DWTS 5th Judge: Fried Chicken in a Bustier? -- Plus, One Front-Runner Falls Apart

All season long, the trio of Charli D’Amelio, Gabby Windey and Wayne Brady have dominated the competition on “Dancing with the Stars,” but one of them almost completely fell apart this week.

It was hard to watch at times as all three have consistently been incredible, even sharing a three-way tie for three weeks in a row. Recently, they’ve started trading the top spots, but this week threw a wrench in the works, for sure,

It also afforded room for two more to rise into the mix from the middle of the pack. As for the bottom of the rankings, Vinny Guadagnino continues to ride a wave of popular support not seen since Bobby Bones won his whole season. It’s as if he can do no wrong, while doing so much wrong in the actual dancing itself.

This week, he shared his appreciation for that support, as well as his determination to finally prove himself worthy of that by delivering in the ballroom which — well, it went about as expected. But did the voting go as expected, too?

Michael Bublé was all over this episode, performing two different songs and sitting the judging panel while the couples performed to his music, or his interpretations of many standards. He was smack in the middle (so the middle scores you see below will be his) and clearly having a great time as he loved everyone and everything.

The judges were not so open with their affection, and neither were we. There were some genuine disappointments tonight as it felt like an overall slight step backward from last week — albeit not from everyone!

Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I’ve spent the last twenty years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I’ve got this.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

(“Sway,” Michael Bublé) The professional ladies on the show, including the troupe, really brought their all to this performance. There was a lot of hip swaying, appropriately enough, and high energy to kick off the show (plus, fun bonus: it was choreographed by “DWTS” legend Jenna Johnson Chmerkovskiy). It was a nice counterbalance to Bublé’s more laid-back performance style.

(“Higher,” Michael Bublé) If we thought the opening number had a lot of energy, Derek really came through with the choreography on this one. Honestly, the weakest part was his solo segment on the judges’ table; we could have just done without it entirely. The ensemble was on fire with this one, hitting a rapid pace that was mind-blowing at times. Plus, Derek and Hayley’s partnering is so precise and hard-hitting, it left us breathless. We’re still loving how perfectly that walking flip lift was executed, as it looked like she truly was walking on air. The musicality was fantastic, and Michael’s song has a very current pop feel. This was a performance to remember.

(Tango – “Hollywood,” Michael Bublé) We loved the opening moments of this piece as Shangela really captured classic Hollywood glamour — and she is definitely fabulous. The hold was pretty solid and her footwork on point through the first half of the dance — we saw those tautly flexed knees and that perfect tango stance. She did lose some of her energy and conviction as it progressed, but only marginally. The attack that Gleb was talking about wasn’t always there, leaving her looking a little less finessed and a little more wobbly a couple of times.

After Len offered a positive critique, Shangela stunned him and everyone by pulling a piece of fried chicken from her decolletage. If you wondered what she was using to add a little shapeliness to her bosom, the answer was two pieces of fried chicken. Tyra Banks actually wound up taking a bite out of the second one, declaring it “good.” None of the other judges took her up on their offer to dig in, though … we can’t really blame them. Do you know where that’s been?!

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9, 9

My Score: 8

(Fox Trot – “Come Fly with Me,” Frank Sinatra [as performed by Michael Bublé]) The drama of that ending was the perfect punctuation for a more confident Trevor than we’ve seen all season. His face was still a little taut at times as he concentrated on getting this right, lifting his head a bit out of frame in the process, but when he was engaging with Emma face-to-face, his expression was right on point. Also on point were his movements across the floor, with a lovely glide, excellent foot placement and wonderful partnering for Emma. There was an elegance to this piece that he’s never achieved before.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 8, 8, 9

My Score: 7

(Rumba – “Home,” Michael Bublé) After choreographing the opening number, a very pregnant Jenna Johnson joined her hubby for Gabby’s rehearsal to help the “Bachelorette” knock it off with the funny stuff — at least long enough to sell the intimacy and heat of a rumba. The intricacy of the arms throughout, the twists and turns and that strong connection actually fit Gabby beautifully. There was only one point where she seemed momentarily out of sorts, stutter-stepping just a hair before Val pulled her back in and it was on. That sense of passion was there, with Gaby selling it pretty consistently throughout the piece. Her hips were fluid and that push into the floor that keeps it feeling loose was right where we wanted to see it. She really oozed strength and sensuality in equal measure for this one.

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9, 10

My Score: 9

(Cha-Cha-Cha – “Save the Last Dance for Me,” The Drifters [as performed by Michael Bublé]) Vinny is getting better at how he holds his hands in extension. Unfortunately, they worked tirelessly to improve his timing and nail the footwork and neither were clean enough this week. We’re not even sure he did a step — or at least any proper one — in the first few measures. He was behind the music several times and his feet seemed like they hesitated and then tried to play catch-up too much. He was struggling to remember the steps of this piece, and it showed. This was a big disappointment, as we were really hoping this might be the week it all comes together.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 8, 7, 7

My Score: 4

(Fox Trot – “You Make Me Feel So Young,” from “Three Little Girls in Blue” [as performed by Michael Bublé]) Jordin was pure gorgeous glitz and glam — she even shined like a star — in a continuation of this transformation in her as a dancer from last week’s stellar contemporary piece. Her frame was just about perfect — we saw that shoulder peeking up — her footwork was fantastic, and her smile and character just spread joy everywhere she went as they glided effortlessly across the floor. She looked more at ease out there than ever before and felt like a performer rather than a star trying desperately to learn this dance and keep up with their pro.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9, 8, 9

My Score: 8

(Fox Trot – “Fever,” Little Willie John [as performed by Michael Bublé]) Charli nailed this technique like she’d been doing fox trot for years and years, coming at it with a confidence well beyond her own eighteen. There was a sophistication and maturity in her movements that came as a bit of a surprise. Her character was perfect for this piece — and let’s face it, this song elicits its own whole mood — with lots of grace and polish and a hint of danger and mystery. Honestly, at this point, Charli could probably come back as a pro in very short order after this season as we imagine a little off-season work and she’d pretty much have it all down.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

(Samba – “It Had Better Be Tonight,” from “The Pink Panther” [as performed by Michael Bublé) The quality of dance improved tremendously from Heidi once they got down the steps and past that first trick on the main floor. The lift at the top of the stairs had the most awkward pause before execution, and she just didn’t have the character of the piece yet. Once they hit the floor proper, though, she seemed to find her groove and her confidence. With fun choreography, it was clear she was starting to have fun, too, which helped sell the performance. She had the steps down and was able to focus on finesse and execution. All in all, she continues to impress — perhaps herself more than anyone.

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 10, 9, 9

My Score: 8

(Quickstep – “I Get a Kick Out of You,” from “Anything Goes” [as performed by Michael Bublé) Wayne feared he might have Covid, but it was just exhaustion. That’s the good news. The bad news was that it cost him two days of rehearsals on the “dreaded quickstep,” which is easily one of the toughest dances to nail with a full week of practice. So he showed up Friday for Monday’s show to start learning this dance. His experience with choreography helped him pick this up quickly, but it wasn’t without its mishaps, particularly in the kick portion toward the end when his timing was off. His character, though, never faltered as he kept himself moving throughout. For sheer volume of steps, the percent of them he got wrong isn’t terrible, but it was noticeable. When he was on, it was beautiful, but when he missed — well, it was still beautiful, but he was missing steps, so that’s a problem. He’s a great performer and he really gave a strong presentation throughout, it just faltered on the technical side from time to time.

Judges Scores: 8, 9, 10, 8, 9

My Score: 7

(Salsa – “Come Dance with Me,” Frank Sinatra [as performed by Michael Bublé]) Jessie’s arms were flopping out there with no real tension in them at the start, and then her foot wasn’t as flexed into position as it could be with that first drop. The lifts were pretty well executed and she definitely had her hips moving, but her posture wasn’t consistently on point and it was a bit bouncy for a salsa, which should be digging into the ground more. There were moments we did see solid technique, but it wasn’t consistent. She continues to improve, though, and definitely appeared to be having fun out there.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 9, 8, 8

My Score: 6

(Fox Trot – “Feeling Good,” from “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd” [as performed by Michael Bublé) Daniel struggles to capture the emotion in his performances because he can’t hear them or the lyrics, so he can’t connect to that feeling the song elicits on its own. Britt went through the lyrics like a script so that he could better understand the story of the song. He didn’t complete all of his movements (especially with his arms) in this dance, and at times it felt like his energy level was an 8 or a 9 to Britt’s 10, so he didn’t quite capture the “feeling good” part of the song as strongly as it warranted. He did have a lovely grace to his movements with a fluid motion across the floor that was nice to see with great form more than half of the time.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9, 8, 9

My Score: 7

Clearly, the hardest working thing out there was Shangela’s bustier, hanging onto to two chicken drums through an entire dance, and she also had one of her strongest nights of the competition yet. With this week’s performances, Shangela and Heidi D’Amelio officially joined that Top 3 that had been dominating the season, making a strong Top 5.

Once again, Vinny Guadagnino found himself substantially in last place after he faltered this week, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Five points behind the next-highest contestant by judges’ scores, Jessie James Decker, and we have a feeling his fans can surpass those five points easily, as well as the six between him and Trevor Donovan.

Right now, those are the three dancers that seem to be having the hardest time really growing in this competition in a meaningful way. Daniel Durant and Jordin Sparks are in that middle-of-the-pack position, which will eventually become the bottom, so they do have to worry. They especially have to worry because Heidi went from the upper-middle to the Bottom 2 last week.

This week, though, we had a feeling it would be two from that Bottom 3 from the judges. And we kind of suspected Vinny’s fans would pull through again — because if they ever don’t, he’ll be gone — sending Jessie and Trevor into the Bottom 2, which could spell the end of Trevor’s journey.

The first celeb sent to safety was Gabby, followed by Shangela, Heidi, and Jordin. So that was one of the middle pack advancing alongside several of our Top 5 front-runners. They were followed by Daniel, which certainly made it look like our prediction that the Bottom 2 would come from the bottom three by judges’ votes, because there’s just no way it would be Charli or Wayne, right? Did he falter that badly?

Charlie got the good news next, followed by Vinny, who just continues to get carried through this competition by the fans. It’s sweet right now, but it will become problematic if those front-runners start falling to him. Or did they tonight?

Wayne was still standing there tonight, alongside Jessie and Trevor. They always say this is “in no particular order,” but there always seems to be some meaning behind it, either to show the true Bottom 3, or just to build drama.

The drama ended in the next few moments as Wayne was declared safe. Now, he just needs to stay healthy and strong so he can get back to fighting for the top of the leaderboard with a full week of rehearsal under his belt.

And so, it came down to Trevor and Jessie. Neither of them are really contenders to win the Mirrorball, but our sense was that Jessie was having more fun and feeling more connected. At the same time, Trevor is actually progressing a little further along than her, so it would depend on what the judges valued more.

Bruno threw his support behind Trevor, while Derek voted to save Jessie. Carrie Ann then decided to save Trevor, but it didn’t really matter because at that point, it was already going to be up to Len which couple would stay (as his vote breaks ties). He did so by saving Trevor, sending Jessie home.

It was so sweet at one point, watching her mouth to Alan, “Thank you for believing in me,” even before the votes came down. She was ready to go home, but it was clear how much this whole experience has meant to her.

“Dancing with the Stars” continues Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.

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