Warning: This recap of the Sept. 26 episode of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.
Monday’s presidential debate really cramped the televised ballroom’s style. But instead of whining about the impossible task of spotlighting 12 couples in one hour, the intrepid DWTS production staff invented a nifty time-saver called The Face-Off, whipped up an idealistic preview of the night’s potential drama…
…and simply got on with the show.
To make up for lost time, Tuesday’s two-hour results special will include the judges’ commentary from all of Monday’s dances, plus extended behind-the-scenes footage and the second elimination of the season. No couple who won a Face-Off on Monday can get sent home on Tuesday. This doesn’t seem quite fair considering the randomness of the match-ups. But depending on your perspective, America’s got much bigger glitches to address than Vanilla Ice’s immunity right now. Ballroom-wise, we should be just fine.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold: 32/40 Speaking of facing off, Lindsay begged her former NFL star to quit “squeezing the brains out of my head” during a key sequence in their Viennese waltz. “Just gracefully grab it, like a football,” she attempted to speak his language.
Mission accomplished, sort of. No faces flew off, and Calvin’s delicate handling of both his partner’s noggin and his own frame earned him the straight 8s the couple had been after. Dragging Lindsay across the floor on one toe as if she were a feather helped, too.
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 31/40 Carrie Ann the Lift Cop deducted a point from their tango, but these two still won immunity over fine-aged cheddar curds Marilu and Derek thanks to the sharp footwork of their light-up shoes inside the Mirrorball Matrix.
In his quest to elevate his 16-year-old partner’s believability as a grown-up, Val turned a lighthearted “It takes two to…” riddle (for which Laurie’s first guess, “Make a thing go right?” was technically correct) into a laser cut of tough love once she solved the puzzle. “So let’s tango together,” Val implored her. “Otherwise, you’re gonna be ‘Cute Laurie’ for the rest of the season.” Ouch. Cute?! The worst. Luckily, the pair found a simple workaround for channeling passion: The next time Laurie needs to mature on the spot, she’s just “gotta pretend like I’m smelling a really good quesadilla.”
Mmmm. Yep, I’m buying it. “Smell the quesadilla acting” may not be as tried and true as “smell the fart acting” (introduced to the world via Friends’ Joey Tribbiani; re-popularized by Our Pro Sharna Burgess), but they’ll workshop it, no problem.
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber: 30/40 Here’s where the unfairness of the Face-Off was most blatant: As the third-from-top scorers of Monday’s competition, there’s no way Terra and Sasha should be vulnerable for elimination. But since Calvin and Lindsay also happened to dance an excellent Viennese waltz and outscore them, this is their predicament.
Sasha is really making that height difference work. Their dance, a beautifully emoted representation of Terra’s desire to feel comfortable in her own skin, should keep them safe for a few more weeks.
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess: 29/40 Getting by with a little help from Sharna’s sparkly belted lingerie, the Canadian Indy car driver with more hip action than you’d expect nailed this week’s cha-cha. Season 23′s king and queen of jewel tones swiveled right on through that rainbow disco wonderland, easily winning immunity over Ryan Lochte and Cheryl.
Marilu Henner and Derek Hough: 28/40 Derek pulled out all the stops to try and score immunity in the tango: focusing on lifetime experience, styling Marilu so that she was a dead ringer for Allison Holker, and triple-confirming the camera angles so that everyone knew he dipped his partner lower than Val’s.
It didn’t work out, but this was such a valiant effort. If Marilu and Derek end up tangoing home tonight, then something much worse than a quesadilla stinks on Planet Mirrorballus…
Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev: 28/40 Maureen’s 60-year-old back started failing her this week, the Brady Bunch actress tearfully explained during rehearsals. Still, she fought through a relatively safe salsa with a flick of her hand and a wag of her ruffles.
It won’t go down as the most memorable dance of the night, but Artem made a good call in catering the choreography to head judge Len Goodman instead of non-judge Jennifer Lopez (à la their Face-Off opponents Amber and Maks).
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko: 26/40 Let it never be said that pink polka dots, cascading infinity hearts in the background, multiple singers onstage, and an epic fake-out boob grab can’t work wonders in the ballroom.
Compared to Babyface and Allison’s more muted jive, Jana and Gleb’s struck a higher performance chord — but it wasn’t quite a knockout on its own.
Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke: 25/40 Their cha-cha couldn’t hold a purple-fringed candle to James and Sharna’s, but kudos to the dim bulb Olympian for finally digging deep, focusing during practice, opening his damn shirt, and showcasing Cheryl properly.
Ryan Lochte Image Rehab: Take 3 is in full swing, baby! Jyeah!
Kenny Edmonds and Allison Holker: 25/40 Babyface needed a lot more bounce in this week’s jive, a well-intentioned but tepid ode to Little Richard. He did look like he was having fun (for him), but at this rate he has no hope of matching his partner’s oomph.
On the bright side, the music producer did pinpoint the issue exactly: He’s used to having total control in his career, and dancing so often requires the opposite.
Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 25/40 Their salsa was so overpowered by graffiti, Amber’s wig, and J. Lo’s nasally vocals on “Booty” that I barely noticed when Amber and Maks paused for a quick selfie and a deep breath. At least they committed to a storyline and spent the majority of this fever dream making sure each other’s fabulous butts were still there. Check.
Props to all the sequins on what Tom jokingly called Amber’s Real Housewives of Hazzard costume for working overtime throughout their segment.
Vanilla Ice and Witney Carson: 23/40 The Face-Off between Rick Perry and Vanilla Ice was by far the most entertaining, if only for the odd yet authentic bromance that’s blossomed between them. The two Texans tied in what Vanilla Ice called the “paso blow-blay,” but the rapper ultimately won this week’s immunity thanks to the trusty 6 paddle of tie-breaker Len Goodman.
The ballroom appropriateness of Vanilla Ice’s sparkly headwear is sure to be hotly debated, as it’s just as important as any other nationwide topic. I am firmly on Team Ice Caps, now and forever, because come on. If you’re not going to wear ridiculous hats, then WTF are you doing on Dancing With the Stars?
Rick Perry and Emma Slater: 23/40 Obviously, this paso doble Face-Off could have gone either way, and the former governor’s embellished costume alone would have made me feel okay had he won immunity. (Terrified for Vanilla Ice, but still okay.) Despite a nasty twist of his “bad ankle” during rehearsal, Rick sucked it up, declared he was dancing for the military service men and women who get hurt all the time, and struck a series of dramatic matador poses while Emma sprinted around him, a blur of tiered ruffles stunned into submission.
It’s mostly a blur, isn’t it? See you tomorrow to discuss the Week 3 results!
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.