I knew it was coming, but I still physically recoiled when Margaret Cho was cut from "DWTS" last week. I suppose most of that has to do with the fact that I was losing a member of my team -- a rainbow-tasseled, whirling dervish of gay advocacy who wanted to overwhelm every bigoted Tea Party viewer with her message of tolerance and pride. "Don't like it?" she seemed to be telling the world, "you can Margaret CHOke on it …"
And I guess they did. She wasn't the strongest dancer on the show by a long shot, but she certainly wasn't the weakest. I think her biggest challenge was that America doesn't stomach complexity on these shows; we don't want to wrestle with layers of personality or reward messy crises of confidence. We want our Situation's simple, our Palin's innocent, our Brandy's sweet and our Grey's black and white. And Margaret was never a single note gal.
"Being a Christian guy, it's definitely a challenge to dance intimately with somebody who's not my wife," he says to us, in the condescending way that evangelicals have perfected over the years. Apparently dancing a sexy rumba wouldn't be uncomfortable for a Godless married man who, free from the confines of morality, would take every opportunity to ravage his dance partner (it's the subtlety of the implication that's so infuriating). But, no worries. Kurt's perfectly blonde wife came to a rehearsal and gave him the free sexy pass to dance the rumba as it was meant to be danced. "Sell it," she commands of him, "the Lord doesn't pay our goddam mortgage…"
Kurt is the quintessential guileless, all-American jock -- a role that will continue to work for him as long as he stays within its confines. And he certainly did this week. His hips swiveled smoothly but not seductively, his arms reached out to draw us in closer but without any indication that he actually wanted us to follow and his face looked relaxed but lacked any longing. It was adequate, family-friendly and devastatingly, spirit-crushingly dull.
Technical Score: 15
Performance Score: 19
Last week, Maks threw Brandy around the rehearsal stage like a crash-test dummy to the universal jeers of judges, dance-show recappers and audience alike. And this week he seemed even crankier than usual. They were tasked with a rumba, a dance meant to be sexy, sultry and uninhibited.
But Brandy hasn't had sex in 6 years -- having abdicated that part of herself, perhaps to subconsciously balance out the outrageous amounts of sex her brother Ray J is having on his VH1 reality show. After getting nowhere in rehearsal, Maks decided to make her feel special -- which apparently entailed taking her to a club that looked like a poorly lit pizza parlor, sitting her down and saying dismissively, "Here's your wine, there are some flowers and some chocolates to eat with candles. You sexy now, yes?"
Well, actually, YES. Maks may be a surly Ukrainian bully, and apparently a bad date, but he was somehow able to inspire Brandy to perform in a way that we hadn't seen from her before. Their dance was sultry, smooth and sizzling.
Technical Score: 22
Performance Score: 26
Rick and Cheryl danced an Argentine tango. Their rehearsal started with Cheryl's familiar reminder that the man needs to take hold of his woman and dominate her into submission -- something she's said to every partner since the show began. She's still waiting for it to happen.
Rick started out strong, charging Cheryl with a chair like he was taming a lion, but it quickly devolved into a limp stroll around the floor as he carefully picked her up and placed her down as if every move had been cleared by his lawyer.
Technical Score: 19
Performance Score: 20
Kyle and Lacey danced a rumba -- which unfortunately meant that Kyle felt compelled to demonstrate at every turn how sexy he was -- and there's nothing sexy about Kyle. He eyebrow-raised, pelvic-thrusted and grunted his way through a horrifying rehearsal segment, capped off occasionally by a high-pitched giggle. No matter what Kyle does, he looks as if he's acting out a "Saved by the Bell" blooper reel.
The actual dance was fine. The judges gave him mild props for improving his footwork, but the extra care he took in getting all of the steps right detracted from his usually charismatic stage performance. If he can manage to get the two in synch, he should continue to do well.
Technical Score: 18
Performance Score: 22
I'm not quite sure how The Situation has made it this far. There is no discernible dance evident in any of his movements, which I can only assume has been triggering some sort of affirmative action in the judges. This week, he and partner Karina were assigned an Argentine Tango -- a fluid, intense dance that demands precision, passion and a smoldering sensuality. Knowing all that, Karina decided their best strategy was to put her personal safety at risk by having The Situation throw her around like a sack of potatoes, lower her to the floor and then pose with his hands in the air.
It didn't work. At some point during the routine he had to actually move from one side of the stage to the other -- and when one of your primary issues as a dancer is walking without looking like a wounded Clydesdale, there is very little hope left. Situation CRITICAL.
Technical Score: 12
Performance Score: 16
I don't know, Corky. I'm not sure that continuing to emphasize your 76 year old partner's sex appeal is the way to go. I know women of all ages are living out loud and embracing their inner Carrie Bradshaw, but hissing at each other like two feral cats doesn't even work for people who are actually still sexy.
During the rehearsal segment, Corky and Florence brought their kids in to help them draw the line between what was "appropriate" or "not appropriate" for their sexy rumba (the kids used signs to register their assessment). No matter how open minded I tried to remain, the signs would have been more accurately titled "still uncomfortable" and "gross" after each blood curdling move was unveiled. Not that Corky and Florence listened to their adult children anyway.
Florence started the routine by looking straight into the camera and rubbing her body from the base of her stomach up to her face with an Elvis scowl on her face -- which preceded Corky falling to his knees and dragging the side of his face up her thigh, lifting her dress as it went. All in slow motion.
Slow, traumatizing motion.
And that was just the beginning. By the time they were done, Kurt was bleeding from the eyes and parents across America had quickly changed the channel to a "Dexter" episode to protect their children.
Judges were speechless.
Technical Score: 17
Performance Score: 18
Last week, they were toppled from the leader board by Smiley McNobrain. This week they climbed right back to the top with a flawless Argentine tango -- even as Jennifer struggled with back, foot and neck pain. There's nobody on the horizon who can touch her, which should be challenging for producers as we get into the later rounds -- assuming her body doesn't fall apart before then.
Technical Score: 27
Performance Score: 29
Bristol's partner Mark started the rehearsal segment by warning us that "the rumba and Bristol have absolutely nothing in common" -- which effectively translates into "my partner is a sexless, uncoordinated beast." Not necessarily the vote of confidence that you want from your teacher.
Like Karina with The Situation, Mark is challenged with a partner who has serious deficiencies. Unlike Karina, he chose to overcome those deficiencies by highlighting himself more -- as if we wouldn't notice the doughy Alaskan by his side. As it turned out, there was nothing that he could do to counteract the fact that we were effectively watching a debutante dance at a Connecticut country club.
The judges are becoming increasingly frustrated with her, believing that she has more natural dance ability than she's letting on.
Technical Score: 18
Performance Score: 14
"I don't know anything about the Argentine Tango," Audrina says at the top of the rehearsal segment.
"That's a good thing," Tony responds, "it means you're a clean slate."
I don't think there's ever been a cleaner slate.
Audrina's challenge in this dance was the same challenge that she's had with every other dance, which is to connect with the human emotion behind the dance steps -- or as Audrina calls it -- "acting."
"Squint like you're ANGRY," Tony coaches.
"Won't that give me wrinkles, like around my eyes?" she responds.
The actual dance was fine -- but it's nothing that she hasn't done before. Only this time, is it possible that when she was speaking with the judges that I noticed a crack in her icy demeanor -- a flicker of humanity lurking behind the eyes? The squinty, wrinkly eyes?
Come out, Audrina, we're waiting for you…
Technical Score: 24
Performance Score: 22