On ''Dancing With the Stars,'' the contestants -- even Billy Ray Cyrus -- upped their game with sexy mambos and bouncy quicksteps

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 27, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

”Dancing With the Stars”: Raunch factor

Did we all learn our lesson last night? Chant it with me: Be! A! Tramp! Be! A! Tramp! I must admit, I wasn’t sure. Neither was Leeza Gibbons, but she’ll come around. Fearless at 50 means a nourished mind, body, and spirit — and also never forgetting that to be a lady is to be a tramp.

All the women performed the mambo last night, with varying degrees of raunchiness. Shandi Finnessey doesn’t do it for me — her timing is off, and she seems content to just be flung around the floor by her partner while grinning goofily. While I do appreciate anyone who can produce Chuck Woolery in a live studio audience, I can’t stand this whole Barbie and Ken ”all-American couple” thing. It may be her partner, Brian, that’s the problem. I seriously wonder: Could he be made of wax?

Paulina Porizkova exhibited similar getting-flung-around characteristics, but I want her to stay just because she cracks me up, as does her partner, Alec ”I Have Dropped People, Yes” Mazo. Maybe instead of dancing, they can visit a different New York tourist attraction each week? Like my cubicle? Look into it, producers! It’s also worth noting that the cameras zoomed in on Brian Austin Green right after Paulina’s performance. Was that bad timing, or did they just have to squeeze him in, sometime, anytime? Moments like these are why I watch this show.

This is an uncomfortable sentence to write, but Heather Mills was actually kind of good at mamboing and raunchiness. I’m sorry, the woman did a back walkover — let’s go absolutely nuts about her! I have a feeling if any non-amputee had pulled that stunt so early in the competition, the judges would have launched into one of their ”OMG, no lifts! No showboating!” tizzies immediately. So she got a pass on that. Also, major plot development: The rest of the cast is starting to acknowledge Heather backstage. Anyone else catch the marked difference from last week? Before, they were all, ”What is your damage, Heather?” and kept scooting away and avoiding eye contact, but this time Billy Ray Cyrus kissed her on the cheek. Ewww. New paragraph.

The hotshot woman of the night — and of the season, so far — was one Miss Laila Ali. Len called hers ”the best mambo we’ve seen,” and she earned major points for shaking up some good hip action and keeping her orgasm face on the whole time. As Carrie Ann said, this was ”hot, hot, hot.” Laila and Maksim’s gym session was cute, but he may need to stop stroking his own arm muscles in front of the camera. I loved her nonchalant response to that, though: ”I don’t worry about his ego — nothing I can do about that.”

All the men had to do the quickstep. I honestly thought we wouldn’t get to see Billy Ray Cyrus do his, because he seemed about to quit a few seconds into his rehearsal footage. But he pulled it off — with a sequined guitar on his back, no less. Sure, he’d improved since last week, but did he really deserve to be scored one point less than Ian Ziering, who was called out for being ”too hoppy” in a dance that’s largely composed of little hops? I’m also wondering, after the house band’s droning rendition of ”Ring of Fire,” if Johnny Cash would have deigned to stand in any ”corner” of this ballroom, no matter how close that corner was to Billy Ray.

Apolo Anton Ohno definitely stepped it up this week — footwork-wise, his routine was very complicated, and he and Julianne were almost alarmingly in sync. And since they’re so young, they look a bit like that power dance couple who are way better than everyone else at their high school’s talent show, sort of a Benji and Heidi from So You Think You Can Dance kind of thing, half sexy, half incestuous, only not annoying. I dig. For now.

Clyde Drexler‘s suddenly in danger of going home — after the judges called him ”very smooth” and a ”crowd pleaser” (Carrie Ann), ”great” (Len), and ”David and Goliath, rewriting history and making music!” (one guess), they proceeded to give him a daunting 6-6-6. I hope what must be a sizable fan base will keep him alive. As a former high school baller (give me a moment to let it sink in that I did just write that), I swooned at his basketball session with Elena. The backward shot was killer, but my favorite part of the entire two hours was when Elena put up a shot and Clyde totally blocked it with one hand. No mercy for the cute little dance partner from the gentle giant athlete! I had to rewind it thrice. Same with John Ratzenberger‘s ”Ooh, we’re hopping!” outburst during his rehearsal segment. The judges went gaga over the ”performance” element of John’s dance, which is to say they thought it stunk but did not say so. Funny, they scored him three points higher than Clyde.

Fan favorite Joey Fatone didn’t disappoint the judges with his flashy quickstep. He’s definitely the only guy at this point who seems confident enough in his moves that he bothers to throw in the cheesy faces, head jerks and open-mouthed ”I’m excited” gapes. His dancing itself seems effortless by comparison. I have a feeling Joey’s going to wear sequined lettering or at least some form of sequined identifier every week. This time, it was his initials on his coattails. Whatever will he bedazzle next? Which brings us to…

News You Can’t Use: DWTS Costumes Edition For ”fun,” I’ve been keeping a running tally of Sequins ‘n’ Fringe vs. Just Sequins on the women’s costumes. Last week, da Fringe pulled out an unprecedented 6-5 win. Not so last night! Just Sequins whopped Sequins ‘n’ Fringe’s ass, 8-3, or 9-2 depending on how you would classify Kym’s attire. See, her fringe was entirely composed of sequins, giving the tassels a weird ”bubble” shape instead of just hanging flat. That one was tough to classify. I gave it to Fringe based on concept alone, and because everyone likes an underdog. Let’s go, Fringe — step it up! I want to see a lot more of you next week.

What do you think? Now that you’ve seen each couple perform a Latin and a ballroom dance, have your favorites changed? Where do you stand on Sequins ‘n’ Fringe vs. Just Sequins? And was it too soon for the judges to break out the 9s?