The show continues to improve the world as the celebs try to raise their game in the face of a double elimination
Mario, Dancing With the Stars

”Dancing With the Stars” recap: Second chances

You guys! Did you know the best thing about Dancing With the Stars is that it makes the world a better place? The Gute said so! I totally should have included that in today’s gallery, 15 Reasons I’m a ‘Dancing’ Fool. Avid readers may recognize parts of said list from ye olde 2007 — like all delicious things, it’s been Supersized for the better. Tonight, in a much-touted double-elimination week 2, one man and one woman will be eliminated. With 12 performances packed into two hours, there was barely any room for useless filler. I’ll take the same approach to this column. Here we go:

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark: 27 out of 30 points last night; with last week’s score, 54 total Aw, the producers tricked us! Judging by a few seconds of rehearsal footage emphasized by Kristi’s high-pitched squeal, I expected the champion figure skater to be super embarrassed and timid about having to ”shake and bake” her booty for the mambo. As if! Their dance, which costarred Mark’s eyeliner and a very Maks-esque open vest, wowed the judges with its precision. With her, shall we say, complicated costuming, poor Kristi looked like she didn’t know which breed of Girl she was supposed to be — Harajuku or Cheetah? (Neither: Yamaguchi! That hot mess would have dazzled on the ice.) After only two performances, Kristi and Mark have set the standard for season 6. Will the pair ever see a 7 or 8 paddle? I hope so, just because every contestant should get to hear the lovely low-to-high, singsong quality of DANCMSTR’s ”Se-ven!” firsthand, at least once, just for fun.

Mario and Karina: 26/30; 50 total Do we see a trend here? The most ridiculously outfitted couples on week 2 are the top scorers of the first two weeks combined. For the quickstep, Mario classed things up with a sleeveless tuxedo jacket featuring tails and a tie-shirt combo (seemingly sanctioned by Project Runway season 4’s Carmen) fashioned from a scrap of Karina’s ”dress.” This brilliant sartorial spectacle aside, it was Mario’s footwork and charisma that caused Bruno to tell him, ”I think you’ll be a winner in the competition.” A winner, as in one of many? Silly Bruno — there’s only one giant glitter ball. DANCMSTR wants Mario to keep his left elbow up and work on finesse. Carrie Ann basically thinks Mario is hot. She must have been pretending to be Karina during the pair’s gratuitous training-by-the-shore segment, which closed with a beautiful shot against the setting sun of Mario groping Karina’s ass. (He had to. Piggyback rules.)

Jason Taylor and Edyta: 27/30; 49 total Last night’s mambo, bragged Edyta, was ”the craziest routine that I’ve ever given anyone.” Her protégé, whose sparkly, studded belt brought new levels of machoism to the ballroom, seemed to have no trouble with the choreography. DANCMSTR wasted no time telling Jason, ”You’re a winner.” I liked the stop-and-go nature of the dance; it went very well with the traditional mambo music and showed off the couple’s hard bodies and core strength. (Did I really just write that? It’s true.) It’s possible they were overscored; I’m not sure Jason’s part of the dance was as complicated as Edyta made it sound, and I found myself falling back into my old habit of just watching her during partner dances. But with moves like Edyta’s insane floor twirl (not a lift!), which transitioned into a final stand-and-hug pose, how could you not?

NEXT: Quickstepping up

Marlee Matlin and Fabian: 24/30; 46 total I personally preferred Marlee’s week 1 cha-cha to last night’s quickstep (and I bet Bette Porter/Jennifer Beals would, too), but she scored two points higher in the electric blue gown. The judges toned down their predictions for Marlee — according to DANCMSTR, she has ”potential to go very far in this competition,” and Bruno switched up the noun from his Mariospeak, calling Marlee ”a contender.” The judges wanted a more traditional quickstep but were still wowed by Marlee’s musicality and ability to bring out the character of the dance. Marlee told us that if we wanted to understand what the music sounded like to her, we should imagine being in the shower with the door closed and music playing in the next room. Any wasteful, inconsiderate hearing person, like me, can easily relate to this. Aaaaand now I feel insensitive. Hey, at least I didn’t shove a microphone into Marlee’s face like Samantha Harris.

Shannon Elizabeth and Derek: 24/30; 45 total Shannon, by far the most improved within the two-week premiere, seems better suited to a standard ballroom dance. I’m not sure if it was her increased confidence, Derek’s choreography, a combination of the two, or the fact that neither dancer looked dressed up for Halloween, but this pair’s quickstep was the surprise of the night. It wasn’t too fast, like Cheryl’s and Tony’s versions, and I loved all the details with the leg work. The modified handstand against the judges’ table didn’t hurt either; those three eat that stuff up! For Bruno, Shannon and Derek’s dance was a ”shot of adrenaline” after a few clunkers. ”This is what we want,” he said. ”You’re in the game.” And so are Shannon’s dogs, who haven’t sat out an episode yet.

Priscilla Presley and Louis: 21/30; 45 total Last week’s fox-trot worked for Priscilla, but I was eager to see her do a quicker-paced Latin dance. It wasn’t a disaster. Even though I thought she was a little behind Louis toward the end, she pulled off all the steps and even ended the dance with a slow crawl toward the camera that I probably wouldn’t be comfortable viewing again. I found it a little odd that Carrie Ann praised Kristi’s precision during her mambo, but Len told Priscilla, ”I don’t think one of the qualities you want in mambo is precise. It could have been a bit more come on, girl.” Huh? Why, because she’s older? It was weird; both DANCMSTR and Bruno insisted on ramped-up sex appeal from Priscilla but not Kristi, whose mambo moves were precise but hardly passionate. Odd. Discuss.

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl: 20/30; 41 total By living in the middle of the pack for two weeks, Cristián could be at a disadvantage: Based on scores only, he’s not in great danger of leaving. But is anyone voting for him? I could barely remember anything about his quickstep, except that it was way too fast and that Cheryl looked like a beautiful galaxy. When I rewound, I agreed with DANCMSTR about Cristián’s lack of control, but I did like the way he got into character this time. He does seem to be taking this reality-TV show about ballroom dancing seriously now, and what more could we ask for? Cheryl dressed the tasty Chilean sea bass of a man (I will be calling him that until he leaves) in a military uniform to improve his posture. Pretty sure it was just to get the guy in a military uniform. No complaints, but as long as we’re going down this route, may I suggest cheekless leather chaps for next week? Cristián needs to work on his clenching.

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony: 21/30; 39 total Tony is a saint. He told the viewers at home, ”I can’t stop smiling when I’m around Marissa,” while refraining from adding the logical second clause to that sentence: ”Because I’m not allowed to.” He also took on the role of therapist — after week 1, Marissa became weepy about her body type, and Tony had to intervene with lines like ”What you have is that X factor.” I wish he’d said ”XXX factor” to spice things up and maybe throw us off a bit. But I also wish that I could have stopped staring at the giant apple Marissa was chomping on during this conversation, and that the background music wasn’t so pathetic. We can’t always get what we want. The problem with the pair’s quickstep, though, might have been Tony — the dance seemed too fast for her, which easily could have been corrected by using a slower song or fewer steps. I won’t be surprised if the lovely, bubbly Marissa leaves tonight instead of the more well-known Monica Seles.

NEXT: Funny sad

Adam Carolla and Julianne: 19/30; 34 total After Adam delivered an ill-conceived ”excuse” for why he called her a bitch last week (something lame about a publicist named Mitch), Carrie Ann offered what was probably the fairest assessment of Adam’s dance: ”That wasn’t quite a mambo — I’m not sure what it was — but it was green, it was cute, and you gave it your best.” Adam actually did. His aggressive-for-no-reason attitude was grating last week, but this week I loved his telling Julianne, ”I’m a 75-percenter that’s giving you 95 percent,” and his inclination to even attempt a backward somersault. Where Penn Jillette has ramped up the backtalk and taunting to a nauseating degree, Adam has dialed his back. It’s working for him. He can’t dance, but he can stay. Although, really, DANCMSTR? You scored Adam’s mambo higher than Cristián’s quickstep? Are you nuts?

Steve Guttenberg and Anna: 16/30; 34 total Sad but true: The Gute simply has no sense of rhythm. Not even Anna TreBUNskaya’s unnecessarily subtitled mother could teach him about the beat. Steve and Anna’s rainbow-sherbet mambo left the judges struggling for nice things to say, like Bruno’s non-compliment ”All the energy went into the facial expressions, so the body died.” DANCMSTR had to resort to a metaphor involving spotted dick, which sounds like a mild STD but is in fact a British steamed pudding. Don’t you love it when DANCMSTR feigns cluelessness? I also loved how Anna schooled Carrie Ann, when C.A. said Steve’s second dance wasn’t his ”best.” There’s no best in a pair. Leave it to the feisty Russian to correct someone’s English.

Penn Jillette and Kym: 17/30; 33 total It’s only week 2, and already Penn has become abrasive. His quickstep, filled with atrocious footwork and props, was barely worth discussing. All I can remember is the strained look on Penn’s face as DANCMSTR began his critique — it wasn’t a look of ”What can I learn from this guy?” or even ”Does it look like I’m listening?” No, the look was pure, attention-starved ”At which point should I butt in with a joke?” He definitely doesn’t understand that for the majority of viewers, that answer is ”Never.” If Penn stays through to next week, he must tone it down! On the way backstage, Penn tripped on the stairs, intentionally. Tom backed him up with his ”a little Rob Petrie action” comment, but it’s also possible the stairs were simply too narrow for Penn’s mammoth feet. Final words, Penn? ”Dance badly. Don’t learn to dance well.” Beautiful.

Monica Seles and Jonathan: 15/30; 30 total The tennis star’s interview packages have made her come off extremely well — she’s sweet and self-deprecating (but in a frank, not compliment-starved, way), and she’s not giving up even though she realizes at this early point that she has very little dancing ability. Monica’s such a great sport, especially having endured that horrid lesson Jonathan gave her on how to emote. Watching someone fake facial expressions on the dance floor is bad enough; Monica’s demo was like the rough draft of a poorly written persuasive paragraph. Like the timeless En Vogue song to which she danced her mambo, she’s ”Never Gonna Get It.” But I love her anyway.

What do you think? Is it too late for Tom Bergeron to run for president? Are the judges’ front-runners your favorites? And which two contestants are going home?

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