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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: America votes, and Tommy Chong is saved

'Dancing With the Stars' recap: America votes, and Tommy Chong is saved
Artem Chigvintsev and Lea Thompson dipped out of the 'DWTS' competition. (Adam Taylor / ABC)

Democracy was in full swing in the glitterverse on Monday night for Week 9 of "Dancing With the Stars," as America's Choice night put the option of song, dance and wardrobe squarely in the people's social-media-using hands.

The stars and their pro partners also got to exercise their power of choice by selecting another pro to join them in their second routines -- the ever popular mind- and body-meld dance threesomes.

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The people had also spoken as we said goodbye – not to Tommy Chong, the lowest scorer of the bunch, but to Lea Thompson and her hunky pro partner Artem Chigvintsev. Sure, the "Back to the Future" actress and classically trained dancer at times struggled to find her footing and her mojo on the glitzy ballroom floor. But the 53-year-old was able to end her "DWTS" stint with her head held high, a rocking tiger leotard and some memorable routines.

Her jungle cat samba showed off Lea's cougar claws, introduced the instant classic "crotch over Artem" move and drew a round of well-deserved catcalls from the judges. Then Lea topped off her ballroom experience as the luscious tomato in the middle of an Artem-Henry Byalikov "hottie sandwich" for her paso doble trio. "I wanted to do something different and hard and scary, I wanted to inspire myself and maybe some of the moms out there," Lea said in the sky box. "You can try, you can fail, and you can still be strong and sexy and vulnerable." Amen.

The rest of the remaining dancers benefitted from the judges' generous, somewhat erratic moods. Len did his creepy-crawly hands. Bruno splayed his legs on the judges' table coming back from commercial break. There were Cirque du Soleil moves and space vixens, a "Mad Max"-style Argentine tango and a visit to the mile high club. Here's how the rest of now semifinalists danced it out:

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson kicked off the night with an awesome fox trot, set to Robbie Wiliams' version of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head." The guy always and forever known as Carlton donned top hat and tails, and danced heck out of moves he and Witney tested at the Farmer's Market for the fans beforehand. Len thought it was full of "razzamatazz" "razzle dazzle" and "personality," even though the footwork was "a little bit suspect here and there." Julianne liked how Alfonso was elegant, tall and vibrant this time. Bruno thought it was brilliant: "You really channeled the sophistication of a bygone era." Carrie Ann wanted more pizzazz and scored him a tad low in what apperaed to be a very nit-picky move. C'mon. We all know Alfonso's going to the finals.

Especially after that barnburner of a hip-hop paso doble trio with Lindsay Arnold that was fierce and all but brought the house down. Bruno likened it to "a galactic ringmaster chasing the space vixens" and "the ride of the night." Carrie Ann had just two syllables: "Day-um!" Alfonso and Witney received a 37 for their foxtrot, and a perfect 40 for their trio with Lindsay. Total: 77 out of 80.

America ordered up a quickstep and a kiss for Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy. Though the "Pretty Little Liars" actress fretted during rehearsals that she had no time to get the difficult dance right, and had to be talked down by a calming Val. "Just hang in there and trust yourself," sage Val said. And apparently his pro words of wisdom worked, because their quickstep was just about picture perfect (darn those patent leather shoes sticking together!). Julianne and Carrie Ann called it the best dance of the night. "Such spring, such swing, it was almost flawless," Bruno declared.

The same could also be said for Janel and Val's primal salsa trio with Keo Motsepe. The tribal dance featured Cirque du Soleil type acrobatics that earned Janel the nickname "the human wishbone" by Tom, and one or two parts that Len "found a little bit uncomfortable." The other judges found it perfect. "Fearless, flawless, and you're a freaking formidable opponent," Carrie Ann declared. Janel and Val received a 38 for their quickstep and a 39 for their tribal salsa with Keo. Total: 76.

Bethany Mota really has grown to be an impressively affecting dancer, hasn't she? Her Viennese waltz with Derek Hough, in which she plays a girl wanting a guy to stay in a relationship, was what Bruno called "honestly emotive … emotions were not forced at any time." Carrie Ann was impressed with Bethany's vulnerability, and how she threw herself completely in the dance. Len "wasn't totally transported to old Vienna, but I was close," he said. "I was in Austria." The head judge's biggest complaint? Wanted the standing spin to be a fleckle. Don't we all, Len. Don't we all.

The YouTube star was able to switch characters on a dime and get downright dystopian and demanding for her Argentine tango trio with Tony Dovolani. Julianne called it "fierce" and Bruno said was "like if Mad Max had choreographed an Argentine tango" and Thunderdome was a barricade of chairs. Bethany and Derek received a 36 for their Viennese waltz, and a 38 for their trio with Tony. It's also good to know "Tony also rents out for private parties," as Tom said. Total: 74.

America chose the jive for Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas, as well as a fun purple fringe frock for the "Duck Dynasty" daughter to wear. Mark pared down the routine to keep it strictly competition style, even pinning their voting number on his back like a true competition would. Len loved that there was "no stressing and no messing," though he thought the "kicks and flicks could be a little tighter." Julianne wasn't completely wowed over by the dance, but said what Sadie lacked as strengths she makes up with her performance. Carrie Ann thought Sadie "just lacked a little bit of strength in her torso."

Mark took a risk adding female pro Emma Slater to dance alongside celeb Sadie for their fox trot trio mix, which felt timeless but with a fun Black Swan-White Swan twist. And the judges rewarded the dance (very handsomely) for its elegance and innovation, despite the fact that Sadie admittedly forgot a part of the dance at the end. Bruno called the routine "movie star stunning." Carrie Ann said, "A star is born." Len wished he had an 11 paddle. Sadie and Mark received a 33 for their jive, and a perfect 40 for their trio with Emma. Total: 73.

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd got their safe card early on in the program, so the rest of the quarterfinals was just gravy. And the "Up in Smoke" actor, whose leg injury last week was a result of a broken cyst behind his knee (ouch), was in fine form with his Viennese waltz to Ray Lamontagne's "Trouble." He was also suited up and so dapper (Peta's odd dress rufflage, however, was a different story). "That was a proper Viennese waltz," Julianne proclaimed. "You put a smile on my face every single week." Bruno thought there were "a few creaky moments," but "when the pistons are going you were spinning around like a fairground carousel." "You truly teach us that less is more," Carrie Ann declared. "There's an elegance in the way you perform." "For one old geezer to another old geezer, you are my hero," Len said.

The adulation continued with Tommy's trio dance, in which he got to act out many a fantasy as a passenger joining the mile high club with flight attendants Peta and Sharna Burgess. Tommy said the routine followed the Michael Waltrip formula of dance: Surround oneself with sexy ladies so as to not bring attention to oneself. The apparent contact high made the judges deliriously giddy. "I'm not sure about the samba, but the service was first class," Bruno bellowed. ("You definitely came in for a happy landing, I'll tell you that," Tom quipped.) "That was good entertainment," Carrie Ann exclaimed. "You should take that idea to 'Shark Tank' and sell it." Tommy and Peta received a 29 for their Viennese waltz, and a 27 for their "Chong Air" samba flight. Erin Andrews asked how that was for him. "It was very hard," Tommy replied. Yep. The old man's still got it. Total: 57.

What do you think, ballroom fans? Surprised that Tommy wasn't eliminated this week? Would you rent Tony out for private parties? Erin Andrews' red jumpsuit: Yay or nay?

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