All across the country, Americans tuned in to watch Monday night’s heavily anticipated face-off — between the Dancing With the Stars contestants, that is. With the first presidential debate of the 2016 election scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, the competition show's Monday, September 26, episode was cut down to just an hour. In an effort to fit in 12 dances in just 60 minutes, ABC kept the “debate theme” going and held a "Face-Off" night for the first time.
Two couples were pitted against each other as they danced the same style to different songs. The winners of each face-off received immunity — and the six couples with the lower score face elimination on Tuesday night's show.
Jiving Right In: Jana Kramer vs. Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
The shortened episode got off to a rapid start with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Allison Holker “jiving” against Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko. Jana stunned in her hot pink getup, but judges were less than impressed with her moves to Bette Midler’s “Too Many Fish in the Sea.” To keep the show moving, the judges held back from giving their usual commentary and just stuck with scoring, and they determined Jana’s jive earned an unremarkable 26 points.
However, it was still enough to beat out Babyface’s forgettable routine (a stiff number to “Great Gosh A’Mighty” by Little Richard that nabbed a 25) by a single point. Even with her inexplicably low score, Jana was the first saved dancer of the night.
“Paso Bloble”: Rick Perry vs. Vanilla Ice
For the second showdown of the night, Rick Perry and Vanilla Ice’s budding bromance was put to the test. A video package showed Rick and Emma Slater rehearsing the paso doble, but with a twist … a twist of Rick’s ankle. Ouch.
Despite a painful ankle injury during rehearsals, a mariachi suit–wearing Rick managed to score 23 points — an improvement from last week’s 22, but still one of the lowest scores of the night.
Vanilla Ice and partner Witney Carson brought their own version of the paso doble to the ballroom dance floor — or rather, the “paso bloble,” as Vanilla Ice believed the rhythmic Spanish dance was called. Without missing a beat, Witney was able to one-up Vanilla Ice’s cringeworthy pronunciation by saying she thought the paso doble was “Latin? I don’t know.”
The dubious pair also earned a meager 23 points, forcing judge Len Goodman to serve as the tiebreaker. “Vanilla” (evidently Len thought the rapper’s nickname should have a nickname) was saved, which means the struggling Rick could possibly make his exit Tuesday.
Cha-Cha Real Smooth: James Hinchcliffe vs. Ryan Lochte
To wrap up the first half of the show, James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess went up against Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke in the cha-cha. Cheryl said she wanted to showcase Ryan’s “personality” with the sexy number, dancing to “If It Ain’t Love,” by Jason Derulo. The Olympian bared his abs and had his “best dance yet,” according to Len.
But showing a little skin wasn’t enough to take down James, who shuffled around the ballroom to Outasight’s “Big Trouble” and earned a 29 to knock off Ryan’s 25.
The Terrifying Tango: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump
At the episode’s 30-minute mark, “Hillary Clinton” and “Donald Trump” (a.k.a. dancers wearing nightmare-inducing face masks that looked like caricature versions of the presidential candidates) came out to dance the tango. The quick segment left viewers wondering why most presidential debates aren’t settled by dance-offs.
A Waltz to Remember: Terra Jolé vs. Calvin Johnson
Laurie was last week’s favorite, but Calvin Johnson came out on top with the night’s best number. The NFL star rocked the Viennese waltz with partner Lindsay Arnold, edging out Terra Jolé with the strong score of 32.
The experienced athlete had a competitive advantage against the pint-sized reality star, but Terra was able to hold her own against Megatron. Sasha Farber choreographed an inspiring waltz to the Goo Goo Doll’s “Iris” that transcended size and received 30 points from the judges. Terra didn’t win her face-off, but after that performance, she shouldn’t have much to be worried about come Tuesday.
Steamy Salsa: Amber Rose vs. Maureen McCormick
Twerking might not be a dance move that’s especially rooted in technique, but leave it to Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy to design a salsa centered on backside shaking. The wig-wearing Amber shimmied to the Jennifer Lopez hit “Big Booty,” a fitting selection.
However, Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev danced a much more classic variation of the salsa, which ultimately beat out Amber’s sexy moves.
The Less Terrifying Tango: Laurie Hernandez vs. Marilu Henner
Laurie Hernandez seems to get cuter and cuter by the second — which turned out to be quite the challenge for Val Chmerkovskiy, who had to come up with the teen’s flirtatious tango routine. Laurie proved last week that she has the talent and skill to easily dominate this season, but her bubbly youthfulness is hard to downplay in steamier numbers.
Val realized he had his work cut out for him when Laurie admitted in rehearsals that she still sleeps with a teddy bear at night and has never had a boyfriend. (Viewers everywhere basically stopped in their tracks to let out one big "aww!" in unison.) The professional tried to get the gymnast to shake her “cute Laurie” image but still felt compelled to cheekily remind the teen that “lingerie” is “French for trouble.”
In an attempt to master her sultry “tango face,” Laurie said she pretended she was smelling a really delicious quesadilla (again: “aww!”). The innovative strategy clearly worked, and the gymnast was able to top Marilu Henner and Derek Hough with a score of 31, despite a lift deduction from judge Carrie Ann Inaba.
As she tangoed to "Into the Sunset,” Laurie showed audiences her grown-up side. She didn’t get this week’s highest score, but the 16-year-old is absolutely owning season 23.
And that’s not up for debate.
Tell Us: Did the judges save the right six?
Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
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