So much more sparkle! “Dancing With the Stars” is turning it up to 11 -- Week 11, that is.
The first night of Season 17’s two-part finale extravaganza saw the final four perform three dances: A judges’ choice, a samba relay danced to a live performance of “No Scrubs” by TLC (featuring Lil Mama), and the always unpredictable, ever entertaining freestyle routine.
It also bid adieu to one of the final four couples. Although he held on for longer than anyone (including himself) thought he would, comedian Bill Engvall and his pro partner, Emma Slater, ultimately got their walking papers.
“It just goes to prove to me that there is a God, because I don’t think I can make one more dance,” the injured comedian joked.
At least Bill went out on a memorable high note. He got to dance with Derek during the samba relay transition. His freestyle routine not only earned him his first 9 score ever, but he took his shirt off and seared the image of his bare torso into the eyes of an unsuspecting public, changing a nation forever.
And he had a good time doing it. “I’ve had so much fun,” he said during rehearsals. “I have a new best friend and a fake daughter. ... It’s been one hell of an experience.”
The three remaining finalists now have 24 hours to put together another dance to fuse two styles. Amber and Derek are doing the samba/quickstep, Corbin and Karina the cha-cha/foxtrot, and Jack and Cheryl will do a paso doble/salsa.
Amber Riley and Derek Hough retained their lead going into the Tuesday results show with three near-perfect performances. The judges gave the couple their Week 3 Charleston to do over. Carrie Ann Inaba told them the only way the high-scoring Amber was going to make an impact in the finals was to show growth.
Last time, their Baz Luhrmann “Great Gatsby” flapper number was out of sync and not precise. But this time, Amber shined up those edges to a sharp and gleaming point.
Carrie Ann preened like a proud mama. “You completely outdid yourself,” she said. Len said the dance was the most improved. Birthday boy Bruno said the footwork needed work the first time around, but “it was as sharp as a razor blade tonight.”
Amber was on the Swiss-timing precision train and she wasn’t about to get off for the freestyle. The “Glee” actress showed Derek some of her stepping moves back in Week 3, and Derek incorporated most of it into a high-stepping, insanely entertaining Wild West stepping routine.
Amber sauntered into the saloon doors at high noon with spurs kicking and attitude ablaze, and took the whole place down one finger gun at a time.
“You’re there with 6 pro guys -- I only watched you,” said Len. “You’re class, fast, and built to last.” “Nobody could ever take their eyes off of you,” Bruno agreed. “Bewitchingly awesome.” Carrie Ann said Amber never lost control and “never lost the beat. ... You’re like a diva dancing James Brown!”
Amber and Derek received a perfect 30 for their Charleston do-over, four points for their second-place samba, and another perfect score for their freestyle. Total: 64 out of 65.
The judges selected the old Hollywood time-y quickstep for Corbin Bleu’s and Karina Smirnoff’s do-over dance. Len found the routine too frantic the first time around, and came to rehearsals to try to get the “High School Musical” star to add some moments of stillness alongside the speed during this second take.
Len said he saw improvement, and the routine had calmed down a bit, but the left arm was a bit wonky. “If you did that on the highway you would have gotten a speeding ticket,” Bruno declared. “But you went out of sync.” Carrie Ann, frankly, was disappointed. “Truth is, I didn’t see an improvement,” she said bluntly.” Get your mojo back!”
And get it back he did with his freestyle, inspired by Corbin’s musical hero, Michael Jackson, and set to “Smooth Criminal.” Corbin even traveled to Las Vegas to get tips and trick ideas from the King of Pop’s choreographer, Travis Payne. Karina hoped the routine would be epic with gangster moves and an acrobatic assist from Tony, Gleb, Sasha, and Henry.
Carrie Ann said it made her miss Michael. Len gave them a standing ovation. Bruno said Corbin was a “merciless assassin” who “killed it.” “You managed to combine some iconic Michael Jackson moves with amazing ballroom touches in a packaging that was pure Las Vegas magic.”
Corbin and Karina got a 27 in their quickstep do-over, a 5-point boost for winning the samba relay (Corbin’s first samba ever) and a perfect 30 for their freestyle. Total: 62.
Jack Osbourne’s and Cheryl Burke’s finals started out rough. The judges chose the jive for the young Osbourne, and the rehearsals with Bruno were promising. Jack’s kicks and flicks were light and snappy. Bruno told jokes (this is “one of the few cases where smaller is better ... hahahahahaha!”).
Jack and Cheryl had the Mirrorball trophy in its cross hairs. Too bad Jack, as Carrie Ann said, “got off on the wrong foot” during the dance itself. “The kicks and flicks were good. The timing went out the window,” Bruno said sadly. Jack attributed it to nerves. “They’re making us work for that Mirrorball,” he told Tom.
But “pain is temporary, glory is forever,” and Jack showed he was in it to win it like a champ, despite his injuries in his freestyle dance. It was so fitting that Cheryl wanted to show his journey from someone with no dance experience to the top of the glitterverse-finals heap in his winning routine.
“That was a showstopper,” Carrie Ann said. “An incredible story from zero to hero. Hats off to you.” “Jack, your family should be so proud of you,” Len said of his triumphant comeback. “Hooray for Hollywood and hooray for Jack,” Bruno agreed. “It was glossy, glitzy, classy, tailored to perfection.”
Witnessing Cheryl dabbing her eyes throughout the critique, and Jack getting emotional when he received a perfect 30, and you realize this goes beyond just a sparkly reality TV competition. (Dancing means something! It changes lives!)
Jack and Cheryl received a 24 for their jive, an additional 3 points for their third-place samba relay finish, and a perfect 30 and all the positive vibes in the universe for their freestyle. Total: 57.
Which brings us to Bill Engvall, the arrhythmic but still booming heart of the competition. The judges selected Bill’s Viennese waltz to Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” as a do-over and a nice tribute to Bill’s and Emma’s partnership. Len tried to get Bill to not get in front of the music.
While the head judge saw improvement the second time around, “you lost timing a few times ... [and] lost your frame on occasion.” Bruno loved the sincerity Bill brings to every performance, but “your timing is not a Swiss watch, isn’t it,” he mused. “Not everybody’s a Rolex. You need a Casio sometimes.” Carrie Ann admired Bill for playing his own game the whole way through and staying true to himself, though there’s “still no improvement on the musicality.”
But Bill was able to save the day with his Indiana Jones-themed freestyle, set to John Williams’ iconic “Raiders of the Lost Ark” soundtrack. Loved how Bill was on the hunt for the iconic Mirrorball trophy and nearly got run over by the massive Mirrorball boulder. And had some great whip action with Emma! It was action and adventure and an attempt at dancing all in one. Bill thought he nailed it -- so much so that he took off his shirt in Brandi Chastain-style triumph in the end.
“On behalf of all of us who have a one-pack: Thank you,” Tom Bergeron quipped. “You’ve been trained but you’ve never been tamed,” Len said admiringly. Bruno said Bill was “beyond dancing -- it’s natty, it’s batty, it’s indescribable but insanely good fun.” Carrie Ann called Bill “every man’s man who’s become a dancing hero.”
Bill and Emma received a 24 for their waltz, 2 points for their fourth-place finish in the samba relay, and his first 9 and 25 total score for his freestyle. Total: 51.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Were these the best freestyle routines ever? Should Derek even get another Mirrorball trophy? Will Corbin split leap over Amber and win it all? Does Jack even have a chance?