And the stars just keep on falling. In another shocking “Dancing With the Stars” Season 17 elimination, actress Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Valentin Chmerkovskiy were ejected from the glitterverse in the quarterfinal round of competition.
This unexpected result landed about as well as Nomi pushing Cristal down the stairs. The “Saved By the Bell” actress just came off a perfect 30 score. A routine the judges thought was her best ever. They all joked about “ab envy.” She had just danced with a shirtless Gleb Savchenko. None of it made any sense!
Sadly, that’s how the coveted Mirrorball turns. Though Elizabeth — considered a major contender up to this bedazzled point — still looked in shock during her exit interview. “I’m sad — there was some more things we wanted to do,” she said. But “this is an amazing gift in my life. It’s a one in a lifetime but I’m going to take it with me in all that I do.”
Elizabeth and Val’s untimely ousting meant low-scoring Bill Engvall and Emma Slater, who were also “in jeopardy” (but not necessarily in the bottom two) had enough viewer votes to make it to the semifinals. “Obviously, the check cleared,” Bill joked early on.
The remaining seven couples had two full routines this week: One individual dance, and one “trio” dance with an ousted Pro or Troupe member.
At the top of the leaderboard were Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff, who washed the stink and guyliner off their misguided “Game of Thrones” Viennese waltz with a beautifully lilting, clean, technical traditional waltz set to One Republic’s “Apologize.”
“That was so dreamy, I just fell in love,” Carrie Ann swooned, though she noticed times when Corbin wasn’t on his center. Len called it “poetry in motion” but would have liked more rise and fall. Bruno, however, found no fault with the routine. “I thought that was enchanting,” he said. “Breathtaking.”
Corbin took it to the next level with his jazz trio with Witney Carson from the Troupe. Corbin had Broadway experience and wanted to incorporate that with tap and Bob Fosse and Usher (and with that pink glove, Michael Jackson). Sure, it looked like Karina was throwing shade at the youngsters and their newfangled ideas in rehearsals. But did the judges think they pulled off a great routine?
In the words of Usher, “Yeah!”
“That may be the best routine I’ve ever seen in all 17 seasons of ‘Dancing With the Stars!” Carrie Ann exulted. “Such an amazing combination of so many styles.”
Len wanted fireworks, and “for me there was none,” he began. “You came out and exploded! … Sometimes it all comes together: the music, the routine, the performance into one fabulous whole.”
Bruno called the “High School Musical” actor “Grandmaster Corbin the Magnificent” and said Corbin kept Fosse’s legacy alive. Corbin and Karina got a 28 for their waltz, and a perfect 30 for all that jazz. Total: 58 out of 60.
Elizabeth and Val went for a different tack after being shot down (“Bang Bang”) by the judges last week. This time, Val spoke and Elizabeth listened. And their Viennese waltz was terrifically moody as a result — a contemporary take on a dark side of marriage, set to Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.” Carrie Ann pointed out one out-of-sync section, but liked how Elizabeth “really connected with the emotion … your lines are absolutely breathtaking,” she said. Bruno loved the “haunted, tormented quality” that came from within. Self-professed “wind-up watch in a digital age” Len, however, admitted, “It wasn’t really my cup of tea.”
Len liked Elizabeth and Val’s trio salsa a lot better. Though that may have had everything to do with Gleb Savchenko. “Two dudes from Eastern Europe, killing the salsa,” Val said. And that routine was about as giddy and fun as a pitcher of pina colada. I know Lizzie is out of the Mirrorball competition, but she was sandwiched between a shirtless Val and Gleb. That’s like winning all the awards in one spray-tanned bundle.
“Everything was salsa salsas superstar!” Carrie Ann said. Len liked how Elizabeth was “like a human Frisbee flying from one to the other.” “You can handle those boys better than anybody else,” Bruno said. Elizabeth and Val got a 26 for their waltz, and a perfect 30 with spray-tanned abs on top for their trio salsa. Total: 56.
Tony Dovolani was really pushing his star Leah Remini to be a contender. The judges, certainly, thought Leah and her fiery red lace dress tangoed the heck out of her first number. Bruno called it a “badass, proper tango” but “there are still a few moments when you go a little bit shaky … come back and try to maintain that strength.” Carrie Ann was “truly impressed with the growth from last week to this” but “sometimes your arms are sort of null of emotion.” Len said Tony did well to put together the ingredients, but Leah really “brought the flavor.”
Leah and Tony’s trio jive with Henry Byalikov from the Troupe, set to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” was fantastic. Definitely worth a couple rewinds. Leah had the brilliant idea to play the “DWTS” judges booed one too many times. Loved how Tony and Henry relished their roles as Bruno and Len, respectively. And Leah owned it as Carrie Ann.
The jive was a hoot and a half, and earned a standing ovation even from the judges. “That was the most witty dance routine I’ve seen in a very long time,” Bruno said. “This is a time when strategy matters,” said Carrie Ann,” and that was some good strategy.” Len liked how Henry played him “all stiff and starchy. … It was fantastic entertainment and good fun.” Leah and Tony got a 27 for their tango, and a 27 for their jive with Henry. Total: 54.
Jack Osbourne has emerged as the dark horse in this competition — which I guess is what happens after Cher deems you a “pimp.” But really, the young Osbourne has grown in confidence and finesse from week to week. He’s also got a great partnership with Cheryl Burke, who gifted the newly minted 28-year-old with a miniature Mirrorball inscribed with “Best Partner Ever” on it. “Treasure this always because it might be the only one you get,” Jack read on the birthday card. Aw. After that wave of good emotions, how do you not love their Viennese waltz? Particularly with all that draping and fog? “It was a crackerjack, Jack,” Len said. “I loved those natural turns into the pivots into the reverse turns.” “Ballroom just flows out of you,” Bruno said, though he cautioned Jack to watch out for his hands. “It's like you're getting wings to fly,” Carrie Ann said.
Their trio samba took a page from “The Jungle Book,” with Jack rescuing Cheryl from the claws of evil Sharna Burgess. Though Jack revealed Cheryl and Sharna are actually cut from the same cloth: both teach the same way, and both are “very bossy.” Carrie Ann thought it was great to see Jack “come out of your shell … [but] the bounce got a little out of control.” Len agreed: “It was such a clever routine [but] the technique in some places wasn’t so good.” Bruno, however, said he had “so much fun watching you do this.” Jack and Cheryl got a 29 for their Viennese waltz, and a 25 for the samba with Sharna. Total: 54.
“Glee” actress Amber Riley had her work cut out for her this week, having two high-energy dances but still hampered by her knee injuries. Derek Hough has never rehearsed so little for “DWTS” before. But Amber put on a good quickstep nonetheless. “For me, you’re a little bit loose in your top line tonight,” Len said. “It got a little wild on occasion.” Bruno appreciated Amber’s performance, but “don’t lean forward, my darling. You have to lean back.” Carrie Ann acknowledged Amber’s handicap, but “you have set the standard for this competition so high … you have to keep up to that level,” she said. “You had a few mess-ups.”
Derek wanted to make it so that he and BFF Mark Ballas (naturally) were Amber’s backup dancers in their trio salsa. The judges loved the high-octane routine, but thought Amber’s injuries held her back. Len would have liked more hip action, but the head judge congratulated Amber on going “full on, giving it plenty.” Bruno said Amber was always “fabulous to watch.” “You guys are like the dream team — that was just insane in the membrane,” Carrie Ann said. “I’m so bummed for you that you’re injured right now.” Amber and Derek received a 24 for their quickstep and a 27 for their trio salsa with Mark. Total: 51.
Bill Engvall is “over the moon” that he and partner Emma Slater keep on stepping on in this competition. So much so that the comedian wants to “take this girl to the finals,” he said. Their Charleston, however, like their laundry, still needed some work. “You got in trouble at the Laundromat again … you forgot to set the timing!” Bruno said. Carrie Ann wished she didn’t have a paddle. “You were much better in the package when you were rehearsing,” she said. “No swivel, it was wooden … it wasn’t a good routine,” Len said sadly.
At least Bill got some sweet to go along with those sour judges’ remarks, dancing a Willy Wonka-themed salsa with Peta Murgatroyd. “We picked you because you’re just as crazy as we are,” Emma told Peta. And Peta bounced around with Emma in their cotton candy pink wigs like an epic sugar high. And Billy Wonka got to “dance with not one, but two gorgeous women,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Bruno called it more “Willy Wonka and the Babes Factory … always fun” but lacking in “rhythm and timing.” Carrie Ann also wanted rhythm, “But I kind of forgive you when you don’t have it because you go places where no one has dared to go before.” Len suggested Bill have “a couple of martinis just to loosen yourself up a bit.” Bill & Emma got 21s for both his Charleston and the Salsa. Total: 42.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Shocked at Elizabeth’s exit? At this rate, can anyone stop Bill Engvall from winning from Mirrorball trophy? Was Corbin’s trio dance the best routine in all 17 seasons?
ALSO:Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times