Week 10 and we’ve just reached the semifinals in this extended “Dancing With the Stars” season. Each of the remaining five couples had to show off their interpretation skills and perform different dances to two renditions of the same song – one “plugged” and one stripped down “unplugged” version.
We got a couple of perfect 40 scores. More aches and pains. Creative block. A visit from Maks! And our final four contestants, in what’s shaping up to be one of the closest final finishes yet.
Sadly, the odd man out on this sparkle road to Mirrorball glory was the oldest celebrity to make it this far in the competition, as Tommy Chong and his pro partner Peta Murgatroyd were eliminated.
“I just showed old stoners can perform when they need to,” the 76-year-old “Up in Smoke” star said, to thunderous applause.
Lucky for us, the Season 19 “wild card” left us with some more memorable moments before Tommy was turned back out into the wild. And I’m not just talking about Tom’s “Tommy Chong and Peta's thong” rhyme. Just when we thought we’d seen it all from the seasoned stoner, the Season 19 “granddad” delivered an achingly lovely rumba that pulled all the strings and evoked out all the feels and gave us a tender glimpse of this comedian, who spent time at an orphanage and learned early on to use humor as a defense. And we were all the better for it. “This was so touching, so honestly felt -- it was your best performance, no histrionics,” Bruno said. “It was watching the master and his muse, and that’s really who you are,” Carrie Ann said with tears in her eyes.
“The only way you can change the world is to change yourself, and I’ve been able to change myself in front of a lot of people,” Tommy said. Happy trails, Mr. Chong, as you head off on the Pineapple Express out of the glitterverse in a puff of smoke. Our highs may never be as high.
Here’s how the remaining four stars scored going into finals week, with just four points separating first and fourth place:
Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy got a visit from Val’s big brother and reigning champion Maksim, who doled out some sage advice: Give the people what they want to see. And while Len (and apparently Maks himself) said he was afraid big brother’s interference would somehow set Val back, it was full steam ahead and a crowd-pleasing eyeful for the “Pretty Little Liars” star and her pro partner during their Matrix-like paso doble. Which definitely had shades of Maks and Meryl’s Season 18 “Feel So Close” tango, particularly with the dramatic entrance and stark backlight. Carrie Ann and Tom didn’t want the routine to end. “So dramatic, so dynamic,” Carrie Ann exclaimed. Len said there was “just enough of everything to keep me satisfied.” “Fierce, bold, powerful, like an untamed forced of nature -- you really set the stage on fire,” Bruno declared. Julianne felt Janel and Val moved as one: “Girl, you are in it to win it.”
The Oahu-born Janel knew she wanted to perform at a young age and was on stage with the touring company of “Les Miserables” as Little Cosette by the ripe old age of 6. And her love of performance was made clear in her Argentine tango, in which she showed a different side of herself (white lace, as opposed to the paso’s black lace) and didn’t even flinch when Val played his last note of his violin solo flat. Carrie Ann said there was no doubt Janel is the “most dynamic” female star left on the show but thought the lift entrances and exits were “a bit ungraceful.” Len thought Janel put the “ooh” in “mood.” “Val is completely right that you love what you do through and through,” Julianne said. “You dance with everything that you have and I love that so much.” “The music is unplugged, but you’re definitely turned on,” Bruno said sagely.” Janel and Val received a perfect 40 for their paso and a 38 for their Argentine tango. Total: 78 out of 80.
Derek Hough had reached that part of the season when the creative block set in and there were no thoughts in that usually carefully sculpted head of his. Luckily, Bethany Mota was able to rise to the occasion. The student became the teacher for a Jackson Five “Want You Back” samba that was as fun as a walk through Central Park (with Sasha Farber in tow). Carrie Ann and Len were a bit underwhelmed by the content: “It was a bit like cotton candy: Light and fluffy, but a little here and there,” the head judge said. But Bruno liked how Bethany and Derek took the risk of bringing a Brazilian party dance north to New York City “and [made] it work so well.”
We got to see a little bit more of Bethany’s story, as told through her parents and sister, about how she was a shy, bullied child who was able to find her voice and herself on YouTube. And her contemporary dance with Derek was an extension of that sentiment: A beautifully realized routine about a woman who finds herself within the frame that was given to her, and then ultimately breaks through it. Bruno said the piece should be on permanent display in an art gallery. Len called it “a Picasso of a dance.” Julianne called the breaking through part “Picture perfect.” Bethany and Derek received a 36 for their New York samba and a perfect 40 for their contemporary showing. Total: 76.
Got to give it up to the Harlem-born, Bronx-raised Alfonso Ribeiro: He’s a fighter. The “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star grit his teeth through what looked like crippling back pain to deliver a tight, upright Argentine tango with Witney Carson. Dwayne Wayne, a.k.a. Kadeem Hardison, was in the audience to cheer him on through the “little bit” of pain tears. And so were the judges. “You don’t feel that you live up to your own expectations,” Bruno said understandingly, but “you were the prince of Buenos Aires.” Carrie Ann said that because of Alfonso’s injury “your posture was phenomenal. … You were stacked correctly so you won’t hurt yourself.”
And while many of the his cast members from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (Hillary! Ashley! Geoffrey!) could not speak to Alfonso’s posture, they did attest to the man forever known as Carlton’s love of performance. And to his commitment, whether as the Tap Dance kid, or as Ricky Schroder(!)’s best friend on “Silver Spoons” or during his contemporary dance. Len loved “the drama of the dance and the passion and the intensity that went on throughout it.” “Contemporary is all about letting go and moving your body … and you did that,” Julianne said. “I don’t know how.” Bruno loved how Witney and Alfonso “always read from the same page.” Alfonso and Witney received a 36 for their Argentine tango and a 39 for their contemporary dance. Total: 75.
Sadie Robertson was freaked out after she blacked out during the last couple of seconds of last week’s routine. Despite the fact that it scored a 40, her confidence was rattled for fear of messing up again. It didn’t help that she and Mark Ballas were doing a quickstep to “Problem” by Ariana Grande. Luckily, Sadie acquitted herself like O.J. with flare to spare. There was no messing up, and no messin’ about, as Len would say, with the resulting routine, and it was as if the whole glitterverse could let loose a big happy dimpled sigh of relief. Julianne liked the light that shines in Sadie. Bruno loved that Mark sneaked in a little hip-hop and Charleston to give the quickstep a contemporary twist. Carrie Ann liked the hold. Sadie’s #ManCrushMonday target Len said if it was performed on a freeway then “You would have gotten a speeding ticket,” and said he was disappointed. “I found nothing I didn’t like.” #LOL
We got to see a little bit more of the “Duck Dynasty” daughter and her flock during her backstory video. And then she was able to stay true to herself during her unplugged "Problem" Argentine tango, accompanied by Noah Guthrie. Julianne and Carrie Ann loved how Mark incorporated the guitar into the dance because “it made it more challenging” and “innovative” but Len thought “there would have been one less 'problem' if maybe you lost the guitar a little bit earlier.” Bruno said he knew Sadie was big in Louisiana but said she was primed to “do well in Argentina” with that tango as well. Sadie and Mark received a 37 for both dances. Not bad for a 17-year-old who never thought she’d make it past Week 3. Total: 74.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Is this the closest final four we’ve got going into the finals? Who has your vote to win the coveted Mirrorball trophy?