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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 05/24/2011

‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2011: Penultimate night

Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy in the last performance night. (Adam Taylor - ABC)
Actress/professional dieter Kirstie Alley, Disney princess Chelsea Kane, and NFL star Hines Ward are all the celebrities left standing on this season of “Dancing with the Stars.” For their final Monday show, the judges get to pick their first dance and mentor the celebrities; after that, it’s the infamous freestyle dance round.

Chelsea will dance the samba.

“I want Chelsea to show everybody the woman she’s become,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba pronounces, like this dance is going to be some sort of ritual de-flowering. Chelsea and her professional partner Mark Ballas samba to the very cool “Hip Hip Chin Chin,” turning it into a Vegas number from the 60’s with some frug motions and a very high fringe and rhinestone quotient. And while, yes, there is some Chelsea hip action, it’s more Disney than dirty. But the judges love it -- the chorus led by Carrie Ann, though Len Goodman mentions some hesitation about “the flaying arms section.” Len give her 9 points; the others give her 10 for a total of 29.

Photo Gallery: “Dancing With the Stars”

Judge Bruno Tonioli visits the rehearsal of Maks Chmerkovskiy and Kirstie, and coaches her on the proper way to do the DWTS arm fling-and-pause, aka the take-a-breather move so beloved by DWTS celebrities. “I’m not taking my moment!” Kirstie marvels, in re all her previous dances.

But, Kirstie and Maks are certainly taking their time with this samba, to Sergio Mendes’ “Magalehna.” Hers is a slow paced, stately samba. When Maks comes up behind her and waggles her back and forth, it looks like a slow-motion mugging. The judges begin to fall all over each other in their rush to explain to viewers why her slo-mo samba has as much merit as Chelsea’s spunky samba. Bruno praises her “softer” interpretation, which he says is more “rich and full of lively pleasures, and womanhood.” Carrie Ann says how much fun it was to watch Kirstie’s samba right after Chelsea’s. Yeah, like napping is fun right after recess. Chelsea also praises Kirstie’s “ooze factor”-- in the best possible sense of the phrase.

Back in the Celebriquarium, Brooke asks the question nobody is thinking: “What’s it like to be compared to somebody born in 1988?” -- meaning Chelsea. Kirstie has the good manners not to come back with “What’s it like to be compared to a bobble head?” And so, a memorable live TV moment in the making slips away.

Kirstie gets three 9’s.

Hines Ward and Kym Johnson perform. (Adam Taylor - ABC)
Len visits Hines and Kym Johnson in rehearsal and yucks it up. But we can’t keep our eyes off Kym, who’s wearing a neck brace after last week’s cringe-inducing injury, and no amount of Len guffawing, “Look at those deltoids – I’m glad Bruno isn’t here!” is going to distract us. Hines and Kym do the Quickstep to “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” while dressed in evening clothes. Hines is very, very careful to keep Kym upright, while still managing to have a spring in his step -- a prance even. At the end, he grabs a prop champagne bottle and sets it off like a fire extinguisher, which sort of kills the mood. It’s a “vast improvement” over their first quickstep, earlier in the season, though “not there yet,” Len says. Bruno disagrees, saying it’s “like watching a mega production on Broadway.” Once again, Len holds out, awarding Hines a 9, while the other judges shower him with 10’s.

Time for the freestyle round.

Chelsea says she and Mark want their freestyle dance to remind viewers they’re the youngest people in the competition, which means they’re “fresh” and “edgy.” So, they come out for their freestyle, to a hot salsa version of “Latinos,” while -- riding a bike! A bike dance routine – now that would be a bangin’ freestyle! But they dismount super fast, like the bike was stolen or something. Then they embark on a routine that’s pretty much all Mark hoisting Chelsea into the air, and not with a lot of grace. It’s all starting to look like a training video for the firefighter’s academy. After a mess of lifts, they begin dancing that aren’t-we-cute jig we’ve seen them do before, except this time the stage grows dim and their shoes and gloves light up. Having seen them do these steps before, it’s enough just to get the tracers.

The judges love all the bells and whistles – it’s like they were “plugged into the national grid,” Bruno says. Carrie Ann can only illustrate her feelings by standing up and doing a bump and grind.

Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas try to impress the judges. (Adam Taylor - ABC)
Maks and Kirstie dance their freestyle to the Pink tune, “]Having sex] Perfect Lyrics,” and we see why they were saving themselves in the first number. After flinging off her pilgrim dress a couple minutes into the number, Kirstie, now in black leotard and tights, is jumping and leaping – and doing a cartwheel! We’re talking cartwheel like the wheel on an ox cart, but still… And Maks, who earlier in the season suffered humiliation when his thigh gave out under the strain of dancing with Kirstie, redeems himself by demonstrating considerable upper body strength as he flings her around. It all ends with Kirstie striking a look-at-how-much-weight-I’ve-lost victory pose.

“Ten weeks ago I would have never thought of you even attempting lifts…Respect, girl, respect,” Bruno gushes. Carrie Ann calls her the “new poster child for life as it should be lived at 60 years old.” Still the judges only give them three 9’s -- a low score for this stage of the competition when the judges seem compelled to throw out a lot of 10’s to confirm the story line that the celebrity competitors are all superb, or why else would they be here? The studio audience boos over the low score. “The world’s best-dressed ugly mob, right here, ladies and gentlemen!” show host Tom Bergeron jokes.

For their freestyle, Kym and Hines demonstrate the discipline of their DWTS strategizing: They have waited till this late moment in the season to play The NFL Card. Now that’s restraint! They will dance a number inspired by a football game halftime entertainment. Hines appears in a band uniform of Steeler black and gold with a big “S” on his chest. Kym is in a gold cheerleader outfit and they have line of black-and- gold uniformed drummers. They do a series of well-executed lifts, then segue into some ballroom steps while the band plays a marching version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

“Those lifts were insane. Kym, I love you for still going for it,” Carrie Ann enthuses, adding “Who’s talking?” when a man’s voice can be heard over hers briefly.

“Maybe it’s Mr. Nielsen?” Bergeron guesses.

Last week’s performances: The final four perform

Last week’s results: Ralph Macchio goes home

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 05/24/2011

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