‘Dancing With the Stars’ 5th Judge: America Sends One of the Best Dancers Home in Week 2

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It’s been so long; it feels like only yesterday that we got together to kick someone off of “Dancing with the Stars.” Oh wait, the show did in fact decide to be just that cruel. While they usually wait until the latter part of the season to subject the dancers to two different dances, they decided to double it up for Week 2. But it also meant two celebrities would get the boot. “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran was the first to go, but who will follow her?

Monday night kept things gliding along — with an occasional quickstep hop — for Ballroom Night, but it’s Latin Night now, baby, and that means the costumes get skimpier and the dances get hotter and harder. Derek Fisher had the toughest outing Monday night, but there were a lot of close scores at the bottom of the leaderboard, so it’s really up to America.

As TooFab did last season, and we do for various competition shows, I will be acting as your fifth judge, analyzing, critiquing and breaking down what worked and what didn’t work about each performance. A quick reminder about me: I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer, all for this moment: armchair judging a dance competition. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie-Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tolioni. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. Yes, there are only three judges on the panel this season, but let’s face it, you’re the fourth judge. Your votes mean just as much if not more than the judges, so I’ll gladly sit fifth behind all of you watching at home.

Nikki Bella & Artem Chigvintsev

Nikki struggled with nerves over the intimate nature of the samba, but you couldn’t tell in the final performance. But while she looked confident in the face, her body language was a little more reserved throughout. She looked a little uncertain in places, moving timidly in her legs. There were more misfires than hits in her footwork, but she showed the capacity to get there in time.

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6

My Score: 5

Victoria Arlen & Val Chmerkovskiy

Victoria wasn’t at all comfortable getting into the sultry character of the rumba in rehearsal. While I loved the story of the piece, and the reluctant nature of her character in it was beautifully acted, it was sorely lacking in rumba. It was more like a contemporary/lyrical piece with a brief element of rumba that wasn’t quite as hippy as it should be. This was the first time I felt she was uncertain of her feet in a few places, but she’s still an early favorite.

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 7

My Score: 7

Derek Fisher & Sharna Burgess

I didn’t buy this paso doble performance at all from Derek, he was too hoppy and cartoonish rather than commanding in his presence. Everything looked very labored from him from his heavy legs and gusto arms. Sharna did all of the heavy lifting in giving us actual paso doble, as Derek just overdid everything he tried. This just didn’t work at all for me. I didn’t see a classic bullfighter, more Bugs Bunny the bullfighter from “Bully for Bugs.”

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 6

My Score: 4

Sasha Pieterse & Gleb Savchenko

Sasha opened up about her weight gain due to a medical condition, and the weight she has started being able to lose now. She channelled the challenges of this journey into her samba. While I would have liked a little more power in her legs and flicks, this was the most confident and capable performance Sasha has yet given in the competition. Her partnering was fantastic, and she really felt like she was in tune with the song and Gleb in a way that bodes well for the future of the partnership.

Judges Scores: 8, 7, 7

My Score: 7

Nick Lachey & Peta Murgatroyd

I would have liked to see a full leg extension from Nick, but I’ll give him props for improving his hip movement. It still wasn’t quite enough in this Argentine tango, but he had some nice lifts with Peta and showed some solid partnering throughout. This was a definite improvement, but he’s still too lumbering in his footwork, lacking the fluidity in his limbs to match what his partner is doing. Still, this was the strongest he’s been yet, so maybe he’s starting to figure it out.

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 6

My Score: 5

Jordan Fisher & Lindsay Arnold

Jordan was a little too jazzy in the samba, light and flowy on his feet when I wanted to see him grind into the floor a bit. The couple worked some body rolls into the routine, and some other classic samba elements which showed just how committed Jordan was to learning and perfecting this dance. He has natural rhythm and charisma, and he gave a solid performance with some intricate footwork, excellent arms and carriage. It was a fun piece, well executed.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 8

Drew Scott & Emma Slater

This rumba was far and away the best I’ve ever seen Drew in the competition, and he even gained some control of his gangly limbs. His arms were considerably improved, but he still needs to work on how he holds his hands. There was some crouching to accommodate the height difference, but it was mostly well-masked. I thought he was nicely fluid throughout, and managed some nice lifts and tricks with Emma. I’d written Drew off last week but if he can improve this much in a week, he just might have the potential to pull off a long run this season.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 7

Debbie Gibson & Alan Bersten

Debbie committed to trust in her partner and it lead to some wonderful lift moments on top of the table. The chemistry was definitely there throughout, and I found myself impressed with the confidence of her steps in tandem with Alan. Her footwork was the weakest part of the dance, but even that was relatively solid throughout. This partnership is really something special, as they brought all the steamy passion … and technique … you could want out of a samba. This might just be a couple to watch.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 8

Vanessa Lachey & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Maks called for her usual high energy self in this dance, but she wasn’t quite able to bring it, nor could she match the level of energy he brought. This was a bit of a misstep for one of the clear frontrunners at this stage of the competition. I wanted more lightness in her feet, more extension in her movements and her body to sell joy to me way more than it did in this salsa. Instead, she looked like she was pretty tired, but she should probably go ahead and do it anyway.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 7

My Score: 7

Terrell Owens & Cheryl Burke

He wins the award for tightest hips on the night, and that’s not a good thing. Terrell was so stiff through his midsection it restricted virtually every movement he made. At times he remembered to be on his toes, but he managed to make even that look heavy. T.O. may have killed it on the football field, but tonight he nearly killed the samba. With Barbara gone, he unfortunately settles into the slot of worst dancer on the night, which is a shame as he showed so much improvement on Monday. Alas, it was as if he’d learned the basic steps and little else for this one.

Judges Scores: 6, 6, 7

My Score: 4

Lindsey Stirling & Mark Ballas

It was a solid effort, and Lindsey’s hip movement was definitely improved over the rehearsal footage, but it still wasn’t quite there. She was not quite able to let loose into the spirit of the salsa in her hip movement, or even in the looseness of her leg movements. She should be sinking into her knees a bit, almost like her body is afloat in water, and she at times was instead quite stolid. That said, her footwork was on point, her partnering was solid and she’s proven herself one to watch.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 7

Frankie Muniz & Witney Carson

Look at that swagger. Go on, Malcolm! He started in the middle but he’s rising quickly to the top with his amazing work ethic and performances this week. I wasn’t sure if his nerve would let him embrace the energy of a cha-cha, but it absolutely did. He was on fire tonight, oozing confidence so much in his body and movements that I’m willing to forgive some questionable arm and hand positions, and a few moments of uncertain feet.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 9

My Score: 8

ELIMINATION

Nick Lachey & Peta Murgatroyd were put in jeopardy alongside Debbie Gibson & Alan Bersten and it’s a travesty. Terrell Owens and Drew Scott were not at all great in the beginning, with only Drew really showing improvement, but once again their fans came through for them. If there was any justice from America, Debbie would survive to dance again, as she’s really finding her groove on the show.

Unfortunately, America got it wrong and sent Debbie home on the heels of Barbara, once again showing questionable ageism and sexism in their voting choices. Older women really struggle to resonate with audiences on this show. Admittedly, she struggled early on but the real travesty is that she won’t be able to build on a stellar night tonight, while Nick will probably be stiff again next week.

Next week, “Dancing With the Stars” returns to its regular time slot, Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.


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