It's "Hometown Glory Week: Part 1" on Dancing with the Stars, meaning we get to visit all of the celebs' hometowns (tomorrow night, we'll see the pros'), and the celebs get to learn two dances in just their second week on the show. Fun for everyone!
If the judges were a bit harsh last week, they've gone to the opposite end of the spectrum tonight. Maybe I was just feeling grumpy due to lack of sleep after staying up to watch the Emmys Sunday night, but it seemed like the judges were way too generous on their praises of the dances this week. Was that just me? Plus, we have our first elimination of the season.
Here's a recap:
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess (jive)
The dance: As a fellow Floridian, I have to root for Nick this week - even though I suspect he may be intentionally underselling himself as a dancer in order to up his scores. After all those years of Backstreet Boys choreography, some of it must have stuck, no? Well, maybe not, as he stumbles out of the gate for this jive. Luckily, he recovers fairly quickly and the rest of the jive is pretty on point, if not great. The judges disagree though ...
What the judges say: Julianne thinks the slip got in Nick's head too much. Bruno says he forgot some of the footwork but sold the dance with his confidence. And Carrie Ann calls the dance "rough."
Score: 21 (out of 30)
Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel (rumba)
The dance: Paula, naturally, dances to "Midnight Train to Georgia" - and lip-syncs along to most of the song as well. Hey, whatever works. The dance is ... not great. These slower dances are definitely better for Paula overall, but her facial expressions are still very distracting. And the dip at the end was so awkward I literally covered my eyes.
What the judges say: "There was a slight unscheduled stop in North Carolina," Bruno observes wryly. Carrie Ann does her best attempt at a Southern accent and observes that Paula looks like a completely different person from last week, but has to work on her turns. Julianne praises her for shaking the nerves off.
Hayes Grier and Emma Slater (foxtrot)
The dance: Is Michael Waltrip back on the show? No, it's just "Team Slayes" using a motor racing theme as Hayes rides out on a motorcycle for their foxtrot. The motorcycle may have been a misstep, as it seems to throw Hayes' timing off from the start, but the rest of the dance is completely graceful and Hayes definitely has his lines down, even though we're only in the second week.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann suggests nixing the motorcycle, but loved the rest of the dance. Julianne says she was enraptured, but reminds Hayes to stay consistent with his energy level. Bruno compliments Hayes' lines and offers some advice on his frame.
Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe (foxtrot)
The dance: Immediate points for the Chicago skyline set, which is genuinely amazing. But that's not what we're judging here, is it? This is a slight improvement from last week, but Chaka still seems completely unsure of the footing and looks like a mother of the bride who got dragged onto the dance floor at a wedding. I really just feel bad for Keo, who seems desperate to bring Chaka out of her shell.
What the judges say: Julianne says it was a "very nice improvement" over last week. Bruno says it was a little aimless, but still "a step forward." The nicest comment Carrie Ann can muster is that Chaka doesn't blow her mistakes out of proportion. Ouch.
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker (jive)
The dance: Andy's definitely got the energy down, and his footwork isn't half bad either. Even though it's a pretty low barometer, this is definitely the best dance of the night so far. He and Allison don't seem to have the same chemistry they did in the premiere, but the dance is fun nonetheless. The audience seems to love it, however.
What the judges say: Bruno loved the energy, but says Andy lost his timing too much. Carrie Ann also wonders how Andy could have gone off the music so much since he is, after all, a musician. "It was a mess," she says. Julianne agrees.
Kim Zolciak and Tony Dovolani (quickstep)
The dance: Despite the fact that she juggled rehearsals with her kids' pesky questions about Tylenol dosage this week, Kim turns in a serviceable quickstep - and seems to be getting quite a kick out of herself while she's doing it. For Week 2, this is actually pretty impressive. Kim could be a real contender among this bunch.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann loved it, and Julianne encourages Tony to keep pushing Kim to her full potential. Bruno says that Kim has solidified herself as a true competitor.
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold (jazz)
The dance: As if he needed to play into the hearts of American voters any more, Alek chooses "Don't Stop Believin'" as his song for this week. Fortunately, he's got both the grace and the strength to pull the dance off. (However, let's face it, Alek could use some media training - the poor guy looks like a deer in headlights every time he's asked to speak on camera.) It's nothing terribly exciting, but a good point for Week 2.
What the judges say: Julianne offers some pointers on Alek's hands, but says he matches Lindsay step for step. Bruno loves Alek's range and lifts. Carrie Ann says she was "intoxicated" with the performance, which she calls "magical."
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas (salsa)
The dance: Finally, a dance that kicks the energy level up a notch! We've already gone full Ballas with this choreography and costuming, which features Alexa as a leopard and Mark as a hunter(?). Their salsa is sensual and fun at the same time, with a couple of crazy spins thrown in for good measure. Carlos has got to be feeling uncomfortable on several levels.
What the judges say: "Wild and wonderful," according to Bruno. Carrie Ann says they "set the house on fire," and Julianne says the dance demonstrated "a whole other level of commitment."
Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff (jive)
The dance: <Wince>. Poor Victor looks so uncomfortable with that /sombrero over the crotch shtick at the beginning of the dance. Let's try to forget that ever happened. Unfortunately, the rest of the dance isn't much better. I'm not sure what Karina was thinking with this choreography, but I'm too distracted by Victor's seizure-like movements to pay much attention to anything else. There's no nice way to say it - this is a train wreck, and not fun like Amy Schumer's movie.
What the judges say: Note the date, Dancing fans: the judges seem literally speechless. Carrie Ann wishes she could score Victor on enthusiasm alone. Then things get super uncomfortable whenTom Bergeron makes a Viagra joke. Julianne manages to spit something out about Victor's timing, and Bruno says truthfully, "It was unlike any jive I've ever seen before."
Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy (cha cha)
The dance: Finally, some concrete chemistry on the dance floor! The judges disagree, but I think that Val and Tamar are the most connected couple out of who we've seen tonight. Tamar is sassy, sexy and confident, and Val has completely tailored the choreography to her strengths.
What the judges say: Julianne says Tamar is "in her element" on her own, but less so when she and Val come together. Bruno compares the dance to Dreamgirls, but he and Julianne have similar critiques about Tamar's legs. Carrie Ann calls her a "showstopper."
Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya (foxtrot)
The dance: I'm still unsure whether I find Gary endearing or terrifying. I realize we're only in Week 2, but Gary is so far removed from some of the other dancers that it's (almost) comical. And having him follow Tamar is just cruel. At least he's trying? I basically just feel sorry for Anna at this point.
What the judges say: Bruno says it looked like a foxtrot. Carrie Ann lies and says Gary didn't miss a step. Julianne compares his energy to that of a 12-year-old boy and tells Gary he's charming.
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson (foxtrot)
The dance: Alexa wins the husband/wife battle this week, though Carlos' dance is nothing to sniff at. He seems to be thinking about the steps a little too much, rather than just feeling them, and his chemistry with Witney is clearly forced, as opposed to the natural connection that Alexa has with Mark. But it's far from the worst dance of the night.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann praises Carlos' posture and timing, and she and Julianne both note his connection with Witney. Bruno says the dance evoked the romance of a classic movie.
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough (tango)
The dance: God bless Bindi. As if I couldn't love her any more, she surprises us all by revealing that she's a huge heavy metal fan. Her face during this AC/DC routine is priceless. As far as the dance itself, it's doesn't quite live up to their dance from Week 1, at least from my perspective, but it's still the most energetic and exciting number of the night.
What the judges say: Julianne loved seeing Bindi's "feisty" side, but would have liked to see a smoother tango. Bruno is stunned to discover Bindi's rocker side, but advises her to watch her frame. Carrie Ann, who also appears to have a bit of a metal streak, says Bindi rocked her world.
And now it's time to cram in our first elimination. Who will it be? There's no time for fanfare, so let's cut to the chase.
In jeopardy: Chaka and Keo, Gary and Anna
Eliminated: Chaka and Keo
What do you think? Did Chaka deserve to go home tonight - and will Gary be sent packing tomorrow? What was your favorite routine of the night? And were the judges being too lenient? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars will air a second episode this week on Tuesday at 9/8c, and airs regularly on Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
VIDEO: Dancing's Derek Hough teaches us to tango!