The tenth anniversary season starts out with a sequence with flashes of clips from the previous seasons, then we get the most spectacular opening sequence ever, which dissolves into the tail end of the opening number. The stars are introduced, and we’re off into the dances, and the judges are more demanding this season, Len noting early on they’re marking lower than they have in the seasons just before this.
Willow Shields & Mark Ballas: Cha Cha Cha; “Lips are Movin’” Meghan Trainor. The fluff opens with Willow doing her best Effie Trinket impression and reaping Val to be her partner, but Mark does his best Katniss impression and volunteers. The rest of the fluff is about her insisting she’s not too young for this. She then comes out and cha cha with the attitude and pizazz her age doesn’t hinder, but technique-wise there are definitely moments of teenage awkwardness. The judges blame her legs and three of them give her Sixes, but Bruno declares the odds definitely in her favor and gives her Seven, for a total of 25.
Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson: Cha Cha Cha; “Bills” LunchMoney Lewis. Their fluff opens with him greeting her with his private plane and Ferrari, which he tells her she’ll get if they win. But their rehearsal footage is surprisingly giggly, and that turns out to be the story of their dance too. There may be a Shark Tank setup and falling money all over the place, and Kym hits us with the realization of just how much we missed her once she takes the stage, but Robert not only manages to more or less keep up with her, he’s unexpectedly a huge load of fun and energy. The judges even describe him as dancing as if he’s as young as Willow’s fourteen, though they do have some technical criticisms, and they give him straight Sevens for 28.
Riker Lynch & Allison Holker: Jive; “What I Like About You” The Romantics. Their meeting is at one of the band’s concerts, and she then sets their first number up like it could happen at a concert; he’s carried on stage with a microphone and guitar, and even after he loses those they stay there and perform in the round, and the choreography feels like a dance break, and one where he’s very in his element, even getting to do flips. It’s a knockout number, even if Bruno has to stand on top of the judge’s table to see it, and he ends up giving a race review from the same position. The other judges agree, and they get three Eights, but Len gives a Seven, while advising Riker the foxtrot next week won’t be so easy, so they take a 31.
Charlotte McKinney & Keo Motsepe: Jive; “Shake a Tail Feather” The Blues Brothers. She wants to show everyone “there’s more to me than just boobs,” although she and Keo still do a meet and greet scene with them both naked, with lots of strategically placed things(he will then show his bare chest a *lot* tonight, dancing with his shirt open). But dancing with big breasts really isn’t the easiest thing to do, which their first dance being the jive doesn’t help; in rehearsal they even experiment with taping them back. But tonight the problem ultimately instead proves her feet; they go wrong, especially in the beginning, even as her top half performs well, especially her smile, as she sells the dance like a biggest commercial of the year. It gets her Sixes out of Carrie-Ann and Bruno, but only Fives from Len and Julianne, so they end up with only 22.
Patti Labelle & Artem Chingvintsev: Foxtrot; “Lady Marmalade” Patti Labelle. She notes in the fluff she has never danced in her life. No fancy meeting here; they first meet in the practice facility. The rehearsals try her endurance, which may be part of the reason Artem choreographs a relatively simply routine. Although that might also be because when she more or less pulls that off technically, Patti Labelle’s presence is able to carry the dance almost by itself, and she gets a standing ovation from the audience. Len even comments that she rang his bell, although despite nice words, and a Seven from Carrie-Ann, they only get Sixes from the others, leaving them with 25.
Chris Soules & Witney Carson: Jive; “Footloose” Kenny Loggins. They meet on his farm, of course, practice in his barn, and he feels awkward about dancing with one Witney just after getting engaged to another. The country theme continues into the routine, which begins and ends in a pickup truck, and he throws in some country-boy moves to charm the audience. They work ridiculously well; Carrie-Ann notes his having “charisma out the ying-yang.” There are some technical criticisms for them to make, however, with them talking about potential he needs to be polished into achieving, and they get Sevens from Carrie-Ann and Bruno and Sixes from Len and Julianne, for 26.
Michael Sam & Peta Murgatroyd: Cha Cha Cha; “Uptown Funk” Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars. It’s comforting to hear at the start that Michael is still training for the Combine to try to land another contract next season, and using DWTS to help stay in shape, though this makes for a pretty grueling schedule. It’s also good to discover he’s the kind of football player who can trip the light fantastic and put on quite a show. But he might even be too light on his feet, with all the judges criticizing his footwork, and Len even calling it “atrocious.” He and Carrie-Ann give Sixes, but Julianne and Bruno give Sevens, so they too take 26.
Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough: Foxtrot; “New York, New York (FWB Remix)” Ray Quinn feat. Ultra Love. Song chosen partly because Nastia is currently attending school there, and their first meeting takes place there too; the fluff also taking time for them to note Nastia & Derek’s All-Star season partner Shawn Johnson had different styles as gymnasts and will as dancers. Derek’s routine is high on the glamour, with all the trappings of Broadway including a chorus line at the end, and just as we’d expect, it’s a total joy to watch. But it’s not going to be a cakewalk for these too after all, at least not now, when there are enough technical criticisms to make that while they get Eights out of Julianne and Bruno, they only get Sevens from Carrie-Ann and Len, and so settle for an opening score of 30.
Redfoo & Emma Slater: Cha Cha Cha; “Juicy Wiggle” Redfoo. They meet on the set for the video shoot of this song, with her blindfolded, and the number is pretty much taking all that to the dance floor. So Redfoo gets to be his crazy self and everyone enjoys that, and there’s plenty to distract from the question of how much actual cha cha cha the routine contains, and how much of what cha cha cha there is there is just done by Emma. It doesn’t help that Redfoo’s hips don’t do the kind of action they’re supposed to do when Latin dancing, something the judges really do have to call them out on. Carrie-Ann has the real complaint though, telling him he has to learn there’s “more to the dance than just the hook.” As with Charlotte & Keo, she and Bruno give Sixes, but only Fives from Len and Julianne(much to the audience’s anger) add up to 22.
Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess: Cha Cha Cha; “I Lived” OneRepublic. In the fluff we learn the full extent of how hard this is going to be, with Noah noting that unlike Amy Purdy two seasons ago, he’s missing not only half an arm but a knee, and Sharna calls devising a routine they can make work, “the biggest challenge I have ever faced as a choreographer.” When they come out to dance what she comes up with tonight, it’s clear there’s a lot he can’t do, but they make up for it best they can with musicality and chemistry, which are good enough to make this one one of the highlights of the night. Everyone is very moved, with much praise for Noah’s courage, and Bruno calling him “a Titan among men,” and he and Carrie-Ann break out the Sevens, while like with both Chris & Witney and Michael & Peta, those combine with Sixes for 26.
Suzanne Somers & Tony Dovolani: Cha Cha Cha; “Physical” Olivia Newton-John. Having been saddled with this woman, Tony decides to embrace it, showing up to meet her dressed for a thighmaster commercial or class, and then the routine itself makes him a thighmaster instructor, whom she one of his students decides she wants a one-on-one dance with. It turns out she’s not without some ability to perform, and certainly despite her age she has the ability to put those thighs to good use on the floor-expect when they go wrong halfway through the routine, to much dismay from the judges. They also have much praise for Tony for going for it whole hog as well, though Julianne has another complaint: she thinks it could’ve been raunchier! From young to old: like Willow & Mark, they get a Seven from Bruno and Sixes from the other three for 25.
Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy: Foxtrot; “Take Me to Church” Hozier. The fluff starts with us learning that Vale & Rumer actually are acquainted already, though not very well, before moving on to rehearsal footage where she is a perfectionist who beats up on herself and he tries to calm her down. Then they come out and she puts that determination and intensity to much better use; nailing and absolutely owning an emotional routine where she shows a mastery of the floor none of the other stars have really had tonight. It is undisputedly the best dance of the night, and Len even says what the rest of us are suddenly thinking: “Val, this could be your season.” Last season there probably would’ve been Nines, and even tonight straight Eights feel a little disappointing, though at 32 at least they still win the night.
So it looks like Nastia & Derek may not dominate everyone else after all, with one breakout couple we thought might prove good, and another even bigger breakout couple I don’t think anyone *really* saw coming. But while we do get to keep everyone for another dance next week, the elimination that will take place at the end of that night won’t be pleasant; there’s definitely noone here you want gone that quickly.