In which we all learn what Mark Ballas Face is, and the first couple gets eliminated

By Maggie Fremont
September 25, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT
Eric McCandless/ABC
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No one ever said ballroom dancing was easy, but the producers of Dancing With the Stars sure aren’t helping any either. On just the second week of competition, our baby-deer celebtestants are being forced to learn two separate routines. Why, Tom Bergeron, why? Some of these celebrities must be shaking in their dance shoes — and not in the good way.

On this first of two nights of competition (and two eliminations!), our thirteen couples will all be dancing routines in ballroom styles. It’s time to class up this joint!

Debbie Gibson and Alan Bersten
Quickstep, “This Is My Time” by Amy Stroup
Two weeks in and Debbie Gibson already has DWTS figured out: It’s a moving train and she needs to either hop on or risk falling off. It takes some people the entire season to figure that out! Debbie decides to hop on. She’s not using her physical issues as a crutch; she is doing the damn thing. It pays off! Carrie Ann notices an improvement from last week, and Len is pleased to see Debbie exuding such confidence already. Bruno’s critique is something we already know: Debbie and Alan’s chemistry is palpable. Why did it take so long to make Alan a pro partner? He is the cutest. Debbie is cool, too. BUT ALAN.
Judges’ Score: 20/30

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev
Waltz, “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones
Can Nana Bella adopt me? We all could use a real lady like Nana to teach us her lady ways. We knew Nikki would have power, coming from the wrestling world, but this week, she has to dig deep for a more elegant performance. The judges think she pulls it off: Bruno finds it to be very prim and proper, and Carrie Ann gives the girl a shout out for already trusting her partner. That’s a make-or-break lesson on DWTS. And both Len and Tom are proud that Nikki was able to keep her head up throughout. Len gives Tom some grief about stepping on his critique, but Tom’s been doing this for 25 seasons; the guy knows a thing or two!
Judges’ Score: 21/30

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas
Quickstep, “Swing Step” by Jurassic 5
Lindsey and Mark perform a quickstep that, based on costumes alone, tells the story of two Hogwarts students who walk into a tent at Coachella and come out as two beautiful butterflies. Heartwarming, no? Okay, so it’s really about caterpillars and butterflies, but, like, we’ve seen Mark in full rabbit costume, so unless he is dressed up as a literal caterpillar, I’m not buying it. I would, however, like to buy Mark’s butterfly bow tie. Costumes and sets aside, the dance is charming. However, they do deliberately break hold, which in the quickstep is a big no-no. As if ballroom rules apply to Mark Ballas!
Judges’ Score: 21/30

Barbara Corcoran and Keo Motsepe
Tango, “Whatever Lola Wants” by Sarah Vaughan
Barbara shows a much softer side than we’ve previously been privy to. She cries! Barbara doesn’t like being at the bottom of the leaderboard, it reminds her of the tough time she had in school. She doesn’t want to be laughed out of the ballroom. The good news is that she is much more relaxed and fluid in her elegant tango. The bad news is: She’s still not great. The other good news is that Keo wears a green velvet tuxedo that he probably should wear all the time, regardless of whether or not he’s performing. The other bad news is: Green velvet tuxedos don’t win you judges’ points. Although, is that a hard and fast rule or can we negotiate something?
Judges’ Score: 17/30

Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd
Foxtrot, “Mandy” by Barry Manilow
Can anyone hear Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” and not think of The Simpsons version in which Homer sings about Margie bringing him a turkey? Just me? Okay. Well, that’s what I was thinking about during this very sweet, if forgettable, foxtrot from Sir Lachey and Peta. Carrie Ann and Bruno saw improvement from last week, but the guy still reads pretty stiff. Per Carrie Ann, Nick needs to work on rounding out his shapes. Smooth it out, buddy. Their scores only tick up a tiny bit from their cha-cha, but there is one great takeaway: Vanessa Lachey has fallen under the spell of Peta Murgatroyd, just like the rest of us peasants. Peta is an angel person, wardrobe malfunction or not.
Judges’ Score: 19/30

Drew Scott and Emma Slater
Quickstep, “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima
Poor Drew is working with a busted hamstring and a bruised ego this week. He took some harsh criticisms for his foxtrot, but neither he nor Emma is going to give up on winning the heart of a certain prickly head judge. Len, once again, isn’t pleased with watching Drew’s long limbs flying about, but man if this quickstep isn’t charming. Bruno rightly calls out the bit of Charleston Emma threw in at the end as a highlight. Look at those kicks! The dance is entertaining and he has good musicality. If nothing else, Drew understands that Mark Ballas Face is a real thing and that it wins Mirrorballs. Bless Tom for forcing Mark to give a demonstration. This show is the best.
Judges’ Score: 20/30

Vanessa Lachey and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Foxtrot, “Hit Me With a Hot Note” by Tami Tappan Damiano
Fun fact: Vanessa’s father was a strict military man, so she has been prepared to deal with someone like Maks for a long time. He’s tough on her in rehearsals, but only because he knows he’s got a great partner who can handle it. There is some blood spilled over this flirty foxtrot (of the toe variety), but it doesn’t show when it comes time to perform. Vanessa stops crying over her husband long enough to give her all to this fun number. Carrie Ann loves how Vanessa moves, Bruno calls her Jessica Rabbit, and Len says, “I liked it.” So, there’s that. Then Vanessa starts crying again. I love her.
Judges’ Score: 24/30

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson
Tango, “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons
As a young gal watching Malcolm in the Middle, I never once thought I’d be sitting around falling in love with Frankie Muniz, but here we are folks. Dance does strange things to people. It’s a joy to watch someone who loves what they’re doing so much. Even with an old back injury as an obstacle, Frankie is doing everything he can to stay competitive. His tango with Witney is just that. The choreography is bonkers good, and Frankie has so much confidence out there on the floor. It’s crisp and intense and honestly, he and Witney are the perfect pairing. Len finds it a little “over-aggressive” but could Len just get over it, please? Team Franney Pack (!) is the real deal.
Judges’ Score: 23/30

Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke
Foxtrot, “Pillow Talk” by ZAYN
No-nonsense Cheryl is the best Cheryl. Terrell complains about how hard the foxtrot is (which is true), and how he has no dance experience, and Cheryl’s response is “Boo-hoo, let’s go.” She’s great. It’s a good thing she pushes her partner harder this week because hot damn, do they perform a very sexy foxtrot. This is the same style of dance Nick and Peta just did to a Barry Manilow song. The style is versatile, what can I say? This foxtrot is steamy and passionate, and Carrie Ann notes how much more expressive and committed Terrell is this week. This foxtrot also allows for Bruno’s greatest critique of all time: “It was a sex-trot straight into the bedroom.” I think we’re all done here.
Judges’ Score: 20/30

Sasha Pieterse and Gleb Savchenko
Viennese Waltz, “I’m Going Down” by Rose Royce
Sasha looks like she was born to do the ballroom style, and perhaps she was, because we finally meet her parents and they are capital-D Dancers. Last week, Sasha’s nerves got the best of her and she ended up looking pretty lost. This week’s Viennese waltz is all about emoting. It’s such an improvement! It is glamorous, sexy, and Sasha seems much more confident. Len gives Gleb some words about his choreography, but Carrie Ann thought the routine really highlighted Sasha’s strengths. You can’t please everyone. Although, with all of Len’s griping, he still gives the couple a decent score. Len Goodman is a man of mystery, but what else is new?
Judges’ Score: 23/30

Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy
Tango, “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift
“Two years ago my legs weren’t moving, now they’re tango-ing.” I mean, how does anyone compete with this? Victoria is a natural out there, giving Turtleneck Val a run for his money. Honestly, I feel like Val wearing a turtleneck is a personal affront to me. Where is the blazer, no shirt, Val? LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO, VAL. Wardrobe rage aside, this tango is intense, but, like, in a fun way. Victoria is having the time of her life and it shows. Carrie Ann cannot get enough of the girl’s technique. She is precise, moves with intent, and serves some real face. Victoria is on a real upward trajectory. Keep on, keepin’ on.
Judges’ Score: 24/30

Derek Fisher and Sharna Burgess
Foxtrot, “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” by Ray Charles
Mama Fish is in the ballroom, and according to her son, Mama Fish isn’t messing around. After the judges are less than kind regarding Derek and Sharna’s foxtrot, Derek’s mother also gives a very thoughtful analysis of her son’s performance: The woman doesn’t sugarcoat things for her son. The judges loved the lightheartedness of the routine, and Carrie Ann thinks the pair play well off one another, but they all agree that Derek really needs to step up with the technique. His frame is off, and his movements are small. Mama Fish agrees! She explains that after years of using his bum for defense on the court, it’s hard for him to tuck it in, as ballroom demands. Can Mama Fish join the judges’ panel?
Judges’ Score: 19/30

Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold
Viennese Waltz, “Count on Me” by Judah Kelly
Who doesn’t love a good “we’re already best friends” edit in week two? Jordan and Lindsay have hit it off as a dancing couple and want that chemistry to follow them onto the dance floor. They are both feeling the pressure that comes with sitting on top of the leaderboard so early. They need to prove it wasn’t a fluke. It’s definitely not, although this Viennese waltz is less affecting than their previous routine. Len finds it a bit too staccato for the typically lyrical dance style, and Carrie Ann wants Jordan to concentrate on adding ballroom flourishes to his movement. Criticism aside, the pair still land on top of the leaderboard this week. Whatever they’re doing is working.
Judges’ Score: 24/30

The first elimination doesn’t offer any surprises: The two couples who sat at the bottom of the leaderboard, Terrell and Cheryl and Barbara and Keo, are also the two couples who find themselves in jeopardy.

There always has to be a first, and season 25’s first eliminated couple is Barbara and Keo. Barbara seems torn up over her experience ending so quickly. She had a great time, and Keo got a great velvet tux out of the whole thing. We are all winners on Dancing With the Stars.

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  • 03/21/11
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