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A Texas Showdown on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Rick Perry takes on fellow Texan Vanilla Ice with the paso doble.

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While much of America was consumed with the first presidential debate—a historic event marking the first time that a woman made to the general debate stage—or, you know, Monday night football, there was another showdown happening over at the Dancing With the Stars studio. One of the Texas variety.

Our former governor Rick Perry has managed to squeak through two weeks of competition, despite earning the lowest scores from the judges for both his cha cha and quick-step. This week, he took on rapper Vanilla Ice—a Dallas native, and apparently a newfound friend of Perry’s—in a battle for immunity from Tuesday night’s elimination.

Vanilla and Perry dueled with a paso doble, which could be the perfect style choice for a Lone Star face-off. It’s Spanish for two step, a skill that lies — in varying degrees — deep in the hearts of all native Texans. The energetic Latin dance, which is usually performed at the competition level rather than socially, is modeled after a Spanish bullfight. Perry, in this case, acted as the matador (with the ensemble to back it up), and his partner, Emma Slater, represented his cape.

I haven’t seen many bullfights in my day, but fair warning: this don’t look like nothin’ I’ve ever seen at a rodeo. Let’s jump in.

Perry’s past performances have been chock full of sing-alongs, props, and smiles. Whatever you want to say about his actual skills, there was absolutely no denying that he was having the time of his life cha cha-ing to “God Blessed Texas” and quick-stepping to the Green Acres theme song. The high drama of the paso doble, however, leaves no room for corn dogs, and demanded that a usually giddy Perry keep his cool on the ballroom floor.

Despite a bad ankle, Perry delivered what Slater would later say was “by far his best dance yet.” Because the episode was shortened for the presidential debate (pfft), the judges didn’t offer their usual post-dance feedback, instead skipping straight to the scores after both Perry and Vanilla Ice performed. Perry did seem to have cleaner lines, and with no words to sing to in Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s “Tamacun,” he was free to focus on the task at hand.

That said, it wasn’t without its absurdity. Like this part, when it looked a bit like Perry was doing some sort of version of the goose step up to the judges table.

Or this, which looks perilously similar to a move I would do when I had accidentally stepped in a bed of fire ants while barefoot.

Ultimately, Perry continued his upward scoring trend and ended up with a 23 from the judges, his highest in his Dancing With the Stars tenure. Unfortunately, Vanilla Ice received the exact same score for his paso doble, also getting three sixes and a five. That left the final decision on who received immunity up to head judge Len Goodman, the only judge to give a Perry a five. Goodman went Vanilla on this one.

So Perry is back on the chopping block, leaving himself to the mercy of the voters once again. He’ll find out his fate during Tuesday night’s elimination, which is a much quicker turnaround than the final results of the presidential debate.

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