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"Dancing with the Stars" - Season 8, Week 11
by Eric's Recap Journal (dork_wesley)
at May 21st, 2009 (11:05 am)

For the intro, Tom refers to Ty as the "rhinestone cowboy" and they matte a clip of Ty riding on Chelsie's back over a western movie backdrop. Classy, that.

The three finalists walk down the stairs, and there's nary a shirt to be found on these guys. I mean yes, we're doing a Paso Doble for the "face-off" dance, but seriously? We needed to see that much waxed, spray tanned and oiled-up chest? Yeesh.

So it's time to finally let the three remaining couples dance one right after the other. It is not, despite the writers of the show trying to convince us by saying it, "head-to-head" competition. If it was, then all three couples would be on the floor at once, doing their own choreography, being judged entirely against one another. You know, like an actual dance competition. Anyway, this "Pace Face-Off" segment begins with Len decreeing that one judge will each visit one couple for a coaching. I absolutely must mention this: the video package (pun not intended) features the sight of Bruno Tonioli lounging by a pool wearing a Speedo, somewhat splayed toward the camera. The Roommate and I paused the DVR and partook of some brain bleach before proceeding.

Speedo-- I mean Bruno-- drops in on Shawn. Because her recent Paso is so fresh in people's minds, he says, she needs to surprise them. He is way, way better as a coach than as a judge. Carrie Ann visits Melissa (I'm sure to CA's disappointment that she doesn't get to grope Gilles for a while) and tries to bring out the aggressive side of the cheerleader. The explanation doesn't make sense, but once she makes Melissa literally charge at her, it works. Len works with Gilles, whose previous Paso Len called "hectic", so they're working on control and precision. Len breaks a sweat.

It's a very strange, confusing mess of a routine. First, the music: "So What" by P!nk is about as horrible a Paso Doble as could be found that still had a beat. Then, the costuming: each couple is dressed for PD, but as if they were doing three separate performances, not all at once. While that's standard in real competition, on this show and in this number where there's also unison dancing, it's really distracting.

Shawn & Mark: They get a bland black/white costume scheme, and I think her too-full skirt swamps her legs and hides her excellent footwork. All around, it's solid and has the most intricate choreography of any of the finalists' Paso solos. Not at the level of their previous PD, though. 9.0/10.0

Melissa & Tony: Their black costumes have silver piping and leather patches at the shoulders and cuffs, making them look like the uniforms for the X-Men movies. Carrie Ann's coaching must have helped, because she's dancing through her center much more strongly and with much more power. A little rough on one turn. 9.0/10.0

Gilles & Cheryl: Now he's in white, and Cheryl's dress is so busy, it's hideous. Again, an improvement with much more controlled movement and more deliberate leading. They're more together on it, but there's still nothing explosive in their energy. 9.0/10.0

In the audience: EVERYBODY. Jane Seymour, Marisa Jaret Winokur, Monique Coleman, Vivica A. Fox, Brooke Burke, Holly Madison, Nancy O'Dell, Tia Carrere, Emmitt Smith, Warren Sapp, Steve Wozniak...

Gee, the judges scored them 28, 29, 30. That's not even remotely obvious, producers. Hmm.

Now, for the freestyles.

Shawn & Mark: In the practice video, they tell us they're purposely toning down the gymnastics content to show her off as a dancer. They get a visit from Apolo Anton Ohno, who reminds Shawn that no Olympian who's made it to the finals has failed to win (him and Kristi Yamaguchi). They're out on stage with black vinyl tracksuits and Bejeweled white masks, like glam Jabbawockeez. And it's not a hip hop number, it's a light, bouncy swingy song, "Do Your Thing" by Basement Jaxx. They tear off the suits (again?) to some glittery green stuff and launch into a springy, super high-energy dance, very Lindy Hop flavored. It's fast and bursting with fun and she is performing and expressing the heck out of it. They're totally synced and tight. Mark seems really psyched up, and when they're given their perfect score, Bruno announces "Eleven!" 10.0/10.0

Melissa & Tony: In season 2, Tony was told that the judges were expecting more, so this time they're bringing in every trick they can and holding nothing back. It's to the point she even smacks him in the eye practicing a lift. They're both wearing baggy-ish black pants. He has a stretch shiny t-shirt and her a black tank. C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat" starts, and she tears the tank in favor of a rhinestone bra. The Roommate notes that this is the one time they didn't try to hide her tattoo. They're enthusiastic and hitting all the moves they've put in. Lots and lots of energy, and the tricks are very good (although they removed an over-head vault for her they practiced). Unfortunately, it doesn't suit her or show her off well enough, and Tony is just not a good enough hip hop choreographer to make the tricks work in smoothly. 8.5/10.0

Gilles & Cheryl: Up against a cheerleader and a gymnast, Gilles feels like he's an underdog in the Freestyle. Cheryl talks about Drew and Emmitt and how they won because she made routines that suited their personalities. Well, that was humble. Gilles is still having shoulder problems, along with problems when Cheryl keeps admonishing him to actually smile during his routine. "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" by Irene Cara is their music, and it starts out (surprise, surprise) all sexy with the ripped clothes and chair and all. It works for him, though, so he's fitting in plenty of expression and performance, and does smile once or twice. Unfortunately, there's not much dance content in there for him, but lots and lots for her. Carrie Ann calls the theme choice odd because "Flashdance is all about the female dancer". 8.5/10.0

And... the results show.

Oh, right. The couples ("the most talented trio ever", says Tom) get to reprise their favorite routine for scoring. This has the possibility of totally spoiling whatever the voting fans had to say last night, but never does.

They start with a really nifty pan that goes all the way around the studio, then go straight into the first performance from the producers-desperately-trying-to-demonstrate-the-show-can-be-hip musical guest, Lady GaGa, doing "Just Dance". She actually comes out from the big trapezoid in the center of the stage, behind the orchestra pit. That's new.

The couples' costumes give away what they'll be dancing, and they all made good picks. We start getting those season-in-review video packages, all distributed throughout the rest of the episode, so just assume there's clips between pretty much everything that happens.

Returns: Belinda & Jonathan (Salsa, pretty good), Denise & Maks (Quickstep, not great), Holly & Dmitry (Salsa, okay but no balance).

Tom pimps the fact that Samantha Harris will stink up another stage this summer, appearing as Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway. That show has become a dumping ground for celebs and pseudo-celebs wanting to put "Broadway debut" on their resumes, because the starring roles don't necessarily require good singing. Samantha was previously the non-speaking Sign-holding-up Girl in the stage version of Reefer Madness!.

Returns: Woz & Karina (Quickstep, slower but better). He's dared to do the worm, but can't remember how.

DAG & Kym (Foxtrot, looser and more together). The bald looks good on him.

Steve-O & Lacey (Foxtrot, slouchy and stiff). He's still a nice guy, it seems.

Video package: previous contestants discuss the finalists. None of the ones rooting for Gilles mention his dancing, just his sexiness.

Pro Competition: The show trots Mayo and Anna out onto the stage to do an actual elimination ceremony. Given the fact the judges basically crowned Anna last week, it's no surprise that Anna Demidova has gotten the guaranteed spot on the roster (meaning they could use Mayo, too, if a male dancer drops out). She's very happy and gracious. Before she and Maks encore their Quickstep, Tom refers to him as the fellow pro she "tamed", to which Maks wags his finger.

Returns: LT & Edyta (Jive, not even trying). Tom describes him as "so moved by his elimination, he nearly forgot to say goodbye on his way back to the golf course". After the dance, Tom jokes that LT has been teaching ballroom dancing lessons. LT says it was lap dancing. Edyta, who presumably didn't hear LT's retort, makes a mock sad face and begs LT "don't take away my business". There's an awkward moment until Tom rescues us.

Chuck & Julianne (Samba, just a little less sharp). Apparently, there's something wrong with Chuck saying "thong" when he's clearly referring to having to wear a dance belt. I don't get it.

Video package: the judges hype up the competition, to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger", of course.

Jeffrey Ross Roast. Last season, this was hysterical because all the stars were really good sports and had great senses of humor. As the camera pans the seated non-finalists, I'm guessing that's not the case, judging by Holly's don't-even-go-there grimace and Denise's not appearing in the pan. I think it's pretty damn funny, but not as good as last season. Shawn isn't sure what to do, but laughs, Melissa is a little wary, but laughs and Gilles is the only one totally into it. Some good lines: calling the judges "Smokin', Croakin' and Flamin'" (Bruno giggles and points happily); calling the finale "Dancing with the Vaguely Familiar" and the finalists "Underage, Unwed and Unpronounceable".

Video package: the trash-talking "I want that trophy" bit with the finalists wearing their drama faces and standing in inexplicable smoke, all trying to look tough and aggro, set to dramatic music. Gets longer every season.

And finally, at 10:18 PM, the finalists actually take the floor.

Shawn & Mark: Cha Cha. Mark totally has his gameface on. The routine is still fabulous, maybe missing just a little of the attack of the first time, but improved by her comfort with performing. Tight, solid and really excellent. 9.5/10.0

As they pass the eliminated dancers, it's interesting for me to watch who among them can clap along on time and who can't. In the audience: Kristi Yamaguchi (who can).

Melissa & Tony: Samba. Still strong on the solo, she brings a bit of last night's improvement to moving through her center and with strength. A definite improvement in technique and sharpness. 9.5/10.0

In the band, headdress lady is out of control with huge jewels all over her head.

Gilles & Cheryl: Argentine Tango. She says she never thought she'd say he was "a really great dancer". Huh. Fantastic attack and intensity. Totally his element, but so good. Definitely his best. 10.0/10.0

The judges reinforce their usual finale pointlessness by giving everyone 30's, as if that doesn't happen every damn finale.

Lady GaGa comes back with "Love Game", holding a staff with what looks like glowing rock candy on the end. This is the song with "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick" in the lyrics. Is that what it is she's waving around? It looks like a ride on that would be uncomfortable.

Third Place: Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani. Neither looks in the least bit surprised or regretful, just happy to have made it this far and gotten such appreciation.

Tome informs us this was the "closest ever" final result, there being a less than 1% difference in the final scoring, after the votes were tabulated. The Wife says if it's not Gilles that wins, she'll eat her shoe. It's a big deal, since she's wearing Uggs at the moment.

Second Place: Gilles Marini & Cheryl Burke. (hope that boot tastes good) He's very gracious and happy and appreciative. Earlier, they both sounded very sincere about thanking one another for the experience. No way to tell Cheryl's reaction.

CHAMPION: Shawn Johnson & Mark Ballas

He's so shocked, he can't stop wandering around with his hand over his mouth. She is ecstatic and squealing, and they're both very adorable. On stage, Derek is literally jumping up and down, waiting to be able to congratulate his buddy, and zooms in to haul Mark up on his shoulders. It takes a minute before someone scoops up Shawn, which is funny. Lots of screaming and jumping and so forth.

Some notes from that night:

Mere steps away from the mini huddle gathered around Johnson and Ballas was runner-up Gilles Marini consoling his son, Georges. The 10-year-old, who watched his father perform on Monday and Tuesday, sobbed as Marini held him in his arms and told him over and over “it’s alright, it’s alright.” Marini said his son’s disappointment was “pretty intense. He’s taking it badly. He’s a 10-year-old, and he wanted to put the trophy on the shelf in (his sister) Juliana’s room.”

Aww, poor kid.

And what are people doing on their summer vacation, since there's no tour this year? Melissa actually gets to go home for a while, Ty has 500 head of cattle to... do something with on his ranch, Tony has been cast as a bodybuilder in an independent movie, Lil'Kim is prepping her own Las Vegas show, Cheryl is taking a vacation, Jewel isn't sure she'd try the show again after seeing how hard Ty worked, and Edyta is going to UCLA pursuing a bachelor's in journalism.

Yup, you read that right.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed (or at least endured) another season of my writing. So You Think You Can Dance, that competition that actually showcases some amazing dancing and really appreciates the artistry and athleticism of the performance and yet still becomes a popularity contest premieres its fifth season this Friday, and will be immediately followed by its sixth season in September, so they can make it a permanent Fall series. Louis van Amstel will be choreographing for SYTYCD this season, and no doubt the DWTS producers are watching for the next young additions to the pro lineup.

Until Fall, then.


Posted by: wiccabuffy (wiccabuffy)
Posted at: May 21st, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
Dance Rob Dance!

The Ugg wasn't so tasty, I'll tell you that.

But, YAY SHAWN! I mean, seriously, what a pleasant surprise. Not that I hated Gilles; I was just sick of his dancing "SEXAY" all the time. Yes, he was a surprise as a dancer, but the judges practically crowned him the winner so early on, that it was getting boring to watch the show. I think it's part of the reason I never voted this season... a first for me.

I'm glad Melissa & Tony were happy getting 3rd place. IMHO, the semi-finals SHOULD have been these three, plus Lil Kim. NOT TY. It would have been interesting to see that.

A cute aside - the first time Mark won and Derek was jumping around for him? Adorable. Then when Derek won and Mark did the same thing? Too cute. So I was happy to see Derek do it again for Mark this year. I think their bromance is freaking ADORABLE.

Shawn as the youngest to ever win? That's just really cool. I know lots of people are pissed Gilles didn't win, but now he's got recognition and I'm sure he'll get more acting roles where they'll make him dance, now.

Personally? I'm glad Cheryl didn't get a third trophy. And the fact Mark now has two trophies, just like her? HA! HA, I say! ;)

Also, you should review SYTYCD. K, I'm done.

Posted by: Eric's Recap Journal (dork_wesley)
Posted at: May 21st, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I was never so into it that I felt like voting. No "OMG!AMAZING" routines or people I loved in danger.

Someone posted a pic of Mark, Derek & Jules as kids with the Ballases:

SYTYCD, too? Oh, okay.

Posted by: wiccabuffy (wiccabuffy)
Posted at: May 21st, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Dance - Dirty Dancing

I can't get over Julianne, 11 years old, and in high heels. o_O

You don't HAVE to...

Posted by: Eric's Recap Journal (dork_wesley)
Posted at: May 21st, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)

And the nails. Yeesh.

Oh, I might as well. Won't have quite as technical stuff to say, so it shouldn't be the 2,000+ word-fests that DWTS is.

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