The 10 contestants pay tribute to the most memorable years of their lives on "Personal Story Night"

By Annie Barrett
Updated October 04, 2011 at 07:01 AM EDT
Dancing Rob Kardashian
Credit: ABC

It’s only week 3, but according to the giant gem donkey wheel that lies deep below Planet Mirrorballus’ crust, it was already time to dig into the personal tragedies of Our Stars. Why not? Why wait? The 10 remaining contestants chose the most memorable years in their lives to somehow recreate in the Latin or Standard dances of their choice. We’ve got some real tearjerkers in this bunch! The spectrum of humanity we witnessed was huge and generally heroic (hello, J.R. Martinez), tragic, serious, and even uplifting — you know, like Kristin Cavallari’s decision to choose Hollywood over college.

Perhaps due to the personal nature of the dances, the judges seemed to go easy on a bunch of couples. I’ve never seen so many 8 paddles on week 3. “Eight for emotion!” I guess? (You know I’m just bitter about DANCMSTR giving out only two 7s, and only one jaunty “Seh-vehhhhn! at that.)

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhh-ber!

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: 27 out of possible 30 When I saw Ricki’s crimped hair, I thought the most memorable year of her life would turn out to be “all of the ’80s,” but nope, it was 2010, the year she ran out of her burning house and then let herself love again. I loved how she rattled off “I thought I would never get married again; I thought I would never do Dancing With the Stars” as if those were two life options that just happen to casually present themselves to people. Stars: They’re not just like us, after all. I was surprised by the three 9s for this rumba based on Ricki’s performance, but she did look really hot — and thin! — and the scores seemed to be as much for Derek’s choreography as they were for her technical prowess. Her bed sheet costume made the couple look ultra-fast as they twirled together, and the DEADLY SMOKE MACHINE as a representation of mental fogginess, or maybe actual fire, was a nice touch.

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: 26/30 This rumba — dedicated to the families of soldiers who didn’t get the second chance J.R. did — will definitely rank among the top routines in DWTS history because of its emotional impact. I’m a total sobby wreck right now writing this because I just made the mistake of watching it again! J.R. did great and his feet “skimmed the sand” like Bruno has always wanted — but I think MVP of the night was actually Karina for her careful and not too schmaltzy orchestration of such a beautiful routine. It was all very Ghost-like — well, maybe not as sexy as Ghost, but I don’t think the point of this rumba was to be sexy.

I loved the way she reached out for him at the end and we were brutally reminded that he hadn’t truly been present (in the dramatization of Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This”) all along. Off he strode, up to ballroom heaven to be swallowed up by the DEADLY SMOKE MONSTER. The judges couldn’t even say anything for about a minute because the on-their-feet crowd just wouldn’t let up. The impact of this dance was huge, and both Karina and J.R. puffed out their cheeks on the way up to Brookebot Mountain — almost in unison — as an unspoken “Whoa.”

NEXT: Chynna and Tony break free, break from the chains Chynna Phillips and Tony Dovolani: 26/30 I know I just awarded MVP to Karina, but Chynna’s bright purple practice sneakers deserve an honorable mention. Chynna and Tony’s rumba, set to Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” (OMG), was a little less powerful than I was hoping it would turn out, but the judges seemed to have relented from their give-it-some-more-gusto approach with Chynna from last week. “You belong in a museum, to admire!” cried Bruno. I liked how Tony seemed to really be feelin’ the music right from “Why do you lock yourself up in these chains?” It was as much a teaching moment aimed at Chynna’s tendency to be hard on herself during rehearsal as it was a reflection on her plummet into addiction and feelings of abandonment from her father. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. But the web/skeleton-like design on the front of her purple gown definitely suggested “CHAINS.” Oh, and a hidden gem: As Chynna and Tony looked into the mirror at the top of the dance, we could see the slightest, split-second gleam from Tony’s magical Lite-Brite teeth.

Line of the night: Carrie Ann to Chynna: “I have never heard that song the way I just heard it now.” Ha, you think?! I’d love to have seen Carnie and Wendy’s faces right at that moment.

David Arquette and Kym Johnson: 24/30 A leopard print muumuu’ed Kym and more than we ever really wanted to see of David performed a rumba dedicated to David’s daughter, Coco. I loved the “vintage” photo from last week of Coco staring up at David in awe near one of the big lights on the ballroom floor. It really screamed “THE WONDER OF DWTS” in addition to “parenthood.” I’m sure Coco appreciated the ridiculous thunder sounds at the beginning of the rumba, and her dad’s provocative maroon suit. The judges raved about David’s “raw emotion” and honesty. I thought a lot of the dance was Kym frantically twirling around while David didn’t do much, but that probably doesn’t matter too much on Story Night! At least we got some great shots of Patricia Arquette and EWwy winner Courteney Cox lovin’ on David from the front row. Not to mention…Courteney’s fellow Cougar Town star Busy Philipps in a sassy green jumpsuit. Invisible opera gloves to them all!

NEXT: Mark Ballas relishes the opportunity to choreograph to Beyoncé

Kristin Cavallari and Mark Ballas: 24/30 Awwww! Kristin’s former fiancé Jay Cutler still loves her!!!!!! At least I’m guessing that’s what ABC was going for. Kristin and Mark’s “Crazy in Love” samba was a very welcome helping of lighter fare from the more somber rumbas of the night. I didn’t think Mark went too overboard with the Beyoncé moves and Kristin seems to have a great sense of rhythm. She’s quite skilled at stepping on the beat, and her hip action — when she wasn’t concentrating too hard on her next move — was natural enough. She needs to cut it out with the hairography though. Just let that s— happen! Lots of gems in the post-dance critiques — Len telling the boo-ers to “talk to the hand,” Tom asking if it was Beyoncé Len’s bedtime, and Bruno calling Kristin a “crazy devil woman” — as a compliment.

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: 24/30 I liked how up-front Rob was about how his late father, Rob Kardashian Sr., was “probably best known for being the attorney in the O.J. Simpson trial.” His segment wasn’t too weepy or overwrought; he just showed a bunch of pics, said his dad was his best friend, revealed an arm tattoo of his dad’s handsome face, and boom: tragedy translated into a “debonair” green and black foxtrot. Why so green? asked those of us who are probably asking all the wrong questions in life. Did Robert George Kardashian, Sr. find it not easy being green? investigates! Not really.

Anyway, Rob seems to be steadily improving — plus, he’s getting into great shape, as evidenced by the way he bounded up the massive technicolor staircase to ballroom heaven in order to end the dance with Cheryl as silhouettes against the moon. Only after the rest of the audience was on its feet to cheer Rob on did Kim Kardasssssssian reluctantly realize she’d probably have to stand up, too. “You remind me of Guys and Dolls,” Bruno complimented Rob. “It’s a video game,” Tom helpfully pointed out so that Rob might retain it.

Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 24/30 I think a lot of viewers might rather see two minutes of Maks teaching Hope how to do the “Sexy Walk” in slow motion instead of an encore performance of their cha cha cha. Hope definitely ramped up The Sex Factor (a show I wish I was recapping instead on Wednesdays and Thursdays) at the beginning of the dance, set to her soccer psych-up song, Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You).” In fact, she looked kind of hilarious with her maniacal grins, pouffy black skirt (to mask a lack of hip action?) and delightfully trashy patterned stockings with garters. And was she wearing a long, reddish weave? She was like the resident witch at Moulin Rouge who’d just been released from years in the cellar. For next week she’ll work on repeating her new mantra (issued by Maks): “I am sexy,” Hope told EW after the show.

NEXT: Carson Kressley picks the gayer, cooler song titled “It’s My Life”

Carson Kressley and Anna Tre-BUN-skaya: 23/30 I just love Carson so much. “Carson can’t climb the rope. Carson can’t play volleyball.” I mean, that stupid, impossible rope is one thing — no one can do that (and no need to brag in the comments if you could; shut up!) — but the mention of volleyball, that great equalizer, really drove home how Carson’s adolescence was way more tragique than chic. The Ellen DeGeneres-esque high school portrait helped seal the deal. So I loved Carson’s explanation of why 2003 was his game-changing year — it wasn’t necessarily because he became famous along with the debut of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy; it was because “It was just me being me,” and for the first time he felt like that was okay, even desirable. I teared up here! I’m a loser. God, I used to love that show.

ANYWAY, Carson and Anna set their tango to No Doubt’s “It’s My Life,” and since it is Carson’s life, he had Anna rip off his black coat to reveal a hot pink tux jacket to match her way-too-big pink butt blossom. I had completely forgotten about the tango in general, so I’m so glad they chose this. Carson’s hair tosses — all performed in hold — were especially triumphant, his kicks were impressively high, and he was pretty fearless with any move that required him to snap back his head. “You put the boy in flamboyant,” raved the DANCMSTR. Anna kicked her shoe up into Carson’s face in glee here — offering him another chance to steal her heel. “Seh-vehhhhhhhhn!” He’ll take it.

Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus: 21/30 Nancy dedicated this dance to her kids, because in 2007 while pregnant, her lungs filled up with fluid, “and they had to cut the children out immediately.” Whoa! That was way harsh, Tai. It was nice of Tristan to point out how much more fun and relaxed Nancy is around her kids — I definitely noticed the difference. At some point during their extremely slow waltz, I realized I’ve never actually focused on Nancy during her dances. Part of this is because Tristan is so pretty and I am so terrible, but I think a large chunk of it is because Nancy has no neck and sort of just meshes into Tristan’s shadow like a lump. Carrie Ann, on the other hand, had been “transported” into the woods for Nancy’s “live action lullaby…like, all the animals from the forest came in to watch you dance.” Tom was funny here — “Let’s give Carrie Ann’s imagination a 10” — but now I’m dying for an encore performance during tonight’s results show, with the actual Snow White animals thrown in around the ballroom as hidden gems. Come on! It’s Disney! Let’s make some magic!

And we already know from last season how Dopey feels about gems.

Chaz Bono and Lacey Schwimmer: 18/30 This rumba, if you could call it that, was certainly nothing to write home about. Chaz looks pained and spent. The real marvel of this segment was the song he chose for the dance dedicated to his dad — Sonny Bono’s own “Laugh at Me.” Having only been vaguely aware of this song, I almost couldn’t believe how perfect it was as a re-telling of Chaz’s own story. “It’s about being a different kind of man,” Chaz had explained, and while that was a perfect way to put it, it didn’t even do the song justice. This world’s got a lot of space, and if they don’t like my face, it ain’t me that’s going anywhere. I don’t care. I’m obsessed with these lyrics! (Thinking back, I’m sure all the in-your-face FLOWER POWER in the background did its part in helping me fall into this trance.)

Carrie Ann and Bruno remarked on Chaz’ lack of dancing and the way he looked “lost,” while Len — who was in a much kinder mood this week — gave Chaz a premature farewell speech. “Dancing doesn’t come that easy to you. You come back and give it your all — shows a lot about your character. Well done.” I won’t be surprised if Chaz goes home tonight. What do you think?

Nominate your Hidden Gems of the Week before 2 p.m. ET on PopWatch, and read about what Hope Solo and J.R. Martinez told EW after Monday’s show on Inside TV.

And ask me anything about THE BALLROOM (or whatever else) in the video player below. To see my answers to previous questions, click on the text links below the picture. If you’re having trouble seeing the text, try it over at

See you soon, DANCMSTRs!


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