The week leading into the semifinals, the pressure was unbearable on "Dancing With the Stars." Amid mounting judge exasperation over his ballroom dancing persistence despite bad scores, Sean Spicer tried to show the world that he belongs in the reality dance competition.
Meanwhile, "Bachelorette" Hannah Brown had a meltdown in her prerecorded dance rehearsal video when she failed to hit her moves to her own satisfaction.
The heat was on for six celebrity couples dancing two dances each on Boy Band/Girl Group Night.
NSYNC member and Season 4 runner-up Joey Fatone brought his unique expertise as a fourth judge in what would ultimately be Spicer's judgement day.
Here's what went down.
We explain the impossible: Why Sean Spicer survives despite the lowest judge scores
James Van Der Beek and Emma Slater
The "Dawson's Creek" star has gone dramatic in his past dances, but he threw out all control in his jive to the Pointer Sisters "I'm So Excited." He ended with total flare, nailing a split in the middle of the dance floor. The crowd went wild.
"You had to scrape people off the ceiling," said judge Bruno Tonioli, who quibbled about some missed moves. "But I have to say, brilliant."
First dance: 36/40.
Van Der Beek hit his boy-band fantasy moment during his jazz dance to NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye." He had all the moves in the lead dance position among a bevy of male dancers, with Slater an almost a gyrating afterthought.
Judge Len Goodman thought it was too far from ballroom. "It was too much boy band," he said, giving an 8.
Fatone loved it so much: "If I could give 100, I would have," he said, calling it "flat-out awesome."
Second dance: 36/40
Final score: 72/80
Sean Spicer and Jenna Johnson
With his regular partner Lindsay Arnold still out, Spicer stepped it up his fill-in partner Johnson. He showed surprising fluidity, a lime green suit and some complex holds in his Argentine tango to Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills," He even displayed a new facial expression: Not smiling.
But even with his passion face, the judges were ready to pounce, looking for new ways to describe bad dancing.
"Don’t cry for Sean, Argentina," said Tonioli, adding it was "more an Argentine straggle." It was a comment that brought out an exasperated "Oh, come on," from Spicer.
"The best thing about it, it wasn’t very long," said Goodman, bringing a Spicer eye-roll. "It was just a series of walking about. Nah, I cannot even comment on it.”
First dance: 26/40
The Spicer fixed smile was back with a fox-trot to One Direction's "Story of My Life," but so were Spicer's signature missed dance moves. Somehow, the judges were even more exasperated.
"You always go in one direction: reverse," said Tonioli, calling his style "a bit clompy"
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba praised his "heart-open" dance style and gave encouragement, noting that Spicer seemed to be affected by the comments. "I know you're getting a bit emotional," she said. Spicer shook the comment off.
The judges gave straight 6 marks that left Spicer deep in the bottom of the field andfar more vulnerable than normal. This would come back to haunt him.
Second dance: 26/40
Total score: 50/80
Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten
Brown is showing ever more abandon in her Latin dances, with a powerful yet imperfect salsa to TLC's "No Scrubs." Even keeping her leopard top from slipping was difficult with all the movement. "That was a talent unto itself," Brown admitted afterwards.
Tonioli loved the confidence, noting she "lost a bit of timing. But it doesn't matter you are now a star attraction."
Inaba was less impressed given Brown's other high-caliber dances. "This was good, but it wasn't amazing."
First dance: 32/40
For the second dance, a tango to BTS' "Boy With Luv" the pressure seemed to be getting to Brown. The prerecorded video showed her in rehearsal with puffy eyes, missing moves and saying to her exasperated partner Bersten, "I'm about to freaking blow up."
Breakdown behind her, Brown's moves were as smooth as her exquisitely sweeping back leg during the tango. And the smile never left.
Fatone called it "the best dance of the night" as the judges pulled out 10 paddles. (Goodman gave a nine.)
"I'm purring like a kitten who has just gotten the cream," said Tonioli.
Second dance: 39/40
Total score: 71/80
Ally Brooke and pro Sasha Farber
Last week, Brooke earned the first complete perfect score (30/30) from the judges, but still ended up in the bottom two. Only the judges saved her from getting the boot, which Brooke called "heartbreaking."
The Fifth Harmony member took no chances on Girl Group Night, dancing a perfect samba to the Spice Girls' "Wannabe." She nailed it in a slinky, fringed leopard-skin outfit and a big smile.
The judges reached for superlatives again.
"Being in a girl group paid off. That was amazing," said Inaba, praising the duo. "You guys should be called the Wonder Twins you dance so NSYNC."
"From one boy-band member to one girl-band member, amazing job," said Fatone.
The scores were perfect, straight 10s, and Brooke pleaded on camera for voters to bring her back.
First dance: 40/40
Brooke's jazz dance to New Kids on the Block's "Step by Step" showed her as an energetic Paula Abdul clone, showing all aspects of her bubbly personality.
Inaba beamed that it was "flawless." Goodman said it was "so much fun." Another perfect score, her third in a row.
Second dance: 40/40
Final total: 80/80
Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko
Alaina thought her quickstep dance to The Supremes' Motown classic "You Can't Hurry Love" was perfect since she is fully single "and dating the show." Her joyous and complicated routine split the judges – some felt the timing fell off during the complex numbers.
"There were one or two moments that were not on," said Goodman, who drew boos for the criticism. "But I liked it."
"I don't know what you guys are talking about," said Inaba. "I thought it was fantastic."
Somehow, Inaba and Goodman gave same nine scores for the same performance after their spar.
First dance: 34/40
Alaina soared to the other side of the dance and emotional spectrum with her rumba to The Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." She ended up forehead to forehead on the fog-filled floor with her partner, her breathing contained in her white corset.
Fatone called the dance "amazing" as Tonioli roared approval.
"If you like rumba hot, place your orders now because Lauren delivers," he said.
Second dance: 36/40
Total score: 70/80
Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson
Mitchell went strong with a (glittery) black turtleneck and black pants, and commanded the dance floor once again with the couple's paso doble to En Vogue's "Free Your Mind." The moves left the judges floored.
"I'm overwhelmed by the power of the performance," said Tonioli, who gave a nine.
Goodman was not impressed with the nonballroom theatrics. "Too many gimmicks and not enough paso doble," he said, giving an eight.
First dance: 34/40
Mitchell slowed it way down for a Viennese waltz to "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men, noting that the last time he did a slow dance, he ended up in the bottom two. He gently lead the dance in perfect form and the judges raved — especially Inaba, who was thrilled that Mitchell incorporated comments she had given in the last dance.
Goodman called it "terrific" and "really polished." There were straight 10 scores.
Second dance: 40/40
Total for night: 74/80
So what happened?
Keep in mind, Spicer has never been in the bottom two before. So it was a shock as each of the "saved" dance couples left the floor, starting with the seemingly vulnerable Brooke and Farber.
In the end it was Spicer and Johnson in the bottom for the first time, and Alaina and Savchenko based on the judges' scores and voters tally.
Not even a since-deleted tweet from President Donald Trump during the show was able to push Spicer over the top.
"Vote for Sean Spicer on Dancing with the Stars," the president tweeted, according to screenshots of the tweet shared by other Twitter users. "He is a great and very loyal guy who is working very hard. He is in the quarterfinals – all the way with Sean! #MAGA #KAG"
Though Trump appeared to take that tweet down when Spicer failed to make the cut, he saluted his former spokesman's effort in another post: "A great try by @seanspicer. We are all proud of you!"
A great try by @seanspicer. We are all proud of you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2019
There was absolutely zero suspense as the final decision was taken out of the voters' hands and left to the judges. Inaba was gracious, saying "when we get to this moment, it's never easy." She saved Alaina and Savchenko.
Tonioli finished Spicer off for good with his vote, thanking him "for being such a good sport."
Spicer was all class getting eliminated. "I wish I could have done better," he said to his absent regular partner. He thanked the fans who had carried him and the veterans on Veterans Day. With little fanfare, exited the dance floor.
Contributing: William Cummings, USA TODAY.
Trump deletes tweet telling people to vote for Spicer on 'Dancing With the Stars' after elimination
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sean Spicer eliminated on 'Dancing With the Stars': Recap