The floor had already been ripped right out from under them, and Karina Smirnoff still planned to let The Situation toss her into the air.
With a series of Situational lifts looming, the melodrama hit a new high tonight as Dancing With the Stars' nine remaining celebs tackled rumbas and tangos on a new round, raised stage, the audience practically nipping at their heels. The musical accompaniment was purely acoustic, supposedly allowing less room for error than ever. And, everyone received two scores, for performance and technique.
Who rose, along with that glitzy stage, to the occasion?
Let's just say, Karina's got some major stones.
Actually, Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino was at his abtastic best tonight during the moments he was hoisting his partner into the air, his strength being his biggest asset during the Argentine tango. (Minus the first toss, when it looked like he was trying to use the Jedi mind trick to get Karina up and down safely.)
Not that the dance wasn't a "terrible mess" in the judges' eyes, but still. As the Jersey Shore star said afterward, "Karina's all in one piece," so that's what matters.
But leave it to Jennifer Grey, who danced seventh tonight, to make us forget all that had come before. Her Argentine tango was stunning and good enough for two 10s on the performance spectrum, the first signs of perfection this season.
The bisection of the scores really shined a light on who's been sneaking by on charisma alone:
• We're happy to report that Bristol Palin brought back the charm she showed back in week one with her rumba. She can go on all she wants about being a 19-year-old single mom who's uncomfortable being outwardly sexy, yada yada yada... but the Latin dances seem to suit her. (And if we find out what point Mark Ballas has been trying to make, with his shirt-off, funky-solo moments, we'll let you know.) And this time, Sarah Palin's presence was not made an issue of, minus her reaction to Bruno telling Bristol that he was still waiting for her movements to go somewhere.
• Rising star Audrina Patridge didn't quite do the tango justice in the judges' eyes. Her legs looked great during the kicks and lifts, but there was a little disconnect this time.
• Sexy stuff from Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke, aided and abetted by a temporary lift of the no-lift rule, but everyone expected sexier. Sure, he wasn't James Bond the whole time, but his man-of-mystery mustache gave a great performance.
• Brandy really pulled off the bed-sheet-over-bra-and-panties look. Her rumba moves were more precise than compelling. Carrie Ann Inaba called it a "comeback night," but we think hip action does not necessarily equal hot. She moved slow and slinkily, but we could still feel a draft. Better make it a flannel sheet next time.
• Kurt Warner's got hips, and he used 'em! As big a guy as he is, his rumba was gracful, and he was passing Anna Trebunskaya around the floor like a Super Bowl was on the line. Indeed, Bruno Tonioli compared his handling of Anna to holding a football. Actually, despite all the quibbling about not having enough reach through his hands ("They're reaching into Bruno's cold, cold heart," Anna said), we thought his skills were worth way more than a 15.
• Everything Kurt didn't do with his hands, Kyle Massey did, a study in nice lines throughout. In so doing, however, his rumba was a bit posey and lacked flow. But the teenager keeps on exuding appeal that.
• And everything that no one dared to do, Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas did with their rumba. From his hand sliding slooowly up her thigh to Mrs. Brady giving her index finger a quite bite, it was just wrong, all wrong. (It was more right than if Cloris Leachman had done it, though.)
Here's tonight's leaderboard (technical, performance):
Jennifer Grey & Derek Hough: 56 (27, 29)
Brandy & Maks Chmerkovskiy: 48 (22, 26)
Audrina Patridge & Tony Dovolani: 46 (24, 22)
Kyle Massey & Lacey Schwimmer: 40 (18, 22)
Rick Fox & Cheryl Burke: 39 (19, 20)
Florence Henderson & Corky Ballas: 35 (17, 18)
Kurt Warner & Anna Trebunskaya: 34 (15, 19)
Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas: 32 (18, 14)
The Situation & Karina Smirnoff: 28 (12,16)
Another celeb goes home tomorrow following acoustic performances from Goo Goo Dolls and Florence + the Machine.
(Originally published Oct. 11, 2010, at 7:05 p.m.)