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Well, here we are. The last night of competitive dancing for Dancing with the Stars. It’s down to Mario and Emmitt. One’s a highly skilled master of the ballroom, but will his arrogance be his fatal flaw. Another’s a fan favorite with oodles of charisma, but will he be able to bring his A-game once again? I guess we’ll find out tonight LIIIIVE!!! Or, as is the case for me, TAPE DELAYED!!!!
To the show!Tonight’s show starts off with a bold warning from Tom Bergeron: “Forget what you thought of ballroom because tonight it’s all out WAR!” Yes, it turns out that war is now a sparkly, campy affair. I always wondered why there were so many sequins in Iraq. But I digress…
After the catchy opening credits whiz by, we find our intrepid hosts standing above the ballroom. Samantha Harris is dressed in a lovely green dress that reminds me of my grandmother’s draperies. She manages to read her two lines without stuttering once: a new record. Our finalists then descend into the ballroom, ready to whoop some ballroom ass. Everyone seems to be dressed relatively normally (for ballroom standards), but I can’t help feeling like Emmitt might suddenly run out of the building, in search of the nearest Riverdance production.
FYI: in the audience tonight are two of last season’s most memorable performers: Stacy Keibler and George Hamilton. Surprisingly, they don’t have a box of Ritz crackers nearby. Anyway, Samantha and Tom babble about tonight’s show, but we can barely hear them over the raucous noise of the audience, which seems to believe that there might be a live beheading shortly. We do learn that for tonight’s show, each couple will revisit their favorite performance, debut one new original freestyle dance, and then each will shake their bon-bons to the same song. Enticing!
And now, to the dancing!
Oh wait, not yet. First we have to sit through a segment detailing each of the finalists’ journey through ballroom. To think that I actually thought we’d be seeing dancing right away. I should know better. This is Dancing with the Stars, after all. It wouldn’t be complete without some yawn-inducing filler.
I will say this though. This video segment does get credit for showing footage of Mario and Karina making out when they thought the camera man was gone. I don’t know if this stuff was shown on one of the results shows, but I’m seeing it now for the first time, and it’s hilarious. AND THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD HIDE FROM US. Oh, Mario. You try to act all goody-two-shoes, but we know you’re banging your professional day and night. Or at least, you were until you dropped her head on the floor. Way to go, jerk!
By the way, it’s now been like ten minutes, and this segment is still going on. I’d rather have another performance from Willa Ford than sit through this any longer.
Finally, at fourteen minutes into the hour, the segment ends, and it’s time for… a commercial. Great.
When we return, I’m convinced that it’s finally, finally time to start the dancing, and it’s looks like I might be right. Maybe. Samantha Harris tries her first joke of the night, and as expected, it’s a total, wonderful failure. The only person who laughs at it is, well, herself. We then watch a video segment detailing the training process each team underwent in preparation for their first dances, which both happen to be to the same tune. Len Goodman pops up and explains to us their song selection (“Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder), and then we learn that both teams will be performing the samba. This leads to general posturing by the guys and some general threats (“Mario, I’m coming after you!”), and then at long last we’re finally ready to dance. Let’s get this samba party started!
Emmitt and Cheryl kick off this dance the way they do nearly every other dance: with a peppy strut towards each other and down the staircase. I gotta admit that Emmitt looks a bit nervous and stiff, but he quickly sheds his nerves as he goes bananas with the shakin’ and the swiveling. It all climaxes when he executes a sideways shimmy shuffle (I’m sure there’s a much more technical term for that). The audience goes absolutely wild, and it looks like he’ll be in store for some great marks once again.
Afterwards, we then say hi to our fearless band, and unlike previous weeks, that one rotund lady isn’t dressed like a spurned extra from Star Wars: Episode I. Instead, she’s more in a Matrix state of mind with her dark, shiny gettup. More glaring, however, is the singer standing behind her who seems to be amidst a Men’s Wearhouse-gasm. He’s gonna like the way he looks!
Anyway, the judges go gaga over Emmitt. Len heaps him with praise, and Bruno says that he not only has a twinkle in his eyes but a twinkle in his toes as well. Amusingly, the producers then train a camera on Emmitt’s feet, as if we’re supposed to literally see a twinkle. Pssst: It was just an expression.
Carrie Ann adds to lovefest by saying that she in fact noticed Emmitt’s nerves, but whatever! He was still great! She then notes, “You’re the everyday man who became a dancer before our eyes!” Yes, the typical everyday man… who just so happens to have nearly every single NFL record EVER.
Before the judges reveal their scores, Tom then gives a little shout out to Stacy and George in the audience, joking, “I think George’s tan will fade before his hopes for a relationship with Stacy do.” OH SNAP!!!! Was that Tom’s passive aggressive way of saying, “Lay off my bitch, BITCH!”
Anyway, the scores for Emmitt are great. Perfect, in fact. Tens across the board! I really thought he might get a nine or two, but what do I know? Go Emmitt!
As you can imagine, Mario and Karina hit the dance floor with all the high energy and hip-swiveling gusto that you can imagine. They are really great. I mean, awesome. Hard to deny. The only thing I don’t like about this performance is the silly grin Mario gets on his face mid-dance. It’s different than his natural grin. It’s just… goofy. No other way to describe it. Damn you Mario and your involuntary facial expressions!
Well, the two unsurprisingly earn raves from the judges. Carrie Ann says that Mario has taken his dance to a new level. Bruno calls their samba “scintillating.” But the parade gets a fresh dose of rain in the form of Len Goodman who claims that Mario messed up the running promenade. NOT THE RUNNING PROMENADE!!! It’s all over now!
Mario and Karina then head backstage for some typically awkward banter with Sam, and then it’s time for the scores: tens from Bruno and Carrie Ann, but as you probably have already guessed, a lowly nine from Len. That’s right, people. In a stunning turn of events, Emmitt takes the early lead!
Kicking off round two are Emmitt & Cheryl. For this go around, teams get to perform their favorite dance once more — same music, same choreography, same wardrobe malfunctions. Emmitt & Cheryl opt to do the mambo again, and of course, this leads to yet another video package. This segment focuses on Emmitt’s kids who at last join him in Los Angeles. “You have a lot more fans than Mario,” his daughter informs him, adding, “He might have dimples, but you got style!” My suggestion for next season: replace Samantha Harris with Emmitt’s daughter. She’s way funnier. Oh, but then we don’t get to enjoy all the Harris-isms. Never mind! Keep SamHar!
We then watch Emmitt and Cheryl as they attend a Cardinals vs. Cowboys football game (appropriate since he played for both teams), and this leads to general musing on how odd it is for Emmitt to be known as a ballroom dancer now, not a running back. It’s all the typical self-reflection, and finally, it’s time for the dance. Once again, Emmitt and Cheryl are en fuego, so much so that Lisa Rinna in the background can’t help but bust out a sedentary mambo on the sidelines. Then again, I have a feelings she could be a Starbucks and would start shimmying at the sound of coins falling in the cash register.
Anyway, the two finish their excellent mambo, and the promise of a second consecutive perfect score hangs in the air. Can it indeed happen again? The judges certainly let us think so. They all rave about the performance, and Len goes so far as to label Cheryl as MVP — “Most Valued Partner!” Now that’s some clever wordplay! If I had a paddle, I’d give it a ten!
The final scores: ten… ten… and… TEN!!! Sixty out of sixty! Emmitt maintains his lead!!! Mario’s only hope is that he can nab perfect scores from here on out… and that Emmitt trips up in the freestyle. Of course, Emmitt’s got the popular vote anyway, and whoever has that wins this round; so this is all pretty much a done deal, but I’ll just pretend like I haven’t already through through this entirely too rigorously.
For his favorite dance, Mario’s decided to revisit the paso doble, but unfortunately, as the video segment reveals, he’s forgotten the steps! Ayayay! We then watch him relearn the dance, and amusingly enough, the girls in the audience go nuts whenever he and Karina look each other in the eyes. So many hearts going pitter-pat! Unfortunately, Mario’s mom enters the dance studio, effectively ruining any chances for a spontaneous makeout session. Mammacita says that in her book, Mario’s already won. “If he doesn’t win the trophy, Mamma will make him a trophy,” she says. It’s supposed to be a sterling moment of parental pride, but it sounds fairly creepy instead.
We then head out to the dance floor, and as the two descend the staircase, the crowd goes absolutely nuts. Huh. Maybe I’ve underestimated Mario’s appeal. He could very well wind up with the popular vote. Nevertheless, he and Karina have undeniable chemistry, and their paso doble is nothing short of spectacular. Afterwards, everyone in the audience gives the couple a long, extended ovation, and no one’s prouder than George Lopez, who single-handedly ruins the moment by forcing us to remember how utterly un-funny he is.
Anyway, the judges are totally enamored with the performance (as is Tiffany Amber Thiessen, who’s clapping enthusiastically in the audience). Len says it’s perfect. Carrie Ann one-ups him and says it’s “Beyond perfection!” And then Bruno comes along with the most flowery and ridiculous praise of all: “MARIO! The Latin THUNDERBOLT! Like a storm over the sunbathed Spanish plains!!!” He then adds, “Like a ball of electricity pulsing through the power lines of a Barcelona street! Like the wings of a spectacular egret flying amidst the verdant trees of Luxembourg!!! Like a palm tree on the Riviera swaying in the winds of the sultry Sirocco!!!”
Afterwards, Mario and Karina head backstage to answer some tough questions from Samantha Harris. When she asks what he’ll miss most about dancing, Mario replies that he’ll miss Karina, noting, “She made me laugh, she made me cry, and most importantly, I think she made me a better man.” Awww. That wasn’t rehearsed at all!
Well, absolutely no surprise here: Mario grabs three tens for a perfect score, bringing his total up to 59/60. It’s a one point game, everyone! It all comes down to freestyle now. It can make you (Kelly Monaco) or break you (Stacy Keibler). What will the future have in store for our dancers???
Well, we have only two dances left, and yet there are still 30 minutes to fill. I won’t focus on the negative, however, because it’s time for the freestyle! We learn that Emmitt and Cheryl will be dancing to the MC Hammer classic, “U Can’t Touch This,” which means that what we’re about to see will either be wonderful or awful. In the video segment, we see the two practicing some dangerous, demanding lifts, and to help them stay motivated, none other than Cheryl’s first man, Drew Lachey, stops by the dance studio. He gives his seal of approval, and then it’s time for Emmitt’s last competitive dance.
At first, the freestyle is awesome yet hokey — nothing too complex. But then the lifts kick in, and to paraphrase MC, it’s Emmitt time! The first one is amazing and complex. It’s followed by a nifty “breakdown” for lack of a better word as the two dancers criss cross back and forth on the dance floor. The second lift is a one-armed doozy which is pretty cool, but kind of awkward in the end. The rest of the dance is high spirited, joyful, and full of complicated moves. I’m not sure, however, how the judges will receive it all.
Sure enough, Carrie Ann loves it all. She’s particularly impressed with the one-armed lift, the likes of which she’s never seen before. A new experience for Ms. INABA! Len gets all mushy and says “If there was a prize for my dancing hero, you’d win it hands down.” Awww, Len. If it makes you feel any better, you’re my dancing hero, Len!
Bruno, meanwhile, goes over the top (as if there were any other way) as he yells, “Well, it was the hammer, the chisel, and the shovel tonight!” He then adds, “It was also the adze, the crowbar, the augur, the 2-A Heavy Duty Pipe Cutter, the ten piece standard fluted screwdriver set!” He continues this way for ten minutes until someone knocks him out with a frying pan.
Okay, he doesn’t actually list all of the Home Depot inventory, but he does fault Emmitt for being shaky on the one-armed lift’s dismount. I hated to say this, but… I kind of agreed. Dammit. I was hoping for an unbeatable 90/90. Oh well. Ultimately, the two earn tens from Len and Carrie Ann, but only a mere nine from Bruno, which brings his total to 89 out of 90, making him vulnerable to a Mario tie.
In Samantha Harris news, she manages to then ask Emmitt a question backstage but forgets to hand the mic over, forcing the sound engineers to boost up the levels to capture his voice. Halfway through his comments, however, Samantha snaps out of it and plunges the mic in Emmitt’s face, and of course, this causes his voice to boom out across America. Well done, Sammy. Well done indeed.
Last and certainly not least are Mario and Karina. Even before their dance begins, we know they’re gonna absolutely rock it. In the video, he tells us that he doesn’t want to do Latin, he doesn’t want to do ballroom, he just wants pure funky excellence. We then watch him and Karina practicing lifts, and then it’s time for the dance that most people have probably been waiting all season to see: Mario’s freestyle. He takes to the stage wearing a white hoody, but that quickly comes off as he busts out some popping and locking and all sorts of other moves — all to the tune of “It Takes 2.” I guess tonight is early ’90s night.
Anyway, there’s nothing to say about Mario’s dance except that it is awesome. In some ways, it kind of feels like a mess of styles, but it’s an awesome mess of styles. When it’s over, the crowd can’t help but to cheer, “Mari-o! Mari-o!” Could this be the deciding dance? Will this powerhouse be enough to win him the popular vote?
Well, before we even get to that, we have the judges to deal with. Bruno once again can’t hide his boner as he yells, “A true dance idol!” Carrie Ann heaps on more praise with “That was the best dance I have seen this whole season!” And Len tops it off with “If that dance was a film, you’d win an Oscar.” To be fair, a lot of crappy films win a lot of Oscars, so that might not be the best angle to take.
Nevertheless, there’s no surprise with the scores. Mario earns tens from everyone (technically, a 10+ from Carrie Ann), and with his second perfect score of the night, he brings his total up to 89 points, tying him with Emmitt!!! So now more than ever, it comes down to the popular vote! O-M-G!!! (Okay, that was a disingenuous OMG, but still, it is pretty crazy).
So now the big question…
WHO WILL YOU VOTE FOR?? (Or rather, who would you vote for if you were the voting type).
Everyone cast their ballots here in the comments section!
AND REMEMBER: NO SPOILERS, EAST COAST PEOPLE. DISCUSS THE OUTCOME IN THE FORUMS!