WORST: BRISTOL PALIN AND MARK BALLAS: RUMBA
Score: 18 for technique + 14 for performance = 32/60
Bristol had some rough weeks at the beginning of the season — Mark was still working out the kinks of their partnership and DNCMSTR Len Goodman criticized him for choreographing to showcase himself instead of his Teen Activist Star. ”I want to see we; I don’t want to see me,” Len chastised Mark after their rumba, in which Bristol played a business lady who lost her pants and Mark played a hungry dancer auditioning for a solo in Center Stage. He swiftly removed his shirt, offering us a full view of the novel written on one side of his body. (Progress: The week before, Mark’s tattoo was a mere hidden gem.) They grow up so fast!) Like the judges, I thought Bristol has potential. It’s just a question of whether she even wanted to be there. She seemed so uncomfortable most of the time. If she’s not having fun, what is the point?
WORST: BRISTOL PALIN AND MARK BALLAS: JIVE
”I hate the jive,” announced Bristol in her first-ever honest answer to Brooke Burke. Who can blame her? By focusing so hard on the performance aspect of the dance — gorilla suits and a clunky costume change?!? — Mark barely had time to teach her any steps. This was a total disaster. I can only assume Len pretended to want them dressed as gorillas for longer during the dance so that he wouldn’t have to confront the harsh truth that the two simians before him were eventually attempting to pass as humans. Just the simple clown nose would have sufficed here. PROP FAIL.
BEST: BRISTOL PALIN AND MARK BALLAS: ARGENTINE TANGO
Bristol’s first-round Argentine tango was her ”most intense” performance, said Carrie Ann. I suppose I can’t argue with that…but it was still less energetic than I’d hoped. The dance actually looked nice and artistic at times, but then they’d zoom in and I’d get mad that Bristol’s feet were just barely waving around Mark’s calves, not flicking violently like I knew they should. It was a full-on Monet, like in Clueless: ”From far away, it’s okay, but up close, it’s a big old mess!” (It didn’t help that Mark was going for a straitjacket-chic aesthetic with that odd black sweatshirt.) I’m disappointed because I think Bristol possesses the tools to be so much better if only she’d just…go for it a bit more. As DNCMSTR Len Goodman would say, ”Give it a bit more welly!”
BEST: BRISTOL PALIN AND MARK BALLAS: PASO DOBLE
”No offense to anyone, but I’m not fake,” said Bristol in a confessional. ”I’m not typical Hollywood.” The ”untouched,” ”raw,” and ”vulnerable” teen activist danced a first-round paso doble set to ”Gimme More” by Britney Spears. Did anyone want more from Bristol? It didn’t matter. This was good! Well, it was her best dance so far. Enthusiastic cape work abounded, and I was particularly impressed when she walked backward instead of forward. Carrie Ann wanted a hug — you know that’s a good sign. She was so happy to see Bristol finally come out of her shell and ”nah-nail it.” I’m not sure which was working harder for the votes: Mark’s guyliner or Bristol’s weave!
WORST: KYLE MASSEY AND LACEY SCHWIMMER: RUMBA
Scores: 18 for technical + 22 for performance = 40/60
Lacey focused on footwork during their rehearsal footage, and all I could think during this rumba was what a relief it was to see Kyle in sleek black man-heels instead of white ankle socks. Those show everything. Lacey artfully drew attention away from Kyle’s feet with the cool black lac(e)y vine appliqué running up one leg, but she didn’t even need to. Kyle’s feet weren’t the problem this week. Carrie Ann lamented that he’d completely lost track of his upper body. Still, Kyle struck me as the most relaxed of all the contestants on the tiny stage; perhaps he pretended he was dancing on an extra-large pizza.
WORST: KYLE MASSEY AND LACEY SCHWIMMER: FOXTROT
Amazingly, Kyle and Lacey pulled off a foxtrot to the Charlie’s Angels song (even though, as Tom pointed out, Kyle looked like Issac, the bartender from The Love Boat instead). I’m glad the ”Kyle’s Angels” theme allowed for Our Pros Kym and Chelsie to vamp it up in the rehearsal studio, but there was just no way to please the DNCMSTR with this one. ”I couldn’t stand it; I thought it was terrible,” said Len. I wholeheartedly disagree. The dance had real foxtrot sections that were necessarily (based on the song) punctuated with kicky ’70s interludes — body rolls, disco points towards heaven, the gentle self-stroking of Kyle’s porn ‘stache. And I liked the details — Lacey’s Farrah Fawcett hair, Kyle’s insane wig, and disembodied-British-voice ”Charlie” announcing the dance through an intercom. You want a theme night? This is what you get. Deal with it!
BEST: KYLE MASSEY AND LACEY SCHWIMMER: JIVE
In addition to assuaging our fears that the Instant Dance Round was the worst cracked-out idea the DWTS producers have ever entertained, Kyle’s engaging, seemingly effortless jive became one of those dances that should be memorable for weeks or even seasons to come — not as ”Kyle’s Week 8 jive” but as ”that one time Lacey wore a dress made out of patterned paper and Kyle whipped out lightning-fast footwork out of nowhere!” You know, sort of a ”reset” button for your DWTS viewing pleasure. This dance changed my whole perspective of the Week 8 performance show. And the whole crowd went nuts. Even Enthusiastic Activia Lady, front-row staple Jamie Lee Curtis, was on her feet (possibly about to bolt to the bathroom)!
BEST: KYLE MASSEY AND LACEY SCHWIMMER: SAMBA
”Hey,” Kyle acknowledged Carrie Ann, Len, and Bruno while getting all up in their judges’-table business after a solo complete with magnificent hip thrusts atop the platform. Kyle was so quick and lively that his pleather tie had to be painted onto his marigold shirt! (Were the DWTS costume designers taking cues from Denise Huxtable?) Lacey, for her part, wore Version A of her signature Crotchless Tulle Petal uniform. I noticed that Kyle’s really begun to finish his Latin-round hand flicks with emphatic flair. He really cares! That’s how you know! He’s lovely. Appropriately, their song for this round was ”She’s Got Me Dancing” by Tommy Sparks.
WORST: JENNIFER GREY AND DEREK HOUGH: SAMBA
Ah, the rare Samba Mulligan! After their performance, Derek and Jennifer ran back onto center stage to demonstrate the correct version of what Carrie Ann called ”a big mess-up in the middle.” Without the dulcet tones of Erasure to back them up, the samba just wasn’t the same. Jennifer played the third-grade teacher of Derek’s dreams, who apparently wore a backless white blouse and black fringed pants. This only seems appropriate. If he’d had different, normally costumed teachers to shape his soul, Derek might not be the ballroom marvel he is today. In a brilliant network tie-in, Bruno claimed Jennifer was ”the sexy mistress of Cougar Town‘s Academy of Samba.” Oh, dear Lord Mirrorballus in ballroom heaven! I would recap the living daylights out of that episode.
WORST: JENNIFER GREY AND DEREK HOUGH: PASO DOBLE
After their paso doble, Carrie Ann spilled the beans: Jennifer is this season’s ”Chosen One.” She should ”know her limits next time” and not fall behind on her footwork! Derek graciously stepped in and took the blame, but was I missing something here? If Jen hadn’t screwed up at the end, this paso would have seemed pretty good to me. (Jen also had the evening’s best skirt for whirling purposes.) ”You need to calm down. You’re way out of control!” insisted Carrie Ann. I had trouble telling whether Jen’s facial expression during the dance conveyed anger or pain, but I’m not sure I saw that. Also, the slow-motion replay of Jennifer losing her way in the dance was odd, considering she wasn’t the only one who messed up. On a brighter note, I liked how the lighting at the very end of their paso made the ballroom floor look like a pumpkin.
BEST: JENNIFER GREY AND DEREK HOUGH: ARGENTINE TANGO
Scores: 27 for technical + 29 for performance = 56/60
This dance was so far beyond any other performance of Acoustic Night. I think it was Derek and Jennifer’s faux-piano-playing that sealed the deal! Just kidding; it was the choreography and Jennifer’s ability to keep up. What I liked most about this dance was that it didn’t seem lopsided in favor of the pro. They seemed like a real couple dancing in Len’s favorite locale, a seedy club in Buenos Aires. (Complete with totally distracting flying football-game cameras!) It helped that their music was a traditional tune and didn’t sound as if it had been whipped to a pulp in the dreaded Where Popular Music Goes to Die Blender (exclusive to DWTS — until Idol starts back up in January!). I think Derek’s white spats may have also helped — they accentuated just how sharp and in sync their steps were. Tom’s doppelganger Jamie Lee Curtis loved it, too.
BEST: JENNIFER GREY AND DEREK HOUGH: WALTZ
The bizarre lack of spotlights made Jennifer and Derek’s waltz stand out from any other dance. I’m sure there were plenty of light sources I didn’t notice, but I liked how at the beginning and end there was just that one diamond-shaped light bathing the floor in sepia tones, throwing a giant middle finger to the barely visible giant chandelier. (Great shot!) The whole dance seemed very classic, like the ”Antique Photo” setting under the ”Effects” menu in my iPhoto for OS X. ”This was a gem of a waltz,” announced Bruno, clearly in reference/deference to EW.com’s Hidden Gems of the Week. My favorite part was when Jen sort of floated behind Derek (my original notes said ”rode on his back,” but that’s just wrong) for a weird non-lift. ”Be still my beating heart,” said Len, who was lucky to be aliiiiiiiiive! ”Sometimes a whisper can seem louder than a yell. If I’m dreamin’, don’t wake me up, because that was fabulous.” And Enthusiastic Activia Lady wept.