We're entering the home stretch of Dancing with the Stars, with only two weeks left in Season 17. And the competition gets underway immediately tonight, with the six remaining couples each doing a mini-routine at the start of the show, the "winner" of which will be determined through viewer tweets. (Brooke later reveals that Amber and Derek's move was the fan favorite.) With each contestant performing two individual dances this week, Tom and Brooke waste no time in getting to the dancing — and neither will we.
Amber Riley & Derek Hough (quickstep)
Both of Amber's knees are acting up this week, and Derek's worried because they haven't rehearsed as much as he'd like to. Will they go from first to worst this week? Derek starts this routine behind the drumkit, but soon springs up for their high-energy Jazz Age routine (including leapfrogging over Amber at one point). Again, he and Amber just seem mismatched as partners. This routine isn't particularly interesting or engaging, unfortunately. Len compliments Derek's choreography but compares it to makeup, "covering a lot of blemishes." Bruno calls Amber "dazzling," but says she has some kinks to work out if they're going to make it to the final.
Brooke Interlude: She interviews Jack, Leah and Bill and dubs them "the underdogs," kindly noting that they're still in the competition even though they tend to get the lower scores each week.
Leah Remini & Tony Dovolani (Tango)
Whether it's because she finally believes she legitimately has a shot at winning or whether several weeks of intense rehearsals are paying off, Leah has really stepped up her game in recent weeks. And her tango tonight is no different. First of all, she looks slim and trim in her sparkly red dress (guess those rehearsals really do pay off!). Her kicks are also sharp and controlled, and she's so pleased with the performance that she gives Tom a peck on the cheek afterwards. "That was a bada-- proper tango," Bruno gushes. Carrie Ann says Leah's vastly improved, but needs to extend her arms more.
Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff (Waltz)
Corbin and Karina decide to ditch the Game of Thrones gimmick they brought out for theirViennese waltz and do a straightforward, technically clean waltz this time around. Their movements are so fluid it looks like they could be performing the routine on ice. And Corbin definitely nails the extensions that the judges so often harp about. Carrie Ann calls the routine "dreamy," but says Corbin needs to be more centered. Len feels that it was "poetry in motion." Bruno describes their dance as "enchanting" and "breathtaking."
Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke (Viennese waltz)
Jack celebrates his birthday in the dance studio with Cheryl this week, and she gives him a mini Mirrorball trophy inscribed with "Best Partner Ever." (Awwwww.) His extensions during the waltz aren't as effective as Corbin's, but the routine is still fine, and Jack seems much more comfortable on his feet and comfortable with Cheryl. What a difference nine weeks makes! Len (whom Tom says he's never seen happier) calls the routine "crackerjack." He and Carrie Ann reward the pair with 10s.
Bill Engvall & Emma Slater (Charleston)
Like Leah, Bill can't believe that he's made it as far as the quarterfinals and is now officially in it to win it. Their little laundry skit at the beginning of the routine is cute, but Bill looks a little more flat in this dance than he has the past couple of weeks — and I couldn't help but worry about his back during that last lift. Bruno says their timing was off, and Carrie Ann says she wishes she didn't have to give them a score. (That doesn't bode well.) "That wasn't good," Len says flatly. They'll have an uphill battle for their second routine.
Elizabeth Berkley & Val Chmerkovskiy (Viennese waltz)
After Elizabeth changed their song at the last minute last week, Val is putting his foot down and taking the lead this week, and rightfully so. Their costumes follow a bride and groom motif, but it seems like the honeymoon is already over for these two. That said, they have chemistry when it really counts, and their Viennese waltz is dramatic and fully formed — even if Elizabeth still looks like she's trying to beat the routine into submission. Len tells Elizabeth she's his "top dancer" (really?) but says the routine wasn't his "cup of tea."
On to Round 2: trio dances.
Amber, Derek & Mark Ballas (Salsa)
Derek says that he and Mark are really just there to act as Amber's backup dancers. I realize that's the point of the trio dance, but Amber is unfortunately the weakest link in this group. Her upper body movements are fine, but that knee injury is really just killing her (in probably more ways than one) and her feet are flat and stunted. Props to Amber for grinning and bearing it and staying in the competition, but ... I don't know. Is there a chance she's doing herself permanent damage at this point?
Leah, Tony & Henry Byalikov (Jive)
For their jive, Leah, Tony and Henry decide to role play as the judges (Tony as Bruno, Henry as Len and Leah as Carrie Ann). It's pretty funny, and their jive is spirited and fun. Leah gives great face throughout, but misses a couple of flicks. No matter, though: the judges eat it up, with Carrie Ann rocking out like she's at an actual Twisted Sister concert rather than just watching a routine to "We're Not Gonna Take It." Even Bruno is thoroughly amused.
Corbin, Karina & Witney Carson (Jazz)
Witney and Karina butt heads a little during rehearsals trying to get the choreography straight on their jazz. Except for Karina losing her hat too early in the routine, the choreography on this number is crazy good, with the three looking like they're the main entertainment on a first class cruise ship. It's helped by the inventive, jazzy rendition of Usher's "Yeah." Best routine of the night? Definitely. Carrie Ann takes it a step further and says it might be the best she's seen in 17 seasons, and likens Corbin to a modern-day Bob Fosse. She's so excited that she takes a cue from Cher last week and the ABC censors have to truncate her remarks.
Jack, Cheryl & Sharna Burgess (Samba)
"I'm not a very spicy fellow," Jack says during rehearsals for the samba. But he gives it his best shot for their Tarzan routine, and puts everyone in a good mood right from the get go with his cheesy "I'll save you!" And he's even a good sport about letting the ladies play bongos on his butt. (Something tells me he didn't hate it as much as he claimed he did.) Jack really does let his hips take over, and Len says the fun of the routine made up for any technical errors. Carrie Ann says he was probably just overwhelmed and seemed a little "out of control."
Bill, Emma & Peta Murgatroyd (Salsa)
A week after Peta and Brant got sent home, she's back with a vengeance — and Bill and Emma are looking to make up for their 21 in Round 1. Their Willy Wonka-themed "threesome" (Emma's word, not mine) is ... strange. Bill's definitely a little looser than he was in Round 1, but still seems stiff. Maybe all that lifting of Emma is getting to him. Bruno gets exasperated with Bill's (lack of?) rhythm and timing. Len suggests that the comedian have a couple of martinis before dancing if he's back next week. After the judges' feedback, the normally upbeat Bill looks dejected and tired, which is sad.
Elizabeth, Val & Gleb Savchenko (Salsa)
Even with this sunny beach routine, Elizabeth just doesn't look like she's having any fun. I really wish she could just take one dance a little less seriously and crack a smile once in a while. Her steps are better than, say, Jack's for instance, but he's just a lot more fun to watch. Carrie Ann says it's her favorite of Elizabeth's routines, however. Len compares her to a "human Frisbee," but gets peeved when Carrie Ann says he has a boy crush on Gleb.
So, which couples will be heading to the semifinals next week?
Safe: Corbin and Karina, Jack and Cheryl, Amber and Derek, Leah and Tony
In jeopardy: Elizabeth and Val, Bill and Emma
Eliminated: Elizabeth and Val. Len looks devastated. Emma looks stunned and seems like she was fully prepared to take a walk.
What did you think? Which was your favorite routine of the night? Did Corbin and Elizabeth deserve their perfect scores? Were you disappointed that Elizabeth was sent home? Weigh in below!