Dancing With the Stars, Season 18, Week 8, Celebrity Dance Duel Night

It’s the night of the “Celebrity Dance Duel” on DWTS, with Tom Bergeron’s voice being doctored to dip really low when he announces it, but they’re going to make us wait for details on how it works.  First Mark Ballas gets to open the show up by singing his new single “Get My Name” and even joining the ensemble on the floor during the dance break.  Then the guest judge is introduced, a certain Abby Lee Miller from a certain show called Dance Moms, who apparently at least has experience judging dancing, and says early on she’s glad Len’s there to be mean; it soon becomes clear so is she, as the first couple declared safe for the night is also the first to perform:

Charlie White & Sharna Burgess: Quickstep to “My Heart Goes Boom” by Miss Li.  The fluff has Charlie’s thinking maybe he got too worried about the scores last week, and also his mother visiting the studio.  Then out he and Sharna come, and the trip the light fantastic lightly and fantastically.  But then we learned how critical a judge Abby Lee’s going to be when she has multiple things to point out, to the point Bruno gets mad and they start yelling at each other until Tom has to stop them-and her, because she could talk the entire two hours.  Not that this stops her from breaking out a 10-which the others all do too, so a week after Charlie had his score woes he gets a perfect 40!

Then like last week, out come the Chmerkovskiy brothers to have their results called together, with the same announcement(it still wouldn’t be believable that Meryl & Maks could be anything but safe anyway), so once again younger brother performs right after being called in jeopardy:

Danica McKellar & Val Chmerkovskiy: Tango to the Lorde version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  The fluff touches on her still working through the rib problem and wanting to have enough content to please Len.  Though the routine does start with them staring each other down over a crown on a pillar, which he crowns her with at the end.  In between, the tango they do is intense and engaging, with Len calling them “on it like a bonnet.”  But while she has lots of praise, Abby Lee tells her she still needs to work on her shoulders, and she and Len only give them 9s, so with 10s from the other two they’re left with 38.

Meryl Davis & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Rumba to “Read All About It (Pt. III)” by Emeli Sandé.  Maks choreographs for a story about a “dysfunctional relationship” where the routine starts with them both throwing dishes and her slapping him, and also her barefoot.  Meryl insists this is more of a challenge because Maks is a “softie” and a “teddy bear,” and the two discuss their relationship continuing without giving details about its nature.  There is also a good deal of contemporary in the routine, and it certainly is an emotional one, and very well done.  The judges even all agree the rumba done was perfectly done.  But first Len and Carrie-Ann still think there could’ve been more rumba and only give 9s, and Abby Lee lectures Meryl about her feet and lowers her score to an 8, shocking Bruno, who keeps up the 10 paddle, making for a total of 36.

The remain three couples line up, and this time all jeopardy will be established earlier: James & Peta and Canade & Mark are both in it, while Amy & Derek are safe.  The rest will presumably have to wait until the end of the show.

Candace Cameron Bure & Mark Ballas: Foxtrot to “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Moving On” by Sam Cooke.  The fluff shows her at home with her kids.  But the routine is a story of domestic disharmony, as Candace & Mark in 50s TV sitcom wear start with a fight over the remote and keep an air of adversity throughout the foxtrot.  It works pretty well, with Candace really able to pull off both mood and dance now, although her technique’s still not perfect, as the judges note-except Abby Lee, whose main criticism is that Mark’s ending didn’t take the song literally enough!  They break out straight 9s for 36.

James Maslow & Peta Murgatroyd: Viennese Waltz to “6-2” by Marie Miller.  The fluff has them worrying about his posture and his bandmates visiting the studio to lighten him up.  The routine has cherry trees and falling petals that end up pretty much stealing to routine, and Peta is more interesting to watch than James too.  Though Abby Lee turns that into praise by saying it was his job to present her, and kind of wrecks her credibility completely breaking out a 10 when the other judges all have issues with James’ posture & flow both, resulting in 9s from Len and Bruno and an 8 from Carrie-Anne in lift police mode, leaving them with 36.

Amy Purdy & Derek Hough: Argentine Tango to “Heart Upon My Sleeve” by Avicii.  Not the most fortunate dance for her to have to do now, with it putting pressure on the rib badly affected by her back injury last week.  One supposes that might have led to the routine Derek choreographs, where they make copious use of a stool and don’t stray too far from it, and.  It. Is.  Amazing.  There’s one moment where he might have accidentally kicked the stool and lost a move, but if they did they covered it up pretty well, and otherwise it’s completely nailed and perfect.  Abby Lee takes a moment out to praise Derek’s impossibly mad choreographing skillz, Len tells Tom not to wake him up if he’s dreaming, and they bookend the first round with the second perfect 40 of the night.

In the end, there never is a straightforward explanation of the “Celebrity Dance Duel,” though it appears to be two couples dancing together with the two pros leaving the floor and the celebrities dancing with only each other for a section.  The interviews with Erin have also managed to reveal the teams: the Chmerkovskiy brothers managed to get each other as teammates, and Charlie & Sharna got Candace & Mark, leaving James & Peta with Amy & Derek.

Meryl Davis, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Danica McKellar, & Val Chmerkovskiy: Samba to “I Luh Ya Papi” by Jennifer Lopez.  According to the fluff, having both Chmerkovskiy brothers in the studio to gang up on them isn’t easy for the ladies, at least until their grandmother shows up unexpectedly and helps ease things.  Both these ladies are great at the samba, with Danica more or less even able to figuratively keep up with Meryl when she needs to.  But literally keeping up is another matter; Bruno notes in his commentary the sync is particularly difficult in the samba, and the two couples and two celebrities don’t manage it.  Carrie-Ann and Abby Lee have other criticisms besides, and only give the quartet 8s, while Len and Bruno give them 9s, for a 34 total, leaving Meryl & Maks with 70 and Danica & Val with 72.

Charlie White, Sharna Burgess, Candace Cameron Bure, & Mark Ballas: Contemporary to “Stay With Me” by Same Smith.  Here, in the fluff, they discuss whether for the entire Charlie-Sharna solo section he should keep her up in a lift, which he does, her changing position in a way not unlike what he and Meryl have done on the ice.  Meanwhile, they don’t have timing problems, but have the timing with each other right, the connection to each other right, the connection to the music right, and really, this would’ve been a perfect 40 routine, except that both Carrie-Ann and Len saw a slip from Sharna at one point, and so only give 9s.  The other two apparently didn’t and break out 10s for 38, leaving Charlie & Sharna with 78 and Candace & Mark with 74.

Amy Purdy, Derek Hough, James Maslow, & Peta Murgatroyd: Jive to “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” by Robert Randolph & the Family Band.  Now it’s James’ turn to learn how to dance with Amy, while she feels guilty that not only her normal disability but now her back issues too put such a limit on the choreography.  But Derek’s already shown his genius ability to get around that tonight, and James more or less masters what he has to do with her, and while maybe the solo with the two of them isn’t quite as absolutely certain as the rest of the routine is, they still nail it.  Len even says afterwards the title summed up the routine.  Except while he didn’t see any errors this time, Carrie-Ann claims she saw the tiniest of missteps at the beginning, so costing this routine the perfect score too; she only gives a 9, and the resulting 39 leaves Amy & Derek in the lead for the night with 79, and James & Peta with 75.

So now, as it sinks in Meryl & Maks have the lowest score this week, his brother and Danica line up with James & Peta and Candace & Mark.  The last are the next pair called safe, and so now it’s just them and the team that was at the bottom of the leaderboard last week(not counting Nene & Tony), but only a point below them.  At this point, as especially became clear tonight, James & Peta really should be the pair from these two going home, but poor Val was sent home earlier than he should’ve been last season.  Has it managed to happen to him again?

…it has.  He & Danica are eliminated in what it at least a mild shock, maybe more.  Unless Meryl & Maks can get enough votes, we are suddenly facing the terrible possibility of a Chmerkovskiy-less final!

Although there is the semi-finals that must happen first next week, and this time they’ll be dancing to American musical icons, and hopefully have no more gimmicks.  There have probably now been enough of those for one season.

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