Photo Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor
At the start of Dancing with the Stars, Week 6, Tom Bergeron reminded us that the eight remaining contestants have reached the half-way mark in the competition. How do the stars feel about this? Amber Riley confessed that she'd hit a wall. Leah Remini complained that it just kept getting harder, and then cursed and swore her way through her rehearsals. Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Bill Engvall both expressed wonder at the fact that they were still around.
Funny thing about all that complaining: When it came time to take the dance floor, no one fell, or cried, or blew it. There were no wardrobe malfunctions or injuries. In fact, most of the couples crushed it. Bruno Tonioli reacted to Polizzi's dancing by lavishing her with compliments like "sweet," "elegant" and "graceful." Len Goodman called Remini "so Ginger Rogers." Carrie Ann Inaba called Riley's dancing "fierce," "insane" and "like a turn-on."
So much for hitting a wall! More likely? The contestants have all now adopted that tried-and-true strategy: Lower the audience's expectations, then wow them on show night.
Best dance performance: The first perfect score of the season went to Elizabeth Berkley -- who danced the cha cha in a shimmery, fringy, metallic/nude number that showed off her clean lines and growing confidence. "Tonight you were like a white panther," Inaba told her, noting that Berkley's height makes it even harder for her. Her partner Val Chmerkovskiy's wide open shirt only enhanced the pretty picture.
Most famous supporter: During this week's rehearsals for the quickstep, Remini (and her partner, Tony Dovolani) got a visit from Jennifer Lopez. Of course, she's not the only star with friends in high places: Berkley had celebrity pals Jennifer Beals and Carmen Electrain the ballroom; and Brant Dougherty saw his Pretty Little Liars costar Janel Parish stop by. But nothing compares to getting dance tips from J Lo! "Jennifer reminded me that this is supposed to be fun," Remini said in the pre-dance footage, before going on to earn her highest scores yet (three 9s) from the judges. "Your personal assistant worked," cracked Bruno. "I don't know what you pay her."
Best line of the night: "I'm just glad you didn't go with the Red Wedding Tango," cracked Bergeron, after Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff danced a Viennese Waltz to the Game of Thrones theme song. Then again, we wouldn't put it past Derek Hough to choreograph a re-creation of that bloody, disturbing episode from GOT's last season!
Worst new element: A much-hyped surprise twist arrived in the last 15 minutes, when four couples at a time were pitted against each other for some improvisational dancing. As the music changed, the judges looked for the couples who could think on their feet and change with it. Who was best at managing the transitions from dance to dance, and keeping time with the music?
In the first group, Bleu and Smirnoff came out on top, while Riley and Hough scored highest in the second group. The big losers here? Those of us at home, trying to watch four couples dance simultaneously on a split screen. Who's brilliant idea was this?
To top it off, a technical glitch in tallying votes last week meant no one got eliminated this week!
But aside from that, uh, false step, Week 6 showcased just how far the stars have come in the first half of the season. With lots heart and steadily increasing talent among the contestants, this season is shaping up to be one of the show's best.
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.