“Dancing with the Stars” season 19 resumed Oct. 27 on ABC with a hearty dose of spooky fun as the spirit of Halloween settled over the esteemed ballroom. While all eight remaining couples turned in treat-worthy routines, the cranky judging quartet doled out a handful of nasty tricks to an unfortunate few before one was done in for good by the merciless axe of elimination.
The two-hour tribute to zombies, ghosties, and all things that go bump in the night began with a purely entertaining group number featuring the talented “DWTS” pros and the remaining contenders. The routine ended as head judge Len Goodman emerged from a coffin to mark his return to the panel after a four-week absence. Without wasting another second, co-hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews kicked off the week seven competition by welcoming comedian Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd to the dance floor.
The duo’s rehearsal segment saw Peta working hard to get the 76-year old to keep moving as he struggled with the “physicality” of the demanding quickstep. Although he called his knees “a legitimate concern,” he was sure he’d be able to pull it off for the live show.
Dressed up in a top hat and tuxedo, Tommy looked completely adorable as he hit the ballroom to deliver his “That Old Black Magic” quickstep. Sure, he forgot more than a few steps, but the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the dance floor were priceless.
Len acknowledged that the quickstep is “one of the hardest” ballroom dances to master, and appreciated Tommy’s “charm.” Julianne Hough admitted she was worried entering the week, but declared “you did it again!” Bruno Tonioli said Tommy still had “many tricks up his sleeve” and thought he did well, but noted issues when he wasn’t in hold. Finally, Carrie Ann Inaba appreciated the content, but noted several mistakes. The duo nabbed 28 points –a seven from each panelist– for the effort.
Up second to hoof it Halloween style were “Back to the Future” actress Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev. As they prepared for their Argentine tango, both struggled to come to terms with the judges’ comments from previous weeks and Lea struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Artem hoped that for the sake of Lea’s self esteem, they’d be able to rebound and finish higher on the leader board.
Musical guest Nikki Yanofsky sang her hit “Necessary Evil” as Lea and Artem did their thing for the live audience. It had power and passion, but Lea still looked a little unsure of herself. She’s a good dancer; she just needs to believe it and trust herself. After all, if she believes it, the audience is much more likely to but what she’s peddling.
Julianne told Lea to give herself a break, calling her legs and her ability to “stick it” every time “incredible.” Bruno called it “efficient, accurate, well-placed” with “just the right touch of evil.” (And then he fell out of his chair.) Len called it “very clean” but thought it “lacked a bit of chemistry.” They earned eights from Carrie Ann and Len, and nines from Julianne and Bruno for the effort, for a week seven total of 34 points.
Number three in the week’s order were YouTube star Bethany Mota and Derek Hough with a Paso Doble. During their rehearsal segment, Derek praised Bethany for the maturity she’s shown in the ballroom, and Bethany felt the pressure to keep it up. Unfortunately, she struggled with focus, which frustrated Derek as he tried to teach her the routine.
As it turned out, Derek had zero reasons to worry. Bethany looked like the queen of darkness in a long, red, high-necked gown, and nailed the footwork, precision, and mood demanded by their “Run Boy Run” Paso Doble. It was completely on-point.
Bruno was impressed, and called it “absolutely fantastic.” Carrie Ann called Bethany “fascinating” and marveled that she was able to keep up with Derek’s vision. Len thought it was “a spectacular number” but said “the dance got a bit lost in the whole production.” Julianne agreed with Len, but didn’t think Bethany was “lost” in it at all. In fact, she liked it so much that she suggested that she and Derek steal the concept for their next summer tour. Bethany and Derek nabbed three perfect tens along with a nine from Len for a nightly total of 39 points.
Fourth in the evening’s running order were “General Hospital” actor Antonio Sabato Jr. and two-time mirror ball winner Cheryl Burke. As they prepared for their “I Put a Spell on You” Viennese waltz, Antonio looked forward to Len’s return. Cheryl said she hoped to nab a 10 from Len, but quipped that “an eight would be great.”
The truly great thing about Antonio is how much he appreciates appearing on “DWTS” and learning how to perform a new dance each week. He’s not the strongest competitor, but his Viennese waltz wasn’t bad, and the theme was a good one; a little cutesy with the giant bubbling cauldron, but still on-point for Halloween.
Carrie Ann said she was “frustrated” with Antonio and how his many errors and issues made her “uncomfortable” watching him dance. Len called it “a bit hectic at times” and proclaimed the effort just “okay.” Julianne “wanted to see more” and agreed with Carrie Ann’s observations. Antonio and Cheryl scored a six from Carrie Ann and sevens from the other three judges, for a total of 27.
The show sped on as NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater rolled into the ballroom with the demanding jive. Michael confessed to being “freaked out” over the complexity and speed of the style, and a disheartened Emma lamented her inability to help him get it down.
Set to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and backed by the talented “DWTS” troupe, the dance was energetic. But it wasn’t a jive in any way, shape, or form. Michael and Emma are a fabulous pair and a feel-good story for sure, but they simply didn’t deliver what was asked of them.
The judges agreed, and delivered the bad news in exceedingly acid-tongued fashion. Len was the cruelest critic of them all. He said he was “surprised” that Michael had made it to week seven and that he’s “driving on empty.” Julianne called it “kind of a nightmare” but said she loved Michael anyway. Bruno said he loves a good roll in the hay, but noted the absence of both jive content and timing. Carrie Ann praised his “incredible attitude” but called it “a great freestyle” and not a jive. Michael and Emma earned only 20 points –a five from each judge– for the effort.
As the halfway point of the episode arrived, “Pretty Little Liars” actress Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy took their turn in the spotlight with a Viennese waltz. As they rehearsed, Janel floated the idea of using the theme song to “Pretty Little Liars” for their routine, and told Val that he’d probably need to die to make it work. Val wanted to deliver “a very traditional dance” for Len wrapped in a “PLL” Halloween costume.
Their “Secret” dance had an elegant, creepy, modern day “Addams Family” vibe to it and Janel and Val performed it well. (And Janel did indeed knock off Val at the end, as promised.)
Julianne told Janel she looked “stunning” but said she missed the “proper Viennese waltz.” Bruno quipped that she was “dressed to kill” and loved her role, but told her to make sure her arm movements flowed completely. Carrie Ann disagreed with her co-horts, and thought her fluidity was solid. Len thought it was “beautiful dance” but not a Viennese waltz. They scored a seven from Len and eights from the other three judges for a total of 31 points.
Week six leader board toppers Alfonso Ribeiro of “The Fresh Price of Bel Air” fame and pro partner Witney Carson claimed the penultimate individual performance spot with the sensual rumba. After reflecting on their respective injuries, both vowed to work hard and pour themselves into their two routines.
The evening’s second special guest Ella Henderson performed her song “Ghost” live as Alfonso and Witney executed their rumba. “Executed” is actually the ideal term to use to describe Alfonso when he dances; he’s such a terrific technician and has such natural grace and dance ability that he truly executes each move with impressive precision.
Bruno called it “captivating” and “full on” in both content and intention, but told him to get the sliding foot action of the rumba down. Carrie Ann praised Witney for creating a “proper” dance and declared “the magic is happening.” Len liked it and appreciated how he didn’t “mess about cleaning windows” but noted that he was a “bit pigeon-toed” at times. Julianne, finally, praised Alfonso for taking care of Witney. Alfonso and Witney scored four nines, for a week seven total of 36. But before the camera cut away, Alfonso shared the big news that he and his wife are expecting their second child. All together now: awwwww.
As the evening waned, the final couple of the night, “Duck Dynasty” star Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas, stepped up to perform. As they prepared for their Paso Doble, Mark was well out of his element as the “Duck Dynasty” cameras watched his every move as he tried to conceptualize and choreograph their routine.
From a theatrical standpoint, Sadie and Mark’s zombie-themed “Come with Me Now” dance was brilliant. They made excellent use of the troupe members, and Sadie did a good job of capturing the mood and feel of the routine, though she was off-kilter on a few spins.
Although the live audience cheered with approval, Carrie Ann said she didn’t like the “up” feeling of the dance. Len thought the Halloween theme got in the way of the dance and criticized them for a lack of content. Julianne disagreed and said she appreciated the content but told Sadie the same thing she told Janel earlier: to continue her arm motions completely. Afterward, a defensive Mark reminded Erin that the point of the show is to “entertain.” Sadie and Mark notched two sevens –from Carrie Ann and Len– and two sevens –from Julianne and Bruno– for their dance, for a total of just 30 points.
With the individual dances in the books and Bethany and Derek atop the leader board with a near-perfect mark of 39 points, the Halloween action continued with the group dance round. Up first to hoof it corporate-style was Team ItsyBitsy, captained by Bethany and rounded out by Janel, Michael, and Lea and their pro partners. As they rehearsed, all eyes were on Michael, the self-admitted “weakest link” of the bunch. But he hoped to get it down and not let them down.
The group’s synchronicity in the beginning of their “Black Widow” freestyle was spot-on, and they made the wise decision to hide Michael in the back just in case. The four individual segments were also strong and sexy. But best of all, they ended the number by climbing a giant spider web. It was one of the coolest things to ever happen on “DWTS.”
Len thought it was “a great routine,” and Julianne agreed, and singled out Michael for doing a great job. Bruno thought they “killed that number.” Carrie Ann also praised Michael for not making anyone look bad. (What?) Team ItsyBitsy scored four nines, for a total of 36 points. But even better for them, moments later, Tom revealed that all four Team ItsyBitsy couples were safe to dance again.
Immediately thereafter, Team Creepy, headed by Alfonso and completed by Sadie, Antonio, and Tommy and their partners, hit the stage with their freestyle. Although intimidated by Derek’s perfect group dance victory record (and no doubt disheartened by the new-found knowledge that one of them would be getting the boot at show’s end), they embraced the underdog role and vowed to bring it.
Set to the sounds of “Time Warp,” Team Creepy took a slightly different approach to their group routine, opting to start with individual bits of choreography before joining together. It felt hectic, but cute, and Sadie really stood out as the group’s most vibrant and committed member.
Julianne thought they “stood out” individually, but found their group synchro off. Bruno liked the “quirky, anarchic sense of fun” but seconded Julianne. Carrie Ann said she preferred Team Creepy’s performance over that of Team Itsy Bitsy, but agreed that they were out of sync. Len, finally, appreciated that they let their individual personalities shine. They scored four eights, for a group dance total of 32 points.
With a serious time crunch in play, Tom and Erin delivered the week’s final results. To no one’s surprise, Alfonso and Witney were saved to dance again, and were followed to safety by Sadie and Mark. After specifying that the two couples still awaiting their fates were not necessarily the bottom two, Antonio and Cheryl were eliminated from the competition. In parting, Antonio thanked the fans and “the man upstairs,” and Cheryl said she’d had an “amazing” time working with the actor.
“Dancing with the Stars” season 19 resumes Nov. 3 on ABC as the top seven couples return for more fun in the ballroom. For inside scoop and updates, follow the show’s official Twitter account.