Dancing With the Stars reveled in the theme of Hometown Glory on Monday, Sept. 21 because contestants performed dances that honored the places where they grew up. Most, though not all, couples showed marked improvement from the week before, but even that wasn't enough to save one pair from being sent home.
After all the teams had performed, host Tom Bergeron revealed two couples were at risk of being booted from the ballroom: Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe, as well as Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya. A moment later, Chaka and Keo became the first couple to be eliminated this season.
"I absolutely enjoyed it, yes, and I'm so happy to have met everybody," the music icon said of her experience. She quickly lamented, however, "I feel like I've done [Keo] such a disservice. He is by far one of the best dancers that I've ever seen."
Well, Keo, your season might have ended early, but Chaka Khan is a huge fan, and that's gotta count for something.
Here's how the hometown contestants performed:
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
How they did: Nick's video package was dedicated to a special teacher whom the singer credits with (at least partially) helping find his place in the Backstreet Boys. Despite the sweet memories, however, the performance fell short when Nick stumbled on stage due to what appeared to be a slippery pair of (glitter-encrusted) shoes.
"It was a little bit messy," Judge Julianne Hough said , "but still a great way to start the night." Carrie Ann Inaba called the dance "rough," while Bruno Tonioli gave the former teen heartthrob "points for performance value."
Score: 21 out of 30
Paula Deen and Louis van Amstel
Hometown: Savannah, Ga.
How they did: It was clear from the video footage that Paula wanted, more than anything, to redeem herself after her lackluster performance last week — and redeem herself she did. The celebrity chef showed notable improvement both in her moves and in her attitude, and was rewarded by the judges accordingly.
Julianne admitted Paula was off on her turns, but praised her for her quick recovery. "You really showed your true self tonight," a beaming Julianne said to an equally beaming Paula. "That was amazing out there! I am really impressed!" Carrie Ann echoed. "You are like a whole different person."
Score: 19 out of 30
Hayes Grier and Emma Slater
Hometown: Moorsville, N.C.
How they did: The Vine sensation openly showed how close he is with his mom, both in his video package and in the sweetest exchange that involved tears and a hug with her after his dance.
"I couldn't stop smiling," Julianne mused of the routine, while Bruno declared Hayes to be "a young Tom Cruise in Risky Business" (no word how Hayes' mother felt about that!). Though Carrie Ann didn't care for the electric motorbike he came out on, she was still smitten with the teenage star. "You know, you're telling a story and we're all listening," she explained.
Score: 22 out of 30
Grade: A- (his mom made him cry, though!)
Andy Grammer and Allison Holker
Hometown: Chester, N.Y.
How they did: Andy [and Allison had a bit of a bumpy ride during their energetic jive. But what the singer lacked in dancing ability he made up for in charm. (Well, at least a little bit.) When asked by the judges what happened out there, he wittily explained, "Dancing is hard!"
Bruno praised Andy's "attack" and "energy," but noted he went off the music many times. "You have a lot of potential, but it was a mess," Carrie Ann added.
Score: 21 out of 30
Grade: B (It wasn't the best dance, but… dancing is hard!)
Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
How they did: In her video package, the Real Housewife admitted she was disappointed with herself after her showing last week, but the rehearsals also showed the mother of six struggling to focus on practicing and not on her family back home. Tony's battle to get her to stay on task paid off, though, and the judges praised their improvement.
"So much better," Julianne said of the Real Housewife of Atlanta star before telling her partner to "push her" a bit more. "You showed you are in the game, Kim!" Carrie cheered, while Bruno added, "She's alive!"
Score: 19 out of 30
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
How they did: Most of Alek and Lindsay's video package focused on the Army National Guard Specialist's tendency to make loud noises while he's dancing. Whether he was grunting or not, however, hardly mattered tonight because the two blew their routine out of the water.
"You were right there equal with Lindsay tonight," Julianne praised before telling him to relax his hands a bit. "I was intoxicated with that performance," Carrie mused, while Bruno declared he "believed" in the young hero.
Score: 23 out of 30
Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas
Hometown: Ocala, Calif.
How they did: Miffed that her husband had done one point better than she did last week, Alexa brought her A game Monday night. Dressed as a jungle cat, the actress nailed her routine — which included several stunning lift — with partner Mark.
Bruno declared the routine "wonderful," while Julianne said, "That was a whole other level of commitment."You set this house on fire!" Carrie Ann added. "Damn!"
Score: 24 out of 30
Grade: A (Damn, girl!)
Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff
Hometown: Hidalgo, Mexico
How they did: Victor Espinoza looked like he enjoys dancing as much as he enjoys being a jockey — though he may not want to quit his day job just yet. The Triple Crown winner and his pro partner hit the floor with a spirited jive that left the judges smiling, but wanting more.
"If I could just score you on enthusiasm and cuteness, you'd be getting a 10 from me" Carrie Ann said (but she couldn't!). Julianne called the routine "festive and fun," but pointed out Victor was off time a lot. Bruno seemed to be at a loss for words. "It really was like no other jive I've ever seen," he managed.
Score: 17 out of 30
Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Hometown: Severn, Md.
How they did: Val and Tamar didn't seem to be on the same page in practice since he was focused on hip-thrusting and she was focused on dedicating the dance to her family. (According to Tamar, hip thrusting and family don't mix.) It ended up coming together pretty nicely, however, at least according to the judges.
"When you dance on your own there is something so magical and so special," Julianne said. "I loved it." Bruno echoed Julianne's enthusiasm declaring, "The dream girls are back in town!" (That includes you too, Val.)
Score: 24 out of 30
Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya
Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
How they did: The Oscar-nominated actor spent much of his video reminiscing about his high-school football days, but once he hit the dance floor with Anna, football was but a distant memory. Remarkably, the eccentric thesp did a pretty good job and greatly improved from last week.
"Under Anna's expert guidance, that actually looked like a foxtrot!" Bruno declared. "What I love so much about you right now is that you are exuding the energy of a 12-year-old boy," Julianne noted. "That was such a beautiful, sweet dance. Well done."
Score: 18 out of 30
Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson
Hometown: Columbia, Mo.
How they did: After beating his better half by one point last week, Carlos tried to duplicate the magic with dance partner Whitney, and for the most part, he succeeded.
"You're a contender!" Carrie Ann declared of the Big Time Rush alum. "You have so much ease and natural ability and you smile because you're enjoying it and you connect with Whitney," Julianne gushed. For his part, Bruno simply said the performance reminded him of a classic movie.
Score: 24 out of 30
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough
Hometown: Buderim, Australia
How they did: Last week's stars Bindi and Derek brought the magic again this week. The 17-year-old Australian wildlife conservationist revealed her love of heavy metal and rock, and put an edgy spin on the classic tango, which paid off.
"You are one of the most bubbly people that I've ever met, but you have this little fiery rock star in there," Julianne explained. "It was like you are turning into Mad Max!" Bruno declared. (To be clear, that was a compliment.) Carrie Ann cheered, "It was rock 'n' roll! You rock!!"
Score: 25 out of 30 (highest score of the night)
Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
How they did: Chaka and Keo made it their mission to improve from the week before, and in that venture, they most certainly succeeded. Still, it wasn't enough to keep the living legend around for another turn in the ballroom.
"Very nice improvement," Julianne noted, praising Chaka Khan for stretching her lines better. "It was like cruising along the majestic Lake Michigan. You may have hit a rock or two in the middle, but you didn't sink," Bruno said. Carrie Ann urged the singer to "really memorize that choreography" for next time — too bad there won't be one.
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