Monday, October 21, 2019

Dancing With the Stars S28E05: Disney Night

© ABC
DWTS Disney Night was full of magic, romance, and swashbuckling adventure
By Kim Krober

Every season of Dancing with the Stars, I look forward to the magic of Disney Night. This year didn't disappoint with that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious opening number choreographed down the Main Street of Disneyland. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and Goofy were all in the ballroom to cheer on the contestants, and we also got occasional glimpses of Tinker Bell and a special Frozen II dance from the pros. But can we talk about the fact that you can build your own custom droid at Galaxy's Edge because I'm seriously geeking out about that!?

Let's see how your favorites did during this fantastic fifth week of competition:

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Sailor Brinkley-Cook & Val Chmerkovskiy, Viennese Waltz
A Viennese Waltz set to "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from Cinderella? My jealousy for Sailor grew as I watched her ride in a glass pumpkin carriage at Disney down to that gorgeous dress she wore during her dreamy waltz with Val. Len thought it was as light and fluffy as a souffle, while Bruno called her the belle of the ball. Light, fluid, and elegant were all words he used to describe her dance. Carrie Ann got emotional watching her full-body performance, saying the magic of Disney was definitely at work.
Score: 24

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Karamo Brown & Jenna Johnson, Samba
I still can't believe Karamo was in the bottom two last week. Seeing him dance a Samba to "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from The Lion King was total redemption. Bruno wanted to hear him roar, telling him he attacked it like a leader even though he lacked elasticity. Carrie Ann enjoys watching him radiate joy, but she could tell he lost his balance. Len called it fun and joyful but said it was too stompy and that Karamo took a while to recover in spots. How cute was Karamo as the proud dad though?
Score: 21

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Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov, Jazz
Mary Poppins is my all-time favorite Disney movie, and I was excited to see Kate and Pasha dance to "A Spoonful of Sugar" in a Jazz routine. I loved, loved, loved it - everything from her entrance down from the ceiling to her cheeky disposition and all the chimney sweeps dancing around her. Carrie Ann loved the Quickstep beginning and admired them for being in sync, but then she fell out of her chair in one of the most bizarre moments I've ever witnessed on this program. Len liked the Polka and Charleston bits, calling it a sweet and delicious routine. Bruno said the medicine worked wonders, enjoying all the personality and content. Pasha is really growing on me too!
Score: 24

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Quickstep
Sean and Lindsay looked like they were having a great time dancing a Quickstep to "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story, although I'm not sure you could call it quick exactly. Len liked the heel leads and his frame, complimenting him on his hold and for not taking the easy route. Bruno said it was a better effort, giving him credit for improving. Carrie Ann called it his best dance in the competition, saying they're not skimping on the choreography or character.
Score: 19

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Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Contemporary
Ally and Sasha were tasked with a Contemporary dance set to the titular "Beauty & The Beast." It was as beautiful as her sparkly yellow dress. Bruno thanked her for one and a half minutes of pure happiness, commending her for throwing herself into every feeling and moment. Carrie Ann loves her authentic shapes, saying she can tell she dances from her heart. Len said it was as smooth as butter on a hot muffin, admiring the lifts, emotion, and passion. It was enough to earn Ally the first 9's and the highest scores of the season!
Score: 27

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Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Samba
Ariel is my favorite princess too! Lauren and Gleb danced an adorable Samba to "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. Where can I get colorful jellyfish like that for my ceiling? Carrie Ann recognized how hard the Samba is, praising her for having the right timing and movement. Len liked the content among all the frivalry, while Bruno called it fabulous. The reactions seemed a bit mixed, so when Carrie Ann and Bruno pulled out 8's, I was a little surprised.
Score: 23

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Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Jazz
I'm not a fan of High School Musical, but I am a fan of Kel and Witney. Their Jazz routine to "We're All in This Together" was high-octane fun from start to finish. Len called it a dance that was well-suited to Kel's strengths. Bruno said he's graduated to the top of the class but cautioned him about carrying that energy over to the rest of his dances in this competition. Carrie Ann said he led that number like the champ he is. It was enough to earn him two 9's and an 8 from the judges and to catapult him to the upper half of the leader board!
Score: 26

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Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Foxtrot
"A Whole New World" is one of my favorite songs from my childhood and Aladdin. Hannah's Foxtrot was mesmerizing thanks to the starry, foggy backdrop and colorful costumes, but not as amazing as watching their package from Galaxy's Edge! Bruno said it was radiant and enchanting, likening it to a magic carpet ride he wanted to go on forever. Carrie Ann called it a stunning showcase. Len said she's fantastic in hold, but he was not a fan of all the swooshes. I would have to agree with host Erin Andrews who quipped that Len could use some pixie dust. Is he trying to boost ratings by being more cantankerous than ever, or is he just getting sick of doing the show?
Score: 25

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James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Paso Doble
James channeled his inner swashbuckler for a smoldering Paso Doble inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean. Carrie Ann loved the drama, dynamics, and energy exchanges. Len called it aggressive but noted certain movements could be stronger. Bruno said it was a big hit for him, echoing my sentiments about the dance. It was amazing seeing Mr. and Mrs. Leery from Dawson's Creek in the crowd rooting for Dawson (James) this week!
Score: 26

After such a fun-filled night, it would have been tough to see anyone go home short of their dreams. Luckily for us, nobody went home on Disney Night! But that probably spells a heartbreaking double elimination in the cards next week. How did your favorites fare this week?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Dancing With the Stars S28E04: Top Ten

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DWTS had Leah Remini as a guest judge, but it was a ho-hum episode
By Kim Krober

It was great to see Leah Remini return to Dancing with the Stars as a special guest judge during Cast From the Past Week. She was a lot more lenient to the contestants than the judges have been this season, and I enjoyed watching her talk over (and at times down to) her fellow judges as she called them out on their cantankerous spirit. Was anyone else a little disappointed we didn't see other past favorites this week? I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but a star-studded number with former champions might have been nice. Let's see how your favorites did during this fourth week of competition:

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Paso Doble
Will this be the week that Sean Spicer finally goes home? Dancing a Paso Doble to "Bamboleo" by The Gipsy Kings, he looked more serious and polished than in weeks past. Len called it the Paso Doble from Pasadena, but liked his attack. Bruno said he isn't quite Antonio Banderas, but admired him for taking the bull by the horns. Carrie Ann loved his committed arms but cautioned him about dancing without expression or humanity. Leah loved that Sean comes out and tries his best even though he's clearly not a dancer.
Score: 21

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Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Jive
Ally survived Sasha's Boot Camp to deliver a Jive set to "Rollin' on the River (Proud Mary)" that was high-octane fun. Bruno was tingling with delight from the diva-like performance, while Carrie Ann commended her for nailing it. Leah called it a difficult routine that was no joke, while Len said he was proud watching her technique and personality come out during the dance. Ally received all 8's and praises from the judges.
Score: 32

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Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Cha-Cha
I'm in disbelief that Kel was in the bottom two last week but even more in disbelief that he has a 20-year-old son because he's part of my generation and I can't be that old! His Cha-Cha to Shawn Mendes' "If I Can't Have You" was fun and fancy-free. Carrie Ann said it was what she's been waiting for from Kel with lots of incredible flair. Leah told him he was wonderful to watch, while Len said he finally came out from under the radar. Bruno said he has the Cha-Cha in his pocket and loved seeing his hip action, musicality, and engaging personality come out in full force. I hope his four 8's are enough to keep him safe from elimination this week!
Score: 32

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Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov, Argentine Tango
I love to watch Kate continue to bloom in this competition! She seemed a little nervous to do a steamy Latin dance this week. Her Argentine Tango to Selena Gomez' "Hands to Myself" was probably more fun than passionate, but it wasn't the worst dance of the night. Leah praised her for her energy, while Len admitted it was more of a struggle than her Quickstep last week. Bruno admired her for going for it like a cougar, but noted that it lost some of the purpose of the Argentine Tango. Carrie Ann said it was amazing to watch her feet work the floor. Hopefully, she comes back stronger next week after this slight setback.
Score: 26

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James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Quickstep
I can't believe James and his wife are expecting another baby ... they're going to have their own soccer team soon! How appropriate was it that his adorable Quickstep this week was set to "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves? Len congratulated him on the good news and called him a terrific dancer, saying it was full of clever choreography and movement. Bruno commended him for being able to tell a story but told him he needs to work on slicker transitions. Carrie Ann called it a great routine but felt they danced a little out of sync, while Leah told him he's been amazing since day one and she loves watching him. I must not see what the judges see because I thought it deserved 8's.
Score: 28

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Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Paso Doble
Hannah was unable to hide behind a plastic smile, as she was given the Paso Doble this week. Channeling inner feelings of rage while smashing objects looked very therapeutic, as did her Paso Doble set to Icona Pop's "I Love It". Bruno said she's released the sexy beast from the cage, calling it drop-dead gorgeous. Carrie Ann saw a new intensity this week, while Leah told her she's too cute. Len saw the aggression, but felt it was in control at all times.
Score: 32

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Lamar Odom & Peta Murgatroyd, Viennese Waltz
We saw a softer side of Lamar this week, thanks to his children and his Viennese Waltz set to Seal's "Kiss From a Rose". Peta looked absolutely stunning in that rose petal-covered dress! Carrie Ann admired his courage and vulnerability, saying he touched her heart. Leah got emotional at how hard Lamar's been working, saying it was an amazing job. Len liked his gentleness and praised him for climbing mountains while others in the competition only need to climb hills. Bruno felt it was soft and beautiful, even though it may have lacked some of the technique. I applaud Leah for attempting to even the score with a 7 (two 4's seemed a bit harsh) - she is fiery, isn't she?
Score: 20

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Sailor Brinkley-Cook & Val Chmerkovskiy, Cha-Cha
It was awesome to see former DWTS champ Rumer Willis come to support her friend Sailor and former partner Val. With a Cha-Cha set to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," Sailor further cemented herself in this competition. Leah complimented her loveliness and smile, while Len said it was another terrific performance. Bruno called her a tease but appreciated her lines. Carrie Ann commended her for being a bright light, but cautioned her about finding a consistency in her footwork. Host Erin Andrews likened her to former DWTS champ Bindi Irwin for being so likable. I could see that. I wasn't sure about her at first, but she's really grown on me.
Score: 31

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Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Foxtrot
Lauren appeared to be in her element, returning to her roots in Nashville for a performance at Tootsie's. Dancing a Foxtrot to Dolly Parton's "Jolene", it was sultry and tender. Len liked the lovely movements, while Bruno called it a classy Foxtrot done by a classy, elegant lady. Carrie Ann told her she has arrived, saying there was a sensuality that came out through a beautiful story. Leah agreed, saying she was moved by the performance. Lauren said she missed some rehearsal time due to a family health scare, but you couldn't tell based on her scores. It was all 8's!
Score: 32

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Karamo Brown & Jenna Johnson, Tango
A Tango set to Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road"? Well, Karamo was certainly up to the challenge! He looked debonair and full of attack from start to finish. Bruno liked his leading man attitude and full focus without mistakes. Carrie Ann called it her favorite dance of his so far but pointed out an illegal lift in the dance. Leah complimented him for not getting enough credit for how good he is, while Len said his footwork could use some improvements. Bruno had Len's back, saying he's a dance expert and he deserves the opportunity to express his opinions without Leah interrupting him. Valid. I've never seen anyone more enthusiastic for 7's - if this man ever gets a 9, look out!
Score: 28

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It seemed almost cruel beyond words that whomever went home this week also missed out on going to Disneyland next week for the ever-popular Disney Night. It was revealed that Lamar & Peta and Karamo & Jenna were in the bottom two this week. Carrie Ann said it was an honor to watch both grow in the competition, but she voted to save Karamo. Bruno also saved Karamo, so Len didn't have to cast a deciding vote. I felt bad for Lamar, but it was the right decision this week. And that's a wrap until next week! Are you as excited as me to see that special opening at Disneyland? I think they teased it will have something to do with Frozen II. How did your favorites fare this week?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Movie Review: Groupers

© Global Digital Releasing
Groupers has something in mind, and it is unafraid to be weirdly over the top about it.
by Jeremy Fogelman

I have the desire to be kind to movies, for as video essayist Mikey Neumann often says, “movies are miracles.” There are a million things that can go wrong even if everything else goes right, and the fact that a completed movie exists that tells something of a coherent story with the hint of themes is an accomplishment. More so for the small, true indie movies from the writer-director sets. So I often grant such films a bit of slack.

Groupers is one such movie from writer/director Anderson Cowan (his first feature film), and the movie is essentially a “one room” tale, similar to a stage play. Here we meet young doofuses Brad (Peter Mayer-Klepchick) and Dylan (Cameron Duckett), following a young bewitching lady named Meg (Nicole Dambro) into her unmarked van where she knocks them out and kidnaps them to a pool near an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere near Los Angeles.

When the two bros awaken, they discover themselves bound and tied in the emptied pool, with a set of tablets pointing at them. Meg reveals that she is a grad student and is planning an experiment (the absurdity of how illegal this would be is barely touched on) regarding the two. It seems that Brad and Dylan have tormented her troubled younger brother Orin (Jesse Pudles) due to his homosexuality and additional personality issues.

Both Brad and Dylan (who appears to the stupider of the pair) proclaim that homosexuality is a choice, which Meg expected. So she sets in motion her plan: For them to prove being gay is a choice, which will set them free in a set of mechanics that don’t really make sense if you think about it, but the movie pretends they do. The two are naturally resistant, especially when it appears one might have some closeted feelings.

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It’s a weird, if interesting setup, and the near-sociopathy of Meg is balanced against her angry and oddly convivial rapport with the two homophobic idiots. It seems her desire for revenge is oddly balanced with her desire for her “grad student study,” and there are some repetitive scenes for a while, but things get out of control halfway through the movie when her unbalanced, drugged out brother Orin shows up. Further people show up and are honestly tiresome and clich├ęd, bordering on racist stereotypes.

The last segment of the movie is so disconnected from the start, it loses steam and the odd, almost funny level of absurdity that was carrying through the movie changes to a bunch of conversations that twist around on each other until the movie simply ends in a way that feels like it should be more cathartic than it is -- but part of the issue is the heavy nature of the theme, the homophobic tendencies of some teenage boys and the potential way some closeted ones are lashing out.

The movie cannot sustain this level of self-reflection, and thus ultimately wastes away in a stream of conversational back and forth with characters we barely care about, if at all. Meg is the only character with any level of connection to the audience, and much of this is due to Nicole Dambro’s heated, unusually sincere performance of a madwoman scientist. The two bros are fine, given what they are asked to do, but the rest of the gang are thin at best.

A positive note about the whole thing is that it flows easily enough, only really stuttering in the final act to feel bored (not coincidentally, when Meg loses focus of the movie). I think my main takeaway is that visually speaking, the movie shows some promise, but this isn’t as much of a surprise, as the cinematographer may be new as DP, but he’s been second unit on a few Christopher Nolan and Marvel movies.

The other takeaway is that Nicole Dambro is great, and she needs to be cast in more interesting things in the future.

Dancing With the Stars S28E03: Movie Night

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DWTS captures red carpet magic on Movie Night
By Kim Krober

Dancing with the Stars returned with Movie Night, plenty of popcorn and confetti, and a splashy, hypnotic opening number featuring the dance pros and their celebrity partners set to the theme from Fame. Host Tom Bergeron quipped it was another night for a DWTS-inspired drinking game - take a shot every time the confetti cannon is fired. If someone heeded that advice, they'd be more blitzed by the end of the show than London during World War II, as it felt as if almost every dance involved confetti carnage.

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It was also revealed during the opening that Ray Lewis and Cheryl Burke would not be returning to the dance floor due to an exacerbated injury of Ray's from 2010. I genuinely felt sympathetic for him, as it sounded painful and difficult to give up the competition, but was anybody else as pissed as I was that he was spared by the judges last week only to bow out this week? If only he had gone home and Mary had been allowed to continue in the competition! Alas. However, it was great to see former DWTS champ Rashad Jennings return to dance Ray's Cha-Cha with Cheryl set to The Beatles' "Twist & Shout" in an homage to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Let's see how your favorites did during this glamorous third week of competition:

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Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko, Tango
I enjoyed seeing Lauren channel her best inner Julia Roberts for a Pretty Woman-inspired Tango set to the movie's iconic theme song. I also loved their costumes, especially those boots with the high heels. How does someone walk in those without falling, let alone dance? It was a classic case of misdirection as Len said he was disappointed (about not getting to wear a hat) before telling her it was full of attack, drive, and purpose. Bruno called it a racy Tango at full throttle but told Lauren that she needs to work on her transitions. Carrie Ann loved the confidence but cautioned her about working on her musicality, saying she would've liked to see more resistance in the holds.
Score: 20

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Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten, Rumba
It was refreshing to see a performance inspired by Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" from the beloved comedy Bridesmaids - how original! Bruno told her she's a wonderful lyrical dancer, but she needs to engage her lower half more on the dance floor. Carrie Ann agreed, saying she had exquisite lines, but she needs to expand her Latin ballroom horizons. Len commented on her beautiful musicality and shaping but said she could have benefited from more hip action. Perhaps Hannah should have taken note of Alan's hip action in that bizarre real-life bachelorette party scenario in which he pretended to be a stripper for her and her gal pals.
Score: 21

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Karamo Brown & Jenna Johnson, Jive
A Jive set to Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" from Rocketman seemed like a match made in heaven for Karamo. It was fabulous to see him living his best life and oozing enthusiasm, even if it seemed like he wasn't moving fast enough for a Jive at all times. I also loved Jenna's keyboard ruffles! Plus, how adorable was Taron Egerton's personal good luck greeting? Carrie Ann admitted she saw a lot of mistakes but complimented Karamo on his entertainment value and joy. Len liked the mix of steps and that he came out with determination, but he compared going wrong in a dance to getting a hickey (you can try to cover it up, but everyone's going to see it anyway) in the most awkward analogy I've ever seen on this show. Bruno said to look on the bright side: Karamo went off like a rocket with fireworks even if there were some misfires along the way. He told him he has great potential and to come back bigger and stronger than ever next week. Good advice!
Score: 16

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Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber, Rumba
Ally paid tribute to her personal hero Selena by dancing a very special Rumba to "Dreaming of You". It made me see her in a new light and earned her more votes. Len admired all of the cuckaracha movements in the dance and the overall performance, telling Ally she was right up his alley. Bruno could tell she put all of her heart and soul into that dance combined with correct Rumba motions and lines. Carrie Ann commented that she had chills the entire time, saying it was unapologetically passionate and beautiful. It was enough to catapult Ally to the top of the leader board!
Score: 24

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James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater, Rumba
I loved, loved, loved everything about seeing James' Rumba to "Shallow" from A Star Is Born and learning more about his love story with his wife Kimberly! It was gorgeous from sparkly start to finish. Bruno teased the audience for going gaga for James, saying it's valid because there wasn't anything shallow about that dance. He commended him for making his partner look stunning. Carrie Ann praised the choreography and poetry in motion, while Len felt his wide leg action impeded his hip action and said this Rumba was a bit too passionate for his tastes. Len earned that side-eye from the other two judges for ruining James' perfect trio of 8's!
Score: 23

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Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov, Quickstep
Is there a more appropriate song choice for Meredith from The Office to dance to on Movie Night than Dolly Parton's "9 to 5"? It was whimsical and fun - Kate continues to impress me week after week! Carrie Ann admired the precision and synchronization, while Len enjoyed the choreography and characters. Bruno said it was a big hit, just like the movie. It was enough to tie her at the top of the leader board standings. Yay, Kate!
Score: 24

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Lamar Odom & Peta Murgatroyd, Cha-Cha
A Cha-Cha set to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock N Roll" seemed like Risky Business for Lamar to pull off, but you know what? It was good to see him thoroughly having a blast on the dance floor, lip syncing along with the music and even donning the signature boxer shorts made famous by Tom Cruise. I think it was his best dance to date because he looked a lot lighter on his feet. Len liked watching him have fun even if the wheel fell off a bit by the end of the dance, while Bruno admired him for giving it a good go. Carrie Ann could tell he felt more confident and praised him for being on beat. She also told him to keep doing what he's doing and not to mind the judges' scores. Ouch!
Score: 12

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Sailor Brinkley-Cook & Val Chmerkovskiy, Tango
Mama Mia, here she goes again! As a big fan of the ABBA-inspired musical, I adored Sailor and Val's Tango this week. She radiated pure joy and it looked really fun to be able to dance with every male dance pro on the show. Bruno complimented Sailor for her hard work and Val for the brilliant choreography. Carrie Ann called it a transformation, saying she felt every movement in her body and it was a huge leap forward for Sailor in the competition. Len loved the clever moments, saying it was a fantastic routine with lots of snap, crackle, and pop.
Score: 23

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Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson, Rumba
Kel continued to be a charming leading man with his Rumba set to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. Carrie Ann said it was solid dancing, but she cautioned him about making his energy feel super tight when he needs to spread it out a bit more. Len felt it needed more shaping through his hands, saying it was too flat. I chortled with laughter when he also called it out for being too difficult to see his footwork through all of the fog. Bruno told him he made it to port with confidence, calling him a solid performer but said the intensity took away from the fluidity of his movements. I know the judges criticized him for being too intense, but I liked his intensity. I can't wait to see him do a Paso Doble!
Score: 20

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold, Cha-Cha
I've always had a soft spot for Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees, but Sean Spicer managed to screw this one up too. Set to "Night Fever", his Cha-Cha was awkward and virtually non-existent. It was like watching him strike the iconic stance while everyone else danced circles around him on the dance floor. Len said it felt more like Monday Night Lukewarm than Saturday Night Fever, calling him pigeon-toed. Bruno proclaimed him a genius for turning Saturday Night Fever into a disaster blockbuster that nobody could look away from. Carrie Ann loved seeing him live his best life and complimented his ability to smile from start to finish, although she would like to see him be less robotic. Finally, the judges let loose on him. No more walking on eggshells!
Score: 15

The final surprise of the night came in the revelation of the bottom two in jeopardy: Kel and Witney (color me stunned) and Lamar and Peta. However, to no one's surprise, nobody went home this week since we already lost Ray and Cheryl. When is Sean going to be without political asylum? He can't dance, and he's not even enjoyable to watch (unlike Lamar). I'd prefer it if he went home next week instead of either of those other two couples! Only time will tell. And that's a wrap until next week! How did your favorites fare?

Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8:00 PM on ABC.