It's the sixth week of Dancing with the Stars and now it gets serious -- the dances are tougher and the routines are nearly twice as long to help fill out the two-hour time slot each week. Last week Joanna danced with fill-in partner Maks and their near-perfect tango was sullied by her heel getting caught on his ankle, causing a stumble with no actual fall, but last night host Tom Bergeron was keen on reminding us of this incident over and over and over again, testing the patience of her polite smile everytime the camera cut to her. But it wasn't Joanna and Derek who had problems with their footwork -- that was everyone else.
Louie wasn't just mis-stepping, at one point he literally threw his partner onto her ass. I started to suspect the dance floor was in need of a good Zamboni run to polish it off. This is also the phase when the judges change rolls a bit: Len is most always a grumpy stickler with a generous streak, while Carrie-Anne and Bruno are quite easy the first half of the season, but now they become meticulous in their standards around lifts and timing and slips, deducting points to show they mean business. It is halfway through the competition after all, they have high expectations. We no longer want to think "that person did all right for being a celebrity," we want to be dazzled, to see the transformation on camera, to witness the sublime...and the surreal.
Last night, DWTS implemented a new component to the competition, the dance marathon: all nine couples danced the mambo simultaneously on the floor and the weakest couple gets tapped out along the way by the judges. The couple who stays on the dance floor the longest receives the most points added to their judges' scores from earlier in the night. If you missed last night's episode, watch the clip and you'll get a good taste for where the last nine couples stand in the competition, based on dancing talent alone -- but given what has happened in recent weeks' results shows, don't be fooled about who is going home in tonight's double elimination. The audience can be fickle voters and who knows how they will respond to Derek's bizarre choreography with Joanna that involved holding her up by the neck, then bouncing up and down with her head by his crotch. Was Derek just, um, happy because of yesterday's announcement that she would be posing for the December issue of Playboy? It felt pretty icky and aggressive to watch (click on minute 8:10 in the video clip if you want to skip right to a demonstration of the awkward), and I might have trauma around the mambo now because of it.
-- A. RAYMOND JOHNSON
Previously > DWTS: Leaderboard Be Damned