Spoilers ahead for the November 11 episode of Dancing with the Stars Season 28.
Dancing with the Stars took the dancers on a blast to the past with Boy Band & Girl Group Night, with none other than NSYNC alum Joey Fatone as a guest judge. Fatone was a player in the boy band war between NSYNC and Backstreet Boys in the late 1990s and early 2000s, although the NSYNC spotlight was of course on Justin Timberlake. Now, nearly two decades after NSYNC broke up, Fatone still feels the loyalty to the group that made him famous, as proven by his reaction to Lauren Alaina and pro partner Gleb Savchenko's rumba to "I Want It That Way."
Arguably the anthem of Backstreet Boys, "I Want It That Way" was guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser on Dancing with the Stars. It wasn't so guaranteed to be a Joey Fatone pleaser, and his reaction when the time came for him to share his opinion was perfect. Here's how his commentary began:
If it was based on the song, no disrespect, I would give it a zero. I’m kidding! It’s a joke, people! It’s the song! It’s a Backstreet-NSYNC thing. Oh, shush it.
Joey Fatone kept a straight and stern face when he started talking about Lauren and Gleb's number, and it was almost believable for a few seconds that he genuinely wanted to penalize any dance that took place to a Backstreet Boys song, but he broke into a grin pretty quickly to make it clear that he was kidding.
As a former member of NSYNC, he was honor-bound to protest at least a little bit to "I Want It That Way" being performed in front of him, and it was really only fair that he was in the hot seat after he got to see James Van Der Beek and Emma Slater strut their stuff to NSYNC's iconic (and endlessly catchy) "Bye Bye Bye."
Lauren and Gleb clearly knew that Joey Fatone was all talk when he started talking smack about the song, as their reactions were more entertained than devastated by the less-that-complimentary remarks from a guest judge, who really couldn't have been much more different than previous Season 28 guest judge Leah Remini.
Joey Fatone didn't waste any time in delivering his genuine thoughts about the "I Want It That Way" rumba:
However, the dancing, what you guys did was absolutely amazing. It was great. It was really, really, really good.
Joey Fatone wasn't the only one at the judges' table who was impressed with the performance, which earned 9s across the board from all four judges, for a grand total of 36. While those weren't the highest of the night and Lauren and Gleb were technically ranked last after Sean Spicer was finally eliminated, the performance was enough to send them on to the next round of competition.
Personally, I loved Joey Fatone as a guest judge on Dancing with the Stars, and I say that as somebody who was firmly Team BSB in the boy band wars between NSYNC and Backstreet Boys back in the day. He already threw his hat in the ring to become a Masked Singer judge after having such a good time as a contestant (even though he kinda knew viewers would figure out his identity), so his preference may be for the Fox show, but I'd be happy to see him back on DWTS any day!
He was even a fun addition to the opening musical number:
Joey Fatone's dance moves circa 2019 may not be what they were back in the late 90s, but I'd give him a 10 for enthusiasm in the opening number! Interestingly, the episode also featured an appearance from Backstreet Boy AJ McLean (whose daughter has thoughts about when he goes on tour), although he wasn't part of the live broadcast. Instead, he helped out his friend Lauren Alaina in mastering the BSB moves for her performance, and some of their training was revealed in the video package ahead of her dance.
What's in store next for Dancing with the Stars? Well, with Sean Spicer finally gone, I think it's safe to say that only the best of the best dancers are left in the running for the mirrorball trophy. Tune in to ABC on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of Dancing with the Stars.