Welcome to Hometown Glory night — where luckily for Chaka Khan and her partner, Keo Mostepe, there’s no shame in heading back to where you started. We all wanted more from the Queen of Funk (note Our Host’s outstretched hand below), but I’m pretty sure she’ll get over it just fine. Once more, with feeling:
It’s an unprecedented double-duty Week 2 on Dancing With the Stars. All 12 remaining couples will perform a second dance tonight, provided no one drops out before 9 p.m. ET due to the unrelenting stress and joint-based agony typically reserved for Weeks 5 or 6. No rest for the weary this time, dancing fools. If you think you’re working hard, you better SHIMMY. HARDER. Now. Liiiiiiiiiiive!
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 25/30 You could almost feel Mark Ballas salivating in the Red Room as Bindi detailed her tender coming of age among the non-sequined hordes of wild animals. But hold tight, Mark. This is about Derek. And Bindi. She grew up dancing with her dad to heavy metal jams in the middle of the Australia Zoo, which sounds amazing. Maybe it’s no wonder she turned out so bubbly and well-adjusted. (Should we all live in the zoo? Would that work?) And what better way to honor such a paradox than to fire up the background fans and dance a delicious tango to the dulcet sounds of AC/DC?
Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 24/30 These two bravely compromised on their differences concerning how much they should thrust on the word “family” during the cha cha, proving once and for all that DWTS problems are way better than real problems. The judges want Tamar to develop more chemistry with Val while they dance in hold, so the above holds true for homework assignments as well. I have no doubt their dances will only get hotter from here. I was particularly obsessed with the long fringe on Tamar’s dress, her aggressive gravity-defying head whip, and Val’s tongue action.
Somewhere out there, Tristan MacManus vigorously nodded in approval (also with tongue).
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas: 24/30 So she’s a leopard in the wild and he’s… wait, he’s just a guy? A Duck Dynasty cast member, perhaps, but not another animal? Far be it for me to attempt to understand the nuances of Mark’s performance art — I’m pretty sure I gave up somewhere between Tribal Troll Doll and Zombie Hobo. What really matters is that Alexa sizzled in the salsa, and Mark got a proper chance to explore another fetish to the fullest of his abilities.
Speaking of important platforms….
It’s not real, but it’s spectacular.
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 24/30 Blake Shelton’s “Home” was just the type of country song Carlos’s dad used to sing with a Spanish accent in Columbia, Missouri. Add a huge rainy window to the mix and voila: a stunning foxtrot in all its hometown glory. The dance was perfectly paced with rise and fall, almost cinematic according to Bruno. The judges’ only nitpick was that Carlos needs to squeeze those shoulder blades together. “Don’t confuse posture with frame!” warned Bruno. I’m sure Witney can explain this further if he ever pays more attention during practice.
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 23/30 Last week’s foxtrot was no fluke, the judges insist. After muscling his way through a porch-based jazz routine brimming with difficult lifts and syncopated moves, the only thing Alek needs to do is relax his fingers. Piece of cake. The average Joe’s quiet campaign to win it all got a bonus, even more understated boost from Alek’s pal and fellow train-stopping hero Spencer: “If you’re not supporting him, then we’ve got problems,” Spencer delicately soft-spoke. Can you feel the drama?! I love it. I cannot stop smiling whenever this couple is on. Even their rehearsal segments are delightful. I can’t decide which was more intriguing: Alek’s tendency to punctuate his moves with a variety of yelps and grunts…
…or this fabulous tank top. I’ll give it to the shirt this week, but only because I want the weird bodily noises to step it up a notch.
Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: 22/30 “I don’t know if I liked the motorbike,” Carrie Ann began, flushing a hard week of set decoration right down the toilet. (I’m just being dramatic, of course. Lest you forget, there are TWO shows this week.) The couple’s white and orange jumpsuits were even crazier than the bike, and even crazier than that is that they were dancing the foxtrot. Such is the strange magic of Planet Mirrorballus. Hayes continues to show promise; Bruno says he has the “arms of a ballet dancer”. Top them off with “those eyelashes and those tears” (Erin’s faves) and we’ve got one heck of a 15-year-old Vine star contender.
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 21/30 The good thing about them performing first is that I barely remembered Nick’s floor-level stumble during their “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” jive. Wait, I’m reading that over and I changed my mind. Forgetting them is bad no matter what. But no way is the Backstreet Boy in any danger, right? He ripped off those copper-flittered shoes with such verve and zest. I say he’s got to stick around long enough to dance a soul-wrenching, barefoot lyrical number set to “It’s True”; otherwise his entire DWTS experience will ring false.
Check out how hard Bruno had to restrain himself from delivering Nick’s score in former head judge Len Goodman’s signature style. I’ll admit it’s been rough to live without that weekly dose of “Seh-vehhhhhhhn!” so far. But can’t we all hear Len in our heads, judging us, any time we want? I’ve had him score my outfits, my meals, even my innermost goals and values. Sure, I’m only getting 7s — but sometimes they’re enough.
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker: 21/30 The judges weren’t quite sure how the musician managed to lose the beat so often in his fruit stand-based jive, an homage to Andy’s early years as a struggling open mic performer in NYC. But it’s not like the judges were exactly on point tonight, either. Case in point: “Not a vegetarian, are you? This is like a havoc on fresh produce!” Many thanks to voice of reason Tom for reassuring viewers they weren’t totally crazy trying to make sense of Bruno’s critique. “It didn’t help when you repeated it, at all!”
Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel: 19/30 I must admit I spent the first half of their rumba focusing on the high-powered smoke machine and how much I like smoked foods. But the Georgia-based chef reclaimed everyone’s attention when she lost balance on some turns, then decided to fully “drama it up” (said Julianne) and nearly spin out of control. At one point I swear she would have hit the floor if not for her death grip on her partner’s noggin. But since our pro Louis Van Intensité is composed entirely of steel and a can-do attitude, none of this was a problem.
Kim Zolciak and Tony Dovolani: 19/30 “She’s alive! She’s alive!” cried Bruno after the Real Housewife and Tylenol dosage expert survived — nay, thrived — in the quickstep. But did you really think he would stop there? “The most unexpected comeback since Lazarus!”
Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: 18/30 “I love this place! I love it! Don’t you all love it?!” Gary kept the sparkly religious revival going after a surprisingly adept high school-themed foxtrot. Why YES. I am sold, sir! No questions asked. I submit. To everything. Now please remain focused on your miracle worker of a partner and casually beam me to your planet via brainwaves!
Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff: 17/30 I like a lot of things about Victor. His humble beginnings. His enthusiasm. The way he has no qualms about being flung into a jive pit by two much larger men. But let’s be honest, this world-class jockey can barely dance. He even messed up the jive’s most impactful move and had to demonstrate it anew before the judges.
“In four hours, he’s calling his doctor, don’t worry,” quipped Tom.
Let’s hope this situation resolved itself for Victor… and that Karina eventually found herself a non-virgin margarita.
’Til tomorrow, DANCMSTRs! Are you going to watch Tom Bergeron on The Muppets? And who should exit the ballroom after that?