This is the season of throwing curveballs. Before the show airs there’s word via Twitter another surprise is coming up within the first half hour, but at the beginning they skip the opening number in favor of bringing everyone out, including guest judge Robin Roberts of Good Morning America fame(escorted by the Chmerkovskiy brothers), and the announcement that Billy Dee & Emma aren’t dancing tonight, more later. But first starts the dancing, and it’s also time for the celebrities to recall their most memorable year:
James Maslow & Peta Murgatroyd: Jive to “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World. The song is one that got him through high school when he was so badly bullied for being overweight that he had to switch schools, and he cites 2007 as the year he overcame that. So the routine has a high school setting, where he wins over the prep girl. He also nails all the steps and all of the energy of the jive; this is a level above anything he’s done so far. The judges note it, giving him straight 9s for 36.
But then we get to announcements. First, some more details of the switchup next week, which most importantly and relievedly is actually only happening for one week. They then have a segment of the celebrities and pros talking about it, where Drew fantasizes about dancing with Derek(can you blame him?). Next, out come Billy Dee & Emma, him explaining his chronic back injury is keeping him out and the doctor is forbidding him to dance, and they show a farewell video, so, yeah, guess he’s gone. He was supposed to do a dance for his grandchildren, but they just come up onto the floor for hugs. Then, with it implied though not yet confirmed that there won’t be an elimination this week:
Nene Leakes & Tony Dovolani: Rumba to “I Believe in You and Me” by Whitney Houston, which she walked down to the aisle to when she married her husband for the second time last year. Most of the fluff talks about their history and she gets quite sappy, but also Tony saying the dance is about that moment of “reconnection.” It involves a bed(though they only get on it for the final pose), Nene is barefoot, and Tony is clad only in a pair of black leggings, which, quite honestly, when combined with his rumbaing is rather distracting from trying to pay attention to how well Nene does the dance. I applaud the judges for being able to do so, and they generally like it, though Len doesn’t like people doing the rumba barefoot. Perhaps that’s why his score is only a 7 while the others all give 8s, for a score of 31.
Cody Simpson & Witney Carson: Jazz to his own song “Surfboard.” This is a song that he says is about the place he comes from in Australia, though his year is 2010, the year he went to America and signed a music contract, and his family went with him, giving up their home and jobs to initially live in a hotel before he started pulling in the money, and in appreciation of that he dedicates the dance to them. Dancing to such familiar music and themes he has no problems connecting and displaying them to perfection, and technically his dancing is really good as well; jazz is a style that suits him. Once again the judges love it, but Len isn’t as impressed as the others; he gives an 8 and the others 9s for 35.
Danica McKellar & Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary to Billy Joel’s “Lullabye.” Her year is also 2010, the year her son Draco was born, but also the year her grandmother died before the birth, which she’s still sad about. The fluff has Draco come into the studio as well. In terms of emotional impact, this proves to be the most effective routine yet, even before she ends up holding Draco while listening to the judge’s comments, and it’s good technically as well. It even impresses Len as much as it does the other three; all four judges break out the 9s for a total score of 36.
Drew Carey & Cheryl Burke: Waltz to “Fade Into You” by Sam Palladio & Clare Bowen. He too chooses the year his son was born, in this case 2005, and again he connects it to a loss, this time of his father when he was eight. In an interview that causes him to tear up, he explains how he didn’t want his son Connor to go through what he did, and that motivated him to get himself into shape. But the fluff has more impact than the waltz itself, where he gets a foot wrong at one point and just isn’t a match for Cheryl and for much of it seems to just be following her around; the only time he looks natural is at the end when he goes to hug Connor; he too keeps him with him through the judges’ comments. Bruno does note one mistake is better than last week, and they’re generally nice, and Connor praises him too, and Bruno and Robin even are frankly generous with 8s, while Carrie-Ann and Len give 7s, for a total of 30.
Meryl Davis & Maxim Chmerkovskiy: Foxtrot to “All of Me” by John Legend. And applause for Meryl for rejecting the silly year format; she says her dance is about all 17 years between when she and Charlie first teamed up at the ages of nine and eight respectively and when they won the Olympics. She spends the fluff talking about their history since then, and dedicates the dance to everyone that’s helped them along the way. They get live accompaniment from violinist Lindsey Stirling, and the two of them have everything, technical perfection, emotional presence, and a good dreamlike mood. Carrie-Ann even talks about bursting into tears. They nearly get straight 10s, but Len turns more fussy again and only gives them a 9, so their total is 39, which ultimately proves the high score of the night.
Amy Purdy & Derek Hough: Contemporary to “Human” by Christina Perri. Her year, unsurprisingly, is 1999, the year she battled bacterial meningitis and survived, but lost her legs and also needed a new kidney, which her father donated. They tell the story, with home video footage, of her struggling to walk again, which she and Derek are to recreate, with him playing her father, and then they show her getting new prosthetic feet so she can do pointed toes! One wonders after that segment whether the dance can do justice to this story, but she and Derek are up for that challenge, evoking the feeling of her struggling and him lifting her up and helping her stand(perhaps her being unused to the feet only added to it), touching the heart in a way that’s uncommon indeed, until they have managed to awe everyone once again. They show the judges impacted, with Carrie-Ann and Robin both tearing up. Bruno sums it up: “There won’t be a dry eye in the country tonight.” No 10s, sadly, but straight 9s for 36.
Charlie White & Sharna Burgess: Jive to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. He goes with 2010, when he and Meryl broke through to the top tier of ice dancing by winning Olympic silver, though it also reflects on winning the gold four years later. He also dedicates the dance to his parents and longtime girlfriend(and Olympic silver-winning ice dancer herself) Tanith Belbin. He starts the dance backstage and dances about with a few people there before joining Sharna on the floor, causing you to grin even before they get down to business. Charlie’s goofy side shines in this, and it’s all pure joy. Except that according to Carrie-Ann, perhaps out of excitement he gets very slightly ahead of the music twice, though the other judges were apparently too happy to notice. But it’s another set of straight 9s for 36.
Candace Cameron Bure & Mark Ballas: Jive to “Blue Suede Shoes.” Her year is 1995, when “Full House” ended right before she got engaged, which she sees as her moving from girl to woman. The fluff also shoes two of her co-stars visiting the studio. The song choice is a tribute to the show as well, and she even is up for the hip-swinging. The dance is nice and fun, and perhaps it suffers a little from having to follow up all the stunners we’ve seen tonight, but she still pretty much hits the jive, if not quite as perfectly as the judges would’ve liked. Straight 8s and 32 seem about right.
Indeed there’s no elimination this week; all scores and votes from last week will carry over to next week’s elimination. That leaves one question: when are we actually going to learn who’s dancing with who next week?