Well, that was interesting :-P I guess that’s with the overall feeling I’m left with after country week – there were some good dances, some not-so-good dances, and just some general weirdness. I feel like we saw, quite possibly, the messiest group dance in the history of the show – as some of you saw me say on Twitter, I thought this looked like it was just thrown together this morning, and that no one really & truly knew the choreography. The solos were an interesting mix of desperate, messy, ambitious, and silly…and at the end of it all, I’m left with the same theory that Heidi & I kicked around earlier today upon hearing about the “judges’ score only” elimination next week: that they’re trying to subtly nudge Kelly out this week so that they can send Kirstie packing next week with a clear conscience and without a ton of backlash. But let’s get on with the rankings, shall we?
1.) Sabrina & Louis – I’ll admit, I really enjoyed this rumba. Sabrina is really starting to grow on me, and maybe a part of me empathized with her struggles with a drug-addicted ex-boyfriend – I myself am still reeling from uncle’s passing earlier this year, due to a drug overdose. I guess I just understand how she could feel so hopeless and agonized in that situation – and I think it reflected in her dancing. Loved the solo, which was a nice combination of hurt and joy. I actually thought Sabrina’s legs looked pretty damn good in this dance, and she seemed to handle all the passes & turns with finesse. There also seemed to be a nice balance of light & shade – the dramatic, fast passes & turns contrasted nicely with the slow portions where she took the time to finish her lines. If I had to pick one flaw, though – I think there was a trick midway through the routine that didn’t seem to come off quite right, and it looked like Louis was just struggling to lift her butt off the floor. For that reason, I would have probably given it a 29 – but overall, I liked it :-) I think she’s got a pretty decent cushion from elimination this week – at the top of the leaderboard, she’s a full 10 points ahead of Kelly.
2.) Apolo & Karina – FINALLY!!! A breakthrough performance that the judges finally recognize just how GOOD these two are. Admittedly, I was skeptical (and rather pessimistic) heading into this week, because I hated the song they picked and I was prepared for the judges to just kinda nitpick them to death again. But man – Apolo seems to really handle the ballroom dances with incredible ease, and I love the way he extends his arms. And while I was worried the emotion in this one would be kind of over-the-top, I actually thought it had a good degree of restraint, and was more celebratory than sad. Just a lovely dance :-) And if we’re going to split hairs about the two extra points from the group dance (which I don’t really feel like complaining about too much, because it literally only makes about a .33% difference…basically peanuts), I think Apolo & Karina were the only two that really seemed hungry for the extra points and seemed to cram as many cool tricks into their solo as humanly possible – for that reason alone, I probably would have given them the points, but again…it really doesn’t matter a whole lot this week. I feel like these two finally have a good dance (and the 2nd highest point total) to keep them relevant – it’s nice to know they’re most likely safe tomorrow night ;-)
3.) Shawn & Derek – Very cute & Western-y, just as I was told it would be :-) And it was fun watching Shawn cut loose and play a sassy little Daisy Duke character in her solo. But here’s the thing: I actually agree with Len that there was a little too much country, and I could have done with a bit more regular cha-cha steps. However, I feel like if they were going to call Shawn & Derek out for “too much country western”, then they should have also called Melissa & Tony out for what felt like a TON of ballet in their Viennese waltz…and at the end of the night, it was still country night, so I felt like they did have an obligation to put a certain amount of country steps into that cha-cha. So at the end, I guess I feel kind of ambivalent about the whole thing – not really Shawn’s best dance, but not her worst, and her song was wonky, and she was kind of injured. I’m sure she’ll be ok this week, though – and for a few weeks to come. Thought their solo in the country group dance could have been better and a bit more ambitious, but in the end, like I said – it really doesn’t matter a whole lot. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Derek comes up with for this mysterious “dance fusion” we’ve been hearing about – it sounds like something that’s definitely in his wheelhouse.
4.) Gilles & Peta – I think I would have actually enjoyed this cha-cha, had it not been so bizarre seeing Gilles gyrating around so…effeminately. I get that the video kinda had a lite-drag element to it, but I don’t think that called for Gilles to be prancing around like the love child of Carson Kressley & a tyrannosaurus rex :-P Then again, maybe Gilles didn’t even realize he was doing it – but he was definitely doing something strange (and not aesthetically pleasing) with his hands…and the overall effect was a little off-putting. The cha-cha portions were actually decent, and I think they handled the piece of music they were given well. Could have done without the whole feeling-up-Peta’s-butt-before-smacking-it thing, and I have to wonder what Gilles’ wife has to say about some of this choreography. Maybe the French are a lot more open-minded than the Americans, but if it were my boyfriend rubbing some girl’s ass for several seconds and then smacking it in one of his pro-am routines, he’d be sleeping on the couch that night. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about it, because the bulk of my bf’s students are pretty conservative, middle-aged women ;-) But I digress – I can’t really remember what they did for their solo in the group dance, but I remember Gilles looking simultaneously a bit lost and desperate…surprise, surprise. Too bad he’s nowhere near the top of the leaderboard this week. Bwahahahaha…that’s what you get for bragging about how “epic” your cha-cha was on Twitter, G-man :-P
5.) Melissa & Tony – As I mentioned earlier, I felt like this Viennese waltz was pretty heavy on the ballet – while Melissa did it quite well and looked very pretty doing it (she even made those god-awful block-heeled character shoes I hate look good!), I did find myself kinda saying “Ok, when’s the Viennese waltz going to start already?” But once they finally got going into the the Viennese waltz portion, I did really like what I saw – I can always count on Tony to give me a good amount of syllabus steps, and I really liked the spin portion they did where Melissa was on one leg with the other outstretched and Tony was spinning her. I also wonder if Tony heard Shirley’s critique of their tango on Afterbuzz last week, because he did seem to make Melissa’s skirt a little bit longer, and I wonder if the dim lighting also served to conceal any potential footwork errors. I liked their solo portion of the group dance, even if it did come out a bit sloppy (I really think everyone’s did, with the exception of Kirstie & Maks’). I think they’ve got a pretty decent cushion to keep them safe this week, but I do have to wonder if she’s next on the chopping block after Kelly & Kirstie are gone. I worry that she could be a casualty of the double elim in week 8, unless they keep finding ways to pad her scores a bit – but thankfully, I think she’s ok for now. I’d much rather see her in the finale than a certain Frenchman…
6.) Emmitt & Cheryl – Emmitt is charming, Emmitt is charismatic, Emmitt is fun to watch – this we know. But remember when I said wayyyy back in week one that if Emmitt really wanted to be a contender, that he was going to have to bring the dance skill WITH the charm? I think we’re reaching the point in the season where it’s becoming obvious that Emmitt, while still very charming & fun to watch, is just not up-to-snuff with the dance skills of some of the other contestants. While “cute”, I thought the first part of his foxtrot was pretty awkward – there were timing issues, some wonky arms & wonky frame issues, and the head rolls he was trying to do with Cheryl? He looked like he was trying to give her some sort of chiropractic adjustment. :-P But the solo at the end was very cute and fun to watch – he totally went for it, moreso than any other celeb tonight. It felt a bit disjointed from the foxtrot itself, but I can’t really complain – “Islands in the Stream” doesn’t exactly lend itself to scintillating solo moves :-P I think he gave it a good try in his solo in the group dance, but I think it was another instance where timing issues got the better of him. I think he’s safe this week (and probably next week, barring a huge disaster), but I’m beginning to foresee him as one of the victims of the double elimination in week 8…Cowboy fanbase or not, someone’s gotta go, and if everyone else is getting a ton of votes like he is, but he’s not getting the scores – he’s gonna fall.
7.) Kirstie & Maks – I thought their rumba was a definite improvement from last week (and their rumba in season 12) – Kirstie seemed to relax and enjoy herself quite a bit more, and there was a lovely sort of simplicity to the choreography…I liked being able to see it and say “Oh look, there was a fan” or “That was a nice side-break”, and I appreciated that they didn’t try to cram as many flashy steps into it as they possibly could. They let the simplicity speak for itself. That said, I almost felt like it was so slow (and they spent so much time walking towards and away from each other) that I would have liked a few more actual steps…a few more figures and a few less seconds walking. But overally, I thought it was pleasant to watch, and definitely not the worst routine of the night. As for their solo in the group dance – as I said earlier, I do commend them for being the only couple that didn’t seem to fumble, and they did go for the fun factor. Would I have given them the two bonus points? Probably not, but in the end, I think the means justified the ends: those two extra points gave Kirstie an extra boost over Kelly, and giving the points to Kirstie was probably the only option that actually could make a difference in this week’s results, as I think the totals between Kirstie & Kelly are likely going to be the closest when they add everything together. But I daresay even though Kirstie will survive this week – I think she’s going to have a huge target on her back next week, with the judges picking who goes home.
8.) Kelly & Val – Ok, first the good: I think Kelly & Val’s costumes were actually my favorite tonight. Love, love, LOVED the famous ruby red Scarlett O’Hara dress, and I thought the Rhett Butler-inspired suit was a nice change of pace for Val (any bets on whether someone had to explain to him who Rhett Butler was? :-P ). As for their tango – it was ambitious, and I do give them props for going for it and not holding back or trying to dumb it down. But I feel like Val was really having to pull Kelly along and lead her hard, and Kelly just seemed to get lost amongst all those feathers and those big movements. Definite frame issues, and I was a little confused by all the head-snaps – it started to look a little seizure-y. And I think you all know how I feel about kisses in dances – unecessary and desperate, but I will give them a little bit of the benefit of the doubt on this one, because I think it MIGHT have been a nod to Rhett & Scarlett. It wasn’t their worst routine by any means, and it was a definite improvement from the half-hearted samba they did last week – but I don’t know that it’s going to be enough to save them this week. Unfortunately for Kelly, I think they may need someone more skilled than Kirstie to go home this week, so that they still have her around next week for the judges to eliminate and still maintain the appearance of being legitimate judges (and not Stooges who play favorites) – so for that reason, I’m going to say Kelly is leaving us tomorrow night. Do I think she deserves to go? No, not yet, but I said the same thing about Joey, Drew, & Helio…c’est la vie on the all-star season, I guess.
Other thoughts on the group dance:
It didn’t look like anyone really knew the choreography well (including most of the pros), and I thought some of the floor patterns they picked didn’t help, as it just seemed to enhance the fact that some of the couples didn’t really know the choreography. I thought that just about every one of the couples had kind of a sloppy solo – I get the feeling most of them had little to no time to actually practice their solo, and so they just kinda winged it. If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite solos were Apolo & Karina’s, Melissa & Tony’s, and Kelly & Val’s – and I thought Apolo & Karina had the most impressive tricks, even if they weren’t execute perfectly. But as I already said – the 2 points won’t really mean a lot, unless two couples are neck-and-neck in the votes…which is why I find it interesting that they gave them to Kirstie.
So what did you guys think of country night? Was it bang or bust? Who were your favorites? Who’s going home? DISCUSS!!!
P.S. Still sending my thoughts and prayers to our readers currently riding the storm out on the east coast. We’re thinking of you!!! :-D