This is new territory for me, guys. I've never seen a team dance before, so I'm not sure what to expect. Speaking of unexpected things, Melissa is MIA, leaving a forlorn Tony all by his lonesome on the floor. Tom tells us Melissa's suffered an injury, but will tell us more later. Naturally. I love when he gets all newscaster on us: "You may die tomorrow. More at 11." I'm guessing she exacerbated her rib injury and will be out for the night. I do not think (or maybe am hoping she's not) she's out. They'll probably pull the Steve-O rule on her and air her dress rehearsal footage if they have any.
As an added bonus for all of you, we are featuring fallen Season 8 contestant Nancy O'Dell's take on all the dances and her predictions. If you've frequented the Dancing blog, you may have seen her general thoughts on the season already, but as we get down to the wire, it's time to get more specific too.
Gilles Marini & Cheryl Burke: Lindy Hop
Everyone's falling apart. Gilles re-aggravated his shoulder injury and has to get a cortisone shot in his collarbone to get through. He's still having trouble with the lifts and Cheryl's a total tough-ass on him in rehearsals. Love it! Julianne, take some notes. Gilles makes it through the lifts - and then some. This is incredibly peppy and vibrant, but that could be due to their blue-and-lime get-ups. Nevermind Gilles' 10-foot-tall pompadour. There's a lot going on, but he's keeping pace and has high energy as well. Despite the plethora of steps, it's not as frenetic as their past dances. Maybe they only do that when Gilles dances sexy. This is fun Gilles. Len thinks the French can stake claim to the Lindy hop. Bruno loves the happy side despite a tiny slip-up, as does Carrie Ann, who's sporting some highlights, or a weave.
Nancy says: He did a really good job. My philosophy is that they can't give him good scores all the time because they have to keep it interesting. I do think it hurts to go first because people may forget the first performance.
Lil' Kim & Derek Hough: Paso Doble
I must say Kim is the most adorable person on the planet. So sweet and nice. She told me she and Derek are completely focused this week - even with negative hips in the paso. But she can still be aggressive and passionate, and that she is. This is a rockin' paso. It's tense, taut, bold and you can feel the resistance between the two of them. Derek's choreography is also back on point. Even Lance Bass is impressed. Bruno says the bitch is back - literally. Carrie Ann loves her refined shape. Len says she came out with fire and passion, aka he loves it. And Kim loves them, bussing all three judges.
Nancy says: She did great. She's so cute. I think she gets better and better. Now she's a true contender.
Chuck Wicks & Julianne Hough: Cha-cha
Why fix what's not broken? Chuck's still going for the silk PJ look (with Jules dipped in fringe), except this time blue's the color of choice. Does that mean they're cooling off? I see it now: It'll be white next week. There's a lot of crotch- and booty-thrustin' here. Kids, you're not in the bedroom. All joking aside, Chuckie boy's proving he's not a one-dance wonder. His hips are still loose and his feet are flying... sometimes well. His posture could still use work and no amount of hip-swiveling can hide that. Or can it? Carrie Ann thinks he's in the game, but wants him to watch his chin. Len says he's getting stronger and wants him to de-wooden his arms. Bruno loves the "bum action" and points out the wooden arms as well.
Nancy says: Chuck did great. I didn't notice the wooden arms they were talking about. I think he looked really good. He's just had this turn in the last week where he just looks completely different.
Shawn Johnson & Mark Ballas: Samba
Mark tries to be a girl, but he sucks, Shawn says. In comes Mama Ballas - aka three-time Latin champ, Shirley Ballas - who shows Shawn how to shimmy. Hey, just watch "Baby One More Time." That's how I learned. Fringe is the look of the night, apparently, since Shawn's wearing a version of Julianne's Koosh Ball outfit from her salsa. Shawn's precise and technically perfect as usual, but does the dance feel a little bit slow? She still needs to do something about the hips - time's winding down, girl. You can't expect to get a perfect 30 without them. Overall, it was a good effort, but something I'd expect from earlier in the competition, not in the final weeks. It's kind of a bummer since she had so much spark last week. Len didn't like the lack of hip action. Bruno is aware Shawn's not Lady Gaga, but likes the dance. Carrie Ann doesn't want to find the next Lady Gaga (who does?) and finds the dance flawless.
Nancy says: It was good, but it didn't have the pizzazz that it normally does. Something was missing.
Finally! An update on Melissa. She has a hairline fracture in her rib, an injury first sustained last week during rehearsals for the group number. She won't perform her jive, but is expected to continue on. Taking a page from the Steve-O incident, Melissa and Tony's rehearsal jive will be judged instead.
Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani: Jive
What can you say? It's a rehearsal. It's for formality's sake. They're probably going, at most, 70 percent here, half-assing extensions and kicks. Probably the most intriguing thing about the performance is the fact that Melissa's very low-cut jeans managed to stay on. I'm surprised Tony didn't injure himself with, uh, that in front of him. The judges acknowledge the problems with "marking," when dancers go through the motions in rehearsals instead of going full-out. Tony's heartbroken. I've always been indifferent to Tony, but you have to feel for the guy here. He lost his original partner days before the premiere and thought he was out for the season. Then Melissa comes to the rescue at the last minute and they may finally win it all with him, and now she's down. Cue the sympathy votes.
Nancy says: Poor Tony! I texted Tony last night, like "I'm so sorry!" He's like, "Good grief!" They said she should be OK Wednesday after the response to the treatment. I felt so bad because it was the orchestra rehearsal; it wasn't even the dress rehearsal. It was obvious they were camera-blocking it out. I hate for them to be judged on that, but I don't know what else they can do. She'll get sympathy votes. Everyone knows she's a better dancer than that. You can even tell by her moves that she was looking good.
Ty Murray & Chelsie Hightower: Salsa
Yeah, fringe is definitely the theme of the night. Chelsie's got the gold fringe going on. Ty's showing off his killer arms - and even more in that kid-sized shirt in rehearsals. Chelsie gets him to take it all off to get a spray tan. Using the bod to get the vote. Smart. The spray tan doesn't look that bad... compared to others. Of course Ty would be the only one with the most sense not to go for the Oompa Loompa look. Maybe it's the extra color, but Ty's bringing it - the best that he could. He's actually moving. In a Latin dance. I honestly didn't think he had this in him. It's spirited, vivacious and at times flirty. Who ever thought we'd see any flexibility in his back or legs? But lo and behold, here it is. Ty's still lacking in the hip department, like Shawn, though. Is there a correlation between being aw-shucks adorable and not being able to shake your hips? Carrie Ann can't stop screaming. Len admires him for hanging on, but thinks he needs to get going if he doesn't deliver in the team tango. Harsh much? I think everyone was expecting a lot worse from him and he defied expectations. Bruno starts beating... something and shows Ty how to really swivel the hips. Yowza!
Nancy says: He did a really good salsa. I don't think people were expecting that. The others are a little more polished, but he's just so darn cute. How can you possibly not vote for him? He's definitely getting the most improved award.
Time for team dances! The scores will be added to their individual scores. Melissa will get the same score her teammates get added to hers.
Team Mambo: Shawn, Lacey (filling in for Melissa) and Chuck
Chuck thinks they can take it because they've got an Olympic champ and a scorned woman. You do not mess with scorned women! They are determined to one-up the Gilles toplessness. Hmm. I'm curious. Er, wow. I'm dizzy already. I don't have enough eyes for this. Nor do I really have the patience to listen to "Single Ladies" again. I know Lacey and Tony aren't getting judged, but they look hot. Shawn and Mark are next, and Shawn actually gives us some hip action, however small it may have been. Chuck is not shirtless. He does keep the loose hips, but his footwork looks pedestrian even by his standards. And then comes the clincher: All three guys strip the skirt off the single ladies (heh) and then proceed to unclothe themselves to reveal their own "Single Ladies" leotards on top of the judges' table - complete with white tights. I guess they're Saturday Night Live fans. "We're the daaancers!" That was entertaining, but (don't hate me) an unnecessary gimmick. How much rehearsal time do you think they lost plotting that? I felt for Shawn in the last sequence. Dancing the flirty mambo next to two pros didn't really help her. She did the moves, but was out of sync at points and hesitant during some movements. Len loves the solos. Bruno loves men who shop in the women's department. Paula, is that you? Carrie Ann thought the striptease was a bit much and preferred Beyonce to everyone else. Did she see Obsessed?
Nancy says: I remember the guys stripping! It's not good for Tony and Melissa - the fact that their group dance didn't do so well.
Team Tango: Kim, Gilles and Ty
Derek thinks they're the underdogs. I guess, if by underdogs, you mean Ty. Gilles wants everyone to be san-chronized. Ty talks some smack to the "sissies" in Team Mambo. Did he know about the tights? Team Tango knows to play to their strengths - both Gilles and Ty are shirtless as they cradle Kim the "Womanizer." Her solo with Derek reminded me of their paso earlier. But that could also be because I can't distinguish the two well. Or I'm probably distracted by the pleather skirt. It's a passable routine - only because she fudges the steps at the end. Ty finds a shirt to bring some solid heat and footwork. Dude is really stepping it up! Gilles, of course, brings back the sexy we've been missing the past two weeks, but he seems a bit off somehow. All in all, this is actually a pretty hot dance. It's dramatic and the end sequence is completely thrilling. Bruno calls them raptors and says they were all in sync. Carrie Ann thinks Team Tango takes it. Len thinks Ty deserves to stay. How does that foot taste, Len?
Nancy says: I liked it! I was like, "Wow, Cheryl's using that topless thing for Gilles!"
The obvious choices are Ty and Chuck, but people may pull for them because they're the underdogs. I don't even know what to guess! There are way too many factors. I think Melissa will be OK. Steve-O - that was a miracle he got through. If he can get through, she can get through. I was so mad at Len [when he said Ty should go] and I love Len. You know what, Len's comment may save him right there - that he needs to take a hike. People might get mad at Len and just spite Len. That was very harsh. I'm going to say Chuck. Ty has the bigger fan base.