‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Eliminations resume as shocking cut leads to stars bawling

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“Dancing with the Stars” celebs channeled their favorite characters for Disney Night. They even got a surprise ending to the night. USA TODAY

You could feel a change in the air in Week 6 on “Dancing With the Stars.”

The weaker candidates have been removed and it’s now time to show the contenders versus the pretenders. 

James Van Der Beek was ordered to move his hips, Sean Spicer got romantic and Lauren Alaina got emotional in her dance. But there were tears aplenty with the surprise elimination.

But who was it? Read on.

Please note: The rest of the story recaps tonight’s dance floor drama. If you don’t want to know what happened, stop reading pronto.

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Singer Ally Brooke and pro Sasha Farber 

Top contender Brooke broke through with the season’s first nine scores last week, and continued to show she’s a force with a quick-step to the ’80s classic “Take On Me.” She and Farber started separately on an elaborate, neon-filled ’80s stage, before joining for a spirited dance.

“That was so bright, I needed sunglasses. I was suntanning,” declared judge Bruno Tonioli, who said the dancers “lost synchronicity on the footwork,” possibly because they started separately. “But as a performer, you’re a contender,” said Tonioli, who gave an eight (matched by judge Carrie Ann Inaba, who agreed with the synchronicity issue).  

In a rare reversal on the show, perpetual-critic judge Len Goodman lashed at other judges for being too harsh, “You need to go to Spec-saver,” said Goodman, before apologizing for the outburst.

“First out, first-class. I liked it very much,” Goodman said, pointing out “little foot-faults.” He gave a nine score, keeping Brooke near the top.

Total score 25/30

‘The Office’ star Kate Flannery and pro Pasha Pashkov

Flannery continues as a surprise “DWTS” contender and worked an excellent underdog angle in the pre-dance video, where she talked about working a second restaurant job to pay the bills until she was 41. The comic actress has nailed the fast dances, but has struggled to be serious in the competition. That was, until her passionate spinning in her Viennese waltz Monday night. At the end, the judges were floored.

“I am speechless,” said Inaba. “When you put in the hard work and learn the technique, it pays off. It felt like the most victorious Viennese waltz.” She gave Flannery the star’s first nine score of the season, and the other judges followed.

“I am a happy chappie,” said a smitten Goodman, calling the number an “absolutely great performance.”

Final score: 27/30

Comedian/actor Kel Mitchell and pro Witney Carson

Mitchell has been a star on the rise, earning his highest score last week. To train for his Monday quick-step, Carson called in fellow dancers Spicer and Hannah Brown to hurl dodgeballs at Mitchell. The training paid off in a ridiculously light quick-step to “Part-time Lover,” including intricate sections where Mitchell was dancing flawlessly on his own. Carson stepped on her dress during one errant moment, a mistake noticed by Goodman, who called it “a major incident.”

Goodman called it overall “an amazing job, fast and clean” and gave an eight. But his criticism was the night’s most heated judge battle, with interviewer Erin Andrews calling Goodman “a jerk” for making Carson cry.

Inaba called the routine “ridiculously amazing” with the “one tiny” mistake. She gave a nine, matched by Tonioli. 

Total score 25/30

‘Queer Eye’ culture expert Karamo and pro Jenna Johnson 

Karamo upped the emotional stakes bringing his estranged father, who once couldn’t accept his son’s sexuality, onto the show and dedicating the contemporary dance to him. The moving, acrobatic dance on the fog-filled dance floor featured the completely open-shirted Karamo looking pained for the entire routine. He collapsed into a heap at the end of the dance in tears.

Goodman, who has been a harsh critic, called the dance “fluid. It had a lovely flow to it throughout. Really well-constructed dance.” He gave an eight, matching Tonioli.

Inaba was blown away, saying that contemporary dance was about “taking the inside and putting it on the outside” showing “love and passion and connection.” She gave a nine.

Final score: 25/30

‘Bachelorette’ Hannah Brown and pro Alan Bersten 

Brown continues to show her post-“Bachelorette” emotions, crying into the arms of partner Bersten during their pre-dance video. She brought her parents from Alabama to cheer her up, and danced a country-style samba to Carrie Underwood’s “Southbound.” She wore a white belle dress and Bersten donned a denim shirt and jeans.

Somehow it worked, and even featured a shake from Brown hips, as requested by the judges, even if it wasn’t quite reckless abandon.

“You brought Brazil to Nashville and country flavor to correct samba motion,” said Tonioli, who gave an eight, matched by all the judges

“No question you’re a phenomenal dancer, with moments of excellence,” said Inaba, who said not everything in the routine “quite worked.”

Final score: 24/30

Sailor Brinkley-Cook and pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Brinkley-Cook continued to try to step out of her mother Christie Brinkley’s shadow with a buoyant jive to “Wake Me Up Before You Go.” Brinkley-Cook sparkled, and hopped with confidence during the number. She owned the dance floor and was positively beaming afterward.

“That’s wasn’t decaffeinated, that was chock full of flavor,” said Goodman, giving a nine score (matched by all judges)..

“You have got it all at your disposal,” said Tonioli. “She was like, ‘Look at me, I am the star.’ “

Final score: 27/30

Sean Spicer and pro Lindsay Arnold 

Spicer showed off a new side with his Viennese waltz to “Someone to Love” wearing his trademark broad smile and a tuxedo and dedicating the dance to his wife of 15 years. “At heart, I’m a pretty romantic guy.” There were green lasers on the dance floor, a number of missteps and Spicer kept smiling throughout. As the dance ended, he produced a bouquet of roses for his wife in the audience.

“I admire your tenacity and hard work. Dancing doesn’t come easily to you, but you give it your all,” said Goodman.

Tonioli called his look, “almost regal” praising an “incredibly brave attempt” even at times when his footwork “looked like tumbleweed. He stressed that his seven was “for effort.” The score was matched by all judges for Spicer’s best score.

Final score: 21/30

Actor James Van Der Beek and pro Emma Slater 

The “Dawson’s Creek” star came out on fire at season’s start, but has risked flat-lining in the results in past weeks. Goodman said he needed to see more “hip action” in his samba. Van Der Beek brought that hip action to such a high level in his techno routine that the judges were tripping over themselves to find adjectives to describe his moving body part.

“That was a close encounters of the hips kind,” purred Tonioli, whose nine was matched by all judges.

“The whole thing was just ridiculous; it was off the charts,” said Inaba.

Goodman rocked it with this comment: “Tootie-frutty, what a booty!” The marks were Van Der Beek’s highest in the season.

Country singer Lauren Alaina and pro Gleb Savchenko 

The waterworks truly started with the last dance, the one-year anniversary of Alaina’s beloved stepfather, Sam, dying of cancer at 47. Her contemporary dance to her own song “The Other Side” was profoundly moving on the darkened stage. Onstage at the end, she held her hand to heaven and burst into tears. The tears continued as she hugged her mother in the audience, sobbing.

“You’re a brave woman, dancing tonight. You touched all of our hearts tonight,” said Inaba, who gave a nine. “There were angels all over you dancing.”

Tonioli said he was “so happy to see so much love, truth and honesty” in the dance.

So what happened?

Alaina was the first couple shown to be saved by the judges’ scores and votes, and Spicer too quickly cleared the dance floor.

In the end, it was Ally and Sasha along with Sailor and Val left in the bottom two of the dance competition. That left the call to the judges to decide on the winner. Inaba and Tonioli made the difficult decision to save Ally and Sasha.

This meant Sailor Brinkley-Cook, who had stepped in to dance for her injured mother, was voted off. The tears flowed to such an extent for the young star that her pro partner had to shepherd her out of the camera’s view.

“This is a hard one, a hard one,” said host Tom Bergeron, shaking his head.

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