Photo Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor
Week 9 of Dancing with the Stars marked the quarter-finals, which apparently means it's time to ramp up the over-the-top pronouncements. "This is it," Val Chmerkovskiy told Elizabeth Berkley during rehearsals. "What we do now will echo for eternity." Amber Riley told her partner Derek Hough that her confidence was soaring, and, she said, "I think I'll carry that with me for the rest of my life." Eternity? The rest of her life? Wow, who knew a reality TV competition could have such a profound impact?
Truth is, Week 9's episode did seem to have an extra charge to it. Was it because the always lovable Jack Osbourne nailed his Viennese waltz on the week of his 28th birthday? (And this was despite a tongue-in-cheek gift of a miniature mirror ball trophy from his partner, Cheryl Burke -- with a card that read, "Treasure this always because it might be the only one you ever get.") Was it because frontrunner Amber's knee injury has finally emerged as a potential Achilles heel? Or because the second round "trio dances" brought out personal best performances from contestants like Berkley and Corbin Bleu? Whatever it was, the surprise twist at the end only enhanced the ballroom's electric vibe on Monday night.
Best dance performance: Bleu evoked Bob Fosse -- and earned a perfect 30 -- for the jazz/tap number he performed with partner Karina Smirnoff and DWTS troupe dancer Whitney. "Sometimes it all comes together," gushed Len Goodman. "The music. The routine. The performance. All into one fabulous whole. And that was it."
Best line from Tom Bergeron: "I'm sorry, but we're only on for two hours tonight," the show's chipper host told Bruno Tonioli during one of the several occasions he had to hush up the unusually chatty judges.
Most awkward moment: Was it really necessary for the camera operator to hone in on the face of Bill Engvall's wife as his two female dance partners, Emma Slater and Peta Murgatroyd, shimmied on either side of him in "Candy Girl" sequin bikini tops and thigh-high vinyl boots? "I'm just here to have fun with these two beautiful girls," Engvall told Brooke Burke, as the camera fixated on his poor wife's feeble smile. After the comedian's Willy Wonka-themed jive, Bergeron weighed in. "I just want to say, your wife and her attorney loved it," he crowed, reminding us again why he's the most entertaining human being on this show.
Who went home: For her second-round salsa, Berkley scored a perfect 30 and the judges' resounding approval. But in the end, it was Berkley's name, and not the low-scoring Engvall's, that was called to depart from the competition. This was especially surprising since Engvall had garnered his worst scores yet and languished at the dead bottom of the leader board. Amidst the audience boos and the judges' head-shaking, Engvall's partner Emma could be seen crying. Were they tears of relief? Or of frustration that she'll have to teach this lovable klutz for another week?
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.