She came to inspire and enjoy the party.
But on Monday night, sentiment finally yielded to the cold criteria of judging. After another low-scoring performance – this time an 18-point waltz – the 74-year-old star of TV’s Rhoda was voted off the show.
She reacted in characteristic fashion. As the audience and fellow dancers cheered and cried, Harper beamed. “It has been absolutely wonderful, completely unique, like nothing else in the world,” she said, adding with a smile, “It’s really a great thing to get out and dance!”
Her pro partner, Tristan MacManus, fought back tears, saying, “I feel like I’ve been very lucky.”
As for the rest of the competition, it’s now down to nine couples vying for the mirror ball trophy. The night featured not one but two instances of male stars dancing without their shirts and marked the return of two-time champion Julianne Hough – the former pro sat at the judging table in place of Len Goodman for the evening. Here’s how the rest of the field shaped up:
• Despite a bandaged knee, Amber Riley dazzled with a crisp tango so good that Hough didn t have to worry about showing sisterly bias toward Riley’s partner, Hough’s brother Derek (who had jokingly dropped cash in front of his sister, only to have her bark, “$10. What is that?”). “Holy cow, you are so good!” said the Paradise star, seconded by Carrie Ann Inaba (“Fine form!”) and Bruno Tonioli (“Pure unmistakably classic!”). They scored 27 points.
• Elizabeth Berkley and a violin-stroking Val Chmerkovskiy tangoed across a mist-filled stage, also to a 27-point score, and high praise. “You’ve done it, you bewitching fantasy creature fueled by desire,” said Tonioli in an outburst that had host Tom Bergeron asking Hough if it was creepier hearing this sort of thing while sitting next to him or from the dance floor.
• Proving he’s not in high school anymore, Corbin Bleu shed his shirt with a smoldering face-slapping paso doble that the judges said came so close to perfection. “Thank you for doing no gimmicks. You don’t need it,” said Hough, who nonetheless faulted Bleu on his hip movements. The former High School Musical star and Karina Smirnoff also garnered 27 points.
• With sister Kelly Osbourne and his wife of exactly one year cheering him on, Jack Osbourne rebounded from last week’s stiff performance with a nifty quickstep with a cranky, TMI-sharing Cheryl Burke (“It’s my time of the month,” she explained). “I thought you were way more animated this week,” said Inaba as the couple earned 24 points. Hough added, “That was such an improvement.”
• Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi shook off the flu for a bubbly cheerleader-themed jive with Sasha Farber. “You are the cutest thing in the world!” said Hough before taking the Jersey Shore star to task for her flailing kicks. The pair also got 24 points.
• Christina Milian and Mark Ballas delivered a 24-point foxtrot in Guys and Dolls gangster garb. Tonioli called the dance “spunky and sultry” but faulted Milian for a lack of control, while Hough surprisingly took a swipe at her pal Ballas for choreography she claimed had him overshadowing his partner.
• Brant Daugherty also stripped off his shirt for an undulating salsa that had the women in the audience gasping, “Oh, my God,” and compelled a momentarily flustered Hough to note, “I m single now.” Unfortunately, his dance moves didn’t match his toned pecs. “That salsa was a little broken,” said Inaba. Daugherty and partner Peta Murgatroyd finished with 21 points.
• Bill Engvall delighted the ballroom with a samba that had him playing imaginary bongos on partner Emma Slater’s plumed behind. “You are the heart of the show,” said Hough. Tonioli said the dance was “everything you could ask for in a samba except timing and rhythm.” They finished with 21 points and were immediately informed that they were safe this week from elimination.