Dancing with the Stars RECAP: Goodbye to the Lord of the Garden Center (S19:W8)

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It’s Dynamic Duo night on Dancing With the Stars! The big Halloween party is over, and the show is plodding excruciatingly slowly towards the semifinals. We need another gimmick! Maybe a couple of gimmicks!

Here, we’ve got it! Let’s say that the top-scoring couple of the week has automatic immunity from elimination! That’s meaningless, of course, since the elimination was actually decided by last week’s scores and votes, but the audience isn’t used to these retroactive eliminations for past work and might not notice. However, it’s a great excuse for the producers to slap their prized couple at the top, crow that they are the frontrunners, and make a big deal out of how they are the ones to beat.

And of course, if by any chance, the sooper-special princess pony couple happened to be at the bottom of the voting and facing a shock elimination, well, the judges can just put a stop to that mess right now.

At the same time, they are forcing a “dance-off” between the lower six matched pairs, guaranteeing that the weakest couples must dance more than the strongest! We are going to be fed a double dose of Michael Waltrip (and, less horrifically, Tommy Chong) whether we like it or not!

Back to the Future‘s Lea Thompson and her pro, Artem, have been cast as Bonnie and Clyde. Lea, feeling frantically around for any possible edge over these young girls, who are scaring her to the point of shrill shrieking and tears, has brought in an acting coach. Artem learns that being Clyde has something to do with making loud noises from his diaphragm and “shaking it out” for the camera. Then, he and Lea mug the acting teacher. I guess they learned the Method.

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When they actually come out for their Jazz routine, danced to “Somethin’ Bad” by Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood, there is no mugging. Or shouts from the diaphragm. They just do their typical Jazz steps and lifts—a little out of sync, occasionally—and throw play money around. It’s quite OK, but nothing really special.

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Len: You’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit.

Julianne: I felt a little underwhelmed.

Bruno: It needs to have more of a reckless, badass attitude.

Carrie Ann: I think your confidence is finally back.

I guess the acting coach didn’t help.

Judges’ total score: 32

The cast begs us to believe that immunity matters—that nobody on the production actually knows who got eliminated based on last week’s scores and that the judges will not base their decisions on that previously decided outcome. This may be the silliest idea they’ve ever come up with, and there’s oh-so-many to choose from!

Michael Waltrip, a much better (we can hope) NASCAR driver than dancer, begins his week’s package by whining about what a crappy dancer he is. Emma lies kindly, tells him he’s not a complete train wreck. Then, they have to sit down with the costumer and figure out how to make this middle-aged, not particularly muscular man look like a credible Tarzan to Emma’s Jane.

They end up giving up. They’ve decided that Tarzan has been dressed up for a formal dance, so Michael spares us the loin cloth, opting instead for brown trousers and a white shirt that says “Medieval Peasant” far more than “Lord of the Jungle.” The part of the jungle will be played by randomly hanging vines and green mood lighting. Concentrating so hard he’s almost squinting, Michael manages to lumber through an extremely easy Foxtrot set to “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins. It’s still pretty graceless, but there are fewer glaring mistakes than usual. Mostly they just twirl.

DANCING WITH THE STARS RECAP: Goodbye to the Lord of the Garden Center (S19:W8)

Julianne: Look at all these people supporting you, Michael. You must be doing something right. Damned if I know what the hell it is.

Bruno: More like the Lord of the Garden Center. (NAILED it, Bruno!)

Carrie Ann: Um, Michael. Uh… it’s week EIGHT. (How the hell are you still here?) We have higher expectations…

Len: That’s the best I’ve seen you dance. And yes, I am damning you with very, very faint praise. But thanks for not wearing a loin cloth.

Judges’ total score: 23

Len was the only one to give him a seven; the sixes from the other judges seem to shock him, but possibly he’s not as desperately tired of Michael as they are.

Pretty Little Liar Janel Parrish and her pro, Val, landed in the middle of the pack last week because they forgot to put the waltz in their Viennese Waltz. This week, they are Romeo and Juliet.

Of course they are. Eyeroll. Just to keep it from getting too mushy, however, Val informs Janel that she’s weak and out of shape, and spends the whole package trying to get her to do sit-ups. The resident showmance couple is turning into an old married couple.

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They dance Contemporary to “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Quindon Tarver. I am not sure what specific moves are supposed to go into “Contemporary,” but in this case it seems to involve a lot of bizarre lifts and pained facial expressions.

Bruno: Extremely ambitious and yet gorgeous and glorious in every possible way.

Carrie Ann: This is the epitome of what dance is about.

Len: Tonight you’ve shown me that you are a great dancer.

Julianne: Breathtaking.

Judges’ total score: 40

Looks like the judges wanted to give Janel and Val immunity. Surely it isn’t because they were actually in any real danger… was it? With Michael Waltrip still at large?

Tommy Chong is old—in case you haven’t heard this already, since they only mention it six or seven times an episode. He’s still hanging on, mostly because there was just so much charmless, graceless cannon fodder in this obscure cast, and Tommy’s actually got some innate talent hidden under layers of geriatric decline. However, Peta has decided that the old geezer doesn’t get any more breaks, no matter how much his knees hurt. They have no chance at immunity, and therefore have to learn FOUR dances this week.

Fun fact: Tommy Chong has actually met his dynamic duo; apparently he ran into Johnny and June Carter Cash at the 1988 Academy Awards. Yes. Tommy of Cheech and Chong fame has gone to the Academy Awards. Not as a nominee, obviously.

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It would be charitable to call what they’ve got going here a Paso Double, set to “Ring of Fire.” The Paso Double is a passionate, fiery dance. Tommy is a pretty mellow guy, and he does his Tommy thing, which is to meander pleasantly (and a beat late) through a rough approximation of the simple choreography Peta actually gave him, looking blissful. He’s still the best dancer at Shady Oaks Retirement Center.

Carrie Ann: You were a beat behind for pretty much most of the dance.

Len: You’re like a hot dog. You’re tasty, but we’re never sure about the content.

Julianne: There’s something about you that is what this show is about. Oh, yeah—dead careers!

Bruno: The Paso Double is like a firestorm. This was a little like a mild breeze.

Judges’ total score: 26

Tommy would like to inform everybody that he is not able to take his favorite painkiller. He must finally be feeling the danger of elimination; we haven’t heard a vote-grabbing stoner comment from him in weeks.

Pro dancer Mark Ballas would like to inform us that Len Goodman doesn’t like creativity or things that are artistic. He’s still pouting over last week’s scores with Duck Dynasty‘s Sadie Robertson. This week, Sadie is very happy—they are dancing a Bible story! They are doing Adam and Eve! Oh, wait… Adam and Eve didn’t wear much, did they? Can we get a G-rated nude suit out here? Also, Mark, do you have to put your hand on Sadie’s butt when you lift her? Can we get a G-rated lift out here? What would happen if we did that?

BOOM! She’d fall. Hard.

The butt-grabbing will continue as planned. You signed up for this, little Bible-beater. Mark isn’t trying to be fresh. He’s trying to be a dancer. You might want to try that attitude some time and get over yourself.

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The Garden of Eden is soon jamming with the sounds of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited.” Adam is wearing trousers, and they are both covered from head to toe in vines. It’s almost as ridiculous as the Lord of the Garden Center. They emote passionately, with some truly bestial and aboriginal moves, as they fight over an apple. And yes, there are lifts, and he has to hold her by the butt so the Fall of Man isn’t literal. Actually, it’s gorgeous.

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Len: Mark, Mark! I love your creativity! I love your passion! I love your commitment to this show! I just want you to do the style of dance that’s actually assigned! But this week you had Contemporary, which means there are no real rules!

Julianne: There was a maturity that we haven’t seen for you. You let Mark grab your butt!

Bruno: Conflict! Struggle! Temptation! You portrayed all of this with such a new level of maturity.

Carrie Ann: This was your most poignant, passionate, powerful dance.

Judges’ total score: 38

The Fresh Prince sidekick is channeling his inner superhero this week; Alfonso Ribeiro and his pro, Witney, have to be Batman and Robin. They spend their package running around in tights, rescuing stuffed animals from trees and foiling jaywalkers. Yes, this is how genuinely classy and mature contestants handle the annoying filler—by being goofy rather than whiny. Mark and Sadie, take notes. Somehow, Batman gets stuck on a broken zip line and has to get rescued. Even then, no whining.

The zip line works during the live Cha Cha, set to Prince’s “Trust.” Alfonso flies in without a hitch, and then Batman and Robin take off from their arduous crime-fighting duties to go clubbing. They’d win any club dance-off, easily.

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Julianne: Every time you come out, you are pure entertainment.

Bruno: ALFONSO ROCKS GOTHAM CITY!

Carrie Ann: Super tight, super in-sync, super smart!

Len: Get in your Batmobile and head on into next week!

Len appears to be under the impression that he can grant immunity by fiat. Unfortunately, it is not quite to be.

Judges’ total score: 38

They will have to endure the dance-off.

YouTube yakker Bethany Mota and her pro, Derek Hough, are tired. #Allthisrehearsingishardwork! Does she even recognize her dynamic duo? Why, yes! #Mymomusedtowatchthatshow! They are Lucy and Ricky Ricardo—complete with dream sequence, in which we learn that Derek Hough has the worst fake Cuban accent ever.

Their dance style is the Salsa, set to “Babalu” by Desi Arnez. Ricky has never been quite so blond and white, and Lucy has never been dressed quite so scantily—you can see both her cleavage and her belly button! Scandalous. I’m too busy cracking up over a Lucy Ricardo who is more skimpily dressed than Adam, Eve or Tarzan to pay much attention to the dance, but it’s neat, clean, enthusiastic, and gives us some clues as to how Little Ricky might have been conceived in a marriage that involves twin beds.

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Bruno: Babbles in Spanish.

Carrie: That was a phenomenal performance!

Len: Hotter than a boar’s bum in June!

Julianne: Your journey this season has been my favorite journey. Because you are paired with my brother and I have to say that.

Judges’ total score: 37

So Janel and Val get the totally unnecessary immunity, and everybody else gets to do a dance-off. Higher-ranked couples get to choose their opponents; their victims get to choose the style of dance. Winners for each dance-off get three extra points. Horribly insecure Lea eyes Tommy Chong; Val quietly explains to her that only very tacky frontrunners pick on the bad people. Choose somebody you are certain to beat, and the audience won’t vote for you. Only Michael can choose Tommy without looking like a shithead, and vice versa.

So everybody had to learn three extra dances—a Cha Cha, a Jazz, and a Rhumba in addition to their normal dance. It’s a little remarkable that Tommy’s still standing at all. Of course, these “dance-off” snippets aren’t quite the same as a full-fledged routine, but the producers like to pretend it was a big deal so we won’t just turn off the TV and go have a snack until the last five minutes, when they dispense with the moronic filler and dump somebody on their keister.

Alfonso, who understands that he needs to pick on somebody his own size without disturbing the Ballas/Hough rivalry, chooses Lea… because that’s his only real option. Lea chooses the Jive, because that’s her best style. Of course, Alfonso can generally kick her ass regardless of the style… Viewers at home are invited to tweet in their favorites so the judges don’t do something stupid that results in car-bombs in the parking lot. They will be obedient to the wrath of Twitter.

Each couple gets to Jive for forty seconds to exactly the same song; at the end of those forty seconds, the judges blather lamely about nothing and the Twitterverse screams rather loudly (85%) that Alfonso and Witney danced better. Lea must be taking note of this; since it’s the first time they’ve been clearly told exactly what their relative popularity is to each other, she’s just gotten the Message of Doom.

Lea Thompson will not win that glittery mirror-ball trophy. Not against Alfonso Ribeiro, anyway. I called it here first. You may go back to insecure whining now, Lea. See if Janel still has that voodoo doll from last week, add a little stuffing, paint it brown, and stick some needles in the groin area. (Alfonso is nursing a groin injury.) It’s your only chance.

The judges, of course, meekly step in line with the Twitterverse and give Alfonso his extra three points. His final score for the week now is 41. And yes, that does mean that Janel lost the top spot on the leaderboard to Alfonso by “winning” immunity from the dance-off. See what a great prize that was?

Sadie and Mark, of course, elect to dance-off with Derek and Bethany, since they’ve got to keep up this lame childhood rivalry between the two pros and avoid looking like bullies to Tommy and Michael. Derek is considerate enough to choose the Cha-Cha, since that icky, nasty, sexy Rhumba gives Sadie the vapors, and they are off. Forty seconds. Same music.

It’s the only dance-off that’s even remotely competitive. The judges blather a bit, and the Twitterverse suggests meekly (52%) that Bethany and Derek might have been slightly better. The judges split their votes; Carrie Ann and Bruno vote for Sadie and Mark. Len and Julianne vote for Derek and Bethany. Remember that Len has been quarreling with Mark the entire hour, and Julianne is Derek’s sister. However, in the case of a tie, Len’s vote is the tie-breaker, so Mark gets a brand-new reason to pout. Derek and Bethany get three extra points, and—oh look! With forty points, they are now tied with the “immune” Janel Parrish! Hey, Janel, is your penthouse looking awfully crowded at the moment? Or did the producers just decree who the Final Three should be?

Michael/Emma and Tommy/Peta, of course, are stuck with each other, and they are all stuck with the Rhumba. Forty seconds. Lather, rinse, repeat. Tom Bergeron takes great, calculated pains to inform the audience that Tommy re-injured a calf muscle during his Paso Double, so he’s dancing hurt. You hear that, television audience? Tommy is OLD. And HURT. Keep that in mind as you get your tweets ready when he dances rings around that other stiff!

This is also a huge blowout. As Julianne points out, “There was one that was comfortable to watch, and endearing and charming… and one that was uncomfortable to watch.” Well, that’s been the Tommy Chong and Michael Waltrip experiences for eight weeks, and the Twitterverse agrees. As Tom Bergeron no doubt expected, 73% of the tweets go to Tommy, who is injured, 26 years older than Michael, and actually graceful. The judges breathe a sigh of relief, fall in line, and Tommy ends the night with 29 points.

These two are also the Bottom Two by a large margin, but after that dance-off, there really is no doubt what the right answer is. It took eight excruciating weeks and a losing dance-off against an injured septuagenarian, but Michael Waltrip finally—FINALLY!—goes home. And there was much, much rejoicing.

TV Show: Dancing with the Stars

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