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'DWTS' recap: Cheryl Burke dials up drama with dance floor injury; 'Cheer' coach Monica Aldama goes home

Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY
·7 min read

Oh the fantastic horrors of "Dancing With the Stars."

As Villains Night descended on the pre-Halloween dance floor, the lagging dancers (like Carol Baskins) were gone, the costumes hideously sublime (including two rocked by host Tyra Banks) and the dancing was so sensational that the judges were throwing around 9 scores like bite-size candy bars.

There was even the season's first perfect score, which came with a subtle attempt at actual culture.

Add to all of this Monday night the full-tilt injury drama of pro dancer Cheryl Burke, that was milked mercilessly before, and especially during, the competition show.

Most of all in this holiday season, one couple got the ax in the end. Muahaha!!

Let's break down the carnage.

'Dancing With the Stars' last week:Vernon Davis out, Johnny Weir saved in nail-biting end to emotional night

Cheryl Burke would not let an injury stop her twisted tango

Ballroom dance injuries do happen. So we're not suggesting Burke's injury announced pre-show was a fake. But it was flogged within an inch of its TV life, even spanning a dramatic commercial break before we found out if Burke would dance.

Before cutting to sponsors, Burke was shown taking a nasty tumble and hitting something (the injury moved from head, to neck, to rotator cuff) while rehearsing her tango with Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean. After both fell, McLean even crawled back to help Burke, like they were in some kind of bad WWII foxhole drama.

"It happened so fast. I heard her head hit the floor," McLean said in the video piece. We learned after the commercials that Burke would indeed overcome and dance the couple's trippy number to "Psycho" by the Intermezzo Orchestra.

McLean started as Norman Bates' sick mother and impressively switched to sweater-wearing Bates with a bad wig that would have really bothered Anthony Perkins. The dance was effective right to the final faux knife blow.

Judge Carrie Ann Inaba was "truly impressed," giving a 9. Derek Hough grumbled about McLean's form but gave an 8. With the drama and the dancing, the couple was safe. (Total score: 26/30.)

Kaitlyn Bristowe brought out her Cruella side, but the judges were two-faced

The "Bachelor" stand-out showed her dark and light sides as Dalmatian-destroying Cruella de Vil – but not before insisting she really does love dogs, has two rescues and somehow working into her pre-dance routine that she wants children.

Bristowe's paso doble with pro Artem Chigvintsev to Rihanna's "Disturbia" had her whipping her red skirt around in sharp twist turns. But the judges saw two different dances. Hough raved with a 9 score, Inaba was harsh ("the lifts didn't go well") with a 7 and judge Bruno Tonioli called himself "the voice of reason" with an 8.

Still, her total score (25/30) and loyal Bachelor Nation fans would ensure Bristowe was safe.

Chrishell Stause was magnificent as Malificent

"Selling Sunset" star Stause went full-Jolie as Malificent with pro Gleb Savchenko. Their paso doble to "In the Air Tonight" by VonLichten was bad in all the right ways, ending fantastically with Stause putting her hand to Savchenko's neck and twisting with effective cracking sound effects.

Tonioli pointed out a "slightly Terminator" moment of rigidness. Inaba called it "storytelling at its finest," giving Stause her first 9, which Hough matched.

The high-pitched shriek Stause let out no doubt caused Angelina Jolie to roll her eyes somewhere across town. But her total (26/30) left her secure.

Jeannie Mai was a man-eater as Hannibal Lecter

Mai admitted she was so traumatized by Anthony Hopkins' "Silence of the Lambs" cannibal that she turned vegan for, like, two years. She might have cured it as the masked villain with pro Brandon Armstrong during a possessed paso doble to "Maneater" by Nelly Furtado.

After flying, possessed, around the stage, Mai ended dealing a double slap, a bite into Armstrong's neck, and a brilliant lick. "You ate up that paso," said Hough, giving a 9.

But even with another dynamic performance and a 25/30 judges' total, Mai would find herself on the chopping block.

Johnny Weir's vampire comeback had bite

Olympic skater Weir admitted to pro partner Britt Stewart that last week was a "dumpster fire" after he landed in the bottom two. He was spared from elimination by the judges. Weir vowed to make it better, with an inspiring pre-dance story about not hiding his sexuality as a budding skater and a Viennese waltz to "Creep," complete with fake vampire teeth and a ruffle-tastic, Anne Rice-esque vampire ensemble that will give Tom Cruise night sweats.

"The prince of darkness re-awakens and rules the dance floor," Tonioli bellowed, leading a parade of 9 scores. The only misstep was when Weir tried to say something profound with fake vampire teeth still in his mouth. Mumbles and all, he was back. (Total score 27/30.)

Justina Machado made it rain confetti blood as horror queen Carrie

The "One Day at a Time" star and pro Sasha Farber would have had Stephen King giving a thumbs up to their "Carrie"-inspired tango to "Take Me to Church" by MILCK. Her white dress covered in blood, Machado let out death cries and seemed to use psychic powers to throw objects and Farber around the stage. In a great touch, the set even appeared to start burning.

It ended with blood-red confetti falling to the floor.

"You literally set the place on fire," said Hough, who not only used "literally" correctly, but gave another 9. Inaba, giving a 9, tipped her hand saying Machado has a chance at winning the whole big dance as "one of the best dancers." (Total score 26/30.)

Skai Jackson earned judge (and Chucky) love with her tango

Contender Jackson vowed to bounce back from a so-called bad week last week. But the young Disney star is really working on another high level, as her Argentine tango with pro Alan Bersten to "Everything I Wanted" by Billie Eilish proved. Wildly adorned as the Bride of Chucky, she killed with insane lifts and perfection.

"There's not a bad bone in your body, not a bad step in your tango," said Tonioli.

Jackson scored straight 9 scores from the wowed judges. (Total score 27/30.)

Nev Schulman didn't 'Catfish' his 'Swan Lake'

"Catfish" star Shulman raised the IQ level during his paso doble with pro Jenna Johnson to "Swan Lake Remix" by District 78. Dressed like a member of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake troupe, the ballet-loving, shirtless Shulman was impressive. It was as if "DWTS" was on PBS during pledge drive week. Hough called it an "instant classic" and Tonioli swooned that it was "breathtaking."

The 10s flew out, three of them (total score 30/30) – the first perfect score of the season. Shulman was giddy. "I have swan bumps," he said.

Monica Aldama had a Ratched wreck and paid for it

The "Cheer" coach, who each week has been as much fun as a dental cleaning, has been stepping up her game lately. But Aldama ran into a buzz saw dancing her jazz number to Beyoncé's "Fever" with pro Val Chmerkovskiy as Nurse Ratched. She had the leg whips, the sublime nurse outfit and there was even a Sharon Stone chair homage. But the dance left the judges cold. "I didn't get a fever," said Tonioli, who gave a 7 followed by other less-than-hot scores. Her total (22/30) left Aldama at the bottom of the board and in peril.

Sure enough, the prognosis was not good …

As the costumed dancers pranced off the stage, the last two, vulnerable dancers were a study in contrasts. The effervescent Mai (and Armstrong) along with the driven Aldama (and Chmerkovskiy) were on the chopping block for elimination.

Tonioli pulled out one more Halloween pun, calling the choice "a nightmare on the dance floor." He voted to save Mai. Hough stammered, but chose to keep Aldama.

Inaba cast the deciding vote, going for the more "exciting dancer" Mai. Aldama has exited the dance competition.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'DWTS' recap: Cheryl Burke's injury drama, Monica Aldama eliminated