''Dancing With the Stars'': Almost perfect
Last night pretty much epitomized what DWTS is all about. The camera jerked the wrong way even before Tom's first booming ''Welcome!'' None of Samantha's lines checked out as viable English-language sentences. A horrific Elvis wig was in the building. Apolo and Julianne ''pushed it'' into each others' groins, hard. Joey jumped off a table. Laila...smiled really prettily. Even Len, who will heretofore be referred to as DANCMSTR, shook his surprisingly lively thang. And the judges proved their own irrelevance like never before, handing out only three 9s the entire evening. Those judges are wack! But we already knew that. Let's talk dances.
Laila Ali and Joey Fatone tied for first place with perfect 60s, but I'd have awarded Apolo Anton Ohno (who only scored 59) the top spot for a speed-skating-fast quickstep and what DANCMSTR called a ''too raunchy'' cha-cha. Whatever Mario Lopez and Karina pulled that kind of crap every week last season, and the judges fell all over themselves trying to dream up different terms for ''brilliant chemistry.'' Julianne's choreography, as usual, was the most frenetic, and possibly overambitious, but it usually works for the pair because Apolo can pull it off. DANCMSTR keeps insisting he wants to see more of the basic elements in everyone's routines, but the audience only flips out over dances like Apolo's two tonight, plus Joey's trick-laden jive. Poor DANCMSTER. I do see his point, but after Apolo's cha-cha sex show, set to Salt-N-Pepa's ''Push It,'' it was difficult for him to maintain his principles against the screaming lunatics he derisively labeled ''all these people thinking it was great.'' (Translation: ''You pathetic American buffoons.'') To me, the sex show was just funny. Good use of butt action during the ''push it real good'' parts that really drove home the overarching theme. And I thought Apolo's fancy-footwork quickstep won the ballroom portion of the evening, rather than Joey's foxtrot. Quintessential Bruno Line: ''The Apolo Express is off with a magic ride!''
Joey and Kym staged a respectable ''comeback'' from being in the bottom two last week. Their foxtrot was lovely, full of the kind of fluid, Slinky-esque dips I wish Maks would incorporate more into his routines with Laila. I did find Kym's white boxer-brief getup a little distracting it looked like an old-fashioned two-piece bathing suit under all that flowy white. I felt nervous for her. Kym, the water's fine, take a dip! Their jive was probably my favorite dance of the night, just because I'm a pathetic American buffoon who's easily impressed by things like a choo-choo-train walk, somersaults, and the wild abandon with which Joey flung his banana-colored jacket into the audience. His trampoline-like split jump and that repeated knee-on-the-floor bounce (what is that thing called?) reminded me way too much of Mario, in a sort of ''Wait, why can you do that, you're supposed to be an amateur'' sort of way, but I'll let it slide. As usual, the judges praised Joey the most for the strangest elements Carrie Ann gushed over his ability to perch suggestively on the judges' table, which I actually thought was kind of disgusting. And DANCMSTR had a very important compliment for Joey: ''You've got something that everyone's got, but yours is much bigger.'' Butt! He means butt! No. ''Personality!'' Quintessential Bruno Line: ''You have more flash than Vegas and more tricks than Houdini!''
Cut to the direct opposite of trickiness: Laila and Maks. Their quickstep and cha-cha were the most controlled and technical of the evening, which could work against them, because for viewers, ''controlled and technical'' often translates to ''boring.'' Maks still hasn't figured out how to really showcase Laila either that or he doesn't care to, preferring instead to twirl around her with fancy kicks and wave to the audience in the middle of a routine. Boo! I love Maks, but he needs to make my girl Laila look better. The routines were solid, but I'm not sure they deserved perfect 30s. The couple's banter always delights me, though, and I loved Laila's horrified ''Yeah, um, that's enough on my toes'' after the camera guy zoomed in on her innovative ''Walk Like an Egyptian'' footwear. The barbecue segment about Maks burning the chicken was adorable, too, and I bet there were plenty of disappointed viewers who felt cheated out of a dripping-wet-Maks-stepping-out-of-the-pool shot. He would have made an excellent spokesman for UltraSwim shampoo in the late '80s. After Laila's quickstep, one judge may have jumped the gun with his Quintessential Bruno Line: ''Cleopatra Ali, the jewel of the Nile, supremely majestic, totally fascinating the winner.'' Hey, now! Not so fast.
Which leaves Ian (58 out of 60), as usual. He did have a ''breakthrough'' night this week, and the judges finally gave him props for being one of the best dancers all along. My usually blackened heart was all a-flutter as I watched his ''You really like me!'' facial expressions during the judging not just because Ian's been dumped on the whole season but also because he takes this so much more seriously than all the others. It's kind of troubling, isn't it? The fact that an Elvis wig and guidance from a life coach were apparently necessary to bring Ian toward the light made things more surreal. After his perfect-30 jive, Elvis grew weepy, uttering things like ''This is really incredible....Dancing in the company of these people....I'm so awed....Perseverance pays off!'' before leaping crotch-first into Joey's billowing frame. Ian's earnestness is endearing, I suppose. Quintessential Bruno Line regarding the ''new'' Ian: ''Is this Sanjaya or Liberace?'' Hmm. Does it have to be one of those two ''singers''?
What do you think? Do you wish the judges had been less 10-happy, or do you not even consider their input when voting? Were we supposed to be familiar with the ''Wango Tango event''? And which dancers should move on to the final three?