(CBS) At the judges' table, at least in the beginning, there were three skeletons. That was, perhaps, the least scary part of the Halloween edition of "Dancing with the Stars."
For not only did the remaining stars have to dance individually, they also had to rise from the grave and perform something that would approach, in an ideal world, the Michael Jackson "Thriller" video. Or, in a less ideal world, something from the Ugly Bug's Ball.
First up was David Arquette. He was to be a cha-cha vampire. You'd think a man who had made so much money out of "Scream" would be fully prepared to suck blood and dance.
Still, Len Goodman believed Arquette had suddenly become a dancer. Although he added, rather honestly: "You need a little bit more rhythm."
"You're a natural at turning tricks," suggested Bruno Tonioli, suggestively.
Carrie Ann Inaba, the only judge to have bothered to find a costume for the occasion - I think she was supposed to be Catwoman, but she might have merely been a single Kim Kardashian - was also purring with praise.
J.R. Martinez had to tango to "Ghostbusters." Which, perhaps, is only one step removed from quickstepping to Tchaikovsky's "Doll's Funeral."
As lightning bolts crashed all around the dance floor, Martinez appeared to be in a permanent crouch, as if fearing that someone was going to steal partner Karina Smirnoff - in a fetching white ghostly ensemble - away from him. Martinez appeared to look into the cameras more than he did at Smirnoff, which made him appear peculiarly disconnected.
"Bewitched, conquered and swept away by the ghostly beauty," said Tonioli, attempting another one of his deeply Italian haikus.
He went on to criticize Martinez's timing.
"This performance was sub-standard to what I expect from you," mused Goodman, in another bout of bizarre accuracy.
"You forgot to work on your feet," he added. Goodman forgot, perhaps, that he works entirely on his bottom.
Nancy Grace jiving. Three words that surely no one imagined they'd hear, say, six months ago.
In rehearsals, Grace was tense. She believed the judges were waiting for her to mess up her footwork. This was engaging paranoia - born, perhaps, of the tension she used to feel in the courtroom. We discovered, however, that Grace enjoys doing handstands. Just as we might be warming to her, though, her paranoia seeped out again when she accused partner Tristan McManus of suggesting that she wasn't fun.
The song was "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", but for all the world it looked like "The Leprechaun Went Down to Limerick."
While McManus strutted away in a very tall hat, Grace struggled to lift her rather short legs. Her teeth gritted, she tried to force her legs into novel positions. In the end, though, it all resembled Linda Blair in "The "Exorcist" waiting for the priests to come up the stairs.
"This week was not so good," said Inaba. "It just sort of came in and out of the choreography."
"This wasn't a good dance for you. You went wrong early on. The kicks weren't sharp," said Goodman, who didn't really have any nice words for Grace at all.
"Either the devil got you or your shoes are too small," mused Tonioli.
Rob Kardashian was, on Halloween, horrifically upstaged by his sister Kim, who announced her stunning, shocking divorce. Kardashian had to dance to "The Adams Family," which he immediately related to his own.
"I don't think they're creepy, but they're kooky," he said. No, Rob, they're creepy.
Kardashian's right butt cheek was giving him terrible problems in rehearsals. Partner Cheryl Burke, a veteran of every known butt cheek pain, had no sympathy. He continued to resemble the least known member of the Adams Family: Grizzly. He tried to look mean, but he stuck his bottom out as if it belonged to another member of his family. His mustache, however, made him look very, very slightly like Cary Grant.
Burke's hugely clever choreography hid Kardahsian's weaknesses to such a degree that he didn't have to dance too much and almost became plausible as a leading man.
"I thought you did a terrific job. Your footwork was good," said Goodman.
Tonioli fortunately noticed the problem that Kardashian has with his buttocks.
"You've got to keep your bum under you," he explained. "Your bum keeps sticking out."
Ricki Lake's talents had been sticking out consistently. But, lo and behold, Lake did something to her rib. She was hurt. This was Lake Woebegone.
We went straight to hospital. She has an inflamed rib, something you might normally only find at the Cheesecake Factory. The doctor bandaged her up and off she went through the woods, Little Red Riding Lake.
Soon she was forced by the evil wolf into a paso doble. Did she doble up in pain? She did not. Although she screamed when she first saw partner Derek Hough emerge from behind the trees. Lake knows what's required here. She can act. And she can pick up her skirt at a moment's notice and turn it into a vast fanning wingspan of drama. She always knew that daytime talk show thing would come in useful.
She ended up on her back, her ribs stretched across Hough's knee.
"It was like a blizzard of passion and fear," said Tonioli, with his usual understatement. He worried her shoulders were a little tense, though.
Inaba worried about he shoulders too, though she adored Lake's shapings.
But there is no greater shaping and drama than that pertaining to Hope Solo. Last week, her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy suggested Goodman should retire because the head judge declared Solo's performance her worst so far.
This week, the Ukrainian had hurt his toe, which curtailed his ability to rehearse. In the real thing, however, Solo began by running for her life. She was being chased by the Werewolf of London - or rather Kiev.
For a goalkeeper, Solo has extraordinarily uncertain arms, which is not ideal in the samba. It wasn't until Chmerkovskiy gave her a bite on the neck that Solo found a semblance of fluidity. Still, overall, she dances a little too much like the tipsy spinster at her sister's third wedding.
Inaba thought there was a "new-found ease of motion."
Goodman praised the hair and costume department, while Tonioli gushed: "You were dancing as if your life depended upon it."
This wasn't the end, however. There was advertising to sell and 22 minutes to go. So we were treated to (or tricked into) a team dance. Two teams of three, actually scored by the judges.
First there was Martinez, Arquette and Grace, which is surely the name of a law firm that Kris Humphries might consider hiring for his divorce settlement. Their tango was rather saved by some fine, suggestive bodily gyrations from Martinez and partner Karina Smirnoff, although the hair department did provide Grace with a splendidly twisted long, curly wig.
Goodman liked the group parts, but less so the individual performances. He described each as "a disaster."
The other two judges tried to appease, but failed.
Lake, Solo and Kardashian seemed confident. Indeed, Kardashian, being the only male amateur (rather than star) in the group, claimed that Hough and Chmerkovskiy had "increased his sexual confidence." It wasn't revealed how.
In rehearsal Solo was desperate for Chmerkovskiy to "stop being you."
When it came to their team paso doble, the solos made all the difference. Kardashian's was wooden, Solo's was delightfully alive and Lake's was precise and imperious.
The judges preferred this group.
"Amazing, powerful and dramatic," offered Inaba, who hadn't teared up all night, but was now threatening to.
The results show, though, promises something even more amazing, powerful and dramatic. Yes, Justin Bieber.
TOP TWO: Ricki Lake, J.R. Martinez
BOTTOM TWO: Nancy Grace, Rob Kardashian