Monday, October 7, 2013

Dancing With the Stars Week 4: The Prodigal Daughter Returns (As A Judge)

It seems like only a week ago we were saying goodbye to Bill Nye the Science Guy, but despite my deep disappointment that my favorite goofy-uncle contestant was gone too soon, I'm a professional and must soldier on in my recapping of The Glitteriest Show on Network Television. (There are much glitterier shows on basic cable, of course.) 

Tonight, Len Goodman was gone (probably off shaking a cane at whippersnappers on his lawn - if they told us why he was actually gone, I missed it, because I don't listen to all of the blather before the dancing) and in his place to judge was Julianne Hough, a former DWTS pro. 

At first I was a little upset by this (as upset as I get over "Dancing With the Stars," anyway), since Julianne's brother, Derek Hough, is a pro (paired with Amber Riley), and she and Derek lived and trained with another DWTS pro, Mark Ballas (who is paired with Christina Milian this season) when they were kids. Then I remembered that the scores mean jack crap on this show and figured it was probably OK that she was judging. Plus, as Kel pointed out, the world of ballroom dance is small and full of people who know each other and trained together. Also, it turned out that she was a pretty good judge, with lots of constructive criticism and no apparent favoritism except for Brant when he took his shirt off. Thumbs up, Julianne!

So, here's what happened:

  • Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke were up first with a quickstep. Cheryl really put Jack though his paces this week, and he couldn't always keep up. There were a few times I felt like Cheryl was definitely dragging his butt around the ballroom. However, he also had some pretty delightfully fancy footwork going on, and, as usual, Jack was downright adorable. It wasn't his best dance, and he definitely looked like a deer in the headlights several times, but it was, overall, a good dance. The judges liked it pretty well - Julianne thought he wasn't happy enough and Bruno didn't love his frame. Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8. Total: 24.
  • Elizabeth Berkley & Val Chmerkovskiy were next with an Argentine tango. There was some realy intensity in their dance this week, and I was impressed that, once again, the connection between Elizabeth and Val was real and easy to see. Their dance had passion, but it also had a lot of nice technical footwork. I wasn't a huge fan of them the first week, but every week they're really growing on me. The judges were very impressed by her passion, the way that she told the story and the power behind her movements. They rightly said that her dance was sharp and beautiful. Scores: Carrie Ann: 9, Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9. Total: 27.
  • Brant Daugherty & Peta Murgatroyd danced a salsa next. There was drama surrounding this dance because Brant has an old shoulder injury that made doing lifts difficult. However, it didn't affect his dance much. Brant is another competitor who has been growing on me. (And not just because he took of his shirt during his dance!) He moves incredibly well, and he is loosening up and really seeming to enjoy dancing! His feet aren't perfect - the steps got very ploddy by the end of the dance - but it was a lot of fun to watch. The judges didn't love his technique, either in his arms or his feet, but they did like him taking off his shirt! Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Julianne: 7; Bruno: 7. Total: 21. 
  • Valerie Harper & Tristan MacManus were up next with a Viennese waltz. Her feet were much better this week, but what was really wonderful was that she just kept dancing and having a great time, especially to the song "Carry On" by fun. She is just a delight to watch, and such an inspiration to watch out on the floor. Yes, her dance wasn't hard, and it certainly wasn't perfect, but she is just someone I love to see dance every week. The judges were, of course, inspired by her dancing and really loved some of her poses and her moments. They warned her not to show her mistakes, and Julianne told Tristan to choreograph more work when they're dancing together. Scores: Carrie Ann: 6; Julianne: 6; Bruno: 6. Total: 18. 
  • Leah Remini & Tony Dovolani danced a cha-cha-cha next. Leah is a little too over-the-top with some of her moves, which is probably because she is kind of an over-the-top person, but she also has a natural sexiness that really comes out sometimes. Her dance was sort of a weird mixture, though, of crazy intense, almost too-wild moves and moves that were so laid-back that they were almost lazy-looking. It's her sensuality that really makes her dances great to watch, though. The judges liked her intensity on her face when she dances, but they want the movements to match up with the intensity on her face. Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8. Total: 24.
  • Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff were up next with a paso doble. They went for technical and pure dancing this week, because the judges criticized Corbin last week for letting his hip-hop side come out too much. I loved getting to see a traditional dance like this amid all the glitzy silliness & gimmicks of "Dancing With the Stars." There is a real beauty to the paso doble, which is supposed to be the story of a bullfight, and they did a wonderful job getting the passion, the danger and the interplay that the dance requires. To my admittedly untrained eye, it was darn near perfect. The judges really loved it, especially because it was so traditional, but had very tiny technical notes for them. Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9. Total: 27.
  • Snooki & Sasha Farber danced a jive. It was tough for her, because the dance means a lot to her because she was a cheerleader in high school, but it led her into dark time of eating disorders, and because she was wiped out from a lot of traveling. However, I was so happy to see how much fun it looked like Snooki was having. It wasn't the most technically perfect jive, and I think she got behind on her footwork at several points. However, it was a peppy, fun dance and I think Snooki showed her silly personality perfectly in the dance. The judges enjoyed her dance, but had several technical issues with her kicks and her knees, and urged her to have more connection with Sasha. Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8. Total: 24.
  • Christina Milian & Mark Ballas were up next with a foxtrot. I love the way that Christina performs, and I really liked how she got into the dance. I'm not entirely sure it was all very foxtroty, but it was a fun dance to watch. When she was in hold, though, I didn't really feel like she was comfortable with the dance. It was only when she busted out and did stuff that wasn't in hold that I really felt that great performing. The judges enjoyed the performance, but they weren't very happy with her work when they were dancing in hold. Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8. Total: 24.
  • Amber Riley & Derek Hough danced a tango next. Amber was having trouble with knee pain and wasn't able to rehearse as much as she needed to, but they soldiered on. Their dance was incredibly intense with very, very cool choreography, and while I liked several things that Amber did during the dance, I could definitely tell that they didn't have the same pep as they'd had in previous weeks. However, they were technically much, much better than in previous weeks, and I think that the more contained dance really helped with that. The judges really loved the dance. They were impressed with how traditional it was and how tight it was. Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9. Total: 27.
  • Bill Engvall and Emma Slater were last with a samba. Bill was definitely back in fine form with the dorky-uncle-at-a-wedding dance. Emma does a wonderful job choreographing a dance that works with that, and Bill really goes out there and sells the heck out of it. He is really stiff with all the hip movements and he flails his arms a lot, but he is absolutely hilarious to watch and he's having so much fun. The judges loved his performance and his joy, even though his timing and rhythm was a little sketchy. They were all very entertained. Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Julianne: 7; Bruno: 7. Total: 21.

Then it was time for the elimination. The bottom three this week were Valerie, Brant and Snooki, none of which I wanted to see go home, surprisingly. Snooki was declared safe, so it was down between Valerie and Brant. And, unfortunately, it was time for Valerie to go home. I have to say, though, she was definitely the weakest dancer last week and this week, I am surprised she went home so early. I thought viewers would keep her on the show for longer However, I was so incredibly touched by her being on "Dancing With the Stars." I try to be a cynical reality show recapper, but Valerie's dancing, her grace and her beautiful, sweet relationship with Tristan MacManus, who was absolutely wonderful, broke through my icy heart and utterly charmed me. 

As for who should go home next week, it should probably be Bill Engvall based on dancing alone, but he was just too much fun to get eliminated. If I had to bet, I'd say Jack Osbourne, because his dance wasn't very memorable this week, or Christina Milian, because she didn't have the connection with her partner. 

What did you think of "Dancing With the Stars" this week? Were you surprised by the elimination? Did you think Julianne Hough was a good judge? Who should go home next week?

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