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On many seasons of “Dancing with the Stars,” it becomes obvious well in advance who will win the Mirror Ball. Not this one – we entered Monday night with any of the four remaining couples seemingly able to take the trophy.
It turns out it won’t be Bethany Mota and Derek Hough. After reprising their jive from earlier this year and following it up with a freestyle, they became the next couple eliminated from the show. This was a particularly tough elimination, for every single couple received perfect scores for their freestyles.
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough were eliminated during Monday’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars.” ABC
The other half of the bottom two – and yes, It was a bottom two – was Janel Parrishand Val Chmerkovskiy.
That means we go into Tuesday with three pairs still in contention: Alfonso Ribeiro andWitney Carson, Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas, and Janel and Val. It wouldn’t be surprising if this was the final three in that order.
In the audience: Hi, Zendaya, Joey Fatone and many of the Season 19 contestants.
ROUND 1: SO NICE, LET’S SEE IT TWICE (PICKED BY THE JUDGES)
Bethany and Derek, jive, “Shake It Off”
Bethany and Derek are revisiting their first-week routine, the jive. Because that number was so short, they have to add 30 seconds to their dance. Bruno stopped by their rehearsal and makes a cameo on YouTube with Bethany. He wants her to work on her transitions, and he demonstrates how to finish moves with emphasis. (Co-host Erin Andrews enjoys this quite a bit and shows us the clip again later.)
Bethany looks so much more comfortable, and the transitions are better. She doesn’t look lost as she did on week one. She’s still careful on some of those flicks, and she’s kind of gawky in the hip swiveling. Most notably, though, there’s a moment when production and timing don’t match: A prop doesn’t get moved in time, and Bethany and Derek have to compensate, which results in mistakes. All the judges agree the dance is better but lament the errors. Bethany and Derek can’t mask their disappointment in the skybox upon the return from commercial break. Score: 36 (Carrie Ann 9, Len 9, Julianne 9, Bruno 9).
Sadie and Mark, samba, “Hunter”
During this year’s installment of Memorable-Year Week, “DWTS” viewers were treated to some particularly fantastic routines, including a samba from Sadie and Mark that marked them as contenders. Len paid Sadie and Mark a visit; he chose the dance because he hadn’t seen it initially since he was in London. Len is downright giddy dancing first with Mark, then with Sadie. On the other end of the age spectrum, Liam Payne from One Direction stops by.
It turns out he’s a “Duck Dynasty” fan. Sadie was so excited to get the samba as her repeat dance, and the sass and delight carry on to the dance floor. She’s having so much fun, and she uses her long limbs well. (However, she appears to have attended a lesson in Mark Ballas Facial Exaggeration.) The hip movement is great without being provocative. The audience celebrates with duck whistles; the judges celebrate with words – although Bruno and Len do say Sadie was behind on the timing. Host Tom Bergeron starts to send Sadie and Mark off, only to remember he forgot to have Len speak! Score: 38 (Carrie Ann 10, Len 9, Julianne 10, Bruno 9). Sadie’s father is crying.
When we come back from break, Witney, Mark and Val participate in a longer-than-normal bumper set to “Crazy Stupid Love” with Keo Motsepe, Emma Slater and Sasha Farber. Tom takes the time to plug the “DWTS” tour, which begins Dec. 27 in Niagara Falls, NY. Tom quizzes Val about whether he’ll still be shirtless. In Niagara Falls. In December. Yes, Val replies.
Janel and Val, samba, “La Vida Es Un Carnaval”
It’s intriguing that Janel and Val will be taking on their samba again, as it’s the dance for which guest judge Pitbull notoriously dinged them for a lack of chemistry. Those comments came after a very showmance-heavy rehearsal package, to boot. First, though, Val is alone for three days when Janel misses rehearsal because of her “Pretty Little Liars” schedule, a situation he calls unprecedented. Julianne comes by to encourage more one-on-one connection. Then Janel injures her rib during rehearsal for the freestyle. After all the drama, we finally reach the dancing.
I liked it a lot the first time and still do, although they aren’t in sync during the side-by-side movements. The passion doesn’t feel forced. Val keeps his shirt on this time! Bruno and Carrie Ann see errors in turns, likely a result of the rib injury. Len is more positive: Instead of seeing issues with turns, he spotted “great rhythmic dancing mixed with clarity of movement.” Score: 37 (Carrie Ann 9, Len 10, Julianne 9, Bruno 9). Man, are we playing up Janel’s rib pain.
Alfonso and Witney, jive, “3-6-9”
Alfonso and Witney broke out on night one with a jive that electrified the audience and the judges and was one of the most lauded routines ever so early in a season. Now we’re getting an extended cut, but before that, Carrie Ann visits the couple. She’s there to massage Alfonso and to take him through stretches and yoga. She doesn’t see the dance, as Alfonso and Witney opt to take care of his body instead. The new 30 seconds aren’t as polished – his energy is flagging – but he’s still great with the choreography. He doesn’t appear to be in pain the way he was last week.
The audience adores this. They applauded after Bethany and Janel, they blew their whistles after Sadie, but they screamed and hollered after Alfonso. If that’s any indication of the voting, he may win the trophy. The judges are yelling and squealing and gesturing wildly. Says Len: “You dance like Frank Sinatra sings.” Score: 40 (perfect 10s from everyone). Will Smith shouts out to Alfonso and Witney on Facebook, and Erin publicly invites Will to the finale. Tom makes a joke about Erin being a stalker. That was uncomfortable, given the man who was arrested a few years ago for invading Erin’s privacy.
Before the freestyles, we get a sneak dance peek for “Annie,” although the routine created for “DWTS” isn’t the one in the coming movie. Quvenzhane Wallis, the new Annie, promises flips and pillow fights and mops during “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” My mother is complaining about the lip-synching. Tom comes to jump on a bed and encourages the girls to keep bouncing.
ROUND 2: FREESTYLE
Bethany and Derek, “Revolution”
The song signifies the revolution Bethany has created with her life and career, Derek says, and Bethany wants to thank her fans. Derek ups the drama and surrounds her with other dancers. Bethany wants to be strong and fierce. It’s a LOT of smoke and dark lights to start, and it’s tough to find Bethany. Once we do, though, she IS fierce. Derek doesn’t even come in until 30 seconds or so, and I didn’t miss him. The dance is very military, very sharp, evoking moments of the team dance earlier this season. Bethany is lifted up, triumphing over her detractors. The final 10 to 15 seconds give us glimpses of hip-hop, contemporary, great hold and a final flip where her head almost reaches the ground – and he holds her there. It allows us to see what she’s learned this season. Blogger confession: Bethany has left me lukewarm pretty much all season, and I haven’t found Derek’s choreography up to his usual standards. Not now. Len calls it a five-star freestyle, and Bruno compares Bethany to Katniss Everdeen. Score: 40 (all four 10s).
As Carrie Ann speaks, we cut to the ABC coverage of the grand-jury verdict in Ferguson, Mo., for about 10 minutes.
Sadie and Mark, the theme to “Super Mario Brothers”
Yes, everyone, you read that right: After taking on zombies and Adam and Eve, Mark Ballas now wants to visit the world of Nintendo. Mark is excited to bring out things no one has seen before on “DWTS.” In rehearsal, they talk about dancing on the ground and guest dancers and tricks. We are definitely back in the game. Sadie and Mark pop out of the flower pots as Mario and Princess Peach.
Hey, there is some real dancing here, and even with the heavy-handed theming, it is less outrageous than Mark can be. What makes this so original and ground-breaking, though? It has elements of hip-hop, it’s very teen, and it’s very fun. “It was like being in Tommy Chong’s head,” Tom says. The judges consider this the most memorable freestyle in some time. (I wouldn’t go that far.) Mark says this has been his favorite season yet. Score: 40 (another round of perfection).
Janel and Val, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
After two perfect scores to very original freestyles, will it be a letdown that Janel and Val are going for a lift-heavy contemporary? Val hasn’t been the most dynamic freestyle choreographer, as seen in Season 15 with Kelly Monaco and Season 16 with Zendaya. Val sees this intimacy as a reflection of their journey on the show. He wants Janel to breathe with him, which is harder given the compressed rehearsal time.
This dance has loving caresses, smoke and kissing, but it doesn’t have other dancers. That helps Janel and Val stand out from the prior two freestyles. It’s very well-danced, and the lifts are better than in last week’s Argentine tango, especially in the dismounts. In one of them, he holds her for an extended period of time, showing the depth of trust they have and the improvement in her core. The dance kind of just ends. Tom goes to sit with Janel and Val as they await their scores. Bruno calls it the “visualization of a love poem” and thanks them. Carrie Ann notes they went inside; they were artists. Erin, Janel, Val and even Michael Waltrip have tears. Score: yet another 40.
Alfonso and Witney, “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)”
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Alfonso’s first claim to fame was as the Tap Dance Kid on Broadway. Witney is the only pro with a tap background. He’s going to have a solo, which is rare for a celebrity. He’ll be doing the final sequence with pros and has to be in sync with them. This is one of the best kinds of freestyles, the ones with glimpses of all the star has learned in a season along with some original flair. We see how well they partner and simply dance with each other. They’re in hold, they twirl, they display their personalities. There’s a break with the apache dance from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” – !!! – followed by another break for tapping. The only complaint? The few seconds in which the camera was on the other dances rather than Alfonso and Witney. The judges are thrilled. Score: the final 40 of the night.
Coming Tuesday: the last night of the season, complete with more dancing from the remaining three couples AND a Speakeasy live blog. Join Kerry Grace Benn and I starting at about 9 p.m. EST as we try to entertain you through the fluff and family reunion.
In the meantime, tell us who you think will win below!
News Source: Wall Street Journal – SpeakEasy