TV Recap

Free Range

On the last ''Dancing With the Stars'' performance show, Laila dons sparkly shoes, Apolo evokes Bruno's best comment yet, and Joey does some lifting

FROM THE HIP Apolo's hip-hop freestyle seemed out of place
FROM THE HIP Apolo's hip-hop freestyle seemed out of place

''Dancing With the Stars'': One last free-for-all

Before I discuss dances, I just want to point out that, against all odds, Samantha Harris somewhat redeemed herself last night. Did anyone else catch that giggle she squeaked out after letting us know that these were the ''most important dances of the stars' lives''? So endearing! It seemed that she was finally in on the joke. I wonder if Tom grandfathered her in, or if she figured out all on her own just how laughable the whole shebang is. Or, more likely, someone next to the cue-card guy held up a big green sign that either said ''Laugh'' or featured a picture of Samantha with a microphone, because either would spark a momentary fit of delight. Whichever way it went down, Sam, I salute you!

Then again, the two dances Apolo, Joey, and Laila performed tonight — a ''judges' choice'' and a freestyle — might actually have been the most important dances of their lives. Does anyone really think Laila and Apolo are ever going to flit around a stage again, unless it's this same stage a year from now? Oh-no. And Joey's had a lot of important group-oriented stomps, but the stomping he's done here will undoubtedly go down as his greatest solo dancing achievement. So maybe that means Sam was right. Without realizing it? There are so many layers of what-ifs and uncertain truths and spangly sneakers that I'm just going to get on with it like I could have 13 sentences ago, and that's including this one.

Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne (58 out of 60), the wee ones, pulled it off. I'm not sure they were any better last night than they've been all season, but the pair's trick-filled rumba — not to mention a hip-hop routine that probably should have been on So You Think You Can Dance instead of a ballroom competition (and yet still made me grin...rewind...grin...rewind...yo, yo, check out Julianne's flesh-colored bra!) — secured their status as the couple that should, and likely will, win. After their ''Midnight Train to Georgia'' rumba, Carrie Ann complained that they ''overperformed it just a hair.'' Isn't that what Joey's done all season, sans ''just a hair''? DANCMSTR thought it was too quick and lacked romance. ''Big Gob'' Bruno, not to be outdone by DANCMSTR — or himself, as he'd just rattled off some scripted line about a gigolo and a baby doll teasing each other, ewww — offered perhaps the season's greatest Quintessential Bruno Moment: ''They made love on the dance floor! They could have conceived a baby!'' Which inspired Tom to chime in: ''I don't even smoke, and I want a cigarette.'' Take that, Truth campaign!

The judges chose the cha-cha for Joey Fatone and Kym (56 out of 60), to which the pair responded by performing their first of two freestyle dances. It may have been grounded in cha-cha — or at least lightly basted in its scattered spices — but the whole thing looked like the hip-hop routine they really wanted to dance during the freestyle round. I did enjoy it, in spite of my and DANCMSTR's better judgment. Kym's a very ''fun'' choreographer — tame, people pleasing, classic, etc. Embarrassing-disclosure alert: I probably make up 5 percent of the people who think this, but I really loved her wacky, multilayered dress, at least in the context of this show. Joey's watermelon costume? No. He should have stood there spitting small black seeds across the dance floor, because at least that would have made sense. The judges thought the cha-cha was too theatrical, and Big Gob found it ''strangely odd.'' That criticism, coming from Bruno, means the dance must have been really out there. Joey and Kym made up for it in their freestyle, though. I was glad that, aside from the ''no strings attached'' moves at the beginning and end, Joey didn't feel the need to fall back on his boy-band moves. Their ''Last Dance'' incorporated actual ballroom moves in between amazing, flawless-seeming lifts. I could truly imagine Kym as a fabulous, feathered-haired '70s disco star if I closed my left eye a little to blur out the watermelon. Apolo's freestyle may have been more original, but Joey's was a freestyle you want to see toward the end of DWTS. Oh, and I love Joey's daughter. She's almost as cute as Blake Lewis's dad.

As for Laila Ali and Maks (55 out of 60), I'm still loyal to my fellow tall girl. All that rehearsal footage of her hesitating to jump onto Maks because she wasn't ''like the other girls'' brought a tear to my eye. Not a real one, but I bet it would have been real if I hadn't been typing notes and could have really committed to the moment. I wish she'd have committed more to the Maks pounce, too. Anyone dying to bare his arms and chest at regular intervals should have had the chance to twirl Laila Ali above his head. But Maks could not. Sadly, that freestyle they did was kind of jank — I wasn't quite sure what they were going for the entire time, and who the hell came up with Laila's costume? I think she stole a pair of Master P's sparkle shoes. Good thing he's only five inches tall this season, so his complaint won't even register on her glamazon radar. I did like Laila's adorably funky solo part at the end, but it wasn't enough. The pair's paso doble, however, delighted everyone in the house. Laila looked amazing and never broke character during the intense — or, as Big Gob called it, ''dripping with emotion'' — dance. It was a load of bull, in the very best way.

I don't know what the deal is with the special scoring process you have to visit ABC.com to learn about. There's probably some fine print about how whoops, your votes haven't counted the whole season and Samantha gets to pick the bottom two based on who is the shiniest to her at that moment. Seriously, though, I've actually found this season to be relatively non-overbearing in terms of the judges swaying things. They've pretty much discounted themselves as factors and have let us figure out for ourselves that Joey Fatone really can't dance that well after all. Psych!

What do you think? Is Apolo the clear favorite, or could Joey or Laila surprise everyone? What character would DANCMSTR play in a Harry Potter movie, since he's obviously gunning for a bit part? And what do you hope to see in tonight's two-hour (agh!) finale?

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Originally posted May 21, 2007