Dancing With the Stars: Damn That Michael Irvin!

It's the halfway point of the season! Tom Bergeron said so! I wish he'd said that the night before, when I was glumly pondering how many more episodes this season would foist upon an innocent populace. But there you go: only a few left. Here's hoping someone gets really hurt.

The opening credits, by the way, still feature all the dancers, even those who've been kicked off. It's like that point toward the end of the season on Real World/Road Rules Challenge, when CT's still in the opening montage even though he got sent home weeks earlier for raping a girl. It's a little awkward.

Tom and Lady Co-Host are just shitting themselves in anticipation of the evening's entertainment, which will revolve around the pros' tribute to gifted dancer and quantifiably insane person Michael Jackson. Plus Norah Jones will perform, and though I'm usually on the fence about artists who seem born to sell their CDs at Starbucks, I like her. She's got a great voice, and she's purdy.

Judge Len Goodman requests Donny do the honors and dance again, and he dutifully trots out the Argentine tango that the night before had earned him the highest score of any dance this season. Related: When Donny dances, he looks like Jeff the mannequin from Today's Special.

Norah Jones time! She does a sultry number that probably lost something in the translation to the stage, since I doubt she composes music with the goal of seeing it choreographed by Russians on cheesy primetime reality.

Safe for now: Mark, Donny, and Mya. No surprises there. They were also the top scorers this week.

Oh jeez: The pros are also reminiscing about their favorite performances to Michael Jackson songs from past seasons. I can't wait for this era of fetishistic tribute to pass.

Also safe: Kelly Osbourne! But Joanna and Aaron are in jeopardy, and you'd have thought someone got shot the way the crowd gasped at that news. Joanna had stumbled a bit in her dance this week, but Aaron had scored higher than usual, and the way he clenched his jaw when John said he was in danger of going home made me fear for the safety of the studio audience. The guy's already dressed like Patrick Bateman. Why push him?

Additionally, Michael Irvin is safe (WHAT), but Natalie is in jeopardy! This world makes no sense.

Okay, I need a Norah chaser. Thankfully, she obliges with a stripped-down version of "Come Away With Me," done just with her plucking an electric guitar while a fellow band member accompanies on acoustic. Probably the best moment of the show's history.

Safe: Snowboarder! (Damn.) Melissa's still in jeopardy. Each of those in jeopardy has either finished in first or second place at one point in the season, but apparently that's not what the voters want to see.

And here we go with the MJ tribute, part of this week's Macy's Stars of Dance segment. Video clips of Jermaine, wearing sunglasses indoors presumably as a nod to his brother, and LaToya are played, along with others talking about Jackson's considerable contributions to dance. (I'm unsettled to the point of mild nausea at how much LaToya looks like her departed brother.) Everybody talks like he's this guy who just happened to die, not a man driven to self-mutilation by an abusive father and all-consuming media and culture. It's embarrassing, and sad, and the kind of superficial dreck that kept Jackson imprisoned while he was alive. So I guess it's weirdly fitting that this is the tribute they gave him, a musical medley on a bad competition show.

Okay, it's time to make the cut. Joanna, Aaron, Natalie, and Melissa are potentially on the chopping block. After drawing things out a few more beats, Melissa and Joanna are allowed to live another week. And the loser is ... Natalie! I'm honestly surprised at that one. She's consistently done better than Aaron, but he had a good week. But I think the bigger problem is that there's no way to know how the viewer votes are integrated with judges' scores (which are apparently useless in the long run and only utilized in that week's decision). Plus who knows how much producer input is added to that; maybe there's more money in keeping the kid brother of a boy bander than an Olympic swimmer. Holy crap, she's actually crying!

I didn't know I could dislike a show I already hated, but this was a catastrophe.

... Tune in next week!

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