“Dancing with the Stars” is winding down its controversial 28th season. Week eight was “Dance-Off Week” during which six of the seven remaining couples went head-to-head for bonus points to help them stay in the competition and get one step closer to the Mirror Ball Trophy, which will be handed out in just three weeks on November 25. So who won their dance-offs, who lost, and who paid the ultimate price at the end of the night by being eliminated? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.
The night started the way they always do, with each celeb performing a new dance in a previously unlearned dance style. Lauren Alaina and Kate Flannery performed jives. Hannah Brown danced a quickstep. Kel Mitchell got a salsa. James Van Der Beek lucked out with a contemporary number (that style usually results in higher scores). Sean Spicer danced a jazz routine. And Ally Brooke got something ABC described in its press release as a “Jazz Charleston” — some kind of hybrid routine perhaps?
Then the dance-offs pitted the celebs against each other performing cha cha, salsa or jive. The winners of each dance-off got two extra points added to their judges’ score for the night. But one couple was excused from the dance-offs entirely and got two extra bonus points automatically: James and Emma Slater.
Usually immunity from the dance-off is based on that night’s judges’ scores, but in this case immunity was based on the scores from “Halloween Night.” Van Der Beek topped the leaderboard during that show, tied with Ally and Lauren. But James also had the highest cumulative judges’ score for the season, which broke the tie and saved him from the head-to-head match-ups — though he wasn’t immune from possible elimination.
So who made it to the top six, and who danced off the show entirely. Follow along below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern).
Sean Spicer and Jenna Johnson (Jazz)
Daniel Montgomery, 8:02pm — Okay, let’s get this one over with. Though interestingly Sean’s usual partner Lindsay Arnold has been replaced from tonight’s routine. Lindsay’s mother-in-law passed away, so she’s spending time with her family.
Jeffrey Kare, 8:05pm — That looked about as good as a lame high school production of “Anything Goes.” I thought it would never end.
DM, 8:06pm — That routine was really good if you ignored Sean completely.
JUDGES — Len Goodman says what we’re all thinking: “We keep throwing you out of the boat, and the viewers keep throwing you a life preserver.” He says the mermaid had better feet than Sean did, but he “respects” the effort. Bruno Tonioli says, “You don’t have many jazz bones in your body … Dory in ‘Finding Nemo’ has a better sense of direction.” Carrie Ann Inaba says he looks like he’s doing the same dance over and over, but seeing Sean dance with someone else showed a different side of him.
DM, 8:09pm — Carrie Ann says she sees a different side of him with a different pro partner. Sadly, neither side is a dancer.
SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Len (7), Bruno (6) — TOTAL: 20 out of 30
Cordell Martin, 8:10pm — Oh hell.
DM, 8:10pm — No, just no.
Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko (Jive)
DM, 8:14pm — Last week Lauren got her best scores despite having multiple injured ribs, so when Carrie Ann told her that her core was getting stronger than ever, it was a proud moment for the country singer. They’re dancing a jive to Elvis Presley‘s “Hound Dog.” It will be a tribute to Lauren’s grandmother, who loves Elvis, but the jive is super technical, so hopefully those ribs hold up.
JK, 8:18pm — As for the first good routine of the night, I thought Lauren and Gleb both did a very stylish job this week.
DM, 8:18pm — I think Lauren’s timing might have gone off in the middle there for a bit, but otherwise I think that was one of her strongest performances
JUDGES — Bruno thought it had a great ’50s feel, and she had good pumping leg action, but she went wrong three times. Carrie Ann was thrilled when Lauren started the routine, but then “something went wrong.” Carrie Ann still thinks Lauren has a lot going for her. Len noticed “a few mistakes,” but “you deserve to stay in this competition,” so he hopes the night doesn’t end in “Heartbreak Hotel.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (8), Bruno (8) — TOTAL: 24 out of 30
CM, 8:20pm — She’ll be safe.
JK, 8:20pm — Thank God she scored higher than the contestant who shall not be named.
DM, 8:21pm — I felt bad for her getting those critiques. Except for those couple little lapses, she looked great out there, and I agree with Erin that she’s being too hard on herself.
DM, 8:22pm — And yeah, I think that country fan base will keep her safe.
CM, 8:22pm — Most definitely. I think we’ll see Ally and Kel in the bottom.
DM, 8:24pm — That would be interesting because so far no one has landed in the bottom two twice and survived, and both Ally and Kel have been down there once already. I’m still worried for Kate too.
Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson (Salsa)
DM, 8:25pm — Kel and Witney are dancing a salsa to “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan, who is — ahem — a little before Witney’s time. She was born in 1993, and the song came out in 1995. Kel is also bringing Witney back to the 1990s by bringing her to the set of the “All That” reboot, which he’s executive producing. He’s got a suave stage presence, so I think he could nail the salsa.
JK, 8:29pm — Now that was full of energy!
DM, 8:29pm — A little too much “messing about” at first, as Len might say. Solid salsa when he got right down to it, some great moments in there, maybe still a little rough around the edges. But charisma for days.
JUDGES — Carrie Ann loved the back and forth between his solo grooving and their partner work. Len says, “You’re on a roll: full of rhythm, plenty of junk in the trunk” with good hip action. He was “large and in charge.” Bruno calls him “the main attraction” in a “star turn … You were leading the whole dance from the beginning to the end.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 28 out of 30
JK, 8:32pm — WOW! Kel gets the first 10 of the season!
CM, 8:32pm — YO!
DM, 8:32pm — Okay, that 10 went a little overboard. They were saving 10s all season, and that got the first one?
CM, 8:35pm — James or Hannah will get a perfect 30.
DM, 8:35pm — James has a contemporary, and Emma is an experienced choreographer, so I think she’ll get it for him.
Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber (Paso Doble)
DM, 8:37pm — Okay, so not a “Jazz Charleston” for Ally like ABC’s press release indicated, but a paso doble, That’s, um, not nearly the same thing. But I’m really excited to see Ally do a paso, and she’ll be dancing to her own song “Higher,” so she’ll be at ease with the material.
CM, 8:41pm — She’s tearing it up! Perfect 30!
JK, 8:41pm — In my opinion, that has to be the best performance of the night so far. I thought Ally and Sasha were both remarkable!
DM, 8:41pm — That paso was fire. If Kel’s routine was a 10, this one’s an 11.
JUDGES — Len thought it was “a mix of good technique and high performance.” Bruno though she was “conducting the orchestra” with “beauty, power, and artistry.” Carrie Ann says, “You proved to me that you are a freaking superstar … You commanded all of our attention … My mind is blown.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30
DM, 8:43pm — Now I’m REALLY worried about Kate.
JK, 8:44pm — We’re really moving on from the beginning of the night.
Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten (Quickstep)
DM, 8:48pm — I don’t envy Hannah having to follow last week’s tough critiques AND Ally’s perfect score. Hannah admits that she hasn’t felt connected to herself and that she agreed with a lot of Carrie Ann’s comments. So she’s regrouping by going back home to Alabama to visit her family. I, like Carrie Ann, am rooting for her because she has the dance ability.
DM, 8:53pm — No pun on the quickstep, but she really stepped up. That was one of her best routines, if not her very best.
JK, 8:53pm — I don’t know if Hannah and Alan are about to receive any 10s at all, but I thought that was terrific.
JUDGES — Bruno said Hannah’s performance was “a game-changer.” She really used the floor to give her “lift and spring … You were in orbit.” Carrie Ann’s critique starts by getting up out of her seat to hug Hannah. She thought Hannah was “open-hearted” and “that was the comeback of the season.” Len thought Hannah had a “nice frame” with “clarity of movement,” but there was a little gapping in-between them when they were in hold, but otherwise it was a “fabulous” dance.
SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (9), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 29 out of 30
CM, 8:55pm — Told you guys she would get the redemption arc this week.
JK, 8:55pm — (Almost) Everyone’s killing it this week!
DM, 8:57pm — When the judges get so 10-happy and go in on the comeback narratives, it’s not always earned, but I think this week has been a genuine breakthrough, especially for Ally and Hannah, both of whom seemed more at ease as performers and with their technique. James finally has some competition this season.
Kate Flannery and Pasha Pashkov (Jive)
DM, 8:59pm — They’re dancing to “Heatwave” by Linda Ronstadt, and they’re paying tribute to Kate’s sister Nancy. Kate had just come from Nancy’s funeral after she died of cancer. Ronstadt was one of Nancy’s favorite artists, so Kate wants to express the “joy and pride of being Nancy’s sister.”
JK, 9:03pm — This must be Kate and Pasha’s best routine yet.
CM, 9:03pm — That was cute.
DM, 9:04pm — Really good jive from Kate, I think she might score better than Lauren, but I think she needed to be lights-out perfect with the way scores are coming down tonight.
JUDGES — Carrie Ann felt the “celebration” in the dance, but there were times when Kate’s arm was “small” out of hold. Len thought they were a “joy to watch … It’s not your best, but it’s certainly not your worst.” Bruno felt it was “clever” and “tailor-made for your ability,” but she “went out of sync a couple of times.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (8), Bruno (8) — TOTAL: 24 out of 30
DM, 9:06pm — I think Kate might be done for. I hope I’m wrong, but she needs huge fan support when she’s currently second to last on the judges’ leaderboard.
CM, 9:07pm — We gotta think positive friend. Hopefully, her fans rally behind her this week.
JK, 9:08pm — It should be interesting to see who’ll end up in the bottom two this week.
James Van Der Beek and Emma Slater (Contemporary)
DM, 9:11pm — They’re performing a contemporary routine to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I’m … skeptical about that song choice, but he feels an emotional connection to that song as a reminder of how his parents were unabashedly supportive of his acting career. Mom and dad even came to watch his rehearsals with Emma.
DM, 9:14pm — Great work for James. Not the dance of the night for me, but it’s right up there.
JK, 9:14pm — Very interesting to hear “Don’t Stop Believin'” arranged like that. Though James & Emma both just did stunning work.
CM, 9:14pm — Another perfect score.
JUDGES — Len thought it was like “a good book … holds your interest from start to finish … and I think you’re going to find it has a really happy ending.” Bruno thought it was “totally compelling,” and the lifts were “absolutely exquisite,” with the “fluidity of water.” Carrie Ann has never seen a lift executed so well on the show; it was “pure artistry in motion.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30
DM, 9:17pm — OMG, James’s daughter is crying. Even crazier, his daughter looks so much like Witney Carson.
DM, 9:21pm — I just gave all my votes to Kate.
CM, 9:21pm — Haha me too, Daniel! “DWTS” gods, please let it be the night when Spicy goes home.
Kel Mitchell vs. Ally Brooke (Jive)
DM, 9:22pm — Kel Mitchell will be battling Ally Brooke, and they’ll be dancing … jive to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I think Ally has the edge here since she usually scores higher.
CM, 9:24pm — It should’ve been Ally vs. Hannah, Kel vs. Lauren, Kate vs. Sean.
DM, 9:24pm — I agree.
DM, 9:26pm — Too much editing. I couldn’t really make out enough of those jives to pick which was better.
JK, 9:27pm — You guys are probably right, because Ally and Kel were both so great just now, that it was hard for me to tell who was doing better.
JUDGES — Len thought both teams were “top-notch” and “terrific.” Bruno thinks it’s “almost impossible to call.” Carrie Ann also thought they were “both on fire … You don’t make our jobs easy.”
DECISIONS — Carrie Ann (KEL), Len (ALLY), Bruno (KEL)
DM, 9:30pm — Kel gets the two bonus points, which brings his score for the night to 30, which actually ties Ally’s total score for the night.
CM, 9:30pm — Whoa!
Sean Spicer vs. Kate Flannery (Cha Cha)
DM, 9:33pm — They’re doing cha chas to “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C+C Music Factory. Sean and Kate have both performed cha chas before. I can’t imagine Kate losing this face-off, though. God help us if she doesn’t.
DM, 9:36pm — Sean is literally ruining the color purple for me.
JK, 9:37pm — Kate and Pasha both just blew everything Sean and Jenna did out of the water.
JUDGES — Bruno saw “somebody who quite improved,” and someone who caught his attention, though not necessarily for the right reasons. Carrie Ann has “nothing but respect” for both of them; one of the couples had two people doing the cha cha, and the other couple had maybe one dancer doing the cha cha. Len thought both celebs did a “really good” cha cha, and it was “a fun thing to watch.”
DECISIONS — Carrie Ann (KATE), Len (KATE), Bruno (KATE)
DM, 9:39pm — No surprise there. It gives Kate a two-point boost to her score tonight, but I’m not sure if two points is enough to change the results one way or the other given how drastically audience votes have skewed the results this season.
Lauren Alaina vs. Hannah Brown (Salsa)
DM, 9:43pm — Hannah has had some challenges during the season, but I think she has the advantage in terms of her technique, while Lauren has been better at capturing the character of her routines. But neither of them have performed a salsa before, so it might be a pretty even match. They’re dancing to “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” by Gloria Estefan.
DM, 9:48pm — I could see them giving this to Lauren to give her a score boost over Sean.
JK, 9:48pm — I thought Hannah and Lauren were both excellent for different reasons.
DM, 9:49pm — OMG, the male dancers ripping off their shirts — that’s not gonna help you with Len, guys!
JUDGES — Carrie Ann thought it was an “amazing showcase” and “the girls are in it to win it.” Len urges Gleb to put his shirt back on, but he wishes he could give the ladies one point each. Bruno thought the Southern belles were “illegally hot.”
CM, 9:51pm — I would give it to Hannah.
DECISIONS — Carrie Ann (HANNAH), Len (HANNAH), Bruno (HANNAH)
DM, 9:52pm — That gives Hannah two points and brings her up to 31 and a second-place finish on the night’s leaderboard. Kate’s dance-off win gives her a two-point buffer against Lauren near the bottom of the leaderboard.
CM, 9:53pm — I’m so nervous.
DM, 9:53pm — Just expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed. If Sean is safe, I hope they just say so first. Them dragging it out is the worst.
DM, 9:56pm — Safe from elimination are Sean Spicer (well, at least they listened to me … sigh), Hannah Brown, James Van Der Beek, Kel Mitchell and Lauren Alaina. So Kate Flannery and Ally Brooke are the bottom two.
DECISION— Carrie Ann is “confused” and “irritated” that these are the bottom two. Bruno agrees that these are the wrong bottom two. But it’s unanimous: Ally is saved, Kate is eliminated, and “DWTS” is still broken.
DM, 10:00pm — I’m glad Carrie Ann said “irritated” to describe her reaction. They’ve been nicer about it before, but now they’re totally subtweeting Sean up there.
CM, 10:01pm — Yeah, they need to quit coddling Sean, but at this point he’s not going anywhere.
DM, 10:02pm — He would have survived with straight 6s too, but why did they give him any 7s?
1. James Van Der Beek — 30 + 2 = 32
2. Hannah Brown — 29 + 2 = 31
3. Ally Brooke — 30
3. Kel Mitchell — 28 + 2 = 30
5. Kate Flannery — 24 + 2 = 26 (ELIMINATED)
6. Lauren Alaina — 24
7. Sean Spicer — 20
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