That stage of the ABC reality show has come early this season, now that Adam Carolla has been eliminated from the competition.
The actor and radio host did his best to make up for a lack of technique with wisecracks and gimmicks like riding a unicycle during Monday's paso doble.
"I had the time of my life. I lost 20 pounds of fat. I gained 105 pounds of angel," he said, referring to his partner, two-time winner Julianne Hough. "I'm going to dance my way right to the buffet."
The four eliminated contestants - Carolla, Monica Seles, Steven Guttenberg and Penn Jillette - were the least capable dancers on the show. The remaining 8 contestants, all of whom have a shot at the finals, are Jason Taylor, Kristi Yamaguchi, Mario, Cristian de la Fuente, Shannon Elizabeth, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Marlee Matlin, and Priscilla Presley.
Taylor and Yamaguchi earned nearly perfect scores Monday night with 29 a piece, and Shannon Elizabeth trailed with 28. Cristian de la Fuente earned a 26 while Winokur, Matlin, and Mario all tied at 24.
Priscilla Presley scored a 22 after the judges knocked off a few points because of a technical mistake. Her partner was supposed to be dragging her in one move, but when her feet came off the floor the move became a lift - a no-no in competition. When the judgs score was combined with audience votes Tuesday, Presley ended up with the second lowest combined score this week, landing her in the bottom two with Carolla.
Also Tuesday, a new competion for kids debuted on the show. Two pint-sized couples will compete each week and get feedback from the judges. The kids don't get numeric scores like the grownups, but the judges will pick the couple who will return the following week
Daniela, 8, and Aaron, 9, were the first to perform, showing an impressive mastery of the samba, which can be a rhythmically tricky dance for a performer of any age.
"You know what I was doing when I was your age? Eating paste," host Tom Bergeron quipped after the kids finished.
The next couple, Rashell, 8, and another boy named Aaron, 8, danced the paso doble with precision, drawing raves from the judges.
Both routines were tastefully choreographed, eliminating the sensual moves seen in the adult versions of the dances. In the end, the judges chose Aaron and Rashell to return next week.
Tuesday night's musical guest was Sheryl Crow who sang her early hit "All I Want To Do" - appropriately from her debut album "Tuesday Night Music Club" - and "Out Of Our Heads" from her latest set, "Detours."
"Dancing With The Starsr" returns Monday with Latin week, where couples dancing either the samba or the rumba
By Judy Rosen