“It’s a really great thing to get out and dance.”
Ah, Valerie Harper. The inspirational actress and her bonny Irish lad of a pro partner, Tristan MacManus, were the latest couple eliminated from the “Dancing With the Stars” glitterverse this week. Sure, she was plagued with low scores and struggled with keeping up with the steps. But the 74-year-old’s indomitable spirit stood out most of all.
“It’s been absolutely wonderful, completely unique -- like nothing else in the world that you would ever do,” Valerie said. Plus, it was “an opportunity for me to carry a message to folks -- not just with cancer, whatever they have. Whatever challenge, like our song tonight, keep on keeping on.”
Tristan, a.k.a. Best Partner Ever, only had love for his celebrity partner. “Sometimes you get very lucky in your life to meet someone who can affect them more than this could at all,” he said. “And I think maybe life’s a little bit better since I met Valerie Harper.”
Also in jeopardy (though not necessarily in the bottom two) were last week’s high scorers Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd.
We’ve come upon the middle of the competition, and this fourth week saw contestants hitting the breaking point mentally and physically. It was almost as if having a knee injury was the cool thing to do.
The scores also seemed stuck in a lower gear, with lots of 24s and no couple scoring higher than a 27.
But Julianne Hough was in the house! The two-time Mirrorball champ came back to take the place of Len Goodman, who’s off judging “Strictly Come Dancing” across the Pond. And she fit right in between Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, and right into what Tom Bergeron called “our spray-tan warehouse”
Here’s how the remaining couples stacked up:
Elizabeth Berkley Lauren has a process. She wants to get into character, and in order to do that she has had to stare her partner Val Chmerkovskiy down to his essence -- for like, an uncomfortably long time. “It’s a really human moment of taking someone in,” she explained.
God bless Val for going along with it. Though it turned out that all that absorption helped, as their Argentine tango was sultry and sleek (and showed Val’s violin skills!). Bruno called her a “bewitching fantasy creature fueled by desire.” Carrie Ann thought that staredown process worked: “Every movement has meaning.” Julianne agreed. “You took control,” the guest judge said. “You weren’t waiting for him to control you.” Total: 27.
Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff performed a pure paso doble stripped of any Wildcat hip-hop that tied with “Glee” actress Amber Riley’s tango as my favorite routine of the night. “This is cool,” Corbin said during rehearsals while striking a pose. “It hurts but it’s cool.”
Their performance was a real tour de force: no bells and whistles, just pure passion and movement. And all that Karina red!
“Absolutely stunning,” Carrie Ann said, though she thought Corbin’s arms were “a little bit low.” “Thank you, thank you for doing no gimmicks because you didn’t need it,” Julianne said, before telling Corbin to get his hips under. “Powerful as a young bull,” Bruno appraised, adding that the “The Spanish line comes from under the hips.” Total: 27.
Amber was also plagued with knee problems, and worried that she wouldn’t be able to perform to the best of her abilities. To make matters worse, she had to get the fluid drained from her knee and couldn’t start rehearsing until Friday.
Derek Hough tried to convince Amber that he was a shoo-in with the judges because of his “in” with sister Julianne (not). Turned out Amber and Derek didn’t need any special favors or extra rehearsal time because they performed an awesome tango to “Love Lockdown.” Amber was all sleek moves and tight control.
“You were in a fine form tonight,” Carrie Ann said. “So crisp and clean and passionate.” Derek jokingly bribed his little sister with $10 (which Bruno then asked for), but he didn’t need to. Bruno called it a “pure unmistakably classic amazing tango” and then pocketed the $10. Total: 27.
Jack Osbourne (who celebrated his wedding anniversary on Monday) and Cheryl Burke had a contentious week, sparring about posture and marionettes and Jackeroo’s rampant Corbin envy.
Still, the judges liked Jack’s quickstep (as did sis Kelly and her pro partner Louis Van Amstel). “Ballroom is very much your strong suit,” Julianne said, but she added that she wanted Jackeroo to show he was having fun. Bruno said he’s “never seen so many tricks in my life, not even in Vegas,” but he cautioned Jack not to move his frame. Carrie Ann thought Jack was “way more animated this week.” Total: 24.
Now that she’s had a couple of weeks to get used to it, Leah Remini’s not as scared about performing or putting on form-fitting outfits. Though to get her and Tony Dovolani’s scores up, the actress suggested that the Albanian stallion “dress skimpy and come down on a pole.”
Rehearsing for their cha-cha gave Leah a one-track mind. “Oh my God, I just had sex with your leg,” the actress said after being hoisted up Tony’s thigh. And though “Leah from the block ... of shimmering gold” had the performance down, the judges’ comments were all about getting her dance movements to match. “You have the attitude,” Julianne said. “You need to stretch, use that body to match your face.” Total: 24.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi has also had quite a week: All the travel between coasts was catching up with her, getting her sick and making it hard to practice. Plus, Sasha Farber planned a cheerleading-themed jive set to Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey.” which reminded Snooki of the time she suffered from anorexia while she was a cheerleader in high school. Time to make new positive cheerleading memories with her sis-boom-bah-themed jive!
All the judges said they thought Snooki’s performance level went through the roof, but Julianne sais she thought the kicks and flicks could be sharper, and Carrie Ann cautioned that her “knees were a little crazy” and warned about Snooki’s dreaded “little T-rex arms.” Total: 24.
Christina Milian and Mark Ballas had the fox trot this week. After being in the (not necessarily) bottom two last week, Christina had a crisis of confidence, and really started to question herself as a performer. She just wants to be good.
Her gangbuster jailbreak of a fox trot was “spunky and sultry,” according to Bruno, though he cautioned her to “work on those sections in hold.” Carrie Ann told Christina to “work on your shoulders just a hair.” “I’ve danced with Mark,” Julianne revealed. “You have to stand in front to make sure you’re seen.” Ha! Mostly, though, I’m just glad he got rid of that horrid clown makeup. Total: 24.
Brant Daugherty takes his shirt off and he only gets a 7? What is wrong with this system? Partner Peta Murgatroyd wanted to make their salsa as spicy as possible, but the “Pretty Little Liars” actor’s old shoulder injury put some of the lifts in question. How to deal with what Brooke called “such ambitiousness”? With very little clothing, of course!
Although Brant’s doffed shirt elicited squeals from female audience members (and seemed only right, considering Peta was wearing a bikini threaded together with purple tape), Carrie Ann complained that it showed off his lack of salsa technique (even though she -- gasp -- said she thought “the lifts were fantastic”). “It was a little loosey-goosey,” Julianne decided. “It could have been tighter and your feet were a little sloppy.” (this, despite Peta calling him a “stiff carrot.”) Bruno said, “You were giving so much as a performer, you lost the technique.” Total: 21.
Bill Engvall had to get his hips gyrating for the samba with Emma Slater -- something the comedian’s never done in his life. Though he admitted that they may not be the prettiest, “by God, they’ll be moving.” Mission accomplished in this crowd-pleasing routine, which had Bill in a Panama hat and Emma shaking her fantastic feather bustle like a bird of Rio.
“They love you!” Julianne said of the audience before likening Bill to her dad. Bruno said he thought he was giving a compliment when he said the routine was “everything you can wish for in a samba ... except timing and rhythm.” Carrie Ann said it was really, really entertaining. Total: 21.
After scoring a low 16 last week, Valerie resolved to not screw up her Viennese waltz choreography with Tristan. The routine was set to “Carry On” by fun. Valerie said she thought the song was a beautiful great sentiment that reflected her reason for being on the show.
Julianne said she thought the routine started out gorgeously, but liked the teamwork better than the solo work. Bruno and Carrie Ann said they thought Valerie “painted some very pretty pictures” but that “the mistakes stood out more.” Total: 18.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Sad to see Valerie go? What’d you think of Julianne Hough as a judge? Think more couples will look deeply into each other’s eyes now that Elizabeth’s and Val’s invasive and uncomfortable staredown was a success?