On ''Dancing With the Stars,'' Billy Ray shows his ungentlemanly side, lashing out after (finally) being criticized by the judges; plus, the Greatest is in the house!

By Annie Barrett
May 08, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
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”Dancing With the Stars”: Man behaving badly

I’m really not sure who was more full of rage by the end of last night’s performance show: the suddenly scorned Billy Ray Cyrus or a viewing public that had just willingly watched a tango set to ”Jessie’s Girl,” a rumba involving Steve Sanders set to ”Imagine,” and…hold your breath, you may shatter otherwise…a paso doble set to a tripped-out version of ”Oh My Darling Clementine.” Now, there were millions of viewers, and Billy Ray is just one behemoth. But you have to consider what a superstar he is. National treasure, that guy. Very important to ABC. A true Southern gentleman compared to us mere peons. Let’s just call it even.

Yes, Mr. Montana (or Mr. West Virginia, depending on whom he’s pandering to at the moment) got the straight talk from the judges. Until now, they have looked like idiots for delivering Billy Ray vague, non-dance-related compliments like ”I think you’re great” and ”There’s always an expectation when you’re coming out” (both Len; both ludicrous) and then cunningly spinning them into straight 7s because they thought they needed to do so for ratings. No more — last night, Bruno projected loud and clear: ”You are always deliciously awful. It was the foxtrot on the Temple of Doom….It was terrible. It was crap.” Naturally, Billy Ray freaked out, performed the very Southern-gentlemanly act of ripping the mike out of Samantha Harris’ hand, and later walked off the set. Whatever. His dances were bad (38 out of 60), and that pitiful extended shadowboxing routine for the ”benefit” of Muhammad Ali was just embarrassing. He needs to go home.

A little voice is nagging at me to say something nice, so I will: Billy Ray and Karina had excellent fake backgrounds for their confessionals this week. Did anyone else notice? His noggin got to bobble alongside three delicate, sea-foam-green, tiered, lit candlesticks. And Karina seemed trapped in some jail cell splashed with random fluorescent hues, possibly intended to evoke the neon-splattered opening titles of Saved by the Bell. I’ll be honest: I was enthralled. For at least two seconds.

Enough about Billy Ray. This week’s winner — by three whole points, which is a lot in DWTS terms — was Apolo Anton Ohno (58 out of 60). He claimed to be ”shooting for a mind-blowing performance” and sported the giant pit stains during rehearsals to prove it. Again, I was enthralled, and this time for real. As usual, Julianne was overly ambitious with the choreo, but considering they had to tango to Rick Springfield, I’d say she pulled it off. I actually agreed with Len — I usually prefer the tango to be slower and more dramatic — but sharp, snappy, and quick has become this pair’s ”thing” by now, so I welcomed the different interpretation as soon as I figured out I needed to rewind it and mute the music. Their paso impressed, too. Good idea to get the theatrics out of the way early, before the music began. Maks and Kym, take note.

”What’s only half a story?”

Whoa, hey there, Samantha. Calm down. I will proceed with the column.

Joey Fatone came in second (55 out of 60) with his waltz and mambo. The waltz seemed right out of a Disney cartoon, what with Kym’s Little Bo Peep dress and the pair’s repeated bows and curtsies. I wouldn’t have minded a little Angela Lansbury teapot action (”tale as old as time…”), by the way, though I doubt she’d agree to set foot near the Harold Wheeler Ensemble. Joey’s understated waltz was sweet, and Len liked it, but Carrie Ann and Bruno get nothing out of seeing a technically sound dance. They needed constant mugging, stat! (Isn’t it great when the judges can’t agree on even a single standard for a single contestant? Keeps things spicy.) Alas, Joey and Kym brought canned ham back for their mambo. They got a perfect 30 for a lot of shaking, gold fringe, and a performance during which I honestly thought my DVR was on mild fast-forward (two triangles) by accident. Not to mention that Joey looked like an extra on The Sopranos, maybe hanging out in the back of that pizzeria AJ just quit. The frenetic dance didn’t do much for me, and with all that movement, I didn’t see them travel more than a few feet across the floor, but maybe that’s the nature of the mambo. Carrie Ann jumped the gun by telling Joey, ”This competition almost seems like it’s in the bag for you.” Let the backlash ensue….

By the way, for the PR stunt of the week, Joey and Kym went to the Kentucky Derby, where Kym wore a big hat. I don’t have a baby, but I don’t think I’d let Joey kiss it if I did. ADHD might not be contagious, but over-executed facial expressions probably are.

I don’t mean to be cruel — I’d definitely root for Joey if only he toned down the campiness — a lot. Right now, Apolo and Laila Ali (53 out of 60) are my top two. The judges praised Laila’s dancing but chided Maks for relying too much on theatrical filler with a partner who should be showcased more. I’m sure I’m not the only one who teared up (or at least typed, ”Oh, tear!”) when Laila blew a kiss to her father during her waltz — but beyond that, I agreed with Carrie Ann: Laila’s definitely learned how to add an emotional element to her dance without seeming fake or too showy. Maks got in touch with his softer side, too. After their well-executed jive, he became almost weepy about their partnership and Laila’s big family night. Apolo and Julianne are sprightly and pert, but I’d call Laila and Maks the real match of the season. They’re both tough, they can be big softies, and they like to poke good-natured fun at Joey behind his back when he says things like, ”I’m not cocky.” Not to mention, they’re decent-size!

I was just about to get all ”What do you think?” on you, until I remembered Ian Ziering (43 out of 60). That happens a lot. The poor guy. He’s never snapped — he takes the judges’ harsh criticism with a forced smile (not unlike the one he’d just used during the dance), even though the gist of their comments is usually ”We wish you were a better actor.” Isn’t that basically the problem? Ian can definitely memorize steps and execute them on a stage. He’s very capable. He’s just not a very good performer. It’s been uncomfortable and slightly sad to watch him struggle, especially because he seems to take this so seriously. Couldn’t the judges at least have thrown him a bone for that foxtrot? I thought it was his best dance yet. He was all smiles, boppin’ along, and he didn’t look terrified once, and then Len called him out for being too hoppy when he should have been smooth. Billy Ray would have gotten one of Apolo’s gold medals for Ian’s performance. Later, not even Cheryl’s Princess Jasmine diamond-cutout frock (turquoise to boot) could save her and Ian’s ill-fated ”Imagine”-ative rumba. Why, Harold Wheeler, why?

It’s either Ian’s or Billy Ray’s to lose tonight. The latter seems to have the bigger fan base, who might be more rabid now that their hero’s been cut down by an evil foreigner prone to flailing. Then again, Ian’s never been in the bottom two. What do you think? Which of the two guys deserves to make the final four?

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