“Dancing with the Stars” season 21 continued Sept. 28 on ABC with TV Icons Night, an evening of performances set to –and inspired by– an array of popular television theme songs. By evening’s end, two celebs found themselves tied for the top spot on the leader board, and a very disappointed reality starlet was sent packing. Here’s a full recap of how it all went down.
“DWTS” mainstay Tom Bergeron and special guest Miss Piggy welcomed the 10 participating couples to the ballroom floor to start off the evening’s festivities; reality star Kim Zolciak-Biermann wasn’t present as she was stuck in Atlanta after suffering a mini stroke on Sept. 23, and Bergeron shared that her competition fate would be revealed later in the two-hour broadcast.
With the opening segment out of the way, Big Time Rush star Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson were up first with a jazz number set to the iconic “Golden Girls” theme, “Thank You for Being a Friend.” They got down in their elder-wear, and the only thing wrong with it was the duration: it felt too short! Carlos has skills, and Witney is an excellent choreographer.
Guest judge Alfonso Ribeiro liked it, but told Carlos to “let it all out and let it fly” in the future. Julianne Hough said they looked “amazing” but thought perhaps they’d “gotten into character a little too much.” Bruno Tonioli appreciated their partnering and sync, but Carrie Ann Inaba was disappointed, and chided Carlos for not dancing “big” enough. The tribute to Sophia Petrillo, Rose Nylund, Blanche Devereaux, and Dorothy Zbornak scooped up 31 out of 40 possible points.
Up second in the running order were celebrity chef Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel, who delivered a “Gilligan’s Island”-inspired samba. The casting for the number was perfect, with Alan Berston as The Skipper, Sasha Farber as Gilligan, Hayley Erbert as Mary Anne, Jenna Johnson as Ginger, Louis as Thurston Howell, and Paula as Mrs. Howell. When the players look the part, the dance is so much better! It may not have been a traditional samba, but it was adorable and so much fun to watch.
Julianne thought they got into the theme too much and “wanted it to be better,” and Bruno quipped “the samba got stranded by the shipwreck.” Carrie Ann echoed her co-panelists’ comments about the quality of dance, but thought she’d “absolutely captured the spirit” of the show. Alfonso, finally, told her to “be proud of yourself for giving it your all.” Paula and Louis scored a boo-worthy 20. (Seriously, though, if “DWTS” is going to host theme weeks, they need to let the couples be creative and fully embrace their roles. How else were they supposed to interpret such a niche show in the ballroom?)
Sept. 22 leader board toppers Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy kept the show moving forward with a “Mad Men”-themed tango. Tamar always looks stunning on the dance floor; she’s very graceful and conveys intensity amazingly well. But it has to be much easier to put passion into a “Mad Men” tango than a “Gilligan’s Island” samba. Come on now, producers. Be fair.
Bruno loved it and thought they’d done it well, and Carrie Ann called it “must-see TV” and “sick,” but thought perhaps there had been a lift. Alfonso proclaimed Tamar a front runner and reminded the headstrong lady to let Val be the leader. Julianne, finally, praised her strength and fierceness, but enjoyed the “refreshing” innocence she’d conveyed during the tango. Tamar and Val were awarded an impressive 33 points to take the lead.
With three routines in the books, actress Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas kept up the “bad” vibe in the ballroom with their “Breaking Bad” jazz number. The always-innovative Mark –who just happens to be a “Breaking Bad” superfan– put together an amazingly creative lift-fest that both pulled off with the perfect blend of skill and panache. The best word for it? Wow.
Carrie Ann called it “genius” and “very powerful.” Alfonso thought it was “awesome” and “fantastic” and told Alexa to remember that she and Mark can win, but she and Carlos cannot. (Alexa was sad, but hey, he’s right.) Julianne seconded Alfonso’s comment, and felt that Alexa and Mark had finally shown themselves to be a team. Bruno, finally, said “absolutely nothing is bad about that” and thought they looked like two pros. Alexa and Mark posted quadruple nines to post a 36 and nab the top rank from Tamar and Val.
Fifth in line to hoof it were singer Andy Grammer and Allison Holker, who were tasked with quickstepping to the “American Bandstand” theme. Andy always brings hefty shots of joy to the ballroom floor. He always looks like he’s having a great time and he brings the performance value. With that said, there were some issues.
Alfonso began the judges’ critiques by waxing poetic on his own time on “DWTS.” The season 19 champ called the quickstep the hardest dance he had to do before calling Andy out for not getting his posture right. Julianne agreed, but loved how they went with the theme. Bruno thought they “captured the time” of “American Bandstand” well, but wanted to see more “finish” and “precision.” Carrie Ann, finally, called it “very entertaining” but accused Andy of still being in his head too much. Andy and Allison scored 29 points.
With five performances in the books, the always entertaining actor Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya opened the second hour with a tango to “The Addams Family” theme song. Gary and Anna were truly the perfect Gomez and Morticia, and Gary actually did the tango!
Julianne loved how hard Gary tried and said she saw improvement. Bruno called it a “deliciously dysfunctional tribute” to the show and praised him for doing the tango. Carrie Ann said Gary had some “yummy yummy yummy” going on and liked his “new-found elegance”. Alfonso, finally, said “I’m in love with you” and called it an Academy Award-worthy dance. Gary and Anna earned a very respectable 25 points.
Seventh in the running order were train hero Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold, who channeled their inner vampires with a “True Blood” tango. So first off, Lindsay may be a good girl from Utah, but she can turn the sexy on like nobody’s business! Alek brought it too, but he made a little goof in the middle. But A-plus for style and character.
Bruno quipped “true talent runs in your blood” and praised Lindsay’s teaching. (That girl deserves to be a pro!) Carrie Ann noted a little miff, but called him “a powerful partner.” Alfonso said “you danced like a hero tonight,” and Julianne thought it was “perfection” and called Lindsay one of the best pros. Alek and Lindsay posted a 33, including a nine from a very impressed Julianne.
The show took a different turn next, as Tom reviewed Kim’s difficult week. In a video package, Kim explained that a blood clot caused her mini stroke (TIA), and that though she hoped to stay in the “DWTS” competition, she didn’t know what would happen.
With Kim stuck in Atlanta, Tony performed their planned “I Dream of Jeannie” samba with Jenna. Of course, they knocked it out of the park. Then Tom turned the ballroom’s attention to Kim, who joined them via FaceTime to share that she’d been practicing and wished she could’ve been cleared to fly.
Tom then shared that the rules dictated that due to her health crisis, Kim would be forced to withdraw. Tony said he was happy that Kim listened to the doctors, and hoped that the rules could be “bent just one time” for the Oct. 5 show to allow her to return. Tom then peed in Tony and Kim’s Cheerios by assuring them that the show’s legal department had already put the kibosh on the possibility, and that was that.
With a lingering lull of disappointment in the air, the show continued as the always-optimistic wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwiin and Derek Hough hit the floor with their quickstep to “Movin’ on Up,” the theme song of the popular sitcom “The Jeffersons.” Bindi may be an animal lover at heart, but she’s also a dancer. All of her dances have been infused with a spirit of awesomesauce that’s hard for others to match.
Alfonso loved her “great energy” and said he knows everyone loves her, but told her to keep her bum in. Julianne called her “a joy to watch” but said it wasn’t her best dance. Bruno loved the energy, but wanted more control, and Carrie Ann, finally, noted “a few tiny mistakes” but still called her “a solid competitor” who she loves to watch. Despite the negative comments, Bindi and Derek still earned 32 points.
With time waning, former leader board toppers Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess were up with a “Downton Abbey” Viennese waltz. Their dance had a hold-your-breath-because-it’s-so-compelling quality to it. It felt very real and passionate, and that’s hard to do, so a big bravo to them.
Julianne praised Nick for being “a leading man” and called it the night’s best dance. Bruno called it “one minute of ‘Masterpiece Theater'” and Carrie Ann likened it to the work of a musical virtuoso. Alfonso offered up the only bit of criticism by telling him to relax and remember that rehearsals are a “marathon, and not a sprint.” Nick and Sharna scored a 36 to tie them with Alexa and Mark for the night’s highest mark.
Finally, with less than 10 minutes left, Vine star Hayes Grier and Emma Slater rounded out the TV Icons Night dance card with a jive to the energetic sound of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme song. It was a lot of fun, but needed more actual jive content and maybe a wee bit more energy. But seriously, the nostalgia factor and Hayes’ turtle threads were both fabulous.
Bruno praised his focus and “bucket loads of star quality” but chided him for not pointing his toes during the kicks and flicks. Carrie Ann didn’t care for his turtle mask and thought he’d lost energy throughout the routine, and Alfonso agreed that he’d lost energy mid-way through. Julianne, finally, Julianne praised Hayes for timing his own moves, but told them to work on better syncing their side-by-side motions. They scored 30 points.
With the dancing all done, Tom and Erin Andrews revealed the identities of the two couples facing potential elimination: Andy and Allison, and Paula and Louis. But the quartet didn’t have to withstand the heat of the red lights for long: Tom quickly revealed that since Kim and Tony were forced to withdraw, both endangered pairs were safe to dance again during week four.