Everybody scream! The guyliner is oozing through the scars, the chandeliers are probably skeletons (too afraid to look), and the Smoke Monster from Lost is out for revenge. Monday’s Dancing With the Stars pre-empted the “real” Halloween with some spooky solos, a fabulous floor-plant by co-host Leah Remini (filling in for Erin Andrews during the World Series), and one of the best team dances of the series, a spiffy (spliffy?) dinner party sendup of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Yet death becomes us all soon enough — sometimes too early, no matter how hard we sparkle(barf). Despite a surefooted facial hair-themed waltz and an epic tabletop wobble for the winning Team Nightmare, 15-year-old social media star Hayes Grier has been eliminated on Week 7 with partner Emma Slater.
He’ll remain forever in my heart as the gangly vine sprouting out of Nick Carter.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 28 + 30/30 = 58/60 Ol’ Smokey lent just the right amount of floor-skimming fog so that this pair’s sharp-edged Argentine tango appeared to emerge effortlessly from very thick air. But Bindi had trouble pulling off her “queen of the vampires” character. It’s understandable: Even when she attempts to scare people, all they want are hugs. Girl is no Sasha Farber hidden in a toy chest (or running around in plain sight), not even close.
“THE F—?” —Emma
Still, season 21’s ray of sunshine tried her mightiest to brandish her one-time fangs in lieu of a giant grin. And for a few glimpses — particularly while she was trapped in a hall of jazz hands — she actually did look scary. Well, maybe just scared.
Sadly, the pair’s short-lived trickery could not bust through the hot ghost mess that was Team Who You Gonna Call (Besides Artem) — and for the first time ever, her partner lost a team dance.
At least Derek got this key move in, though. Happy for him.
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker: 30 + 26/30 = 56/60 Andy’s sky blue contacts and the shock of combining Marilyn Manson with the paso doble effectively lured me into this week’s high-intensity jerkfest, but Bruno pointed out some major flaws in Andy’s technique. Screw precision, insisted Carrie Ann. Andy must have been making those “weird lines on purpose.” (Duh, this is Halloween.) Only Judge Juli could pinpoint the truly important matter at hand: “I’m, like, extremely turned on right now,” said the ballroom’s new princess of darkness. “I don’t know what that says about me.” Um, that you enjoy oversharing for no reason?
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 28 + 28/30 = 56/60 Carlos seemed to be digging his own grave during this couple’s intro: He felt the judges overscored him last week, he asked Witney to ease up on their hard and fast paso doble choreography, and he’d never “used a cape” before? Pure mirrorball madness, I tell you! But these were all phantom red herrings. Not only did Carlos stand strong amidst a sea of smoke, but he totally sold the dance’s final, riveting moment in which he bravely half-faced the brutal reality of this week’s costume.
Was I super high or were the judges barely visible by this point? For the first time ever, it wasn’t totally clear. SOME GENIUS HAD HOTBOXED THE BALLROOM. (Probably Chong.)
“We’re a little bit of smoke away from this being a radio show,” quipped Tom Bergeron in a blaze of improv glory.
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas: 28 + 27/30 = 55/60 Still shaken up from Carrie Ann’s life-draining observance that she’d “missed the essence of Britney” last week, Alexa spent this week in frustrated tears during practice. Not to worry; Mark lives for these shattering moments and was more than happy to step up and take matters into his own scissorhands.
Call me crazy, but I am extremely turned on right now. Wait, no. But I did really love this Edward Scissorhands-inspired paso doble, another of life’s many absurdities sculpted by Sir Ballas the honorary Brit. And the dancing shrubbery, expensive wigs, and intensified chemistry between the pair were just dry ice on the caked-on makeup. “You cut off your head and just danced!” cried Carrie Ann. (Essence of Britney: achieved.)
But enough about everyone else’s hair. Our Pro Val sported some wild ‘dos this week, including this hidden gem and the exact opposite of his essence: a tiny man bun.
Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 30 + 24/30 = 54/60 “I finally feel like she’s there,” Val said of his partner, “for the first time in seven weeks.” I loved how he called Tamar out on not going full-tilt until show night. “Yeah!” she announced proudly. She’s a musician; it’s what they do. “I HATE THAT,” he fired back, fueled as always by love. “I want it in here all the time.”
It seemed like a potential breakthrough. “I get that,” Tamar mused thoughtfully before announcing (in half-jest, she insists) that she’s the best dancer remaining in the competition. The judges appreciated her confidence, but wouldn’t budge on the pair’s consistent lack of connection after a quirky foxtrot rather brilliantly set to the Doors’ “People Are Strange”.
To Tamar’s credit, the singer fearlessly remained committed to the theme of their foxtrot during and after Team Nightmare’s performance, too: re-adjusting her tiny hat 200 times instead of ripping off that piece of trash once and for all.
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 30 + 24/30 = 54/60 For some reason, Nick’s reflection that “People have a hard time giving me the real because I’m a Backstreet Boy” delighted me so thoroughly that I barely even needed them to dance. But Argentine tango they did (it was more of a paso doble according to Bruno) after a long week of traveling, fried brains, and “exhausting every bit of [Nick’s] being and soul”. As the captain of Team Nightmare, our Boy deserves extra credit for setting a creepy yet alluring tone to their freaky-fancy Jack Skellington-esque characters. I thought Nick and Sharna’s upside-down spider work was the best part of an incredible dance. And even Carrie Ann had to admit their opening number was nothing short of “Frankensexy.” Speaking of which…
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 28 + 25/30 = 53/60 Armed with guns of steel and an iPad, Artem “Reality Check” Chigvintsev dropped by the rehearsal studio for an emergency What Not To Wear session before Alek’s Viennese waltz. He also showed the train attack hero how to freaking lead a lady. Slowly but surely, Artem’s creation became a monster, digging deep to make a passionate Yell Face on at least one occasion during the Viennese waltz.
It was so fierce we could see it from two different angles!
In the spirit of a reality check, I happened to pause my DVR on this absurd yet necessary pose during Alek’s dancer intro and just feel it should count for something. Sure, it was important for the contestants to be terrifying and dark for one night, but now that Halloween is officially over, it’s time to get back to ballroom basics. The glittery pink haze of Planet Mirrorballus is no joke and this is not a costume.
See you next week, Sparklebarfers! Treat yourself to tickets for this winter’s DWTS Tour and shirtless Val’s next vest could be thrown at you.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.