There was more drama than dance on “Dancing With the Stars” this week. The lead story was Kym Johnson’s injury during rehearsal, resulting in a strained vertebrae in her neck. It was the most serious problem yet in a program that pushes celebrities in ways to which they’re not accustomed.
But that wasn’t the only bit of theater. As it turned out, the footage of the celebrities’ biography proved more compelling than the dances. I mean it, really — Kansas-born Kirstie’s cocaine addiction and Hines growing up biracial (plus the whole Steeler organization was available for commentary, from Art Rooney, Jr. to Mike Tomlin, Jerome Bettis, Troy Polamalu and Hines’ mom, of course). Even Ralph, who grew up in a more American Pie lifestyle, and Chelsea, who pushed a shyster agent aside and went after her dream, had some nifty footage.
But this season has been more about personalities than paso dobles. Even throwing technique to the wind — no one here is as dominant or as technically formidable as Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi or “ Dirty Dancing’s”Jennifer Grey — audiences have responded mightily and ABC’s ratings have been dominating the other network competition.
So who gave the go-ahead for more Instant Dances? Okay, maybe Brandy was eliminated way too early and this would be a way to keep stronger dancers around for the finale — and make it a little more competitive.
The couples had to learn a third dance, then the two winners of that head-to-head competition (Chelsea and Hines) had a commercial break to put together the final cha-cha. The result? I think the prepared routines were watered down to accommodate the extra dances. And as soon as we heard the rules, I knew that Chelsea and Mark would be the couple to capture the 15-point bonus bump. Leading up to that, here is the way I called the action:
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff. Ralph drew the tango and the salsa. I thought the tango had a lazy start and after that he pretty much stood by while Karina slashed and sliced and twirled around him (25). As for the salsa, why did Karina suggest that he wear bootie pants to enhance his hip action? And why did Ralph agree? And why did they film that exchange? It didn’t help (23). Total: 48.
Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiiy. Their waltz was quite lovely, but not memorable (27) and the paso doble meandered, a repetitious dance that included a lot of straightforward walking (27). Total: 54.
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas. The tango was oddly innocent, with softly flickering feet, but the judges awarded them 28. And Chelsea acted her way through the rumba in place of a sensual body action, but her execution gave her that perfect 30.
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson. With the injury still looming over them, Hines was extraordinarily protective of his partner, which elevated their impact in the tango and produced tears all around, netting them a 30. Their salsa was both hot and cool at the same time, and again, no one has his hip action in the Latin dances. They rode an emotional wave for another 30. Total: 60!
As it turned out, Kirstie and Ralph were on the chopping block and the Karate Kid threw his last dance punch.