Three couples head into next week's season 12 finals; Stevie Nicks performs

To no one’s surprise, the karate kid who earned 25 less points than the leader during Monday’s semifinals was sent home on week 9 of Dancing With the Stars. Ralph Macchio, a fountain of enthusiasm and youth, returned to his family just like he made a point to do after every Hollywood job in the ’80s. Throughout his exit interview, I kept gazing up at the three sad blondes onstage (Kym, Kirstie, Chelsea), who were clearly genuinely crushed to see him go.

Ralph definitely loved being on Planet Mirrorballus, but after the judges’ tepid response to his efforts this week, it seemed like he was ready to leave. I liked how he brought up his week 1 dance (“the place erupted,” awww) instead of his recent, more troubling experiences, and I loved how Karina acknowledged that she’d had a blast this season. She totally did, and Ralph is to thank. He’s a perfect DWTS contestant to me: Fun, nerdy, clueless about the ballroom, and dying to be there. Loved this couple.

Ralph may not have been the strongest dancer, but his fans will likely believe that Monday night’s Winner Takes All Cha-Cha (which awarded 15 extra points to Chelsea and Mark) was the twisted knife at play in Ralph’s demise. I learned today that the WTACC had been planned before season 12 had even begun, and was instituted as a direct result of early exits by talented dancers such as Brandy and Sabrina Bryan. So apparently even if the producers didn’t want to put a specific couple ahead this week, the WTACC would have happened anyway. Weird!

For the more succinct version of the above paragraph, here’s Karina after the show: “[The judges] said everything besides the actual words, ‘we don’t want you in the finale.'”

NEXT: I could reach out and grab a burnt sienna calf muscle any time I wanted. This time, I was sitting in the second row just to the left (camera’s right) of the judges’ table, so it was a much different perspective from my perch “in the zone” on Monday. It was actually perfect to sit there during the results — all of Our Pros and the members of the DWTS Troupe (are we calling them Our Troupe yet? Might it finally be time? Discuss.) either started out in or darted in and out of the aisle right next to me throughout the night. Anna! Tony! Troupe member whose name I don’t know! I could reach out and grab a burnt sienna calf muscle any time I wanted.

The first hour was an ode to the staggering importance of the DWTS freestyle — Warren Sapp, Donny Osmond, Apolo Ohno, and Brooke Burke returned to comment on their brilliance. Donny and Apolo were pre-taped; Warren and Brooke were liiiiiive. I didn’t hear much of Warren’s because the applause was too loud, but can confidently report that the highlight of this hour was when Tom found a way to remark on the benefits of Brooke’s “breast implants.” Perhaps he was trying to recreate the “blame it on the costume!” vibe of Bruno’s “you’re too rough on your pussy, darling” comment to Ralph from Monday night.

Well, well, well. I expected to gape; I expected to laugh. I did not expect to cry during my voyage to Planet Mirrorballus. But the story of Tayla Kelly, whose primary immune deficiency disease has left her with a 50% chance to make it to age 18, threw me over the edge with this heartbreaking quote: “I love dancing because it gets my mind off of everything else going on in my life.” Oh, lord, I was crying so hard, not from the interview package, but just from the visual aspect of seeing this girl dance to “Bulletproof” with her heroes Lacey and Chelsie in real life (let alone on TV) She was good, too! Then once I realized that “TAYLA” was emblazoned on the big screen in pink sparkles, I lost it even further. I’m tearing up again just remembering it. Oh, and I didn’t hear her mimic Tom: “We’re coming right back liiiiiiiiive”) in the ballroom, so am glad I watched that again on TV. Sometimes you just gotta cry.

NEXT: On-the-scene Tuedsay tidbits, and a video from Tom’s dressing room!*~*After relieving myself in the special backstage restroom, I nearly plowed into Anna Tre-BUN-skaya, happily brushing her teeth in her beige DWTS bathrobe. Her fiery mane is even fiercer up close (and against the blinding whiteness of toothpaste).

*~* The judges really do dance the entire time during exhibitions from Our Pros. You’d think DANCMSTR Len Goodman might be less energetic than the other two, given his age and general aura of grumpiness, but this was by no means the case last night. Old Man Thames River was gettin’ down.

*~*I should be clear: The judges weren’t on their feet for the routines featuring the night’s special musical guests, of course — obviously, Stevie Nicks and her tiered dark ruffles and leather-over-black-shimmer gloves (HOT) required full ballroom attention. (Pitbull and Ne-Yo had been pre-taped earlier in the day.) Bruno seemed enraptured the entire time Stevie sang, especially during “Landslide.” If I leaned a certain way, I could line up their two noggins and pretend they comprised a single, two-headed lunatic genius. If any visual from this week’s Dancing Diary is gonna stick in my brain forever, it might be that one. Fine by me.

*~*After Tony and Cheryl parted ways (soon to meet again) in the middle of their white, sparkly “Landslide” rumba, Tony kept one arm up and gracefully roused the crowd with a slow princess wave for a few seconds. And just like that, my experience of one of my favorite songs was enhanced even further. Doesn’t take much!

*~*On the press line, Karina noticed my direct-from-the-wardrobe-dept. studded bangles and promptly gave me one of her red ones! Look for this wondrous “Buddy Bands” exchange in Monday’s video. Her bracelet smells like spray tan, you guys. I’ll never shower again. I’ve been looking for a solid excuse for a long time, and this is it.

*~*Chelsea Kane was funny and sweet — with a much better chemistry with Mark than I’d expected — when I talked to them on the floor after the show. Her white “lace” “dress” felt like the skin of some dead doily when she hugged me goodbye. They have these sparkaliens walking around the chilly set in glorified tissue paper, people! It’s a very special brand of torture, inflicted only upon the few, the proud, THE FINALISTS.

Here’s a short video from last night of me chatting with hidden gem enabler-in-chief Tom Bergeron, (not) liiiiiiiiiiiiiive from his “man cave” of a dressing room. I got him to do some mime work! DANCMSTR nation, prepare to gasp! (Try watching the video here if you can’t play it as embedded below.)

Coming up on Monday: look for a special video diary of my trip here, featuring more with Tom, an exclusive interview with Enthusiastic Chimes Lady (!!!!!!!), a bird’s-eye view of the set (I got this awesome bird to film it), a chat with Cory the warmup comic, Lacey Schwimmer explaining what’s been going on with her hair, Chelsie Hightower showing off her “ballroom casual” outfit, and Maksim Chmerkovskiy welcoming readers to with his ass, whether you want it or not.

See you next week for the season 12 finale! Who are you liking for the win — Chelsea, Hines, or Kirstie?


Fringe Fairy

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