As the dancers take on the Argentine Tango and the Lindy Hop, one pair scores the season's first perfect score

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 31, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
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Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC
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On last night’s Dancing With the Stars performance show, another big twist! Samantha Harris’s silly baby had made her ill. Not sure what the technical term for her condition was, but I’ll go ahead and call it a particularly wretched case of the croaks. Don’t worry, she didn’t let that stop her from slobbering all over the contestants, wagging her germy microphone in their faces, and generally sounding like a monster whenever she spoke between demure sips of sparkly water. Still, Sam had some of her most precious hosting moments last night, particularly when, after Gilles called himself Cheryl’s ”nightmare,” she quipped right back, ”For many at home, a nightmare they wish was recurring.” (Haha!) Then she hocked a loogie at the monitor. (Probably.)

For many at home this morning, a nightmare we endured just hours ago was a loop of Sam leaning in way too close to the camera to growl sweet nothings like ”In case yah MISSED any of the numbers…” whilst dangling her bedazzled mic just above our non-pillow-safe ears. Throughout the night, Tom attempted to de-freak everyone out by jauntily comparing Samantha to pop culture figures so outdated that he became more and more faux-sickened by himself and by 10 p.m. was just generally defeated. I do not wish for Sam’s condition to worsen, exactly — but I have to say, her predicament made the entire night a lot more unintentionally hilarious than usual.

I mean…Get well soon! Here’s how the 11 remaining couples fared with either the Argentine Tango or the Lindy Hop:

Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke: 30 out of possible 30 I can’t feel my face! Am I still here? Holy cow. Jeez! Missus. Woo hoo! Oh, sorry, DANCMSTRs, just channeling Carrie Ann for a second there. Cheryl’s tough-love training style is paying off: After ”Zheeeel” (as Samantha pronounces it, except last night it was more like ”Hccaahhch”) was shown pacing the studio all by his lonesome, reminding himself how ”Stupid!” he was, he and Cheryl turned out one of the best DWTS performances to date. The slicked-back hair, the black-and-purple palette, that one weightless lift that changed direction three times and then again once Cheryl hit the floor…happy sigh! The first 30 of the season! Even Tom (Gunn?) couldn’t keep a hearty ”That was fierce!” to himself after their final one-armed Cristian de la Fuente’s ruptured bicep-inspired pose (clearly one of Cheryl’s faves). My only complaint about Gilles’ Argentine Tango was that once the music ”kicked in,” by the time I got pumped up about the new lighting and quicker tempo, it was all over. Carrie Ann said she ”honestly couldn’t tell who was the professional and who was the celebrity,” which might have hurt Stacy Keibler in season 2 but shouldn’t have the same effect on Gilles because his (lack of) past dance experience is not in question. If he keeps this up — and you know Cheryl will — Gilles will easily win. So basically he needs to live in a bubble whenever he’s not rehearsing, so he won’t get injured. Preferably a giant mirrorball. Lined with webcams.

NEXT: Shawn gets tricky

Melissa Rycroft and Tony: 29/30 Okay, it’s kind of working. I’m beginning to find Melissa Rycroft’s rehearsal footage totally endearing. I blame myself for loving Tony too much. (”Stupid!”) According to Melissa, Tony has achieved the enviable status of her ”intstructor/brother/teacher/friend” — take that, highly-functioning-chimpanzee-Mesnick! Tony and Melissa both appear to be having a blast, and Melissa’s flutter-footed screech upon completing the full-twisting dip under Tony’s legs during rehearsal is the stuff DWTS producers’ dreams are made of. That and glitter. The pair earned nearly a perfect score for their Lindy Hop that, as difficult as it was, honestly didn’t seem like such a big deal for Melissa to complete. Even Tony had to take a seat next to Tom before their critique, he was so out of breath. Of course, the pink-bowtied Phoenix eventually rose from the ashes to hear Carrie Ann call his brilliant choreography a personal best and — a bit more important — to pinch Tom’s ass, acting as surrogate for his BFF Maks.

Lil’ Kim and Derek: 27/30 They performed second, and I was so enthralled by the active/reactive qualities of their Argentine Tango (Derek described that perfectly) that I might have been content if this had been the only outstanding tango of the night. Kim and Derek’s intuitive leg flicks were what made this dance amazing for me, especially at the beginning — for a few bars, they seemed to flow as one four-legged creature with a particularly bionic booty. Another high: that floating lift in which Kim seemed to somehow gain more height after her initial peak. (I’m clueless! Fire me!) You could tell Bruno awarded Kim a 10 to even out DANCMSTR’s score of 8. But whoa, did anyone else notice DANCMSTR transform into Bruno for a few seconds during his critique of Kim? ”Buenos Aires. A bar. Smoke-filled Small room. Sensual. Quiet. Passionate. Then a quick fiery moment. And then BACK into the passion! That was lacking.” He had the super-intense ”If I was any closer I might strangle you” hand gestures and everything. All DANCMSTR needs is some overtly sexual metaphor and a reference to an upcoming Disney movie and he is ready to complete ”the change.”

Shawn Johnson and Mark: 25/30 DANCMSTR and Bruno complained that their Lindy Hop contained too many tricks and could have used more dancing, but I suspect that if Shawn and Mark had dressed in Melissa and Tony’s costumes instead of showing up as American Gladiators rejects, the same performance might have come off as more technical and dance-y. But maybe not; there were way too many ”stops” within the performance that we don’t usually see with even the more challenged contestants. I didn’t get that Shawn and Mark’s ”SHARK” warmup suits were part of their costumes and mistakenly marked down Shawn’s backstage outfit as a potential Hidden Gem of the Week. ”Is she waiting for the floor exercise?” I typed in my notes. Technically, yes, that’s exactly what she and Mark ended up doing out there. She may have been underscored a bit, but at least she got to enjoy not having to be ”romantic” (ewwwww gross boys!) and the routine allowed for a mesmerizing rehearsal segment of the couple at a local gymnastics center that I’ll probably be rewinding tomorrow to watch the back-flips-on-a-trampoline part over and over and over….What’s wrong with me? No, wait, I’m off the hook. It was Mark who designed those costumes.

NEXT: Chuck’s head trauma

Ty Murray and Chelsie: 25/30 First of all, I’m seriously admiring Ty’s ability to hold eye contact with the camera even in the most desperate times, i.e. when the camera won’t leave its subject alone during those usually heinous backstage parting shots. Ty’s unflinching countenance may not be his biggest strength out on the dance floor, but his commitment to one specific gaze was almost hypnotic during that somewhat uncomfortable lingering shot he shared with Lawrence Taylor in the red room. As for his Lindy Hop last night, Ty seriously worked it out and I think most props should go to Chelsie. Some other pros have become frustrated with their partner’s inability to ”just feel the dance” early on, whereas Chelsie sat her ass on the floor and made sure Ty hammered down and understood all of his footwork before she put the two of them together for the rest of the routine. She’s been teaching him the basics instead of whirling him around right away in temporary routines he’ll never remember. It’s just smart. I loved this couple and their crazy pink/navy plaid costumes. Sure, he didn’t look too jazzed the whole time, but maybe Ty was just playing the role of the shy boy at the school’s mandatory sock hop that’s probably kind of lame anyway.

David Alan Grier and Kym: 22/30 Despite a total lack of negative critiques, DAG still can’t quite break into the top 5. He and Kym had the disadvantage of dancing first, and I thought their performance was great but then proceeded to forget almost everything about it besides his bespangled lapels and her emitting a distinct Strawberry Shortcake Takes a Crappy Boat Cruise vibe (both of which, of course, I dug). That dual cartwheel was divine and I loved the quick-paced, multi-element finish. They deserve a better slot next week. My favorite part of their segment was probably DANCMSTR’s unintentional redundancy: ”It was not your best but by no means not your worst.” Whatever you say, man whose pink handkerchief by no means matches even one of the four other shades of pink in your ensemble.

Chuck Wicks and Julianne: 22/30 Exactly how many times did this dude fall on his head? Julianne decided to forego the dreaded back flip during the (REAL-LIFE) couple’s Lindy Hop and instead went with a cute but safe routine that earned them typical semi-praises such as ”Competent” (DANCMSTR), ”Sometimes you’re borderline good” (Carrie Ann), and ”Pizza to go, please! But can I have it crispier?” (Wild guess). After their final pose, Julianne reached up to give her partner a high ten; too bad he was in the process of giving a virtual one to the audience. I’m surprised that when the couple were hopping around the judges’ table, DANCMSTR didn’t place an order for his favorite snack (a cheese roll and a cup o’ tea) from the deranged wait staff of CHUCK and JULES, for whom there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues of toiling away at an imaginary ’50s diner within a cavernous television studio. I hear the tips are horrible.

NEXT: LT gets a little help from Alec

Lawrence Taylor and Edyta: 19/30 Hooray for any excuse for us to see Alec again! After Lady Legwarmer showed uncharacteristic frustration with her partner, her quiet hubby, He of the Wondrous Hair, came in to demonstrate some of the footwork and lifts for the Argentine Tango for Lawrence. The couple’s dance was pretty boring and the judges said it lacked chemistry, but that’s not to say the entire segment was a bust. For one thing, Edyta looked positively chaste (in a nearly backless dress) with her classy, black-sparkly costume and sophisticated updo. Bizarro world! It continued; Samantha embarked on a dramatic monologue entitled ”I Lost My Voice But I’ll Say This Anyway”: I’m going through puberty! I just want you all to know. Has the ballroom bug caught you? It’s apparently caught me… And so on. This direct excerpt has not been brought to you by Sudafed. To top it all off, Tom called DANCMSTR ”Little Lenny Hardbutt.” All of this is just terrific. That’s what we wanna see, guys! Go LT!

Holly Madison and Dmitry: 16/30 ”The Argentine Tango is very sophisticated,” began Dmitry during their rehearsal footage, and you could tell he wanted to continue, ”Just like your long-ass shiny fuchsia shorts.” Okay, I wanted that. I find the shorts fascinating. Holly’s having rib troubles, has taken over Denise Richards’ ”crying lady” slot since last week, and looks prettier without much makeup. I obviously loved Holly’s black-and-white long fringed skirt and black feathered headdress, but the couple’s Argentine Tango went downhill as soon as she somehow almost tumbled off one of their two prop stools. She got to execute her favorite part, the flip! But with tonight’s double elimination, Holly’s chances to ”Drop the Barbie; bring out the vixen” (as prescribed by Bruno) are likely nil. [Nervous giggle]

Steve-O and Lacey: 15/30 Oh god, it’s Katy Perry with purple Crocs! Nope, just Lacey in her ridiculous Lindy Hop costume. I feel for her — she and Steve-O don’t even seem to be on the same show as everyone else, what with his enduring pain and their tendency to fall days or even weeks behind the other couples. I’m not sure why he doesn’t just bow out, especially with two people having to leave tonight. At least half of their rehearsal segment was overlaid with Steve-O’s obscenely loud grunts of unadulterated terror. Please stop! Nothing he’s doing is benefitting everyone — and yes, I did see the sad-sack clown routine and fun, brightly striped Lindy Hop shirt. There’s just something so eerie and contradictory about the poor-guy’s low, drawn-out delivery of this week’s cue card: ”If I can’t get in touch with that clown character….gosh dang darnit what the hay. I’m here to have fun.” Cringe! I’m either a bad person or a decent one for wanting Steve-O to work his issues out away from national television. Take a cue from Lacey, mid-training session: ”It shouldn’t be this hard.”

NEXT: The Woz takes his rightful spot

Steve Wozniak and Karina: 12/30 While one Steve continued to deteriorate, the other pumped himself back up to the colorful, friendly inflatable dinosaur raft he always knew he could be. After leading a herd of Segways to a thicket of humans rife with his personal fans, Woz implored these same people to vote for him. Dude, they showed up for free at your extra-special geek rally. I think you’ve sealed the deal! Woz and Karina performed something resembling an Argentine Tango, with Karina wisely opting to wear an amount of costume material proportionate with her partner’s dance talent. Bruno was especially harsh to the man incapable of making an angry face, telling Woz the only thing he picked up from Buenos Aires (did I fall asleep during that portion of the rehearsal segment when they traveled there?) was ”the stench,” because ”that stunk.” Woz fired back with an ”I’m Still Standing” reference (that would be the Elton John music video Bruno danced in way back when). Bruno didn’t care. Really, he could be a bit nicer and still make his point. Wozzup with the hostility?

Hey, speaking of rhetorical questions, what’s almost as good as an EW.com Dancing with the Stars video series? Today’s Idolatry, which features regrettable footage of me dancing in a sequined vest circa 1993, as well as a tepid discussion of fringe with host Michael Slezak. It’s true, y’all!

Okay, DANCMSTRs — comment away on Mark’s lamb shanks, Lil’ Kim’s leg flicks, and your best and worst DWTS nightmares. I have three words for you: Steve’s Segway Stampede. [shudder]

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