation, who helped carry Hines to the win.
In some final thoughts, Maks says that Kirstie is the latest of ten trophies that he has won in his time on the show. It’s a sweet and touching thought that has been twisted and misunderstood in the media.
Kym Johnson officially joins Cheryl, Mark, Julianne and Derek in the pros’ “Multi-Trophy” club. In fact, other than Alex (or Charlotte, depending on who you ask) in Season 1, these five dancers have accounted for every win in the show’s history. Suddenly, Maks’ reaction seems to take on more meaning. Will he be back in the fall? Will Mark? Will Derek return? (Please?) Or will several dancers from the Troupe be getting promotions faster than they thought they would? Let’s make a date to meet back here in September to find out. Thanks to my fellow (and more reliable) recapper Arielflies for an entertaining season. Have a great summer!