The ballroom pretends it's the '80s (instead of the usual '70s), Brooke Burke is a major tease

By Annie Barrett
Updated April 02, 2013 at 06:09 AM EDT
Dancing With The Stars Burke Judd Dovolani
Credit: ABC

You know it’s going to be a good theme week on Planet Mirrorballus when Brooke appears to be hiding the trophy in her hair.

Prom Night (duh!) brought us a feast of visual delights — Tom’s powder blue tux! Len’s ruffles! A prom portrait staging area! — along with an incredibly fun group opener featuring all 11 couples so we could see their extravagant flails side-by-side. The homage to the 1999 classic film She’s All That (seriously, watch it if you haven’t; it makes tonight’s prom mosh pit so much better) choreographed with love and patience by Louis Van Intensité (né Van Amstel).

My one qualm with Prom Night was that when Len Goodman was shown driving the party limo, it somehow eluded the production staff to employ my beloved ‘DANCMSTR’ license plate. It exists! I promise. You may have noticed I’ve stopped calling him DANCMSTR all the time. At this point, it only makes me seem crazier. (April Fool’s! I’m sure I’ll use it again.)

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!

Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough: 25/30 My lasting memory from their jive is the moment they replayed at the end, of Kellie landing in the splits from mid-air. Derek practically drilled her down into them! Her flexibility and willingness to be flung around in impossible positions are just absurd. Footloose seemed like a natural theme for their prom event, considering Julianne’s Hollywood turn in the recent remake and Derek taking on the role of Ren onstage in London. I wonder if the popular jive move, ”sliding down a glass slope while your partner stands around,” came from that show?

Hmm — while this jive was impressive, it almost seemed too quick and challenging for Kellie. It’s only Week 3; they could stand to get into a more comfortable groove so that she’s not performing behind the beat. Derek said during rehearsal footage that he always wants to do challenging routines “when my partner is capable” — ha, when is that not the case?

The highlight of their segment, and perhaps the most likely to inspire nightmares, was when Kellie called out Derek’s ‘Mad Wasp Face’!

My initial thought was Dennis the Menace, but reader Victoria has corrected me: “No, no! Jack Nicholson in The Shining.” My bad.

Zendaya and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 24/30 When Val asked “What is prom?” I wanted him to get into a deep existential treatment of the concept — but of course he was just setting up Zendaya to announce that she didn’t know. She’s never been. She’s too young! The couple dedicated tonight’s ”Que Sera, Sera” Viennese waltz to Zendaya’s grandma, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The throwback tune lent the dance an elegant 1957-ish authenticity and also reminded me it’s been too long since I watched the opening credits of the 1990 high school black comedy Heathers. (Anyone for croquet?) What could be better?

Bruno thought their gondola ride (expertly chauffeured by Troupe Member/butler/whatever you want him to be Sasha Farber) was “as enchanting and charming as Venice in the moonlight,” but Len was left wanting to see more time spent in hold in this and future Viennese waltzes. “I’m not criticizing you; it’s just my feeling,” he asserted in the face of hundreds of booing-for-booing’s-sake boos. What’s your damage, Len?

NEXT: Let’s get this fog machine party started Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff: 24/30 As sweet as Zendaya’s waltz was, I got much more excited about Jacoby’s Red Light District (perfect for prom) rumba, and not just because I love spiked punch plus Jacoby had his shirt off! This had the most current feel of all the dances tonight, and I thought Rihanna’s “Stay” worked remarkably well for the pair’s slow-burning chemistry — though I suppose anything seems sexier when it’s bathed in mood lighting and a dark red fog. I especially liked their ridiculously complicated floor spin — love that aerial shot! — along with Jacoby’s sweeping arm extensions. He’s huge! But somehow the combination of Karina’s choreography and his ability makes him seem not gangly at all.

The NFL star was “smoldering like a volcano of passion!” cried Bruno, who may have been talking about himself. Carrie Ann noted Jacoby’s “incredible artistry” and connection to the music, while Len had his MVP moment of the night as he casually began by teasing that he was “absolutely shocked…” only to get prematurely booed. “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THESE PEOPLE?” snapped the head judge. Love it.

Victor Ortiz and Lindsay Arnold: 23/30 Having a contemporary routine tossed into what I assumed would be a night full of swishy gowns and ballroom standards was a bit jarring, but this was definitely the right dance at the right time for Victor. His athleticism, ability to writhe around on the floor, and bag of “tricks on the ground” all worked to his advantage, as did Lindsay’s contemporary experience from So You Think You Can Dance. I marvel at how her long, spindly needle-legs can so forcefully extend themselves during lifts — it looks like a much more graceful equivalent of me suddenly flicking open my fingers really wide…but it’s her entire body! Ah, dancers. How in the foggy hell do they do it?

“What just happened?! Victor, you’re a dancer!” gushed Carrie Ann. “Your incredible chemistry makes every move so real.” Bruno rattled off many of his favorite adjectives: “Strong. Gentle. Caring. Sentimental.” It seemed like the judges may have been overcompensating for Victor so that he has a better chance of sticking around another week — remember, he was in the bottom two with Lisa and Gleb — but that’s fine by me. He’s more talented and fun to watch than Lisa or D.L., in my bedazzled book.

NEXT: Are we really applauding The Bachelor for being able to spell? Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas: 23/30 I think I expected Aly to be more of an early standout than she’s been so far. The pair had no major hiccups in their light purple Viennese waltz, but it won’t go down as their best dance, and I’m not sure people will even remember it. The moves were a little too overtly punctuated for me, which could have been due to Aly’s struggle to get a firm grip on the 6/8 count of the song (Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love”). Of course, after Shawn Johnson’s ballroom prowess, I’m probably judging Aly on a curve. Don’t get me wrong — this was good. It just wasn’t so spectacular that Len’s April Fool’s prank on Aly was that obvious of a joke. How could a man swathed in such glorious magenta shirt-ruffles be so mean?

I admit, even after the disembodied British voice announced that this was a Viennese waltz, I suspected it was actually a contemporary due to their casual “bench hang” setting and the ‘whimsical’ addition of a Cupid (the Troupe’s Emma Slater) in the wings. I half expected her to shoot Mark’s favorite spats off his feet so he could go barefoot!

Sean Lowe and Peta Murgatroyd: 21/30 The Bachelor is used to surrounding himself with human props, so he and Peta opted to use all three of the Troupe Guys as the Village People for their “Y.M.C.A.” cha cha cha. The process of elimination suggests that Sean was supposed to be the construction worker, even though to me his costume screamed “rather womanly farmer.” Something about the extra-tight tank and the way his dainty ballroom heels poked out of his bizarrely short overalls… but I digress. Peta’s Sexy Native American costume was equally laughable, but I applaud any effort, however misguided, that provides the end result of fringed heels.

Basically, all the props (glittery jackhammer!) and the Troupe’s participation made “Y.M.C.A.” feel like much more of a party than it really was based on Sean’s awkward dancing. Are we really going to applaud him for being able to spell?

YES! “Your best dance,” raved Len. “Unique quality of performance with incredible gusto!” enthused Carrie Ann. “The cat’s out of the bag,” announced Bruno — and this was before his last-second attempt to join the crew of Village Sparkaliens, likely as his famous “I’m Still Standing” persona, Studded Man in Briefs. Every supergroup needs one.

NEXT: What’s more impressive — Sean spelling or a lethargic dog tweeting? Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson: 21/30 This couple really seems to be getting the shaft — they perform at the beginning or middle of each show, and tonight they were the only pair to dance the paso doble. And what’s with Ingo suddenly getting the Rickety Old Grandpa edit at age 42? I feel like they could be a much more prominent couple, but somehow, despite a motorcycle ride complete with half a COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY as a helmet (!), their segment fell flat. I have to wonder if it could’ve had more heat with a later placement in a night full of other flashy paso dobles. And by flashy, of course I mean literal flames. Well-Behaved Bonfire and Aggressive Tiki Torches: We’ve missed you!

“You’re supposed to be a matador, not an axe murderer!” complained Bruno following the paso doble, in which he claimed Ingo had been ripping Kym to shreds. “It’s a fantasy!” Ingo defended himself. Ingo was also very excited to announce during rehearsal, “You get to be the….sssssslut.” Kym is such a pro that it’s always hard to tell whether she’s gritting her teeth due to ickiness or merely playing along.

Lisa Vanderpump and Gleb Savchenko: 21/30 I’m not sure even Giggy the Pom’s 70,000 Twitter followers — let’s all watch the dog tweet! he doesn’t even have opposable thumbs — can save this couple after that rhythm-less Viennese waltz. If they do get eliminated this week, I will really miss the way Gleb’s hair goes from half-pony, to down, to half-pony, to down, as we flutter through their rehearsal footage. I bet that’s what Bruno was thinking too as he delivered Lisa the absurd compliment that she was “almost regal…like watching Empress Josephine in the mirrored hall.”

Alert! Alert! A tweet just came in. EVERYBODY STOP. Someone on Twitter noticed that Gleb took his shirt off in rehearsal. Thank you, Brooke’s hair, for that important update.

NEXT: Andy Dick’s desperation suits him Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess: 18/30 Their cha cha cha was part Revenge of the Nerds and part Weird Science, as it seemed the leather-catsuited Sharna was emerging from a foggy (of course!) test tube at the top of the stage. Despite the ’80s vibe, the pair managed to keep it technologically current with some on-screen text messages! Texts…Twitter…online voting…the occasional mention of land lines…Dancing With the Stars truly does take place in the Space Age, y’all. We are living it!

Anyway, Andy the shirtless wonder still can’t really keep a beat, but he remains captivating in that “I now exist in the world to do as well as I can on DWTS” type of way. “The only way to win is try,” encouraged Carrie Ann. “You try with your full heart and soul.” And a painted-on six-pack never hurt anyone. Nor did springtime allergies! “You’re like a sneeze — you know it’s coming, but there’s nothing you can do about it.” What a perfect summation of the series by the DANCMSTR!

To be clear, though: “You’re not a great dancer. Just know that,” Len told Andy. (CUE BOOS.)

D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke: 16/30 I just need to commend Cheryl for giving it her all with this sexy blue costume (one of her best?) and innovative “dance in a box” approach to the salsa. My guess is D.L. is even less talented of a dancer than it seemed up on that elevated platform. If your ability to execute a James Brown knee slide is minimal, narrow the dance space so that it looks more expansive.

Was this “limits upon limits” philosophy a genius move, or did you find the platform annoying? I’m just guessing D.L. couldn’t have done much better with a full floor, so why even push it? Just get through 90 seconds of a bedazzled-blue “Sex Machine” and call it a week!

Wynonna Judd and Tony Dovolani: 15/30 Did Wynonna even move? Was she even out there dancing alongside Tony’s mullet? With his awesomely bad Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages styling, fur jacket, and a cheetah-print floor, I expected so much more from this barely there samba. A mere smile from Wyn would have been great! There’s so much kitsch and cheese in this partnership visually that it’s such a waste that Wynonna doesn’t seem to be participating physically.

I liked Tony’s low-toned retort to Len saying he knew how hard this was for a celebrity — “No you don’t” — and I have to believe him that she’s trying….it just didn’t translate on-screen. At all.

Who’ll head home later on — Lisa? D.L.? Wynonna? Victor?

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