Sep 21, 2020
Dancing with the Stars RECAP: Leah rocks, Pitbull bites (S19:W6)
This week on Dancing with the Stars it’s… Pitbull Night????!!!! Not only is rapper Pitbull here to plug his latest album and hang out in the gaping hole where head judge Len Goodman should be, apparently he gets to choose all the music for everybody, including some of his own songs. I guess the producers are getting especially desperate for street cred, ratings, genuine celebrity… or they actually think these horrific guest judges add something of value to the show.
They are delusional.
Co-host Erin Andrews appears to have joined the rescue committee currently trying to track down Len. Her replacement for the night is Leah Remini, actress and Season 17 semi-finalist, who proves that being on this show can’t save anybody’s career. However, she’s conducting herself like a woman in an audition for her life. She seems to be gunning for Erin’s full-time job, and it’s the first worthwhile replacement we’ve seen all season long. Pitbull needs to go; Leah can stay.
After performing “Fireball,” Pitbull saunters over to the judges’ table like he’s got legitimate reason to be there and proclaims that he wants to see “fire” from the contestants. Cue the flamethrowers and blowtorches.
Results first: They’ve combined judges’ scores and audience votes from the last two weeks to figure out what poor slob spent this week rehearsing for nothing, and the first couple in jeopardy is… Janel and Val? Really? Producer’s pets aren’t doing so well? Or is this a ploy to get them more votes? The audience boos, just as if they’d just been shown a cue-card telling them how to react. Jonathan and Allison are in jeopardy too, although that’s no surprise at all. Meanwhile, Tommy Chong wanders dazedly over to the “safe” corner with his partner Peta, scratching his head and grinning. Damn, the home audience must be on some pretty amazing stuff, but he’s OK with that! (So am I, actually. Every season I get unreasonably attached to one of the weaker contestants, and this time it’s Sweetly Stoned Grandpa.)
This week, it’s Jonathan Bennett, of Mean Girls fame, who gets to perform first—with a gun to his head. Not only is he on the chopping block, but this self-proclaimed Pitbull fan will be dancing in front of Pitbull… to a Pitbull song. No pressure, Jonathan. After last week’s debacle, where he almost killed his temporary partner Peta, he’s got to be thinking, “Oh, man, just let me have one dance that doesn’t suck before I go. Just one. Please? Please?” Pro partner Allison thinks he needs to just let people see who he is. What, a gawky, clumsy, high-strung bundle of nerves? I think we’ve seen plenty of that. Jonathan swears he’s focused now, though, and Allison declares him a brand new person. Could he possibly get that one dance that doesn’t suck?
Yep. Here it is. Dancing Jazz to “Back in Time,” Jonathan and Allison are dressed like the Men In Black, rocking it out with sharp, angular, well synchronized moves and several very impressive lifts. Lifts! And… get this! Not once does it look like he’s even worried about dropping Allison! Jonathan Bennett finally gets it right! (Oh, his dear departed mom and dad would be soooooooo proud…!)
Julianne: You know, it’s week six. We really need to see range and improvement… and that’s exactly what that was!
Bruno: The Man in Black has got his mojo back.
Carrie Ann: You nailed every move. I didn’t see one mistake.
Pitbull: Great selection for the record.
Up in the skybox, Leah asks Jonathan to teach everybody his patented Bug-eyed Stare of Terror…
Judges’ total score: 32.
Pro dancer Val gushes about how much he missed Janel Parrish, with the added implication that her raunchy burlesque routine with another guy made him jealous. Can we cut the faux showmance angle, please? Later, we get to see a little lover’s quarrel as Janel snipes peevishly over some perfectly legitimate coaching, and I wonder if Val really did miss this Pretty Little Brat as much as he’s required to pretend.
They’ve got the Salsa, a spicy, sexy dance, and they’ve got this pretend love affair to act out, so… where’s the passion? By now, it’s almost a given that Janel will dance the steps pretty perfectly all the time, and they are certainly dressed to steam up the place. She’s wearing ½ a garish costume of many loud colors, and he strips off his shirt right before the end so everybody can see their scorching sexual chemistry… or something.
Bruno: That is how you corner the market on hot Latinas.
Carrie Ann: I thought you were a bit off-balance.
Pitbull: I don’t know nothing about ballroom dancing but a lot about passion. And when I look at that, I just didn’t feel the passion. (Shocked murmurs from the audience. Did Pitbull not read the script?)
Julianne: I’m not the mean judge anymore!
In the skybox, Leah makes fun of Val for storming out of rehearsal and then coming back to get his car keys. Then she tells them to go fool around. Gotta love a co-host who cheerfully shows us exactly how scripted it all is.
Judges’ total score: 33
Bruno and Julianne threw in a couple of nines to counteract Pitbull’s seven.
Last week, the judges suggested—correctly—that Tommy Chong was a tired old man trying to keep up with these kids, and he’s not taking this accusation lying down. Oh, no! This team has to recharge its batteries! So it’s off to a sweat lodge in the desert for both Tommy and his partner Peta, where Tommy waits for the great spirits to give him inspiration. He settles for an unearthly pep talk from Cloris Leachman, herself a contestant on Season Seven. Somehow, a staged gag that is obviously, deliberately scripted and doesn’t pretend to be anything else bothers me less than the bullshit Janel and Val are peddling.
This week, Tommy and Peta wander pleasantly through a Foxtrot set to “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. Tommy misses a few steps, as usual, but he also radiates genial, uncontrived affection for his partner and relaxed ease. Well, that’s pretty much the Tommy Chong Experience on Dancing With the Stars. So mellow and pleasant you don’t quite notice it isn’t quite right.
Carrie Ann: I am so happy to see that you are back in great form… absolutely smooth, debonair… but a little bit of mistakes here and there.
Pitbull: You are the most interesting man in the world. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun.
Julianne: Thank you, Cloris Leachman and box of sweat! That was the Tommy from Week One! (Is this a good thing?) I think you could be in this competition for a long time. (Well, yes, I guess it is a good thing.)
Bruno: That old magic is working again!
Total judges’ score: 28
They may be praising him, but that’s the lowest score of the night. Obviously these folks don’t think there’s much point in giving Tommy Chong constructive criticism.
In the last results segment, they put two couples in jeopardy, so of course, the three couples in this second group—Antonio and Cheryl, Sadie and Mark, and Lea and Tony—are all safe. Everybody knows the third contestant in danger is Michael. It is kind of funny seeing Lea glance at her youthful competition on either side and turn green, though.
The ham-fisted scriptwriters didn’t have to come up with phony drama for soap opera stud Antonio Sabato, Jr., and his pro Cheryl this week. I am very sorry to say that real drama has come to them. Cheryl’s father has gone to the hospital, and those tears on her cheeks aren’t conjured up for sympathy points. That doesn’t keep me from being disgusted with the camera crews who eagerly lap up every sob and hound her for more. Christ, people.
Cheryl’s all smiles on the dance floor, though, as they go into a Salsa that begins with Antonio (showing off his torso with an open shirt, natch) trying to turn wiping the floor with a towel into a sexy dance move. And then he stuffs the towel in his pants. And the singer in the background is crooning, “Play with me, girl.” Suave.
Pitbull: That’s a very sexy, sexy, sexy record. I wanted to join the dance.
Julianne: It was a little bit too shoulder-y.
Bruno: You really took me back to the sultry streets of old Havana.
Carrie Ann: The trajectory of growth is consistent.
In the skybox, Cheryl sniffles for her father, and Leah scolds Antonio for not removing his shirt completely.
Judges’ total score: 28
Militant Christian Sadie Robertson has the sexually charged Rhumba this week, and Duck Dynasty Daddy Robertson’s about to have a heart attack. So, pro partner Mark, here’s your assignment. You’ve got to choreograph one of the most sensual dance styles, with a very innocent minor, without getting yourself shot or arrested. It can’t come off sexy. It has to come off as sweet. Without looking lame, tame or stupid. Grandma Robertson is right there to approve or condemn every move you make, and Mama Robertson demands to see video. If Sadie bursts into nervous giggles and tells you how awkward it all is, your life is in danger. Got it? Piece of cake, right?
Robertson clan, remind me why you let this child on the show in the first place? Why don’t you just accept that this was a hypocritical mistake and let her go home? Is it because the loud and constant prudery is more about manufacturing your own personal drama than about your morals? If she’s really too young and innocent to be out here, DON’T MAKE HER DO IT!
Mark makes the wise decision of placing Daddy’s Little Angel in a virginal, white, full-length prom dress for the most chaste Rumba in the history of color television. They manage as few intimate holds as they can possibly get away with, and float around romantically like she’s a Disney Princess who just met Prince Charming. Mark turns to the judges and hopes he doesn’t get laughed off the stage for his courageous attempt at a sweet, asexual, G-rated Rhumba. They are sympathetic to his plight.
Julianne: This was a beautiful story about falling in love.
Bruno: You really are a sparkling little jewel of a dancer.
Pitbull: It was simple, but it was powerful.
Carrie Ann: (doesn’t get to talk)
Leah Remini, however, happily gushes that it was “cute.” A cute Rhumba. Sadie’s just glad that’s over and she doesn’t have to do that icky, scary, sexy stuff again. Mark reminds us that he had to find a way to honor Sadie’s feelings while actually, you know, DOING A RHUMBA.
Total judges’ score: 35
One of the nice things about actress Leah Thompson being so much older than her pro partner Artem is that she doesn’t have to pretend to be in love with him. She can just tease him about the raunchy lap-dance he did with Janel last week and greedily eye Alfonso’s spot at the top of the leaderboard. Unfortunately, her ambition makes her panic and forget steps—unless that’s her scripted drama for the week. Artem scolds her for whining about how hard it is; they are too far into the competition not to try the more difficult moves.
So, they begin their Salsa on a fake cruise ship, sashay around the ballroom, and pick up a bunch of stray supporting dancers along the way so everybody can lift Lea high to end the dance. Funny, she didn’t seem to have any trouble remembering the steps when it actually mattered. In a dance competition with a bunch of kids, Lea probably would be best not catering to a script that calls for her to look like she doesn’t have any confidence. She did just fine.
Bruno: It was like a taste of La Dulce Vita in Miami Beach.
Carrie Ann: I think you need to play to your strengths and stay on your track. I saw the lack of confidence.
Pitbull: I didn’t know Jean Claude Van Damme could dance that good, man.
Julianne: You need to trust your partner and you need to trust yourself.
Lea and Leah give Artem a Lea(h) sandwich in the skybox.
Total judges’ score: 32
There are still three couples needing their results; it is no surprise at all when NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip gets dumped in the danger zone. Again. He might as well just set up camp there. Or leave. Maybe he could give Sadie a ride home.
His heart doesn’t seem to be completely in it, anyway. His package shows him getting ready to race at Talladega, where he’s clearly very much more comfortable and far less likely to look completely foolish. His racing friends are supportive, though, even though he has to do this… what is this? Ar-gin-teen Tang-o? What the hell is that? Michael looks like somebody just blew car exhaust fumes in his face. Pro partner Emma explains that the entire NASCAR nation has gotten behind Michael and his never-ending scores of fives and sixes. Well, at least now we know who’s voting for him.
And Emma has come up with the best strategy ever for keeping him alive. OK, Michael, here’s how we are gonna do our Argentine Tango. I’ll dance all around you. You just stand real still and move as little as possible. Flick your feet every once in awhile. Look intense. Pretend you lifted me when I jump in the air all by myself. Try not to step on my feet. There you go!
Carrie Ann: This is a very different approach. And it worked.
Pitbull: You got so much into the moment you even tried to sneak a kiss at the end.
Julianne: This was authentic tonight. This was who you were.
Bruno: Dedication. Focus. Connection. Great improvement.
Judges’ total score: 30
That’s his highest score of the season—standing still while Emma dances around him. Can’t wait to see him try that on the Jive.
YouTube “star” Bethany Mota tries to convince us that she’s an actual celebrity by flying off to Australia for some sort of YouTube convention or something. She’s so busy doing this extremely important… thing… and her schedule is so terribly booked, Bethany and Derek just don’t have any time to rehearse! #Itstoughtobesoindemand! They only get in seven hours of practice! They can’t get through an entire run-through during dress rehearsal! Ooooooh nooooooo! #ThisiswhathappenedtoTavisSmiley!
Heh. Tavis Smiley didn’t have Derek Hough as his choreographer. First, they start out in green light so smokey it’s almost impossible to see them. Once visible, Derek keeps Bethany very, very firmly in hold as they go through a tight, taut Tango. Bethany doesn’t have to remember much; she just has to obey the constant hand firmly on her back and he’ll get her through this all right, as she glitters in a shiny mirror-dress that looks like it just might match the trophy he’s won five times. They are lucky they had the Tango this week. Something with more side-to-side action might have been a disaster. Even so, I definitely saw her slip once.
Pitbull: I love the way how there was a little slip-up but nobody seen it. (Uh, yeah, we did. Nice grammar, by the way.)
Julianne: This was pure Tango.
Bruno: No messing around! Straight, pure, down-the-line ballroom!
Carrie Ann: You were heading towards that ten like nobody’s business… and then that little slip-up that nobody but Pitbull and I… and that obnoxious recapper… and everybody else in the world… saw.
Judges’ total score: 36
Nice work, Derek. There’s a reason why you keep winning this damned thing. Just… don’t do your Australian accent in the skybox again. No. Don’t. Or Leah will beat you up with her microphone.
Fresh Prince sidekick Alfonso Ribeiro and his partner Witney are both dancing injured. He suffered a groin injury trying to do the Carlton, believe it or not, and Witney’s got two problems. First, her little feelings were dashed last week when her doomed attempt to teach Michael Disco ended in a stream of fives, so she winds up blubbering in the women’s bathroom until Alfonso coaxes her out. (“Witney! Baby! It was freaking MICHAEL, for crying out loud! Derek Hough couldn’t get a decent dance out of that stiff! Now, come out here and get with a real partner! My body is ready!) And so, of course, he drops her on the floor during dress rehearsal and almost breaks her back. This has not been Witney’s week. But my hat is off to them for presenting a backstage package that managed to focus on genuine problems, maturely endured, with very little bitching or fake pleas for sympathy. Alfonso’s not only the best dancer in this competition, but the least annoying. He’s quickly becoming my firm choice to win, before he fades off into obscurity again with his little trophy and his dusty memories of that damned Carlton dance.
They’ve got the Salsa, because God knows there hasn’t been enough of that this week, so they begin by shaking their asses at us and then jumping around on a lighted platform with fans whipping Witney’s hair all around. (What little hair Alfonso has remains stubbornly stationary.) It’s nice to see what a Salsa can look like when both partners are almost equally competent: intricate, fast, and lively, with both of them whizzing in a whir so fast you can’t tell either one is hurt. There is no need to ramp up the sex appeal overmuch here; they can let their skill do the selling.
Julianne: Witney, you KILL it with Alfonso. You should know that! You just suck with Michael! Everybody sucks with Michael! That’s why Emma doesn’t make him dance anymore!
Bruno: The rhythm’s gonna get you! The rhythm’s got ME!
Pitbull: You hit them from the Trinidad, you hit them with the wine. (Descends into incomprehensible gibberish.)
Carrie Ann: (Spanks Alfonso ten times. Really.)
Judges’ final score: 39.
I’d love to tell you that Michael Waltrip will be driving off into the sunset, stopping briefly in Louisiana to drop Sadie off and ask her parents what the ever-living fuck they were thinking in the first place forcing her on this show. That would really, really make my night. Unfortunately, Mr. First Gear and Miss Never-Getting-to-First-Base get to annoy me again next week. Just when he finally gets the hang of this, all the Mean Girls tell Jonathan Bennett he is no longer invited to the prom.
And then there were eight. Surely Waltrip’s got to be done soon? Please?