Performing with only one arm, Cristian gets his best scores ever; meanwhile, the judges turn on Kristi and Jason, and Len continues to abuse Mario
Christian Cheryl

”Dancing With the Stars” recap: Playing injured

There’s one big story this week on Dancing With the Stars, and it’s obvious: Thanks to, as Tom put it, ”viewer votes and a doctor’s note,” Cristián de la Fuente has finally found his calling as a one-armed ballroom dancer. The tasty Chilean sea bass of a man took the lead for the first time all season, earning his first 10 (plus two more) in the process. Other than that, though, Monday night was pretty typical. The script contained way too much Kristi vs. Jason pitting; Bruno cut off Len, as uzh; and Mark can’t stop distracting me from Kristi’s dancing with his flair and face. And Len’s inexplicable bias against Mario rages on. It’s beginning to remind me of Michael Scott’s randomly brutal treatment of Toby on The Office. Except DWTS isn’t a comedy, and Len’s bias is not funny. (Also, for the record, the first part of that last sentence is a blatant lie.)

The show runners got what they wanted: a leaderboard with a twist. (That sounds like a DWTS-inspired cocktail! God, now all I want to do is create a list of DWTS-inspired cocktails. But I’m supposed to be writing, so I’ll just nurse a Typical Edyta Costume-tini and write that list some other time.) Here’s how the final five fared in ballroom and Latin this week….

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl: 57 out of a possible 60 Cheryl Burke was by far the MVP of ABC’s Monday Night Discoball. Her choreography for two dances with a one-armed partner blew me away, and I’m glad DANCMSTR gave her some props right away, during his commentary for their tango set to ”Beat It.” (The song was perfect for Cristián’s current approach to the competition: ”No one wants to be defeated” — by common sense!) During the tango, Cheryl got to incorporate lots of her specialty move — whipping herself around — to mask her partner’s relative stillness. But I’m guessing some of Cheryl’s head jerks may have been necessitated by the upside-down doorway of feathers surrounding her chin.

For the mambo, Cristián’s sequined cast cover was fierce, not to mention his wide-open magenta shirt. Oddly enough, injured Cristián seems to have more composure on the floor than healthy Cristián. He seemed less nervous about his next moves, and even a little sneaky about Cheryl’s choreo. I detected a Ha-ha, you just wait half a second to see what incredible feat my right arm can accomplish next! smirk once or twice. This dance was probably my favorite of the night. And that final lift was so clever! God, I’m as easily impressed as the judges. ”The things you can do with one arm,” indeed, Bruno. Moving on….

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark: 55/60 I assumed that with Kristi’s pairs-skating background and Mark’s unabashed love for flair and excess, this pair would be all about the wacky lifts this week. Not so; as their rehearsal footage showed (and this is all it showed), Mark didn’t want to take anything away from the character of their dances. He did throw a lift in at the end of their quickstep, but it was more of a cheerleader lift, like something the two laziest people on the squad would launch into every once in a while to keep up the illusion of spirit. (This analogy is pretty unfair, as the lift was actually quite nice — for more on analogies that make no sense, see DANCMSTR’s Britney comment to Mario, below.) The judges loved Kristi’s royal blue quickstep, quickly dubbing her as ”right back where you were a few weeks ago.” Bruno didn’t think that was clear enough, so he told Kristi she was a ”super candidate with a super ticket to the finals!” Got it!

NEXT: Do fries go with that?

Kristi’s second dance was the samba, but all my memories focus on that busted red-and-yellow costume. It was completely fringed — so according to my own ridiculous costuming standards, I should have loved it. But…yikes. My mom called to tell me it reminded her of the yellow Sprite’ costume I wore to a youth ballet recital, and my sister e-mailed me this winning description: ”human volcanic fireball, with fringe wings…what was that???” Good question. According to my own expert opinion, Kristi’s outfit resembled two adjacent pools of ketchup and mustard that were about to get viciously swirled by a giant fry. If Mark had worn yellow instead of red, this visual would make even more sense than it already does. Anyway! The judges dissed Kristi’s samba, calling it ”slightly awkward” and lacking in rhythm. Mark didn’t put in any samba rolls, which surprised me. But I loved all those incredible turns — my my, that precarious glob of condiments sure can spin!

Yo, Brian Boitano in the audience next to Kristi’s mom! No, that’s all. Just hi.

Mario and Karina: 53/60 Okay, I take it back: Mario and Karina’s Viennese waltz was my favorite dance of the night. I thought Mario was pretty graceful, and certainly as ”stiff” as Scarrie Ann wanted him to be. I loved the cool sequence in the middle where they stepped in and out of hold four times quickly. (Look at me, using the phrase ”in and out of hold”!) And I thought their lift during the waltz was the most seamless of all the attempted lifts of the evening. Everything just flowed very nicely, including Karina’s white dress, which kind of made her look like a skankalicious bride. Good thing they practiced that one in the pool during rehearsal, huh? Because, Mario informed us, in a pool, ”the only thing Karina has to worry about is being cold.” In a white bikini. Ah, that was rich. Len’s comments, on the other hand, were just cheap and uncalled for. ”Normally your ballroom dance reminds me of Britney Spears getting out of a car — not very elegant,” he told Mario before even addressing the waltz at hand. Really, DANCMSTR? How long was that ”current” pop-culture reference brewing in your stuffy old noggin? You were such a softie to me in last week’s ‘DWTS Talk’ — what’s with this week’s raging ‘tude?

Mario’s jive — enhanced by awesome pink suspenders that somehow totally worked with the rest of the pair’s ”look” — was much less impressive, but certainly not as bad as DANCMSTR made it out to be. Out of nowhere, his contempt returned to knock down Mario’s ”bloody big, ugly” feet. Huh? Why not just say, ”No technique in the footwork,” which was the next phrase out of his squinchy mouth, and leave it at that? Someone should go fetch Len his fave snack of a cheese roll and a cup of tea, because I’m sick of this. Bruno and Carrie Ann had better things to say, and Carrie Ann (and Tom!) loved the somewhat convoluted lift at the end of the dance that lowered into a split. It was very in the spirit of the show — too much flash condensed into an impossible time frame, and they somehow kind of made it work. I enjoyed that.

NEXT: Jason’s spray tan fails to impress

Jason Taylor and Edyta: 52/60 After ”sacking Kristi” last week (thanks for that visual, Tom), Jason dropped to fourth place. Whoa! My guesses for next week’s Tom Bergeron voice-over keywords include ”fumble” and ”on the defensive.” Or I could just go all out and predict a complete sentence: ”Our favorite hot football player with totally ripped abs that a spray tan certainly enhances but let’s be honest they probably looked great to begin with plummeted to the bottom of the judges’ leaderboard.” Yep, that’s it. The judges loved Jason and Edyta’s first dance, a sultry tango that, as Bruno pointed out, was thoroughly enhanced by Edyta’s performance. Specifically, I thought her sharp but contained leg motions made the tango seem technically more impressive. The lift at the end did seamlessly blend into the dramatic tango finish of Edyta sprawled angrily on the floor. Len and Bruno argued about what tango actually was, then out came two 10s. (One was a ”Teeeeeeeeeeehn!”)

Jason’s samba was a different story: DANCMSTR called out Jason’s lack of musicality and uncomfortable look, Carrie Ann said he failed at flamboyance (which Jason probably took as a compliment), and Bruno just called the dance ”a turkey.” Jason’s low scores were surprising, but at least we got to hear DANCMSTR’s lilting ”seh-ven!” — probably for the last time all season. Jason’s moves did seem a bit recycled and basic, and for me the only awesome part of the dance was another incredible lift that basically begged us to worship at the six-foot-six-inch-tall altar of the perfect female form — an upside-down Edyta arched into a stunning diagonal line. Put that on your fridge and look at it when you feel like eating pudding! Then eat the pudding anyway. You totally deserve it.

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony: 50/60 It’s crunch time, which means Marissa needs to mention her triumph over cancer in the same breath as ”We’re in the bottom two.” Cringe! (Whoa — I’m suddenly appalled that ”cringe” rhymes with ”fringe.” Significant? Discuss.) Marissa has definitely grown on me, but based strictly on dance ability, she — or Cristián — should go home this week. Marissa and Tony’s fox-trot — featuring a pewter gown that put Sabrina’s purple frock last season to complete shame in the Dept. of the Unnecessarily Unflattering — was a bit too Broadway for Bruno’s tastes. I didn’t even think that was possible, but okay. There was a lot of stop-and-go in Marissa and Tony’s fox-trot and mambo, and both dances just seemed a little slower and less complicated than everyone else’s. After their mambo, DANCMSTR went ahead and confused everyone even more with a complaint that Marissa wasn’t ”raunchy” enough. He should have plenty of raunch (of which to approve and disapprove at will) in tonight’s 100th episode extravaganza! You know, the show Tom says ”takes an hour to promote”? We noticed. And we can’t wait!

Did anyone else love when Cristián tried to act demure and shield his nipples from the camera after giving everyone backstage a high five?

Me too!

What do you think? Who are you excited to see return to the ballroom tonight? Were the judges too easy on Cristián, and will they ever ease up on Mario? And do you like the idea of the contestants’ picking dances out of a hat next week, or should that particular brand of nonsense be left to So You Think You Can Dance?

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