‘DWTS: All-Stars’: Frontrunners’ Dance Disaster Highlights Difficult Night

'DWTS: All-Stars': Apolo and Karina (Photo: ABC)

How could “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” be made even more spectacular? By adding an all-star judge for Week 4! I was looking forward to seeing how ex-“American Idol” and ex-“X Factor” judge Paula Abdul would mix up the usual proceedings with her wacky comments — and if Len Goodman would become her new Simon Cowell. But I was also fearing a train wreck because Paula was known for speaking slooooowly at times, and with a live show, that could be a disaster. Also, this week, the stars had picked the dances for their fellow competitors for the first time in the show’s history.

With all that in mind, here was how Week 4 went down: During the parade of celebs, Kelly Monaco raised eyebrows with her very revealing outfit—looked like she forgot to put on her costume! Brooke Burke-Charvet announced lifts were allowed this week. Host Tom Bergeron introduced Paula and she said she was looking for Simon and Randy Jackson. But seriously, she was wedged between Bruno Tonioli and Len and then gave the celebrity dancers a kind pep talk.

Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiy: Charleston
Kirstie looked a bit haggard before rehearsal and she was worried about the fast dance she had to learn this week. Maks told her she had to push it and he said he didn’t care about hurting her—harsh! But later, the couple hugged over Kirstie’s vulnerability. The dance began with Kirstie jumping out of a cake and Maks had to lift her out, which I guess was part of the joke. Then they did traditional side-by-side Charleston moves and Maks really channeled that ‘20s vibe. Kirstie? I’m not so sure. They lifted each other up on their backs and later he acted like she was so heavy that he couldn’t drag her. The routine ended with a weird move in which they moved across the floor together on the ballroom floor, looking like a candy-colored caterpillar. It was okay but didn’t seem to suit Kirstie’s personality or Rubenesque look; I envisioned a flapper looking, er, different somehow. Len said she turned Monday into a fun day, although it could have been cleaner. Paula, somewhat haltingly (was she rusty?) said Kirstie danced it wonderfully: “you’re a joy to watch.” Bruno said the ex-Cheers star was a mad woman and he loved her for it. Carrie Ann Inaba said she looked beautiful and she entertained everyone.
Score: 30 out of 40 (40 points this week due to Paula being the 4th judge, natch)

Watch the Highlights of Monday Night’s Performances:

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Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: Rock and Roll
Oh, goody, we could get this couple out of the way early this week. Ha. They were famously fighting last week but this week were chuckling and goofing around in rehearsal. In Arizona, the pair was shown having lunch and discussing strategy—Mark planned to dress as a rabbit but Bristol thought that was a bad idea given their old monkey costume debacle from season 11. Anyway, they started on the stairs and walked down to do some corny side-by-side sock hop moves. Bristol looked like a good cheerleader, but not much more to me. Not horrible, but nothing special. Mark lifted and spun her around and the ABC cameraman was working overtime, giving her an overhead shot. Bristol seemed to be following Mark too slowly during the middle of the dance but she kept amazing me with her shapely legs, which looked far different than season 11. Paula told Bristol that Mark was trying to push boundaries but added good job, I’m proud of you. Bruno said she was hitting all the steps and she was mega focused. Carrie Ann gave her a hand clasp, she loved it so much and the press room groaned, fearing another week for the dubious dancer. Len said she came out and gave it her all—it had speed and energy and was her best dance so far. All four judges agreed with four eight scores—what was going on tonight? Were they all being polite because a guest (Paula) was there? Tom echoed my sentiment right after I wrote that; we wanted to see more diversity. During commercial break, the TV feed stayed on in the press room and we could see Sarah Palin gamely trying to follow along during a little audience participation dance led by Sabrina and Louis Van Amstel. But the former VP candidate seemed to give up halfway through and her husband (Bristol’s dad) Todd Palin didn’t wave his arms at all. Hmm. Sarah, listen to Len—give it your all!
Score: 32

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Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel: Disco
Here were Sabrina and Louis having lunch together in their TV package—was this out to lunch week, or what? Louis wanted to show off more of Sabrina as a person this week. Oy, vey—how many times had we heard this one, it was about showing WHO you are. Who are you? We would see, Sabrina. This one started cute with the couple walking away from the red rope at a disco club and they both had on shiny gold ‘70s style costumes and they mounted a big platform and danced around on there for a while. Sabrina did the splits which was great and made the press room cheer but later in the high-energy number, did I see them out of sync a little bit? Louis bobbled Sabrina at the end of the dance when he was holding her leg in an odd position. This one to me had one explosive move and the rest was all over the place. Bruno called her the disco diva and called disco her most vibrant performance but said she missed timing twice—I saw once, but whatever. Carrie Ann said she wasn’t off beat but Sabrina hit the floor in a weird way. Len said he was back in 1978 doing his own disco dance, it took him back. Paula thought it reflected the disco era very well—was she going to give everybody a rave tonight? Well, she DID surprise me by marking Sabrina down half point lower than the others.
Score: 35.5

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Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: Bolero
Bolero wasn’t Cheryl’s best pick for the dance as she had very limited knowledge of it. The dance pro had to bring some dance experts into the Texas practice studio to teach them bolero, which looked chaotic. Too many cooks in the rehearsal room! The routine began with Emmitt standing there in an all-white outfit and Cheryl emerging from behind him. They did some swirly action with a long scarf/blanket/drape around Cheryl’s waist and then tossed it aside to continue dancing in the “DWTS” fog machine. It was slow and lovely and both of them used a lot of long arm extensions. Emmitt ended by swirling her around in the air. I liked the romance of it and hoped the slowness of the dance wouldn’t cause the judges to think it wasn’t difficult. Carrie Ann was fanning herself and said this was why she loved her job. To her, Emmitt was graceful and intense. According to Len, it boasted clean lifts and lovely movement. Paula called the football star a sexy beast who left us wanting more. Bruno said “the desire was tangible” and Emmitt had given it a fleshy flavor. Emmitt’s wife was laughing in the audience and Paula now knew how over-the-top Bruno could be! The gridiron great said happy birthday to his daughter when backstage with Brooke. All four judges agreed with four 9s; this was a trend and I didn’t think Paula planned to say anything negative all night. She lived up to her sweet judge reputation, but it seemed kind of a pointless exercise so far.
Score: 36

Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd: Bollywood
Wednesday in Miami and the pair were really scared after last week’s double elimination. They consulted with a Bollywood dancer because Peta didn’t know nothin’ about the Indian dance (just like Cheryl and her dance earlier). I had total faith in last season’s pro champ, however. Producers built up the drama by showing a teary-eyed Peta worried the dance wasn’t going to work at all. They started the dance in darkness and then started shimmying, yes, like they were in a Bollywood movie and Gilles pulled off a cool lift of his partner. Later, he leaped around Peta and also gave her a kiss during the dance. The pair had a lot of side-by-side squat moves which looked like quite a workout. The reporters backstage loved it and erupted in applause, as did the audience. Len said it was hotter than a curry while Paula tried to imitate Bruno by standing up and mimicking his shtick. That didn’t work for the former AI judge—it was silly and looked rehearsed! “A Bollywood superstar is born,” Bruno himself shouted. Carrie Ann commented, “Aladdin has nothing on you.” They were richly rewarded with almost a perfect score; only Len marked them down by a half point. Wow, I didn’t see that one coming! It was great, but, a near-perfect score on week 4? The judges were being really generous tonight, IMO. Even the All-Stars needed room to grow, huh?
Score: 39.5

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Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Jitterbug
Missy was playing with her cute daughter, who gave her the raspberry at home in Texas. She and Tony were practicing flips and tricks so it looked like a difficult routine. Okay, so Tony and Melissa opened as waiters in a ‘50s restaurant and a fellow reporter commented that this sort of routine had been done so many times before with the juke box and diner counter in the background. The two looked cute and all, and I couldn’t begin to describe all the exhausting flips and tricks, but yes, the theme seemed a little hackneyed and they bobbled one of the flips. Paula loved it, though, of course, because there was so much joy between them. At the end of her critique, she had a small quibble she didn’t articulate very well. Bruno said it was fearless but Melissa missed slightly on a dismount. And Carrie Ann? She praised Tony’s choreography but mentioned Melissa’s misstep (and ABC helpfully showed the mistake on instant replay—whoa, they never do that! It was pointing out the mistake to the fans at home and memba, Helio Castroneves went home after one mistake.) But the scores were sky-high. C’mon, judges, no 9s with a major mistake!
Score: 37

Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Mambo
The dance couple was going to Shawn’s hometown of Iowa and look who was there? The fearless five gymnasts from the last Olympics! That was so random as Shawn had not competed in London. They were also on “Big Brother” over the summer so they’ve sure made the reality show rounds. Derek opened their dance by doing some conga style drumming and then Shawn appeared and leaped on top of his back like, yes, the gymnast she was (retired, you know). Shawn did just as well with the arm movements and Latin shimmying as with the amazing tricks and they brought the house down with a moment in the middle when Shawn did a handstand with legs artfully bent. Bruno said it was out of this world. Carrie Ann said the other contestants should be worried because she was perfect. Len gave good news from Goodman—he really liked the rhythm and timing. Paula started rubbing Bruno’s chest for no apparent reason and said Shawn was a shining star. It was her favorite dance so far. So would this be the absolutely perfect score of the night? The press room sure thought so. To me, this one deserved it. Derek revealed backstage to Brooke that Shawn had been terrified about wearing her Vegas-style outfit with cutouts on the side. The judges marked down Shawn by a half a point, boo! It was one of the best dances ever on the show.
Score: 39.5

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Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: Hip Hop
Hip hop wasn’t Karina’s favorite dance, so the two were getting massages to relax before hitting rehearsal. In fact, Karina was really angry in practice because she just couldn’t master the choreography and she was cursing up a storm. So, yes, she brought in a hip hop dancer to help them out (did everyone hate their dance this week?). So Apolo looked great in his speed skater style hip hop but there was an awkward moment when he removed his jacket. Did he knock his battery pack off? Karina seemed to freeze and forget the choreography during the dance. Not much partnering here, sadly and Karina wasn’t happy with her major mistake afterward and burst into tears. “I slipped. I fell,” she told Tom very dramatically. Carrie Ann comforted her about the bad middle of the dance (I would like to see that again—THIS was the time for the replay, producers!). The rest of the judges also told Karina not to take it so hard and praised Apolo for a great save. I didn’t think it was too bad, either. But Karina moaned in embarrassment with Brooke afterwards. Uh oh. Apolo could be in danger with this one. No mistakes were being allowed this season.
Score: 34.5

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Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary
This pro hated his dance, too! Well, well. Val didn’t know what to do as he was a Russian ballroom specialist. They also had lunch and Kelly harassed a passerby to vote for them this week. The soap star said she doesn’t like to show vulnerability (hey, she’s a soap star, what was she talking about? Just act it, darling). Anyway, on to the dance which had Kelly standing in her underwear and getting into some kind of tussle with her lover. This one looked very “So You Think You Can Dance” and I wasn’t sure if Kelly was selling those contemporary spins very well in the beginning. At the end, they were on a platfrom (borrowed from that disco dance?) and gyrating soulfully in each other’s arms. It seemed so different from all the other dances. What would the judges say? Len said he saw every kind of emotion in the number and it was fabulous. Paula was proud of her (pulling out her “Idol” line) and Bruno admitted Kelly’s dance was the hardest task of the night. He thought she had done it beautifully. Carrie Ann felt it was stunning although some of the moves were beyond her ability (in one of the few sour notes of the night). Kelly was in tears and said backstage the show was about the journey, not the dancing. Val didn’t care about the scores. Hmm. High scores came down, which shocked me given all the other dancers, but it was that kind of night.
Score: 37.5

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

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