May 29, 2018
Dancing with the Stars RECAP: Up in Smoke (S19:W10)
Welcome to Week Ten of Dancing With a Few Unremarkable People You May Have Heard Of Once or Twice! This season has lasted longer than some Hollywood marriages! It’s lasted longer than some of these people’s actual careers! And the producers have finally run out of theme ideas!
Desperate for a snazzy new angle, some starving musician in the orchestra must have suggested, “Uh, well, what if they danced to a hit song, and then we butchered—er, rearranged that same hit song so it was completely unrecognizable and made them dance to it again?”
And thus, Plugged/Unplugged week was born.
Duck Dynasty scion Sadie Robertson has found her new Crisis of the Week. She botched the last four bars of her trio dance last week and ended up making her own choreography on the fly. Of course, the dumbass judges couldn’t even tell that she was completely out of sync with everybody else, and Len decreed it the “best trio of the night,” giving them a perfect 40 for the routine. Did they get into Tommy’s stash or Alfonso’s painkillers before watching that?
So how does Sadie react to this phenomenal piece of luck? She whines. And whines. And whines. And gets consoled by Mark. And gets consoled by Alfonso. And then she whines about how hard this week’s Quickstep is. Instead of taking pride in her ability to cover her errors—an essential skill for any live performer, anywhere, ever—she appears to be asking the audience for pity votes. Sadie, pat yourself on the back and let it go. God will not strike you down if you lead with your left instead of your right, I promise. Argggh, this kid irritates me!
They are Quickstepping to “Problem” by Ariana Grande, and I would like to ask the lighting and costume people what colorblind moron thought it was a good idea to flood the floor with magenta light when Sadie and Mark have tangerine detailing on their costumes. My eyes hurt just watching this. It’s an excellent, clean dance number that’s striking me blind. But they don’t mess up this time.
Len: That was fast. If you had done that on the freeway, you’d have gotten a speeding ticket.
Julianne: You are such a breath of fresh air. And after eight weeks of appropriate clothing choices, I am back to letting my boobs hang out of my dress again.
Bruno: Really, really fresh. Really, really wonderful.
Carrie Ann: I gotta give you a high five for that!
Judges’ score: 37
Let’s get this straight. Everybody seems to love Tommy Chong…personally. Len Goodman is calling Tommy his hero. And everybody is shitting themselves because he’s made the semifinals. That’s pretty much his whole package—everybody trying to figure out how the hell this lovable old geriatric managed to get this far. May I please explain?
Tommy got this far because every single person he beat was either a god-awful dancer or irritating as hell, and most of them were both. Tommy radiates mellow kindness and sometimes he doesn’t dance too badly for an old guy. In a field this weak, that was enough. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, there’s still one person left that I wouldn’t mind seeing him take down, and I’m not even a Cheech and Chong fan. I’ve never seen a single one of their movies.
Tommy likes to imagine himself as the injured guy who manages to stagger across the finish line as the crowd cheers. Yeah, that’s some good stuff you are smoking, sir. Unfortunately, Tommy only has one good dance in him each week, and his Jazz routine to Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” isn’t it. Peta’s basically dancing around him while he poses; they’ve taken a page out of the Michael Waltrip Plan for Successful Choreography. I’ll give him a break though, because they are saving his stamina for their last routine. And because he’s Tommy Freaking Chong, All-Time Champion of Dancing with the Stars, Seniors division.
The judges don’t even bother critiquing the dance. They don’t want to get tarred and feathered. They just plaster some adoring grins on their faces and bow down to Lord Sweetly Stoned Grandpa before throwing a bunch of sevens at him. Even that was excessively generous, but it might also have been very smart.
Julianne: You are the Wild Card, and that was wild!
Bruno: Peta is the human defibrillator! She can bring the dead back to life!
Carrie Ann: You are the MVP of the season!
Len: Tommy, you are six years older than me. I couldn’t have done what you’ve done week after week, coming out here, learning new dances.
Judges’ score: 28
And now let’s get back to some more of our regularly scheduled whining. Pro dancer Derek Hough is having a creative drought! #Ohthehumanity! He can’t think of anything interesting to put in his latest dance routine with that YouTube kid, Bethany Mota! #Thisisreallyscary! He’s going to have to let Bethany help make some creative decisions! #WecouldwatchsomeYouTubevideosforideas! Is this the end of the line for the show’s best choreographer? #HeywhywasmypackageallaboutDerekagain?
Maybe Sasha ended up choreographing the routine? He’s one of the troupe dancers, and he’s joined them for a cutesy little love triangle Samba set to the Jackson Five’s “Want You Back.” Derek and Sasha basically fight over Bethany the entire dance, as if they were in a sitcom set to music. Then they end up kissing each other instead of her by mistake. Ha ha. These are dancers, after all.
Bruno: You little tease, you!
Carrie Ann: I felt a little underwhelmed by it.
Len: It was a bit like cotton candy. Light and fluffy, but a little sticky here and there.
Julianne: Get out of your head, Derek!
Judges’ score: 36
Janel Parrish, of Pretty Little Liars fame, and her pro partner Val are working so hard they have nothing of any real interest to say this week. There’s no fake drama, no whining, no staged nonsense. It’s all so healthy the producers make Val’s brother, Max, drop by just to see if they can get some sibling rivalry going, but even that’s pretty tame stuff. Mostly, these two just dance.
Spectacularly. Yay for hard work and talent over manufactured drama! They dance a Paso Double to “Blame” by Calvin Harris that is intense and passionate bordering on slightly violent. And with their jet-black costumes I get the idea that we might just be watching a vampire’s mating dance, ending as she collapses in his arms, ready for the bite. It’s terrific, and the judges think so, as well.
Carrie Ann: I wanted more!
Len: Just enough of everything to keep me satisfied.
Julianne: I felt like you guys were one.
Bruno: Fierce, bold, powerful, like an untamed force of nature. You really set the stage on fire.
Judges’ score: 40
Alfonso Ribeiro has a pretty bad back injury. You may have heard about it somewhere in passing if you follow this show at all. ALFONSO OUT OF DWTS? scream the headlines everywhere, followed in some places by IS ALFONSO FAKING IT? Well, he’s not out… and unless he’s a much, much better actor than a Fresh Prince sidekick deserves to be, he’s not faking it. Most of his package is about him wincing in pain while his pro Witney racks her brain trying to figure out moves he can actually do without screaming like a woman in labor.
They really lucked out, getting the Argentine Tango to “Love Runs Out” by One Republic. Alfonso goes through the entire routine looking like somebody stuck a poker up his rear that went all the way up his spine—but that’s actually a good posture for this dance, and Carrie Ann actually ends up commenting on that. Alfonso’s weeping in pain by the time they finish.
Len: Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever. (Or at least until the day after the final.)
Julianne: You’re a fighter!
Bruno: There’s nothing to cry about.
Carrie Ann: Because of your injury, your posture was phenomenal.
Judges’ score: 36
For the second half of the night’s competition, the packages will be answering the lingering question that many, many perplexed viewers have been asking all season: Who the fuck are these so-called celebrities, and why the hell should I give a shit about any of them?
First, the entire Duck Dynasty Klan shows up to proclaim that they are uneducated, God-fearin’ hicks and dang proud of it. And they are dang proud of their liddle Sadie, who done come out to this big city and made them all look just a little bit less ridiculously backwards and stereotypically uncultured than they did before. Fun fact: Little Baby Sadie ran around giving sermons to anybody who would listen. Possibly we should all be grateful that she’s mostly restrained herself here.
I’m going to hand it to pro partner Mark: he had a very interesting idea here, injecting an instrument as a prop into their Argentine Tango. They dance in hold with this guitar between them the whole time, still managing to hit every step, and they never once dropped the thing. It was interesting and different. This version of “Problem” by Noah Guthrie sounded like an entirely different song.
Len: It was a terrific routine. We’re looking for people who should make the final. You should be there.
Julianne: I loved the guitar. I thought it was innovative and it created a barrier, it wasn’t super passionate.
Bruno: You might be big in Louisiana. You do pretty well in Argentina as well.
Carrie Ann: I think you suited the dance.
Judges’ score: 37
Total score for the night: 74
It’s entirely possible Tommy Chong lasted this long because he was the only person in the cast anybody had ever heard of before. Grandpa gathers us ’round and tells about his poverty-stricken youth (complete with grainy black-and-white photos) and time spent in an orphanage. He figured out how to be funny, met Cheech Marin, and the rest, as they say is… (puff…) damn. Lost my train of thought there. Might as well take another hit. Ah, stoner history.
Their final dance of the competition—uh, you knew this, didn’t you?—is their best by a mile. Singer Hannah Peel recreates “Tainted Love” as a delicate music box theme, and the ballerina in the snow globe comes out to dance with the toymaker who created her. What it lacks in difficulty, it makes up for in tenderness and the effect is exquisite.
Julianne: There was something so fantastical and magical about that piece.
Bruno: This was so touching, so honestly felt.
Carrie Ann: I haven’t cried in awhile! It was watching the master and his muse.
Len: You’re America’s favorite. No one as old as you will ever get this far on Dancing With the Stars again. The producers will make damned sure of that.
Judges’ score: 34
They end the night with 62 points.
He got eights from the men and nines from the women. That’s a respectable score for anybody, and unlike his scores from the earlier round, there are no sympathy points awarded. Tommy and Peta earned that.
Shy Bethany Mota was bullied a lot. A whole lot. So she started making YouTube videos. For whatever reason, millions of teenagers began worshiping her. Yeah, we’ve already heard this. She based a whole dance around it earlier in the competition. Is there new information? Ah… #Tacosaremylife!
Really? And yet she’s the least annoying teenager left on the show.
It’s a damned good thing this kid can really dance. Derek’s creative block apparently came unplugged when their song did. Does Mark think it was innovative dancing with a guitar? Well, Derek’s going to make Bethany slip in and out of a picture frame. Yeah, the Contemporary Style allows for a lot of really unusual stuff. It’s fascinating choreography, though—so much so that “Give Me One More Chance” as a sweet folk song almost works as long as you are distracted by their movements. Perhaps it’s the same couple, now dressed for the bedroom, looking at old photographs and trying to remember what drew them together in the first place.
Sasha was not invited this time.
Bruno: This dance should be on permanent display in an art gallery as a modern masterpiece.
Carrie Ann: I didn’t want to blink.
Len: It’s a Picasso of a dance! (I thought it was more Monet myself, but I agree with his point.)
Julianne: That was picture perfect. Just beautiful.
Judges’ score: 40
They have a total of 76 for the night.
Janel Parrish would like to remind us all that she was an attention-whore while still in diapers. She’d run around demanding that folks pay her a quarter to listen to her sing, and apparently her parents indulged this self-absorption so completely that they were willing to relocate the entire family from Hawaii to L.A. so that Janel could play Cosette in a national touring production of Les Miz. Then they got to L.A. and found out that ethnic girls have trouble getting cast. Fortunately, she ended up on Pretty Little Liars, so they aren’t all living in a shack on the street. Phew! That was quite a gamble!
The unplugged version of “Blame” is performed by Time For Three, and the first thing we learn is that Val can play the violin. A little. Kind of badly. It was all those screechy notes that convinced me he wasn’t just pretending. Fortunately, he drops the instrument and heads over to Janel for an Argentine Tango that involves some of the ugliest, most awkward and ungainly lifts I’ve seen since Jonathan Bennett tried to give Peta a concussion during the switcheroo round. I think this was actually the worst dance of this round, and I don’t normally say that about Janel.
Carrie Ann: The lifts BUGGED ME! (Yeah, I told you.)
Len: You put the “OO” in mood. The lifts could have been a little bit sharper.
Julianne: You dance with everything that you have.
Bruno: The fiddler and the goddess!
Judges’ score: 38
Total for the night: 78
Alfonso was born in Harlem, acting from the age of eight. He was in the infamous Pepsi commercial that sent Michael Jackson to the hospital and screwed him up for good. Ah, good times. Eek. And then he went on Fresh Prince, got himself typecast, and never worked again. So here he is, dancing through the pain because he saw Jackson have that Pepsi accident and realized that nothing can be quite as bad as having your scalp catch fire. At least he didn’t follow in Jackson’s footsteps. He seems to be a pretty sane fellow, really.
Their final dance, a Contemporary routine in blue satin pajamas, is as intensely fluid and dynamic as the Tango was stiff, and more than once as I watch the routine, I wonder how his back is doing. Maybe he got some painkillers before he went on. I think the judges must have been wondering the same thing.
Len: Working through that pain—my admiration knows no bounds.
Julianne: I don’t know how you did that!
Bruno: Sizzling chemistry. Amazing pop work. You two always read from the same page.
Carrie Ann: This is how you pave the path to the finals.
Judges’ score: 39
Total for the night: 75
At this point, Tom sees the clock, realizes they are running behind, and has to rush to the elimination with no further padding. It’s just a foregone conclusion anyway. He may be the season’s MVP, or America’s favorite, but they’ve finally managed to put Tommy Chong out to pasture. He doesn’t even seem to mind too much. Maybe now he can sit back and have a nice smoke.