The eight couples endure a crazy Switch Up Dance Challenge; Corbin Bleu geeks out Game of Thrones-style

By Annie Barrett
Updated October 22, 2013 at 05:32 AM EDT

Dancing With the Stars

S17 E6
  • TV Show

I’m going out on a VERY tenuous limb (it’s just a feather with jeweled fringe hanging off) to say I kind of liked tonight’s totally absurd Switch Up Dance Challenge, in which the eight remaining couples had to improvise to a set of mystery songs, all under the threat of being “tapped out” at any time.

Sure, the results were predictable (has Derek ever not won a dance marathon?), but I dug the randomness of the groups, a heretofore unseen red sequined box prop (the red-velvet Mirrorbowl must have had the night off), and the way the music switches left Our Stars in dazed, uncompromising positions.

I don’t particularly want to see another S.U.D.C., I just got a chuckle out of it, is all. That’s pretty much all you can ask for, considering it’s the first “double dance” week for the contestants. They’ve made it to the halfway point of the competition! And to celebrate….

No one goes home this week, thanks to a technical difficulty at the end of last Monday’s Eastern and Central telecasts. Some of the voting numbers were incorrect, so no one had a clue who America really loves the most: the gal who wants to channel Anna Nicole Smith or the guy who thinks he’s Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones? The answer is likely neither. I’m pretty sure the ACTUAL answer would just be: Val. I bet if ABC put up this slide…

….at the end of next week’s voting reel and just labeled it “Val,” or “Scary Val,” or “Motivational Poster,” or even/especially “Val with Fangs” (they’d have to please add fangs), Val would win over any couple. They should try it next week. We got through the Switch Up Dance Challenge tonight; why stop now with the irregularities?

NEXT: Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber! Wait, first: What’s with the weird zoom-ins on the judges during the dances? Here’s Len Goodman, a phantom hand, and some scary cobwebs pointing at Jack Osbourne during his paso doble with Cheryl. Spooky!

I get that Jack and Cheryl were moving “menacingly” over to the judges’ table, and of course, it’s almost Halloween. But showing us just the dance would be fine. Len sort of looks like he belongs on some sort of Dancing With the Stars currency (giant sequin? piece of confetti? the medallion at the center of Brooke’s dress?) with this stern expression. Or at the very least, an “I want YOU! To quit messin’ about” recruitment poster for the Sparkalien army.

Back to business.

Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Val Chmerkovskiy: 30/30 + 2 = 32 total Val plus a partner must not be getting enough votes; how else to explain their inflated scores for the cha cha cha? It was good and all, but I wouldn’t necessarily remember it as FIRST PERFECT 30 OF THE SEASON-worthy.

I know I was supposed to focus on Elizabeth shedding her association to Showgirls (though even talking about it probably reminded a bunch of people to re-watch the collectible VIP Edition DVD they already own) and reprogramming herself as an empowered new mom, but I couldn’t help but notice the way Val’s open shirt and nude strip of material on his arm reminded me of something….

Costuming coincidence? I think not.

Amber Riley and Derek Hough: 28/30 + 4 = 32 total Len’s crazy scoring issues with Derek continue — he found tonight’s samba choreography repetitive (ironically, Derek had thrown in all those boring technical sequences just for Len) so he scored Amber an 8 — two points they predictably gained back during the Switch Up Dance Challenge. Seems like a lot of manufactured drama to me. This was not Amber’s best dance; the two 10s from Bruno and Carrie Ann seemed absurd. Is it weird that I disliked this dance in large part due to Amber’s unflattering fringed costume? Hey, if Len can complain about stuff Amber has no control over….

NEXT: I dare you to use either “Brant Daugherty” or “Christina Milian” in a sentence Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd: 28/30 + 3 = 31 total When I go back and think about this dance visually, the obscene laser light show stands out (and threatens again to induce a seizure). But the tango itself was rather by-the-book and fluff-free. I always like the tiny flourishes Peta’s slowwwww lean-backs offer a tango, and she and Brant executed a side-by-side “power chomp” while in hold that was nearly symmetrical, their teeth and face-flapping not so aggressive that I wanted to cringe. What I’m saying is I liked it!

Carrie Ann was on the right track, calling Brant “a perfect Ken doll, with a little stumble.” The same description but with “stubble” instead would actually make a great toy, for… weird, grown women like me, I guess. No. I should delete that. I don’t even really want it. I’ve been trying to de-clutter. (For about 11 years.)

Len REALLY liked this tango and gave Brant a 10. “I can’t help me-self!” he sputtered in defense. What a nut. Also crazy is Brant, for assuming Christina Milian had a “huge fan base” and that he’s “not nearly as famous as she is.” I would say those two are either exactly the same amount of famous (let’s call it “not famous”) or that he’s slightly better known than her right now because he’s still on Dancing With the Stars. Sad but true. Or it might depend on whether people currently watch Pretty Little Liars or used to watch The Voice. And even if they recognized Christina from The Voice, like… who was she? A contestant? Aguilera’s stand-in? The Brooke Burke-esque social media consultant? (Ding ding ding, that’s the “winner.”)

Snooki and Sasha Farber: 27/30 + 3 = 30 total Snooki’s happy to still be around, but there are some days she’d rather just stay in bed and order a cheeseburger, fries, and ice cream. Wow, that sounds like me. Maybe she should try recapping the show. You get the complete Dancing With the Stars experience, but none of the weight loss! It’s a real treat. Snooki and Sasha’s foxtrot seemed competent enough. I didn’t quite get Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, like Sasha wanted, but I did think Sasha was giving off some major Tristan vibes in that yellow cardigan and tan pants. So… Tristan MacManus and a brunette Anna Nicole Smith. Good enough for me.

“You really truly have improved the most out of anybody. You turned into, like, a ballerina on the dance floor. I’m very, very impressed.” I was sure Snooki was heading home after what sounded like a pleasant farewell speech from Carrie Ann. But then she pointed out a “little claw” on Snooki’s shoulder (?) and said “Next week, I want the claw not to be there.” Foreshadowing claw retracted! Come on, though. Next week is Halloween. I for one would like to see blatant claw.

NEXT: J. Lo and Casper the Friendly Goober stop by Leah’s rehearsal Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: 27/30 + 1 = 28 total “This is what I want people to see in this dance,” said Leah. “That I am friends with Jennifer Lopez.” Just kidding. What Leah really wants is for people to see that if you put the hard work into something and you HAVE CONFIDENCE, you can do it. So confidence is her breakthrough? Okay. She did seem super-confident with her decision to walk out of group rehearsal after being informed of the deadly S.U.D.C. And she’s definitely perfected that all-important sultry “I’m better than you” mid-dance sneer. So yes. Confidence. Definitely on the right track.

Nines all around were pretty generous for Leah and Tony’s quickstep, which frustrated the heck out of me as I kept trying to predict when Leah’s silly ankle-length robe onesie (you can imagine it, right? then it’s a thing) would come flying off. It never did, which I suppose was for the best considering her Hugh Hefner-esque loafers were also not cute. I really wanted to see what was going on underneath the loungewear. There were, like, multiple layers of variously sized red sequins rippling across her chest. The answers to all of life’s mysteries, like “Is Leah Remini already a professional dancer?” could have been revealed. But now we’ll never know.

Tony… may have a motorboating problem. There, I said it.

Hidden Gem of the Week:

At the end of Leah’s dance, Carrie Ann’s arm was extended behind her (cheering, I guess). I totally thought it was Leah’s bare leg sticking straight up in the air. –Amy in KC

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: 23/30 + 4 = 27 total I think the problem with dancing a Viennese waltz to the Game of Thrones theme was that…it’s a freaking Viennese waltz! I mean, it’s cute that Corbin has a hero — GOT is his “all-time favorite show, right now,” a phrase which will make your head hurt a LOT if you keep thinking about how much you want to slash it with a knife — but are any of you familiar with Khal Drogo (speaking of knives)? He’s like the human embodiment of a bull with smoke coming out of its ears. Unless they’d made the choice to tone down Drogo and focus on his latent romantic side — which they totally and easily could have done — Corbin’s “powerful” posturing would inevitably seem way too fierce for this style of dance. In an ideal world, this would have been a paso. I mean, I get that the 3/4 time signature (check out who used to take piano lessons) lends itself to a waltz, but come on. The real Khal Drogo would have watched three seconds of this waltz and sentenced it to death just by unflinchingly glaring at it.

“I’m just glad you didn’t go with the ‘Red Wedding’ tango!” As usual, Tom Bergeron is perfect.

NEXT: Crotch forward. Butt bounce. Just the basics. Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: 25/30 + 1 = 26 total Looking back, I’m realizing how dumb and unfair the Switch Up Dance Challenge was, but I do want to give Jack props because his commitment to a dramatic kneel/splits thing — in the face of a brutal tempo change — made me chortle for at least two seconds, plus a few rewinds. Well done, sir. I also admire Jack’s quest to perfect the character of the Latin dances… by channeling the greatest Latin Lover of all the Latin Lovers available in the studio at the time, Will You Be My Valentin Chmerkovskiy! Their “angry Robert De Niro”-esque facial expression tutorial was possibly the best moment of the episode. Cheryl had to physically yank him away!

Even the best creepy tilted camera angles and elaborate “icing rosettes” costuming couldn’t quite spice up Jack’s performance of the paso doble, but it’s very clear how hard he’s trying, and I’m loving the sense of humor he’s applying to the show like a sparkly salve. Bruno noted that Jack was so caught up in channeling the paso’s pride and dignity that he ended up chasing the music. Luckily Bruno was not so caught up in his own rhetoric that he missed catching up to the driving point of his critique: “CROTCH FORWARD,” he reminded Jack, while thrusting. Two tutorials in one night! What a lucky guy.

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: 23/30 + 1 = 24 total Dancing the tango to Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was “difficult…because the music doesn’t speak tango,” Emma carefully pointed out. THEN WHY EVEN DO IT? The producers are obviously appealing to Bill’s core fan base of Hawaiian shirt enthusiasts with this song, which is honestly pretty cute and, you know, why not. But at some point if you try and look at this dance objectively, you simply cannot get beyond how utterly stupid it was! Why not wait until it’s Bill’s mambo week for “Paradise”? Or oh God, the rumba — make it a real love story between man and meat. Some of the song/dance pairings were just disastrous this week.

Emma’s gleefully bouncing butt — is she kidding with that thing? it might be my new favorite butt of the series — made up for all of the tango’s utter stupidity. (You didn’t think I could stay mad at DWTS for more than three seconds, right?) Hmmm… there may be something to this “ordering salads at restaurants” thing after all.

Oh, and commenter fridgedancer is right: This dance could have been wildly improved by a cameo from cabana boy Val.

I shall leave you with Emma’s reaction to Bruno complaining that “the speed of the track” may have messed with Bill’s timing in the tango.

Your thoughts on Week 6? Who’s compelling you to vote (for real, this time)? Discuss!


Fringe Fairy

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