I know that I bitched and moaned a lot during this season about everything from the length of the show, to the number of dances, to Samantha's lack of personality, to Tom possibly being an alien and all the pointless field trips. However, I'd like to say that now that it's all coming to an end, I've grown nostalgic about this
turnipshow. It also seems as if the producers finally took pity on me, because, amazingly, tonight's show is only one hour long. I'm floored and extremely honored. Thank you ABC for the recognition and for finally acknowledging all of my 793 emails, 1087 phone calls and the hefty bribedonation that I gave to the network. See people! Bitching, moaning, repetitive wailing and cash will work each and every time.
It seems as if just yesterday we witnessed 11 fresh (well, more or less) celebrities stepping onto the dance floor, ready to entertain us, amaze us and make us reevaluate what ballroom dancing really means. Mostly we found out that it's like walking in a swamp like a wounded bear, being stiff as a board, hopping like bunnies and being raunchy when raunchy will keep you in the game. In addition I learned that one can, not only dance with a fake leg, but dance better than someone with two healthy legs – or make that many someones. I learned that you can turn virtually any dance into a hoedown with the right fringed costume, and that if you're a football hero you get pretty much a free pass in life. People will vote for you on a dancing show just because sometime in your distant youth you did a good job of running around a field clutching a ball to your chest. Why didn't I think of that as a career path? Who knows, I may have even ended up on Dancing With The Stars as one of the non-stars too. You could have all voted for me, no matter how lame I was. Ah, regrets!
Because I'm feeling uncharacteristically generous right now, seeing as it's all
finallycoming to an end, I will endeavor to mention both Tom and Samantha more frequently. At least twice, as a matter of fact. That's how generous I feel. Samantha says that our dancers are ready to take on the most important dance of their lives. Well, except for the one last week and the one tomorrow night. After that, all of the dances in their lives will be pitifully insignificant. I will forgive Samantha her love for extravagant exaggeration, and since I assume you're all tired of this self-indulgent intro, I'll just skip ahead to the good stuff.
After Joey, Laila and Apolo are duly introduced, we find out that everybody will be dancing twice tonight. One dance will be the Judges' Choice while the other one will be the much anticipated (or so they say) Freestyle dance.
Fired up for the two-step
First up are Laila and Maks with the Paso Doble chosen by the judges. Dressed in a red dress and Maks wearing a red satin shirt, completely unbuttoned just the way I like it, they dance a fiery Paso Doble. Or rather, I should say that Maks dances while Laila is just there. I'm sure he must have used all the Paso Doble moves ever invented because his side of the routine is jam packed with action. By comparison Laila seems almost sluggish and a bit detached. As a performance it is enjoyable but technically, at least on Laila's side, it's nothing to write home about. Their rehearsal session had more energy, and Laila's continued avowals to “bring it” sounded more convincing. She has doubts about their freestyle, and especially with a planned lift with which she's uncomfortable, but she promises to do whatever it takes to win. Len's take on their performance is that it had passion and fire, unlike their previous Paso Doble which did not impress the judges. He says that they had lovely twists and turns and despite some problems with toes not pointed, it was beautiful. Bruno gushes that Laila's performance was “dripping with emotion, totally captivating”, her best performance as an actress to date. I thought this was a dancing competition. Never mind me. Carrie agrees that her arms, her posture, her extension and form where better and she loved it.
Backstage Samantha, whose segments I've been scrupulously ignoring for the entire season, does her customary exit interviews which usually reveal absolutely nothing. For a couple of seconds there I entertained the idea, that perhaps as an homage to the big finale night, I should do a quick recap of her contributions, but then I thought, there's really no point to be cruel and waste your time needlessly. They earn 29 points and we move on.
Put the critic on a midnight train to Georgia, and leave him there
The judges picked the Rumba for Apolo and Julianne, which is a slow dance and Julianne is not too concerned about it. Rehearsal is mostly focused on their freestyle routine for which Apolo wants to do some hip-hop dancing. But alas, he finds he needs help in that area, so Julianne calls on a guy named Flips (or at least that's the name I heard), who is a noted choreographer, to show them some cool moves. A bit more practice for the Rumba and they're ready to go. Julianne is wearing a short-short white dress, that looks like 40's style full body armor, er, underwear complete with a see-through dressing gown type of thing and platinum blond hair styled to look like it came straight from a WWII pin-up poster. They dance the Rumba to “Midnight Train to Georgia”. It's a sexy, smooth, slow and thoroughly enjoyable affair that highlights the chemistry between these two to perfection. At the end of their dance I spy Bruce Jenner in the audience, who are all on their feet clapping and cheering loudly. I guess they liked it too. Bruno says that their dance was like watching the American gigolo and baby doll teasing each other then blending into each other. He compliments them on their chemistry and says they are a joy to watch. Carrie opines that they over-performed it a bit, Apolo's upper body was awkward and it seemed unusual. Len ruins the party and says it lacked romance. Bruno indignantly interjects that they “made love on the dance floor” and it was sexy. Len complains that he can never finish his critique because Bruno always opens his big trap. Tom, the referee, steps in to arbitrate and manages to make Bruno shut up long enough so that Len can say that the dance was hectic, too fast and too involved and while he didn't like the arms, he didn't totally hate it. Gee, I'm sure Apolo is relieved. Meanwhile I'm a bit disappointed that there was no fistfight. I so wanted one. They get 28 points.
Could have been a Cha Cha if it weren't something else
The pressure is on, says Kym, and she's right. They need to make us forget Joey's butt sticking out the entire season, the cheesy costumes that advertised Joey's initials right across his big protruding ass, the hokey theatricals and last but not least that unfortunate Star Wars thing. While it may take some time for all of us to get over the vision of Joey as a Jedi knight, they're hoping that the Cha Cha will bring them closer to their goal of winning the competition. In order to do that they're scheduling tons of lifts for their freestyle, that sometimes make Kym fear for her safety, and will add their patented Joey and Kym “little something” to the Cha Cha to liven it all up. This does not sound good.
Their routine turns out to be only a 6 on the gimmicky 10 scale, which for them is really not quite so bad. There is some weird intro with Joey the puppeteer and Kym as his marionette, but aside from that, their dance to “Groove is in the heart” is quite watchable, even if it's not much of a Cha Cha. Carrie agrees, she tells them that there was not enough Cha Cha in this Cha Cha, not nearly enough content and it just felt more like a freestyle for her. Len concurs, saying that it was far too theatrical, loaded with tricks that took them too far away from the roots of the dance. Bruno comments that it was cheeky and entertaining, but not a Cha Cha, not quite there. The whole thing only brings them 26 points.
Buy one, get one free
Now that we've safely made it past the Judges' Choice round, we're all onto the real reason why people watch the finals: because they're just so darn happy the entire thing is ending. Finally. Oh, okay! The other reason is the freestyle dances are coming up and there are no rules. Whereas a minute ago our dancers were not allowed to do lifts, throws and other hair raising acrobatics, now they're all given free reign to show us all what they (and their professional partners) are made of. The standings so far are Laila with 29, Apolo with 28 and Joey with 26 points.
Shaking it without sophistication
Without further ado, Laila and Maks hit the dance floor first. Their dance is announced as a Paso Doble but I have to tell you that the dance, set to “Shake your body (down to the ground)” by the Jackson 5, bears no resemblance to any Paso Doble you've ever seen. Maybe the announcement was a mistake. Laila is wearing a sparkling silver short and bra outfit, silver gloves and silver gym shoes. They shake it and they gyrate to this old classic with sufficient enthusiasm but I'm left wanting something else, perhaps something slightly more sophisticated and more passionate from them. This was a bit too High School talent show, circa 1983 for me. The only real highlight comes at the very end when Laila literally rips off Maks' nice white shirt leaving him bare chested. I had to replay that part a couple of times in the name of faithful research, in order to bring you the most accurate recap of it. I take my duties extremely seriously and I am committed to doing all the necessary, albeit at times arduous, research so that you won't have to.
The audience is on their feet, screaming loudly for Maks' bare chest, or maybe they're just in awe of that mediocre routine. It's hard to tell. Carrie, while appreciative of the sixpack abs on display, would have wanted a bit more sophistication and elegance. Len, who rarely makes sense, tells Maks he's no Arnold Schwarzeneger. I think we've all noticed that. Maks can dance better than Arnold, after all. Still he tells Laila she did a great job, despite the fact that her real strengths were not in evidence. Bruno liked the trip down memory lane, and naturally enjoyed the striptease, but he'd have liked more sex appeal and sensuality. I just don't get it. What more could Maks have done in that department? It's a rhetorical question.
Samantha, whom I mention for the third time today, gives each couple a chance to say something to their fans and beg them for votes one last time. Laila thanks everyone who voted for her, who wrote her letters and talked to her. Basically she's thanking everyone in no particular order. Meanwhile Maks' shirt is back on. His bare chest ears them only 26 points which brings them to a total of 55.
Blinded by the rap
The announcer must have gotten a talking to after his blunder with the first dance and Apolo and Julianne's freestyle is introduced properly, as a freestyle. Wearing matching baggy white pants, black tops and bandannas, they start out on opposite sides of the floor, with Apolo setting up a boom box on the judges' table and pressing “Play”. From this point on it's just pure fun. Their music is “Bust a move” by Young MC, the moves are part hip-hop, part break dance, part jazzy lifts and part pure creativity. At one point they toss their bandannas away revealing headbands which they pull over their eyes to dance blindfolded for about 10 seconds. There are some very inventive lifts, throws and twirls here and they end with a flourish with Julianne sitting on Apolo's shoulders. The electricity they created brings the audience to their feet and they scream so loudly for so long that I can barely make out the judges' words. Len raves about it, saying it was the perfect routine and he loved it. Bruno is ecstatic too, saying it was an amazing routine, everything that a great freestyle should be. Carrie simply hugs them and the audience screams louder. Apolo thanks his fans backstage and with the 30 points they get, they end up earning a total of 58 points.
A bit of heavy lifting at the 11th hour
Joey and Kym are last. They start out wearing sedate black outfits for the intro to Donna Summer's “Last Dance”, which they peel off to reveal a short sequined dress for Kym and a shiny silvery suit for Joey. Kym leaps off the podium and flies onto the dance floor in a jaw dropping move after which they roll into a high energy disco routine, full of lifts and turns, some of them quite involved. While I enjoyed their dance, it seems a bit shorter than the other couples' routines. Bruno raves that it was like a hit parade and he loved it. Carrie really liked it too, and appreciated more than anything that Joey incorporated everything he learned into this dance. Joey responded that it was his goal to put in everything and show off his skills. Len thought it was full of energy, great, with well executed lifts. With their 30 points for the freestyle, they amass a total of 56.
In case you're keeping track the standings are: Apolo with 58, Joey with 56 and Laila with 55 points. Tune in Tuesday for the absolute final night of dancing. I mean it. I promise there will be no encores, re-dos or re-dances after Tuesday night and you'll all be free to roam at your leisure until the next season starts up again. Critical will be here to bring you all the joy of the hefty two hour show and finally she'll feel my pain from the beginning of the season with 120 minutes or pure, unadulterated filler on top of some all-important last minute dancing. Our couples will be dancing their favorite routines for the judges' points, which will count for 50% of the total. The other 50% is supposedly coming from audience votes. However there was a disclaimer on the screen last night about some ominous sounding fine print in the rules that was only viewable on the ABC website. I didn't bother to check it out. I draw the line at reading mind numbing legalese, even to please you, my faithful readers. It's entirely possible that the fine print says that the judges could bring back either the swamp bear or the talentless football player, or crown Guillermo as a winner thereby invalidating an entire season of your blood-sweat-and-tears voting. Oh, well.
And last, but not least:
"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow."
I'm still waiting for proof that Tom is an alien robot from outer space. Somebody must have something...