Oh boy oh boy oh boy! It’s the week before the semi-finals! Which would be much more exciting if Nicole wasn’t walking away with the competition and ABC didn’t plump what should be a one hour show into a two hour epic like it’s one of those saline-injected roasted chickens at Costco.

This week, every couple must stumble through not one but two dances. Horrors! For the second routine, the dancers must hoof it Latin-style in either the style of the '50s, '60s, '80s, '90s or the future. Tom quickly points out that the '70s aren’t included, which just strikes me as weird. Is there not a single '70s song that has a Latin beat? Or are the producers just hating on hippies and groovy music? Of course, the fear is the costume designers will break out the halter tops and bell bottoms, and if we can avoid that, well, that’s really for the best.

Yay, it’s time for a filler segment! God forbid we actually get to the dancing right away or anything! This time, the pros must criticize their competition. Erin gets slammed for not trusting Maks enough. Evan’s total lack of chemistry with Anna is noted without anyone pointing out that Evan is simply chemistry deficient in general. Chad is encouraged to move his ass. Nicole is perfect. Duh. Niecy needs to work on her technique. Double duh. I have learned exactly nothing from this segment. Except that the pros are too smart to be honest. Anyway, it’s time to dance, so let’s get this show going!

[Full recap of Monday's (May 10) "Dancing with the Stars" after the break...]

Chad and Cheryl

Cheryl and Chad are over the honeymoon phase of their relationship, and it’s slowly dawning on Cheryl that Chad is schizophrenic. Okay, not really, but he’s moody. Seriously moody. And she’s exhausted by it. Personally, I would find it pretty exhausting just trying to resist the urge to burst out laughing whenever Chad talked about “focusing on his craft.” He sounds like every pretentious non-working screenwriter in Hollywood, so Chad might want to realize  “focusing on my craft” is really code for “staring into my overpriced Starbucks coffee drink” and “playing online solitaire.” Good luck, Chad.

Chad is definitely loosening up a bit more in this dance, but the guy is just fundamentally not great at this. He looks like he’s squatting all through the dance. Don’t ask me what that’s about, but it’s weird. Chad, you’re really good at football and you make a truckload of money. Just be happy about that, okay? 

Len pussyfoots around for a minute, but finally says the dance needed more refinement. Bruno liked the emotion, but wanted slickness. Carrie loved the intensity, but felt his posture was funky. Chad might have been better off playing online solitaire rather than driving Cheryl batcrap crazy with his craft, but oh well.

Backstage, Cheryl says it’s never boring with Chad, Brooke Burns pretends she’s working for “Nightline” and Chad says it’s time to be serious. Whatever.

Score: 21. Straight sevens. Chad is disappointed, or really tired, or in serious mode. It’s hard to tell with Chad.

 

Niecy and Louis

Tonight we’re going to see a day in Niecy’s life. Niecy goes to work at 5:30am. Can you believe they start taping the friggin’ “The Insider” at 7:30 in the morning? Does that mean she’s home by 9, because seriously, “The Insider” doesn’t seem like all that much work. Niecy drinks lots of coffee. Niecy wears sweatsuits and fuzzy slippers. Niecy is often tired. This isn’t exactly great television, people.

Niecy and Louis are dancing to “I Got You, Babe.” Niecy is still clomping around a bit like a baby elephant. And I say that with love, because Niecy is the only fun person left in the competition. To conclude the dance, Louis drags Niecy around the floor like a peach feather duster.

Bruno thinks it was a good performance except for Niecy swatting at flies. Carrie thought the transitions weren’t there. Len was pleasantly surprised. Apparently he’s a Sonny and Cher fan. He also thought her carriage was terrific.

Backstage, Niecy jokes around. Brooke seems relieved to interview someone who just prattles on without a lot of prompting. Brooke really isn’t getting any better at this interviewing thing.

Score: 23. Not terrible, but honestly, I think Niecy’s days are numbered.

 

Erin and Maks

Erin and Maks were in the bottom two last week. To Erin, that was the “grossest” feeling, like, ever. Erin is cute and sweet and I really feel for anyone who’s been covertly taped drying their hair naked, but girlfriend is suffering from the same syndrome that’s stricken Evan – the less you know, the more impressive they are.

For someone who acts like kind of a dork during rehearsal, Erin is damn good this week. She’s sexy, she jumps through the air and straddles Maks without looking like she’s going to cry, and she can do crazy things with her legs. Of course, she has to totally blow her femme fatale image by giving Maks a high five at the end of the dance, but hey.

Carrie Ann kisses Len because she’s overwhelmed by how hot the dance was. Honestly, if I was feeling frisky, my first thought would not be to kiss Len. Len calls Erin a dirty, dirty girl. And oh, he loved it. Bruno thought she was on fire. I think someone needs to hose down the judges and quick.

Backstage, Erin said she had no choice but to overcome her fear, because Maks yelled at her. And then she does a pretty good Maks impression. Okay, she’s goofy, but at least she’s goofy in an amusing way.

Score: 28. Actually, surprised it’s not a little higher. I mean, this was pretty darn good. Not Nicole good, but seriously, that’s not even a fair comparison.

 

Evan and Anna

After scoring a perfect 30, Evan takes Anna ice skating. Anna is thrilled to be able to say she hit the ice with an Olympian. Then, they go to rehearsal and she tells Evan what a crap dancer he is. Not really, but she tells him he acts cold in their dances and he needs to act all romantic-like. Evan agrees. But I think short of the guy getting a personality transplant, the only way he’s bringing romance to the dance floor is by carting in a truckload of Harlequin paperbacks.

Vera Wang is in the audience. I say that apropos of nothing, really, they just cut to her and I felt compelled to point that out. Let’s move on.

As expected, this is a technically beautiful dance, but Evan looks like he’s thinking too much. Or writing a grocery list in his head. Maybe he needs bread or yogurt or something. For all the lust he’s mustered up for Anna, he could be dancing with a dust mop or a stuffed giraffe or something. But, if you ignore the blank look in Evan’s eyes, great job.

Len isn’t sure if he liked the dance or not, but he loved the posture. Bruno thought it was Romeo and Juliet and that Evan’s lines were exquisite. Carrie loved the lines, but thought Evan didn’t lose himself in the moment. This would be the understatement of the season.  

Brooke interrogates Evan about his lack of warmth. Evan says it’s the first thing he forgets, which suggests he isn’t much of a spitfire on a daily basis. Anna looks like she wants to beat him to death with a shoe.

Score: 27. Anna is now much more smiley. Which is good, because I’m worried that one of these weeks we’ll see bruises on Evan and he’ll have to say he fell into a doorknob or something.

 

Nicole and Derek

Don’t you just love how the show is trying to convince us that this isn’t a cakewalk for Nicole? She’s a perfectionist who agonizes over her mistakes! Derek has to tell her what to do with her arms! She tells Derek nothing comes naturally for her! She’s overwhelmed! Let’s watch Nicole cry with frustration! This would be so much more convincing if we didn’t actually watch the girl, um, dance.

And, of course, her dance with Derek this week is amazing and impeccable and it’s like a game of “which one’s the pro?” although, hell, if you didn’t know you’d be hard-pressed to figure it out. Sorry, Nicole, but even if this is work for you, it clearly comes a damn sight easier than it does for, say, Niecy. Please.

Bruno calls it pure dancing joy. Carrie is happy to see her smiling again. Len thinks it’s irresistible, though he didn’t like the lack of body contact. Oh, Len!

Score: 29. Duh.

Brooke asks Nicole if she’s putting too much pressure on herself. Nicole says it’s a fine line, but she’s so grateful and she loves her family! Egads, I feel nauseated.

We see a dance from the future by Gary and Rita Gekhman, which looks like a casting call for one of those silver-painted robot guys you see in Vegas or a Gary Numan video. But it’s pretty fun, although I really hope that silver paint doesn’t give them rashes. Or kill them, although that “Goldfinger”  story, total myth. You can check Snopes.com if you don’t believe me. Moving on.

The pros then tell us what the celebrities need to do to survive the Latin round. Niecy may not be able to deliver the footwork. Chad needs to loosen up. Evan leaves the pros cold. Anna thinks Erin looks sloppy doing Latin. Everyone thinks Nicole has to stop being so hard on herself, since she’s so clearly better than everyone else. They don’t say that last part, but you know they’re all thinking it.

 

Chad and Cheryl

For this dance, Chad is playing a 1960s pimp for their jive. Chad is very excited about this. Cheryl is too tired to mind playing his personal hooker. I think the zip is gone from Cheryl and Chad’s relationship, or Cheryl needs more caffeine in her diet, one or the other.

This may be Chad’s best dance of the season. Chad loves the song he’s dancing to, “Love Man,”  so I guess someone needs to crack open his iPod and just choose those songs for his routines. I have to say, for the first time Chad didn’t look like he was having a root canal during his dance. And the squatting was definitely at a minimum.

Len thought it was fun and entertaining except for the terrible kicks. Bruno thought Chad pimped the jive. Carrie thought it was one of his better dances.

Backstage, Chad sizes up the competition at Brooke’s request. Chad says he’s the competition. Why does this not surprise me? Brooke Burke is, I think, angling for a gig at ESPN, which is probably her back-up should “Nightline”  not call. She should kiss up to Erin if she’s smart.

Score: 24. Chad is disappointed. And I can’t blame him. I thought they’d do a little better, seeing as this was the first dance he seemed to enjoy dancing.

 

Niecy and Louis

Niecy and Louis will be performing a 90s paso doble. Niecy doesn’t want Louis touching her weave. As well he shouldn’t, because those things are expensive. Niecy doesn’t know what a 90s paso doble is, and honestly, neither do I. What, they wear old flannel shirts and hoof it to a Hole song?

Oh, no grunge. Apparently the 90s are vintage Versace gold prints and hoop earrings. Who knew? This is not a pretty dance. Niecy looks like she’s completely committed to this, but it’s kind of awkward and galumpy, if that’s a word.

Bruno thinks she threw herself into it like an avalanche, which means it wasn’t very good. Carrie says it felt like bumper cars. Len says getting through the routine wasn’t good enough. I think Niecy might be going home.

Score: 20. I wince, but I can’t disagree with this score. Sorry, Niecy.

Brooke asks Niecy to justify her presence in the competition. Niecy says women who could hula hoop with a Cheerio don’t have the guts to throw it all around, but she does! I love Niecy. I just wish she was a better dancer.

 

Erin and Maks

It’s a 1980s rumba, which means “Flashdance” meets “Miami Vice” from a costuming point of view. Erin hates her skinny, long arms. Shut up, Erin.

Okay, this is no fault of Erin’s, but what a boring friggin’ dance this is. In the end, it’s okay. Erin seems to be having fun, but it’s not a great dance.

Carrie Ann says Erin lacks of confidence. Len thought the dance was jerky but he liked it. Bruno thought it had a spiky, beachy Madonna feel to it and thinks she should be in the final. I so rarely understand what Bruno is saying, but at least you can get the general impression from whether or not he jumps on the desk or stands up and waves his arms frantically. It’s like mime judging or something.

Brooke asks about the Erin/Maks romance, a question Erin and Maks wisely duck. Good going for outing them, Brooke. You can kiss that gig at ESPN goodbye.

Score: 25. Not bad.

 

Evan and Anna

These two get a futuristic cha cha, which sounds perfect for Evan, who’s already half-robot and way too excited about the opportunity to be expressionless.

Anna is dressed like the Fifth Element, while Evan has Ed Grimley hair, Michael Jackson gloves and a bad face paint thing happening. But it doesn’t matter, because this is actually a great dance for Evan. He’s clearly one of those kids who sat in his room practicing the robot when his schoolmates were going to parties and dating.

I love it when they cut to the audience and, while everyone else is wildly applauding, Chad is staring expressionlessly at Evan and Anna and limply patting his hands together as if this might be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.

Len was confused. Bruno thought it was Spock meets Barbarella in The Next Generation and I guess he liked it. Carrie Ann thought the stiff movement worked for Evan.

Backstage, Brooke is boring. The answers are boring. Do we really have to do this play-by-play crap after every dance? Seriously, it’s just lame and Brooke gets stiffer every week.

Score: 26. Not bad, but must be a letdown after last week’s perfect score.

 

Nicole and Derek

Derek is freaked out at the prospect of creating a 1950s paso doble. Nicole is worried. Why do I suspect I know the ending to this story? It’s like an Elvis movie. Elvis faces an obstacle, he shakes his hips, and in short order everything is well in the world.

Of course, this dance is smokin’  hot, a little bullfight, a little Elvis. And we cut to Chad sadly applauding again. Nicole nailed it.

Bruno says the flavor of Spain has never tasted so good. Carrie Ann is laughing she’s so tickled and says it’s brilliant. Len says there’s nothing he can criticize. Can you say perfect score? Nicole gives Len a kiss on the cheek, which isn’t as fun as Niecy kissing his big, bald forehead, but nice nonetheless.

Brooke asks Nicole if she’ll enjoy rehearsals more next week. Hard-hitting question, Brooke!

Score: 30. Gee, maybe Nicole shouldn’t stress so much.

 

Well, it looks like Niecy or Chad is going home, unless people just forget to vote for Nicole for some odd reason or the show is canceled due to some natural disaster or a bomb actually exploding in Times Square. I almost wish ABC would force Nicole to dance blindfolded or with one arm behind her back, just to make things a little more exciting, because honestly, it just feels like we’re going through the paces at this point.

Do you think Niecy should go home? Do you think Chad’s “Love Man” dance should  have gotten a higher score? Who do you think is taking home the mirror ball trophy?