''Dancing With the Stars'' recap: Twice as nice
On last night's double-dose round of Dancing With the Stars, we got one of those (not really) rare moments that remind us just how painfully awesome this show can be. See, Scary Spice and Maks-in-a-leather-vest got to use En Vogue's ''Free Your Mind'' — one of the greatest songs ever — for their dominatrix-themed paso doble. But half of the lines in the first verse involve hookers and drugs. Easy! Change ''I'm a prostitute'' to ''I'm a dah-dah-dah!'' and ''That doesn't mean that I'm out sellin' dope'' to the ever popular ''That doesn't mean my life is without hope.'' (Uh-no-no, no.) This was a bizarre night for fans of Funky Divas, the Cure, and David Bowie, but one hell of a night for people who dig fake cheetah-paw tattoos, which all of the dancers sported as if Sabrina Bryan had been assassinated instead of recently eliminated from a ballroom-dancing reality show. Eh, it's all relative.
Speaking of which, in a desperate ploy to get people to watch its new series Samantha Who?, ABC made our show an hour and 45 minutes long. So if you were feeling unfulfilled by getting to enjoy only one version of a woman named Samantha who has merely a vague understanding of what's going on, and is prone to embarrassing outbursts — well, now you get two! Just kidding. Sans-amnesia Sam actually impressed me tonight by commenting knowingly (knowingly!) on how viewers probably tune her out during that awful 30 seconds between the backstage interview and the return of Tom. Probably the most self-aware thing she's ever said. I'd transcribe it directly, but I'm afraid I tuned it out. Moving on to this week's dozen dances....
Mel. B (54 out of a possible 60 points) She's come a long way since week 1 — not only is Scary at the top of the judges' leader board this week, but she has also far exceeded the other contestants in the highly competitive field of the grazing and/or groping of Tom Bergeron. Last week she shimmied up and down his entire left side and playfully pounded him on the back; this week, her and Maks' foxtrot seemed specifically choreographed to end in a big bear hug featuring Tom. Great stuff. You can tell he loves it and yet feels totally awkward about the whole situation. I urge viewers to focus on Tom in those precious post-dance moments in coming weeks, instead of the contestants. He's a riot. Anyway, even with Tom's help, Mel's foxtrot left her and Maks in a three-way tie for the lowest score by halftime. Then it was off with the heinous palazzo pants and time to strap on the black leather for their explosive ''Free Your Mind'' paso. Mel rocked the steps and especially the attitude here, but I have to hand it to Maks. His choreography typically underwhelms, but slide him a paso doble set to some sassy early-'90s hip-hop, and he will shine more brightly than the corn-oil deposits scattered across the vast terrain of his already gleaming chest.
Jennie Garth (53/60) Just as I expected (and hoped), Kelly Taylor and Scary Spice are leading the pack together. Don't be fooled, though — that one-point spread between them is huge, considering all six contestants scored within four points of each other last night. Like Mel's, Jennie's first effort, a Viennese waltz, didn't completely wow the judges. I had to agree, though from my perspective, I blamed the janky camera work instead of the dance itself. It looked like a highly stylized game of laser tag, with each camera guy trying to shoot the others who kept running by. DANCMSTR knocked Jennie's partner Derek down a bit for not keeping more of the dance in hold, and Carrie Ann complained about Jennie's ''broken lines.'' For his part, Bruno called Jennie ''a water nymph in a magic lake,'' because why wouldn't he say that? Later, after the couple's sexy, tricked-out rumba, the judges jumped back on board. DANCMSTR even told Jennie, ''The only person who's not convinced you're a really good dancer is you,'' which concluded the self-esteem portion of this after-school special. Don't worry, Bruno immediately countered with ''Housewives are sexy, I'm telling you.'' Ugh. By the way, Derek provided my favorite moment of the night — after he and Jennie excitedly scampered backstage, he let her go ahead, then dramatically snapped his head and the upper half of his body backward right before darting behind the curtain, purely for effect. It's worth a playback. Party on, Derek.
Helio Castroneves (52/60) Culture alert! In an effort to reveal Helio's sensitive side, ABC provided Julianne with a DVD of his Brazilian parents, who spoke very slowly and seemed to be reading encouraging sentences off cue cards — though I should probably give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they weren't. (Plus, writer's strike and everything.) After spending most of the competition in the pimp spot, performing last, Helio and Julianne tried their luck at the tango first this week. It was set to ''Jean Genie,'' which was just all sorts of wrong; what's more, Helio didn't seem comfortable with the steps and technique of the rigid ballroom dance. Their feather-infused samba fared much better — copping Edyta's jungle theme couldn't have hurt, and Helio's Latin blood lent him the confidence to let loose. But as DANCMSTR pointed out, ''Just because you come from Brazil doesn't mean you're gonna be good at the samba, in the same way that just because you come from Texas doesn't mean you're gonna be a good president.'' Whoa! Len then proceeded with his weekly ritual of buying time by acting crabby and hyper-British, complaining about how he can't make jokes ''over here.'' But really he was just wallowing in self-satisfaction over his awesome joke for as long as possible. As he should have.
NEXT: Legwarmers, front and center!