I'm feeling a little bit down as I sit here, remote in hand, getting ready to do my "Dancing with the Stars" recap. All of my favorites are gone, you see -- the ones I liked to write about anyway -- and I wonder what's left to say. I didn't like Kate Gosselin, but it was the kind of dislike that I was excited to share with people. There's no more Pamela Anderson oozing onto terry cloth, no more Jake Pavelka prancing around the stage like a golden retriever puppy, no more Aiden to ogle or Shannen to shun. And now there's no more Niecy -- the light of my "DWTS" life was put out for good last week. And we are all the lesser for it. Jiggle in peace, Niec -- we will miss your style, your wit, that infectious laugh and your bodacious ass. Let’s see if the remaining four snooze-aloos have anything special to offer in your stead.
Erin and Maks did a Viennese Waltz for their first dance. I've had problems with Erin this season, mostly because every time she opens her mouth it is either to love-tussle with Maks, channel Paris Hilton or to pout about why she can’t do something. There's no doubt that she is stunning on the dance floor, but only when she’s not moving. If we were voting on still shots taken from each performance, she’d have a real chance at winning. Unfortunately when Maks sets her free to spin or glide or hippity hop, we become too aware of the fact that she is performing steps, moving from A to B to C in sequential order -- arm lift here, backbend there. With Erin, the whole dance is always less than the sum of its parts.
The judges are clearly pulling for her though, perhaps knowing that to build any kind of tension for the final we are going to have to believe that Evan and Nicole can be stopped.
First Dance: 27
We learn a little bit more about Erin in the video package they put together before she dances her paso doble. In it, we find out that she has always been hard on herself and insecure about her looks. And we learn more about how the video taken by her stalker that ended up on the Internet affected her and how "DWTS" helped to heal some of the pain that it caused. This dance was better than the first, with real moments of unbridled dancing joy and even some raw talent. Len was the only one who had a problem, only because it didn’t fit the "traditional" paso doble structure -- not that any of us would know if it did.
Second Dance: 29
In the practice session for Nicole and Derek, we learn that Derek is dancing with an injured neck. He never explains exactly what happened to him, so we can only assume that Cheryl clubbed him in the back of the head with a baton. He's determined to Nancy Kerrigan his way through it though and the result is a smoldering Argentine Tango. Unlike Erin, Nicole sinks into every performance, translating a character with genuine artistry and commitment so that we as the viewer can be transported to another place. Once again, they electrified the audience and flabbergasted the judges, going so far as to bring Carrie Ann to tears -- although I can’t help but wonder if Carrie Ann was confusing "moved" with "turned on." She looks like the kind of gal who might cry after sex, and this routine was as close to publicly sanctioned sex as family-friendly network television is likely to get.
First Dance: 30
In Nicole’s video package, we learn that she came from humble means in Hawaii before moving to Kentucky when she was a young girl. Hard to imagine Nicole in Kentucky, isn’t it? She was a driven perfectionist from the beginning as described by former teachers, Pussy Cat Doll producers and, of course, P Diddy. I’m not exactly sure what P Diddy has to do with the price of eggs, but I’m sure he did the math on weekly viewership and decided we could benefit from his wise and transcendent presence -- you know, since Gandhi’s dead and all. Nicole and Derek danced the cha cha cha for the second dance. Once again it was Nicole-level perfection, except for not adhering to every rule of the dance which irks Len more than color television or women drivers.
Second Dance: 29
All of the easygoing flirtation that we saw with Chad and Cheryl in the first few weeks of their time together is gone, replaced with a no-nonsense grind of precise steps and spins. Cheryl barks corrections like Cesar Milan, knowing that the only way this football player has any chance of making it into the final is with a Hail Mary pass straight into the "DWTS" end zone. Their first dance was a Waltz which seemed to consist of Chad lumbering around the dance floor and occasionally stretching his arms out so that Cheryl could twirl and shake her hair vigorously in an effort to distract the judges and viewers. And apparently it worked, because the judges fell all over themselves to tell Chad how good he was -- another transparent effort to create some drama for the increasingly predictable elimination this week.
First Dance: 27
We learn that Chad is a textbook rags to riches story -- complete with an absent mother, incarcerated father and doting grandmother. He was the kid who was living on the edge of disaster, one bad decision away from destruction until he discovered that the way to success was to focus, work hard and sculpt a set of perfect abs. Chad took his shirt off towards the end of their samba, which may have added a letter to "DWTS's" TV rating, and probably gave Bruno a little something extra as well. It didn’t translate to great scores from the judges though, leaving Chad with the lowest scores of the night.
Second Dance: 25
In their practice session, Anna went on a mission to find out what makes Evan happy in order to break through his façade and inspire him to connect emotionally with the dance. One gets the sense that happiness isn’t a primary feeling for Evan; he seems much more in touch with the loneliness and isolation of spending hours on the cold ice, deep into his own head and working through some endless math problem that he’s never going to solve. But then Anna discovers the look on his face when he sees iPhone videos of his nephew and our somber one lights up.
Well, I gotta tell ya. That must be one cute friggin’ nephew because Evan erupted into a brand new personality and NAILED the foxtrot. Like Nicole, he is a truly exciting to watch when he is on his game. More than that, one gets the sense with him that the show is giving birth to an Evan who feels as much as he thinks.
First Dance: 29
Evan -- like Nicole, Chad and Erin -- grew up feeling like an outsider. They were all to a certain extent the ugly ducklings who grew into swans, channeled the pain of their isolation and emerged as champions. Evan is described as the guy who didn’t have the most talent but worked the hardest -- fueled by an inner drive whose genesis was never fully explained. No hard luck story, here -- just a regular guy doing the best that he can. Their second dance was a paso doble, and if I didn’t know any better I’d think I was witnessing an assault. He was a POWER HOUSE, attacking Anna with every bit of Neanderthal he could muster, exactly the kind of attitude the dance demanded. I quaked in his presence. THIS is an Evan I can get on board with.
Second Dance: 30
Well, it turns out there was more to love about these four than I realized. I’m feeling better now. For the first time this season, I actually enjoyed the dancing more than the personalities. Even Tom Bergeron’s non-stop love affair with the sound of his own voice couldn’t get me down.
As for the results? Well, the writing is on the wall my friends. Don’t tune in for the cliff-hangers because the outcome is all but assured. Next to go is Chad, followed by Erin and Evan leaving our Pussycat Doll purring and licking her velvety paws at the top of the heap.