DWTS Recap: Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy Dance to the Top Spot, While Victor Espinoza Goes Home

dancing with the stars
Hometown Glory continued with nods to the pros' hometowns on Dancing With the Stars on Tuesday, Sept. 22.  ABC/Adam Taylor

Getting back to their roots! Dancing With the Stars' second installment of Hometown Glory on Tuesday, Sept. 22, focused on the hometowns of the pros. But not even the upbeat theme could make a difference for one couple, as the second pair was sent home.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya found themselves in jeopardy again, this time with Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff. Ultimately, however, it was the Triple Crown winner and the Ukranian pro whose quest for the Mirrorball Trophy came to an end.

Hosts Erin Andrews and Tom Bergeron seemed particularly upset, as both clearly had a soft spot for the cheerful jockey. For his part, Victor took the blow in stride.

"I had an amazing time, especially tonight. Tonight was special for me because I wanted to dance with Karina and everybody else with all my heart," he said. "I know yesterday I was a little bit off because my pants were so tight."

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater

Dance: Quickstep 

Hometown: Tamworth, England

How they did: Emma dedicated the dance to her twin sister, whom she called the "best person in the world." It seemed her inspiration paid off for the Brit and social media star Hayes, as the judges rewarded them with both praise and points.

Judge Bruno Tonlioli declared it their "best dance" so far and told Hayes, "You are going out there like a model, like a supermodel!" He did note, however, that Hayes needed to tuck his butt in a bit, a critique that fellow scorer Julianne Hough seconded. Still, she coined the routine "fresh" and "youthful."

Score: 23 out of 30

Grade: A-

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson

Dance: Cha-Cha

Hometown: American Fork, Utah 

How they did: Whitney waxed poetic about her all-American upbringing in the small town. Though Carlos admitted he was "tired" during practice, he pulled it together and delivered when it mattered most.

Julianne told him he needed to straighten his legs, but commended him for his "groove" and "swagger." Bruno cheered that the Big Time Rush alum was "relentless and persistent like a bounty hunter" and praised him for covering up well when he'd missed a few steps. Carrie Ann Inaba, however, said she "wasn't impressed."

Score: 21 out of 30

Grade: B+

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya

Dance: Paso Doble

Hometown: Chelyabinsk, Russia

gary busey and Anna Trebunskaya
Adam Taylor/ABC

How they did: Gary  got really into character as a proud Russian knight and loved every moment of it. And while his technique needed some work, the judges couldn't help but smile.

Carrie Ann said, "What I love so much about you is — you're a bit out of your element in this one — but everybody is rooting for you." Julianne added, "You are having so much fun and it's so infectious when we watch you." And Bruno declared that even though some of Gary's steps were "off-kilter," he "went monumental with imperial splendor!"

Score: 15 out of 30

Grade: B (But an A+ for attitude!)

Andy Grammer and Allison Holker

Dance: Contemporary 

Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.

How they did: Though she technically grew up in Utah, Allison explained Los Angeles was where she established roots and a family. And it seemed that tonight was the first night she and Andy found common ground.

"There's nothing like that feeling when you're so present and I saw that tonight," Julianne mused. "It was really beautiful." There was some debate about whether Andy had nearly missed the lift (Bruno insisted he did while Carrie Ann and Julianne insisted he hit it just fine), but there was no debate about how much Carrie Ann loved the performance. "I felt the commitment," she said. "Well done."

Score: 23 out of 30

Grade: B

Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas

Dance: Rumba

Hometown: England

How they did: Mark dedicated the dance to his parents, who were world-champion dancers themselves — and his mom was in the audience! But it wasn't just Mark's mom who was impressed with the traditional rumba; the judges gushed as well.

"Proper, romantic, sexual, classic, rumba. What more can I say?" Bruno asked with a smile. "It was a classic rumba and it was beautiful," Julianne said before noting that Alexa needs to work on the placement of her weight.

Score: 22 out of 30

Grade: A-

Paula Deen and Louis van Amstel

Dance: Tango

Hometown: Amsterdam

How they did: Louis revealed he originally came to the U.S. because he wanted to be on Broadway (but Dancing With the Stars isn't so bad!). It was clear that Paula wanted to do right by her partner and give a solid performance, which she did, for the most part.

"You are so sexy. I'm kind of blown away," Carrie Ann praised, while Julianne conceded, "There were a couple little mistakes, but you were giving it, and I love it!" Bruno, however, summed it up best shouting, "Red hot dress for a red hot mama!"

Score: 18 out of 30

Grade: B

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough

Dance: Waltz

Hometown: Utah and England

How they did: The wildlife conservationist struggled to get the moves down in the rehearsal studio, but nailed them in the ballroom — well, except for one technical detail (which wasn't really her fault). They did a lift and apparently that isn't allowed in a waltz.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough on Dancing with the Stars
ABC/Adam Taylor

"What I just saw was two dancers, dancing as one. It was so beautiful," Julianne said, while Bruno declared it "close to perfection." Carrie Ann, however, called them out on breaking the rules. "I'm frustrated because it was absolutely stunning," she said before taking Derek to task for the lift. "It was so special, but Lift Police in the house!"

Score: 23 out of 30

Grade: A

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani

Dance: Foxtrot

Hometown: Pristina, Kosovo

How they did: Like Paula, Kim clearly wanted to do well for her partner Tony, and put in the hard work to make that happen. Though the judges thought her Monday showing was stronger, overall, she succeeded.

"We all like the new Kim," Bruno said before comparing her transformation to "when you reupholster a sofa." Julianne encouraged Kim to extend her lines further and not be afraid to take up more space on the floor, while Carrie Ann explained, "I think you're a better dancer than you think you are."

Score: 18 out of 30

Grade: C+ 

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold

Dance: Quickstep

Hometown: Provo, Utah

How they did: The American hero might have prevented a terrorist attack, but the pressure of learning two dances in one week seemed to be getting to Alek in practice.

"It was okay. You had a few mess ups on this one," Carrie Ann said. She still must believe in Alek and Lindsay a lot, though, because in the next breath she declared them "a power couple." Bruno nicknamed him "Alek the Great" and praised him for his fancy footwork. "Of all the quicksteps tonight, you are the only one who did it on the toes. Everyone else did it on flat feet," he explained.

Score: 22 out of 30

Grade: A

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess

Dance: Foxtrot

Hometown: Australia

Sharna Burgess and Nick Carter on Dancing with the Stars
ABC/Adam Taylor

How they did: The Aussie pro dancer opened up about wishing her dad could travel to see her perform live, and Nick was obviously moved by her story. In both rehearsal and during the performance, the Backstreet Boy alum gave it his all, and the judges loved him for it.

"Nick is back on track!" Bruno declared, while Carrie Ann said, "There was poetry to your dancing tonight." Julianne explained, "You got out of your own head and you were there for Sharna."

Score: 24 out of 30

Grade: A+

Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Dance: Charleston

Hometown: New York, N.Y.

How they did: Tamar and Valentin continued to (playfully) butt heads in practice, as each dancer fought to be in control. Ultimately, they found a happy medium and came together in unison for their performance.

"You nailed it!" Carrie Ann cheered. "It was seamless," Julianne added.

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy
ABC/Adam Taylor

Score: 25 out of 30 (highest of the night!)

Grade: A+

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff

Dance: Rumba

Hometown: Kharkiv, Ukraine

How they did: Karina opened up about the culture shock she experienced when her family suddenly left Ukraine for New York, and Victor made it clear he wanted to do his best for her.

After they performed, Julianne declared it the best dance they'd done, and Carrie Ann added, "Whoever said size matters never met you because that was incredible." Bruno said the jockey had "the commanding presence of a giant." Too bad this 5-foot-2 tall giant is going home.

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