‘Dancing with the Stars’ recap: ‘Icons Night’ celebrated music legends from Elton John to Britney Spears [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Last week’s “Dancing with the Starsdouble eliminationJeannie Mai withdrew due to illness before the show, then Chrishell Stause was ousted at the end of the evening — left us with seven celebrity contestants. They had to perform twice this week during “Icons Night” … well, most of them had to perform twice. How did they do? Scroll down for our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments and our commentary throughout the night.

This week’s dances paid tribute to music icons: Kaitlyn Bristowe danced to Britney Spears (Argentine tango), Skai Jackson celebrated Janet Jackson (paso doble), Justina Machado celebrated Madonna (rumba), AJ McLean honored Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury (Viennese waltz), Nelly channeled fellow rapper 2Pac (jazz), Nev Schulman rocked to Elton John (jive), and Johnny Weir was inspired by Amy Winehouse (quickstep).

After those initial routines six of the contestants performed against each other in the Dance-Off Challenge round. Machado and Bristowe faced off with the cha cha. McLean and Weir danced dueling jives. And Jackson and Nelly went head-to-head with salsas. The winner of each dance-off, as decided by the judges, received two extra bonus points added to their scores.

One celeb is missing from that round, though: Schulman is the odd man out, but in a good way. Since he tied for the top of the judges’ leaderboard last week and has the highest cumulative score of the season thus far, he was excused from the Dance-Off round and automatically received two bonus points. So not only did he get the advantage of free points, he also had the benefit of only needing to learn one routine this week. That gave him the time to polish and perfect his performance instead of dividing his time with Dance-Off prep.

Did Schulman make the most of his advantage? Who struggled with their dances? And who ultimately went home. Follow along below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

Daniel Montgomery, 8:02pm — OMG, Tyra’s wind machine. Maybe she’s trying to improve air circulation to reduce the risk of COVID.

Justina Machado and Sasha Farber (Rumba, Madonna)

Daniel, 8:03pm — “I wanted to be Madonna’s best friend,” says Justina about her obsession with the Material Girl. She came to New York with nothing and a dream, just like Madonna did. “What I’m going to bring is what I’ve always admired in her,” so she’s going to bring the sex appeal and power. Get it, Justina!

Daniel, 8:06pm — Really dynamite rumba, great hip action, rhythmic, great start to the night.

Jeffrey Kare, 8:07pm — Very stunning work from Justina this week.

Cordell Martin, 8:07pm — Loved it, just not sure if it will be dynamic enough to stand out tonight.

JUDGESDerek Hough thought it was a beautiful rumba with great turns and oozy slow moments, but she wanted it to be sharper. Bruno Tonioli said it was “the gentle side of Madonna,” and she did everything right, but she held back a little too much. Carrie Ann Inaba also thought Justina danced a little too small.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Derek (8), Bruno (8) = 24 out of 30

Cordell, 8:09pm — Not surprised.

Daniel, 8:10pm — Shoot, I might have to get my votes ready for her. I can see what the judges were saying though about her dancing a little small and reserved.

Nelly and Daniella Karagach (Jive, 2Pac)

Daniel, 8:13pm — Nelly grew up listening to 2Pac. “The passion behind his songwriting … has inspired me,” he says. But they’re doing a jazz number to “California Love,” which Nelly is singing his own version of, and I’m worried about trying to fit 2Pac’s music into jazz style. I’m definitely skeptical about this one, but fingers crossed for it.

Daniel, 8:17pm — That Nelly routine was highly … fine. He went wrong a few of times, and nothing about it really stood out for me.

Jeffrey, 8:18pm — That was probably their best performance yet.

Cordell, 8:18pm — Glad to see him have fun.

JUDGES — Bruno says “Nelly’s style makes me smile” and he has an “ease” and was in his element, but he points out that Nelly “missed a couple of steps.” Carrie Ann says, “great job,” and she thought it was “fun” because he was entertaining them, though it had a few missed steps. Derek felt the “joy” and “fun” of the routine, but he too points out the mistakes in the routine.

Daniel, 8:20pm — I’m thinking 7s again? Especially if Justina got 8s.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Derek (8), Bruno (8) = 24 out of 30

Daniel, 8:23pmAlright, I’m annoyed. Justina was perfect but danced a little small: 8s. Nelly makes several mistakes: 8s.

AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke (Viennese Waltz, Freddie Mercury)

Daniel, 8:24pm — Carrie Ann has told AJ that she wants him to go big and really break out. He’s dancing a routine inspired by Freddie Mercury, so he sure as hell had better go big with it. He’s also inspired by his grandmother, who died in 2001 but got to see his career with the Backstreet Boys explode. But he’s got to make sure to gracefully glide and bounce, not skip and hop.

Daniel, 8:27pm — Oof, AJ fell apart in a couple of places there at the beginning. And there was definitely a little too much skip and hop in his movements. Love the guy, but not his best night.

Cordell, 8:28pm — Yeah I agree. I can see him in the bottom 2 possibly.

Jeffrey, 8:29pm — Not one of his best routines, but still very stylish.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann says, “That was a tough one,” but then he seemed to lose his turns and choreography, and he needs to pay attention to his fingers on his extensions. Derek thought he was “beautiful” in frame despite his mistakes, and he needs to be aware of his face a little bit — strong body, bbut relaxed face. Bruno thinks AJ was so pumped up he got himself in a bit of a jumble, and he needs to soften his arms.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Derek (8), Bruno (8) = 23 out of 30

Cordell, 8:30pm — Shoot Justina should’ve gotten a 9 or two.

Daniel, 8:31pm — These judges are really trying me, giving 8s to these routines with outright mistakes when they knocked Justina for a routine where she nailed all her moves.

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev (Argentine Tango, Britney Spears)

Daniel, 8:35pm — I have a good feeling about Kaitlyn doing an Argentine tango to “Toxic.” She’s got the skills to make it look stunning. And Kaitlyn is such a Britney fan she actually made the local news for being a Britney fan. She wanted to be Britney when she was younger, and she was inspired to get into music. She wrote and recorded her own song, “If I’m Being Honest,” and “it’s all because of Britney.”

Daniel, 8:39pm — Her best dance by far. Every line and position was <chef’s kiss>

Cordell, 8:40pm — She’s getting a perfect score.

Jeffrey, 8:40pm — Incredible!

JUDGES — Derek gives Kaitlyn a standing ovation; he has felt she’s lacked impact in the past, and he nailed that tonight. Bruno says, “Hit me, Kaitlyn, one more time!” He thought it had “luscious shapes” and lines that “stretched to infinity” — “a star performance.” And Carrie Ann also gives Kaitlyn a standing ovation after weeks of giving her tough critiques. She thought every line and lift was perfect. Then Artem and Kaitlyn hugged Carrie Ann, so they’re all gonna have to get double COVID tests.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Daniel, 8:43pm — Argentine tango was so perfect for her. It’s a good fit for her precision, which let her have the emoptional impact she has needed, same reason I think it worked for Skai a few weeks ago. I hope Skai does just as well with her paso doble.

Johnny Weir and Britt Stewart (Quickstep, Amy Winehouse)

Daniel, 8:45pm — Johnny adores Amy Winehouse because she wasn’t a conventional pop star and was open about her struggles; she tragically succumbed to addiction and died at age 27. “She dealt with that pressure in the best way she could,” says Johnny, who can relate to the pressure that was on her. He was reminded of his first Olympics, where he had a terrible night. But he came back four years later and gave the best performances of his career.

Daniel, 8:50pm — Really quick, lots of great choreographic content, rock-solid from Johnny

Jeffrey, 8:51pm — That was perfectly flamboyant.

Cordell, 8:51pm — He better get nothing lower than a 9

JUDGES — Bruno says, “Amy would have loved that.” The quickstep was “excellent” in addition to his portrayal of Amy. Carrie Ann adds, “We’ve never seen a quickstep like that … You pulled it off beautifully,” with lots of “precision” and light on his feet. Derek says, “You being you equals love,” and his technique and footwork were “clean.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Jeffrey, 8:52pm — Two perfect scores in a row!

Cordell, 8:52pm — Well deserved.

Daniel, 8:52pm — I’m still mad for Justina. If she had performed a little later in the night, even just after Nelly and AJ, she would’ve gotten 9s.

Skai Jackson and Alan Bersten (Paso Doble, Janet Jackson)

Daniel, 8:53pm — Skai was thrown by landing in the bottom two after giving what she felt was one of her best performances, but she’s not deterred. She’s inspired by Janet Jackson for her activism in addition to her music. “I’ve dealt with a lot of racism, even colorism in the industry,” she explains. She remembers taking ballet and another student not wanting to touch her for fear that her dark skin would rub off on her. Skai voices her support for justice and Black Lives Matter, and I’m even more down for Skai than I was before.

Daniel, 9:02pm — Damn, the way she stopped her floor spin right on beat, that was fire. Loved that performance.

Jeffrey, 9:03pm — That was excellent!

Cordell, 9:03pm — Skai did that! She deserves all 9s. They better not give her an 8.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann is “proud” of Skai’s “fierce” paso doble. She channeled a new fierceness just like Janet Jackson did when she released that album. Derek thought it was “powerful” and “confident,” but she needs to watch her arms, which were a little too tense. Bruno thought it was one of her most grown-up dance and she did a “fantastic job.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Derek (9), Bruno (9) = 27 out of 30

Cordell, 9:04pm — Good. I think that may keep her safe this week.

Daniel, 9:06pm — I agree, especially with that great clip package and closing message. I’m saving all my votes for Justina tonight.

Cordell, 9:07pm — I think the bottom 2 will be AJ and Nelly. Unless they go for a shocker and put Justina and AJ in the bottom two.

Daniel, 9:08pm — I can very easily see bottom two being Justina and AJ. I think they over-scored Nelly, and if his fan base is as strong as it was last week, he might be totally safe. The good news is that if Justina is in the bottom two, they’d almost definitely save her against Nelly or AJ.

Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson (Jive, Elton John)

Daniel, 9:10pm — Nev should do great with an Elton John jive: great match of dance style with icon and they’re both a great hit for Nev’s personality. If his technique is clean, he might get another perfect score tonight, on top of the bonus points he’s guaranteed for being excused from the Dance-Offs. Once again, Nev tells a story about how much his parents instilled a love of the performing arts in him. On his “Black Swan” night he talked about his dad taking him to the opera, and now he’s inspired by his mom, whose own dance dreams ended because of scoliosis.

Daniel, 9:14pm — Great timing, loved all the flicks and kicks, 9s at the very least.

Jeffrey, 9:14pm — Maybe Nev should star in a Broadway stage adaptation of “Rocketman.” His routine was terrific!

Cordell, 9:15pm — Three 9s.

JUDGES — Derek loved how much “content” and “charisma” it had, but it needed more “pump” in the jive action. Bruno loved the structure and characterization of the dance, but he needed better “retraction” on the flicks and kicks. Carrie Ann thinks he’s a “pleasure to watch,” but he needs to point his toes a little more.

Daniel, 9:16pm — Those judges’ comments were surprisingly strict, but when Tyra asks him if he wants to go to Broadway, he says that maybe he can get there now that we have a new president who can maybe get the pandemic under control. Snap! 10 for that comment.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Derek (9), Bruno (9) = 27 out of 30

Daniel, 9:21pm — Plus Nev’s automatic bonus points, that gives Nev a 29 for the night, which keeps him off the top of the leaderboard since Kaitlyn and Johnny already have 30s.

Dance-Off #1: Justina Machado vs. Kaitlyn Bristowe (Cha Cha)

Daniel, 9:22pm — Justina is “a little nervous” because Kaitlyn has such beautiful lines, but Kaitlyn is worried about matching Justina’s performance style. Given the dance style, Justina might have a slight advantage here on the performance style, but Kaitlyn has a little more technical precision. So it might be a toss-up. But my girl Justina needs those bonus points, so I know who I’m rooting for.

Daniel, 9:25pm — Evenly matched, but Justina had more show-stopped personality. It’s pretty even, but judges need to rectify their hate crime from earlier in the night LOL.

Jeffrey, 9:26pm — Both of them I thought were very much at the top of their game.

Cordell, 9:27pm — My vote is Justina.

JUDGES — Derek says it’s important to stand out when you’re side by side, and one couple definitely did. Bruno felt passion from one dance, precision from the other. Carrie Ann called it sugar vs. spice, but everything was nice; Justina got Carrie Ann’s attention first, but Kaitlyn drew her in during the second half.

VERDICT — Carrie Ann (Kaitlyn), Derek (Justina), Bruno (Justina)

Daniel, 9:28pm — Justina gets the bonus points, as God intended. And Justina celebrates just like I am because “They don’t need ’em, I need ’em!”

Jeffrey, 9:29pm — Way to go, Justina!

Cordell, 9:29pm — Yes!

Daniel, 9:31pm — Now Johnny and Skai need to win their Dance-Offs so Nelly and AJ stay under Justina LOL — no offense, Nelly and AJ. I’m a total partisan tonight!

Dance-Off #2: Skai Jackson vs. Nelly (Salsa)

Daniel, 9:32pm — This battle could go either way. Skai has better technique overall, but struggles on Latin dances. Nelly doesn’t have the strength of technique, but he has good flow and personality and can nail the character of the dance.

Daniel, 8:35pm — Nelly really needed Skai to be off her game tonight, and she wasn’t (except one part that looked like it might have been a mistake, not sure).

Cordell, 9:36pm — That was fun. Nelly stepped up on the dance-off.

JUDGES — Bruno was distracted by Nelly’s pecs, and Skai kept up with the dance and had great dismounts from his lifts. Carrie Ann is also impressed by Nelly’s shirtlessness, but one of the celebs had trouble coming down from the lifts. Derek thought both teams were “on fire,” and “it could go either way.”

VERDICT — Carrie Ann (Skai), Derek (Nelly), Bruno (Skai)

Daniel, 9:37pm — And justice was done! Skai gets bonus points, so Justina keeps a two-point advantage over Nelly.

Daniel, 9:39pm — Hmmm, if AJ wins his Dance-Off, that’ll put him ahead of Nelly for the night but under Justina. I’m torn by how I want that to go now.

Dance-Off #3: Johnny Weir vs. AJ McLean (Jive)

Daniel, 9:42pm — I give Johnny a bit of an edge with the quick technique and precision required for a jive. Derek thought AJ’s last jive felt more like a swing dance, while Johnny’s last jive needed work on its flicks and kicks. But given how Johnny just slayed the quickstep, he might be in the zone for this.

Daniel, 9:45pm — I gotta say, AJ kept up with that better than I thought he would. It’s kind of a toss-up for me. I thought AJ brought a little more personality to it.

Cordell, 9:46pm — Yeah I can see them giving it to AJ.

Jeffrey, 9:46pm — I felt both of them were doing really solid work, but Johnny wins the round for me.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann thought this was the hardest of the dance-offs; she loved Johnny’s technique, and AJ had great stamina. Derek thought the first half went to Johnny, but second half went to AJ. Bruno thought one routine was sharper and more compact (I’m guessing Johnny), but the other had great musicality and precision (I’m guessing AJ).

VERDICT — Carrie Ann (Johnny), Derek (AJ), Bruno (AJ)

Cordell, 9:48pm — Not surprised.

Jeffrey, 9:48pm — Neither am I to be honest.


1. Kaitlyn Bristowe — 30
1. Johnny Weir — 30
3. Skai Jackson — 27 + 2 = 29
3. Nev Schulman — 27 + 2 = 29
5. Justina Machado — 24 + 2 = 26
6. AJ McLean — 23 + 2 = 25
7. Nelly — 24


Daniel, 9:53pm — Alright, moment of truth. This is gonna be one of the most suspenseful results of the season because it could go a few different ways.

Daniel, 9:55pm — The celebs who are safe are … Kaitlyn Bristowe (no surprise, well deserved), Skai Jackson (damn straight!), Nev Schulman (no surprise, and also well deserved), Justina Machado (hell yes!) and Nelly (wait, whut?). The bottom two are Johnny Weir and AJ McLean despite Weir’s perfect score.

Daniel, 9:57pm — Bruno saves Johnny Weir. Derek is shocked this is the bottom two, and so am I, but he picks AJ McLean — what on Earth, Derek?! Carrie Ann is the deciding vote, and she picks Johnny Weir. That means AJ McLean is eliminated and Johnny is safe as should’ve been obvious, Derek!

Jeffrey, 10:00pm — Damn. A week ago, we were talking about AJ as a potential dark horse for the win. Now, that’s clearly not gonna happen.

Daniel, 10:00pm — Nelly’s fan base is no joke, and Johnny really doesn’t have fans voting for him if being on top of the leaderboard with a perfect score didn’t keep him safe. Wild.

Cordell, 10:00pm — Double elimination next week!!! I said it all along, you can’t have an off night, unless you’re Nelly LOL.

Cordell, 10:04pm — Final four predictions: Skai, Justina, Kaitlyn and Nev.

Jeffrey, 10:04pm — I’m gonna have to agree with those (for now).

Cordell, 10:04pm — Honestly unless Nelly get hosed with his scores he could make the finale. Especially if Bobby Bones and David Ross could make it in.

Jeffrey, 10:05pm — After tonight, I think he’s now definitely a potential spoiler to make it into the finale.

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Monday on ABC. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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