After four weeks of competition, tensions are running high and the pressure is starting to get to some of the contestants on Season 17 of Dancing with the Stars — both physically and mentally. We get a little more behind-the-scenes footage tonight, highlighting some of the contestants', um, quirkier rehearsal methods. Julianne Hough also returns to the show as a guest judge, filling in for Len. So, who was the third couple to be sent home? Before we get to that, let's go through the performances.
Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke (Quickstep):
Jack and Cheryl get a little testy with each other during rehearsals, with Cheryl playing taskmaster at times ("It was my time of the month," she later explains to a horrified Tom Bergeron) to Jack's class clown personality. Jack's a little late to start the number, because he's over at the judges' table chatting. We'll give him a pass for that though, since it's his first anniversary (aww). He looks a little stiff during the dance, save for a nifty interlude at one point, and his eyes look manic as he and Cheryl spin around the floor. But his footwork is pretty impressive. Julianne tells him he's a little too focused and needs to at least appear to be having fun out there.
Elizabeth Berkley & Val Chmerkovskiy (Tango)
Elizabeth exercises some unconventional methods during rehearsals, such as forcing Val to engage in an awkward staring contest. Hey, whatever works! Their tango is dramatic and engaging, with Elizabeth benefiting greatly here from her flexibility and prior dance experience and looking like a natural. It's their best performance thus far. Also, was Val really playing the violin? Probably not, right? "What was different tonight was you cut through some of those movements with a sharpness that I have not seen," Carrie Ann tells them.
Brant Daugherty & Peta Murgatroyd (Salsa)
"It seems as if you're kind of falling apart," Brooke tactfully and sensitively points out to Brant immediately before they take the stage, citing his foot injury from last week and a longtime shoulder injury that prevents him from lifting Peta during rehearsals. Nice, Brooke. Real nice. He and Peta puts a contemporary twist on the salsa, and Brant ditches his shirt midway through — which is a wise move. (I'm still getting over those synchronized shoulder thrusts. Yowza!) Carrie Ann, however, is less enthralled. "When you take off your shirt, it's very revealing, and I think you needed to work a little more on the salsa moves," she says, to a chorus of boos. Julianne agrees, saying the routine was "loosey-goosey." Still, she adds: "That was awesome, when you took off your shirt." Cosign!
Valerie Harper & Tristan MacManus (Viennese Waltz)
Valerie's trying to redeem herself from her low score last week, and offers an inspiring message in her pre-taped rehearsal package. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate to the ballroom, with the actress continuing to miss several cues and fumbling the steps. It's kind of heartbreaking to watch, especially because her reaction afterwards indicates that she knows it wasn't a great performance. Julianne advises Tristan to arrange the choreography so that they stick together, because Valerie seems too "vulnerable" on her own. All the judges couch their criticism in praise for Harper's courage, but Carrie Ann finally admits: "The mistakes stood out."
Leah Remini & Tony Dovolani (Cha-Cha)
Leah's goal for the week is to get a 9 from one of the judges, so her suggestions in rehearsal involve Tony showing a little more skin and possibly sliding down a pole. Neither happens, but it's still an improvement from last week, with Leah looking like she's ready to beat the dance into submission, if nothing else. She looks a little winded by the end of the fast-paced, frenetic routine, however. "She was channeling J.Lo tonight," according to Bruno. Carrie Ann says she's "giving amazing face," but that the rest of her movements could use a little work. Poor Leah will have to wait at least another week to get that 9.
Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff (Paso Doble)
Karina warns Corbin to try and ignore his hip-hop instincts when dancing the paso doble. Their routine takes a little while to get going, but is tight. And, like Brant, Corbin opts to lose his shirt midway through the routine. (Did anyone else catch the less-than-statuesque Jack Osbourne frowning afterwards? Haha!) The judges are clearly taking Corbin's dance background into account. (Fair or unfair? Discuss below.) A little bit of hip-hop still sneaks through in his arm movements, according to Carrie Ann. Julianne nitpicks at his hips. Bruno, however, calls it an "incredibly powerful performance."
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi & Sasha Farber (Jive)
Snicole has been flying back and forth between the East and West coasts during the week and says it's finally caught up with her. You'd never know it though, judging by her and Sasha's spirited performance. Their cheerleading uniforms/football field set design are cute, and Snooki gets to show off some of her high school cheer moves during the number. She's still got 'em, but like Leah, she looks pretty spent by the end of the routine, probably owing to feeling under the weather. The performance inspires Bruno to treat everyone to a verse of "Hey Mickey" (changed, of course, to "Hey Snooki"). Carrie Ann loves it too, though she gives Snooki a backhanded compliment about her "T-Rex arms." The best part, however, is seeing Snooki give Julianne the stink-eye during her longwinded critique. Poker face, Snooki!
Christina Milian & Mark Ballas (Foxtrot)
Christina and Mark were one of the couples at risk of elimination last week, and Christina's clearly frustrated. They attempt to pull themselves out of the show with a cell block foxtrot that's as red hot as Christina's gown and garter. Christina shows an admirable amount of restraint and self-control to stay in sync with the music. Julianne, critiquing her former partner, says she was hoping for "more of a softer side," pointing out that the sexy, sultry shtick is a little been there, done that.
Amber Riley & Derek Hough (Tango)
As Derek blogged this week, he and Amber barely had a chance to rehearse. Amber's knees are killing her, and an X-ray indicates that she needs to have fluid drained. Watching her choke back tears as she admits, "I can't really support my own weight on my knees," is like a punch to the gut. But! Once they get on the floor, though she's less sure-footed than Derek, their routine is still pretty great. If this is what they can do on three days' of rehearsal, the other contestants should watch their backs if she gets back to 100 percent. Derek makes a show of bribing his sister, who says: "I was actually hoping that something was going to go terribly wrong, so that I could give you a horrible score so that I wouldn't get in trouble," she quips. Bruno calls the performance "amazing" and "magnificent."
Bill Engvall & Emma Slater (Samba)
At age 56, Bill says he feels like a "creepy old man" having to gyrate his hips so much for this week's routine. "It may not be the prettiest hip movement, but by God, they'll be moving," he promises. Heh. He might be underestimating himself, however. Looking like he and Emma just stepped out of a Caribbean resort, Bill's moves are surprisingly fluid and he's seeming more and more comfortable out there week after week. Julianne tells him he's "the heart of the show." Bruno admits, "I thought I was going to wet myself." TMI, Bruno. He insists that's a compliment, but also explains that his near-bladder burst was because he was laughing so hard. Hmm. Also: Where did he get a maraca?
Bill and Emma, who were clinging to the bottom rung last week, immediately learn that they're safe. Props to Tom Bergeron for not drawing the suspense out for them. So who was sent home?
Also safe: Elizabeth & Val, Leah & Tony, Corbin & Karina, Amber & Derek, Jack & Cheryl, Christina & Mark
Also also safe: Snooki & Sasha
That leaves Brant and Peta, and Valerie and Tristan at risk of being sent home. Who got the boot?
Valerie and Tristan. It's sad, but they were clearly the weakest pair in the competition.
Valerie gets a standing ovation from the judges and the crowd and tells Brooke, "It was an opportunity for me to carry a message to folks ... that whatever challenge, like our song tonight, keep on keepin' on."
What did you think? Were you surprised that Valerie and Tristan got eliminated? How did Julianne do as a guest judge? Which performance from tonight was your favorite? And which couple are you rooting for? Sound off in the comments!