A Norah Jones performance and MJ tribute didn't help ease the sting of elimination for one star
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JENNA JOHNSON, ADAM RIPPON

‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: A ‘Thriller’ of a night

Oh no! Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer and American Woman Natalie Coughlin departed the ballroom last night with her head hung like a defeated Charlie Brown. She’s level-headed and shy and Alec is, too, and the partnership clearly wasn’t really working…but Natalie was good! If this show was based on talent, or number of visible packs in your abs, a number of lesser dancers would have gone home first. Ugh! Natalie’s tears were welling up as she bewilderedly attempted to say goodbye. And she apologized to America. This is truly sad. Shame on you, voters, say the judges! Shut up, judges.

On the bright/sparkly side, I just caught Natalie and Alec’s satellite interview on Kimmel, and her voice was a bit less shaky already. Alec joked that he’d definitely trade in one of Natalie’s Olympic gold medals for another shot at the Nerf ball trophy, while Natalie admitted maybe she’d trade in a bronze. Side note: I will forever admire these hard-bodied nutjobs like Natalie’s ability to stand in front of a camera with a bare midriff and not run away screaming into the cozy open arms of a plush red DWTS red boxing robe instead. Staring at these marvels doesn’t usually make me feel fat because Our Pros, etc. always look like that, but in a non-DWTS setting, the costumes seem even more jarring, you know? Then I usually answer myself, ”Yes, Annie, I know,” and eat some more Halloween cake.

Enter permanent Rectagon wax figure La Toya Jackson to introduce the Michael Jackson Tribute Spectacular! Mark, Karina, and Derek danced to ”I Want You Back,” and Maks/Edyta, Dmitry/Lacey, and Tony/Chelsie got their ”Man in the Mirror” on at the top of the steps. I was surprised they didn’t include Drew and Cheryl’s ”Thriller” paso doble in the ”recollections of his influence,” but that might be because ”Thriller” got plenty of love from all of Our Pros at the end. I loved how the stable of bucking pros ”lurking in the dark” crept up menacingly on Louis and Cheryl. This was a pretty amazing group dance, and one I almost felt I’d seen before in one of my better dreams. What was with those green laser beams though? Those were not in my dreams. Also: No Vincent Price cackle at the end? The Harold Wheeler Ensemble appropriates everything else about other people’s music; why leave that off? I bet Princess Sparkle would have obliged, provided there was an accompanying loving closeup of her latest forehead-bauble.

Norah Jones performed ”It’s Gonna Be” with some dancers who looked like they’d just escaped a semi-casual late-afternoon wedding in the DWTS trailer park. ”Come Away With Me” was much more of a treat, featuring aspirational married ballroom couple Jonathan Roberts and Anna Tre-BUN-skaya. The random slices of pale purple in Anna’s crazy bejeweled wedding gown were like a suggestive reminder of ”sensuality!” to me. (It’s at this point each season when I read back a sentence and have no idea who would ever write that.) Speaking of nonsense, my mom, DANCMSTR Dee, just wrote in via email to brag that she had noticed ”Anna’s purple pumps had NO straps! Only a pro could do without straps, right??” Probably! My favorite moment: After the dance, Jonathan and Anna just stood there swaying while Tom talked. This is a hidden gem best replayed in video form.

NEXT: Hidden Gem

The filler segment I had preemptively named ”Monday Mornings Are Tough!” ended up being the best filler segment yet all season. I loved the producers’ conceit that we, the sometimes-cogent viewing audience, would buy that the ‘Stars’ all hug each other and say ”See you on the dance floor!” early on a Monday morning. They do not do that! But it was hilarious to pretend. The most awesomely awkward hand-off was probably Kelly to Mya, when Kelly was like, ”Hey Mya” and Mya was like ”Hey! I’m off to wardrobe.” Whatever you say, ladies. Pass it off! Other gems: Aaron Carter greeting an enormous security guard with strange hand gestures during a determined bound down the hall, Mark Dacascos playing a one-sided game of tag with various other crew members for that matter, Karina’s muffled ”eating cookie” sounding like ”eating [something else],” and Natalie’s sped-up convo with the Berge. I could not get enough of those red robes, either. You gotta stay cozy for the big Monday night fights!

Kelly Osbourne did suffer a foot sprain and contusion; she should be back next week. Poor Louis van Intensity had to do Monday’s post-show confessional with only his makeup to keep him company because Kelly had gone to the hospital. ”I care about that girl,” he informed us. Awwww, so cute! This was almost as enjoyable as the red room scene with the trainers — I never get tired of seeing all of Ozzy Osbourne’s spoken sentences in subtitles. They should do that with his thoughts, too. Next time.

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JENNA JOHNSON, ADAM RIPPON
Dancing With the Stars
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