American week on “Dancing with the Stars” in which the celebrities will perform Viennese waltzes and Brazilian sambas to tunes that “salute our country,” host Tom Bergeron says.
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff, samba to “Sweet Home Alabama.” Ralph is an urban cowboy tonight and looking about as comfortable in this get-up as if he were sashaying in it around Queens. Karina’s choreography has set up a brain teaser that only “DWTS” could present to the American public: A cowboy samba. Would it help if she wore a Carmen Miranda fruit headdress? No? What if Ralph had worn no shoes? If Karina spit tobacco? If Ralph spit mango seeds? But hey, Ralph is showing way more footwork than the average “DWTS” celeb hoofer so he’s in the lead on the WaPo TeamTV step-o-meter, our patented device for rating “DWTS” celebrities on actual number of steps since their natural urge is to dance as few as possible.
Samba-ing to “Sweet Home Alabama” lacks consistency, judge Len Goodman says. Of course it does – it’s a samba to “Sweet Home Alabama”! Judge Bruno Tonioli says the dance lacked the “fire down below.” Only judge Carrie Ann Inaba concedes that asking a has-been movie star to samba to “Sweet Home Alabama” is a “tall order. Ralph gets 22 points of a possible 30.
Vienesse waltzing to an R & B version of “America the Beautiful” are Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke. This looks like a stunt some last-place presidential primary candidate and his wife would pull off the night before the Iowa caucuses in a desperate bid for votes. Chris is wearing some kind of antique-ish blue military uniform – didn’t George Custer wear that model? And Cheryl has on a red gown that does an excellent job framing her cleavage and abs—now, that’s America! They’re whirling with a fair amount of grace, though maybe a bit too stiffly. Still they’re in the lead according to the WaPo TeamTV Degrees of Motion Scanner; most celebrity dancers try to avoid moving more than 45 degrees at any one time and certainly never 360.
It’s Chris’s best performance yet, says Bruno. Carrie Ann admits she’s underestimated Chris. Len thinks it’s nice to see Cheryl is showing off her Rocky Mountains for America week. Chris gets 26 points – his best score yet.
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin quickstep to “Viva Las Vegas.” Okay, we’re getting the theme. In America, anything is possible! You can dance a ballroom style quickstep to “Viva Las Vegas.” With a straight face! The Step-o-Meter says Petra is doing almost as well as Ralph for sheer step count, even if she does look like she’s along for the ride. She ends with an all-American tradition: throwing yourself on the mercy of the court, saying she “messed up”, thanking America for all the opportunity it has provided her, and reminding us that she runs a charity. The judges award her 22 points.
Romeo is lucky he was born in this era where hoofing is not expected of singers. But, props to him for going all the way with this dance, rather than holding back for cred’s sake. Romeo gets his own special meter for stepping out of the rapper comfort zone and he’s definitely gone whole hog tonight. He’s doing a Fred Astaire, in top hat and tails, though he could have used Fred’s tailor—and hatter. Everything looks a bit too big on him, and when he’s off on his own and away from Chelsie Hightower he has the air of the comic dancers who used to make fun of Fred back in the day. But holding on to Chelsie, he’s credible. The judges give him 26 points and his final pitch for viewer votes gives the audience three ways to love him: he starts by dedicating his dance to the mother of a friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer, adds that his success on the dance floor “shows you God works in mysterious ways,” and concludes with “I’m dancing for America now.”
Hines Ward is in a sailor suit; his partner, Kym Johnson is dressed as a tattered sail. We get it – they’re going to dance to The Wreck of the Hesperus, by that great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow! No? We’ve got to stop reading so much into the costuming. It’s a rhumba to “Proud To Be An American” because, in this great melting pot, nobody can tell nobody they can’t dance any Latin dance to any Country tune. Actually, Hines is doing a minimum of dancing, not up to his usual standards of movement, and coming in low on the Step-o-Meter. The judges interpret that as “ease and elegance” as Len says; Len seems focused on Hines’s hip action, apparently distracted from his feet. The judges honor him with 27points. But the Step-O-Meter reads “fail.”
Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiy are rehearsing but Kirstie has arranged a little surprise. She’s bringing in a “dance doctor”. In walks John Travolta – and we have visions of John bringing the intensity to K &M’s dance that he had with Uma Thurman dancing the twist in “Pulp Fiction.” Then we notice that he’s not going to remove his coat, suggesting the he’s now been Kirstie-sized and his days of actually dancing on camera are over. He’s just there to clown around and tell the two that they should sex up this week’s performance. Point taken: their foxtrot to “American Woman” features a shirtless Max and a heavy tango influence – tangtrot? foxgo? -- though Kirstie is moving very carefully so as not to collapse Max or lose a shoe or otherwise endure a third peril, so the dance loses something in the intensity department. Carrie Ann calls it their best dance ever, which is setting the bar fairly low. It wasn’t Len’s cup of tea. But Bruno said he didn’t know they were “so dirty” and wonders “are you taking direct bookings or do I have to go through an agent.”
“I’m expensive,” Maks shoots back.
“I can afford it,” Bruno responds.
The judges give Kirstie 23 points.
Now for this week’s episode of “Louis and Kendra: In Treatment,” in which both of them try to deal with their anger issues, hers against the judges and just everybody, and his all about her. One of the pleasures of this season is watching Louis clench his jaw muscles whenever Kendra speaks. We don’t know Dutch but can only imagine he’s thinking “You stupid-head, potato-foot, bunny person!” every time she speaks. Tonight, they make a breakthrough, as Louis tells her “You have a smile but you look nervous,” and “show your motion, take the brake off and move”. It seems to work, except now she has delusions of grandeur, addressing America with “I promise you I’m putting my heart and soul into this foxtrot. I won’t let you down.” Brief interlude while a lot of stuff falls from the ceiling because they are about to perform the one thousandth competitive dance performance on “DWTS” and, as Bergeron says, “we’re nothing if not understated.” They hit the floor to “Yankee Doodle” in the style of an old Broadway review number and it’s fun and she’s showing both a high step count and range of motion. But Kendra still has her old frozen dance face on, so it’s more sessions to come for “Louis and Kendra: In Treatment.” Meanwhile, the judges grant her 22 points.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas will samba to Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.” There’s a story line here: He’s a guy in a grubby jeans working in a gas station visited by a girl in a sparkly American flag outfit symbolizing tax refunds, or something happy and official. Anyway, enough story line, they’re off in jolly, high energy dance, and Chelsea ranks very high on the WaPo TeamTV Self-Propulsion Scale, which counts time out of the arms of your professional dance partner in which you have to remember your steps without any pushing, pinching or jaw clenching by the pro. Truth is, Chelsea is the best celeb dancer this season but being young and limber she ranks low on the TeamTV Resist-O-Meter that measures the amount of resistance that celebrities must overcome due to weight, age and previous injuries both real and psychic, and that seem to count for so much on “DWTS.” The judges shower her with 26 points.