So two hours in which to fit twelve Latin dances, and an elimination, plus an announcement that Len’s going to miss some weeks due to scheduling conflicts with Strictly Come Dancing and his first substitute in two weeks time will be Julianne Hough! The opening number is shorter, the fluff pieces are sometimes very short, the dances are presumably at shorter length though some feel shorter or longer than others as is typical, and when the judges start quarreling Tom has to cut them off because there’s no time. So what do we have room for?
Elizabeth Berkley Lauren & Val Chmerkovskiy: Samba to “Straight to Memphis” by Club des Belugas. After a fluff piece where they both accuse the other of looking at their boobs as she declares the official hashtag is #thrustit, Elizabeth certainly gets the sexy vibe down-she doesn’t match Val in that, but she’s getting there. Even when her samba isn’t technically perfect nobody cares, and Val takes the blame for them anyway. All three judges emphasize how hard a dance it is to do in the second week, and Len actually gives them a 9 while the other two give them 8s; they total 25 for the week and 49 overall.
Christina Milan & Mark Ballas: Paso Doble to Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” Mark likes this choice of song, and choreographs a creative routine that involves thrones and a “gaudy King & Queen vibe” which delights everyone, and Bruno notes Lady Gaga probably approves-except that he also thinks she might have missed a step. Carrie-Ann says absolutely not, Len just says he liked it in general and praises it for having unique moves while still being a paso. So Len and Carrie-Anne give 9s and Bruno an 8, so they also had a 25 for their score for 47 overall
Bill Engvall & Emma Slater: Jive to “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John. Emma says in the fluff pieces that she’ll be stealing Derek’s choreography, and it turns out to be a good idea; Bill might not have Derek’s bounce, but he has enough fun to pull it off. Carrie-Ann calls it the most entertaining routine of the season so far, but Bill still lacks technique enough that he only gets straight 7s, adding 21 for an overall score of 39.
Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke: Rumba to “Mad World” by Tears for Fears. The fluff pieces involves him disparaging himself, and Sharon Osbourne visiting the studio for some encouragement. But when it comes time to dance under the spotlight, he competent enough, moving especially well to this choice of song, until Carrie-Ann calls him “otherworldly” and from a “Game of Thrones time.” They get straight 8s for 24, 47 overall.
Keyshawn Johnson & Sharna Burgess: Samba to James Brown “Get Up Offa That Thing.” After a clip of him with his ESPN colleagues, he puts that football player aggression into this high-energy dance, and some good hip action doesn’t hurt the effect, but his feet are still a problem. The judges praise him for improvement and give him straight sixes, giving them 18 for a total of 35.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi & Sasha Farber: Rumba to “Just Give Me a Reason,” by Pink & Nate Russ. In the fluff piece she talks about worrying about being sexy with him in front of her fiancee, while he says they’re going to have a story where he cheated and is seeking forgiveness. When they dance, she says afterwards she was able to be sexy, but the story only really comes across when his choreography does it at the beginning and the end, and she’s too stiff to really properly set a rumba mood. Plus Carrie-Ann goes into lift police mood, saying her feet didn’t stay on the ground. So while they would’ve gotten straight 7s otherwise, she docks a point and gives them a 6, meaning they get 20 points and total 43.
Leah Remini & Tony Dovolani: Samba to “Maria” by Ricky Martin. During the fluff piece they talk about her break with the Church of Scientology and the toll its taken on her psychologically, and how the Church really wants her to fail. And here I have my first major beef with the judges, since personally, watching her samba, she might have managed all the steps right but I thought her way too hesitant. But the three of them don’t seem to think so, on the contrary, Carrie-Ann praises her for releasing her “samba goddess” and they give her straight 8s for 24; they total 45.
Bill Nye & Tyne Stecklein: Paso Doble to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, first movement. Before the fluff piece they note the 3 million views their cha cha got on YouTube, a show record, and in it they say they’re using the judge’s harsher words as fuel for their paso. Once again they get creative; he portrays Beethoven and a piano is involved, and this week he doesn’t show quite so painfully an inability to dance. The judges note he was better, and Len even says he might have been a little overly critical the previous week, and they all raise their scores a point: a 5 from Len and 6s from the other two for 17, 31 overall.
Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff: Jive to One Direction’s “Kiss You.” After dancing Corbin when prompted doesn’t argue that so far the dance assignments have suited him. Indeed, this one lets him and Karina do a routine that echoes his High School Musical history, which starts with him doing an impressive solo on top of the judges’ stand, and just gets better from there(these two might have again done my favorite routine of the night). He raises a ruckus while the judges are trying to give their comments as well, seemingly unbothered by Len having some very slight technical reservations which keeps his score down to an 8, but with 9s from the other two at 26 it’s the highest score of the night, contributing to an overall total of 50.
Valerie Harper & Tristan McManus: Paso Doble to “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” We learn from the fluff piece she has a knee strain, before she opens the routine with a flamenco solo(reminiscent of Pamela Anderson a few seasons back, when she pasoed to this exact same song and also opened with a flamenco solo). It’s cool, but in what the judges not was a content-heavy program it eventually turns out she’s bitten off more than she can chew; she starts to go astray and turn nervey and for the first time really shows her age. Carrie-Ann and Len are regretful as they give her 6s, Bruno decides not to be and gives her a 7; 19 points this week takes their total to 40.
Brant Daugherty & Peta Murgatroyd: Rumba to “Underneath Your Clothes.” Between their flirting and chemistry shown last week and the fluff piece mentioning he’s gonna lost clothing during the routine(he ends up losing a dinner jacket), there are high expectations for this one, but fortunately they are met: this is the hottest rumba of the night hands down, and one of the hotter rumbas the show has seen in general. Bruno sums it up: “I don’t think there’s a lady in the country that doesn’t feel restless and fidgety,” but he and Len do still have technical criticisms to make, causing war to briefly erupt at the judge’s table, until Tom, as mentioned earlier, quiets them down because there isn’t time for such shenanigans tonight. 8s from Carrie-Ann and Bruno and a 7 from Len add up to 23 and 45 overall.
Amber Riley & Derek Hough: Jive to “Reet Petite” by Jackie Wilson. In the fluff piece Amber doesn’t like the jive, even commenting how her large breasts are a problem during such a dance(I, for one, definitely sympathize with that sentiment). But in the night’s performance, that doesn’t seem to be a problem as she puts the lightning speed she showed last week to good use, allowing Derek to show that Bill Engvall doing his moves might be all well and good, but there’s nothing like the real thing. But all three judges have trouble with her footwork this week, and their scores go from straight 9s to straight 8s, though with 24 added to her lead from the previous week, with 51 overall she manages to hold onto the top spot on the leaderboard by one point.
There’s a commercial break between comments and scores for the final couple, and then the elimination begins as everyone first wonders: is Bill Nye’s huge internet presence enough to actually get him out of this? Well, what do you know, it is! With nine couples called safe one right after the other he and Tyne are one of the ones called early, and then everyone’s head spins as a number of other couples are called, until finally Elizabeth & Val, Keyshawn & Sharna, and Bill & Emma are left to stand through another commercial break. Elizabeth & Val going in this trio doesn’t make sense, so they’re called safe next, leaving Keyshawn & Sharna and Bill & Emma as the final pairs, though they don’t specify a bottom two. Here we see they’re still getting used to this new format when Tom apparently asks the person in his earpiece if there’s time for Len to comment. But there isn’t, so everyone takes a moment to wonder how much four points, the difference between these two teams, is worth.
Answer: enough to probably be what decided it; I suspect at the end of the day Keyshawn & Sharna got more votes than Bill & Emma, but not enough to make up the difference. The football player is the first to go this time. He says he’s glad he got to learn how to dance, and sad Sharna had to go out early, but, he adds, “her time will come.” Hopefully it will.
But for now, we don’t even get a last dance, because they’ve got to show everyone’s numbers, because voting now opens! This new format, I tell you.