Last week’s ouster of Christina Milian on “Dancing with the Stars” was the first true shocker of the season. So what would this Monday hold? With only eight couples left, and the night set to feature an improv dance marathon, things were sure to be unpredictable.
The show opened with a fabulous “Sing Sing Sing” dance number choreographed by Benji and Lacey Schwimmer. Whatever happened to Lacey? She hasn’t been seen on the dance floor in a long time—since Chaz Bono was called an Ewok?
Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: Tango
In rehearsal, Bill and Emma were talking about the surprise elimination of Christina last week. Then there was some tired stuff the producers probably cooked up with Emma being unable to pronounce the word “buffet,” as in Jimmy Buffet vs. a dinner buffet. The routine would be to the tune “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” to please the redneck nation, AKA Bill fans! The number opened with the couple eating at a little stand called “Bill’s Burger Hut” and finally getting down to some tango moves, which alas, looked like the comedian’s worst this season. This was just silly and Bill was much too stiff. Tango and burgers don’t mix! What a kooky concept. There were laughs in the press room, though, and the audience really seemed to enjoy it. Judge Len Goodman called it tangy, to my surprise. Bruno Tonioli cited the timing issues while Carrie Ann Inaba said it was a really challenging dance he did well. I didn’t get it at all and for once this season, I thought my favorite underdog had let me down.
Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy: Cha Cha
Val was mumbling away about the cha cha in practice and Elizabeth started talking about the bad time she had doing Showgirls but there was too much babble in the press room to hear what she said, exactly. She even shed some tears over the situation, whatever it was!. I assumed that movie stinkeroo put a damper on her life at the time. But the good news was, Showgirls became a cult hit later on. So this would be a Showgirls inspired routine with Elizabeth festooned in a dress with sequins and tassles. It started with a bar in the center of the stage but no pole dancing and Liz did a lot of gyrating all over the floor with Val giving her some naughty looking attention. The actress was back to form after the disappointment of last week (at least for me). There was nothing to criticize; it was simply fun to watch. So now she’s paid tribute to Saved by the Bell, and Showgirls, so…does she have anything left? Ha. Bruno called her a “brazen hussy,” with the dance so sexy it killed him. According to Carrie Ann, she was like an insane white panther. Len said, “The more I see, the more I like.” Elizabeth strutted away with the first perfect score of the season!
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: Quickstep
Last week, Leah was crying after her odd dance, inspired by her break from Scientology. At least that’s what I thought it was about! Leah’s friend Jennifer Lopez showed up in rehearsal with her boytoy boyfriend Casper Smart in tow to give Leah some encouragement. This quickstep featured a ragtime piano player and Leah in a black jumpsuit, which suited her figure. I enjoyed the little side-by-side moves on the stage. Once they got to the main part of the floor, Leah seemed to follow Tony’s lead really well and her footwork impressed me. The old time mood was very fun and Leah looked completely relaxed, making the performance even more enjoyable. Applause in the press room signaled a job well done. Carrie Ann said it was the biggest turnaround she’d ever seen; Len warned them about breaking some arcane dance rules but loved the routine. Bruno said she’d turned into a little Ginger Rogers; he saw her confidence. Triple 9s! The “King of Queens” star has a chance of sticking around a little longer.
Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd: Tango
Producers had fashioned a TV package about how much Brant and the others want to stay in the competition and general moans and groans about the show’s halfway point. The “Pretty Little Liars” star seemed to be taking it all a little too seriously; was there some sort of bizarre Stockholm syndrome thing going on? His glazed panicked eyes were creepy. Cut to–Brant’s TV co-star Janel Parrish (crazy Mona) visiting him in rehearsal! I guess this was set visit week. Anyway, I must have seen too many tangos in the course of covering this show because I just wasn’t into this one even though it was undeniably well done. Brant and Peta looked as glamorous as ever and they are the season’s best looking pair, hands down, but, hmm, I felt it didn’t tell a story. Len compared his dance to a glass of wine and boy, the veteran judge’s clichés were so stale; can Julianne Hough come back? Bruno called Brant “The Prince of Darkness” and said he loved to see that side of him but admitted he’d lost his balance a couple of times. Carrie Ann’s verdict? She said Brant showed incredible technique and compared him to a dancing Ken doll. Wish I’d said that! Great score, but I have a bone to pick with Len—a ten for a dance with stumbles? Really?
So host Tom Bergeron had a little interlude interviewing Lacey Schwimmer. They threw her a bone! What has she been up to, besides guest directing “DWTS” numbers? He didn’t ask.
Amber Riley and Derek Hough: Samba
We’d been prewarned that Amber had a hard time in rehearsal this week, so I was hoping for an epic meltdown. Derek kept pushing his star and getting frustrated, telling Amber she was “creating problems.” Amber sassed him back a little bit and Derek had to mind his mouth. That was it. No biggie after all. To start the dance, Amber was singing at the mic again, and then hit the floor in a gold tassley dress and she was as fun to watch as she has been all season. The “Glee” star was a sparkly wall of movement and did the samba proud. I would have given her the mirror ball trophy tonight. Bruno called her performance value “out of this world” while Carrie Ann said she nailed every move and it was “a turn on.” Len said he’d be the party pooper and went into a dance lecture with Derek, pointing out it was repetitive as the stunned crowd booed. She got two tens, but not from Len.
Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: Paso Doble
The Osbourne kid was embarking on his first Latin dance and trying to make his “Paso face” in rehearsal, which was funny. Jack talking to a photo of the ultimate matador, Val Chmerkovskiy, about the angry expression you need to do Latin was one of the best little segments they’ve had on the show tonight. Jack and Cheryl’s dance was accompanied by some fire special effects in the background and alas, this didn’t look like Jack’s type of dance at all. I gave him credit for trying, but it was really better when he could relax and smile. Nothing to write home about even though the Osbournes cheered in the crowd. “You had the intensity but it felt one-dimensional,” Carrie Ann said. Len said it was full on, flat out, which is his way of saying it was good. Bruno said Jack’s timing wasn’t as good as usual and he was chasing the music. When all was said and done, not bad scores for a dance that was his weakest all season.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber: Quickstep
Nicole was channeling Elizabeth Taylor in this dance that would pay tribute to old Hollywood. Snooki was giving her partner a lot of hell in practice; she was one tough little chick. Their quickstep featured the two dressed in yellow and dancing around street lights. It was a cute upbeat number that reflected Nicole’s personality so well. Ha. NOT! It ended with Sasha handing her a flower, but there was no spirit of romance here. Len loved it, though, confusing me completely. Then Bruno said she moved well with such grace. Yikes. Was I that wrong? “You’ve improved the most out of anyone,” Carrie Ann declared. They got a generous 27. I would have preferred to see Snooki channel Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” in a nervy female biker number; to me, hearts and flowers and vintage street lamps just didn’t scream Snooki!
Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: Viennese Waltz
Corbin was stoked because they had a “Game of Thrones” theme and the “High School Musical” star was a big fan. The actor camped it up in rehearsal by striking his bare chest with a stick. Corbin and Karina were suffused with misty light for this dance and from the start, it had so much drama and intensity. It was like a dance opera and all the journalists backstage were truly transfixed, so much so that all the usual chit chat ceased. This was real dancing, people. Corbin even died at the end as his queen Karina returned to her throne. The best dance of the night for sure. Bruno called it an epic melodrama but unbelievably, he criticized the flow of the waltz. That didn’t bother Carrie Ann, who thought it worked and told a story. Len loved the theme that ran through it all the way– however, he warned he had to dock them for lack of waltz content. I couldn’t believe it—they received only a 23 for what I considered a startling piece of art and I was sure only this one and Elizabeth Berkley’s dance would be remembered.
Time for the dance marathon! Before the couples even started rehearsal, Leah walked out in disgust because the celebrities learned they wouldn’t know the music ahead of time. “I’m out,” she sighed, stalking out of the practice room. The sitcom star soon came back, however, and joined the other competitors who were in total chaos, except for Bill.
The celebs were split into two groups of four people each.
Okay, so then a split screen showed the four stars in the first group freestyling like there was no tomorrow and Bill opening his shirt. Bill and Emma were quickly yanked off the floor after the indecent exposure. Corbin and Karina were so sexy it was kind of over the top and at the end it was them vs. Snooki and Sasha. In the end, Corbin won the group dance and got four extra points.
The second group dance then started and we were treated to the sight of Val spitting on the floor; was he marking his territory? Again, a split screen rather hilariously showed the music changing and there was much laughter in the press room as Tony picked up Leah and spun her around to waltz music — and then they got tapped out. Elizabeth and Val were the next to go, so it was a duel between Amber and Brant. The “Pretty Little Liars” hunk couldn’t compete with the “Glee” shaker, though, so Amber received the coveted extra four points.
Following that entertaining madness, there was still going to be an elimination, so the mood quickly became somber. I had no clue tonight who would be going home but my best guess, based on the scoring, was Bill. I hoped he’d get another shot, though.
So, drum roll and it appeared the next celebrity going home was…Bill Engvall!
But wait a minute. Tom suddenly announced Bill and Emma were safe, too! The shocker was, there would be no elimination at all this week. Why? Host Tom announced that because of the voting snafu last week in which the phone numbers were posted wrong (which xfinityTV previously reported), it wouldn’t be fair to send anyone home. Good call, ABC. This would give everyone another chance.
“Dancing with the Stars” airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.