We're down to the final six on Dancing with the Stars - but tonight there's only five. Tom Bergeron tells us at the start of the broadcast that Tamar Braxton was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia midway through her andVal's rehearsal Monday afternoon. But, he adds, she may show up halfway through the show to dance - to which I say, the only place I would be heading after a trip to the ER is my bed. But best wishes to Tamar. Will the unfortunately-timed illness cost her the competition? Read on to find out.
The rest of the dances:
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold (salsa)
The dance: Alek gets automatic bonus points for getting his chest waxed ahead of this salsa. He's definitely gotten better at channeling his sexy side, and only looks slightly terrified that he's going to drop Lindsay while he's tossing her around like a sack of potatoes.
What the judges say: Julianne compliments everything about the dance except for Alek's actual dancing. Bruno praises Alek's newfound playboy swagger, but says his hips need work. Carrie Ann appreciated the eye contact he made with the judges, but knocks Alek's musicality (or lack thereof) and calls the dance "flat-footed."
Score: 24 (out of 30)
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas (contemporary)
The dance: It's an emotional week for Alexa, who reveals to Mark that she previously struggled with an eating disorder. But it's a perfect week for her to tap into that part of herself. This dark, artistic contemporary routine is probably her strongest dance to date, and Alexa displays a conviction and dedication to the character that we haven't seen previously. Mark's choreography is completely captivating, and the clashing black and white outfits are a nice touch as well.
What the judges say: All three judges give the pair a standing ovation, and Bruno tells Alexa she looks like "a woman possessed" (in the best way). Carrie Ann says the number was "more than dance, it was healing." Julianne admires Alexa from pulling strength from her vulnerability.
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson (Argentine tango)
The dance: No wonder Alek was looking to Carlos for some pointers on sensuality during their rehearsal. Carlos really knows how to turn it on, and his kicks are almost as intense as the way he stares at Witney. Unfortunately, the dance itself doesn't match his facial expression and lacks a little spark. At least they're perfectly in sync throughout.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann says the dance was "good" and "nice" but didn't blow her away. Julianne agrees, saying the dance needed more "passion." Bruno is the dissenting voice and loves the way Witney and Carlos portrayed a dysfunctional couple. (Whether or not this was intentional is unclear.)
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough (Viennese waltz)
The dance: Not sure how I feel about Bindi's blindfold, aside from thankful that she ditches it after the first few minutes. Bindi is a skilled enough dancer that this routine is predictably beautiful (that leap!), but Derek is right in thinking that this isn't his strongest dance, choreography-wise. For me, the dance seems to lack a little oomph, but they're still a cut above the rest of the competition, with the possible exception of Alexa.
What the judges say: We get the second unanimous standing ovation of the night. The dance leaves Julianne (and Bindi) shaking. Bruno says the dance is a "thing of pure beauty" that highlights how far Bindi has come as a performer. Carrie Ann compares the little Aussie to a sunrise.
Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy (contemporary)
The dance: "But wait," you might be saying. "I thought Tamar was rushed to the ER." Well, she was. But per the rules, the judges can critique a video of her and Val's dress rehearsal from earlier in the afternoon. And it's a good thing they do, because it would be a shame if this dance wasn't seen. It's emotionally charged, powerful, and completely gorgeous.
What the judges say: Bruno tells Val the concept was "brilliant," but there were a lot of little mistakes and balance issues. Carrie Ann and Julianne agree, but the more interesting part of this portion is Val, who seems, frankly, quite pissed off and makes several steely comments about the show's grueling schedule and how guilty he feels that Tamar forced herself to rehearse on a day when she really shouldn't have been in the ballroom. Dancing drama!
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess (quickstep)
The dance: Nick's body is betraying him with a hip injury this week (perfect timing with the quickstep, huh?). Fortunately, he manages to keep it in check for a couple of minutes when it really counts. I love this fun lounge act concept that Sharna's come up with - it's a great change from the heavy contemporaries we've seen tonight. Nick does a great job embodying the '30s gangster character, too - and if his hip is acting up, it definitely doesn't show. (Also, all four of Nick's Backstreet Boys bandmates are in the house, which never hurts.)
What the judges say: Carrie Ann says Nick is in the zone (even if they came out of hold once or twice). Julianne agrees, but likens Nick to a Broadway star. Bruno didn't notice any breaks from home, and calls Nick and Sharna "a dancing match made in movie heaven."
Now it's on to the second round, the debut of the "Showstopper Team-Up Challenge," in which two pairs dance together. The only catch is that the pros have to dance with the pros and the stars have to dance with the stars.
First up ...
Carlos/Witney and Alek/Lindsay (paso doble)
Carlos and Alek dancing together is a little awkward, but more importantly, the dance on the whole seems a little ... off. (Maybe it's because Alek and Carlos would rather drive bumper cars than rehearse.) The most exciting part of the routine is Witney's face makeup, and Carlos and Alek's Blue Man Group-esque paint drumming.
What the judges say: Julianne says she would have liked to see a little more from the historic Dancing with the Stars moment when two dudes dance together for the first time. Bruno agrees, and Carrie Ann says the song was bigger than the dancing itself.
Bindi/Derek and Alexa/Mark (Charleston)
The dance: We get a glimpse of "KTVD" ("Kill the Vibe Derek," per Mark) during rehearsal, but the vibe is very much alive during this fiery dance. Bindi and Alexa make a great Roxie and Velma, and while Derek was worried about Bindi's ability to shimmy during rehearsal, she's actually even more emotive than Alexa. Totally flawless.
What the judges say: An ecstatic Bruno calls the number "wonderful," and Carrie Ann says the teamwork was perfect. Julianne says she wishes she had been in the number too.
Tamar/Val and Nick/Sharna (rumba)
The dance: Tamar makes a last-minute entrance from the hospital just in the Nick of time (heh). Per the show's rules, Tamar and Val would have been automatically eliminated if she was a no-show tonight. Unlike the other pairs, these guys do a full-on group number, which is a bit distracting. Tamar (who's breathless and speechless after the dance) definitely seems a bit subdued, but who can blame her? She still gets all the steps down - and Nick and Val pick up her slack.
What the judges say: They all (rightfully) praise Tamar's courage for coming back to the ballroom, and Nick's stepping up to support her.
Now on to the elimination.
Safe: Bindi and Derek, Nick and Sharna, Alek and Lindsay, Tamar and Val
In jeopardy: Alexa and Mark, Carlos and Witney
Eliminated: Alexa and Mark
So one-half of the show's first married couple has gone home. What did you think, Dancing fans? Were you upset to see Alexa and Mark go home? Which was your favorite routine of the night? And how the hell do you think Tamar made it through that dance?
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.