‘DWTS: All-Stars’: Michael Jackson Night Offers Clowns, Spies and a Slip

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

After the shocker of Gilles Marini being eliminated last week, I had to admit I was a little depressed going into Week 9 of “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars.” I had never imagined an All-Stars finale without the sexy French actor and his charming fractured English!

Another bummer was losing the laughs provided by Kirstie Alley and her partner Maks Chmerkovskiy on the post-show press line.

But it was time to move on, and Week 9 promised the five remaining celebrities dancing in tribute to the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” Great bit of cross promotion here, as ABC plans on airing an MJ special on Thanksgiving.

Here was what happened on the All-Stars semifinal:

Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Caveman Hustle
This couple was stunned to have made it to the semis, and in rehearsal, they practiced playing cavepeople and worried about the whole theme looking stupid. The dances were going to be very creative this week with random styles. But back to Melissa and Tony — disaster struck on Sunday as the pro dancer collapsed to the ballroom floor. It looked painful but doctors cleared Tony to dance. An animated dinosaur opened the dance which I knew was a first on “DWTS.” Melissa and Tony did a lot of bouncing around primitive style and then went into a more traditional hustle. Tony flipped Melissa all the way over and spanked her butt in one eyebrow-raising section. There was another big flip onto Tony’s shoulder and some faux chest pounding. I thought it was a fun frolic that wasn’t as silly as it should have been and not a bad way to start the show. Judge Len Goodman said they captured the caveman flavor and Melissa never disappointed him. Bruno Tonioli compared Melissa to Raquel Welch in “One Million B.C.” while Carrie Ann Inaba said she liked the caveman sections better than the hustle part. Tony said backstage he would never let Melissa down by not dancing and he was full of injections to make it through.
Score: 27.5

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Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Knight Rider Bhangra
Another random theme featured Shawn and Derek dancing Indian style to the theme from the TV show “Knight Rider.” Neither one of them were old enough to know the David Hasselhoff classic. Where was he? After all, Hasselhoff had competed on “DWTS”! But instead, a Bhangra expert was on hand in practice to instruct Shawn and Derek in this incomprehensible folk dance. When the routine began, Derek was wearing the “Knight Rider” jacket with Shawn in traditional Indian garb, shiny and sparkly. Shawn danced better than Derek, the professional, in this one, during their side-by-side moves. She had great energy and this reminded me of a much more creative gymnastics floor routine. Just sayin’! The others would have a hard time competing with this. At the end, Derek held the gymnast perfectly vertical, which had judge Bruno on his feet and the press room going nuts. Bruno gave Shawn a hug and praised their choreography. Carrie Ann hardly knew what to say it was so good and Len sputtered around incoherently before saying it was fantastic. Shawn was totally out of breath backstage. A perfect 30, natch!
Score: 30

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Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: Big Top Jazz
Apolo and Karina were putting in a huge number of hours in rehearsal and the expletives flew. The speed skater was having trouble remembering the choreography and boy was he taking the whole thing seriously. The circus-themed routine had Apolo taking Karina into a lot of weird contortions and she appeared to slip a little at the start, putting her hand on the floor, which I don’t think was supposed to happen. Their moves were very stylized throughout. These weren’t normal dance moves, that was for sure. There was complete silence backstage as no one seemed to get it. Uh oh. A misfire from Apolo and Karina. Carrie Ann loved the concept and what they were going for but cited Karina’s slip for throwing them off. “The dismounts were sloppy,” she tutted. Len said there were a couple of awkward moments but Apolo was a fighter. Bruno called it edgy and surreal and compared it to “A Clockwork Orange.” Loved his film references! He strongly defended the odd dance but Carrie Ann and Len wouldn’t budge in their tepid opinions. It was all a bit too weird for me, even if they had executed it perfectly, which they didn’t.
Score: 27

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Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: Espionage Lindy Hop
In rehearsal, the two celebrated their salsa triumph from last week. Cheryl told Emmitt that this week, she’d be the bad guy in their dance spy drama. The dance started with Emmitt looking through his spyglasses and Cheryl dancing behind him. Cheryl looked great in her black bra and suspender costume; she was some sexy secret agent! Emmitt seemed to have a little bobble when he flipped Cheryl in the air. I was watching Cheryl much more than Emmitt during the dance, sadly, which made me think he didn’t have enough difficult moves this time. At the end, Emmitt threw the phony mirror ball trophy that had a “boom” espionage sign on it. Len liked the lifts and energy and fun. Bruno said it was a Looney Tunes version of James Bond. Carrie Ann smiled that it was Emmitt’s most animated performance ever and delivered some of her own Daffy Duck Looney Tunes talk (was that scripted?). There was a clip that looked like Paula Abdul would be in the house doing some choreography soon; guess she wasn’t through with “DWTS” after her guest judge stint. Although the judges had nothing bad to say about this lindy hop, they got the same score as the critically savaged Apolo. What happened?
Score: 27

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Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Surfer Flamenco
Kelly was intense again in practice, determined to do her best. Val was laying down the law, clapping his hands and telling the soap star not to mess up. Uh oh. Was the nice Chmerkovskiy brother having a Maks moment? Anyway, as the surfer dance started, they were flamenco-ing by phony palm trees and then Val took his shirt off and a wag backstage asked why he even bothered to put one on. Their steps were very precise and I thought Kelly was hitting all her moves again. It had the needed drama. Then, for the surfer segment, Kelly stripped down to a bathing suit and Val to a Speedo and they danced on a platform full of water, splashing around like ducks as the reporters backstage laughed hysterically. What was this — “Showgirls”? Or did I mean “Flashdance”? She ended by giving Val a kiss and everyone in the media room was still laughing about his, er, near-nakedness, to put it nicely. Who needed a TV package when there was Val’s package? But anyway, the critique — Bruno said the dance had fire and aggression, but it was too wild and erratic. Kelly accused Bruno of only looking at Val. Carrie Ann said the flamenco was non-existent. According to Len, it had verve and attack, and he gushed about their energy. Val covered his Speedo-clad jewels as he walked off the stage but it was too late. And then Brooke Burke-Charvet made a comment to them backstage that came off as risqué. Whew. The score was terrible — did the sexy couple go too far?
Scores: 25.5

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Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Argentine Tango
Melissa was the last one in the competition not to have previously won the mirror ball trophy, which she talked about in rehearsal. Dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana,” one of the pop icon’s worst songs, IMO, Melissa still looked great as she spread and flexed her long legs all over the place like a pair of human scissors. Man, she must do a stage show after this! Tony lifted her high in the air, over and over, and in one case, easily swung Melissa from one shoulder to the next, hard to do, especially with his back injury. Missy was crying at the end, overcome with emotion. Tony gave her a long hug, the sure sign of a great dance. Len said he wanted them in the finale, while Bruno said “you were possessed out there,” citing her wraparound lifts. “Magnificent Melissa,” Carrie Ann raved. They got a perfect score, well-deserved! Tony was crying backstage for the first time I can remember.
Score: 30

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Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Argentine Tango
Blah, blah, blah as Shawn talked about the challenges of the tango, but I wasn’t buying it after having seen her last dance. I was sure this one would be perfect as well. She was mentioning her failed Olympic comeback and how much she wanted to win. To me, it was hers to lose at this point. The “DWTS” fog machine started this dance and Shawn had been assigned the “Bad” song which would be the best one of the night. Not fair? Shawn’s leg flicks were perfect and Derek let her be the center of attention the whole time; they did one of those circle-ly lifts which was cool. The spinning move at the end was mesmerizing. I saw no mistakes. Bruno was on his feet again, saying Shawn had a lot of breathtaking style. Carrie Ann, however, felt she lacked passion this time — whoa, a rare diss for the ex-gymnast! For Len, she had nailed the number. I knew this wouldn’t be a perfect score because of Carrie Ann but should be damn close. I was right — a 29.
Score: 29

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Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: Rumba
Oh, goody, I loved the song “The Man in the Mirror” and hoped Apolo would do it justice. It would be a dance of love, and again, this couple was taking it all so seriously, like an Olympic medal depended on it and not a mirror ball. Surrounded by multicolored lights, Apolo and Karina touched a mirror before beginning their dance, which looked incredibly fluid and involved Karina doing the splits. But was it a little stiff in the middle part? I wasn’t getting goosebumps even though there were some sexy dance embraces and it ended with Apolo on top of Karina. Carrie Ann said her heart was melted and Len said it inspired wave after wave of emotion. According to Bruno, they nailed it because of the flow of movement. They had made a big comeback from their first Monday dance, but I felt a little let down by Apolo and Karina this week, I had to admit. They got a perfect 30, though, and others in the press room loved it.
Score: 30

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Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: Tango
The football star was reliving Season 3, which he won, but that was a looong time ago. Six years older, Emmitt was having difficulty in practice this week and there was a bit of testiness between him and Cheryl for the very first time this season. The pro said his dance level had to go higher and he was left sweating and frustrated. Another Michael Jackson song, “Leave Me Alone,” and the twosome looked good in matching burgundy outfits. Emmitt’s foot and arm work seemed absolutely fine, but was the routine a bit, um, routine? As in boring? He did pull Cheryl into his lap in a cool way at the end. Len didn’t get to his point very quickly but said Emmitt had coped well with a difficult tango. Huh? Bruno said he had predatory power but added that his footwork could have been more exact. However, Carrie Ann said he brought his A game and everybody in the audience had enjoyed it. Faint praise this time and they couldn’t have been happy with a 27 score at this point.
Score: 27

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Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Rumba
Back to the sexy couple and they would be dancing to “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and practice consisted of Val exhorting Kelly to be more passionate. I didn’t know how they could get any closer on this show without an NC-17! They danced on a ballroom floor surrounded by lights that gave it that romantic candlelit effect and Val was smiling and emoting up a storm. This couple’s chemistry was still off the charts; if not, I believed Kelly would have been gone by now. It ended with a sweet lift and some more making out (yes, not just a kiss this time — Kelly smooched him hard, like on a soap). Tumult in the press room over this romance — was it real or still show? Bruno said they were so into it, indeed! “That was beautiful,” Carrie Ann said. Len loved the light and shade of the number. Val carried Kelly to the backstage kiss-and-cry area with Brooke. Kel brushed off a Brooke question about that eyebrow-raising kiss. The “C” brother seemed disappointed by the score.
Score: 28.5

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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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