Every season, stars get injured on “Dancing with the Stars.” And last week, Bill Nye the Science Guy was hobbled — but heroically played a robot before viewers and judges pulled the plug. It was great drama and the dancing nerd would be sorely missed in a season 17 field that, to this writer, seems overly stacked with professionals! Corbin Bleu, I love you, but what are you learning on “DWTS”?
Anyway, on week four, I was once again rooting for the underdog, the other Bill, Bill Engvall. Another cause for excitement would be the return of former-”DWTS”-pro-turned-movie-star- Julianne Hough as a judge, sitting in for Len Goodman for one week. How could she possibly evaluate her own brother, “DWTS” golden boy Derek Hough?
Here was what happened in the ballroom on Monday night:
Judges Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Julianne Hough actually boogied down the stairs along with the contestants this time. Host Tom Bergeron kindly let Hough plug her new movie, “Paradise.” “I’m definitely not going to hold back,” Julianne told the cameras.
Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: Quickstep
Cheryl was snapping at the Osbourne kid in rehearsal this week and the pro admitted she was PMS-ing. Jack was trying to lighten the mood with jokes about how she wanted to dance with Corbin instead of him. Jack started the dance talking to the judges then went into close frame with Cheryl and they bounced around for what seemed like forever. I liked the look of Jack’s arms and his frenetic footwork in the dance had a fun optimism to it. He kept smiling and was in sync with Cheryl. Applause in the press room as Jack had totally pulled it off. “It was my time of the month!” Cheryl yelled at Tom about her practice meltdown. Okay, Cheryl, okay! Julianne said ballroom was Jack’s strong suit but he had to look like he was having more fun. Weird—she said he wasn’t smiling and he was! Bruno couldn’t believe all the footwork tricks and the pace. Carrie Ann, sporting a new shorter hairdo, disagreed with Julianne, saying Jack was plenty animated.
Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy: Argentine Tango
Big celebrity alert—”Sex and the City” star Kristin Davis appeared in the audience to cheer on her friend Elizabeth, looking very un-starlike. Val said in rehearsal the actress was a bit of a space cadet and they had a goofy stare down exercise no doubt dreamed up by producers. Oh, Val was playing the violin again to start the number and then took Elizabeth in his arm for some very stylized tango moves. This woman could already be in the finals, she was that good. Val ended things with a flourish on the violin. They were so happy they hugged after the dance. Bruno called her a bewitching fantasy creature who didn’t make a mistake. Carrie Ann said she’s been the most elegant dancer in the field from day one while Julianne said Elizabeth gave her chills and took control. Three nines! Maybe I was wrong about Corbin; Showgirl Elizabeth could be the one to beat.
Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd: Salsa
The “Pretty Little Liars” star was at the top of the leaderboard last week. But he had been injured and had a hard time lifting Peta in rehearsal. “I’m a mess,” Brant told hostess Brooke Burke-Charvet before their dance. Peta was on fire for this one and Brant tore off his shirt in a proven vote getting move and they even completed the lift without incident. Brant lifted Peta totally off the floor and spun her around. Would Carrie An object? A whole lot of shaking was going on. Overall, I thought the whole routine worked and both were smiling afterwards. Carrie Ann surprisingly said the lifts were fantastic. But the nice judge also thought he shouldn’t have taken his shirt off; instead, he needed to focus on technique. Julianne mentioned she was single now but agreed with Carrie Ann that the arm movements were loosey goosey. After giving a long critique, she said, “Am I getting flustered?” According to Bruno, Brant was a brazen party animal having a good time—still, he needed more structure.
Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus: Viennese Waltz
The TV legend who’s under a death sentence (just being honest, folks) was keeping up her spirits in rehearsal even though she admitted her bizarre Grace Kelly meets Freddie Mercury dance last week didn’t work out, to say the least. “I’m here for the party,” she said. No surprise they got a slow dance, wasn’t expecting a jive here. Valerie seemed to get lost during this dance and I was honestly worried she would fall down. At times she appeared to cling to Tristan, who was talking to her throughout the number. Like Bill Nye’s robot dance last week, this one wasn’t even a dance to me. Was I being cruel when I thought this needed to be her last week? Julianne said she was in tears at the judge’s table and called Valerie elegant and beautiful. According to Bruno, she had some pretty and sweet moments. Carrie Ann cited some mistakes but was also more kind than accurate in her critique. The scores told the real story, though, straight 6s which would surely be the lowest of the night..
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: Cha Cha
The “King of Queens” star turned the tables by telling her partner to show some skin this week. She got all excited when Tony gave her more and more moves in rehearsal while she got a charley horse. Tony put Leah in his lap on the stage in this one and she had one of those car wash fringe dresses and I actually thought it suited her and made e focus on her move. IT ended with Leah’s leg up in the air and her pro smiling with delight. “It’s Leah from the block. She was channeling J. Lo tonight,” Bruno said in praising her. Carrie Ann observed that Leah was in the zone but she needed to have stronger movements. Julianne said she was sticking it but the number had more attitude than skill. Straight 8s; the judges were agreeing too much tonight.
Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: Paso Doble
Karina was working hard with the professional dancer, whoops, I meant actor, so that he’d master a very technical Paso in rehearsal. Bathed in red light, the two played passionate lovers stalking around each other but I felt there was too much time out of hold in the beginning. But by the end, it was perfection. They had somewhat of a dance off with Corbin stomping his feet and ending on his knees with Karina in a heap on the ground (and Bill Nye in the audience saying “Wow”). The verdict? Carrie Ann called it absolutely stunning but claimed his arms needed to be a little lower. Julianne said no gimmicks were needed because he’d mastered the choreography. Bruno called him powerful like a young bull.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber: Jive
The “Jersey Shore” star said she was a cheerleader in high school and told her partner she’d had an eating disorder back then. Once she didn’t eat at all for three days. Yikes. That story sure put a damper on the press room! Snooki got ill during rehearsals this week and was coughing and wheezing up a storm, concerning her dance pro. But the show must go on and Snooki started the number as a cheerleader dancing to the ’80s anthem “Mickey” by Toni Basil. If Snooki was sick she didn’t show it, doing a cartwheel and so many high, energetic kicks. I was watching Snooki, not Sasha, during this high energy jive, the sure sign of a successful celebrity dance. I was really enjoying her performances this season! “You’re the cutest thing in the world,” Julianne said. Bruno got up and danced to the tune, “Hey, Snooki!” The flamboyant judge was too much; can he take a week off, too? Ha. Carrie Ann thought Snooki was adorable but said she had little T. Rex arms in the beginning, which was funny.
Christina Milian and Mark Ballas: Foxtrot
The former “Voice” correspondent was frustrated in rehearsal and things got tense with Mark. She agreed she needed to calm down. The couple started the dance behind bars, literally, as they played two smooth criminal Jazz Age types. I wasn’t sure if it went so well in the beginning as Christina seemed to be fighting Mark’s hold, but what do I know? She vamped it up well and I loved the music—but somehow, it all fell a little short. Bruno called the dance spunky and sultry but said she has to work on “hold.” So I was right on that. Yay! Carrie Ann told Christina to fix her shoulders while Julianne was hoping she would show a softer side if she’s around next week. Julianne criticized the choreography and said she’d danced with Mark before and it was hard to get noticed unless you stood right in front of him (or something). Whoa. The first Julianne controversy of the night; her longtime fellow dancer Mark looked pissed!
Amber Riley and Derek Hough: Tango
The “Glee” star was battling a knee injury this week. Derek warned her in rehearsal that Julianne was his toughest critic, so don’t expect any favoritism in judging. Amber had the fluid drained out of her knees and had to watch in rehearsal as Derek did the routine with a stand-in. Poor Amber was in tears but vowing to do her best. I wasn’t expecting much but it started very dramatically with both in shiny black outfits and turning their necks this way and that. Despite the knee problem, Amber moved with focus and determination and they ended in a big dip. Had I seen better tangos? Yes, but this one had a style all its own and it was pleasing to see it not from a long thin model type (meaning you, Elizabeth Berkley) but a full-figured gal. Carrie Ann said they were so connected, like one person. When Julianne was getting ready to critique, Derek gave her $10. Oh, please, come up with a better joke than that! Julianne said holy cow, she was an explosion. Bruno called it classic tango. It was bugging me tonight that all the judges were raising the same paddle.
Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: Samba
Last week’s Lone Ranger was still reliving that dance in rehearsal. The producers showed Bill dropping Emma in dress rehearsal and hitting her head hard while dressed in her cute Tonto outfit. The comic looked like he’d be very out of his league in samba as it’s not a good older white boy’s dance, if you know what I mean. But he hit the floor proudly in a white and blue getup and flailed around like he was at a party. Again, I was surprised at Bill’s commitment to the steps despite some awkwardness. He seemed to be having a good time and he played the bongos on her Emma’s butt in a hilarious little scene in the middle. There was a lot of laughter in the press room, showing he’d captured Bill Nye’s mantle as the underdog we love. Julianne mentioned how much the audience enjoyed him and compared the comic to her dad. Ooof. “I thought I was going to wet myself,” Bruno said, and wished he could see it again because it had no timing or rhythm. Carrie Ann cited how much joy and entertainment he’d brought to the floor. Wow, surprise—host Tom suddenly declared that Bill was SAFE to dance another week because of his combination of viewer votes and judges’ scores! The comedian was so overcome he burst into tears and threw his hat into the crowd.
So who would be eliminated this week?
Valerie, Brant, and Nicole/Snooki were the bottom three. But the Jersey Shore star was declared safe.
The celebrity going home was….Valerie Harper. Frankly, I wasn’t too surprised. Boos in the press room, but I felt it was for the best as the cancer-stricken star looked like she’d a hard time getting through that very slow dance tonight. Valerie was in tears and hoped she’d given people courage to do the things they wanted to do in life. She was truly an inspiration.