It’s Story Night on “Dancing with the Stars,” in which the celebrities have to pick tunes that tells a deeply personal tale and viewers at home invariably shower the most points on the celebrities who cause us to most soak our hankies. “It promises to be an emotional night,” show host Tom Bergeron says, gleefully. Especially for Kirstie Alley, who takes a tumble when her professional dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s “thigh gave out.” But Bergeron doesn’t yet know that.
Syndicated talk show hostess Wendy Williams foxtrots to “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life,” in memory of her early years, commuting between New York and Washington for DJ work, sleeping in her car at rest stops and brushing her teeth in birdbaths. Wendy’s moving like someone who slept last night in her car. Forget the foxtrot – Wendy’s found a dance at which she excels: The Wendy, a slow strut around the stage. The judges, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli award her 15 out of a possible 30 points. Wendy’s final ploy: wringing votes out of the hard of hearing, by bellowing “VOTE” at the camera while Celebriquarium hostess Brooke Burke is trying to talk.
Disney Channel star Chelsea Kane has picked the song “Chelsea” because, Chelsea explains, it was written – about her! By her first love! “It was epic -- and romantic, and we started dating the next day!” Chelsea gushes. We like her dance partner Mark Ballas because he’s not only got the steps, but is unafraid to make it all about him. He’s fun to watch and it rubs off on Chelsea – she’s really moving. Surely this shimmy heavy choreography is her memory of that “first love” as hot as she wished it had been in her diary. If this is her dance to first love, we’ can’t wait to see her dance-interpret subsequent relationships. Bruno, likewise, quivers as he talks about the “excitement running through her delicious first taste of love.” But the number brought back difficult memories of first love for Len. “Sally Frostyknickers – wasn’t a looker,” Len reminisces sadly. The judges bestow 23 points on Chelsea, who enthuses, “Now I have another awesome memory to go with that song!” And, the boyfriend? He gets the royalties -- everybody wins.
WWE star Chris Jericho will do the rhumba to “Let it Be” in honor of his late mother, who faded away slowly, he says, after being in some kind of accident. She loves that tune, which he played it at her funeral, Chris says, and, she loved dance shows, “like ‘Solid Gold’,” he explains.
“Chris Irvine is my real name, and for the first time in over 20 years you’re going to see that person in front of the camera – no mask, no wall, no character,” he emotes. Mostly Chris holds a series of poses while dance partner Cheryl Burke makes the white diaphanous thinggummy over her silver costume – what there is of it – flap and flow. Think Leo and Kate on the bow of the Titanic. Cheryl flows in and out of Chris’s arms. Think Leo reeling in and releasing a large fish on the bow of the Titanic. The studio audience gobbles up his every mom-tribute pose, applauding for more of same. Carrie Ann chokes up talking about his “beautiful tribute to your mom” though “your hip action was a little strange.” Len and Bruno are equally somber, as befits a rhumba for the dearly departed. They award Chris 21 points.
Turns out, Kendra Wilkinson has been the victim of anti-Bunny prejudice which still exists in our society. On the bright side, her emotional pain has put her in touch with her inner stripper, and she’s doing some sexy, languid moves as she does the rhumba to “You and Me” with Louis Van Amstel, even if her face sometimes seems to say she’s being taken against her will. “You have nothing to worry about – there is nothing wrong with a good stripper. In fact, I’m into it myself,” Bruno assures her, adding, “It was so teasingly erotic and hot. If it had that effect on me, you can imagine the men in the audience – they are turning purple out there!” Kendra lands 23 point from the judges.
Romeo is doing a whole dignity thing this week. In fact, he’s moving with the gravity and economy of a pall bearer. Still we’ve got to grade him on the Man Who Thinks Dancing is For Sissies Curve, and give him points for the high feeling content of his performance, which is another rhumba for the dearly departed -- in this case, two cousins killed tragically at a young age.
Romeo is very upset about rehearsing in heels. “Something is really bothering Romeo. I don’t think it’s the shoes,” his dance partner Chelsie Hightower tells the camera during taped rehearsal bits. The next day he apologizes, and speculates his two cousins will be watching him from heaven and maybe even laughing, because he’s “wearing leprechaun shoes.” Romeo mostly holds up Chelsie during their number; she too is dressed in the traditional rhumba of grief silver and diaphanous white nearly-an-outfit. Bruno pronounced Romeo “a very fine young man.
Len, however, spoils the mood in a snit at being told to hurry it up to keep the show on schedule. “Last week was a huge step forward; this week a huge step back,” Len says of the performance, and then refuses to elaborate. “Well you told me to be quick.” Len snaps at Bergeron. “I didn’t expect you to come in with a machete,” Bergeron snaps back. The judges lavish 20 points on Romeo, after which Bergeron snarks, “Later tonight. Len goes to the Wizard for a heart.”
Hines Ward dances a samba of gratitude to his mother who, when his parents divorced, worked three or four jobs to support him. “She’s the only family I really have,” Hines says. His dance is joyous and he rides a big wave of relief from us all after these earlier three-hankie numbers. He even provides two big thrills when he appears to nearly toss his partner, Kym Johnson. Hines is just a happy presence and his mom, in the audience, is very very happy.
“Bouncing butt, shaking butt – two for the price of one! Happy hour!” Bruno raves, and Hines scores a big 25 points – the night’s best so far.
Model Petra Nemcova waltzes to “You Raise Me Up” because the song bucked her up when she returned to Thailand after getting caught in the 2004 tsunami there. Her performance is like a walk down the runway for the tall, elegant model, but she carries it off gracefully and Len pronounces it his favorite so far this season. Petra is also showered with 25 points.
The ring announcer, the bell, the gloves – hey, Sugar Ray Leonard: you can only play this card once in the competition to make it count! All the fight memorabilia has definitely pumped up Sugar Ray, though his paso doble to “My Prerogative” – the song he says they played when he reclaimed his title way back when – is longer on attitude and positive energy than actual dance moves. Anyway, he’s well matched with the athletic Anna Trebunskaya, so it’s entertaining. He still impresses us as a guy who had the wind knocked out of him too many times, but the judges praise him for fighting back and grant him 21 points – his best score so far.
Kirstie Alley rhumbas to “Over the Rainbow” to illustrate the agony and ecstasy of the time when she, nearly simultaneously, got her big break landing a “Star Trek” gig and lost her mother in a car accident. Just when we are admiring her dance partner Maks Chmerkovskiy for his ability to squire Kirstie around, like an amazingly agile longshoreman unloading bananas, he crumples in pain and loses his position, and his partner, in a dip. After a quick limp and a one-moment-please hand gesture—steps which Maks still performs better than Sugar Ray dances – Maks is back in step with Kirstie. There seem to be a few moments in which he’s favoring one leg, but, overall, he’s not obvious about taking it down a notch.
Still, the whole idea of one of the DWTS professional dancers causing a tumble, rather than the celebrity, is rocking our world. We haven’t been so shocked since we learned that real estate prices can go down. The judges are exceedingly kind, and after a lot of speechifying about how it’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get back up, they give the couple 21 points.
And, finally, Ralph Macchio rhumbas to “Stay Gold” because it’s the theme song from the flick “The Outsiders” in which, Macchio says, he got his break, and it’s the tune they played at his wedding to his wife of 20-plus years. With all his hand action in the performance, Ralph looks like a traffic cop who really enjoys his work. Ralph’s problem is partly the fault of his dance partner Karina Smirnoff, who has given him an exceedingly dull bit of choreography. He lands 21 points anyway.