Gilles scores big with the judges as the final four couples take on Latin and ballroom dances

By Annie Barrett
Updated May 12, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

Gilles Marini topped the judges’ leaderboard after season 8’s semifinal performance round of Dancing With the Stars. Was he really that perfect or was it just his butt? This unsolved mystery and more, provided you read on! Here’s how the final four sparkle-mongers ranked after one round each of ballroom and Latin…

Gilles Marini and Cheryl: 60 out of possible 60 The male contestants always have such profound ”Aha! Moments” when a pro who wears pants swoops in to help them out during rehearsal that I’m surprised it doesn’t happen sooner, and more often. Gilles needed to trade in sexiness for sophistication so…obviously, bring in Jonathan! The gentle hero who put up with Marie Osmond for months outlined the waltz in layman’s terms, much to Gilles’ (and my, and probably your) delight: ”Cheryl’s the picture. You’re gonna invite her to come into the frame.” The song choice for Gilles’ ballroom round, Norah Jones’ ”Come Away With Me,” at first seemed a bit sleepy and lacking in beat, but Cheryl somehow choreographed a routine that made it work. A lot of their movements alternated between great flourishes and moments of stillness, so that the dance ended up mirroring the song. It was different, but good, like Arby’s. DANCMSTR claimed to be in the act of giving Gilles ”a sitting-down standing ovation,” which is something I’ll be telling everyone who enters my office from now on. Even before the judges spoke, Gilles had turned on the waterworks and couldn’t stop, even by the time they reached Samantha and her rather stunning Crayola Metallic FX Crayons dress.

I dug the subtitled hometown visit to Cannes for Gilles, especially the sections about his father working around the clock at his independent bakery (this was the ”authentic” counterpart to that one time they made Gilles stereotypically hold up a baguette and look sexy, a.k.a. normal) and his best friend Eric’s testimonial about how he used to do the Moonwalk back when Michael Jackson was trendy. Gilles and Shawn both showed dangerous levels of delusion about DWTS‘ first-place prize: Shawn said it was ”big” and Gilles called it ”the biggest trophy on national TV in America.” I would generously label that knob of hardened glitter as a solid ”medium,” maybe even ”S/M” or ”petit” if things got slightly cryptic and/or French.

Gilles’ second dance pretty much epitomized what makes a successful Dancing With the Stars performance. Purple sequined shirt, check. Indigo pants, check. Zoom-in on four beats of Gilles’ ass (inhabited by Lil’ Kim, according to Bruno) that will appear in every promo and in-show montage for the rest of the season? Check. Perhaps you found Gilles’ salsa a bit too queso-y and over-the-top, but you have to at least hand it to Cheryl for orchestrating that booty shake. I’m sure to a very discerning eye, this salsa wasn’t technically perfect (and may not have deserved DANCMSTR’s hypothetical ”11 paddle”), but I do believe it was perfect in the setting of the semifinals of a reality show about celebrities attempting to ballroom-dance. When Gilles spun around on his knees really fast before reaching out with one meaty limb for Cheryl towards the beginning, Gilles looked like one of ”our pros.” He’s just able to ”sell it” like no one else this season, and for the first time in weeks, he sold us precisely the correct amount. Of baguettes.

NEXT: Shawn and her awful shoes

Shawn Johnson and Mark: 56/60 If you put Bruno’s post-tango comment to Shawn together with Carrie Ann’s ”precision is your middle name,” you will note that as of week 10 of season 8, the tiny dancer’s full name is Catherine Zeta-Shawn Precision Johnson. ”She’s got it coming big time, honey!” After Shawn’s Argentine Tango with Mark, I was left confused as to why she’d been so nervous about the lifts — there weren’t too many (they came at the end), and she seemed to pull them off perfectly. Sure, we saw a lot of crotch, but Shawn’s Olympics fans are kind of used to that. I got a kick out of how many of the audience members followed the prop chair Mark shoved off to the side until even after we’d heard the ”crash!” sound effect that accompanied it. (What do we think the chair shattered? Brooke Burke’s metaphorical season 7 ‘Miss DWTS‘ tiara? The front line of Maks’ well-shellacked ‘do? Samantha?)

We hit up Des Moines, Iowa for the story of Shawn’s life. Between little Shawn’s self-imposed removal of the swings on her jungle gym and Ty riding a bull on his own at 3 years old, I came to the startling realization that I was an extremely underachieving and much lazier than previously assumed child. After the spotlight on what a daredevil go-getter she was, Shawn’s jive was a bit of a letdown, even though I did appreciate the mirrorball motif (and nod to DWTS‘ home planet) of Shawn and Mark’s costumes. Nothing new though; wardrobe does this all the time. Tom’s comment that selling a dance 110 percent ”is hard to do in polka dots” was my favorite Tom quip of the night because it was so silly and could have applied to virtually anything. DANCMSTR complained that he would like to have seen a bit more traditional jive ”instead of slapstick.” Mark was not amused after receiving an 8. Perhaps he had just been seriously studying Shawn’s terrible black-and-white shoes. Nah, that one didn’t work. Mark probably picked those out.

Melissa Rycroft and Tony: 55/60 Hello, show! We have already mentally likened Melissa to Brooke Burke — good dancer, hot body, perfectly pleasant demeanor, kind of zzzzzzzzzz. You don’t need to display Brooke every time Melissa dances. But it’s pretty funny that you did, especially after Bruno complained that Melissa’s quickstep ”wasn’t as exhilarating and crispy and zing-y as it could have been.” ”Gershwin’s ”I Got Rhythm” was an apt song choice for Melissa’s ballroom round, because she does indeed — it’s her feet that were the problem last week. Melissa sort of escaped the Wrath of DANCMSTR by wearing light-colored shoes instead of black, which would have looked better but drawn more attention to her ”hot mess” feet. I didn’t get too interested in this dance (even though I adored Melissa’s Flapper costume and hair) until the very end — everything seemed to come alive just in time for a swooping floor spin and final gleaming-teeth flourish.

Best part of Melissa’s hometown segment: her incredulous comment about her sudden reality show-hopping fame: ”I don’t think the world’s greatest writers could have scripted this!” Um, way to not give credit to the world’s greatest network execs…

I detected more of a ”briefly copped attitude,” or what the judges call ”personality,” from Melissa in her cha cha cha than in any other dance to date — and I think it was all thanks to her magical pinned-on hat. Kudos to Mark for letting Melissa and Tony borrow two of his most prized possessions. The pair’s Latin-round dance was slower in pace than any other cha cha cha in recent memory, thanks to a rather sluggish rendition of ”Save the Last Dance.” Carrie Ann said it seemed like Melissa couldn’t decide how big the steps should be, and I wonder if maybe she was just confused by the live version of the recording that they’d used to rehearse. The pacing was hard to overlook, but Melissa and Tony still got three 9s. DANCMSTR’s comment that Melissa’s dance was substandard, lackluster, and generally disappointing — ”but you can never dance bad, whatever you do; you’re just a really good dancer” — struck me as a bit over-compensatory. He could have just said ”Not my cheese roll and a cup of tea” and been done with it.

NEXT: Ty & Chelsie

Ty Murray and Chelsie: 48/60 As usual, Ty’s sound bites were more entertaining than his dances. His description of the samba — it’s ”supposed to be like a party but it’s more like a pain in the ass with a whole lotta steps in it” — is as honest and perfect as Dancing With the Stars quips will ever come. And I loved his deadpan question to Chelsie: ”What do you think got us through — the fans, or my spot-on rumba?” Even better was when he directly admitted that his fans had kept him in the race over Lil’ Kim, or in his words, ”a better-skilled dancer.” As for his performances, Ty’s Viennese Waltz set to ”Tuesday’s Gone” (take out the ”uesda,” then add ”Tuesday” to the end, and what do you have? A foreshadowing sentence, and a headache) would have served him well had he not made so many footwork and timing mistakes. His facial expressions were especially funny during this one — in between toothy grins, Ty sort of bugs his eyes and purses his lips in earnest as he’s gearing up for the next toothy grin. It’s how I imagine wee Ty’s face as he ran down the stairs to find a lone saddle, the only present he ever wanted, under the Christmas tree. (Adorable!) The judges proceeded to bicker like never before during Ty’s Viennese Waltz critique. I thought I was watching MSNBC until my eyes rested on Chelsie’s seafoam Disney gown and screeching silver belt long enough to jolt me back to ”reality.”

Ty’s Latin dance, the samba, was a lot better in my opinion even though he scored two points lower than in the ballroom round. I believe this was Ty’s most bedazzled costume to date, and I appreciated how each Jewel on his shirt matched one of the 20 billion colors involved in Chelsie’s dress. The pair executed what my untrained eye thought were some pretty decent samba rolls, and even made a point to halt the dance altogether so Ty could stand still and regroup before dutifully shaking his butt for about two seconds. In what could not possibly have been a pre-scripted comment, DANCMSTR regretted that whenever Ty dances Latin, he’s ”like Murray in a hurry.” Carrie Ann called Ty season 8’s most valuable player; then the judges awarded him the lowest score of the night. If Ty does somehow make it through to the finals, he’ll want to wear a grown-up version of Baby Ty’s custom-made ”little black chaps.” Knowing DWTS, they’ll be assless. It won’t be Ty’s fault. The costume department simply won’t realize there’s an alternate option.

Okay, DANCMSTRs, share your thoughts on the semifinals — and nominate your Hidden Gem of the Week (yes, I totally noticed the sequined monster behind Bruno) — in the comments!

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