Well Dance Fans, we’ve all hung in there through a season that’s been silly, competitive, emotional, surprising, shocking, and sometimes even entertaining. Not to mention some behind the scenes tabloid drama! And no, I’m not talking about our recaps! Dancing With The Stars has enjoyed unprecedented popularity this season, and now it’s time for the two remaining stars and their professional partners to show us what they’ve got with their very last three dances of this season. Join me won’t you, and let’s read about it!
Tom Bergeron begins with a segment listing all the losers that have left up until this point. It’s like a Mickey Mouse club roll call of the show’s also-rans. We begin with Tucker Carlson, who did little besides sit in a chair while his partner danced around him; and we end with Joey Lawrence. Aw, Whoa-y. We miss you! Do you miss us?
Then, the final two teams descend the split stairway: Emmitt and Cheryl in green costumes, Mario and Karina in burgundy and pink tones. As the audience cheers, our final four competitors look ecstatic. “Who would’ve thought it would all come back to the football hero and the heartthrob?” Tom asks. Sam spills some statistics: 9 other stars have left the ballroom. The two stars and dancers who remain have spent 645 hours in training and performed 24 competitive dances. For the first time ever on DWTS they will all perform three dances in tonight’s show. Also, each couple will perform their first routine to the same song. After that, each will repeat their favorite dance from the season. And for the third dance, each couple will perform a “Freestyle” dance where, as Sam puts it, “Anything can happen”. There are no rules in the Freestyle.
Blast From The Past
A stroll down memory lane with our final competitors.
We begin with Week 1.
Emmitt: Said he did not know what to expect for his first dance, a Cha Cha. Cheryl wore a yellow fringed costume and Emmitt was all smiles as they danced to “Son of a Preacher Man”. Carrie Ann Inaba told Emmitt, “You can dance!”. Mario: Was very nervous the first dance. He’s a fierce competitor and did not want to fail his partner. Emmitt said he pegged him as the one to beat. In rehearsals: Cheryl noticed Emmitt’s smile early on. Karina took Mario to the boxing ring because he would not listen to her.
Week 2 - Quick Step. Mario broke the rules and the judges were angry. Cheryl brought a bar into rehearsals to help Emmitt with posture.
Week 3 - Karina emphasizes sticking to the rules. Mario says he and Karina could relate to the passion of the Tango. Crowd loved it, but Mario broke the rules again and the judges were angry again. Mario thinks this is when viewers labeled him as the rebel. Emmitt’s Tango got the worst score.
Week 4 - Cheryl took Em’s anger over the Tango and moved it into the Paso Doble. Emmitt fell in rehearsal so Cheryl took him to the Bull (clunkiest segueway ever!) Louis the Bull! Good to see him again. I’m sure he’s long since been the chipped beef sandwich picked out of some construction worker’s teeth. The Paso got a great score. Mario’s Paso did also with the top score.
Week 5 - Emmitt’s learning to loosen up his hips. He’s learning routines quicker. His Samba won the judges’ praise, with Carrie Ann dancing her comments, and Len naming it the best of the night. Mario’s Rumba was very sexy and Bruno hinted at a romance between Mario and Karina. Finally, we see a montage of Mario and Karina hugging and kissing. Guess that settles the question of “are they or aren’t they”.
Week 6 - Cheryl brought in the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders to help Emmitt with the Jive *?*. Bruno said Emmitt can “Boogie with the best”. Mario dropped Karina on her head during Mambo rehearsal. He was very nervous during the performance but still ended up with the top score of the evening.
Week 7 - Two dances, one evening. For their first dance, Emmitt and Cheryl’s waltz was elegant. Their second dance, a Mambo, got an excellent score. Karina impersonated Marilyn Monroe for their first dance, a Fox Trot. Doubt she could get a job in Boystown. But Mario liked it, and she looked great in dance # 2, in a shimmery silver costume.
Week 8 - Karina and Mario were exhausted, but she got her second wind the Saturday before the show. This is the week they had their amazing waltz, then a lively Samba. This Samba earned Bruno’s “Super Mario!” comment. Emmitt & Cheryl did a fine Fox Trot and a sensual Rumba, both garnering praise from judges.
Week 9 - Mario really wanted to redeem his Tango and did with three 10s. Emmitt wanted to try harder once he heard that; and his Cha Cha got a perfect 30 also.
Talk Talk Talk Talk
We round out the ‘look at the past season’ with comments about their opponent: Mario calls Emmitt nice and likable but says he lacks the ‘secret weapon, Karina Smirnoff’. Emmitt wants to knock Mario off the top of the board and “win it all”. He says he has “sacrificed so much”. He’s a family man who’s spent a lot of time away from home, I think is what he means.
Len says that Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” is the song chosen. Both teams will have to dance to this song. Len thought it would be versatile. Mario and Emmitt could have chosen any style, but both happen to have chosen a Samba. Len says this means it’s down to whose choreography is best, and who “comes out and sells it”. Mario and Emmitt both seem much more polished and confident in rehearsals than they did at the beginning of this season. It’s down to technique at this point in the competition. Karina coaches Mario: “Don’t think, just execute”. But Karina, Casino Royale isn’t out yet. Cheryl reminds Emmitt there are “no heel leads in Latin (dance)”. Mario and Karina drops in on Emmitt and Cheryl in their Saturday rehearsal on the soundstage. Emmitt wants to know if Mario is spying. See? I knew he wanted to be James Bond. Someone claims a scheduling mishap. Suuure. Feels staged, to me! Is this the “everyone is friendly” scene? Mario begins to quiz Emmitt on what type of steps they will be doing. Specifically, he asks if Emmitt will do any Voltas, or circular, rolling motions during the Samba. Emmitt answers, until Cheryl says “No more! We can’t give it all away”. Nice try, Mario.
Cheryl interviews that she will be showcasing Emmitt’s “fast feet” in this week’s routine. She feels this is his strength as a dancer. Mario wants to do the Samba rolls, he interviews, because he feels that Emmitt will not do those. Mario thinks Emmitt is too big and bulky to pull that step off. Len tells us that it will basically come down to personal taste, in judging the two finalists. He labels Emmitt charming, “the Big Easy”, and Mario, “aggression and attack”. Just like in the WWE, the finalists deliver warnings to their competitor via camera. “Mario, I’m coming after you,” Care Bear growls, not very threatingly. “It’ll be the same song but different scores,” Mario snarks. Len says the winner must perform like they’ve never performed before. Well - the Harold Wheeler house band is warming up. Let's begin the final competitive evenings' performances, shall we?
Samba Sir Duke
Up first with their Samba are Cheryl and Emmitt. They begin atop the mini-staircase at opposite ends. Emmitt is in a dragonfly-green sleeveless shirt, bicep bands to match, black pants with green stripes down the outsides, and black shoes with shiny green tops. Cheryl’s costume is like a Pucci print gone 3-D. On her right side, it appears to be clingy silver bugle beads. The Pucci part consists of hollow teardrop-shaped forms in various shades of green, swirling around her costume and hanging down to one side. The effect is modern and pretty. They walk toward each other in sort of a marching fashion. Not a few bars into the song, the DWTS band is already off beat. It seems to be throwing Cheryl off. “Sir Duke” must have a crisp horn and percussion element, and this band is already cranking out a sloppy bologna sandwich. In fact, I can’t even hear the horns. Just a lounge singer who sounds very tired. Cheryl and Emmitt are not missing any steps and their form is good. But they can’t seem to find the beat. Cheryl seems to want to move a bit faster than the singer; and frankly, the singer is off key and behind a note or two. However, her and Emmitt’s footwork is fast and accurate; they do rolling motions with their hands; they partner-dance; and Emmitt adds a bit of comedy with a kick to Cheryl’s rear on the slide-whistle part of the song.
The singer begins to get into it a bit and the horns pick up. Now finally the band has found the proper rhythm for Chermitt’s Samba. Emmitt takes Cheryl’s hand and ‘presents’ her to his right, his left, etc. Her arms are graceful as she poses each time. They do a Samba walk toward the camera; this is where Emmitt really gets into it with some snapping fingers. Cheryl shakes her shoulders. Next, Cheryl faces the audience and struts sideways; Emmitt faces away from them and does a sort of crabwalk sideways, knees far apart. He shakes his body at the same time. The audience loves this move, and cheers the couple accordingly. Emmitt twirls Cheryl toward and away from him, and as Cheryl comes back in, she does the splits in front of him. Their first dance has ended to a standing ovation.
Len begins judges’ comments with “At my age it takes a lot to get me excited”. He says that he was hoping for a great final and was not disappointed. Bruno tells Emmitt he’s “blessed with such charm and charisma” and that he drives people crazy with the twinkle in his eyes. “And, you have the twinkle in your toes to go with it!” he adds. Bruno, ever the way with words. Emmitt chuckles. Carrie Ann says she was a bit worried when the beginning did not have the expected excitement but then it was good. She says what is great about Emmitt is, he was the everyday man who became a dancer in front of our eyes. Well, he’s a world class athlete, but I get her point.
After the commercial break, Emmitt and Cheryl are awarded a perfect score: Three 10s from the judges for a total of 30. Emmitt and Cheryl, of course, go wild. Samantha quizzes them about their strategy and Cheryl said it was to have fun and also to focus on Latin dances. Sam, in a shimmery sage gown herself, jokes about Emmitt’s “leprechaun shoes”.
And Samba More - of Mariorina
Mario shoots a dimpled grin across to Karina, at the start of their Samba. These two begin similar to Emmitt and Cheryl; on opposite sides of the stairway. Mario wears a burgundy shirt and black pants. Karina indulges her love of wigs with a return of the short reddish hairdo. Her costume consists of a silver bra and angled hot-pink fringe makes up the skirt. “Sir Duke” is reprised by the house band, and this time, they seem warmed up. Mario begins with a pop-lock befitting the fan of 1980s dancing he claims to be; Karina wiggles down to the ground and up again. They step gingerly down the stairs, then go into an embrace. Mario spins Karina a few times. The two do a little step in sync, then move sideways. As they turn, Mario puts a little more oomph in with a wide waisted bend. His one weakness may be overselling the dances. After some solo turns, the pair back away from each other with some fancy footwork, then edge together for more partner dance moves. Next are those wide circles made in tandem, that Mario was hoping would be memorable. They stand together in a sort of spoon position, and make large circles from the waist. And yep, the band and singer are definitely hotter, and on the beat this time around. I can even hear horns sounding out that famous riff. Mario shows karina off with some turns, and she poses. His pelvis moves in sort of a dirty dancing way, and gets an audience cheer. Their Samba ends with Karina posing around Mario almost like an ice dancer. As they hold their pose, Karina brings up her
cloven hoofstilleto heel behind Mario, almost to his shoulder, in closeup.
Carrie Ann says this will be a tough night to judge. She lauds Mario for enjoying himself and says his every step was perfect. Len praises their good rhythm but says Mario’s running promenades got off on the wrong foot. The audience boos. Carrie Ann quickly cuts in with “I didn’t see it!”. I wish the judges would ignore the audience’s booing. After all, it’s really the judges’ jobs to provide helpful commentary so the stars can improve their dancing. Even now, I feel Len’s comment was constructive. Why are the judges there, if not to teach or judge? Bruno deems the Samba “scintillating”, and says it was a difficult routine. Backstage, Sam asks Mario if they will match Emmitt’s perfect score. He says their strategy was to work hard and have a good time. The judges give a 10, 9 (Len) and 10 for a 29 total. Mario seems underwhelmed.
In their second dance of the evening, both teams will repeat their favorite dance of the past season, with the same music and choreography as before. Cheryl and Emmitt are even wearing the same (red) costumes. They’ll be repeating their Mambo. Last time they Mambo’d, they got a 29 total.
Getting To Know You
Now it’s time for our long lost friend, the Human Interest segment. This time, we finally meet Emmitt’s family. At the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, Emmitt’s wife and daughters run to meet him. Emmitt has been flying back and forth between Dallas and L.A. every week, and it’s taken time away from his family all season. He has three beautiful little girls, who all hug him. Their brilliant smiles sure look familiar! Emmitt interviews that his daughters have sacrificed also, and their reward will be to watch the finals (in L.A.). His oldest girl informs Emmitt precociously: “You have a lot more fans than Mario. He might have dimples, but you have style”. Maybe this is Eddie Murphy’s kid? She’s pretty funny. As Emmitt hugs one of his little ones, he says “Win lose or draw, this is what it’s all about”. I would expect no less from the man I’ve pegged all along as Care Bear. My feeling that part of Emmitt’s charisma and popularity with the Dancing With The Stars viewers is his obvious warmth as a human being.
But the Emmitt segment isn’t over yet! He likens the DWTS finals to being in the Super Bowl: In both there is one chance to win. We see Cheryl and Emmitt at a Dallas Cowboys ‘away’ game in Arizona. He is explaining the rules to her. Oh, now the shoe is on the other foot! Pun intended, yep, yep. I’m not above that! Emmitt takes a ribbing from the referee, and introduces himself and Cheryl at halftime. He ends the segment with this: “Hopefully after this I’ll be known as Emmitt Smith the football champion, and Emmitt Smith the Dancing With The Stars ballroom champion”. Well, it doesn’t exactly form a catchphrase, but, well said, Em.
Red Hot Mambo
Cheryl and Emmitt, in their matching hot-red costumes from earlier this season, begin their Mambo, back to back. Emmitt bites his lip nervously. The music begins, a fast-paced instrumental; and Cheryl, back still to Emmitt, shakes her groove thang. Emmitt walks her toward the camera, and she continues shaking her hips. He lets her loose, and she spins. As she walks back toward Emmitt, he shakes his shoulders in that Mambo way. Both facing the same direction, Emmitt behind Cheryl, they both vibrate, then separate to walk the floor. They return to partner some bends toward and away from each other. More together and away steps, then Emmitt twirls Cheryl under his arm, over and over. The audience loves this. Now Em’s on his knees, bending backward. Cheryl taps his chest with her foot.
She circles him as he rises to his feet. The two join hands and step in and out toward each other’s feet as they traverse the floor. Separated again, Emmitt repeats the shoulder-shaking move the audience cheered the first time. Cheryl turns away and collapses into his arms. Emmitt holds onto her, then steps over her again and again in a wide circle. This garners another big audience cheer. Cheryl twirls in small circles, comes closer to Emmitt who pretends to ‘spank’ her lightly, and they both sink to their knees as Cheryl bends back so Emmitt can cradle her head in his hands. End of dance. The audience’s cheer lasts seemingly forever. It’s true, this pair has smoked the dance floor. They did not miss a beat, and their style was sizzling.
Tom asks Emmitt’s little girls what they thought of “Dad’s dance”. The oldest gives two thumbs up and shouts, “He did great!”. Emmitt’s family looks ecstatic. Bruno goes first in the judges’ comments. He raves that it looks like Emmitt has been doing this all his life. He looks professional: apart from his technique, his charm and ease are astounding. Carrie Ann says that a dancer must master technique in order to entertain ‘the house’. She adds that Emmitt has mastered technique and also “entertained us beyond belief”. Len deems Emmitt’s Mambo the epitome of all he loves about it. Just when I was inwardly lamenting that the judges do not critique the professional dancers often enough, let alone praise them, Len shakes a finger at Cheryl and says “This girl should get an MVP: Most Valued Partner”. Cheryl looks stunned, then very pleased. Her mother, hearing this in the studio audience, is thrilled.
Backstage, Sam asks Cheryl and Emmitt how different tonight was for them. Cheryl begins to reply but Emmitt jumps in. He says that doing the same dance over is difficult because everyone has seen and had a chance to critique it. So to get the response they did tonight “is amazing”. Samantha asks if they will miss working together. Em says yes, but his feet will welcome the break. And all three judges give them a huge reward for their hard work: A perfect 10 from each. Cheryl is very very happy, and she and Emmitt’s smiles could probably light Las Vegas for a week. They hug.
Meeting Mama Mario
After a quick commercial break, it’s Mario’s Human Interest segment. It’s no secret he’s very close to his mother, and perhaps this is why we see his mother dropping in to the rehearsal studio. She even brings her small dog. If anyone missed Mario and Karina’s huggin’ and kissin’ segment earlier this evening, Karina’s place in Mario’s life becomes clear when Mario’s mother gives her a quick kiss, and hugs her closely. So Karina has the Mrs. Lopez seal of approval? Hmm. I think Mario’s goose is cooked. Mama Lopez says that Mario “has already won” in her book, and that if he doesn’t win she will make him a trophy. Mario says he will dedicate his dances in the Finals to “the two most important women” in his life, his mother and Karina. “I want to make them both proud”, he says. Thank heavens his segment is fairly short. I’ve had enough of the fairly hokey time fillers, quite frankly. Although, it was good to finally meet Emmitt’s family, as we had not met his children before tonight.
A More Than Passable Paso Doble
Mario is dressed in a black mariachi outfit with white shirt and Karina is dressed in a canary yellow midriff top with flouncy skirt. They begin their Paso Doble facing each tother. Mario stares her down. They circle each other as the house band plays a flamenco style guitar intro and a man begins singing in Spanish. The guitarist is strumming to the proper beat, at least. Mario and Karina begin performing a typical Spanish dance, with plenty of partnered twirls. Mario leans into the steps, but not overly so as he had a tendency to in the start of this season. Karina’s dictatorial teaching style has reined him in just enough. He seems to be really enjoying himself, snapping off the steps to the downbeat of the guitar. Now Mario and Karina put their hand on the other’s shoulder and facing the audience, begin a series of sideways step-kicks. They split, and Mario does a classic flamenco sequence that has the audience screaming. Still apart, both facing the audience, Mario and Karina do a series of fan kicks. Now Karina faces him and wiggles toward him as he drops to alternate knees, moving backward. They repeat these moves across the stage in the reverse direction. They end the Paso Doble with Karina splayed across Mario’s knee in a backbend. But no...it’s a false ending.
To heighten the drama, the music slows. Mario rises up, reaching his arms to the sky. Karina faces him. Mario traces wide circles with his arm, bowing his head toward her with a Svengali stare. Karina effortlessly follows his imaginary circle in the air, twirling and bobbing like a marionette. Now a more standard partner dance, moving around the floor. Then to separate corners; Mario steals the spotlight with a flying leap into the air. Karina twirls past him and kicks high. He grabs both her hands, and she glances across the floor with both feet as he tosses her in both directions. As she comes to a stop, he drops her hands, and she curls up into a fetal position. This story ends with Mario standing over Karina in a victor’s stance. The song ends with a “ha ha ha ha”. I’m impressed at the way their dance told a story. The audience leaps to their feet, then chants “Mario! Mario!”.
Len enthuses mightily: “It was full of fire, it was full of passion!”. He says that the wildness and wrong posture Mario had last time is gone; and tonight it was great. Bruno again thinks he is on Poetry Jam. It’s worth quoting: “Mario! The Latin Thunderbolt! Like a storm over the sun-bathed Spanish plains. Sharp as a blade! A killer Matador of a Paso Doble. Ole!!” You’ll have to imagine all of this adjoined with Bruno’s sweeping hand movements. Len and Carrie laugh. “I think Bruno wants to get on the dance floor,” Carrie says. Bruno is still making matador gestures. He’s downright giddy. Either he loved this Paso, or he’s hiding some Thunderbird under the judges’ desk. Carrie Ann zeroes in on what was best about their strategy in choosing this dance: She says Mario has chosen what he is truly excellent at. He has “the most precise movements, embodies the character of the matador”, and his lines were “beyond perfection”.
Has Samantha gone to see the new movie Borat? It sounds like she says “Wa Wa Wee Wa”. But no, it’s just three “Wows”. She goes for the jugular and asks if Mario will miss “the blood, sweat and tears”. We know what she’s really asking. So does Mario, who says he will miss spending so much time with Karina. I’ll miss hearing him pronounce her name. No one else says it quite like he does: Karrreeena. He says something that either means he loves her, or means that he’s trying to get the sentimental vote: “She made me laugh, she made me cry, she made me a better dancer, and most importantly, she made me a better man”. “The ladies out there are swooning,” predicts Sam. She asks Mario if this is what he thought it would be. He says he enjoyed the competition but it went too fast. The judges have their say, and Carrie, Len, and Bruno all reward Mario and Karina’s terrific teamwork with a 10, for a total of 30 (out of 30! Ole!). Mario and Karina flash nearly identical smiles. We haven’t seen Karina’s pearly whites very often, as she’s cast herself as the tough taskmaster all season. But a perfect score brought her smile out of hiding.
The Freestyle dances are next, but first we have to hear the dancers talk about it. Cheryl interviews that she thinks the Freestyle is the dance that won her and Drew Lachey the First Place trophy last season. Emmitt theorises in his interview segment that this dance will be seen last of the three, and might ‘make or break’ the competition. They tell us that they’ll be freestyling to MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This”. It’s been a while since Hammer Time, but this is what they want. They practise “some pretty dangerous lifts”. Emmitt has never done anything like this before. Drew Lachey and his wife drop in on the rehearsal. Drew says he recalls how Cheryl reacts to stress (she’s biting her nails meekly in the corner; what’s up Drew?) and tells Emmitt “I feel your pain”. Well, that pain got you a trophy last year Drew! Drew advises them to “leave it on the floor” whatever that means, and Emmitt tells the solo camera he wants to win this “very bad” and his goal is to get the whole audience on their feet dancing along with them.
You Can’t Touch This
Emmitt and Cheryl begin the Freestyle portion at the top of the mini staircase. Cheryl stands behind Emmitt. He’s dressed in an orange-yellow vest, black poofy pants (they were called parachute pants back in the day, but parachutes should have very thin material) sort of like zoot-suit pants. He has orange arm bands. (Just don’t wear those in Ireland, Em.) I like his shiny gold shoes! Em’s blinged out tonight. Emmmit leaps down to the stage, and begins, well, freestyling. Cheryl, in a matching orange-yellow bra top, black shrug vest, black knee high boots, and black fringe skirt, begins doing some sort of goofy movement down the stairs. Em is putting the proper amount of bounce into his Hammer skip-in-place steps, but Cheryl’s bounce makes it resemble a hoe-down. And no, that’s no comment on Cheryl, lovely lady of the manor that she is! And again, Emmitt’s costume is appropriate to this song, and its era; but Cheryl’s is confused. It looks much more like a Western outfit. Is her mind stuck in last year? Cheryl keeps bouncing up and down and these two are not in sync. I really wanted to cheer them on during this dance, but I have to be frank...I hated it. Emmitt does pull off his lift of Cheryl; he picks her up and slides her across and around his shoulders as if she were woven out of straw. He then hangs onto her and he twirls in circles with her still across both his shoulders.
It’s a shame the costumes and Cheryl’s tone are a bit off, because next, Emmitt really nails the MC Hammer patented move: He kind of squats in a stance with his knees wide apart, and scoots and shakes himself across the stage. It sort of looks like he is vibrating. He’s having a good time onstage. I just wonder if perhaps Cheryl is too young to really remember this type of dance, and since it’s not a type that is taught in dance schools, maybe she’s just gotten it wrong a bit? Emmitt picks her up for another lift, and spins with her extended out from his waist. He puts her down and the two do a ‘bump’ as they spin in separate circles. Now Emmitt picks Cheryl up and her legs are extended out to either side of his hips, as she faces him. It’s vaguely reminiscent of ‘the jive’, and doesn’t seem to fit this music. They’re jitterbugging! I could be mistaken, but I don’t think Hammer’s dancers did this type of thing. They should have incoporated more classic 1980s dance moves. Someone should’ve rented Cheryl, the choreographer, Electric Boogaloo, or something. Now for his final lift, Cheryl climbs up Emmitt and faces the audience with her legs wrapped around his back. She tumbles back down him, and both her legs splay gracelessly as she plops down on the ground. It’s an awkward camera angle - all we see of Cheryl as Emmitt dives over her, and it takes a few seconds, are her legs wide apart and her crotch smack dab in the middle of the screen. Cheryl usually epitomises grace, so this misstep is mystifying. Emmitt dives down and then Cheryl pops up behind him. It’s not a complex enough move; it does not impress or surprise enough to make up for the three seconds’ worth of crotch shot just before it. In the final round with the competition this close, I wonder if this dance may have cost them too dearly.
Emmitt rolls off her...(really, it looks tackier still) and Cheryl helps him to his feet. The audience is cheering wildly, so it must’ve looked better live and in person. Emmitt’s daughters are cheering. Did I say this dance was bad? I’m sorry, kids...your dad was awesome! That’s right. And for the definition of awesome, I’m referring to Eddie Izzard’s show. Which the kids are too young to see.
Carrie Ann says they put MC Hammer to shame out there. Well, I’d agree with that. She says she wasn’t let down and they got the crowd going. Carrie Ann says she was afraid when she saw the lift with one arm but that Emmitt “nailed it”. Len calls Emmitt his dancing hero and says he has “done such a great job throughout this whole season”. He says tonight was “the cherry on the cake, spot on, well done”. Bruno says tonight’s dance was “the Hammer, the chisel and the shovel - you threw it all in”. He says he never thought he’d see someone do the “Running Man” (a Hammer dance move) again, “In the baggy pants”. Cheryl and Emmitt laugh, but I think cloaked behind the comment is a polite thumbs-down. He then says that Emmitt missed a bit on the second lift - he shook a bit on the dismount. The audience boos loudly. Carrie Ann asks if Bruno can do the lift, which prompts a cheer from the studio audience. I wish she wouldn’t cater to them when they boo. Len and Carrie Ann give Emryl a 10 each, but an unsmiling Bruno explains “the second lift wasn’t clean” and gives them a 9. Too bad, because Chermitt almost had a clean sweep of perfect 30s tonight. Backstage, Samantha asks Emmitt what he’d like to tell viewers. “Vote vote vote vote!” he says.
Performing the very last score-able dance of this season, Mario and Karina are up next. But, first! More
fillervideo clips. We’re shown a montage of Mario breaking the competitive dance rules, and talking about breaking the rules. We see Mariorina rehearsing, as Mario says they’re gonna throw everything but the kitchen sink into this dance. Well, that’s good, because I doubt hardware is that graceful. Mario is practising an overhead lift with Katrina. It seems to go smoothly, but he drops her on the floor afterward, with a thud. Karina interviews that it’s exciting preparing for this final dance but also sad, because “it’s the last dance ever”. Mario says he’ll miss Karina. Karina says she hopes all her students in the future will have “a little bit of Mario in them”. Well, it’s possible. Are they female? To end this segment, Mario deepens his dimples and says of Karina, “We’ll always be good friends”. Hide your dance students, Miss K.
Breakdancing All The Rules
Karina seeks higher ground...on a tabletop next to the Dancing With The Stars live stage, in a short black fringed dress, and high-laced stilettos. She looks like a chorine from Sweet Charity. Two young blond women giggle at their unexpected participation in this broadcast. I wonder if the show made sure two young guys weren’t seated there. Because I think two guys would’ve totally stolen the occasion to peek up Karina’s skirt. I’m just sayin’. Mario, in a light hoodie reminiscent of the Unabomber, strolls from backstage onto the top of the mini staircase. He’s looks at the ground the entire time. If this dance tells a story too, I’m not quite sure what it is. Maybe, “What if the Unabomber had met a dance hall hostess?”.
Mario shrugs off his hoodie and gets his Freestyle going, with a very high leap into the air. He leaps off the landing, over the three stairs and onto the stage, with a flying split before he lands. His leap-split would stack up with any gymnast’s, I think. By now, Karina has gotten off her tabletop and struts around Mario while he bops to the music. It’s a dance-beat version of “It Takes Two”. The female singer I’ve enjoyed hearing in the past sings this one and does a great job with it. So does the band - keeping on beat, by the way, which is essential. Mario and Karina dance together well. It’s a style seen in most clubs, from the 1970s up through today. Disco combined with a bit of hip hop and breakdancing. They do the move where they hook ankles and hop around a circle together. They are both very energetic, athletic dancers. There’s a lot of leaping and they are in constant motion. Also a lot of implied sexuality in their dance, which may be partly due to their rumored offstage affair. In other words, I can’t see Emmitt and Cheryl implementing quite as many pelvic thrusts and hookups as these two do. Which is fine, it just means voters have two different styles to choose from.
Mariorina leap and kick and crawl in and out of each other’s legs and pop lock and so forth. They join hands for a few moments, then separate yet again for Mario to breakdance on the stage floor. He is really good at this type of dancing; but I wonder if it isn’t a bit too much of Mario freestyling and a bit too little of seeing him rein in his steps with another type of discipline...in short, this is his chance to surprise viewers as well as wow them. I’m not sure if there was much surprise, but he did wow viewers with his athleticism, I think. He spins on his back on the floor, then goes into a backbend as he hops up. Karina jumps onto his back. He throws her, still on his back, from side to side, as she poses with one leg extended. Karina goes into all sorts of poses lying on his back, while Mario maintains his leaned-forward stance. This is a series of moves that must be very hard to accomplish and the two make it look deceptively easy. Their dance ends with a pose that reminds me of a pretzel. But then, watching dancers and writing about it is hungry work. As the studio audience cheers, Mario stands, and Karina works through a series of poses. Technically, they are continuing the dance; but if the judges don’t mind, I don’t. They did say no rules apply in the Freestyle. As they take their final pose - standing side by side, Mario’s arms crossed - they smile while the camera circles them, coming in ever closer until the applause finally fades down. Then, Karina gives a clenched-fist handshake to Mario and walks away. The audience is chanting, “Mario! Mario!”. An audience shot reveals that Mama Burke isn’t applauding, but Mama Lopez is leading the chant. Let’s hear it for Moms everywhere. (Hi, Mom!)
A 30 On Bruno’s Hit Parade
Time for the judges’ comments. They all look fairly somber, until Bruno points his waggly finger at Mariorina and shouts, “That was a Hit Parade on the dance floor!”. Hit Parade was a show in the middle of the 20th century that showcased new hit records. (45 rpm vinyl, in those days) I’m not sure how Bruno has even heard of that show. I only heard about it because my Grandma loved it and hummed songs from it (Hi, Grammy!). Maybe Bruno is older than he looks...his Count Count accent may have a reason after all. Or maybe he had a Grandma who was a lot of fun to be around also. It might account for his theatrics. Per usual he’s waving his arms around and tossing hyperbole Mario’s way like little confetti-glitter bombs. “Splendor on the dance floor! You’re a true dance Idol. You proved that with us.” Mario looks touched by this, and happy as a kid Christmas morning. Karina just looks on warily, smiling a bit. Carrie Ann follows Bruno’s comments (and who could top them?) by whooping and dancing a little bit in her chair. “That was the best dance that I have seen this whole season.” “Wow!” Tom blurts out. “The breakdancing, popping, everything. That was it. That’s perfection, freestyle, that’s how you win it.” There’s a quick shot of Mama Lopez in the audience, with a “from your mouth to God’s ears” expression on her face. Len jumps in with, “If that dance was a film, you’d win an Oscar. It was brilliant”. Mario and Karina hug joyously. The scores come in: Carrie Ann gives a “Ten Plus”, and Len and Bruno round out the perfection for a total of 30 points. Samantha harshes their mellow by asking about their “personal relationship” and how they will feel, now that the show is over, about the time apart. Mario pushes this off with a polite aw-shucks demeanor, saying he doesn’t want to think about that right now, but just to enjoy this moment. Sam, never taking a hint, asks Karina, who jokes that if she needs someone to scold she can always pick up a telephone. Well handled, Miss K. Samantha then asks Mario what he’d like to say to viewers. Now the bashful kid is gone, and Mario grabs that mic like he’s starving and it’s the last Slim Jim at 7-11. He launches right into politician-speak.
“First of all, thank you so much for voting for me. I really appreciate you getting me to this point so far. I worked really hard, I did my best. I know in God’s hands, but it’s also in your hands - so please, vote for me one more time, please.” “And Karina!” Sam reminds him. “And Karina!” Mario says, dimpling. “Please vote for Karina!” He hugs her like this is some type of charity marathon. Sam steps in and says “No worries, votes will go to both of them”. Thanks for explaining that to viewers on the last show, Sam. I think we’ve been following along just fine, so far.
So this winds up with Cheryl and Emmitt, and Karina and Mario, tied with 89 total points each. Tom introduces a video recap, but at least, for once, it’s a recap of the evening’s performances. There’s no need for me to recap that recap since I’ve already...recapped it! (phew) As the cameras zoom in on our Final Four, Emmitt looks tense, Cheryl looks relieved, Karina’s smile is impenetrable, and Mario looks...a bit afraid. It will all be revealed in the next evening’s Results Show. No matter which team wins, all have worked hard, and all are talented and deserving of the Giant Disco Ball Trophy. Good luck to all of the Final Four.