Dancing With the Stars': Team Building
The contestants have to learn two dances, including a team dance that highlights some of Susan's problems
PACK LEADER Cha-cha captain Susan's stilted moves led her team astray
On last night's Dancing With the Stars, two teams danced against each other in a much-touted ballroom battle for the first time in the series. 'Twas one for the ages, dance masters. Look for Monday's date in an upcoming advanced U.S. history book, in a section just above ''Election Day 2008.''
Team Paso (led by Warren Sapp) and Team Cha-cha ("led"or, better yet, doomed by Susan Lucci) faced off at the end of the show, an orange-fringed and blue-taffeta'ed spectacle that might have left viewers struggling to remember the stars' individual efforts. Scores from the team and solo efforts were combined, which basically means that Lance Bass gets to be in fourth place instead of second because his teammate Susan Lucci has no rhythm. Or soul. Or time to practice. Or...skill, whatsoever. Anyway. Here's how the couples ranked:
Brooke Burke and Derek: 59 out of possible 60 (30 out of possible 30 for solo dance) First of all, there are like five people in the world who would look good in the color (kind of an olive-toned gold) and style of gown that Brooke wore for her fox-trot, so props for that. Here, Brooke, have a park bench! Nah, she doesn't need it Ч the returned-to-form front-runner scored a perfect 30 in what Bruno, who thought he was still in Britain, called ''a gob-smacking beautiful performance from start to finish.'' I loved the occasional aerial views we got of this dance, and thought Brooke and Derek were both so flawless that they almost seemed like animated royals at the end of a Disney movie. In the group dance, Brooke and Derek anchored Team Paso's performance with a series of whip-fast pivots, and Brooke definitely held her own while sandwiched between professional contortionists Cheryl and Kym.
Maurice Greene and Cheryl: 54/60 (25/30) So far, Maurice is hands down my pick for most improved of season 7. Yes, his hyperextended leg hurt and he was ''sad'' about things on Saturday, but you can see the guy's developing confidence both performance-wise and technically. I'm digging his (WARNING: Carrie Ann's favorite word ahead) musicality and the way he punctuates each beat with the proper hand gesture. DANCMSTR compared Maurice's cha-cha to cheap jewelry (maybe he was just focused on Cheryl's fringed gold necklace?), then gave it a 9. Which was an excellent move, as it allowed Tom the chance to utter possibly one of my favorite sentences ever: ''Len, you're such a marshmallow!'' For the group paso, Maurice and Cheryl danced the second solo, on Cheryl's suggestion because she and Mo hadn't danced the paso yet, and Brooke and Warren had. Maurice missed a few cues, but the song was so freakin' fast it barely mattered. He and Cheryl made up for that in their final few solo steps Ч when she swung through his legs and never looked back. Be sure to check out Mo's Hidden Gem of the Week on the next page!
Warren Sapp and Kym: 50/60 (21/30) As captain of Team Paso, Warren was granted a pardon last night Ч his fox-trot scored much lower than Lance's rumba, but the group score bumped Warren up to third place. Warren's solo effort just wasn't up to par with his other, more charismatic, dances. I've enjoyed his trademark sass and cooler-than-thou attitude during the in-between moves of each dance, but even those moments seemed less energetic last night. Maybe it really was his shoes' fault, as Warren claimed, or maybe he was a little more focused with two dances to learn this week and therefore came across as more serious, less fun than usual. I honestly think the difference had to do with dance order Ч Warren's performed last so many times that he was just not properly revved up from everyone else's energy by the time he went onstage (first) last night. It just seemed like a nonevent. Or, as Bruno so sensitively put it, ''a recession.''
Lance Bass and Lacey: 45/60 (25/30) There's no way all of us will agree on whether Lance and Lacey should have danced their rumba barefoot (I say: Sure, why not?) or incorporated a park bench into the choreography (I say: See those stage stairs? Same thing, less pretentious). This week, Lacey must really be missing Mia Michaels and the So You Think You Can Dance lifestyle...maybe Lacey's wandering barefoot around that show's dilapidated set right now, launching into full-body thrashes whenever an overhead vent comes back on and wailing ever so softly, like a child zombie cast in a Mia Michaels dance. I don't know. What we can probably agree on, however, is that whatever that ''fight'' was between Lacey and Lance, it was edited so far into oblivion that we have no idea who was crazypants and who was blameless at that moment. I haven't noticed Lance's overwhelming negativity, so Lacey basically looked nuts. I'm not happy with that edit. Show two sides of the conversation or don't show it at all. As for Lance and Lacey's rumba, I thought it worked and so did Bruno and Carrie Ann, whereas DANCMSTR implored them to ''cut it out'' and put some damn shoes on. Note to Samantha: Never say ''fundies'' again.
Susan Lucci and Tony: 44/60 (24/30) Tony's dynamic choreography for the paso doble made a somewhat convincing case for Susan Lucci's ability to sort of dance, but it was ripped to orange, fringe-y shreds after that group cha-cha-cha that Susan apparently ''captained.'' The main difference between the theater geeks (Susan, Cody, and Lance) and the popular kids (Brooke, Warren, Maurice) was...well, basically, Susan. She just didn't have the time to put into rehearsing the team dance, and even if she had, she doesn't perform anything with even the tiny amount of conviction required to turn on an oven. I couldn't believe the judges handed her straight 8s for that paso Ч every time she threw another wooden arm up into the air, it was like she was demonstrating what not to do in the ballroom to a studio full of wiseass ballroom kids. Or maybe I'm being too harsh here. I was rendered inconsolable moments before their dance, when Tony (and later Carrie Ann Ч hey, they have something in common) implored Susan to insist aloud, ''I AM DOING GOOD.'' Honey. You're doing well. Except...you're not.
Cody Linley and Lady Leg Warmers: 42/60 (22/30) Tom Bergeron, who had a particularly ''on'' episode last night, nailed just what we were all thinking about Cody: ''Only when you're 18 could you say of a six-week relationship, 'We've been together forever.''' Awww, Cody already missed his partner-in-youth, Julianne, who agreed to be filmed doing something I could never have imagined her doing: lying at rest. But Edyta was able to prep Cody for the Viennese waltz Ч or at the very least, she was able to distract from his occasional clumsiness with her half dress emblazoned with giant flowers. (It's not often we see prints on DWTS. I believe I suffered a briefly irregular heartbeat that one time Karina was swathed in paisley about five weeks ago.) Bruno compared Cody to a little bird unable to fly, but I think Cody's hesitance has more to do with his giant crush on Edyta and how he's concentrating hard in order to do well by her, one dance at a time (if necessary). But without a bigger fan base than Susan's, Cody might not get that chance. Hell, I might even vote for Cody this week to keep Edyta in. I love her (leg warmers) that much.
Hidden Gem of the Week After the group Paso and Warren's adorable wink, Maurice noticed Derek's flourish-y hand flicks out of the corner of his eye and gave a little ''Hell yeah!'' nod of affirmation. (Or maybe he didn't see Derek's hands, and this is just evidence of Team Paso's synergy! Nah.)