Dancing with the Stars RECAP: Bring out your dead! (S19:W4)

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This week on Dancing With the Stars, our has-beens have a new and even more manipulative way of vying for the votes of watchers still gullible enough to pick up their phones: sob stories! This week’s theme is “My Most Memorable Year”: contestants will pull out their deepest, most devastating lifelong traumas for our perusal and approval! So it only seems fitting that when we post the judge’s scores, I personally and informally will add extra points for the personal stories told:

  • Add one point if the contestant promotes his or her own career.
  • Add two points if the contestant trots out something particularly painful or humiliating.
  • Add three points if the contestant exploits the death of a loved one in this attempt to seem particularly pitiable.

Len is still in England, contemplating his retirement options. The good news is that after enduring nonsensical comments and bizarre scoring from a woefully incompetent guest judge (Kevin Hart, if you’ve forgotten), the producers have wisely decided to return to a three-judge panel, at least for commentary. The bad news is that the producers are now allowing the audience to be the fourth judge. Viewers on the east coast get to vote—not only for who they want to see stay, but on what score they think each contestant should receive for their dances. West coasters… just shut up now, we don’t need your input, thanks, until after the show is over. No, this doesn’t have to make any sense at all.

So, who is safe and who is in jeopardy to start this charade? Pretty little Janel Parrish and her pro Val are safe, of course, since they got a 40 last week and a firm grasp on the title “producer’s pets.” Mean boy Jonathan Bennett and his pro Allison are also safe, much to their giddy astonishment. But fashion designer Betsey Johnson and her pro Tony are in jeopardy. Betsey gets a little time to stew over this piece of news; Janel and Val are up first.

Janel Parrish was a spoiled, over-privileged, overindulged kid. From the age of six, she stomped her feet and demanded expensive vocal lessons, and her parents caved, hiring a woman named B.J. who inspired Janel to become a lifelong prima donna and attention whore. Janel ditched Hawaii for L.A. when she was still just a teenager, and her vocal coach promptly developed breast cancer. Janel couldn’t be bothered to come visit this “second grandmother” before she succumbed to the disease, so she didn’t get to say goodbye. Now she’s dancing the Rumba to Sam Smith’s slow, gloomy cover of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know?” America, won’t you give this poor bereaved waif your support? Please, call now.

No, no; please don’t stop to question how Janel, spinning with elegant, lustful skill around Val in a low-cut sequined bathing suit, is paying appropriate tribute to the woman who tried to teach a pampered child how to sing. Don’t think at all; you’ll spoil the contrived beauty of the moment.

Julianne: It is always so difficult to come out of a package as calculated and self-indulgent as that one and do a beautiful job.

Bruno: You look like an exotic angel in the brothel of Heaven, and you took me to the garden of Eden. Pass me the apple.

Janel: Val hit me because I didn’t do the spins right.

Carrie Ann: The best way to pay tribute to a person who passes on is to go on leading a full and complete life. And to sue your abusive dance instructor.

Judges’ total score: 36

Add one point for plugging her own career, two points for trotting out a personal trauma, and three points for capitalizing on her coach’s death for a final total of 42.

Jonathan Bennett doesn’t dance anything like as well as Janel does. Therefore, he has to bring up twice as many deaths. Jonathan feels like the support of his parents changed his life forever. Isn’t that kind of what all parents do, for good or ill? Jonathan’s mom pushed him into a 7th grade play so he wouldn’t sit by himself in his room like a miserable geek, and then dumped him alone in New York City at the age of 18. Thus, yet another unnecessary struggling actor began to battle for places at cattle call auditions. In 2004, he was cast in Mean Girls, and for one shining moment, it all seemed like these questionable life choices might have paid off after all. Unfortunately, his mom died a year ago, and his father passed four months ago. Tough year, Jonathan. Sincerely. I won’t be a mean girl about that. That’s quite a bit of tragedy all at once, and unlike Janel he wasn’t overly maudlin about it—except, of course, by bringing up the subject at all.

Jonathan and Allison do a Samba to a medley from the soundtrack of—what else?—Mean Girls. The first half is “Jingle Bell Rock.” Jonathan appears to be celebrating Christmas early, since knows he probably won’t still be here in November, let alone December. The other half is “Milkshake” by Kelis, resulting in one of the most perverse musical combinations I’ve ever heard. The whole dance is disjointed, with a jarring transition from one song to the next and Jonathan plodding stiffly but amiably through the whole thing.

Bruno: How much Christmas punch have you had?

Carrie: It’s a very one-dimensional performance.

Julianne: It’s like Flat Stanley, and there’s no dimension.

Judges’ total score: 24.

Add one point for plugging his career, two points for the personal trauma, and three points each for the two deaths featured here. My final total: 33.

Betsey Johnson has picked 1975 as her most memorable year, because she had a daughter and broke up with the dad the same year. Forced to raise the child, Lulu, on one income, Betsey was somehow wildly inspired to start her own company. Now, every time she has a fashion show, she makes Lulu trot out on the runway with her. Having seen how Betsey dresses, I just hope Lulu gets to pick her own clothes now.  She’s thanking Lulu with a Jive danced to “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

DWTS w4 betsey

And indeed, Betsey has Lulu—a tall, knockout blonde—join her in the opening steps of this rather charming routine. Betsey and Tony are the Captain and Tennille, and while Betsey’s hairstyle is comically and dreadfully 70s, her footwork isn’t terrible. It’s a bit slow and not very high, but she completes most of the steps pretty well. And she does a cartwheel freeze, because Betsey’s new shtick is Watch Grandma Do Awesome Tricks. I’ve seen much worse gimmicks, and her general dignified composure in the midst of all this tacky excess is kind of refreshing. Was this really the woman who began the show slipping on feather boas and dressing like a baby pageant survivor’s worst nightmare? Tony’s kind of a miracle worker.

Carrie Ann: (cackling) That was phenomenal! (Well, that’s a mild exaggeration.)

Julianne: The way that you celebrate your daughter, America celebrates you. (You are gonna eat those words, Julianne. You jinxed her.)

Bruno: I think I saw your Victoria Secret! Do it to me, baby!

Judges’ total score: 29  Well, maybe it wasn’t that phenomenal after all.

Throw in one point for plugging her own career, and two points for briefly mentioning a trauma in passing (and not wallowing in it nearly enough like a shameless has-been should), and I can award her 32 points. She’s carrying herself with too much class for her own good.

C’mon, let’s have somebody drown themselves in tears of self-pity. Oh, look, here come YouTube sensation/wannabe pop star Bethany Mota and her pro Derek! #Turnonthewaterworks! That’s the way to work this! As expected after Derek earned a 40 for a routine that was almost entirely about his own dreams and ambitions—Bethany was just along for the ride—this couple is safe this week. Now Bethany’s determined to find her voice. Her memorable year was 2009, when all the other little brats in her school started bullying her. #Highschoolsucks. Yeah, Bethany, we all know. They said she was ugly, and she responded by videotaping herself putting on makeup and sticking this modest little attempt at self-therapy on the internet. Somehow, a YouTube fad was born. And now Bethany is something that passes for a celebrity if you are really, really hard up to find dancers for this program. #Takethatlosers!

And boy, they play this teenage trauma for all it’s worth. She cries more in her package than all the other celebrities do together, and when their Rumba starts, the lighting crew projects various juveline insults on the screen behind the dancing couple. Just in case there were any doubt as to the favoritism given to Derek and whatever lucky girl is graced by his tutalage this season, singer Colbie Caillat is on hand to perform her own song, “Try.” No canned music for this favored pair! I think there might have been a dancing routine in there, but mostly, there were floodgates of tears, even without death being mentioned once. Derek has taught her well. #IlovewhoIamsovoteforme.

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Julianne: (on the verge of tears) What you stand for is so beautiful, (sniffle) and what you wish you could have told yourself years ago, (choke) you just told so many girls tonight. (normal voice) Oh, and Derek, you didn’t put enough Rhumba content in the actual, you know, DANCE.

Bruno: The message was right on the spot. BUT… the hip action wasn’t quite right.

Carrie Ann: When you’re totally true to yourself, it comes across beautifully.

Judges’ total score: 33.

Add one point for plugging her career and two points for wallowing in her trauma as deeply as she possibly could. That’s 36.

NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip is in jeopardy—not an unusual experience for him since he’s the worst dancer left by at least four car-lengths—so he’s going to focus on one, brief moment of glory in his life. In 2001, Michael Waltrip actually succeeded in winning the Daytona 500 despite everybody’s constant assurances that he sucked at racecar driving and ought to be selling insurance. Michael was actually GREAT at something—that one freaking time—and at the celebration party, he noticed that his mentor, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., wasn’t there. Somebody told him, while the confetti was still flying, that Dale died in a crash during the last lap of the same race. That’s… a pretty horrible story, really. Poor Michael. Poor Dale. And poor us, because we have to watch this dance now.

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In a feeble but heartfelt gesture to honor his friend, Michael and his pro Emma attempt the Quickstep to one of Dale’s favorite songs, “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” by Delbert McClinton. The music is lively, the ambiance is cheerful… and Michael’s footwork is a clumsy, tangled mess. It’s rendered even sadder because he’s clearly trying so fucking hard and he just can’t do this at all.

Bruno: I can see the dancer inside is screaming to get out.

Carrie Ann: I want to cry.

Julianne: It’s like ying and yang. There are moments that are so, so great, and there are moments that are… not.

Michael: Will you flip me over a good paddle anyway, America? Do it for Dale.

Judges’ total score: 25. The judges all look really pained to give him the sixes he’s earned, and America gives him a seven because they bought the sob story. Well, that’s what the sob stories are for!

Add one point for plugging his biggest professional success, two for the trauma, and three for bringing death into the equation. That’s 31.

80s throwback Lea Thompson, who is also safe this week, will combine tricks we’ve already seen from other contestants for her own tragic story. Like Janel, she actually dances really well, which is rare enough tonight. Like Jonathan, she’s put the death of her father up for display. The year was 2003, and the doctors discovered that Lea’s father’s body was horribly riddled with inoperable, untreatable cancer. From the time of diagnosis to the time of death, Lea’s family had one terrible week, and they spent it celebrating every holiday possible as quickly as they could. Lea’s father got up to dance with her, briefly, on “Christmas,” and he died soon after.

Ga-a-a-a-a-h. Kleenex! Hankies! Getcher blubbering essentials here, courtesy of Dancing With the Stars! Soon to be a Lifetime Movie of the Week! What, is there a dry eye out there? Heartless bastards. Here, watch Lea and her pro Artem dance Contemporary style to—get this—”Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross. If you aren’t weeping uncontrollably and reaching for the phone after this, you just have no soul. Cry, dammit, CRY! Don’t you see how graceful and elegant this woman is as she honors her father with such touching intensity? We’d better see nothing but tens coming off those paddles!

Carrie Ann: I will remember that dance forever.

Julianne: To me, it was flawless.

Bruno: You are an exquisite performer.

Total judges’ score: 39

What the hell do you mean, 39???!!! Holy shit, did America just give this unforgettable, flawless, exquisite angel a NINE?????!!!!! “Ew, America!” scolds Erin.

Yep, let’s add two points for the personal trauma and three for the death, but… interestingly… there will be no points awarded for self-promotion. At all. There really was no self-congratulation here. She really was just thinking about her dad. My rules give her 44.

Well, let’s jump back into the shallow end of the pool. Soap stud Antonio Sabato, Jr., is safe, but he’s got neither skill to display nor a sob story to peddle—so he’s going to do what underwear models do when they’ve got to impress people. He’s going to dance half-naked. His favorite year is 1989; he catapulted from starvation to minor success by dancing in a Janet Jackson video: “Love Will Never Do (Without You).” Shirtless, of course.

So Antonio and his pro Cheryl will be doing the Samba to that same dance. Check out the gleaming pecs, America. You don’t need to watch his footwork, or his lazy extenstions. Cheryl can dance intensely enough for the both of them. Watch her work it, and watch his muscles ripple. Now, vote!

Julianne: You’re getting more comfortable with the steps, but…

Bruno: I felt like we were watching a preview of Magic Mike 2 1/2: Dancing with the Stud.

Carrie Ann: You are definitely proving yourself the heartthrob of this season.

Judges’ total score: 29. The real judges all gave Antonio sevens, but America gave his torso an eight.

Since he didn’t have anything heartwrenching in his package at all—it was all terribly upbeat, positive and well-adjusted, really—I can only give him one extra point for the professional self-promotion to make it 30.

In the last group, it’s Tommy Chong and his pro Peta who are declared to be in jeopardy, and of course, Tommy has to dance right after that. He’s awfully upbeat about it, especially given what he has to reveal next. You know Tommy Chong, self-proclaimed stoner and lifelong marijuana enthusiast? Yeah, he’s been to prison. What a shock. He got sent to the pokey in 2003 for taking bongs across a state line. Tommy claims that they only did it because he was famous, not because… it’s illegal to take bongs across a state line. Mostly he was scared, and he still resents briefly losing his freedom. Of course, given the number of times he’s been notoriously in possession of weed, I’d say one nine-month stint was pretty light and he’s a lucky dog. On the other hand, possibly the police were too busy going after real criminals most of the time.

He must not be terribly scarred by the experience, because he’s pretty excited to be doing the Jive to  “Jailhouse Rock,” and it’s a funny, upbeat, entertaining number. Unfortunately, Tommy’s 76 years old, and for once, he looks every inch of it. He begins well, but by mid-dance it’s obvious he’s tiring very quickly. His kicks are low, his movements slow, and the little bits of comedy thrown in here and there can’t mask the fact that this is easily Tommy’s worst dance. In some places, he just drifts off and lets Peta do all the steps. Go back to the slow stuff, Mr. Chong, and mellow out a bit.

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Bruno: There is no chain in the world that can bind your free spirit.

Carrie Ann: What saves you every time is your naturalness.

Julianne: There’s no denying that I’m pretty much obsessed with you, but… that was not your best dance.

Total judges’ score: 28.

Add two points for the trauma to get to 30. I’ll hand this to him, though: a man that old is likely to have lost somebody he loved at some point and he never exploited any of it.

In a jarring juxtaposition of personalities, this old jailbird stoner is immediately followed by that shrilly naive and ultra-conservative scion of the bible-thumping Robertson clan, Sadie. Her memorable year came in 2012, when Duck Dynasty suddenly became a ridiculously omnipresent cultural phenomenon. Newly famous, her grandpa promptly put his boot firmly in his mouth by spewing a lot of homophobic and racist twaddle, to the mortification of A&E network. Sadie’s stunningly disengenious here; she mentions that her grandfather was under attack but does not address what he actually said or why people were offended. I am reminded why this kid annoys me so much.

Little Redneck and her pro Mark are doing the Samba to “Hunter” by Pharrell. Mark’s dressed up with full fake beard and camoflauge. Sadie’s the bird he’s trying to track down and slaughter. Somehow, they end up dancing instead, but Mark does end up carrying Sadie’s lifeless carcass back to camp like a good Duck Dynasty hunter should. They both look absolutely ridiculous. I guess they were good, though. The judges seem to think so.

DANCING WITH THE STARS RECAP: Bring out your dead! (S19:W4)

Carrie Ann: It was like Ducks Gone Wild! By far the best Samba of the night. (Mind you, the other two Sambas were performed by Jonathan and Antonio. This bar is not high.)

Julianne: That is the perfect combination of content and concept.

Bruno: The little bird has got some bite!

Total judges’ score: 37.

Add one point for the professional self-promotion and two for the trauma. Call it an even 40.

Fresh sidekick Alfonso Ribeiro has a love/hate relationship with his old character, Carlton. He doesn’t have one memorable year; he did Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for six years and then… never worked again, because once you’ve done the Carlton, nobody can ever unsee that. He was hopelessly typecast. Yeah, Alfonso, keep telling yourself that’s why your career went in the garbage. It might actually be true. But now he’s on a dance show, and he’s got a pretty fair shot of winning, so how can he get folks to vote for him? Let’s pull out the old ball-and-chain again! Good move! You’ll NEVER work now, Alfonso!

Alfonso and his pro Witney are on a sitcom set during an awkward date. When “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones makes its inevitable arrival, they start in with a lot of intricate jazz moves and lifts. Then, once Alfonso firmly proves he can legitimately dance well, he breaks out the patented Carlton steps—and the audience screams so loud they threaten to take the roof off the building. Alfonso Ribeiro is the only man in the world who can dance like that on this show and not get mocked out of Hollywood. B ut in this setting, it’s wildly entertaining. Carlton lives!

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Julianne: People are going to remember Alfonso.

Bruno: Brilliant role-playing in Broadway-standard Jazz!

Carrie Ann: All I can say is… finally.

Total judges’ score: 40.

Add one point for the self-promotion because there was no sob story here. He didn’t need it.

Betsey Johnson, unfortunately, should have tried a little harder to make people pity her. Forced into the bottom two with the hapless Michael Waltrip, Betsey’s dance for her healthy, happy, living daughter is her last. Even Michael couldn’t believe it. Who the fuck is voting for this guy?

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Previous episodes:

S19:W3 Show Me Your Movies

S19:W2 Southern Discomfort & Not So Smiley

S19:W1 Putting the LOL in Lolo

Want more Claire Abraham? Check out her website – Recapper’s Delight!

TV Show: Dancing with the Stars

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