Last night was the penultimate episode of Dancing With the Stars, season 5. Sorry, I just wanted to use that word in a TV Watch. Until embarrassingly recently, I’d always thought penultimate meant supremely ultimate, like the most awesome you could get. I went around for years calling really cool things “penultimate.” Ugh. Everyone has a word or two like this. I hope. Anyway, if I were still ignorant as to this nugget of vocab, I would never have written that first sentence, because last night’s performance finale was pretty much the worst performance finale ever. I can’t call it mind-blowing. I can barely call it entertaining. All I can call it is second-to-last.
Not that this is surprising. Maybe Mel, Helio, and Marie’s last night to prove themselves was so lackluster because this season never really set off any serious sparks. There was barely ever any competitive spirit on display — not even the embellished, totally fake, yet fun competitiveness we witnessed this spring among Joey, Laila, and Apolo. As a unit, season 5’s final three are more disjointed than Mel and Maks’ freestyle. Speaking of which, here’s how the judges broke it down:
Mel B. and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 55 out of a possible 60 First of all, I love that I’m a moron about basic vocab, but I know exactly how to spell this Russian ballroom dancer’s last name without having to consult his hot, hot website. First, M&M — who are at this point composed of one giant, bare-skinned, rolling mass of musculature, performed the judges’ choice, the cha-cha. (Mel said ”jidges,” just like Cat Deeley. Tell me you noticed!) The dance itself was very well executed but wasn’t quite exciting enough to be finale material. That this was arguably the best dance of the night tells you a lot about our little penultimate episode, doesn’t it?
The Spice Girls showed up to cheer Mel on. Well, three of them did. Posh just sat there. Maybe she needed Jonathan to ”start her up” with a giant key? That could come in handy when the ladies perform live tonight. As for the rest, I loved it when Geri Halliwell loudly booed Carrie Ann after Mel’s freestyle. Then, after Carrie Ann dismissed her with a callous ”Thank you, Spice Girl,” she just kept right on booing, as if to say, ”The specific Spice Girl you’re referring to is Ginger, b—-.” Take that, Fly Girl!
Mel’s freestyle — which was really more like Maksim’s audition to background-dance for Justin Timberlake — was all over the place, with no coherent story. Carrie Ann told Mel, ”I think you’re better than that,” and while that’s true, I wasn’t as upset with this dance as others probably were. Sure, as a whole it made no sense, but little parts of it sure did. When the random costume change occurred, I realized I’d been hoping Mel’s long black frock would ultimately become a bust-tastic red corset. The impressive lifts came out of nowhere, but at least they looked precise. Maks even controlled a magical twirling chair with his mind! Okay, I’m grasping here. Here’s the biggest delight of the M&M segments: Maks’ undying — and increasing — affection for Tom Bergeron. He’s done the ass grab; last night, he did a clingy hug and a kiss. It’s like he’s acting out our fantasies on screen!
Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough: 54/60 The judges chose the jive for Helio, because as DANCMSTR put it, his first one ”was a disappointment, and we didn’t know why!” My notes from that episode indicate that messed-up footwork was why. And the judges made the same critique last night. All three of them, actually. Maybe his flawed footwork was easier to notice because of his sequined jean cuffs? To be honest, I didn’t realize Helio was so technically off during this dance because, as usual, I mostly watched Julianne. She’s very good, you know! I thought it was a nice touch for her to place Helio in front of her for a few seconds of kicks that, at least to my untrained eye, he nailed. And I liked how the pair went with a gimmick (boy meets nerd, nerd has glasses, boy and nerd dirty dance) but then abandoned it before leaving the stairs. If only Marie had taken note…
For the freestyle, Helio and Julianne unleashed an extremely flashy mess of flips, lifts, and assisted cartwheels that came in threes! This was the other dance that might qualify as best of the night, and it was certainly the most memorable, in large part because it’s literally impossible to get enough of Helio’s sparkly gold jumpsuit. I just want to sear it in my brain to use on crowded subway rides, dentist’s appointments, or other dread-inducing moments. Perhaps after the show, Helio was on his way to his job as night janitor at the tacky mirror-ball trophy factory. Carrie Ann said something snippy about coming out of lifts, but DANCMSTR called this dance ”the best freestyle of the night by miles.” I was seriously thrilled for Helio and Julianne when they finished in the little tandem race-car position in time with the end of the song. With so many tricks compressed into the last 30 seconds, you got the feeling everything was maybe a bit off, timing-wise. So when this final move worked out, they were both enormously jazzed and looked collectively about 7 years old and seated in a theoretical sandbox. It was the cutest. Which leaves…
NEXT: Never a doll moment