It’s personal stories week, which should be enough drama, but it seems Dancing With the Stars can never stop with the gimmicks. This week, after the opening number, with no replacement for Len available this week, it is announced that instead we the viewers will get the chance to give the couples a score, going on the website during and right after the dance and picking a number, and they’ll get the average(at least somewhat, though not exactly, I assume, since the scores all end up being whole numbers).
First results of the night: the first two couples to perform tonight after announced as safe, while Betsey & Tony are declared in jeopardy.
Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy: Rumba to the Sam Smith version of “How Will I Know.” Her year is 2002, the year she moved to LA from Hawaii to pursue her career, then lost her longtime mentor BJ to breast cancer; her dance is a tribute to her. She is on the verge of tears by the end of the fluff, and she keeps her heart positioned on her (figurative) sleeve right into the dance, until you really do get teary-eyed over it. It helps that her dancing is really, really good, although even as they rave, the judges do engage in some tiny nitpicking. From both them and the viewers she gets straight Nines for 36.
Jonathan Bennett & Allison Holker: Samba to “Milkshake” by Kelis, though it starts out with “Jingle Bell Rock.” It’s left a little ambiguous, actually, what his year is, but he too is skating a memorial tribute: to his parents, who helped him get to NYC to go for an acting career, and who both recently died, also of cancer. Since his dad would want any memorial tribute to him to be fun, he says, fun is what they go for, starting out in corny Christmas clothes before losing them to do the actual samba. Unfortunately, the dance doesn’t live up to its opening, especially when Bruno says he missed the crucial timing, and Carrie-Ann and Julianne express a wish he’d show more variety in his dancing. Judges and viewers both give him straight Sixes for 24.
Betsey Johnson & Tony Dovolani: Jive to “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille. Her year is 1975, the year her daughter Lulu was born, and she then left Lulu’s father and started a business of her own for the first time. The dance is a tribute to Lulu, of course, and it even starts with the two of them walking down the runway together the way they do at the end of her shows. For the most part she manages the dance, though she could still do with some more confidence-except then she makes a mistake. She herself gives herself “98 out of 100.” Carrie-Ann oddly seems not to notice the mistake, but the others do, since Carrie-Ann’s Eight is accompanied by Sevens from both the other two and the viewers, making for 22.
Four more couples marched out for results. Michael & Emma are declared in jeopardy while Bethany & Derek, Antonio & Cheryl, and Lea & Artem are all called safe.
Bethany Mota & Derek Hough: Rumba to Colbie Caillat performing “Try” live. Her year is 2009, when she turned 12 and her friends turned on her and started bullying her and wrecked her self-esteem, and she got it back via her videoblogging. For the routine, Derek puts them in front of a screen that projects mean, then encouraging words, and at the end of a powerful, emotional routine, Bethany flicks the words away and replaces them with “I Love Who I Am.” Speaking as someone who was bullied at that age, I can say it’s very perfect in every way except one: it really doesn’t qualify as a rumba. The judges express their regrets about that and break out the Eights, while the viewers give a Nine for a total of 33.
Michael Waltrip & Emma Slater: Quickstep to “Givin’ It Up for Your Love” by Delbert McClinton. His year is 2001, when he won the Daytona 500, only for his mentor Dale Earnhardt to suffer a fatal crash during the race. So he too is doing a tribute to a late mentor, and also a fun one, with the song being one he and Earnhardt apparently liked to sing along off-key to. He even comments maybe his late friend would be pleased if he messed up, and one supposes we’d better hope he’s right there, because he does mess up, and enough that it got to his performance and we didn’t get the emotion or even the sense the sense of fun we want to get from this. The judges have to cite the problems and give him straigh Sixes, though the viewers are more lenient with a Seven, for a total of 25.
Lea Thompson & Artem Chingvintsev: Comtemporary to “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross. Her year was 2003, when her father was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him. She talks about the following months and dancing with him one last time at Christmas. And I’m sorry, but it is almost a year to the day since my own father died of cancer, and I’m afraid when the screen at the beginning of this routine started showing photos, I kind of started sobbing my heart out and wasn’t able to really concentrate on this dance. Although I did notice it was kind of great, especially once Carrie-Ann said she would never forget it, Julianne called it flawless, and all three judges broke out the Tens-except the viewers only gave it a Nine! So only 39, much to everyone’s disappointment.
Antonio Sabato, Jr. & Cheryl Burke: Samba to “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” by Janet Jackson. He talks of coming to America in 1985, and how his family struggled to make ends meet, but then five years later, in 1990, he landed a gig in the music video for this song, and it got his career going. We also see his mother visiting him and Cheryl in the studio, and he dedicates the dance to her for her support of him. Cheryl makes it nice and sexy, and it helps that his torso is covered only by suspenders, and he does get a lot of that sexiness across, enough to delight the audience. But the judges are another matter; they have technical criticisms, plus they think he needs to project his presence more, and they only give him Sevens, though the viewers give him at Eights for 29.
Our last three couples are lined up for results. Alfonso & Witney and Sadie & Mark are called safe(though the latter are given a moment to really wonder), while Tommy & Peta are in jeopardy. Then the couple in jeopardy are required to perform first.
Tommy Chong & Peta Murgatroyd: Jive to “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley. His year is 2003, when he spent nine months in prison. In the fluff he talks about how they made an example out of him and got him to take the fall to protect his son, and the effects his time in prison had on him psychologically, and how this dance celebrates his being free. Naturally they put him in a jail uniform while Peta plays a sexy guard. But the jive being such a fast dance, in it perhaps he really shows his age; it’s not easy for him to keep up with Peta’s fast and furious pace, and that made be what causes him to mess up. Julianne puts it apologetically but quite bluntly: they like him, but this was not his best dance, and the other two say similar. They give straight Sevens, and the viewers go with the same score, for 28.
Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas: Samba to “Hunter” by Pharrell Williams. Her year is 2012, when Duck Dynasty started. The dance is a tribute to her whole family, and she and Mark even get them to join the two of them on the porch at the beginning of the routine, before she and Mark(who is dressed to fit in, complete with crazy hair and beard) step out to samba. Once they do that, it’s pure dancing, because she remains really good at that, and manages to be the only one of three samba-ers tonight to nail the technique, while still giving out the attitude and pride that reflect her comments in the fluff. The judges are happy, though Bruno’s comparing her to Natalie Portman in Black Swan is just funny, and Julianne even breaks out the Ten, but Nines for the other two and the viewers leave her with 37.
Alfonso Ribeiro & Witney Carson: Jazz to “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones. He eschews choosing just one year and instead goes with the six he spent on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, though he talks also about how while it was a good gig for him, it did cause him typecasting problems afterward. But now he’s come to appreciate the role despite that, and he knows his fans really want to see him do the Carlton Dance, so this routine is built around that. It’s also built to his established ability to project joy around the ballroom and trip the quick fantastic, and allows him to do all that as well. Plus he nails all the moves no problem. After the judges rave, with Carrie-Ann just saying, “Finally,” not only do the judges break out the straight Tens, but so do the viewers, so they end the night with the only perfect score.
Betsey & Tony, Michael & Emma, and Tommy & Peta are all lined up for the elimination. The last, I suppose, we may need to really worry about for the first time next week, but their score from last week was really too high for them to go tonight, so they’re next to be called safe. Of the last two couples, they’ve got one point between them, and you’re not sure how many votes either of them are really getting…
But guess Micheal & Emma must be getting more votes than Betsey & Tony, because even with the higher score by a point the latter are out! Betsey doesn’t entirely have her words together saying goodbye, but she says “Thank You” a lot, and calls the show the “best wonderful thing,” and “a trip.” Really, shame on you America; you should’ve kept her at least a little longer.
Next up is Switch-Up week, and voting is underway, and so is fighting over Val. It’ll be an interesting question to see how well the gimmick holds up for its second season.