Warning: This Dancing With the Stars recap contains spoilers.
What an absurdly chaotic DWTS episode — and not in the usual fun, sparklebarfy way. After scoring two perfect 30s on dances that would never count, Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas have been eliminated on Week 9. Alexa’s husband Carlos wept violently onstage. When would he see her again? Would it be… [gasp]…in a few freaking seconds?!
Meanwhile: Having escaped the set Monday afternoon WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE, Tamar Braxton was a no-show for Round 1 Monday night. “She came on the lot 15 minutes before we danced [in dress rehearsal], sick with pneumonia,” explained Tamar’s clearly frustrated partner Val. “And that’s been this [whole] season… It shouldn’t be like that. I’m not here to make her life hard.”
An absence from Round 2 would have eliminated Tamar by default, but at the last minute, she drifted in on a cloud of adrenaline and medication to dance and nearly faint on a bench. So now we’re stuck with a contestant who’s too sick for and of the competition, and Carlos might still be ugly-crying with thoughts of “It should have been me instead.”
TOO! MUCH! DRAMA! (Do you love it???)
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 30 Viennese waltz + 30 Charleston = 60/60 Oh joy, it’s one of Derek’s regularly scheduled choreography meltdowns! These happen once a season. They’re brutal on his partners — who are literally grasping in the dark for any prayer, some shred of a clue as to how to help — but always worth it come score time. “Tehhhhhhhn!” The judges loved Bindi and Derek’s traditional Viennese waltz, which reminded Carrie Ann of a sunrise filled with hope and prompted Julianne to share the scare-shakes with her brother’s partner. “The thing that makes you grow is you take risks,” she assured the young star.
Hey, Bindi: What’s the difference between the Charleston and the Carlton?
It’s a mystery! Classic Aussie mistake. The pair joined up with Alexa and Mark for an homage to Chicago during the Showstoppers Round. Despite heavy intervention from the dark and twisted force Mark hilariously calls “KTVD — Killing The Vibe Derek,” Bindi managed to hold her own as Roxie Hart, but neither contestant really sold me. I’d love to see an all-pro rendition of “All That Jazz,” preferably with Sasha and Emma as the leading ladies. (Sorry, Judge Juli, you stay in your seat.)
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 28 quickstep + 27 rumba = 55/60 Extended footage of Nick wincing in pain from a swollen hip suggested this pair’s trajectory would be consistent with the “depression and chaos” theme of the night, but it was just a tease. The couple sizzled gangster-style in Round 1’s swingin’ quickstep set to Tape Five’s “A Cool Cat In Town”. Everything was on point, from the art deco set and lighting to the use of Artem and Alan as Nick’s backup boys (fitting complements to the actual Backstreet Boys in the audience). But the real story here was the magic and glory of Sharna’s liquid sparkle ball gown.
I never wanna not be looking at this dress, so I might paste a laminated version of this pic onto my dish soap or something. But there I go dreaming big again. Back to reality: Carrie Ann called out the couple for breaking hold midway through the quickstep and thought Nick was dancing a “quarter of a second ahead” of the beat. How she was able to scrutinize time so precisely in the face of a sequined tidal wave is anyone’s guess. I’m with Bruno: This number was “deadly cool”.
In the Showstoppers Round, Nick gamely played the leading man opposite Sharna, Val, and KIST (Killing It Softly Tamar) in the group’s homage to The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. It was supposed to be a rumba but seemed more like a wobbly platform for umbrellas, an aerialist, and confetti, confetti, confetti at every turn! I can’t believe KIST didn’t collapse, to be honest. I nearly fainted just watching it.
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 27 Argentine tango + 24 paso doble = 51/60 This crazy duo attempted the impossible: an Argentine tango set to Justin Bieber. “What Do You Mean”? No, I’m being totally serious. That’s the song they used. So already things were off in Round 1. Witney had lost her confidence, Carlos had gotten high-heeled in the groin with no promise of a makeup snack, and a solemn flittered door in the middle of nowhere lent new and unnecessary meaning to the phrase ”in and out of frame”. I did love the snazzy dual-colored lighting, though. How could you not?
Maybe I’m grasping at flaws here, but I need Argentine tango music to be a LOT fiercer than Justin Bieber. Fire up an orchestra recording, put Val and Mark on violin and guitar, do anything. Just no more Bieber. Ever. “It didn’t touch me. It lacked impact,” said Carrie Ann, who should have stopped right there. “It didn’t come together and smack me in the face.”
Carlos and Witney teamed up with Alek and Lindsay this week for a double date at sea, during which the ladies choreographed a paso doble in the bowels of the We Will Rock You party ship while the men drove bumper cars, played foosball, and toyed with the idea of reenacting Titanic. The resulting paso doble in the Showstoppers Round offered little passion and and some rather unfortunate facial residue in the aftermath of a splatter-paint finish.
On the upside, though, the Carlos-Alek bromance and Witney’s clown makeup were huge hits.
Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 22 contemporary + 27 rumba = 49/60 Their “Wicked Game” contemporary routine looked potentially gorgeous in the dress rehearsal footage the judges used to score the couple in Round 1. Lonely Val shifted uncomfortably, avoiding eye contact and rueing the day his partner stopped being Rumer Willis. As soon as the judges started rambling nonsense about “Fifty Shades of Val,” Our Pro quickly intervened, Maks-style: “It doesn’t matter what they have to say.”
Later on, Tamar pulled through in the rumba, then bravely summed up both the essence of the Beatles and the bigger picture of the ballroom’s bedroom dance for anyone not in the know. <3
Meanwhile, for Tom, Nick, and Our Pros, the psychedelic dream had turned into a gripping nightmare. It really did seem like Tamar would pull a Marie Osmond for a few solid minutes. Then she was announced as safe, and everyone could breathe again (except Carlos). If Tamar is healthy enough and has time to practice, this pair just might have the comeback of the season next Monday.
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 24 salsa + 24 paso doble = 48/60 “This week, things got painful!” Erin Andrews piped up delightedly. Our train attack hero had reluctantly agreed to go shirtless for the salsa, and you know what that meant: GROUP CHEST WAX.
I’m loving the camaraderie here, but I cannot abide by the agenda. Why must chest hair be illegal in the ballroom? It is natural-born fringe and should therefore be accepted! Alek certainly didn’t need a shiny torso to hide behind Lindsay’s strange copper-toned spider-in-a-tutu getup.
He did that all on his own. I kid, I kid, but they need to step it up next week to better showcase his improvement. Executing the dreaded one-armed lift without dropping your partner (ahem, Carlos) is impressive enough in Week 9, but in the Semifinals? Pfffft.
Get well soon, Tamar! Prove you’re in it to win it and we’ll all be waxing ecstatic.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.