Top notch dancing takes center stage as the dance competition heads into its final weeks.
Dancing With the Stars started the evening off with a BIG surprise: The low-scoring but highly endearing team of Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd was announced as a semi-finalist, meaning another duo that scored higher (much higher) would be voted off.
Viewers already have a vote in who stays and who goes on this show, but for this week’s show they got even more involved by making creative choices (dances, outfits) for the six remaining couples. Here’s a look at the dances, how they did, and which routine made Len Goodman say he wished that he had an “11” paddle!
Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 37/40 (Fox-Trot)
There’s something enjoyable about watching a young dancer like Witney take on an old school dance like the fox-trot. She and Alfonso brought charm, elegance, and grace to the routine. They’ve been the most consistent pair in terms of great dances. People often say the winner of DWTS should be the one who’s had the best journey. Has that really been Alfonso? Maybe not, but he shouldn’t be penalized for being very good from the start. Carrie Ann Inaba’s criticism that the pair made the dance look “effortless” really bugged me. A lot of effort goes in to making things look effortless.
(Another thing that bugs me is host Erin Andrews regularly interjecting her own experiences from her time as a contestant on the show—Erin, we know you went to the finals in season 10 with Maks Chmerkovskiy? “I wish I could have danced like that,” she told Alfonso and Witney up in the skybox. I get that she’s trying to relate and connect with the people she’s interviewing, but there’s not enough time for that on live TV.
Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: 29/40 (Viennese Waltz)
The Viennese Waltz is one of the most graceful dances, and over the years many older celebs have done it really well. Peta’s smiled the whole way through because she probably thought, “We’re going to the semi-finals! Woo-hoo!” The dance was okay. It’s clear that Tommy can’t keep up like the other celebs, but it’s also clear that it no longer matters. Kudos to Julianne Hough for giving Tommy points for the moments he got right. I would have predicted Betsey Johnson would have been the sentimental favorite of this season, but instead it’s Tommy—who’s the luckiest guy on the face of the earth because he gets to dance with Peta each week.
NEXT: Artem goes all “Biff Tannen” on Lea
Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev: 34/40 (Samba)
Artem’s getting really tough on Lea during their pre-dance video package, like uncomfortably so. She looks like she’d rather be trapped in that car after the prom with Biff Tannen than continue rehearsing with Mr. Pecs-tacular. Still, they put it aside come showtime and the couple performed a sexy Samba with Lea in a sexy cat outfit. Host Tom Bergeron spoke for many when he called out, “Mee-ow!” after the couple’s routine. Julianne noted that Lea’s animal print outfit looked familiar, which proves that Erin’s not the only one who can point out that she once competed on this show. Kudos to Lea for announcing her age: 53. I could tell there was a big age difference between her and Artem (he’s 32), but I never saw her being unable to keep pace with him. The couple kissed and make up in the skybox after being interviewed by Erin, whom you may remember from when she competed on the show in season 10.
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 36/40 (Viennese Waltz)
America must like this dance; it’s the second one they’ve voted for tonight. Bethany and Derek turned to Twitter folks for feedback, but since she’s a YouTube.com star this must be like saying hi to coworkers. Seriously, I know she has like a bazillion Twitter followers (actually, 2.1 million), but I’d never heard of her before this season. I’ve said it before, but I think if she wins it’ll be because of Derek’s fans—not hers. Cody Simpson has more than 6 million followers, and last season he was cut early. The girl can dance, though, that’s for sure. Although, Len Goodman did point out that there was a mistake with the “fleckerl“—and thank you Tom Bergeron for asking that to be explained.
Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 33/40 (Jive)
Mark’s known for going overboard with the extra dancers and props and sets in his routines, but tonight he kept it simple—just a solid jive. He added one cute bit: his and Sadie’s four digit number to represent a number dancers wear on their backs in other dance competitions. The dance was terrific; Sadie seems to be able to handle whatever intense choreography Mark throws at her; the judges comments were flattering, but they didn’t match the relatively low sores.
Janel Parrish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 38/40 (Quickstep)
Janel was stressing in the pre-dance video segment, but Val wasn’t not being too tough on her. He’s a rock, and the two went out and did a terrific quickstep. Apparently, Val’s shoes got stuck together at some point, but the judges didn’t hold it against him—or her. Good on Julianne for saying she didn’t care about the shoes; she said of their routine, “That’s what a quickstep is!” Speaking of getting stuck together, Val planted his lips on Janel at the end of their routine and that sure looked real to me. Are they officially this season’s romance?
NEXT: The trio dances return—or Tommy Chong goes to heaven.
Alfonso Ribeiro/Witney Carson/Lindsay Arnold: 40/40 (Paso Doble)
Witney and Lindsay’s similar appearance helped Alfonso shine in the first trio dance. There have been some great paso dobles on DWTS over the years, and this one was right up there with the best of them. I thought Tommy was going to be the happiest guy of the night, but Alfonso looked pretty pleased, too—especially after the judges gave the threesome a perfect score.
Tommy Chong/Peta Murgatroyd/Sharna Burgess: 28/40 (Samba)
It’s easy to get lost when Peta and Sharna are dancing together (just ask Bachelor star Sean Lowe, who did a trio with these two in season 16), but Tommy was having too much fun to go unnoticed. Peta gives him choreography that’s detailed, but not so much that he’s overtaxed. Once the airplane-themed routine was completed, all that was left were the smiles and the quips about joining the “mile high club.” Can’t believe he didn’t get bleeped when a smiling Tommy flatly told Erin that dancing with Peta and Sharna was “very, very hard.”
Lea Thompson/Artem Chigvintsev/Henry Byalikov: 36/40 (Paso Doble)
As Carrie Ann pointed out, it was great strategy for Artem and Henry to look the same (translation: Henry has rock solid pecs just like Artem does) because that put the focus of the dance on Lea. She looked powerful and in control as she killed it in the paso doble with the two studs. This was one of the best trio dances I’ve ever seen. (It was great seeing Henry back; this guy really got the short end of the stick last season when he and Diana Nyad were ejected halfway into a show.)
Bethany Mota/Derek Hough/Tony Dovolani: 38/40 (Argentine Tango)
I’m with Carrie Ann on this one—I wanted to see more of a connection between Bethany and the two guys in this dance. But Len said the changes with her going back and forth to Derek and Tony were seamless. I would have guessed Len would have thought this routine wasn’t traditional enough, but he gave it a 10 as did Julianne.
NEXT: The short end of the wishbone
Sadie Robertson/Mark Ballas/Emma Slater 40/40 (Fox-Trot)
Mark’s choice to go with Emma instead of a male one proved to be the right one. Emma effortlessly adjusted her style so as not to outshine Sadie, who needlessly chastised herself for forgetting part of the routine at the end. Tom was right when he told her the judges might not have noticed. Len’s highest praise isn’t the 10 paddle, but him giving a 10 and saying he wished he’d had an “11” paddle. After Tom introduced the last couple to dance a trio, the camera cut to a sobbing Sadie in Mark’s arms. Not everybody agrees with Sadie’s family’s views, but she’s a sweetheart.
Janel Parrish/Valentin Chmerkovskiy/Keo Motsepe: 39/40 (Salsa)
I feared the judges were going to penalize this team because there wasn’t a lot of traditional salsa in its routine. But they were too busy gushing over the overall content. Carrie Ann called Janel a “superstar” and Bruno Tonioli raved and rhymed that she was the “Season 19 Jungle Queen!” Len said it was a fantastic number despite there being one or two moments he found uncomfortable. (I’m guessing one of those moments was when Val was holding Janel upside down and spinning her round; it was so erotic that it probably couldn’t have aired in the first hour of the show!)
A sad goodbye
Once Tommy and Peta were called safe, I feared the most for Lea and Artem. The couple was in fifth place in terms of overall points (375 to first placed team of Alfonso and Witney’s 396). Also, this is Artem’s first year as a pro. He doesn’t have the same U.S. following that established pros like Derek, Mark, and Val do. (I suspect though, in time, he will.) Lea had a knowing look in those final seconds before Tom called out her and Artem’s names. Still, she got to fulfill a dream, get re-acquainted with dancing, plug her ABC Family series Switched At Birth, and has likely made a friend for life in Artem. The pair will be back for one last dance in the final just before Thanksgiving.