There seems to be a reality competition rule that, no matter how badly you perform on any given night, you must make sure to let the voting audience know that you "had fun." I can only guess that this tip has been passed down in hushed conversations from year to year as one of the secrets of the trade in the "never let 'em see you sweat" category. America seems to love nothing more than a well-meaning everyman who spits in the face of talent, laughs cavalierly at scornful critiques and proudly forges his own path, no matter how ill-advised that path may be. Since most of us are fairly unremarkable, it may be the only effective protest we have left when the Nicoles and Evans of the world seem to twirl and hop their way to the front of the line without seeming to break a sweat. This right-sizing may seem like a great equalizer, but beware, for it can lead to tragic consequences, like the Bush presidency -- or Kate Gosselin.
But, on with the show. It's movie night!
Niecy and Louis danced a jive to "La Bamba," deciding this week to throw aside the more serious routines that have done little to move the frosty judges for a spirited, yellow-tasseled celebration of life. Now, I'll admit that I'm no dance expert, but it looked fabulous to me. Of course, the little bastards who are so focused on high footwork and strong arms decided they didn't like this one, either, and gave them another set of low scores – even after Niecy shook every jiggly part in her arsenal to distract them from the more technical aspects. America, if you want to elevate a mediocre dancer, why don't you vote for the ones who brings a little light into our lives every week? Come on, now.
I have no idea what happened between this week and last, but boyfriend got served by drill sergeant Cheryl in practice. No teddy bear hug or winky smile could thaw her demeanor as she clapped, counted and shot dagger eyes at her hapless student while he used every bit of schoolboy charm he could muster to get her to crack a smile. No luck. They danced a quick step to the "Jungle Book" theme "Bear Necessities," and with every Disney hop and skip that we saw on the dance floor there seemed to be a hidden Scorcese subtext that we weren't privy to. Unfortunately, whatever has taken down the happy couple transferred to the performance, and the judges gave seises to Senor Ochocinco. Ay caramba!
Ugh. Is there anything more annoying than watching two bores acting out their sexual tension in public? We all know people like this – the couple who thinks the rest of us are riveted by their chemistry as they argue over every insignificantly adorable thing that comes to mind. Erin and Maks are in this phase of their relationship – arguably a more successful phase than whatever Chad and Cheryl are going through -- but oh so painful to watch as their practice sessions turned into a tornado of clichéd love battles. Whatever they're doing seems to be working, though. Their "Pulp Fiction" routine received the best scores of the night so far, leading to another round of barf-inducing love jabs, as Brooke Burke did her best "Paris Hilton does Barbara Walters" impression during the interview. I think we're stuck with these two for another week.
Shucksie Joe was back with another well-crafted manipulation of his avatar – this time channeling Tom Cruise in a "Risky Business"-inspired Cha Cha. There he is, taking off his shirt and sporting sexy shades in a practice session, intent on wooing the horny housewife vote now that Aiden is out of the picture. I guess nobody told him that Tom Cruise is over. Whatever. He'll still grab the demographic who somehow thought "7th Heaven" was a good use of their time. Lights are dimming, music is playing and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING? Is he in his UNDERWEAR?! Shucksie has amped it up a notch and recreated the iconic "Old Time Rock and Roll" scene from the movie. Gotta hand it to him – I knew he had balls but never thought we'd actually catch a glimpse of them. Hide the kids! Family night just got a little PG-13.
Now this is a Jake I can get behind (no giggles, please). Judges loved it. He lives to make us squirm another day.
Pamela did a quick step to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" and once again embodied her character from start to finish. Luckily for her, she always plays a character who could suck a golf ball through a garden hose, so it's never too big a stretch. Once again she did a good job, but stoked poopie pants Len's ire with the use of too many props. She remains solidly in the middle of the pack and should stick around, assuming she can continue to keep the sexy squirmies in check.
I've got to hand it to Kate. She seems to have realized that she can act like the most ungrateful, uninspired and unlikable person ever and people will still vote for her. In the first few weeks she made a lame attempt at explaining herself with emotional pleas of understanding. Apparently that was sapping too much of her energy, so she's flat out owning "bitch" this week. Tony doesn't even know what to say to her anymore and is happy when she moves her feet in any direction. They danced to "Don't You Forget About Me" from "The Breakfast Club," or, as Len said when it was over, "strolled" tentatively through it. Bruno was even harsher, saying that Tony would have had more success with a coat rack and a wig. Kate, of course, explained her lack of energy by saying that she spent it on her children, who live and breathe to see her dance every Monday night. "I've got to stay on the show – for my KIDS," she explained. A collective sigh of understanding rippled through the exhausted mothers of America as Kate waited for the cameras to go off, dropped the plastic smile and whispered "suckers" underneath her breath as she brushed by Tony, reminding him not to address her directly unless the cameras are on.
In the first few minutes of Nicole's practice segment, we see her crying about not having made every step that she worked so hard on last week. Say what you will about the fairness of placing a professional entertainer in the competition -- at least you can see how she became a professional. She danced a tango to "Pretty Woman" and knocked it out of the park. If Kate had spent as much energy shuffling her feet around as Nicole spends chewing her prop gum in preparation for bringing a character to life, she might actually get somewhere. Judges were back on the Nicole bandwagon, and she took home the best scores of the night.
Evan danced the rumba to "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from "Armageddon." Not only is he dancing on this show, but he spent the week on tour with "Stars on Ice," traveling across the country to skate at new venues every night. And we didn't hear one peep from him about exhaustion. Or one excuse about why he couldn't get it all done. Are we learning anything here, Kate? Are we starting to understand why people become good at things?
Oh, who am I kidding? Say what you will about Kate Gosselin, but she apparently has figured out how to play a part that America seems to be craving at the moment – the role of exhausted and vilified mother protecting her brood no matter what the world thinks about her. She's been smart enough to know that every harsh comment from the clueless male judges only energizes her voting bloc. She may have overplayed her hand this week, though. My guess is that America is only going to continue tolerating this act if she maintains some shred of artifice to make us believe she's suffering. This week she seemed to be "having fun" at our expense -- and even the most forgiving of voters won't tolerate that.