Dance trio time! The six couples take on the season 17 quarterfinals; Tony Dovolani does a scarily great Bruno impression

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 12, 2013 at 08:49 AM EST
Credit: ABC
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Oh hell to the no! I am NOT so excited about this: Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Val Chmerkovskiy waltzed away from the ballroom in tears following Week 9’s abrupt elimination. (Well, she cried. He glistened.)

Dancing With the Stars has always been a popularity contest. But now that there’s only one show per week, there’s so much more potential for a huge disconnect between how great the contestants perform in the here-and-now vs. how well voters liked them seven days ago. Elizabeth and Val scored a perfect 30 in tonight’s salsa trio thanks to a finely chiseled combo platter of their own prowess and Gleb’s abs — then got eliminated five minutes later. It just makes the show look crazy. (And it was already nuts to begin with!)

Still, lots to love tonight, namely an epic jive trio spoofing the Dancing With the Stars judges. Seriously: Tony-oli for the win, forever and ever, amen.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: 28/30 waltz + 30/30 jazz trio = 58/60 After their overblown Game of Thrones-inspired Viennese waltz earned them their lowest score of the season, Corbin and Karina needed to cater specifically to DANCMSTR Len Goodman’s refined palate for the slow waltz, his favorite ballroom standard. It worked, of course, because these are both professional dancers. Karina’s sparkly rope necklace was almost as enchanting as her frothy white gown, which moved so beautifully along the floor, as if the pair were gently rolling along with an ebbing wave at low tide. #Sparklebarf

Carrie Ann invented two mistakes out of thin air to falsely level the playing field. Len wanted more rise and fall. Tom smelled a Bruno 10, and Tom was RIGHT! It almost makes me gag to think of all the aromas Tom has sniffed out while standing next to over-exerted sweaters throughout the years. Gag with delight!

Corbin took the lead in their Bob Fosse-inspired jazz trio with Witney Carson, who continues to remind me of a pig in dirt whenever she dances. (Please don’t get me wrong; the girl is capital-g Gorgeous. I’m talking about her exuberance!) The threesome overcame some choreographic power struggles (I wasn’t buying any of that, either — tricky editing) to achieve what Carrie Ann called possibly the greatest dance she’s seen in all 17 seasons. Good God, lady! Simmer down. I think not.

NEXT: Shirtless Eastern Europeans make the best salsa Sorry. Corbin’s great and all, but it’s just very hard to get jazzed about a contestant who used his own Broadway experience as the basis of a routine… during what’s theoretically a ballroom competition for amateurs. This dance trio seemed like a Macy’s Stars of Dance showcase. Remember those? Must be a cold day in hell if I’m fondly name-checking the Macy’s Stars of Dance. What is happening??? Tuesday night results shows, come back to us!

Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Val Chmerkovskiy: 26/30 Viennese waltz + 30/30 salsa trio = 56/60 Val, who thankfully ditched the ill-advised Miley-esque foam finger come Viennese waltz time, enforced a strict “Shut up this week” policy during rehearsals. I’m not sure it translated directly into the dance, but it was hilarious to watch in the studio. “No communication from your end. Just reception.” Val seemingly channeled all his angst at Elizabeth’s yappiness at the end of their Viennese waltz, in which the pair played wedding cake figurines come to life — life of course being a dark, twisted, rose-strewn road on which newlyweds wonder whether they’ll still be cherished once their youth and beauty have run out. You know. Ballroom stuff. Anyway, check out Val’s duh-rama.

VAL IN A TUX. Also, their relationship in a nutshell.

The couple later invited Gleb to out-ab both of them — “Welcome to our home!” Elizabeth gushed in the rehearsal studio as Val likely muttered “You’re crazy you’re crazy you’re crazy.” Hey, at least Elizabeth was able to exit the competition on top, and by on top I do mean happily trapped inside an Eastern European salsa sandwich. I actually thought her moves during practice were sharper than some of the ones on show night. I was torn between obsessing over a) Elizabeth’s rainbow-bird fringed skirt and b) how much said fringe clashed with her sparkly mirrorball-esque bodice and 30 strands of pearls up on top. The things we do for 10s!

Now here’s some “arm-ography” I could actually master. Also, it’s crazy how much Val’s exaggerated gut resembles my I’m-not-kidding gut. I probably just need a spray tan.

NEXT: ‘I’ve never had this many women focused on my pelvis.’ -not Val Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: 29/30 Viennese waltz + 25/30 samba trio = 54/60 You know what? Jack’s my official pick to win this thing. Amber’s likable but in pain; Leah’s getting better but still isn’t great; Bill is not great period; Corbin’s a boring ringer. Jack’s the guy I can muster up enough excitement to root for at this point. Have I simply been brainwashed by the miniature “best partner ever” COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY Cheryl gifted Jack for his birthday, which made me believe he deserves the real thing? Who cares? I think he does deserve it! Jack’s Viennese waltz with Cheryl was fantastic — the highest-scoring dance of the first round. The judges marveled at all their reverse turns, and I loved their “shaking hug” at the end.

As for what Jack might have said to Cheryl right at the start of their dance, your guess is as good as mine, which is officially “Would you just f— off?” (In jest! That’s how they kid! She’s constantly urging him to switch on the bright smile.) But I have no idea.

Sharna Burgess — quite literally a force of nature from the wild jungle of Latin dance — joined up with Jack and Cheryl for a samba trio rife with with ferocious roars, vines, threats of violence, more vines, even more vines, and dual-action bongo-playing on Jack’s ass. “Really?” he wondered. “Yeah…” “It’s cute,” the girls assured him in rehearsal. LOL. Whatever you say, boss ladies. “I’ve never had so many women focused on my pelvis,” Jack joked. This was less a “dance trio” and more like a live-action rewritten scene of The Jungle Book in which a local tiger wins Sexiest Red Heels/Gloves/Hair and then chases people. But it worked for me. I liked the playfulness. Sharna makes a lovely threatening beast.

Hidden Gem: Anyone who pits out this much more than deserves a 10.

NEXT: We’re not gonna take all this booing! Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: 27/30 tango + 27/30 jive trio = 54/60 Tony refused to give Leah an easy tango routine because, he told her, he wants her to contend. “Not just make the final, but make the final,” he clarified, which I took to meant “not just on popularity, but on talent/growth.” It’s true that Leah’s improving — earlier in the season, I couldn’t have pictured her executing some of the quick tango leg flicks she pulled off tonight. And I really love how she just flings herself into any sort of dip, with full faith that her partner will catch her. At least she’s not embarrassed. I think she’s been hyper-aware of the skill discrepancy between her and, say, Corbin. With Elizabeth gone, Leah’s confidence might get a boost. Either she or Jack could run away with a “most improved” story arc by the time they make the final.

Leah and Tony’s jive trio with trouper Henry Byalikov (watch the video over at PopWatch) instantly ranked among my all-time favorite moments in the House of Flying Swaggers and Disco Ball Dreams, as they SPOOFED THE JUDGES from a duplicate bizarro judging table right across the stage from the real one! Leah made a fine Wacky Lady — Carrie Ann would wear black lace-up ankle boots and swing her hair around, so mission accomplished. A grey-wigged Henry expertly and hilariously pulled off dancing “all stiff and starchy,” raved the real Len. But the big star, of course, was Tony Dovolani as Bruno. He’s had, what, 17 billion years to prep for this, the role of a lifetime? Here, a smattering of “Tony-oli” highlights:


Gratuitous partial nudity. Check!

A creepier-than-it-needs-to-be cheek stroke. Check.

Incredulous “how could everyone not agree with me” score-giving. Check!

Full-on, flat-out flail. CHECK.


“Uncanny! Like looking into a mirror!” cried the real Bruno.

Amber Riley and Derek Hough: 24/30 quickstep + 27/30 trio salsa = 51/60 Derek has never rehearsed so little. Will he still be able to pull off a season win with a double-knee-injured partner? Probably! He seemed thrilled just to get through the quickstep, while the judges took Amber to task for not stepping up to the choreography. “If you don’t polish, you’re not going to shine,” an old nursery rhyme (Len) reminded her. Strangely, I could not get behind Amber’s long-fringed beige skirt (the stuff was so long it should have been a fringe fairy’s dream) because I could not shake the suspicion it was straw instead. But I did love the couple’s dramatic flourish into their “Here’s my freakin’ knee pad up close, deal with it” final pose.

NEXT: Like it or not, the Ballas-Hough nonsense language is the rhythm of my life The idea of Mark Ballas and Derek Hough playing backup dancers to anyone is so patently absurd, I can’t even handle it. Amber could, though. Her knees did not allow her to show suitable hip action in the salsa trio, but she sure did notch up the performance value to make up for it. The way she had to flip both Mark and Derek forward at the same time made me yelp in fear of an impending double-wrist sprain to add to Amber’s physical woes. But what could she do? If the kids demand to be flipped, you gotta just flip ’em.

Derek and Mark’s segue into a nonsensical dance-rhythm language only they can understand pleasantly boggled my mind the first time they showed it, mid-rehearsal. But then Tom cued up an extended remix of their insanity and I nearly lost my gently bedazzled marbles. I found that allowing Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night” to wash over my brain (and laptop) instead, thus drowning out the babble, was a quick and enriching fix. In fact, the ’90s dance hit has been blaring on both sides of my keyboard this whole time. Check out the video if you want a quick morning pick-me-up, plus a glimpse of what might have happened had Elizabeth Berkley popped an Ecstasy pill before her contemporary routine.

“This is the rhythm of my life…. oh yeah…” Yep, it’s all going to be fine.

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: 21/30 Charleston + 21/30 salsa trio = 42/60 “Yakety Yak.” “Don’t talk back.” It’s not just the transcription of Elizabeth and Val’s typical rehearsal footage — it’s Bill and Emma’s song for their laundry-line mess of a Charleston. (How were the rags on a ballroom-based laundry line not festooned with generous portions of sequins and fringe? A travesty!) Carrie Ann let Bill down easy, reassuring him she still loved to watch him dance even though he was behind the music the whole time. Len was a lot more explicit: “Bill, it’s gonna be the end of the line for you, I’m afraid. No swivel. It was wooden. It is what it is, Bill.” Agh! Why’d he have to say “Bill” twice? I freak out when people use my name just once!

Later on, Two Katy Perrys and Their Candy Pimp slithered around a wonderland of sadly inedible baubles. Yep, Peta Murgatroyd had joined Willy and Emma for a crazy ballroom re-imagining of Wonkavision. Much like last week’s disco routine, this “sweet candy threesome” (“Where was this when I was in college?” wondered Bill) was a marvel of excess, a hearty helping of good old-fashioned DWTS absurdity, stupid fun, whatever you want to call it. “Awful.” Sure. Did it have redemptive dance qualities? No. Did it play out like delicious fan fiction in which pink-haired ballroom-dancing fembots have slaughtered the creepy Oompa Loompas once and for all? Yes. And I thank this “salsa” for that.

Are you upset about Elizabeth? Will her intense ballroom studies “echo in eternity,” like Val promised?



Fringe Fairy

Bonus: Check out this photo gallery I did for Miss Universe 2013….

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