This week, our contestants danced the tango and the jive. And, you know, the jive totally wasn't what I was expecting. I'll tell you what the judges were expecting: The jive should be fun, and the tango should be angry. The jive must be attacked! The tango requires acting! These dances were really quite different, and the costumes this week showed it: The group was a motley crew of gangsters, prostitutes, flappers and strippers.
That said, we also saw some changes of fortune. Let's start with the three front-runners.
Mario and Karina Smirnoff got hammered for their tango, and, frankly, I'm with the judges on this one. For one thing, and this isn't reflected in their score, they danced to a grating and tango-ized version of "Roxanne," and it was a bit of a mess. They had one obvious mistake when they got stuck in the corner of the dance floor. Judges Len Goodman and Carrie Ann Inaba expressed their disappointment, and we all know what it's like when your parents say they're disappointed in you. Score: 21/30.
Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska performed a jive that I found impressive, energetic and well synchronized, but apparently the judges and I were watching different dances. I thought Jason was very elegant, with superb lines (as the judges acknowledged), and Edyta wore so little clothing that her audacity should be worth at least one point per judge. In the end, however, the judges thought the jive lacked some jive. Score: 23/30.
The practice scenes attempted to set up the first-place contestant, Kristi Yamaguchi, as perhaps being unable to meet the demands that the dance would place on her -- in this case, the emotion required by the tango. Nonetheless, she still did great in the performance, even though the hairstylists went way overboard with her '20s era curls. Score: 27/30.
Now, the three laggards.
Steve Guttenberg realized that his unrelenting cheerfulness was getting him nowhere and decided to buckle down. Unfortunately, Anna Trebunskaya came down with some unspecified serious virus, which meant that her husband, Jonathan Roberts (newly available after having been paired with the recently eliminated Monica Seles), had to provide some "man-on-man" tango lessons. Anna recovered enough for the competition, though, and Steve's fierceness apparently distracted the judges from the fact that he occasionally moves as if he just had surgery on both knees. The judges were pleased with his acting and his footwork. Score: 21/30.
Now, I admit to not knowing much about Adam Carolla before this show. So maybe this isn't a surprise to the rest of you, but I think Adam is a breath of fresh air, by which I mean a gaseous cloud of semi-toxic humor. I do mean that as a compliment. It's really perfect that he's paired with wholesome Julianne Hough too. As Len points out in his feedback, "choreography is like makeup -- it can hide a multitude of sins." In other words, Julianne's choreography does a good job of making Adam look like a dancer. Score: 21/30.
I'm sorry to say that the final member of the rear guard, Marissa Jaret Winokur, did not fare as well. At the end of the jive, she even seems psyched about how it went, but the judges criticize it for being too careful. Score: 19/30, which puts her and her partner, Tony Dovolani, in last place.
Now, the stars in the middle.
Marlee Matlin's moves were pretty good, but there were several moments when her rhythm was off. Score: 21/30.
The judges told Cristian de la Fuente that he has improved every week, which is true, and this week was the most noticeable. Score: 25/30.
Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough started their jive with cartwheels, and the judges applauded. Score: 24/30.
Priscilla Presley and Louis Van Amstel were assigned the tango, which would seem to be a nice fit for her. Their tango is heavy on the acting -- lots of intense gazes and sharp head movements -- but I thought it sometimes seemed jerky. The judges, however, loved it. The only criticism came from Carrie Ann, who suggested that Priscilla work on her neck, which I hope she doesn't take as a directive for cosmetic surgury. They receive a strong 26/30.
Kylie Minogue and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater were set to perform Tuesday night, and then a star would be sent home. Read more at Show Tracker, the TV blog, at latimes.com/showtracker.