It was a "Dancing with the Stars" night full of laughter, surprises, smooth moves and a few tears as the Season 17 finals kicked off on ABC.
(SPOILER ALERT: This article reveals who was eliminated.)
A few of the cast got misty-eyed when it was revealed that after hanging in there week after week and delighting the viewers at home, Bill Engvall and his pro partner Emma Slater were going home.
"It just goes to prove to me that there is a God because I don't think I could make one more dance," Bill said, using his trademark humor to cut through the sadness many felt at seeing him say goodbye. "I can't tell you how proud I am of Emma. ... She's like my second daughter now. We just had a blast."
After thanking the judges, who often complimented him with their words (but not their scores), Bill praised the fans at home for keeping him in the competition until the finals, and the most important person in his life - his wife.
"I'd be totally remiss if I didn't thank Gail," he said. "She's put up with this rollercoaster ride. This has been a lifetime experience. I will never forget this."
Before their elimination, Bill and Emma ended the night with 51 out of 65 points and the memory of having performed a freestyle that brought joy and laughter to the crowd. Bill may have left without a mirrorball, but he was able to obtain it in his dance, which took inspiration from "Indiana Jones." The comedian/actor even lived up to a promise he made to Access Hollywood during rehearsals earlier in the season -- to take off his shirt if he made it into the finals. He removed the item of clothing just before the judges scored the pair on their final round - an 8 from Carrie Ann Inaba, a 9 from Len Goodman and another 8 from Bruno Tonioli.
Outside of the elimination news, the top of the leaderboard was claimed by Amber Riley and Derek Hough, who ended the evening one point shy of a perfect score after three rounds of impressive competition. The "Glee" star and her pro partner began their evening with a perfectly scored Charleston that Carrie Ann gave them pre-performance pointers on. They followed it up by coming in second in the samba relay (to "No Scrubs" by TLC who performed the tune), and finally, a fantastic free-style, that saw Amber taking center stage.
"You're class, fast and built to last," Len said after Amber finished her final performance of the night with Derek.
Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff also had a strong evening, ending in second with 62 out of 65. They took the lead in the samba relay and had an impressive Michael Jackson-themed freestyle, where Corbin's moves were compared to Michael's.
"I think you nailed it," Carrie Ann said. "You showed the respect we all have for him. You made me miss Michael."
Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke took third for the evening (57 out of 65 points). The twosome got off to a rough start in the opening round with a jive that had some issues. In the samba relay, the pair came in third. Their freestyle, though, was impressive, earning perfect 10s for a routine inspired by Jack's journey throughout Season 17.
"Dancing with the Stars" will crown a winner when the finals continue Tuesday at 9/8c on ABC.
-- Jolie Lash
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