As we get underway, Miss Piggy replaces Erin Andrews alongside a very concerned-looking Tom Bergeron. And, the producers go back on their promise to have no guest judges this season and bring back Season 19 champ Alfonso Ribeiro to
plug his new hosting gig on America's Funniest Home Videos offer the dancers some tips from a former contestant.
But it's not all fun and games. After suffering a mini-stroke following last week's competition, Kim Zolciak spends the week rehearsing in Atlanta, but ultimately decides to follow her doctor's advice not to fly and opts not to compete in this week's show. Instead, Tony Dovolani performs the dance with troupe member Jenna Johnson. After they dance, Tom breaks the heartbreaking news (with Kim watching via FaceTime) that, according to the show's rules, a celeb who's unable to perform due to illness must withdraw from the competition. Tony begs for the rules to be bent, since Kim will be able to fly next week, but it's not looking promising. Poor Kim.
Here's a recap of the rest of the dances:
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson (jazz)
The dance: Yay for The Golden Girls, and a less enthusiastic yay for Carlos and Witney's dance. The routine starts out a bit lackluster, but they kick it up a notch towards the end, punctuating with a nice lift. Plus Witney makes an adorable Sophia. But the dance seems to lack a little oomph, and fails to hold my attention. Not exactly the way to kick things off with a bang.
What the judges say: Alfonso says it was "really good," but would like to see a little more energy from Carlos. Julianne loves the costumes, but says they moved like old people in addition to looking like them. Bruno compliments their partnership, but Carrie Ann says they didn't improve much from last week.
Score: 31 (out of 40)
Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel (samba)
The dance: After what looks like an emotionally taxing week, Paula and Louis take the stage for a Gilligan's Island-themed samba. This week, Paula not only sings along to the song, but also enthusiastically counts off the steps as she's doing them. Sigh, Paula. The set, complete with a fake thunderstorm, is pretty impressive though. Paula's definitely improving week to week, and this is the smoothest and most comfortable she's looked on the floor yet - even if her footwork is still a little wince-worthy.
What the judges say: Julianne tells Paula that the theme overtook the dance, and she messed up the choreography too much. Bruno says the shipwreck left their samba stranded and Paula was too flat. Carrie Ann notes that they at least captured the spirit of Gilligan's Island, if not the spirit ofDancing with the Stars. Alfonso tells Paula to be proud of herself.
Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy (tango)
The dance: Still loving Tamar's feminist edits to Val's dance story lines. And loving even more this sexy tango. Maybe I'm biased as a Mad Men fan, but the theme song is the perfect accompaniment to what they're going for here, and Tamar finally tapped into a level of intensity that matches Val's.
What the judges say: An ecstatic Bruno calls the dance "dirty" and "ruthless," but has a couple of pointers for Tamar on her lines. Carrie Ann says they kicked the temperature up a notch in the room but wonders if Tamar lifted her foot at one point. Alfonso tells Tamar she's a frontrunner and advises her to let Val take the lead. And Julianne loved Tamar fluctuating between ferocity and innocence.
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas (jazz)
The dance: I was starting to think this routine would be too much flash and not enough substance, but changed my mind as soon as the dance got really underway. Kudos to Mark for creating a stylish, contemporary tribute to his favorite show of all time, Breaking Bad, and bigger kudos to Alexa for going all in on the intricate choreography. They seem to lose it a little bit on the last step, but otherwise the dance is great.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann calls the routine "genius." Alfonso and Julianne advise Alexa that Mark is her partner as far as the show is concerned, and she shouldn't worry about beating her husband Carlos. Bruno says he was "totally transfixed" and Alexa looked like a pro.
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker (quickstep)
The dance: Andy suffers from occasional Paula Deen Syndrome and counts his steps aloud. Unfortunately, while his footwork is intact, the most exciting thing about this dance is the costumes and music. Especially coming on the heels of Mark and Alexa's Breaking Bad number, this feels about as daring and innovative as, well, American Bandstand.
What the judges say: Alfonso reminisces about his own quickstep and offers Andy tips about his quickstep posture. Julianne agrees, but appreciates that the dance was fun and Andy nailed the timing. Bruno says he wants more precision from Andy. Carrie Ann says Andy is too much in his head.
Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya (tango)
The dance: "You talk like a woodpecker" is the Gary Busey Quote of the Week. There's a joke somewhere here about Gary looking like a stiff corpse during his and Anna's Addams Familytango, which relies mostly on Anna singlehandedly doing the footwork while Gary tries to not step on her dress or feet. I suppose he is putting his feet in the right places (or at least in the vicinity), but there's just absolutely no finesse or seduction in the dance at all.
What the judges say: Julianne admires Gary's perseverance and entertainment value, and says he nailed every step. (Was she watching the same dance?) Bruno calls it a "dysfunctional tribute" to America's favorite dysfunctional family. Carrie Ann tells Gary he looks genuinely handsome, and Alfonso says he's in love with Gary, gushing that his performance in this dance was Oscar-worthy. Hm.
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold (tango)
The dance: Poor Alek, poster boy for sweet yet slightly awkward guys everywhere, can't feign sexiness to save his life - at least when it comes to asking girls out on the Dancing set. Fortunately he fares a little better on the dancefloor and at least looks intense, if not quite dangerous. Their True Blood tango is fun and dark at the same time, and incredibly entertaining.
What the judges say: Bruno says it was "totally compelling." Carrie Ann notes one misstep but says Alek's dancing ability makes up for his lack of natural sexiness. Alfonso tells Alek he danced like the hero he is, and Julianne, who didn't notice any mistakes, calls the dance "perfection."
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough (quickstep)
The dance: Derek warned us that his and Bindi's quickstep was "a cluster-beep" after The Jetsons wouldn't clear the rights to the theme song. On top of that, Bindi suffers a foot injury after relentless rehearsals. You'd never know it from the routine though. She and Derek fall out of sync at a couple points, but Bindi's still the most effervescent performer in the competition and, given their lack of prep time, they deserve a lot of credit for this one.
What the judges say: Alfonso praises Bindi's energy but gives more notes on her posture. Julianne says it wasn't their best dance, but was still "a joy to watch." Bruno tells Bindi she needs to learn to control her energy, and Carrie Ann points out that she made "a few" mistakes.
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess (Viennese waltz)
The dance: Nick and Sharna look like a prince and princess out there for this beautiful, elegant Viennese waltz that is an homage to Downton Abbey. A drastic improvement from last week when Nick had his shoe mishap, the routine is close to flawless. (Luckily, Nick's only clumsy moment this week comes when he drops a glass while talking to Erin Andrews.) The entire theme, from the music to the choreography, is completely on point and, for the first time, Nick looks like he could really win this thing.
What the judges say: Julianne calls it the best dance of the night, and Bruno loved the drama and attention to detail. Carrie Ann says Nick went from a pop star to a classical virtuoso. Alfonso advises Nick to relax and keep in mind that the competition is a marathon, not a sprint.
Hayes Grier and Emma Slater
The dance: Want to feel depressed? Consider that Hayes Grier wasn't even born when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was in its heyday. Anyway, I've never seen a ninja-infused jive before, so that's pretty entertaining. Hayes' kicks and flicks are a little more contained than they should be, and his arm extensions are only going halfway. But points for Emma's choreography.
What the judges say: Bruno criticizes the kicks and flicks, but says that Hayes is a star, even behind a mask. Carrie Ann says it wasn't Hayes' best night and he looked out of breath the whole time and had "turtle arms." Alfonso agrees that the routine seemed to deflate halfway through, and Julianne tells Hayes and Emma to work on being more aware of each other's presence.
Even though Kim and Val are out of the show, we still have another elimination tonight ... or do we?
In jeopardy: Andy and Allison, Paula and Louis
Safe: Everyone. Literally everyone, as no one else is going home. Twist!
What did you think? Were you surprised and/or disappointed that Kim was forced to withdraw? What was your favorite routine of the night? How did Alfonso do as a guest judge? And who do you want to see dance with each other in the upcoming Switch-Up? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
VIDEO: Dancing's Derek Hough teaches us how to tango!