No one wants to be first to leave Dancing With the Stars.
Monday was the last chance for the 11 contestants to prove themselves before the competition starts thinning out, one head at a time.
Last week was a revelatory one, with stars such as Ralph Macchio, Kirstie Alley and Hines Ward making dazzling first impressions, but it only means so much once the voters start picking up the phone and clicking away online.
So, was it just beginners' luck last week, or did these three keep up their end of the odds-making bargain after tackling substantially harder quicksteps and jives? And how about those who didn't fare so well last time? Any major improvements tonight?
Ralph Macchio looks like he's having a ball out there, but...He may have been so excited tonight, the jive got away from him and he only scored a 20, three points less than last week. He moves like someone who's just been given a new lease on life, but he wasn't always in sync with Karina Smirnoff and he was missing some of the razzle-dazzle from last week.
A similar fate befell Ralph's former partner in awesomeness, as well.
Kirstie Alley had some trouble sustaining the mad energy the quickstep requires—though she saved plenty of rocket fuel for the smooch with Maksim Chmerkovskiy that capped off the dance. The hardest ballroom dance of them all didn't produce a "moment" for Kirstie the way the cha-cha did, but that just makes us want to make sure she stays around longer for more saucy Latin numbers!
No such fate befell Hines Ward, however.
The two-time Super Bowl winner charmed the pants off all three judges in one fell swoop of a quickstep, giving Emmitt Smith a run for the "twinkle toes" title.
Meanwhile, we're going to suggest that Chris Jericho hang up his wrestling togs immediately and devote himself entirely to the art of the dance. His quickstep was adorable!
All of a sudden, the WWE champ was as light on his feet as...Ralph Macchio! And boy can this fellow wear pinstripes.
But our vote for king and queen of the prom goes to Romeo and Chelsie Hightower!
Though Ralph remains in the lead thanks to last week's running start, the swaggerific Romeo tied Chris and Hines for first place tonight with a 23, his quickstep earning a "best dance of the night" distinction from Len Goodman.
Maybe Mark Ballas is angling for a choreographer's spot on So You Think You Can Dance? Why not, Louis Van Amstel contributes to both! But how else to explain the kinky-circus jive he choreographed for Disney Channel cutie Chelsea Kane (other than it gave him yet another opportunity to wear funky socks)?
Chelsea danced it well, but from the second we spotted the props we knew that Len was going to give them hell (and a 5). What we didn't anticipate was that Carrie Ann Inaba would give them hell, too.
"I love choreography like that, but there's a time and a place for it, and I don't think it's right now," she said, thumbing her nose at the routine with a 6.
Bruno Tonioli diverged from the pack, offering up a 7 and a comparison to "Marcel Marceau desperately seeking Lolita in A Clockwork Orange."
Being forced to "act like a lady" for the quickstep was a daunting proposition for Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett, but even with the Bride of Frankenstein hair, she pulled it off like she'd been doing it for years.
The quickstep obviously didn't come as easy to her as the cha-cha did, so she didn't have the same ease of movement, but she charmed regardless. Len thought she did an "excellent job."
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin cut a very handsome rug, but their jive was like an optical illusion—the endless legs and bare midriff almost masked the lack of bounce and the model's various hesitations as they changed direction or segued into tricks.
Actually, Petra was much bouncier after the routine was over, bounding up to give double-cheek kisses to Tom Bergeron and all three judges.
Sugar Ray Leonard's James Brown impersonation was more fluid than his jive steps. But even when his kicks were a little floppy and his timing a little off, he's fun to watch.
"If I just watched your face alone, it's borderline a 10," praised Carrie Ann after Len informed his "sporting hero" that, after that jive, he could be in jeopardy.
That an exaggeration, we think, but the competition is pretty stiff this year, so we won't be able to say until after the first few results shows which way the wind is blowing.
"Psycho" Mike Catherwood couldn't pull himself entirely out of the weeds because of last week's 13, but, except for Chris and Romeo, his score improved the most on last week. And, aw shucks, Love Line cohost Dr. Drew Pinsky looked so proud applauding from the sidelines.
Wendy Williams also looked way more comfortable dancing the quickstep this week, although the routine notably slowed down (they were almost idling in neutral at one point) in the middle. Did Tony Dovolani do that on purpose to prevent Wendy from running out of gas like Kirstie?
Here's the leaderboard rundown, with tonight's score in parentheses alongside their two-night totals:
Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: 45 (21)
Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: 44 (23)
Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiy: 43 (20)
Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke: 42 (23)
Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: 42 (23)
Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas 39 (18)
Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett and Louis van Amstel: 37 (19)
Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin: 36 (18)
Sugar Ray Leonard and Anna Trebunskaya: 34 (17)
Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani: 31 (17)
Mike Catherwood and Lacey Schwimmer: 30 (17)
(Originally published March 28, 2011, at 7:15 p.m. PT)