Latin Night is way too mild, as the final 8 neither shine nor embarrass with their sambas and rumbas; on the bright side, ''Kristianna'' skates past identity issues, Mario looks Wonder-ful, and the costumes and music were as ''loco'' as we'd hoped
Mario, Dancing With the Stars

”It’s time to separate the good from the really good,” promised Tom Bergeron, and as far as I’m concerned, he may as well have been talking about Monday night’s Dancing With the Stars episode itself. The heavily promoted Latin Night turned out be pretty mild this season. The majority of the final 8’s sambas and rumbas were just ”good,” which is to say no one completely bombed. I’m pretty sure Samantha kicked off the night’s ”mediocrity” theme when she barely attempted to infuse a Spanish accent into one of her first scripted clauses: ”seasoned with the Latin flavor.” So misguided! I laughed, but it was more of a pity laugh. You know, like the pity 8s the judges keep flinging at Marissa. I dare say the spiciest part of the rest of the evening was when Tom referred to musical director Harold Wheeler as ”zesty.” Which he’s clearly not.

Obviously, I still dug the hell out of last night’s show, because (1) the costumes and song selections were ridiculous, (2) nearly every woman sported fringe, and (3) I just have really low standards. When do I not get a kick out of a relatively uninspired installment of DWTS? The answer is ”never.” Alternate, three-word answer channeling DANCMSTR: ”Fab. U. Lous.” Here’s how the Crazy 8 fared with their sambas and rumbas….

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark: 29 out of possible 30 Excuse me. Better make that Kristianna and Markutio, their alter-egos for the week. Kristi didn’t feel comfortable playing the role of herself during the rumba, especially with her husband and kids around to show off for the camera how adorable they all are. At first, I thought ”get over it” when Kristi insisted on pretending to be someone else. But you know what? More power to her for finding a way to get into the character of the most sensual dance — a character who only comes alive when she’s sheathed in sequined light purple fabric. Although Marissa/Tony and the C&C Ballroom Factory certainly gave them a run for their money in the matchy-matchy department, Kristi and Mark take the ”Yummylicious” cake, chiefly due to Mark’s lilac shoes. I almost want the show to sell those kicks on eBay, just so I’ll never have to see them on TV again. (Because they’ll have a new home, sitting on top of my DVR.)

Mario and Karina: 27/30 Mario and Karina’s samba was easily my favorite dance of the night. His effortless sense of rhythm really helped here — he could hit the moves smoothly instead of too sharply, while keeping on the beat of an atrocious version of ”A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” With her 37 layers of spray tan and Big Bird-esque bouffant of a ”skirt,” Karina truly was the perfect ”brown and yellow basket” for Mario to hunt down…and then hump six times in succession. I think that’s exactly what Mario’s good friend Stevie Wonder wanted him to do when he told Mario, ”Let your spirit dance…let your soul dance.” Seriously, though, I thought Mario rocked this one, and showed more hip action than any other two celebs combined. He’s got his swagger back! I predict this’ll be tonight’s encore dance. Oh, and Mario’s tight tuxedo pants? So hot.

NEXT PAGE: Who’s getting a bounce?

Jason Taylor and Edyta: 27/30 DANCMSTR surprisingly called out Edyta on her tendency to choreograph around her own outlandish poses instead of using consistent partnering tricks to keep her man busy. But Len still has a huge crush on the NFL Man of the Year, because he dances like a ”bloke” and always manages to pull it off. Jason scored straight 9s for doing more of the same — crouching low to the floor when he’s supposed to (he’s really good at that, by the way), extending his arms, and swiveling his way through some of the less complicated footwork of the evening. If anything, he’s consistent. If you’re like me, this week you may have noticed that whenever Jason extended both arms at once, he looked even more like a swan due to his oatmeal-colored V-neck.

Oh, and did anyone not catch this?

You probably thought DANCMSTR’s sinister, slightly turned-on gaze was creepy. I thought it was hilarious!

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony: 24/30 Is it really any surprise that Marissa’s best dance to date would be the one in which she was encouraged to shimmy for entire measures at a time? (Five, if you weren’t counting.) The pair’s samba wasn’t awesome by any stretch (fabric), but it was fun, and so were their hideous purple people-eater costumes. For once, Marissa didn’t seem at a disadvantage compared to the other contestants — the samba’s high energy and bouncy nature worked for her, and she didn’t look fiercely determined to prove herself at the beginning of the dance, like she usually does. They were definitely having fun; the dance just wasn’t too impressive. And the judges mostly commented on the bouncing, and not in the most flattering of ways. Carrie Ann started the parade off right, and by that I mean incoherently: ”You were bouncing like…you were bouncing!” Then DANCMSTR said Marissa had ”more bounce to the ounce” than he’d ever seen in the samba. Over to Bruno, who told Marissa she was ”bouncing like a beach ball.” Thanks, guys! I think we get it!

Shannon Elizabeth and Derek: 23/30 Leg-glitter tattoos have never been more effective! But Shannon’s somewhat wonky nature and tendency to flail when unsupported by her partner really caught up with her during the samba. DANCMSTR came right out and said that for someone who’s made it halfway through the season, Shannon’s dance wasn’t good enough. But don’t worry, Carrie Ann countered that with her warped version of a compliment: ”You just go for it 100 percent whether you look awkward or not.” Nice. I feel for Shannon this week — and not only because I can relate to a lack of disparity between hip and waist. Her partner was sent to the hospital for the second week straight, dammit! Of course she’s going to seem a little off. And compared to Marissa’s and Jason’s routines, Shannon’s had a lot more going on. Shannon needs to channel her inner Stacy Keibler (which she was already kind of doing with the orange frills) and figure out how to at least simulate some hip action with some good old-fashioned gyration. And if there’s time, Shannon could also use some lessons in, like, breathing.

NEXT PAGE: Who might be going home?

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl: 23/30 The best part about the C&C Ballroom Factory’s segment was the mini telenovela thrown into their rehearsal footage. Cheryl got to show off her firm grasp of the Spanish language with sentences like ”Si” and ”Cristián de la Fuente” — hey, I know Spanish, too! And the tasty Chilean sea bass of a man got to practice a gaze almost as smoldering as his frilly red shirt, on a fake balcony. It was pure poetry, unlike the pair’s merely ”competent” rumba. Aside from using that C-word, DANCMSTR’s most flattering critique of the dance was that it ”wasn’t gruesome.” Excellent! Bruno and Carrie Ann disagreed on whether C&C showed any chemistry. I’m not really sure they did, but I have noticed this: Cristián’s willingness to dress in costumes as cheesy as tonight’s shiny pink one actually makes him remind me of one of the pros. I end up watching Cheryl throughout most of their dances (because I usually watch Cheryl anyway), and most of the time, Cristián doesn’t make mistakes blatant enough for me to notice. That’s the thing about him, though — he’s not terrible, but he’s not a great enough dancer to truly…notice. He could be the one going home.

Marlee Matlin and Fabian: 22/30 First of all, did anyone else assume, after Marlee said ”they can dance if they want to” (in reference to deaf children), that she and Fabian would obviously be doing a samba to ”The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats? I was positive. That’s how wily and unpredictable this show is! No, actually, anyone could have predicted Marlee’s exceedingly off-rhythm dance as easily as her rather heartbreaking trip to Guadalajara to fit needy children for hearing aids. I personally love Marlee and think that skills- and attitude-wise, she’s been a front-runner in this competition for a while. But if her rhythm’s way off, it just doesn’t look right, and the judges have already promised they’d be scoring Marlee according to everyone else’s standards. I wish her song had been slower, or that maybe the samba was less complicated, because she knows what she’s doing. (Back walkovers!) She’s just not able to do it according to the music. And yards upon yards of beautiful, bright red fringe can only cover up so much.

Priscilla Presley and Louis: 21/30 I kept waiting for their rumba to kick in, then realized 30 seconds into it that it probably already had. Aside from Priscilla’s slow-to-the-ground split (which was only somewhat impressive for someone whose legs are ostensibly composed of Silly Putty), there were very few tricks up her fishnet-disco-ball sleeve. The audience didn’t really know when to clap…she missed a turn…lots of walking with her hands at her sides…it was basically a mess. The judges were pretty brutal, but gave her 7s anyway. Bruno complimented Priscilla’s ability to play her part: ”Sensual but not trashy, available but reassuringly expensive.” Huh? That sounds like my apartment. But my apartment’s kind of trashy. I mean, look what I’m writing about right now.

Hey, it’s about that time again!

C&C were caressing Louis’ oversize noggin backstage, practically the whole time! By the way, congratulate (or curse) me for moving the Hidden Gem logo away from Samantha’s face, where I’d placed it originally.

What do you think? Does Priscilla have the fan base to keep her in the running, even though in her case it’d be more like strolling? Which couple’s dance would you like to see encored tonight? And who do you think is going home? The message board awaits below.

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