EW.com's Fringe Fairy goes on the scene and has a gay old time for season 13's liiiiiive semifnals performance night

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM EST
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It’s semifinals week on season 13 of Dancing With the Stars — and I got to witness the insanity liiiiiiiiiiiiive on Planet Mirrorballus! Perhaps you spotted me — I was the tall Big Bird-like creature behind Ralph Macchio, doing her best to not reveal that she hates the way she looks while clapping due to her giant man-hands! (There are a few intimidating crowd-boosters who strongly encourage you to stand up and clap at all times. I got texts or emails from five different people last night saying something along the lines of “haha you LOVE clapping don’t you?!?!?!?!” — so I guess my wing-flapping wasn’t very convincing.)

The new, three-story set is not as TRON-like as it appears on TV. On TV, and even in the few pictures I took, the blue piping dominates the balconies. But in person, the decorative gold layers are just as prominent. I did get to travel up to the nosebleed section. The view is actually amazing from there (it’s what you see at the top of every episode), and I realized during the show that obviously no one sits in the seats, which are hilariously set back against a wall next to a ladder. This would be a good set for Sparkalien Horror Story, which should probably air right after Bruno’s World midseason. The people up there literally drip from the balconies during the show, and they scream a lot — often at Carson Kressley. But on the ground floor, the set honestly didn’t seem that much different from the last time I was there in May. It didn’t feel claustrophobic with all the new hardware. It looked great!

I sat/stood below and to the right of the skybox in the second row of “the zone,” which on Dancing With the Stars is not a diet (screw that) but the magical set of seats that directly faces the stage and band. I love sitting there because all the final poses are aimed at that big camera in the middle, so it’s like the stars and Our Pros are effecting that final flourish FOR YOU! And millions of others!

“Welcome to my skybox.”

Nearly every crew member and producer came up at some point to warmly greet Rick Fox and Ralph Macchio, who were seated right in front of me. There’s such a camaraderie among everyone who’s ever worked on this show. During the cha cha relay, when Maks sauntered off the floor, he ended up in front of Rick and Ralph and just high-fived them both like an eager puppy for at least five seconds. I think Brooke stopped by too, but it could have been a mirage. At one point, Rick pretended to give Tom a solo standing O as Tom was gearing up for a post-commercial delivery. “I appreciate the sentiment,” he assured Rick. Earlier, he had scolded Rick for not looking aliiiiiiiiiiive during a different commercial break: “There’s no yawning in the ballroom!”

I also kept eyeing the dearly departed Carson Kressley, Nancy Grace, and Tristan MacManus, who seemed to be having a low-key blast to my right. They were so relevant to the current season, they got to sit at a table. I realized I would have such difficulty sitting at a table in the ballroom and fighting the urge to unload my purse onto it every five seconds. I thought Carson would at least let one of his spare boas rest there, or one streamer in every color of the delicious rainbow.

NEXT: I’ll get to the scores right after I play Tom Bergeron’s drinking game

Best moment: Right before the cha cha relay, Cheryl scurried over to kiss Rick and Eliza Dushku, and then Karina, exhibiting a lot less energy, shuffled over and basically collapsed into Ralph’s lap. “I think I’ll just sit here,” she whimpered. Very cute. I really wanted to snap a no-flash pic with my iPhone, but how tacky would that be?! I was already wearing five sparkly DWTS wardrobe-issued bracelets (one of them from Karina herself); I just couldn’t bring myself to step it up another notch.

During commercial breaks, Ralph revealed to me — among other things — that Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” never fails to remind him of last season’s cha cha group dance, that he still has nightmares about the admittedly horrifying pairing of “Sweet Home Alabama” and the samba, that he considers Karina “a third teenage daughter,” and that he thinks my DWTS recaps are “smart.” Whoa, you guys, Ralph Macchio is crazy!

Just kidding. I had a lot of fun following his leans when the big-ass camera would obstruct our view of the dances. He’s still got some smooth moves.

This week, the couples each performed three dances: the samba or paso doble, the Argentine tango a.k.a. “a husband with his girlfriend” according to Len (go to bed now, kids!), and the “challenging cha cha relay.” Tom mentioned to me that he’d suggested people take a drink every time someone said “cha cha relay” throughout the night — and later made the appropriate “take a shot” gesture before introducing J.R.’s Argentine tango to prove it! I was stunned and ashamed to find out, upon stumbling home, that Tom had meant non-alcoholic drinks according to his Twitter feed. There I was, blitzed in the ballroom by 6:52 p.m. Pacific, staring down the bottom of my disco ball flask. So trashy. So trashed.

It took seven Pink’s hot dogs to sober me up. None of that is true. But check out these ‘Dancing’ dogs!

Enough of my rambling. Let’s talk Leaderboard. Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhh-ber!

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: 30/30 samba + 29/30 Argentine tango + 8/10 (2nd place in the cha cha relay, drink!) = 67/70 Good thing I watched the telecast, or I would have missed a lovely glimpse of scary Scott Disick GLARING at the camera through Ricki’s yellow, feathery fringe during their samba. Their costumes looked much better in person than on TV, I thought. As their rehearsal footage played on the big screen, I was paying more attention to the way the couples practiced a few of their moves out of sequence. Maybe it was the different lighting mode for this weird twilight period between commercial and actual dance, but I thought Ricki had never looked better. Live and learn. Yellow: tougher to pull off on camera! (Same rule applies to basically every other color…because hello, you’re on camera. That’s why I wisely choose to go with loud, terrible prints.)

*~*Sparkly Scoop*~* I know for certain that Ricki’s sequined heels were about 10 — “Tehhhhhhhhn!” — times more mesmerizing under the spotlights in person than they were on TV. I want to transport you all right now to the planet for 10 seconds each so you could see their magic. She wore the same ones for the cha cha relay, and I was like YESSSSSSSSSSS. And I’m not even that into shoes. Drink!

NEXT: Party float, take me away!The telecast cut off the last third of Derek’s back-somersault-into-handspring thingie. It was a marvel, let me tell you. But what we couldn’t hear in the ballroom was Derek telling Brooke, “And also I feel like an egg she just laid.” I’m sure Ricki loved that.

I’m burying the lead here: Ricki and Derek got their first PERFECT 30 for a dance she pouted about throughout their critique because she didn’t think she’d done well. I’m still befuddled. So was Tom. “What, you’re not happy? Everyone else is!” Get in the game, Lake! It doesn’t matter how you think you did. If Bruno says you’re sizzling hot, bright, and brilliant, you gotta keep your mouth shut and go with it.

*~*Sparkly scoop*~* It took about 10 people to put up that semi-sheer purple curtain for Ricki and Derek’s second dance, the Argentine tango. They just kept delicately fluffing it for a few minutes. During the actual dance, I kept waiting for it to come alive or change color or turn into a scary animated poster of Annie (the show that changed Ricki’s life) that substituted mirrorballs for her eyes or something. (Someday, if I attend enough live tapings of the show that changed my life, the mirrorball/eye substitution will happen to this Annie — fingers crossed.) Oh well, the purple panel looked nice in the background.

I hadn’t really thought much of Ricki’s dancing until this week, and thought Carrie Ann hit it with her comment about Ricki’s “core strength developing.” Some of those A.T. poses would have been impossible if Ricki had attempted them earlier in the season. “The woman was on top all the way through,” raved Bruno. Mostly due to all the lifts, but sure.

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: 28/30 samba + 27/30 Argentine tango + 10/10 (1st place in cha cha relay, drink!) = 65/70 I’d been liking Rob more and more as a dancer (instead of merely a funny contestant with a freaky-fun family) in the past few weeks, and his performances last night only enhanced that impression. His arm snaps/twists are really, really convincing these days. He’s pointing his toes. He looks the part, and he’s embracing the cheese big-time. “With the rainbows and all, I definitely took one for the team,” Rob said after his and Cheryl’s ass-dominated samba.

Imagine my delight as Rob and Cheryl’s Rio party float — featuring balloons, foliage, a big parrot, and a mirrorball instead of a steering wheel — slowly chugged closer and closer to me. I desperately wanted it to keep moving into the audience after they disembarked, so that I could take the wheel/ball and use this instead of my car to tool around L.A. for the rest of the night. I’m sure no one would pull me over. The cops would probably want to join the party!

It took like six guys to hurriedly lug this dream vehicle of mine — which looked both fascinating and depressing in a dark, backstage corner — out of the way, which just made it even more hilarious.

NEXT: J.R. winces in pain, and not just from his emotional backstory I loved the final shot of Rob and Cheryl’s silhouettes behind the red curtain for their Argentine tango. The spotlight shining just above them and to the right seemed more prominent in person, really driving home its gem-like status. I noticed at home, though, that the closeup shots of this dance revealed sharp footwork I hadn’t noticed from my seat, like the way Cheryl guided Rob’s feet around with her own. I also kouldn’t have noticed from my seat that Kris was krying. Glad I watched.

“You started as a goofy outsider; now you look like a leading man!” cried Bruno. The judges really want Rob in the finals. “It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish, and you’re finishing strong!” declared the DANCMSTR. “There’s no way to fake good dancing,” said Carrie Ann. I instinctively suspected (perhaps without grounds) that this was a jab at Hope and Maks.

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: 23/30 paso doble + 27/30 Argentine tango + 6/10 (3rd place in cha cha relay, DRINK!) = 56/70 I enjoyed the audible gasp from the liiiiiiive audience as the big screen played a slow-motion clip of J.R. twisting his ankle, then hated myself a little for enjoying that because it really did seem like he was in terrible pain all night. And it sounded like he twisted the ankle again during his and Karina’s Mask of Zorro paso doble. I didn’t notice until watching the telecast that J.R. was standing on one leg during the critiques. (Despite the judges and Tom being mic’ed up, atmospheric noise can manage to drown all of that out.) This paso had a very cool cape exchange, but too many “uncertain pauses” according to Carrie Ann.

Pain turned to extreme disappointment and downright dread after J.R.’s Argentine tango. I actually loved watching this — I’m a sucker for lamp posts and lifts featuring Karina twisting her legs in mid-air — but as they approached the table, J.R. seemed filled with rage. I realize now that it was pain instead, but even Tom seemed confused — was this another “Ricki being mad at herself for no reason” moment? Turned out the judges had no complaints about J.R.’s tango, which made for a really weird exchange of shots, because the judges looked so jaunty and then there was J.R. in utter agony. This was very uncomfortable to watch on TV! I hope he gets to ice that sucker all day.

It was interesting to see that the guys in charge of the DEADLY SMOKE MACHINES for certain dances start “laying the smoke” (by holding little gaskets very close to the ground) only two or three seconds before the music begins. There goes my fantasy of Planet Mirrorballus somehow serving as an extension of the Island from Lost!

NEXT: Carrie Ann permits Maks to smile, just not like thatHope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 21/30 paso doble + 24/30 Argentine tango + 4/10 (4th place in cha cha relay, DRINK!) = 49/70 The judges basically dismissed Hope and Maks as contenders after their first dance, the paso doble. (The visual assault of this was a fantastic welcome back to DWTS, by the way. Lights! Chains! Fire!) They said she nailed the character — “like a raging torrent of anger,” cried Bruno — but lacked artistry in her shaping. “But I really admire you for coming this far, Hope,” Carrie Ann offered. Eight minutes into a two-hour episode and she’s already fake-kissing them goodbye? That was way harsh, Tai.

There was a HUGE uproar of laughter among the audience after Maks said he was “very happy” about their three 7s for the paso. “Thank you to everybody for everything you ever said or did,” he continued. This is indeed becoming comical. Maks is eye-rolly and ready to surrender, while Hope is inappropriately combative and ready to go down in flames.

*~*Sparkly Scoop*~* Maks’ sheer shirt was more sheer (sheerer?) on TV than in real life.

From my point of view, Maks and Hope had the best “pre-dance floor show” of the night by far. When Hope’s sob story segment played on the big screen, Maks led her through a bunch of their footwork quietly and in the dark. This is one of the best parts of sitting in on the live shows, I think — seeing what the couples do instead of letting themselves get distracted (or possibly upset) by the taped segments right before the dances. I also couldn’t believe he was wearing such a bright red suit. I think I liked this music-less demo better than their actual dance, which was lively and full of lifts but Hope’s flexed feet were too distracting. Amazing tights, though.

I misunderstood Carrie Ann’s comment during the taping — I thought she was saying that Maks “can smile” as in he’s totally welcome to smile at any point, so please do smile — when really she was detecting one of Maks’ signature f— you, Carrie Ann faces and calling him out on it during her critique. Either way, this was totally bizarre. Read more about Maks vs. Carrie Ann over at Inside TV.

I was too drunk to realize the cha cha relay was finally happening.

And that was it! On the way home, I made sure to Pump Up the Gems, hard.

I’ll give you one guess as to which part of this shot of the DWTS Prop Garage is my favorite.

And hell no I won’t keep out! I’m headed back to Bruno’s World this afternoon for the liiiiiiiiiive results show. I should get a few minutes with Tristan on the set. What should I do with him? Don’t be gross!

See you soon, DANCMSTRs! Who do you think is going home tonight?

XOXO,

Fringe Fairy

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