On Monday night’s episode of “Dancing With the Stars,” judge Len Goodman looked like he finally was out of patience with Sean Spicer.
“We keep throwing you out the boat and the viewers keep throwing a life preserver,” he wearily told President Donald Trump’s former press secretary after Spicer’s less-than-stellar jazz routine to Styx’s “Come Sail Away.”
The studio audience didn’t know how to react to that comment — there was a mix of applause and boos. Host Tom Bergeron burst out laughing.
“That’s the truth!” judge Carrie Ann Inaba chimed in, as Goodman added that the mermaid (one of the characters onstage during his nautical-themed performance with professional partner Jenna Johnson) had better footwork than Spicer.
Indeed, over the past eight weeks of ABC’s competition series, Spicer has earned some of the worst scores from the judges; he has been ranked last for the past four consecutive weeks. Yet he shows no sign of being voted off the show. At the end of each episode, the two couples with the lowest scores (a combination of judge scores and viewer votes) face the three judges, who choose which pair to eliminate. So far, Spicer has never been in the bottom two.
That means, as Goodman said, viewers have carried him through — a frankly predictable outcome for this season. The announcement of Spicer’s casting several months ago drew immense backlash, as many felt that the falsehood-prone former White House official did not deserve the chance to repair his reputation on national television. Of course, all that attention has likely been beneficial to Spicer’s cause. While Goodman suggested that fans were voting for him because they like rooting for an underdog, social media is also filled with people boasting that they are voting for him to anger liberals and critics, and urging others to do the same.
Spicer also got a boost (again) from Trump himself about an hour into Monday’s episode — fans can only vote during the show’s live East Coast broadcast between 8 and 10 p.m.
After some in the audience booed Goodman’s remarks, the judge protested: “I’m being nice tonight! Sean, I respect your effort. Well done.” But judge Bruno Tonioli also didn’t hold back with criticism, leaning heavily into ocean metaphors.
“You don’t have many jazz bones in your body, do you? And your ship, at times, looked like it would get lost in the Bermuda Triangle. I think Dory in ‘Finding Nemo’ has a better sense of direction,” Tonioli said, working in some ABC-Disney synergy.
“Oh my goodness!” Spicer laughed, understandably shocked to be on the receiving end of such a harsh burn involving the forgetful blue tang fish from a Pixar classic.
“But somehow, you always manage to get to shore,” Tonioli said, and praised Spicer’s resilience. Inaba tried to add some positivity, saying that even though Spicer looks like he’s doing the same dance every week (“That’s why your scores haven’t really improved”) she was impressed that he adapted so quickly to a new partner. (Johnson subbed in for Lindsay Arnold, who was absent due to the death of her mother-in-law.)
The judges have been harsh on Spicer before; even Arnold dubbed his skills “pre-preschool level” in the premiere. During last week’s Halloween-themed episode, Goodman — who usually doesn’t bother to offer Spicer technical criticism, and simply says he appreciates his effort — was not pleased by Spicer’s attempt at a jive. “Halloween is about the supernatural. And this wasn’t super and it wasn’t really natural,” he cracked.
Even Inaba went with, “That was like a dance only your mummies could love.”
But this week, the judging panel seemed genuinely frustrated. Spicer was also paired up against “The Office” star Kate Flannery for a cha-cha dance-off, because they both struggled with the dance earlier in the season. Now, Flannery was clearly the superior dancer.
“I thought I saw somebody that quite improved. Someone else really grabbed my attention, I’m not sure if it was for the right reasons,” Tonioli said. Inaba was equally vague: “One couple, two people were doing the cha-cha. The other couple, maybe one person was doing the cha-cha and the other person was faking it.” Hmmm, wonder who they were talking about? Both Spicer and Johnson grimaced knowingly.
In the end, although Flannery and her partner, Pasha Kovalev, earned two bonus points for winning the dance-off, they found themselves in the bottom two with pop singer Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber. The judges did not appear thrilled:
And viewers noted Johnson’s expression when she and Spicer were declared safe:
“The look on Jenna’s face says it all,” one tweeted. “When your partner knows you’re the worst dancer and should be going home but doesn’t, it’s a problem. And ABC wonders why #DWTS is going downhill fast.”
Meanwhile, Flannery and Brooke braced themselves for the judges’ decision. “It’s confusing for me at this point why these are the bottom two. I’m absolutely confused and a little irritated,” Inaba said. She voted for Brooke to stay and eliminate Flannery.
“I’m in the same position as Carrie Ann, you know, I have to do my job,” Tonioli said mournfully. “You shouldn’t be here.” He also chose Brooke. With two votes, Goodman wasn’t needed as the tiebreaker, though he said he planned to choose Brooke.
With that, Spicer advanced to the Top 6. Given that there was a similar phenomenon in 2010 with contestant Bristol Palin, as a strong conservative fan base helped get her to the final three in the season finale, it wouldn’t be too shocking if this pattern continues.