Halfway through Season 23 of “Dancing With the Stars” and we’ve got our first shocker.
After a feel-good night of dances commemorating the remaining couples’ most memorable Years, it seemed especially harsh to send a couple home. Even worse was the actual couple the glitterverse sent packing: Christina Milian and Mark Ballas.
This landed like a big “Forget You” to the high-scoring couple. Not only did this elimination come right after Christina had her best, most memorable dance, but it came after she scored the season’s first 10. This also happened to be the night Paris Hilton came out in support of her multi-hyphenate friend.
Christina maintained a gracious tone despite the bad news. “It’s a true shock, but ... we had the best performance we’ve had tonight that we’ve had so far,” the singer and single mom said. Mark also tried to keep it positive: “We went out with a bang, so great job.”
Christina and Mark’s elimination came after hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke-Charvet ominously warned that a female contestant had the lowest number of viewer votes and judges’ scores and was in danger of being kicked out of the Sparkleville.
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani were also in the (not necessarily) bottom two, and Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Valentin Chmerkovskiy were also deemed in jeopardy.
Christina and Mark kicked off the competition and set the bar high. Christina chose 2010 as her most memorable year, since it was the year she gave birth to her daughter, Violet, “the love of my life,” and when she got divorced from Violet’s father.
She and Mark Ballas wore bright neon fluorescent colors and shimmied it all out to Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You.” And Christina really did shake her hips something fierce.
Len called it “fire and ice: Fire in the performance, ice cold in the attitude.” Bruno lauded her “sharp finish” and called Christina “indecently hot.” “You’ve been great … but tonight, I have to say, that was something special,” Carrie Ann said. “Your technique was on fire.” Total: 28 out of 30.
Corbin Bleu dedicated his fox trot with Karina Smirnoff to his 12-year-old sister Phoenix. In 2011, Phoenix was diagnosed with scoliosis, but Corbin said his sister never let her condition or her painful brace affect her. And his lovely moonbeam of a routine, set to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, was shooting star of a performance with lovely shades of pink and sweeping arm movements all around.
“Whatever dance you get you somehow get the character of it straightaway,” Len lauded. Bruno called Corbin “the love child of Fred Astaire and Ben Vereen.” Carrie Ann’s “crazy eye” let go the two “lifts” at the end of the routine, but she would have given them a 10 had it not been for the first lift, even though Karina maintained she kept her toe on the floor. Alas, there are no slo-mo replays in “DWTS.” The judgment and scores are final. Total: 28.
Jack Osbourne chose 2012 as his most memorable year, replete with “amazing high highs and horrible lows.” In January he and his wife, Lisa, moved into a new house, and his daughter, Pearl, was born in April. Two and a half weeks later, he was diagnosed with MS.
“If you don’t have bad you can’t appreciate the good,” Jack said.
So his lovely, lilting waltz with Cheryl Burke, set to Des’ree’s “Kissing You,” was dedicated to Lisa and Pearl. And his love for them showed.
“You set the mood for love, your footwork was so light and musical,” Bruno swooned. “You even managed to get your bum under control.” “The grace of your being always manages to slip into the grace of your dancing,” Carrie Ann remarked. “Everything flowed.” Len appreciated how much they did in hold, though “your hands sometimes you did a bit of a back passage.” Total: 27. Fun fact: Jack also “danced his ass off” at the clubs with Paris Hilton back in the day.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber performed a jazz routine to commemorate 2012, the year her son, Lorenzo, was born. Before, “I was just young and dumb, you know?”
With the birth of her son, Nicole’s priorities have done a 180 (not 360). She actually enjoys laundry, even the folding.
She wanted to celebrate her new self to a jazz routine to Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch.” And there was a lot of impressive quick and sassy side-by-side work done in this dance.
Carrie Ann said it reminded her of her favorite quote from her favorite drag star: “You better work.” “It was vibrant, the lifts were clean, it had energy and attack and it was fun to watch,” said Len. “She works hard for the money,” Bruno confirmed. “You deserve every penny that you get.” Nicole & Sasha was rewarded with three 9s for that performance. “I danced my butt off for that score,” Nicole said. Total: 27.
Brant Daugherty chose 2009 as his most memorable year. He had moved to Hollywood to pursue acting the year before but was called back to say goodbye to his father, who had lymphoma and passed away at age 57.
And Brant wanted his contemporary dance with Peta Murgatroyd, set to Elton John’s “Your Song,” to be a celebration of his father’s influence -- a beautiful dance of connection that Brant insisted not be sad or depressing. Though seeing Brant pouring his heart into in his performance was just as moving.
“I loved the passion of it, the interaction, the chemistry,” Len said. The head judge said he’s sure his father looks down at him at the judges’ table, and “I’m sure your dad’s looking down at you.” Bruno admired how Brant “threw yourself into it with such dedication and passion.” Carrie Ann loved how every movement came from “a true place of passion … it was breathtaking.” Total: 27.
In 2009, Amber Riley was scraping by in L.A. She was working as a customer service rep at IKEA and thought she had hit bottom when she was turned down for “American Idol.” Then she got an audition for “Glee” and the rest was history.
Amber wanted to show how to push through even when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, and her fox trot with Derek Hough, set to “Try a Little Tenderness” was a great number that hit all her story’s low and high points.
“Absolutely and utterly sensational,” Bruno crowed. “This could be lifted from the best of Broadway shows.” “Ms. Amber Riley, you danced the heck out of the routine,” Carrie Ann said. And aside from a little slip,” You guys are in perfect sync.” Len liked the routine, but for a fox trot, “I have to see a certain amount in hold,” he said. “There wasn’t enough.” Len slapped them down with a punitive seven and called shenanigans. But Amber & Derek got a nine from Carrie Ann, and a rousing 10 from Bruno. Total: 26.
Remember that “Saved by the Bell” episode where Jessie Spano got hopped up on a caffeine pills and sang “I’m So Excited” while a worried Zack Morris looked on?
Elizabeth Berkley Lauren wanted to channel that with her jive this week, because it marked the moment in 1989 when her Hollywood dreams started coming true. She wanted to show her son that he can, in fact, dream big. A.C. Slater alter ego Mario Lopez was in the audience, sans Jheri curl mullet, and kinda looked like he’d been called to Mr. Belding’s office when he heard that school bell.
But Elizabeth embraced the one-shouldered top, blue leg warmers, and that big blue bow in her large curly hair. Val channeled his best Zack Morris. Carrie Ann loved the ‘80s flashback, but “the kicks were just a little soft for me” and pointed out Elizabeth fell out of her pirouette (maybe she should have taken those Jive Pills). Len, however, thought it was “sharp, fast, clean.” “No pills, darling — you don’t need any pills, you just need to dance,” Bruno said. “The fun of the ‘80s! What more do you want?” Total: 26.
Bill Engvall showed his softer side by dedicating his Viennese Waltz with Emma Slater to Gail, his wife of 30 years. Actually, the comedian’s been showing a lot of his softer side lately, like when he “cried of happiness” after finding out he was safe last week. He said he got through last week’s dance with “sheer determination and heart,” and it turned out he won his Air Supply-loving wife in 1982 the same way.
Gail made him “a better person than he’d ever be on his own.” And that showed in his routine. Bruno called the dance “honest, heartfelt, emotional -- you wear your heart on your sleeve,” he said. “You touched our souls tonight,” Carrie Ann said. “A bit skippy here and there and a bit rushed,” Len began, but “lovely rotation, I liked the romance of the dance, and I liked you in hold.” Total: 24.
Leah Remini was celebrating her independence from overbearing forces and her decision not to be a victim. It was scary for Leah to make major changes in her life, she also found it scary to do flip lifts in her contemporary routine with Tony Dovolani.
And I agreed with the judges that even though the concept of a puppet breaking free from her strings, ‘N Sync “No Strings Attached” style, to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” was excellent, I also agreed with the judges that the contemporary could have used a bit more flow.
“The beginning was executed beautifully,” Carrie Ann began, but “it didn’t feel like one seamless movement.” Len agreed: “It was good, but for me it wasn’t great.” Bruno chose to celebrate Leah’s freedom. “The performance was very good and very effective, my darling.” Total: 22.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Still having ’80s flashbacks? Disappointed that Christina and Mark went home? Which dance did you find most memorable? Think Paris Hilton should be part of “DWTS” Season 24? Should Aloe Blacc be the “DWTS” resident soloist?