Ray Charles told Jack to hit the road in his classic song but it was “Dancing With the Stars” contestant and blue-collar comedian Bill Engvall that the judges sent packing following the first half of finals Monday night.
After weeks of enjoying an unexpectedly lengthy ride based on charm instead of skill, Engvall waved a humorous and gracious goodbye. “Well, it just goes to prove to me that there is a God, ’cause I don’t think I could make one more dance,” Engvall said after scoring 51 points (24+2+25) with partner Emma Slater, the lowest combined tally of the evening. “This has been a lifetime experience. I will never forget this. To all the fans who voted this long, thank you.”
In addition to being the oldest competitor in the final four — Amber Riley, Corbin Bleu and Jack Osbourne are all under 30 — Engvall was also the most limited in his range. While “High School Musical” alum Bleu and his partner Karina Smirnoff wowed judges with an acrobatic tribute to Michael Jackson and “Glee” star Riley and her partner Derek Hough impressed with a commanding step-show number, Engvall leaned heavily on his winning personality and the theme from “Indiana Jones.” But after the judges’ choice, the Samba relay set to TLC’s live-but-dusty rendition of “No Scrubs,” and the freestyle portion, Engvall’s aw-shucks shtick wasn’t enough.
Sure, former reality star Osbourne isn’t as polished a dancer as Bleu and Riley, but he does try extremely hard. This is especially impressive given the 28-year-old’s battles with Multiple Sclerosis. Unlike Engvall, who pretty much laughed off his struggles through the night, Osbourne gained more confidence with each number.
His opening dance, a shaky Jive, was less than stellar but by the time Osbourne did his freestyle with partner Cheryl Burke in a top hat and tails, he was unstoppable. “That was the best fairytale ending to anybody’s story,” Carrie Ann Inaba told Ozzy and Sharon’s son, before giving him a perfect 10, with her fellow judges quickly following suit.
Judge Len Goodman was so impressed with Osbourne’s nod to big-screen glamour and glitz that he wanted to give him 11 points and judge Bruno Tonioli simply said, “Hooray for Hollywood.”
While Osbourne’s triumphant performances made everyone weepy and earned him 57 (24+3+30) points overall, the night belonged to Riley and Bleu, especially during freestyles. It was a Tour de Force dance off that had their pro partners pulling out all the stops.
For instance, Smirnoff traveled to Las Vegas and turned to Michael Jackson’s one-time choreographer, Travis Payne, to give Bleu the added oomph he needed to win. The choice really paid off when Bleu, 24, did a flip over Smirnoff while several dancers swung her like a human jump rope. Bleu and Smirnoff even did Jackson’s gravity-defying “Smooth Criminal” lean.
“I normally don’t like it when people try to capture iconic moments and Michael Jackson, that’s a big bite to chew,” Inaba told the breathless but happy pair, who walked away with 62 points (27+5+30) at the end of the night. “[But] I think you nailed it. You made me miss Michael.”
Bleu and Smirnoff earned a perfect 30 for their freestyle but then again, so did Riley. All eyes were on the 27-year-old singing sensation as she and Hough performed last and combined country western-themed moves with step dancing, giving them 64 points (30+4+30) — the highest combined score.
“The whole number was just about you,” Goodman told Riley. “You’re there with six pro guys and I only watched you. I’ll tell you what you are. You’re class, fast and built to last.” Meanwhile Tonioli called Riley a charismatic “leading lady” and Inaba applauded the TV actress for never losing the beat.
So does that mean Riley will win Season 17’s mirror ball trophy or will it be Bleu? It’s anyone’s guess especially with the remaining three doing routines of their competitor’s choosing. Riley and Hough will do a quickstep and Samba; Bleu and Smirnoff will do a Cha Cha and Foxtrot; and Osbourne and Burke will do a Paso and Salsa.
Part two of the “Dancing With the Stars” Season 17 finale airs Tuesday Nov. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.