DWTS: Favorite Dances of Season Eight

Season eight is history. Congratulations to the winners, Shawn and Mark, and to all the finalists. This was a spectacular season, and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to season nine in September.

My top three dances of the season are shown here, and I’ve posted links to a few special mentions.

In first place is Li’l Kim and Derek’s “Jailhouse Rock” jive (week 6). It was also the best dance of that night. Derek, you’re under arrest for stealing my heart!

My second favorite is Shawn and Mark’s freestyle. Energetic and kissed with Mark’s quirkiness—wonderful! Some people say it’s the dance that won Team Shark the trophy.

Third place: Gilles and Cheryl’s quickstep to “Kryptonite” (week 2). Yes, everyone talks about their Argentine tango, but I never forgot this routine. Gilles, you really are Superman!

What are your top three?

Here are a couple other of my favorites:

“The Quintessential Latin Lover”: Gilles and Cheryl’s jaw-dropping Argentine tango (week 4)
You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me: Shawn and Mark’s Aladdin quickstep (week 9)

And let’s not forget the most memorable samba of the season, provided by Steve and Karina. It takes a lot of work to earn a 10…total…

On that note, thanks to the entire Dancing cast for a great season, and congratulations once again to Shawn and Mark!

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Team Shark Wins “Dancing with the Stars”

Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson now has Dancing’s “coveted mirror ball trophy” to add to her medal collection. The seventeen-year-old and her professional partner Mark Ballas beat Sex and the City star Gilles Marini and The Bachelor contestant Melissa Rycroft in the show’s closest ever finish, with less than 1% of the votes separating first and second place.

Monday night, Shawn and Mark (a.k.a. “Team Shark”) performed the only perfect-scoring freestyle number, a combination of all the dances learned this season plus some youthful tricks. Judge Bruno Tonioli enjoyed it so much that he pretended to give a score of eleven. Despite the acclaim, the Sharks finished in a tie at fifty-eight points with runners-up Gilles and Cheryl. Melissa and her partner Tony Dovolani claimed third place both that night and overall.

Shawn Johnson is the third Olympian to win the show, joining Apolo Anton Ohno (season four) and another of Mark Ballas’ partners, Kristi Yamaguchi (season six). Tonight, the now two-time winner Mark seemed shocked to hear host Tom Bergeron call his and Shawn’s names.

All six finalists will appear tomorrow on Good Morning America.

The results of the first-ever Pro Dancer Competition were also announced tonight. Anna Demidova defeated Mayo Alanen for the chance to dance with a celebrity next season.

Camp Ponderosa: What Happens on the Tribe Beach Stays There

Camp Ponderosa—for those who don’t know—is where the Jury lives until the end of the game, when they have to decide who wins the million dollars. You know how Jeff says, “We’ll now bring in the members of our Jury” at the beginning of each Tribal Council, right? Well, that’s where they’re coming from. The Ponderosa “tribe” gets constant meals, tents to sleep in, bathroom and shower facilities, counseling from a psychologist (another Jeff in this season), and mini vacations.

But the most important thing about Ponderosa is that it brings the players back together. The game is over. The stress of suspicion, competition, scheming, backstabbing, and alliance-making is behind them. All that remains are the fundamental building blocks of the game: people, and the eliminated players have the chance to construct something more lasting and positive out of them. Unsurprisingly, “enemies” become friends and all the laundry, dirty and clean, is laid out. The players can finally be themselves, completely open, without worrying about how it might affect their place in the game. They can step away and realize how trivial it all was.

As of now, there are three Jury members (eliminated in the following order): Brendan, Tyson, and Sierra. Brendan and Sierra were part of the semi-secret “Exile Alliance,” which originally included Taj and Stephen and adopted J.T. after the merge. Tyson was a co-founder of the dominant “Warrior Alliance,” now lead by Coach and Debbie. Tyson (along with half the other players) hated Sierra; in fact, during his last three days in the game, he intentionally mocked and insulted her as much as possible, just to make what he thought were her last three days more painful. He actually said he wanted to see her cry at Tribal Council. As for Brendan and Tyson, their rivalry came mostly from being members of opposing alliances. Brendan was the head of the dragon Coach’s alliance wanted to slay. (The only way to understand that is to watch the show.)

But that seemed to disappear when they each crossed the bridge to Ponderosa. Tyson even welcomed Sierra with a hug. Soon the three of them were laughing and chatting together more than they ever would have on the beach. You can watch it for yourself here:

Brendan
Brendan Part 1 | Brendan Part 2

Tyson
Tyson Blindsided | Food Overload | Tribal Council

Sierra
Sierra in Ponderosa | Slip and Slide | Gold and Geysers

I think we fans forget the Survivors are regular people outside of this game. In a high-stakes competition, anyone can become devious, dishonest, and unkind and say and do unexpected things. Because this is a television show, the players become “characters,” and we viewers assign qualities to them based on what we watch, just like we would with cartoon characters. But real humans are multi-dimensional, and their personalities aren’t inked and filmed into place. What we see isn’t always what we get.

Take the game away, and the Survivors are allowed to act more like they would in real life; that’s when we get to see them (and they get to see each other) in a purer light.

Should Melissa Rycroft Be on “Dancing with the Stars?”

She was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and took ballet when she was a child. Too much experience?

Professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy (“Maks”) thinks so. According to an interview shown on TVguide.com, he considers Melissa to be a dancer and thus having an unfair advantage. Other pros seemed to agree in a report by Access Hollywood (whose own Nancy O’Dell was the star replaced by Melissa); a couple of them even said she’s good enough to replace them!

Most stars step into the ballroom with little more than a new pair of dancing shoes—and it usually shows. Just watch Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who judge Bruno Tonioli said looked like a “Teletubbie going mad” after his first dance. Yet Melissa stunned the audience and judges with her waltz after signing up only two days before the premiere.

Other stars have had to fight cries of disqualification in the past. Seasons 4 and 6 champions Apolo Anton Ohno and Kristi Yamaguchi, respectively, were called out for their skating backgrounds, which made them naturally nimbler and more graceful than their opponents.

But footwork isn’t everything in dancing. Kristi had some problems with the characters and emotion of each dance, especially putting on the right faces. It hasn’t been easy either for current competitor comedian David Alan Grier; Bruno Tonioli told him he “was seeing about four or five characters” during his Viennese waltz premiere night. And then there’s the danger of over-performance—sometimes, the stars’ movement or dancing has been too dramatic. On premiere night this season, the judges warned gymnast Shawn Johnson about what called her “gymnast arms” flailing about.

Melissa has said her “dance training” isn’t helping her as much as people think. Speaking of she and her partner Tony Dovolani, she said, “It’s not like we practice for a day and have six off!” She also pointed out that other stars with more dance background have been on the show before. Tony mentioned Maks’s season 5 partner Mel B., a.k.a “Scary Spice” of the Spice Girls, as a perfect example.

Still, Melissa may have another weapon the other stars aren’t carrying: the sympathy vote. Millions watched as Jason Mesnick proposed to her on the season 13 finale of The Bachelor then took the ring back during the “After the Final Rose” show. The nation’s tears for Melissa were still fresh by the time she joined Dancing with the Stars less than a week later.

So, here’s the question again: Should Melissa be on the show? What do you think?

New Season of “Survivor” Premiers Tomorrow

Survivor Tocantins: The Brazilian Highlands, the 18th season of Survivor, premiers tomorrow (Thursday) at 8:00 PM ET/PT on CBS. Among the sixteen castaways fighting for a million dollars are soccer coach Benjamin Wade (37 y) from Missouri, army sergeant Jerry Sims (49) from South Carolina, model Sierra Reed from California (the site says she’s 23, but she says she’s 25), and former pop star and Grammy nominee “Taj” Johnson-George (37) from Tennessee.

I’ve always wanted to do this, so I will. I will blog the season and give quotes, power plays, fun moments, Tribal Council info—what you’d expect. I’m not the only person who does this, so I know it has to be interesting. =) I’ll try to post every Friday, so stay tuned. If you can’t wait, check out CBS’s site!

Oh, and if you also love The Amazing Race (as I do), season 14 premiers Sunday at 8:00 PM ET/PT. Check it out, too!