Dancing with the Stars recap: Do the Freestyle!
Season 17 finals: Jack, Amber, Bill, and Corbin dance for your votes; one couple's eliminated before Tuesday's jewel-studded finale
I’ve got it straight from the gem-quarry source that there will be over 160 costume changes throughout this two-night finale spectacular. And that low-ballin’ figure didn’t even factor in Bill Engvall whipping his pesky shirt off. It couldn’t have! Season 17’s finale week is guns-blazingly out of control, liiiiiiiiiiive!
The funny man’s mastery of one of the most important ballroom standards — partial nudity — came just in time for his not-so-sad elimination at the end of Monday’s performance finale. Everyone knew it was Bill Engvall and his new best friend/second daughter Emma Slater‘s time to go. That leaves Amber Riley and Derek Hough, Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff, and Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke to dance for the COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY Tuesday night.
The final four danced three times — a Judges’ Choice, a samba relay, and the freestyle. Usually the freestyles are hit or miss, but all four couples stepped it up tonight. The samba relay, hilariously set to TLC’s “No Scrubs” (hey, they were in town and still dressed for the American Music Awards), was pretty predictable: Corbin won it and earned 5 extra points, then Amber (4), then Jack (3), then Bill (2). Highlights included Corbin executing a backbend without his arms touching the floor (?!), Jack wearing studded suspenders during rehearsal and knowing TLC lyrics well enough to explain to Brooke exactly what a scrub was, and a Bill Engvall-Derek Hough “transition” interaction that was truly a treasure.
Speaking of treasures: Brooke’s ocean-hued textured gown. Good God, Burke-Charvet! She looked amazing in that thing. She really doesn’t need to say anything to make a statement sometimes. And usually she doesn’t!
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Amber Riley and Derek Hough: 30/30 Charleston + 4 samba relay + 30/30 freestyle = 64 total Amber and Derek’s first-round Charleston got a boost of insight from Carrie Ann, a vision in asymmetrical hair and leather. “The smallest thing could show a difference between you guys and the Jacks and the Bills,” she said. “We need to see growth from you.” (It’s interesting that she doesn’t even mention Corbin, who is both in a class of his own dance-wise and also hasn’t really shown growth because maybe there’s no room to grow?) Carrie Ann helped Amber make tiny changes that really mattered.
This whole judges’ choice round was a bit of a snoozefest, right? “Of the four couples we’ve seen, this is the most improved by far,” raved Len, because why not? After all, Amber and Derek were the last to dance, seemingly for like the billionth time.
“There is a power surge across the country!” yelled Bruno. Does Bruno not want us to see the freestyles?!
NEXT: A Derek Hough Light Bulb Moment in action “I was stressing about choreography for a special moment in the freestyle,” said Derek, surprisingly not referring to the “special moment” of footage we got of him wandering around looking deeply puzzled in the rehearsal studio. It was cool to see the point during their Week 3 studies when Derek realized Amber had step-dancing experience and he could use that down the line. His magical idea-generating fingers crept from her brain to his and a finger explosion occurred. A light had gone off! Their theme would be “country western, but we won’t be doing any line dancing,” and they’d hire a bunch of hip-hop backup dancers, plus Mark Ballas. Grab your shotgun!
Sure, why not? It reminded me more of a Glee routine (perhaps in a very special episode about the fine line between fierceness and gun control?) than a DWTS number, but that’s sort of what the freestyle is all about. Overall I thought she was great in it — even with the attention twins and all that
country western hip-hop jazz going on in the background, my eyes never left Amber. She truly commanded that performance, not to mention she made a pretty darn good case for a different type of fringed pant than we’re used to. Hers had little tassels on just the sides of her legs instead of the full-on Muppet Bum hair monster fringed pants we’re used to. Very tasteful. She looked great.
I particularly loved this “special moment.”
Overall, very cool choreography by Derek, and Amber especially came alive once the stepping sequence began. The dim lighting bothered me a little bit, but I think it ultimately made sense. We may not have been able to see Amber perfectly, but if the lights had been brighter, those other dancers might have overwhelmed the shot.
“You’re class, fast, and built to last!” cried Len. “Like a diva-dancing James Brown, kicking ass!” raved Carrie Ann. A million dollars says she originally thought to say “Bob Fosse.”
NEXT: Annie, are you okay? Won’t you tell us. What Corbin Bleu danced, Annie? Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: 27/30 quickstep + 5 samba relay + 30/30 freestyle = 62 total “This guy is too good of a dancer to get 8s and 9s,” said Len on his way to help Corbin remedy that tragically low-scored quickstep of his. I wonder which of Len’s offhand comments would have stung Bill Engvall more — that 8s and 9s one, or Len’s mild exasperation towards Corbin as he explained, “You know, it’s just a step!” Oh, Len. If only it were that easy.
For Corbin it usually is easy — but tonight’s quickstep redo didn’t earn him the perfect 30 we probably all anticipated. Any improvement in his balance between stillness and attack (Len suggested he pretend he was “fallllllllllling… off a mountain!”) was overshadowed by some out of sync footwork (according to Bruno), an uncharacteristically straight left arm (“Booooooooo,” went the crowd — “just standard straight-arm booing, that’s all,” Tom reassured Len), and a few “yanking moments” (according to Carrie Ann). Eh, he still got three 9s.
“Why didn’t they show Len’s DANCMSTR license plate on his limo?” wondered EW.com reader Colleen.
Oh, I don’t know, maybe because…….
IT’S A HIDDEN GEM IN MY APARTMENT NOW. The Dancing With the Stars showrunner, a.k.a. “Lord Mirrorballus” or “Conrad Green,” surprised me with it when we chatted last week!
Freestyle time. I think if I’d just seen Corbin and Karina’s dance without all the dramatic buildup, I’d have liked it more. I couldn’t believe Sasha, Gleb, Henry, and Tony had all swept in, only to… swing Karina around and around so Corbin could dive over her from a trampoline. I mean, a very strong feather could have swung Karina around and around all on its own. One feather! These were four men. As long as they were involved, I wanted to see more from them. Maybe they were the “helicopter” that had lowered Corbin and Karina to the floor! Or something.
Karina didn’t flip out about and/or over-think this choreography like she did last year with Jacoby, so the routine was a win for her, I thought. She managed to get some ballroom teases in there along with all the flashy Michael Jackson moves. As for Corbin — well, we already knew that he desperately wants to dance like Michael Jackson. (He said as much to Tom, post-dance, before Karina finally cut into his self-gushing with a quick “And thanks to all of you!“) A more out-of-his-element setting could have elevated Corbin’s game here. We didn’t see anything new from him, just the same high-level technical merit and confidence. It looked very cool. I just wasn’t swept away.
I noticed that both Corbin and Jack seemed to do so much more actual dancing than Amber in their freestyles, whereas Amber’s was more about her personality, ability to gyrate, and “Pow!” faces. Don’t get me wrong — those are her strengths. She’s awesome at those. But if we’re going for that sweet “ballroom journey, plus fun” combo platter here, then Jack’s was the best, and Corbin’s was fine.
Gooey mats? Or did these two finally generate some chemistry?
NEXT: Jack Attack Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: 24/30 jive + 3 samba relay + 30/30 freestyle = 57 total Jack’s obsession with the COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY continues to amuse me to no end — this week he “put it in the crosshairs” and declared, to a stationary poster on the rehearsal studio’s wall, “I’m coming for you.” He really gets it. That trophy is the most valuable, useless, hardened knob of glitter in this universe. Or that one. Whichever glittery pane of consciousness you’re on, unfocus your eyes a bit — really Magic Eye that sh*t — and you’ll see a sparkling mirrorball somewhere in the distance. Head towards it, for it is the beacon of hope, and sequins, in a drab and colorless world.
Oh, hey! I’ve snapped out of it. I guess I was stalling with that nonsense above because I can’t bear the truth: Jack choked in his judges’ choice round, the jive. Nerves got the best of him early on and he couldn’t recover in time. WHY the hell they would give the guy suffering from MS the most strenuous dance on the last week of the competition is beyond me. We’ve all heard the judges complain about Jack’s lack of hip action, too, so a slower Latin dance would have made sense here, too. But you know what? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Or as Jack would say later: “Pain is temporary. Glory is forever.”
“This week has been a totally different ball game,” said Jack. Yes! Again with the mirrorball name-dropping, Jack! He continued: “Man, they’re making us work for that mirrorball.” Wow. I wonder if that mini mirrorball, the “best partner ever” trophy Cheryl gave Jack for his birthday, has been beaming subliminal messages into Jack’s brain from under his pillow — because you know that’s where he keeps it.
Jack and Cheryl used Our Pros as living props in their freestyle, too, so it’s official: Over-population will surely pay off in the end. This time, Gleb (!), Sasha, Henry, Tristan (!!!), Sharna (!!), and Peta performed a dizzying sequence of “cane choreography” that remained up on the platform and never overwhelmed the featured players. I thought their participation was perfect and, as Len and Carrie Ann agreed, Jack and Cheryl’s freestyle was a total showstopper. Cheryl wanted to basically summarize Jack’s whole season in one dance — a lovely theory which Jack claimed, in practice, was “almost like doing brain surgery while looking the other way.” But what’s that yonder, in the distance of the far-fetched “other way”? Is it….a mirrorball?
I wasn’t familiar with “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails,” but thanks to YouTube, now I am. Check out this amazing Fred Astaire tap routine from 1935’s Top Hat.
But back to “reality”….
I couldn’t get enough of both Cheryl’s and Jack’s facial expressions as Corbin and Karina sacked them with a paso/samba fusion for Tuesday night:
Corbin couldn’t help it; he just really wanted to see Jack’s paso again because he loved it so much.
NEXT: Bill’s last huzzah! Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: 24/30 Viennese waltz + 2 samba relay + 25 freestyle = 51 total Aw, shucks. I was in tears way before Bill and Emma’s elimination — that first rehearsal package of theirs was such a mutual platonic love fest! Okay, so maybe their Viennese waltz didn’t improve on the three 8s they’d earned previously. It was still lovely and reiterated why people like Bill on this show. It’s not just because of his appealing, all-inclusive personality. In these quieter dances that don’t beg for crazy songs and themes a la the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” tango, when Bill has to settle down and just play the part of a docile ballroom student, he really gets into it and digs deep and tries. And even those crazy dances weren’t jokes to him.
I just enjoyed his approach to this wild “lifetime experience,” in general. Cheers to Bill!
Oh. My. God.
CGI MIRRORBALL ON THE LOOSE!!!
Bill and Emma’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Mirrorball freestyle was everything I wanted it to be, visually, and yes that does include Bill removing his shirt at the end — if only for Tom’s quip, “On behalf of all of us who have a one-pack, thank you.” But I also very much appreciated Emma’s smart choreography, which made great use of a long leather whip [BRUNO STIFLES STRONGLY SEXUAL COMMENT] instead of forcing Bill and his torn-up groin to whirl his partner around in an endless series of lifts. The lifts they did do at the end were sharp and not physically devastating, and “sharp and not physically devastating” is pretty much all you can ask for out of a guy who didn’t expect to make it beyond week 2 but is trying his guts out.
Well, or at least completing the routines, anyway. “If you think I didn’t care about this dance, wait until you see the thing tomorrow!” Bill announced giddily after his elimination. Ha! I can’t wait. Luckily it happens in just a few hours. And then maybe, the morning after that, I will take a nap.
Don’t miss my chat with Our Host Tom Bergeron about season 17!
There’s much more where that came from…
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