It seems we are to have no more opening numbers on Dancing With the Stars; for the third week in a row we have only a montage, in this case one emphasizing Tommy’s presence as a wild card, and the introduction of the stars, although at least that includes some dancing. We also hear that they’re doing Plugged/Unplugged Night, where the couples will first perform one style to dance to a recorded version of a song, than another style of dance to a live performance of the same song:
Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas: Quickstep; “Problem” Ariana Grande. The fluff is mainly about the emotional fallout from her moment of forgetting the closing of the trio; getting away with it did not prevent her from freaking out, and the effects were still going on in the dress rehearsal this week, her afraid of forgetting again. But she doesn’t forget anything for this number; instead she more or less hits a content-heavy routine, and includes some attitude in it too. A smiling Len praises her speed, commenting had she done it on the highway she would’ve gotten ticketed, and then breaks out the Ten, while the others give Nines for a total of 37.
Tommy Chong & Peta Murgatroyd: Jazz; “Tainted Love” Softcell. This fluff is also based off the events of last week, in this case how shocked even they were to make it to the semi-finals, and how they’re feeling the love from everyone. The setup Peta creates with the lampposts and his costume make you think more of Argentine Tango than Jazz, but being the latter allows them to be ruder and probably more fun, and it’s hard not to eat it up; the audience certainly does. Though the judges don’t entirely; they praise Tommy for his general effort this season and Carrie-Ann even calls Peta the season’s MVP for pulling his season off, but their scores are straight Sevens for 28.
Bethany Mota & Derek Hough: Samba; “I Want You Back” Jackson 5. In this fluff it’s the pro’s turn to have a crisis in confidence; Derek struggles with choreographer’s block, and talks about how it happens at some point most seasons, and his partners has to encourage and lead him through it. Which it seems Bethany manages to do, and he finally comes up with a routine where he steals her away from Sasha Farber(who does a bit of dancing himself in this routine) on an autumn day. For the most part it’s a delightful number; personally my only real complaint is having the trees included in this routine to this song without including Groot among them! But the judges aren’t as sure; Carrie-Ann especially thinks Derek didn’t come up with a routine to do Bethany justice. Their scores are straight Nines for 36.
Janel Parrish & Valentin Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble; “Blame”; Calvin Harris feat. John Newman. Here , though we see Janel stress out as well, the main story of the fluff is Maks paying a visit to rehearsals and giving his brother some advice. And perhaps they really put that advice to good use, or perhaps they would’ve reach the point they did tonight anyway, but when they nail the paso doble, there’s an intensity and brushing up against perfection that we didn’t even realize we were missing tonight before they came out. It helps that they spend much of the dance on the stage, emphasizing how much better Janel has gotten since that first dance where they did the same. The judges rave, before breaking out straight Tens for the first perfect score of the night.
Alfonso Ribeiro & Witney Carson: Argentine Tango; “Till the Love Runs Out” OneRepublic. But it’s these two that have the most stressful week. While practicing lifts, Alfonso’s back suddenly seizes up, and he’s then in such a bad way his ability to continue in the competition is called into question; his ability to rehearse is seriously limited. As a result of all this, during this Argentine Tango, Witney only leaves the floor for a split second, which is more her jumping than him lifting her. For the rest, they have to use tango moves and intensity to make it eye-catching without the lifts, and there they succeed marvelously, even if it’s clearly not effortless. He’s even in tears while the judges express their sympathy and admiration, at least partly from the pain, he says, even before Bruno calls him the “Prince of Buenos Aires,” and they break out the straight Nines for another 36.
For the second round, there’s a quick listing off of the live performers for the second “Unplugged” round, and then we go in. Here the dances are all preceded by biographical segments:
Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas: Argentine Tango; “Problem” Noah Guthrie performing live. The way he performs this song, out on the floor with his guitar, exposes the emotion the words can contain and makes it almost unrecognizable. Mark & Sadie have a guitar too, doing much of the routine with it and holding it between them. That helps them make this a very chaste Argentine Tango, but when Sadie hits the moves(and when it’s another very difficult routine) and expresses the emotions, it really works. Len still complains they had the prop for too long, but still says they should be in the final, and Julianne loves it so much she breaks out the Ten; Nines from the others leave her and Mark with another 37 and an overall total of 74.
Tommy Chong & Peta Murgatroyd: Rumba; “Tainted Love” Hannal Peel. For this one, Peta creates a complicated story, where Tommy is a 19th-century inventor and she comes out of a snow globe to dance with him, but it’s not a happy dance. They focus on the angst and tortured relationship, which really pays off, and it doesn’t even really have the feel of a rumba, though it qualifies well enough technically, but that’s fine; it doesn’t have to. Carrie-Ann is in tears when she makes her comments, and she and Julianne break out the Nines, while Len and Bruno, who calls it Tommy’s best dance yet, give Eights, so they add 34 to their total for 62.
Bethany Mota & Derek Hough: Contemporary; “I Want You Back” Civil Wars. The Civil Wars turn the number into a sad duet, and Derek choreographs a routine with a picture frame; later he describes it as a picture of a couple since split up, and the routine laments that. And he got over his choreographer’s block and how; this routine, exquisite, emotionally powerful in the right way, and making perfect use of the connection between two people and a picture fame is an example of his genius as its best. Bethany absolutely nails it too, both technically and performance-wise. If Janel & Val brushed up against perfection, Bethany & Derek were it. The judges rave, with Bruno even calling it a “modern masterpiece” and Len contributes by calling it a “Picasso of a dance,” and then out come the straight Tens to raise their overall total to 76.
Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy: Argentine Tango; “Blame” Time for Three performing live. Argentine Tango and Paso Doble might not be as different from each other as some styles of dance are, but Val choreographs a routine that feels completely different, soft and sweet when the other one was hard and brazen, and also shows off his violin-playing skills at the beginning, alongside the string trio(but played a note flat!). Janel does almost as good a job with this kind of routine as she did with the last one, but maybe not quite; both Carrie-Anne and Len though her transitions into the lifts were rough, and Len generally thought it could be sharper. So they only get Nines from them, but Julianne and Bruno especially thought it far better than that, lifts and all, and they break out the Tens, so Janel & Val add 38 to their score for 78, which ultimately allows them to hold on to the lead.
Alfonso Ribeiro & Witney Carson: Contemporary; “Till the Love Runs Out” Christina Grimmie performing live. On the other hand, the routine Alfonso & Witney do hear doesn’t seem that different in general idea from their Argentine Tango. Once again too they’re very conservative with the lifting, though one gets the feeling in contemporary they might need them less anyway. But if this is at least partially a do-over Alfonso completely takes advantage of it, moving through this one with a smoothness and ease lacking from his previous routine, and the level of emotion contemporary really relies on it no problem at all. The judges all gush, with Carrie-Ann even saying, “This is how you pave the path to the finals,” Julianne takes a moment to specifically praise Peta for managing to pull of these routine choreographically when dealing with Alfonso’s injury, and it feels like this is another perfect score coming-except Len only gives them a Nine. So it’s 39 instead, and they end up with 75.
Once again the last couple to perform runs to join everyone else up on stage with bare minutes left on the show for elimination. Alfonso & Witney, Janel & Val, and Bethany & Derek are all called safe, leaving Sadie & Mark standing next to Tommy & Peta. There is a 16 point difference between them, and Sadie & Mark together have too big a fanbase for even Tommy Chong to overcome that gap. And he does not; the road ends for him & Peta here.
Which is as it should be, but that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t sad about it. Everyone expresses their regret, and Tom Bergeron even talks about how excited he was when he first saw Tommy on the cast list. When asks what the show has meant to him, Tommy says, “Everything,” and then ends his comments with a joke about how “old stoners can perform when they have to.” There’s a closing montage, during which Peta describes Tommy as the most rewarding partner she’s ever had.
So our thoughts are with Tommy tonight, but there’s a good final coming up, with the right four couples in it too. And really no telling who’s going to win; it’ll be whoever delivers on the week. Unless Sadie’s fanbase decides it…