“Dancing With the Stars” sure likes to keep us on our twinkle toes. In this sixth week of competition, the producers decided to throw a couple of bedazzled wrenches into the usually well-oiled ballroom glitterverse.
First, they added an improvised Chubby Checker twist to the usual dance marathon, forcing two groups of couples to compete side-by-side to songs they hadn’t heard before. Then they announced that Week 6 was the season’s halfway point, not Week 5.
Finally, because of a phone voting error, the producers decided that no couples would be eliminated this week! It was almost like an Oprah Winfrey show of ruby riches: You’re safe! And you’re safe! And you’re safe! What’s next? Dances in water? With lightsabers, like in the stellar swing and jive opening number choreographed by Lacey and Benji Schwimmer? Or set to reconfigured Broadway musical songs, like Mika and Ariana Grande’s take on “Popular” from “Wicked”? Does this mean two couples will be eliminated next week?
Enough of this mucking about. Let’s do as the host with the most Tom Bergeron said, and “get some of these obsessive compulsive scores.”
At the top of the leader board and life itself were Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Valentin Chmerkovskiy. Not only did they score the season’s first perfect 30 score, but Elizabeth used her sexy wiles and newfound dance confidence to cast the stink and specter of “Showgirls” away. And with the sexy cha-cha, Elizabeth felt “like some sort of sentence was lifted” after the creative stumble that came with playing Nomi Malone. And she owned the strong, sensual figure in her “Showgirls”-themed cha-cha, set to Joss Stone’s infectious “Put Your Hands on Me.” Jennifer Beals loved it. The judges thought it was perfectly played. “Give me ice right now – it was so clean, so sharp, well placed,” Bruno crowed. “It was brilliant.” “Tonight you were like a white panther – you have so much confidence,” Carrie Ann said. “The more I see, the more I liked,” Len concurred. Elizabeth and Val were the second couple eliminated in their stacked group’s switch-up challenge, earning them two extra points. Total: 32 out of 35.
Len’s seriously got a snake in his English riding boot, and it seems he’s really taking Amber Riley and Derek Hough to task for it. After the head judge punished them with a season-low 7 last week, Derek resolved to make his and Amber’s samba technically correct. Samba rolls. Samba walks. Voltas. Everything was textbook, and was done at a breakneck pace with flair. Amber nearly shook her gold fringe skirt right off. Bruno gasped that Amber’s magic was “unleashed to devastating effect … you did everything!” Carrie Ann said the word that came to mind was “fierce.” “You nailed every move,” she said gleefully. “It’s like a turn-on!” But self-proclaimed “party pooper” and professional poo-pooher Len found the whole thing “a tad repetitive” and then slapped them with a criminally low 8 paddle. One can only think Len is playing the bad cop card to mobilize her fan base and get Amber to the finals. She and Derek were clearly on top of the choreography and transitions in the switch-up challenge and handily won their group’s round. Amber and Derek received a 28 for their samba, and four extra points for acing the challenge. Total: 32.
Peta Murgatroyd was really intent on making sure everything she and Brant Daugherty could control about their tango was perfect. And wow, did the “Pretty Little Liars” actor (who got a visit and a Twitter shout-out from “PLL” co-star Janel Parrish this week) cut a fine figure during his tango. Len likened the dance to “a glass of dry white wine: sharp, crisp, tasty, no gimmicks, none of this messing about.” Bruno loved Brant’s aggression, but pointed out “a couple of stumbles … otherwise, performance-wise, it was your best.” Carrie Ann said Brant’s technique was “incredible” but “the energy took you a little off the music,” she said. “It was like a beautiful dancing Ken doll … with a little stumble.” Brant still got a 10 from Len (“I can’t help me self,” the British head judge said), and a 28 total for their tango. They also got an impressive second-place finish in the switch-up challenge (way to shimmy those shoulders, Brant!), bumping three more points to their bottom line. Total: 31.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber were having a hard time seeing eye to eye this week. Sasha wanted Nicole to get into character for their fox trot by thinking classy goddess, like Ginger Rogers (or Nicole Kidman in “Stepford Wives”?), but Nicole could only speak in Beverly Hills Housewife or Marilyn Monroe. But whatever Sasha was trying to convey came through, as their Monday in the Park with Yellow Buttercups routine was a light, sweet, crowd-pleasing romp. “My little buttercup,” Len said. “What’s not to like?” “My sweet baby, you’ve graduated from charm school,” Bruno said. “You’ve never been so sweet and never been so elegant.” Nicole “really truly improved the most,” Carrie Ann affirmed. “Everything is so graceful” – though the judge cautioned her to “watch the claw on the shoulder.” Nicole and Sasha scored three 9s for the dance, which brought the Snooki back out as she pumped her fake flower up and down with unpolished glee. They also earned an extra three points and second place in the switch-up challenge. Total: 30.
Leah Remini has had a tough go of it, suffering at the judges’ less-than-exuberant comments after last week’s high-concept, not-so-highly executed contemporary routine. “Don’t you dare cry,” Tony Dovolani fiercely cautioned his partner after they received their scores. “I was hoping I’d be better than I actually am,” Leah said sadly. And it took a visit from pal Jennifer Lopez (and boyfriend Casper Smart) to get Leah back to her old self and to remind her that dancing was supposed to be fun. And the fun showed in their dapper quickstep. “That might be the biggest turnaround I’ve ever seen,” Carrie Ann said. Len cautioned future couples to keep their quicksteps in hold, but called Leah’s journey from last week to this week like “Chutes and Ladders. Last week you shot down, this week, way up!” he said. “Your best dance!” Bruno called Leah “Ms. Goody Two Shoes. … Turning into a little Ginger Rogers out here.” Leah and Tony received three 9s for their routine, but were the first couple eliminated in their challenge round, adding just one point to their night’s tally. Total: 28.
Loved Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke’s rapport this week. They’ve been tasked with the paso doble, and Jack has never been very good with Latin dances. So the younger Osbourne sat across from his partner, determination on his face. “This is it,” he said. “This is where I’m taking Latin back.” “Pound it,” Cheryl responded, fist out. Jack tried his darndest to channel “angry Robert De Niro” in his performance — even enlisting the help of snarl captain Val via a “Talking Val Poster” for pointers. Though not even the pyrotechnics on stage could help Jack’s lukewarm performance. “You had the intensity but it felt one-dimensional to me,” Carrie Ann said. Bruno also thought “you were chasing the music … you have to watch your Spanish line: Crotch forward.” Len, however, thought it was “top-notch … full of intent and purpose,” and awarded it a 9, for a paso total of 25. Jack tried to break out the splits for his switch-up challenge, but it only got him and Cheryl two extra points. Total: 27.
Corbin Bleu got as excited as Joffrey at a beheading when he found out his Viennese waltz was going to be set to the “Game of Thrones” theme. Corbin is a major “Game of Thrones” fan, and getting this theme was the equivalent of being gifted three dragon eggs. He loved that as he was learning about the Viennese waltz, that his Khaleesi, Karina Smirnoff, was getting schooled on Westeros and Essos. But not even the Khal Drogo guyliner and armor of abs could protect him from the tongue-lashing he got from the judges after his routine. Bruno usually liked Corbin’s lines but “you were playing it like Conan the Barbarian,” the judge said. “Somehow it lost the flow … I was expecting that immaculate finish.” Len loved the lyrical movement, but because he called Amber and Derek out for not having enough content in hold, he felt he had to do the same thing here. “I didn’t really feel it was a Viennese waltz,” he said. Carrie Ann thought the passion worked, even though “there were a few lifts in there.” (“I’m glad you didn’t go with the Red Wedding tango,” Tom said in the best line of the night.) Winter came early for Corbin and Karina, who ended up a lowly 23 for their waltz. Tom offered the wannabe Dothraki the prop throne as consolation: “We’ve got no use for it.” A better consolation in the glitterverse was winning the first group’s switch-up challenge, in which Corbin and Karina were able to add four points to their tally. Total: 27.
“Get ready for a redneck tango,” Bill Engvall announced, after being faced with the tall order of having to tango to Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Or, as English partner Emma Slater called it, “Beefburger in Paradise” by Jimmy “Buffay.” Comedian Bill does not do salads, so it was great that he was able to fit all that tango content in. And Bill’s Burger Hut was a tasty treat, with Bill in an tomato-like vacation shirt and Emma his tropical condiment. “A beefburger ‘buffay’!” Tom exclaimed. Len called it a “cheeseburger tango with plenty of mustard and pickle.” Bruno thought there was “plenty of beef on top, but it went a bit cheesy on the bottom.” Carrie Ann enjoyed the “strangely odd combination of humor and passion” but “You were taking too big steps.” Bill and Emma received a 23 for their tango, and was also the first couple booted from their switch-up challenge round. This, despite Bill’s concerted effort to keep things moving and expose his beefburger chest for all to see. Total: 24.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Glad all the couples got to live another week? What’d you think of the switch-up challenge? Which is the better consolation prize: The “Game of Thrones” prop throne, or the Talking Val Poster?
ALSO:Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun