American voters circled their wagons around their own and sent a Frenchman packing on "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" Tuesday.
With the elimination of points laggard Kirstie Alley all but assured, the big question on double-elimination night was who the second unlucky contestant would be to fall short of making the semifinals.
Genial Gilles Marini, the suave French actor who spoke softly but carried a big six-pack, was the first big gun to go as the all-star edition of the show whittles itself down to the final few. It's a big loss of a performer who combined skill, sex appeal and real artistry.
"Gilles, what I love about him, every week, 100 percent, full-on, flat-out, giving it everything," said head judge Len Goodman.
Also bidding a long-overdue adieu, was Alley, the comic actress who, at 61 years old, couldn't keep pace with the younger dancers. But Alley did show them a thing or two about comic timing and audience manipulation. Alley hung on about three rounds past her actual skill level, which says a lot for her show biz savvy.
Five teams made it to the semifinal show next week. Generally, in sports, a semifinal round has four competitors, but, whatever. The scores are all so high, and the remaining competitors are so closely packed together on the scoreboard that the audience vote will be a real deciding factor in the weeks to come.
Breathing a big sigh of relief are Apolo Ohno and Emmitt Smith, former "DWTS" champions who haven't quite hit their stride the second time around. The three remaining ladies, Shawn Johnson, Melissa Rycroft and Kelly Monaco, are a solid length ahead of the boys heading into the final stretch.
Next week, the stars will be performing to the music of Michael Jackson's "Bad" album. It will be the same week ABC airs a documentary special about the making of that classic album.
As part of the hijinks, the stars also assigned each other weird dances to perform next week to cryptic titles yet to be explained. Here's the zany lineup for next week:
- "Surfer" Flamenco -- Kelly Monaco
- "Caveman" Hustle -- Melissa Rycroft
- "Espionage" Lindy Hop -- Emmitt Smith
- "Big Top" Jazz -- Apolo Ohno
- "Knight Rider" Banghra -- Shawn Johnson
It all leads to the finals of the all-star season in two weeks, which look to be a Shawn Johnson, Melissa Rycroft standoff -- if they can stay uninjured. The dancing and performance levels have been so high this season, it should be a great final two weeks.
But with the exits this week of Alley and Marini, it does feel like a part of the heart of this season will be gone.