Dancing With the Stars: Season 21, Week 8 “Icons Night”

Dancing with the Stars has always loved the inspirational stuff. They’ve had people meet with their idols on the show before, so perhaps we should’ve seen this week’s “Idols” theme coming. Everybody will be dancing tributes to the icons they looked up to.

It is also immunity/dance-off night, so the highest couple gets immunity and the others square off for extra points. This is, Tom and a newly returned Erin tell us, a special all-new America’s Choice dance-off! …Details later.

We should’ve seen that one coming too.

Please note: this week is a conglomerate of different sources for videos, as YouTube users suddenly adjust to having the performance videos violently ripped away from them on the official channel. If this is anything to go by, the culprit is YouTube red. (Remember: ABC, DWTS and ESPN, all Disney properties.) To the dances!

Carlos PenaVega & Witney Carson: Salsa; “Valio la Pena” Marc Antony. Marc Antony’s his icon, although the salsa’s actually a dance he’s got an adversarial history with. Antony invites him to a concert during the weekend and tells him it’s in his blood. He must take that advice to heart, because for most of the dance he’s wonderfully smooth and sexy. (And that’s before he takes his shirt off.)  He doesn’t keep it up as perfectly through the lifts, though, and Carrie Ann even thinks he made a mistake on one. Not that this stops Bruno from declaring “Magic Carlos is back!” or the judges breaking out the straight Nines for 27.

Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold: Contemporary; “Holding Out for a Hero” Ella Mae Bowen. His idol is Chris Kyle. (Oh dear.) He talks about struggling to live up to this image of a hero even as he himself, a better person, gets honored at the World Series. But if you ignore who this dance is tribute to, it’s actually kind of gorgeous. (And the movie was really popular, so it will get him votes.) He’s improved very greatly in his expression, which the judges praise him for, though they also notice difficulties which lowers Julianne and Bruno’s marks to Eight, though a Nine from Carrie Ann gives them 25.

Andy Grammer & Allison Holker: Viennese Waltz; “Isn’t She Lovely” Stevie Wonder. Like Carlos, he too is dancing to the music of his idol. But he also makes this a dance a tribute to his late mother. He gets all choked up while talking about her in the fluff, and that emotion carries over into tonight. It’s a very touching performance. Unfortunately his technique is another matter. The judges lament it heavily. He only gets Sevens from Julianne and Bruno, though Carrie Ann gives him an Eight, for a score of 22.

Alexa PenaVega & Mark Ballas: Argentine Tango; “Viva la Vida” Coldplay. It’s Mrs. PenaVega’s turn to be religious; her icon is David from the Bible! She’s Argentine tangoing  with Mark as Goliath, which is so weird Bruno openly calls it Monty Pythonesque. But Mark, thankfully eschewing another ridiculous costume in favor of a lighting/shadow effect, choreographs a bold, tone-perfect routine that tells the story, and Alexa throws herself into it. But then she has a pair of slip-ups. Julianne and Bruno express their disappointment with that and give Eights.  Carrie Ann cites her ability to recover when giving a Nine, so they get 25.

Nick Carter & Sharna Burgess: Contemporary; “Can’t Help Falling in Love” Haley Reinhart performing live.  He decides to just pay tribute to his wife Lauren, pregnant for the second time after recently suffering a painful miscarriage. It’s another emotional fluff, with a routine that lives up to it. It’s a beautiful number, danced perfectly, Nick doing everything right both in dancing it and expressing it, and by the time he ends it with his hands on Sharna’s stomach before running over to kiss his wife, it’s been the best thing tonight. Carrie Ann even calls it the “best dance ever!” Bruno sums it up: “A love poem perfectly visualized by dance.” Out come the straight Tens. Ultimately it’s the only perfect score of the night. Immunity!

Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough: Foxtrot; “Grace Kelly” Mika. She calls Grace Kelly her idol. So Derek creates a routine that gives her background dancers and allows her to be nicely old-school elegant, which she does wonderfully, even when doing a Busby Berkeley pose. In the main part of the dance, she puts her energy to good use, quick and light on her feet, with equally delightful results. Julianne manages to quibble about her frame and Bruno about her shoulders, so they only get Nines from them, but a Ten from Carrie Ann leaves them with 28.

Tamar Braxton & Val Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble; “Born This Way” Lady Gaga. Her idol is her sister Toni, but the fluff is mostly a contrast to last week. Val insists that whole “best dancer” thing was taken out of context, and she’s shown being insecure a lot. But tonight she comes out with the same confidence she showed on the floor last week. At least this time, she does all the moves right and with perfect timing as well. Julianne still thinks she had arm issues, and Carrie Ann goes into lift police mode, so another routine that would’ve gotten straight Tens instead only gets one, this time from Bruno; Nines from the other two leave them with 28.

How the dance-off with work this season: we will be allowed to vote for who we want to win while the couples are dancing. The score percentages will be shown live in the ballroom as they come in. As in the past, the highest-scoring couple without immunity get first choice of opponent, then the highest team left after that. In response, the picked opponents get to choose the dance.

Proving that 20+ seasons make one savvy, Derek asks who wants to do the jive. When Carlos & Witney say they do, they get picked. (Though there’s a moment of suspense, they do pick the jive. That really could have backfired.) Tamar & Val pick Alexa & Mark, who pick the Cha-Cha, leaving Alek & Lindsay and Andy & Allison to default into a samba battle.

Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough vs. Carlos PenaVega & Witney Carson: Jive; “Travelin’ Band” Creedence Clearwater Revival. From the start, the viewer votes favors Bindi & Derek, who show their jiving abilities to great effect. Perhaps it’s unfair, but she even crosses the floor to do a final move with Carlos, who happily cooperates. That’s because on their side Carlos & Witney rose to the occasion as well. Julianne calls it the closest battle she’s ever seen, the other two agree. Then, shocker! They all break out the paddles in favor of Carlos & Witney! The viewers are outvoted by the judges; Carlos & Witney take the prize of two points and go up to 29.

Tamar Braxton & Val Chmerkovskiy vs. Alexa PenaVega & Mark Ballas: Cha Cha Cha; “Fun” Pitbull feat. Chris Brown. Tamar & Val do a good, crisp, delicious cha-cha. But Alexa & Mark steal the show with a very flashy one, featuring her losing her skirt. The viewer vote goes to them. The judges speak about having to choose between the styles. Julianne and Bruno choose Tamar & Val. But when Carrie Ann joins the viewers in voting for Alexa & Mark, it seems the viewer scores carry the day. The latter are awarded the two points to go up to 27.

Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold vs. Andy Grammer & Allison Holker: Samba; “Lean On” Major Lazar & DJ Snake feat. MO. Both these couples wisely just try to be fun. Andy goes all out, doing the worm! Unlike the other two pairs, the viewer vote is really close, and by the end, it’s not obvious which way that vote landed. Carrie Ann sighs and declares they both need to work on their sambas. Julianne and Bruno are slightly kinder. Andy is praised for at least having the proper bounce, and both for doing such a difficult dance at short notice.  All three judges give the nod to Andy & Allison, and we are told the viewer vote went that way too. They go up to 24, but it’s not enough. They are still at the bottom of the leaderboard.

With six couples up for elimination, the show declares who is safe individually for the first time this season. Bindi & Derek are called first, which is unsurprising. But as the next three couples are called safe, it turns out there are no surprises at all this week. The two in jeopardy are the two second-placers from last week that were left after Hayes & Emma were sent home: Carlos & Witney and Andy & Allison. So which couple didn’t get the votes?

It turns out to be Andy & Allison. He takes it well, saying he’s just happy he got to do the tribute to her mother first. Then, on request, he goes onto the floor and does the worm again in farewell. Actually, the leaving celebrity doing a goodbye dance move is something I’d like to see every week, wouldn’t you?

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