Just 24 hours after the queen of funk Chaka Khan fell victim to elimination, “Dancing with the Stars” season 21 roared to life yet again on Sept. 22 as the 12 remaining pairs forged ahead with part two of Hometown Glory week. The episode gave fans a never-before-seen look at the talented pros’ roots. By evening’s end, a new celeb ascended to the top of judges’ Carrie Ann Inaba, Julianne Hough, and Bruno Tonioli’s leader board, but the party atmosphere was dampened when an adorable fan favorite was sent packing.
Social media sensation Hayes Grier and Tamworth, England native Emma Slater opened the two-hour broadcast with a quickstep that Bruno called the pair’s effort “best by far.” With 23 points, they ended the night in a three-way tie for third place with singer Andy Grammer and Allison Holker, who performed a contemporary number, and Sept. 21 leader board toppers Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough, who would have scored a 24 for their waltz had Carrie Ann not called the wildlife conservationist out for an illegal lift.
The evening’s two highest-scoring couples performed to close out the broadcast. Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess briefly held the lead after scoring a 24 for their emotional foxtrot dedicated to Burgess’ family in Australia. But the lead was a short-lived one, as singer Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy concluded the live performances with a Charleston honoring Chmerkovskiy’s time in New York that nabbed a field-best 25.
The remaining couples scored 22 points or less, with actress Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas (rumba), and train hero Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold (quickstep) taking 22 each; Big Time Rush star Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson taking a 21 (cha cha cha); jockey Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff earning a season-high 20 (rumba); and celebrity chef Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel, and “RHOA” alum Kim Zolciak-Biermann and Tony Dovolani scoring 18 apiece for their rumba (Paula) and foxtrot (foxtrot). Rounding out the leader board were actor Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya, whose paso doble notched just 15 points.
When elimination-time rolled around, Gary and Anna found themselves under the red lights for the second night running, but the quirky pair survived to dance again as Victor and Karina were sent packing. Victor told Erin Andrews that he had “an amazing time” before quipping that his “tight pants” had probably done him in during the Sept. 21 show. Tom Bergeron offered up high praise of the Triple Crown winner’s consistent “good cheer.”
When “Dancing with the Stars” resumes Sept. 28 with TV Week, actor and “DWTS” season 19 mirror ball trophy winner Alfonso Ribeiro will take a seat at the judges’ table as the first guest judge of season 21. Will a new leader emerge? Who will get the boot? Tune in and find out.