‘DWTS’ Recap: Did Bristol Palin Step Up Her Game?

Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC)

Last week’s “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” proved that sub-par dancers, such as Pamela Anderson, wouldn’t last long. What would that mean for Bristol Palinthis week? Ha. I had to admit I would miss the danger of watching Pam do the splits; who would provide the entertainment value this week?

With those thoughts in mind, I was looking forward to seeing what the remaining 12 All-Stars would do.

Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Jive
Melissa said she had to up the ante this week. In season 8, she had injured her ribs before her jive and was judged on rehearsal footage. I had forgotten about that drama! Now was her chance to really do the dance properly. The routine started with Tony mock singing at a microphone. Then he and Melissa went into a ‘50s style jive with the former Bachelor star looking like the cheerleader she once was, doing all the complicated spins and arm raises and a back flip over Tony at the end. It had a light, fun quality to it—not memorable, perhaps, but solid, and she and Tony seemed like more of a team on the floor this week. I didn’t see any mistakes. Judge Len Goodman said they had set the bar high with their energy. Bruno said she was the fastest gal in town in the accomplished routine but her feet were slightly wrong. Melissa questioned that critique, never a good idea. Lighten up, Melissa, it’s only week 2! And Carrie Ann? She was so happy we got to finally see Melissa’s jive.
Score: 23.5

Watch the Judges Fight Over Melissa:

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Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: Quickstep
Sarah Palin’s daughter said she’ll be dancing to Redneck Woman and it was just so HER. Sigh. Bristol and Mark then went to a gun range for a package to show her rootin, tootin’ background; oddly, though, this was taking time away from badly needed rehearsal. But Bristol declared herself ready to quickstep. The pair danced through what looked like a saloon door and Bristol’s legs looked good, I had to admit, in her Daisy Duke western wear. But she still didn’t look like an All-Star and this was All-Star season, dammit! “The baby on my hip” line in the song got a laugh from the journalists backstage. The tea party girl ended the quickstep by breaking a beer bottle over Mark’s head. Sarah and Todd Palin loved it in the audience. Bruno said they weren’t in hold enough and her frame wasn’t good. Was else is there in dancing? A major pan. Then Carrie Ann said (like last week and all of Bristol’s last season) that Bristol had come so far. They weren’t following the rules on hold, she added. Len stated it was “good fun.” I didn’t think he was looking for contact. Three 6s, terrible score. A possible going home candidate, for sure.
Score: 18

Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower: Jive
This couple’s rehearsal looked like fun and their package dealt with Helio taking Chelsie to a racetrack, naturally. Chelsie was allowed to race a car and emerged screaming and dizzy. I guess it was the week where the stars took control and put the dancers out of their comfort zones for once? Anyway, their dance started with the two dancing on the stage for awhile in their pink outfits and then leaping to the ballroom floor. They made full use of the whisper theme of the song, whispering to each other. Helio had a lot of broad facial expressions and even mouthed “what?” about Chelsie at one point. The race car driver was adorable and so easy to watch, a born entertainer. He ended the dance by kissing Chelsie in a dip. Carrie Ann said she was uverwhelmed by Helio last week but this time, he was right on it. Len said it was style and all smile, happy, happy joy although he felt Helio’s knees went too high at times. “A delicious treat of a jive,” Bruno said, although he agreed with Len on the mysterious knee issue. It turned out Helio’s young daughter and fiancée were in the audience and seemed very relaxed—they’ve both seen far worse at the race track, huh?!
Score: 23

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Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: Quickstep
The slightly underachieving couple from last week was determined to do better this week. Apolo was fourth during week one, which was unacceptable to the Olympic speed skater. Karina told him he had to take charge in quickstep. But why didn’t he take her to the rink to learn how to ice skate? I guess my thoughts on tonight’s packages were wrong. Instead, Apolo just head-butted her in rehearsal. So, on to the dance in which Apolo looked very stylish in a hat and vest. Their side by side moves really seemed in perfect form and there appeared to be some very complicated Charleston style moves in there as well. They never stopped bouncing up and down; the old Apolo was back and ready to get on the podium! Applause in the press room heralded the best dance of the night so far. “Gold medal,” Len said. Bruno said his hard work had paid off and praised the footwork, which I had noticed as well. Carrie Ann approved as well—I couldn’t hear her critique due to the press room chatter. They loved it and expected a big score, as did I. It was the highest score of the night so far.
Score: 24.5

Watch the Highlights of Monday Night’s Performances:

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Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel: Quickstep
I have a real soft spot for this couple, as I have noticed a ton of chemistry (spot. Cheetah Girl. Get it?) Louis had a crazy move he wanted them to perform, going up three sets of stairs. In practice, they fell down hard and Sabrina got injured. Her arm was hurting and Louis felt so bad. He asked her if she wanted to keep the move in or not during the dance. Cut to—Monday night. Some suspense here. They looked very elegant in their black outfits and Sabrina gave a lot of attitude to the dance, leaning her head back way far and smiling almost the entire time. A lot of tricky footwork and they stayed in hold so well. They did end the dance by climbing up the stairs and it seemed to work out. She gave host Tom Bergeron a high five after the dance. Bruno called her Ginger Rogers and praised her superb lines, “a true dazzler.” Carrie Ann said it was “ridiculous,” which was a good thing. “Awesome!” she shrieked. According to Len, she kept her upper body under control but her legs were working the entire time. Sabrina seemed in good health backstage, whew. They received a 9 from Carrie Ann and the highest score of the night! Go Cheetah Girl!
Score: 26

Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiy: Jive
Kirstie wasn’t happy that she didn’t do that well last week. Maks tied latex bands over her legs in practice so she could learn how to move. The Cheers star thought it was kinky like “50 Shades of Maks.” What “DWTS” scribe wrote that line? Ha. The dancer showed his usual tough love, pushing her to act like she was younger. The dance began with Kirstie in a flapper style dress under a street lamp. I guess she was meant to be a street walker? Maks looked hot in a striped wife beater tee shirt and the actress did a lot of vamping by the judges’ table. She bobbled during one of the turns, not looking too stable, and ended again at the judges’ table, trying to kiss Len. It just didn’t work, kind of a mish-mash. Carrie said she was working it and age is just a number. She wanted to see more partnership in the dance. Len thought it was much better than last week and Kirstie kissed Maks. Bruno agreed, teling Kirstie she played it beautifully. The reporters backstage weren’t too crazy about it, though, and I felt the same way. Too broad in trying to show Kirstie’s out there personality. We know about that already.
Score: 21

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Cheryl Burke and Emmitt Smith: Quickstep
In rehearsal, Emmitt and Cheryl were saying they loved being the final dancers last week because it gave them an advantage. He said he’d been hit on the head thousands of times. Was that an excuse for not picking up choreography? The football great showed his great sense of humor. Emmitt looked flashy in a red tux and Cheryl had a leopard dress. Did they look a little slower than Sabrina and Apolo, though? I was disappointed this week as I thought there wasn’t enough content in the dance, although a few reporters clapped for the couple. According to Len, it was cool and smooth but some of his technique was lacking. Bruno felt their chemistry but said he lost the frame and Carrie Ann commented the race car driver and speed skater did better this week. She urged Emmitt to bring it! Oooh, the first scold of the season.
Score: 22.5

Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya: Jive
Drew and Anna were in the bottom two last week and seemed surprised. The singer felt really let down and they were weary in rehearsal. Drew wanted Anna to hit him during the dance and she practiced it many times. Finally they seemed to be loosening up. laughing and getting the hang of each other despite the stress. Anna walked down the “DWTS” stairs texting on her cell phone and joined Drew, who seemed to be a guy bothering her on the street and yes, she slapped him as a gimmick in the dance. I was watching Anna’s whirling legs in her fishnetty black stockings; her body looked incredible but Drew’s dancing? Beats me? I wasn’t watching him. They ended the dance with Drew’s arm held up triumphantly and brother Nick applauding in the audience. I wondered why, as I didn’t think Drew was moving well enough in the jive to make me watch him. Had he really thought he’d done well? Bruno cited his rough and ready spirit but said he also went flat footed at times. “Welcome home, Drew,” Carrie Ann said, meaning the singer was back and much better than last week. Hmm. Len said he wouldn’t be bottom 2 Drew this week. So two of the judges liked him, but I was skeptical.
Score: 22.5

Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson: Quickstep
The NSYNC star had to dance first last week, and I felt he’d earned a lower score than he deserved because of that. Would he look as skilled as his old nemesis Apolo this time? The pair worked hard in rehearsal. Joey was dancing as Charlie Chaplin and Kym was his starlet coming off her couch to dance with him. The big guy looked like he was having a great time and he acted the dance well, too, as a frantic Charlie Chaplin. He did a fun leap behind the couch to end the dance, holding up a “the end” sign to honor the silent movie. It wasn’t even corny, though it could have been. Carrie Ann said he nailed the performance with his upper body but he had some mistakes. Len said he really enjoyed it although he had noted tons of mistakes; he deemed him an entertainer, not a dancer. Bruno said it was big and bold but also mentioned the mistakes. I didn’t see those mistakes. I was just so charmed by Joey and Kym together. I had been watching them both, as a couple. Wasn’t that what dancing was all about? They got the same as his fellow singer and rival, Drew.
Score: 22.5

Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Jive
Shawn said she wanted to light that fire inside her after last week. She seemed to be intimidated by the other dancers but I truly doubted that—she competed in the Olympics! In practice, they were practicing cartwheeling down the stairs. This looked like a promising routine. So when the dance started Shawn was clapping her hands to the Hairspray theme, good morning, Baltimore. Her leg kicks were impressive and she was like a spinning top on the floor in her high heels, which must be hard to wear for a gymnast. The two ended the dance in a dip and I was wondering if some of these jive routines were a little too similar this week. Shawn looked like a professional but maybe the dance needed more personality. Len said it was a “just enough” type of dance, not too great. But Bruno strongly disagreed, calling it eye-popping and stating that they couldn’t have done more. Carrie Ann named them All-Star sweethearts; she though Len was totally wrong. Brooke Burke-Charvet revealed by her question to Derek that the pro had been suffering from a back injury—who knew?
Score: 25

Kelly Forces Her Partner to Wear a Bra So He Can Understand Her “Rack” Issues:

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Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Quickstep
This couple was the major surprise of the first week in that they were really good. In rehearsal, they were getting along well, laughing and joking around. Kelly forced Val to wear her water-filled bra so he’d know what it was like for Kelly to dance (what were they trying to say? These packages were so weird, but I figured Val was getting into Kelly’s comfort zone). They looked like the prom king and queen during the dance, with Kelly wearing a pretty in pink gown. She seemed really graceful, proving last week was no fluke. Sadly, her dress was also too long for her feet and as a reporter pointed out backstage, you lost a lot of her footwork. Bruno said she tended to lose her frame and messed up a couple of steps. Carrie Ann criticized her lines when she was out of hold. Len, on the other hand, liked the part better when she was out of hold, so a big mixed review tonight. I felt the dance itself was refreshingly low key after the others. The show needed the quiet stuff, too! Then Len counteracted me by announcing the judges wanted to give everyone a challenge, that they wanted to see eye popping stuff next week. What?! Was Sabrina not eye popping enough?
Score: 22

Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd: Jive
Last week was a smash hit for this couple as they finished second only to Emmitt. But Gilles had pulled his hamstring before the first performance so he had been dancing injured. He went to a doctor who told him to rest his injured upper leg. AS usual, Gilles said it would NOT stop him. So they began jumping up and down and Gilles looked like Adam Lambert with his big flamboyant hair. He also showed part of his chest in a low cut blazer—hey, ladies! The French actor seemed to be mastering steering Peta in the dance. He knew how to move his partner around like no one else on the floor. Carrie Ann said his kicks and flicks were the best of the night and compared him to John Travolta. Len loved the fast attack of their jive. “Let the good times roll!” Bruno shouted. I got it—he liked it! I felt it was second only to Sabrina in skill tonight. Gilles said the dance was a tribute to his late father. They were well rewarded for the flashy routine, though Sabrina was still first.
Score: 25.5

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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