‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Tamar Braxton surges, Victor Espinoza stalls in Week 2

What are the two words that strike fear into the hearts of “Dancing With the Stars” contestants? Goodman’s back!

While that would work, too, I had this week’s two-part episode in mind and its dreaded Double Elimination. Not only did two couples get ditched from the ABC reality show, all the amateur hoofers had to learn and perform two different dances on two consecutive nights.

In the now-famous words of “Honey I’m Good” singer and participant Andy Grammer, “Dancing is hard!” Twice the dancing? Twice as hard, y’all, for reals.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour >>

The bodies didn’t exactly litter the floor, despite Nick Carter’s slip-and-fall on Monday, but the number of competitors whittled to 11 by the end of this whopping-four-hour intro-to-dance marathon.

Iconic singer Chaka Khan, whose legions of fans either didn’t vote or didn’t dig her “cha cha,” left at the end of Monday’s show and Victor Espinoza headed home late Tuesday. That took this season’s cute quotient down a notch and seriously bummed out co-host Erin Andrews.

It also meant that Gary Busey talked smack to the judges – and got away with it – and Paula Deen lived to forget steps another day. Hunky young hero Alek Skarlatos is free to keep dancing with American flags of every description. (Flags on the wall! Flags on the bandstand! Flags on the clothes!)

And the pros were as much in the spotlight as the celebrities, with this being part 2 of “Hometown Glory.” As the stars did the night before, the professionals took viewers back to their roots and their childhoods. Baby pictures! There were plenty of old performance clips of the pint-sized budding hoofers. Adorable!

SIGN UP for the free Essential Arts & Culture newsletter >>

Here’s how everyone stacked up, in chronological order:

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater

Emma misses her family back in the U.K., especially her sister, so she picked one of their favorite rock tunes, Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” for a quickstep. Julianne wanted to smack Hayes’ booty – not in a creepy way – and called the number “fresh and youthful.” Bruno thought it was his best dance yet, and Carrie Ann told him to watch his (sometimes) weird and wayward feet.

Score: 23

Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson

Carlos and his man bun were exhausted, but he pushed through some punishing rehearsals for Witney’s lightning-fast cha cha to “Hound Dog.” She picked the song because she and two other “DWTS” pros, who’ve known and danced with each other since they were kids in Utah, all love it. The guy can move, no doubt, and he can keep up with Witney, which is quite a feat. Carrie Ann wasn’t impressed because she said he “shortened” his swagger. Julianne thought he had the style but suffered from squattiness. (Squat-y-ness?)

Score: 21 (his lowest score yet)

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya

“I’m here to kill for you,” Gary said during rehearsal in an accent that was definitely not Russian, and then he donned a cape and bumbled his way through a paso doble to Tchaikovsky. Carrie Ann realized everyone was rooting for him, even though there was very little paso doble in that number. Julianne was intimidated, and Bruno called him a bit Frankensteinish. Finally, someone said it. Again, crowd favorite and total wild man, so he’s sticking around.

Score: 15 (“If that’s as far as they can count, God bless them,” Gary said. Zing!)

Andy Grammer and Allison Holker

Allison, another Utah native, feels just as connected to Los Angeles, and she choreographed a contemporary routine to “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and made poor Andy dance barefoot. That’s her sweet spot, and Andy did “so much better than last night,” Julianne said. Bruno called the routine “incredibly difficult” and accused him of nearly flubbing their lift. Boos all around, even from his fellow judges, and a protest from Allison. (It did sort of seem like he had a tenuous grasp on his partner, with the frightened facial expression to match.) Carrie Ann felt the commitment.

Score: 23

Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas

Mark and his man bun were emotional. Mark’s parents were world-class Latin ballroom dancers, and he dedicated his rumba to them, noting in the rehearsal video that it was the last dance they performed as a married couple. No pressure at all, Alexa! She pulled off “moments of brilliance” but it “didn’t quite come together,” said Carrie Ann, though she nailed the Shirley Ballas signature split move. Bruno thought it was a “romantic, sensual classic rumba.”

Score: 22

Paula Deen and Louis van Amstel

Louis left his little town in Amsterdam because he wanted to hit the big time on Broadway, where he met a whole cadre of dancers he’s working with now on ABC. Paula reminded him that he’s old, and he seemed to really appreciate that. She missed some steps and proffered the old “deer in headlights” excuse. Julianne and Carrie Ann thought she was sexy and full of ’tude. Bruno called her a “red hot mama,” and tossed in a bunch of odd cooking metaphors, which co-host Tom Bergeron said made him sound like “the creepiest chef ever.”

Score: 18

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough

Derek grew up in Utah, where he was “bullied and tormented,” he said during the video segment, and the over-tired but persistently upbeat Bindi wanted badly to do justice to his experience. Their waltz to Johnny Lang’s “Only a Man” was “emotionally involving,” Bruno said, and Julianne saw “two dancers dancing as one.” Carrie Ann, the new Len Goodman, threw cold water on the number by pointing out that waltzes aren’t supposed to contain lifts. Boo, said everyone.

Score: 23

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani

Dance has the power to unite people, Tony said of his war-torn homeland, Kosovo, and provided an escape for him from that conflict. His foxtrot to “Come Home” with Kim went fairly well. Bruno liked “the new Kim,” and compared her to a reupholstered sofa. Huh? Carrie Ann and Julianne wanted more from her.

Score: a jeer-eliciting 18

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold

Competing in “DWTS” is nearly as stressful as tackling an international terrorist, Alek said during the video package, but he and Lindsay attacked that quickstep to “American Girl.” (She’s a smart competitor to have draped the whole place in red, white and blue so that it illuminated them from every conceivable angle. Stars! Stripes!) The crowd, predictably, loved it. “It was OK,” an unenthusiastic Carrie Ann said, and yet she thought they were “a power couple.” Julianne called him “masculine” and “mature” for his 22 years. Bruno liked it more than the gals did.

Score: 22

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff

Karina and her family emigrated from the Ukraine and struggled to make a new life in the U.S., so she and Victor have plenty in common, they said in the rehearsal video. He promised to “take control” of her during their rumba to “Girl on Fire,” like he did with American Pharoah. OK, sure. Julianne said he looked “10 feet tall,” and Bruno said he had the “commanding presence of a giant.” Carrie Ann said size doesn’t matter and that he dominated his partner.

Score: 20

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess

Sharna has been away from her native Australia since she was a teenager, and she’s homesick and misses her family. Mood lighting, flowing silver-gray costumes and light steps made their foxtrot to “I’m Coming Home” pretty darn lovely. Bruno declared that “Nick is back on track,” and Carrie Ann saw “poetry” in their dance. Julianne said he got out of his own Backstreet Boy head, for a change, and supported his partner.

Score: 24 (highest score so far)

Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Has anyone else gotten the impression that Tamar doesn’t much care for her swarthy, arrogant partner? That Val is a handful! Especially when he insists on being shirtless, which is usually. Who counted the number of times she said, “I’m not doing that,” as he described his vision during their video segment? The number – a compromise? -- turned out to be a peppy Charleston with a New York street scene as the backdrop. Delightful! Carrie Ann thought they “killed it,” and Julianne said it was “seamless.” “So uplifting, so energizing,” Bruno said.

Score: 25 (best of the night)

Get our daily Entertainment newsletter