"Things have changed since we last spoke," Dancing With the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba told TV Guide Magazine as she headed to her trailer after Monday night's show. Inaba is referring to Brandy's surprising power surge, while early favorite Jennifer Grey seems to be hanging on to the top spot by her fingernails.
Just three weeks ago, Inaba was concerned that Brandy was showing a bit of desperation. "I think that Brandy does have a bit of over-zealousness in the way she approaches her dances," Inaba said at the time. "I think she should take a step back and find her own elegance. I do feel that she's trying a little too hard and that this is a huge moment in her life. I remember listening to her music when I was a dancer. She had some great hit songs. And to go from that to the unfortunate series of events that happened to her recently, I think that does carry a lot of weight. But people don't want to see that [on the dance floor]."
Those unfortunate events include the tragic 2006 traffic accident that claimed the life of a 38-year-old woman after Brandy's Range Rover rear-ended the woman's Toyota on the freeway. The next summer, facing multiple lawsuits, Brandy was replaced as a judge on the NBC hit America's Got Talent by Sharon Osbourne. Brandy herself has made numerous references on the show to her troubled past. She wants to win, she says, to end what feels to her like a series of failures. Said Inaba, "I think she needs to embody her strength and not come from a point of desperation."
But Inaba's attitude has shifted over the past two weeks, seeing Brandy's act change from desperate to determined. "I had goose bumps," she said last week, watching her tango. On Monday night, Inaba raved about the attack and sensuality of Brandy's fox trot.
Meanwhile, Grey is trying to keep body and soul together, and has to remind herself that this experience "should be fun." She is constantly referring to her age , her fatigue, and her injuries. Donny Osmond, it should be noted, won the mirror ball trophy at 51. Said one pro dancer on Monday night, observing Grey and Brandy from the audience, "What Brandy lacks in charisma, she makes up for in strength. She's very strong. Unlike Jennifer, who has the charisma, but lacks the strength."