Craig Sjodin/ABC
Annie Barrett
October 28, 2008 AT 04:00 PM EDT

‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Bringing the street to the dance floor

Turn and face the strange changes, Dancing With the Stars fans. Last night, the show’s spark-plug-in-chief, Julianne Hough, announced she’ll have to pull out of the competition for a week due to illness; her partner, Cody Linley, will dance with Lady Leg Warmers (Edyta Sliwinska) instead. Meanwhile, Michael ”Lord of the Dance” Flatley stepped in for head judge Len Goodman, which obviously means that since I insist on calling Len the name on his vanity license plate, DANCMSTR, Flatley will heretofore be referred to as DANCLRD. It softens the blow.

Sadly, your most prominent memories of last night’s show likely revolve around that hot mess and a half otherwise known as the hip-hop group dance. Best thing about it? The completely over-the-top graffiti logo — ”GROUP DANCE,” emblazoned onto an enormous boom box — on the wall of the rehearsal studio, just in case we weren’t sure what we were watching. Cloris Leachman had it right: Stand back, let everyone else try, and eat delicious burritos. Lance Bass and Warren Sapp were the only two stars who really ”sold it” during the exceedingly uncomfortable finale, while poor, injured Brooke Burke and screaming-appendix Julianne just looked horrified that they had to do it at all.

I seem to be on a roll with the complaining, so let me get this out of the way: I’m not loving how scattered the dances are this season — I much prefer when half the couples do the paso and the other half the rumba, for example. It allows for comparison, which I assume is at least a fraction of what inspires people to vote, along with other important factors like ”general hotness,” ”costumes,” and/or ”lack of costumes”. Do you agree, or do you prefer the variety? Let me know what you think in the comments. But first: Let’s get to that leader board….

Lance Bass and Lacey: 27 out of possible 30 This week, Lance was back on target, thanks to a motivational pep talk from his ‘N Sync buddies, former DWTS ham Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick, who were probably just bored that day. (If you’re bored today, watch Chris’ visit to my fake cubicle last summer.) Lance did exude a lot more leading-man attitude during his jive — not to mention he did a kicky roundoff off the stairs. This was probably Lance’s best dance yet, in terms of charisma, at least. DANCMSTR — who is not dead, despite Carrie Ann’s ignorance of his whereabouts — would have hated all the ”rubbish” in the beginning (that fish-on-a-hook move needs to be outlawed) and the ”messin’ about” throughout (somersaults are never impressive). But DANCLRD didn’t seem to mind. ”You had everything tonight. You came out smokin’,” Flatley told Lance, just as I wondered what exactly DANCLRD was smokin’ because he was so freakin’ calm the whole night. I suppose he’s in the practice of directing all bodily energy downward to his lower half.

Brooke Burke and Derek: 26/30 No one bothered to whisper to DANCLRD that if her dance turned out to be wobbly and pained, he should disregard the memo that said, ”Give Brooke Burke a 10.” But I can’t exactly blame him for being mesmerized if he’s never seen Brooke dance before — half of their rumba consisted of slow, dramatic extensions, and Brooke’s were out-of-this-world crazy good. I even got some Edyta vibes a few times, which is very impressive considering I spent most of the dance focusing on how if my foot hurt as much as Brooke’s did, it would really, really hurt doing that dance in those heels. I agree with DANCLRD (cue fake Irish brogue): ”Ya took my breath away therrrrre.” Let’s just be glad he didn’t have cards higher than 10. He wanted ’em!

NEXT: Susan searches for the beat

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