Len gives each of the final four a private lesson, but it doesn’t really seem to take with anyone other than Lance

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 18, 2008 at 05:00 PM EST
Brooke Burke
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: The home stretch

It’s semifinals week on Dancing With the Stars, and you know what that means — tons of pressure! Lots of drama! Top-notch performances! Well, yes, ideally. But waaaaaay more importantly: The triumphant return of the DANCMSTR vanity plate! We get this once a season onscreen, even though I force you to read it on this screen twice a week. I was terrified they wouldn’t provide a close-up of the license plate’s pristine beauty, but of course they saved it for the end of head judge Len Goodman’s (see, I know his name) ”Master Class” segment. From his Cheryl-Kym ballroom-sandwich fantasy to his solo-grinding tutorial from Warren Sapp, DANCMSTR’s shining moment was a true delight, ranking up there with Tom’s suggestion that viewers judge the contestants ”not by the sparkle of their sequins but by the dazzle of their dance.” Oh, Tom. They’re so not mutually exclusive! Just ask the judges. And Warren.

The final four performed twice last night — first, the ballroom or Latin dance they’d not yet done, and then one of the scary ”four new dances” for round two. I loved that we finally got professional demonstrations of the salsa and jitterbug; those would’ve helped weeks ago, but we’ll take ’em now. Salsa pros Paul Barris and Yesenia Adame put me in a splits-induced trance that only intense squinting at her red-nude-colored dress could snap me out of, whereas Christian Perry and Annette Nicole actualized the title of their jitterbug song by perfectly resembling cats on a hot tin roof. Perry didn’t seem quite lifelike, even — I think they might have rescued him moments earlier from the deranged toy shop where Marie Osmond’s tragicomic baby doll persona was kept in storage. Anyway, both pro demos made round two much livelier on a night with few real highlights. Early in the evening, Tom claimed the remaining stars comprised ”possibly the most competitive final four we’ve ever had.” And by ”possibly,” he really meant ”not.” Here they are…

Lance Bass and Lacey: 57 out of possible 60 I’m not sure what exactly changed in their dynamic or their dancing, but Lance and Lacey never had even close to this great of a night all season. While Lacey’s mambo choreography ruled — loved that slow, sultry roundhouse kick to mimic the minute hand of a clock — I think a lot of my enjoyment of their first-round dance came from the song choice, ”Straight…to Number One,” by Touch and Go. The spoken-word element and offbeat rhythm really worked in their favor. Dare I say it was edgy? I think I just did! I also thought her short black dress and his simple black suit looked perfect together…even though Lacey’s rather atrocious peacock attachment kept giving the illusion she was shooting rainbows out of her butt. But if you think about it, that’d be perfect, too. Best dance of the night by far, even if Lance had little to do with it. I’m not blind. Pigeon toes look the same even when set to atypical music.

Lance lost a shoe during the jitterbug, which was such a perfect wardrobe malfunction for this footwear-defying couple that my inner cynic immediately thought it might have been intentional. Maybe Lance was not just a fake sailor, but a fake dance hero, too! Obviously, though, it was an accident, and the able seaman valiantly tossed his partner over his shoulder and stood erect to salute, wearing only a sock. Pure mastery. It’s kind of sad that Lance Bass jitterbuggin’ in a sock and Brooke Burke executing pretty moves while looking pretty have been the two most impressive feats of the season. Really, though, Lance’s confidence and showmanship last night proved he’s the most talented man left in the competition. He probably always has been; it’s just been masked by way too much scripted ”edgy” drama and — well, quite frankly, not enough adorable ”Grand Daddy” on hand to humanize him. I do hope James Sr. helps him get votes, if Lance needs them. After last night, he deserves it.

NEXT: Brooke’s fringed pants

Brooke Burke and Derek: 49/60 Disaster struck Brooke and Derek’s first dance, the jive, like a bolt of lightning to a spangly metallic bikini top. I didn’t like seeing her so flustered and embarrassed — she really did mess up three or four times, like Len said, but in the last two-thirds of the dance it was like she was confusing the jive’s choreography with the salsa’s. I’ll be super insensitive and suggest that maybe if Brooke had worn a traditional, cutesy jive costume instead of a swimsuit, fringe, and two non-strategicaly placed drapes of gauze, she might have been less confused. What was that costume?! I didn’t even remember this first dance as a jive by the end of the show. Figured it was a sexy cha-cha. Good thing I checked. Carrie Ann flipped out during panel, splashing a virtual bucket of saltwater into Brooke’s already panic-stricken face by claiming she felt disrespected by their (I’m assuming unintentional) lift. Whatever.

Gold. Fringed. Pants. So far, they’re the most lingering visual of season 7 — or at least all anyone will remember about Brooke’s round-two salsa, whether they want to or not. Sure, these pants were hideous, but tacky is the name of the game on DWTS, and I love that Brooke agreed to partake in this colossal costuming joke that very few non-mannequin beings could pull off, and just totally went for it. As the official number-one fan of fringe, I laughed my ass off and will uphold these pants as my personal highlight of season 7. So much fringe. So few seconds. So not paying attention to the dance. Don’t worry, I re-watched (again…and again) and the salsa definitely redeemed Brooke from the hole she’d dug herself during the jive. (That hole would be a great place to bury those pants, though. Time capsule! Think about it!) Bruno announced ”Brooke is back,” not that anyone thought she’d left, and DANCMSTR reminded her to work to her strength — crisp, clear technique — in the finals. Oh and by the way, nice thong.

Warren Sapp and Kym: 49/60 Warren’s exhausted. I wonder if he’d dance any better if he wasn’t ”so tired, I’m about to die,” like he claimed during rehearsal footage. Other rehearsal gems: Warren dropping the f-bomb during a lift, and Warren hurling a piece of paper against the mirror — not an explosive ball of fire as was previously suggested during the opening scenes. After his mambo, Bruno claimed Warren had such a ”supersize sense of fun” that he gets away with murder. The judges claimed the dance was flat-footed and lacked content. You know what’s scary? I could barely tell. Kym’s a genius like that, and Warren really is fun out there, at least compared to the rest of season 7’s pack. He’s not good at dancing. He’s just something people want to see on their TVs. Nothing wrong with that. I mean, it shouldn’t cause him to win, especially because he hasn’t improved whatsoever since week 1. But it probably will.

For their second dance, Warren and Kym took on the jitterbug. Warren’s ability to make playing cards sputter into a lovely mid-air fan above the judges’ table made me wonder if maybe he shouldn’t have been the contestant with ”FLAIR” emblazoned across his body at the beginning of the show, instead of Lance. Once again, this was just a fun dance to watch, and with her roulette wheel skirt, Kym made it easy for people to just focus on her bum instead of Warren’s footwork. I thought her strapless bra ”top” (which swerved mightily into the exclusive Edyta lane on the Unsubstantial Costumes Highway) matched Warren’s casino-dealer bicep bands rather nicely. You see? This is what I focus on instead of Warren’s dancing. The song was right: ”That Old Black Magic” has me in its spell. Oh, and Warren’s little hop backstage and the fact that he used the term ”DANCMSTR” in an otherwise unintelligible interview with Samantha didn’t hurt, either.

NEXT: Hidden Gem of the Week

Cody Linley and Julianne: 46/60 The fourth-place pair performed an inexplicably military-themed paso doble, making the amount of round-one dances involving the removal and/or reapplication of a jacket an even 50 percent (Warren did it in his mambo). No elements of this dance made sense together — the drab green-and-white costumes, a horrific song choice, insanely bright spotlights, and vague attempts at actual paso moves by Cody. The poor kid’s hands were trembling during his final pose, when he was supposed to look the most triumphant. When it was over, Bruno went ahead and did the robot for a few seconds, which fit right in. Julianne’s insistence backstage that Cody wasn’t stiff and wooden like the judges claimed was well-intentioned, but annoying in its falseness. Cody is adorable. He just really cannot dance.

Mmmm…salsa. Cody fared a little better in round two, showing some stomach for absolutely no reason and executing a very manly overhead lift, plus another one at the end. Julianne threw in some well-timed spins and splits, and voila! Triple 8s. (This was probably my favorite Julianne costume of the season, by the way — accentuated by a needless, sequined ankle wrap that I consider the ballroom version of the Active Ankles I had to wear during high school volleyball.) Bruno called Cody ”a leetle cheeky devil,” then expressed worry that he might have strangled Julianne, then imitated said strangle twice.

So come on, dance masters! Who’s heading home tonight: The soldier, the sailor, the casino employee, or Snuffleupagus?

Episode Recaps


Dancing With the Stars

  • TV Show
  • 28
  • ABC