Nobody puts Bindi in a corner.
Come on, I had to do it. And if you’re a diehard “Dancing With the Stars” fan who reads multiple recaps and keeps up with various media coverage about the series, you’ll see that line a lot this week. It’s just too good. It can’t be helped.
It was “Famous Dances” night from movies and music videos, with Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough recreating the iconic “Dirty Dancing” routine, complete with the soaring lift. That move is so challenging and dangerous that its originator, Jennifer Grey, won’t even attempt it anymore.
How’d they do? Perfection!
Another reason the show was pretty great: Olivia Newton-John as a guest judge! And routines from “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” that meant two – count ‘em, two -- John Travolta numbers. Plus, MC Hammer, “Flashdance” and Busby Berkeley snippets and a new drinking game pegged to the overuse of the word “amazing.” Who got wasted?
The contestants were back with their original partners after last week’s infamous “Switch-Up,” during which some fared better than others. Alexa PenaVega was in the former camp, with a sharp-as-glass routine with Derek that earned a perfect 40 from the judges, while Nick Carter and Tamar Braxton fell into the latter.
What happened when they got back to the relative safety of the known? Read on to find out.
There was no elimination last week, so someone had to go Monday, the sixth episode of the season. And yes, of course, it was Paula Deen, who lasted longer than most viewers would’ve guessed. She was gracious on the way out, though, and said it had taken producers “a long time to convince” her to participate, but she was happy she’d done it because she had a “wonderful” experience.
Won’t everybody miss her wackiness? Sure. But now this contest gets serious.
Co-host Erin Andrews was off at the baseball diamond working her day job, so former “DWTS” competitor Leah Remini is filling in until the World Series wraps up. (For the trivia fans out there: Remini had been on season 18 of the show, paired with Tony Dovolani. They were cut just before the finals.)
Here’s how they stacked up, in chronological order.
Hayes Grier and Emma Slater
Someone had to do a John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John homage from “Grease,” and it might as well have been Hayes. In fact, the 15-year-old Vine star looked as much the part of pompadoured high-schooler Danny Zuko as anyone on the series right now. But not only had he never seen the musical, he admitted during rehearsal, he’d never even heard of it. Ouch! It was just like that time recently that Witney said the ’90s band Backstreet Boys was her mom’s generation and she listened to it as a toddler in her high chair or something. Again, ouch, said all the olds like me. But there was no denying his youthful energy – that flip! – and the entertainment value of the routine to “You’re the One That I Want.” Olivia called him a “baby John,” and Bruno Tonioli said he sold it on star quality and charisma, but cautioned him about his form and precision. Carrie Ann Inaba dubbed him “a stud,” but also noted that he needs improvement in the technical areas, especially since it’s halfway through the contest. Julianne Hough said he inhabited the character and opened his beautiful eyes, just like she’s told him to do.
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker
Andy was feeling more confident after his week with Sharna, but felt a bit intimidated stepping into Gene Kelly’s role in “Singing in the Rain.” It made perfect sense, though, considering his peppy personality and natural charm. Their jazz routine to “Good Morning,” included a bunch of stairs, a few raincoats and that famous couch-flipping trick. The crowd and the judges loved it. Carrie Ann thought he pulled it off “with ease,” and Julianne said he’s becoming a real contender. Andy said that was the most fun he’d had on the show so far.
Score: a perfect 40 (and his first 10s)
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas
Derek had been so encouraging during “Switch-Up,” and Alexa hoped Mark would take a cue from how well she responded to that approach. Got it, Mark? Lighten up! There was enough pressure on poor Alexa in their cha cha to the Britney Spears tune, “I’m a Slave 4 U” because she had that ginormous snake around her neck part of the time. Carrie Ann thought she missed the “essence of Britney” at her career peak, and wasn’t aware of all her movements until she grabbed the snake. Julianne said Brit Brit was grounded into the floor and that’s what made her MTV Video Music Awards performance so sensual. Alexa missed it, she said, and didn’t do as well as the previous week’s performance. Bruno thought it worked very well but cautioned her about “the free hand,” which seems to wander.
Score: 30 (quite a drop from last week’s perfect score)
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough
Jennifer Grey, the original Baby, popped by the couple’s rehearsal just long enough to tell Bindi it’s all about trust. She didn’t mention this, but she’s already publicly told the world she will never, ever do that lift again for fear of crashing and burning. She’s partial to a fully functioning spine these days, it seems. Derek and Bindi were daunted by the task at hand, and Derek admitted he’s not much of a power lifter. As seen in their pre-taped video, they attacked the move on the ground and then in water, just like Grey and Patrick Swayze did in the sleeper hit film. There was much splashing. Did any of us think they wouldn’t stick the landing? We all had faith. “We were all transported,” said Julianne, and Olivia found her “enchanting.” Bruno said they captured all the nuances of the original dance but made it their own.
Score: 40 (second perfect score of the night)
Paula Deen and Louis van Amstel
After her “naughty little silver fox” routine last week with Mark Ballas, Paula learned she loves playing characters the most. And she loves flashing everyone. This week, back with Louis, she danced a theatrical number to Madonna’s “Vogue,” even though she said in the rehearsal video that she has nothing in common with the sexual icon and she refused to wear the cone bra. They went with a French courtesan theme. Louis showed more skin than she did – those shorts! -- but she worked her arms, didn’t space out on the choreography and seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself. Olivia said she did Madonna proud, and Bruno said she looked like a rococo lampshade on wheels. Carrie Ann missed the sexy beast from last week and felt the period costumes overwhelmed her. (Paula flashed her bloomers at this point.) Julianne didn’t feel the sexual tension.
Score: 6s all around for a measly 24
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson
He busted out of mid-pack and catapulted himself into contention with a near-perfect quickstep with Lindsay last week. Did he and Witney reconnect for their “Magic Mike” routine? Carlos was “freaked out” to dance to “Pony,” and he didn’t want to be raunchy stripper boy because he’s a good Christian boy. He was uncomfortable during rehearsal, but Witney felt like he wasn’t trying. When push came to shove, though, he brought it. Body rolls! Shirt ripping! Abs! Bruno said that number answered his prayers, and Carrie Ann said he owned it with “elegance and grace,” not just hotness, and Julianne called it the “sexiest rumba I’ve ever seen.” Olivia thought he missed his calling and he is, in fact, raunchy (classy) stripper boy. Wife Alexa didn’t look too pleased with the whole thing. Don’t be a buzzkill, Alexa.
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess
Nick had to work on his pelvic thrusts, and Sharna had to customize an iconic solo and turn it into a samba to “You Should Be Dancing,” the classic Bee Gees disco hit from “Saturday Night Fever.” For extra character motivation, Nick took a strut along Hollywood Boulevard, subbing for New York, before hitting the lighted dance floor. And then he tore it up. I’ve been rough on this guy from the start because I thought he was a ringer. He’s actually shown marked improvement, especially in this number. Sharna did an incredible job on that choreography, and she wore the heck out of that white girl fro wig. Carrie Ann said it was good but inconsistent, while Julianne felt like it was a “true reinvention” of the number. “Absolutely outstanding,” she said. Olivia thought he brought disco back, and Bruno loved the samba part of the dance. “Absolutely brilliant,” he said.
Score: 39 (second best of the night so far)
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold
To embody Elvis, you really have to let yourself go, the actor Peter Dobson told Alek during rehearsal. That’s never been Alek’s strong suit, so he knew he had his work cut out for him. So did a clearly frustrated Lindsay, so she made him put on the infamous white jumpsuit and walk around the Farmers Market greeting folks as the King. Alek probably really wished he had still been partnered with his pro crush, Emma. But he said he didn’t want to go home, so he tried to bring the jive to life to “Jailhouse Rock.” He’s become a fairly proficient dancer, but character is most definitely not his thing. Julianne said he’ll need to commit more if he’s going to pop (since she thinks he’s plateaued). Bruno said he needs to be less timid, more “Terminator.” Carrie Ann kept beating around the bush, saying he wasn’t breaking out, when wordsmith co-host Tom Bergeron stepped in with a new term: “contender adjacent.” Yeah, that’s it, said Carrie Ann.
Score: 30 (boos all around)
Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Tamar had a few sick days and more than a few down days after her disjointed, low-scoring number with Louis last week. But Val promised her some fun with their Janet Jackson dance to “Rhythm Nation.” The show switched to black and white for this jazz number, just like the seminal music video, and Tamar looked confident and sharp. Miss Jackson is a tough act to follow, but Tamar managed nicely. Olivia said she was “militaristic” and impressive, and Bruno thought she was indistinguishable from the pros around her. Carrie Ann was worried about Tamar because of last week’s missteps, but thought she brought herself back to peak form.
Score: another 40, making it a three-way tie for the night