'Dancing With the Stars': Nicole Scherzinger domninates double dance round

nicole2-dwts0510.jpgWith two dances each tonight, the "Dancing With the Stars" couples are stressed and tested. But some are still rising to the occasion.

As the show kicks off, hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke give us the rundown on how things will work tonight. The dances will be done in two rounds. While the ballroom disciplines will be business as usual, the couples must do era-themed Latin routines from the '50s, '60s, '80s, '90s or the future.

Somewhat surprisingly, we have a filler segment tonight. This one has the pros takling about the ballroom strengths and weaknesses of the celebtestants. Erin's long limbs are great for ballroom, but she doesn't trust Maks enough. Evan is perfect for ballroom with his lines and posture but he needs to make sure he's connecting with Anna. Anna says Chad has "beautiful posture and a gorgeous frame" for ballroom, but she and Louis agree he hasn't moved enough around the floor. Cheryl says Nicole is one of the best celebrity dancers she's ever seen on the show, while Maks and Louis says she tries was to hard to be perfect. Maks believes Niecy is elegant but he and Derek say she needs to refine her technique (to make Len shut up, adds Maks).

Scores are listed in Carrie Ann/Len/Bruno order as always.

1. Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke
Dance/Song: Tango/"Sweet Dreams" a la Beyonce
During the rehearsal package, Cheryl says it's hard to figure out whether Chad will be happy-go-lucky or quiet and somber. He explains that now that it's coming down to the wire, he has to really focus and get serious about his "craft." Excellent mindset. Loving Cheryl's outfit -- it's very "Kiss of the Spider Woman." It was a solid performance overall as the technique was good and Chad's posture and frame were pretty steady. Honestly, I found the song a bit distracting. Not his best, but he didn't backslide too much which is important.
Judges: Len thought it had "attack and good movement" but needed a bit more polish. Bruno says it was good that Chad went for the "emotional involvement" but had some hold and footwork issues. Carrie Ann loved the attack and intensity, saying his potential is still growing, but his posture was "funky."
Score: 21 (7-7-7)

2. Niecy Nash and Louis Van Amstel
Dance/Song: Viennese Waltz/"I Got You Babe" a la Sonny & Cher
We get to see how crazy Niecy's day is in this rehearsal package. She wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to tape "The Insider" around 7:30 a.m. and arrives at the dance studio by 11:30. Louis respects her so much because, no matter how tired she is, she never complains. Her footwork has definitely improved this week, but she still needs to remember to point that toe. It was a really charming number; I liked the choreography a lot. There was an air of graceful ease to it that I appreciated. So did the audience -- they got a standing ovation.
Judges: Bruno, who's seemingly in a weirder-than-usual mood tonight, said it was very pretty at the beginning and had great movement but adds that Niecy needs to make sure she's not moving her arms wildly. Carrie Ann thought the "push and pull" was off and transitions weren't strong enough but loves watching her dance. Len says he was pleasantly surprised by the "lovely floaty quality" and nice movement around the floor.
Score: 23 (7-8-8)

3. Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Dance/Song: Argentine Tango/"Una Musica Brutal" a la Gotan Project
Erin had a lot of issues with learning the first lift because, at 6 feet tall in heels, she's afraid of jumping off the stage and busting her behind. Completely understandable. She nailed it in the performance though. Really great choreography from Maks for this one. Her character was great and the technique looked spot on. I have nothing bad to say about it.
Judges: Carrie Ann started by kissing Len on the cheek then went on to rave about Erin's legs and her daring, and called the dance "truly beautiful." Len "absolutely loved it." Bruno thought she was "on fire" and was very impressed extension during the back bend.
Score: 28 (9-10-9)

4. Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya
Dance/Song: Waltz/"Open Arms" a la Journey
It had to happen eventually. Evan took Anna ice skating during a little break in rehearsal. Her emphasis was getting Evan to be "warm," as opposed to appearing technical and "cold." His lines really are fantastic. It was a pretty number and their connection was solid. For me it didn't quite achieve the romantic heights I think Anna was aiming for, but it was pretty.
Judges: Len isn't quite sure if he liked it or not. Predictably he didn't like the opening where they started out lying on the floor and rolled around a bit, but he liked Evan's posture, the movement around the floor, and the improved footwork. Bruno defends the opening as the "narrative point" of the dance and calls his lines "exquisite." Carrie Ann agrees Evan's lines are "mesmerizing" but wants him to lose himself in his dances.
Score: 27 (9-9-9)

5. Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough
Dance/Song: Foxtrot/"I Haven't Met You Yet" a la Michael Buble
The pressure of keeping up with people's expectations and the exhaustion of having to learn two dances finally got to Nicole this week. She had to have a little cry to relieve some stress (I'm sure most of us have been there). In terms of character work, they did very well in building a quirky little story. There were maybe one or two too many "jazz hands" types of moments for me, but it was danced well and was charming. They got a standing ovation so clearly the audience was digging it.
Judges: Bruno really liked it, expressing himself colorfully. Carrie Ann said Nicole was dazzling tonight and loves that she's always challenging herself. Len called it an "enchanting love story" but there was lack of body contact in hold.
Score: 29 (10-9-10)

To bridge the ballroom and era-themed Latin rounds, Tom introduces pros Gary and Rita Gekhman, who perform the futuristic number that got them disqualified from the 2006 World Championship of Classic Show Dance. With silver face and hair paint and silver outfits, they're definitely rocking the android theme (complete with Gary adding some sweet robot moves). It was a cool number. I'm not sure why they'd get disqualified for it. I guess that's why Tom mentioned that it was a controversial decision.

Did I mention that this episode ran two hours? Because here comes the companion filler piece that has the pros talking about the celebtestants' Latin strengths and weaknesses. Chad's got the charm but needs to really move his whole body. Niecy performs great, but again, refine that footwork technique. Evan needs to make sure he's not focusing so much on the technique that he loses the performance. Erin's got chemistry on her side but needs to be more precise with her movements so she won't look "sloppy" (to use Anna's word). Nicole's got the shimmy and shake but needs to not be so self-critical so she won't implode.

6. Chad and Cheryl
Dance/Song: '60s Jive/"Love Man" a la Otis Redding
I like Cheryl's outfit, but Chad's burgandy velvet suit with zebra trim is just not working for me. Mainly beacuase it's not tracking on TV well. Also because it's ugly. I think they captured the feel of the era well, and Chad had loads of personality. He really looked like he was having fun. He definitely needed more consistent bounce but he did a solid job overall.
Judges: Len thought it was high-energy and entertaining, but thinks Chad's kicks need work. Bruno said he "pimped that jive," adding that when he smiles it brings a lot to the performance. Carrie Ann thought it was "groovy" and the sometimes wild energy fit the dance.
Score: 24 (8-8-8)

7. Niecy and Louis
Dance/Song: '90s Paso Doble/"Rhythm Is A Dancer" a la Snap! (Wow...really?)
The song, which was a little too fast, was totally messing with me. I think it also messed with Niecy too. It seemed like she couldn't fully complete her moves because she had to keep up with the music. There were a few nice moments but she fared much better in the Ballroom round technique-wise. On the plus side, she was nice and aggressive, which is a big part of the Paso.
Judges: Bruno liked that Niecy threw herself in there, but there was power without control, ( he did acknowledge that it's a difficult dance). Carrie Ann gives her credit that she's pushing the difficulty level but says the power balance was off. Len said that everyone has a dance that doesn't suit their personalities and this one is hers. Ouch.
Score: 20 (7-6-7)

8. Erin and Maks
Dance/Song: '80s Rumba/"Missing You" a la Tom Waite
Erin's rocking a "Flashdance"-flavored ensemble while Maks is dressed like "Drug Dealer's Gigolo Son" from an episode of "Miami Vice." The problem with Erin's outfit is that she has black leggings and purple legwarmers on and her legs kind of meld into the background in some shots. But, as far as I can tell, it was danced well. Maks made a smart decision to do normal choreography with period costumes. As he said, I don't think the rumba's changed much since then.
Judges: Carrie Ann gave Erin the tip to love every movement she does because confidience is the only thing keeping her back. Len liked her solo at the beginning on the stage but notes it was a bit "jerky" sometimes. Bruno thinks she's dancing better and better and should be in the finals.
Score: 25 (8-8-9)

9. Evan and Anna
Dance/Song: Futuristic Cha Cha/"Bulletproof" a la Le Roux
Anna's interpretation has them doing a sharper-edged Cha Cha, which totally works in Evan's favor. I'm not sure what I think about it. It's a good idea, and it was performed well but ... I don't know. I do know that I really like her "Leeloo" inspired outfit.
Judges: Len thinks the robot theme totally suited Evan but it lacked fluidity so he's as confused as I am. Bruno called it "Mr. Spock meets Barbarella in Cha Cha Trek: The Next Generation...IN 3D." He liked it, if you couldn't tell. Carrie Ann thought he was committed to the character, equally agreeing and disagreeing with Len in that he lucked out with the era but the stylistic stiffness worked well.
Score: 26 (9-8-9)

10. Nicole and Derek
Dance/Song: '50s Paso Doble/"Spanish Guitar" a la Bo Diddley
In their intro, Tom called Derek a "Jonny Quest" lookalike. Ha! OK. This was really, really, really good. I won't say anything more because I'm sure the judges will do enough praising for me.
Judges: Bruno called it feisty and vibrant. Carrie Ann was just giggling with joy and finally called it brilliant. Len is disappointed because there was nothing he could see to critize, then stood up and clapped.
Score: 30 (10-10-10)

Overall Thoughts: Of all the eras, I think Niecy and Louis got the hardest one. Not because it's the '90s but because of the song they had to dance to. Seriously? They couldn't find a better Paso song than "Rhythm Is A Dancer?" I love that song, but come on. Granted, matching the '50s and Paso is hard, but Nicole and Derek had a great piece of music to work with. I think everyone coped well with doing two numbers. At this point, unless something majorly clicks for Chad next week, I'm calling the finalists as Erin, Evan and Nicole.

Bottom Two: If it's not Niecy and Chad, I'll be shocked.
Who's Out: As much as I love her, it's Niecy time to go. Her busy schedule has finally caught up to her.

What did you think about, well, everything? What was your favorite number of the night? Do you like the era gimmick? Would you wear a version of Chad's suit for Halloween?

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Photo credit: ABC