Dancing With the Stars, Season 21, Week 8, Icons Night

Dancing with the Stars has always loved the inspirational stuff, and they’ve had people meet with their idols on the show before, so perhaps we should’ve seen this week’s theme coming: everybody dancing tributes to the icons they looked up to.  It is also immunity/dance-off night, so the highest couple gets immunity and the others square off for extra points.  This is, Tom and a newly returned Erin inform us, a special all-new America’s Choice dance-off…details later.  We should’ve seen that one coming too.

Carlos PenaVega & Witney Carson: Salsa; “Valio la Pena” Marc Antony.  Marc Antony’s his icon as well, although the salsa’s actually a dance he’s got an adversarial history with.  Antony invites him to a concert during the weekend and tells him it’s in his blood.  He must take that to heart, because for most of the dance he’s wonderfully smooth and sexy, and that’s before he takes his shirt off.  He doesn’t keep it up quite as perfectly through the lifts, though, and Carrie Ann even thinks he made a mistake on one.  Not that this stops Bruno from declaring “Magic Carlos is back!” or the judges breaking out the straight Nines for 27.

Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold: Contemporary; “Holding Out for a Hero” Ella Mae Bowen.  Unfortunately his idon is Chris Kyle.  He talks about struggling to live up to this image of a hero even as he gets honored at the World Series, and well, this choice does kind of say something very unpleasant about him.  But if you ignore who this dance is tribute to, it’s actually kind of gorgeous, and he’s improved very greatly in his expression, which the judges praise him for, though they also notice the relatively simply content, and one of the lifts gone slightly wrong, which lowers Julianne and Bruno’s marks to Eight, though a Nine from Carrie Ann gives them 25.

Andy Grammer & Allison Holker: Viennese Waltz; “Isn’t She Lovely” Stevie Wonder.  He too is dancing to the music of his idon, but he also makes this a dance a tribute to his late mother.  He gets all choked up while talking about her in the fluff, and that emotion carries over into tonight, to make him very touching.  Unfortunately his technique is another matter; the judges lament it heavily, and he only gets Sevens from Julianne and Bruno, though Carrie Ann gives him an Eight, for a score of 22.

Alexa PenaVega & Mark Ballas: Argentine Tango; “Viva la Vida” Coldplay.  It’s Mrs. PenaVega’s turn to be religious; her icon is David from the Bible!  She’s Argentine tangoing  with Mark as Goliath, which is so weird Bruno openly calls it Monty Pythonesque.  But Mark, thankfully eschewing another ridiculous costume in favor of a lighting/shadow effect, choreographs a bold, tone-perfect routine that tells the story, and Alexa throws herself into it and looks like she can pull it off without fear-and then she has a pair of slip-ups.  Julianne and Bruno express their disappointment with that and give Eights.  Carrie Ann cites her ability to recover when giving a Nine, so they get 25.

Nick Carter & Sharna Burgess: Contemporary; “Can’t Help Falling in Love” Haley Reinhart performing live.  He decides to just make pay tribute to his wife Lauren, pregnant for the second time after recently suffering a painful miscarriage.  It’s another emotional fluff, and the routine lives up to it; it’s a beautiful number, danced perfectly, Nick doing everything right both in dancing it and expressing it, and by the time he ends it with his hands on Sharna’s stomach before running over to kiss his wife, it’s been the best thing tonight.  Carrie Ann even calls it the “best dance ever!”  Bruno sums it up: “A love poem perfectly visualized by dance.”  Out come the straight Tens; ultimately it’s the only perfect score of the night and immunity.

Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough: Foxtrot; “Grace Kelly” Mika.  She calls Grace Kelly her icon, and Derek creates a routine that gives her background dancers and allows her to be nicely old-school elegant, which she does wonderfully, even when doing a Busby Berkeley pose. When doing the main part of the dancing she puts her energy to good use, quick and light on her feet, with equally delightful results.  Except that Julianne manages to quibble about her frame and Bruno about her shoulders, so they only get Nines from them, but a Ten from Carrie Ann leaves them with 28.

Tamar Braxton & Val Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble; “Born This Way” Lady Gaga.  Her idol is her sister Toni, but the fluff is mostly a contrast to last week; Val insists that whole “best dancer” thing was taken out of context, and she’s shown being insecure a lot.  But tonight she comes out with the same confidence she showed on the floor last week, and this time, she does all the moves right and with perfect timing as well.  Except Julianne still thinks she had arm issues, and Carrie Ann goes into lift police mode, so another routine that would’ve gotten straight Tens instead only gets one, this time from Bruno; Nines from the other two leave them with 28.

We finally get a full explanation for how the dance-off with work this season: kind of; we learn that we will be allowed to vote for who we want to win while the couples are dancing, and the way the vote is doing will be shown in the ballroom.  As in the past, the highest-scoring couple without immunity get first choice of opponent, then the highest team left after that, while the picked opponents get to choose the dance.  Except to start the picking, clever Derek asks who wants to do the jive, and when Carlos & Witney say they do, they get picked, and though there’s a moment of suspense, they do pick the jive.    Then Tamar & Val pick Alexa & Mark, who pick the Cha Cha, so Alek & Lindsay and Andy & Allison default into a samba battle.

Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough vs. Carlos PenaVega & Witney Carson: Jive; “Travelin’ Band” Creedance Clearwater Revival.  From the start, the viewer votes clearly favor Bindi & Derek, who show their jiving abilities to great effect, and in the end she even crosses the floor to do a final move with Carlos, who happily cooperates.  But meanwhile Carlos & Witney rise to the occasion in a style they like too, and then Julianne’s calling it the closest battle she’s ever seen, the other two agree-and then they all break out the paddles in favor of Carlos & Witney!  With the viewers outvoted, Carlos & Witney take the prize of two points and go up to 29.

Tamar Braxton & Val Chmerkovskiy vs. Alexa PenaVega & Mark Ballas: Cha Cha Cha; “Fun” Pitbull feat. Chris Brown.  Tamar & Val do a good, crisp, delicious cha cha cha, but Alexa & Mark steal the show with a very flashy one, featuring her losing her skirtand they too are heavily favored by the viewer vote from the start, and the judges speak about having to choose between the styles.  Julianne and Bruno in fact both choose Tamar & Val’s, but when Carrie Ann joins the viewers in voting for Alexa & Mark, it seems the viewer scores are the tiebreaker, because the latter are awarded the two points to go up to 27.

Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold vs. Andy Grammer & Allison Holker: Samba; “Lean On” Major Lazar & DJ Snake feat. MO.  Both these couples wisely just try to be fun in their dancing, and Andy goes all out there, doing the worm to the music!  This causes Carrie Ann to open her comments by declaring they both need to work on their sambas.  Julianne and Bruno are slightly kinder in their comments; Andy is praised for at least having the proper bounce, and both for doing such a difficult dance at short notice.  In fact, while, unlike in the other two battles, it genuinely looks unclear which way the viewer vote will go, ultimately they and all three judges give the nod to Andy & Allison, who go up to 24, which still leaves them at the bottom of the leaderboard.

With six couples up for elimination, for the first time this season they couples safe individually, starting with Bindi & Derek, which is unsurprising, but when the next three couples are called safe, the two in jeopardy are the two second-placers from last week that were left after Hayes & Emma were sent home: Carlos & Witney and Andy & Allison.  Of course the scores were all really close anyway, but still, which couple didn’t get votes?

Andy & Allison, it turns out: they’re gone.  He takes it well, saying he’s just happy he got to do the tribute to her mother first.  Then, on request, he goes onto the floor and does the worm again in farewell.  Actually, the leaving celebrity doing a goodbye dance move is something that could do with staying, though it probably won’t…

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