Dancing With the Stars, Season 20, Week 4, “Most Memorable Year”

Personal Stories/Most Memorable Year week is always threatened by an excess of sentiment, but the opening sequence this week, of the stars throwing each other a picture frame which keeps getting photos relevant to each star’s chosen year, is kind of cool.  No opening number, instead we start with a first result right away: an obvious couple is called safe, and then are first to perform:

Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough: Argentine Tango; “Variations on Dark Eyes” Lara St. John.  Her year is 2008, of course, when she went to the Olympics and won gold in the Individual All-Around.  The music is the piece she used for her floor routine, and she dedicates it to her parents.  Unfortunately an Argentine Tango is not much like a gymnastics routine, but Derek puts what moves he can into the lifts.  Technically her nailing it is pretty much beyond the dispute, and performance-wise it’s good too.  Except that Len doesn’t think it had the right mood for the Argentine Tango, and he lets out an angry rant that afterwards has Bruno and Carrie-Ann yelling at him.  Bruno especially raves, calling Nastia & Derek two masters of their craft, and breaks out his Ten paddle.  Len counters with Eight, and the other two go with Nines, for a total of 36.

We then have our first trio marched out for results: Michael & Peta, Riker & Allison, and Robert & Kym.   Of these three, you’d expect Riker & Allison to be the ones called safe, but instead it’s the lower-scored Robert & Kym who are safe, and *both* the other two couples are in jeopardy!

Micheal Sam & Peta Murgatroyd: Rumba; “I Am Not My Father’s Son” Kinky Boots.  As expected, his year is 2014, but his focus is a story less of us have heard: how his father, who deserted the family when he was a kid and then reconnected with Michael when he was in college, reacted badly when he came out, and the two are now estranged again.  Obviously this isn’t a normal rumba either, but it is deeply emotional, and very moving, and it qualifies technically, although the judges do have some small technical criticisms to make.  Yet Julianne is choked up, and Bruno especially praises Michael for the good he’s done by coming out, before adding the dance is also his best yet.  The two of them break out the Eights, while Sevens from Carrie-Ann and Len leave them with 30.

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker: Tango; “Shut Up and Dance” Walk the Moon.  His year too is 2014, which is the year the band made it big.  Although it is never entirely explained how the song or the routine is an expression of that, and honestly, between the way the dance is done and the weird checkered background, this routine seems more just plain weird than anything else.  As a tango it’s fine, though, even if again the judges have some smaller technical criticisms, with Len even breaking out the “hectic” accusation, and it feels completely justified too, even as he and the others agree Riker’s improved, and Bruno especially praises them for managing to find a tango they could do to a song not at all suited for it.  He and Julianne even give them Nines, though the other two only give Eights, for a total of 34.

Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson: Waltz; “The Last Waltz” Engelbert Humperdinck.  His year is 2006, when his mother died of cancer.  The song was her favorite, and she was a big DWTS fan.  In contrast to the sad fluff, this one is one of the most joyful routines of the night to watch, he and Kym carouse around with their sweetness from last week back, but with more heart.  As a waltz it is traditional both technically and moodwise, and in terms of technique he is basically okay. The judges talk about how his mother is smiling down from above, and Len calls it his best dance yet, and he and Bruno pull out the Nines, accompanied with Eights from the other two, for another 34.

The next trio out is Chris & Witney, Patti & Artem, and Rumer & Val.  But with two couples called in jeopardy from the last trio, there is room for all three of them to all be called safe, and Tom proceeds to do just that.

Chris Soules & Witney Carson: Rumba; “Love of Love” Gavin James(performing live).  His year too of course is 2014, and we get his entire romantic history, including the letter with which his sister submitted him for The Bachelorette.  Here is a rumba that is very much about romance, and though perhaps there’s a little reserve, especially at first, Chris does show an ability to project romance.  Technically, however, there are definite problems.  Honestly, I’m amazed none of the judges call Chris out on his hips, though they all discuss the technically deficiencies, and Julianne thinks he wasn’t connected enough to Witney either, though Carrie-Ann disagrees with her there.  Len apologizes for his harshness but gives him only a Six, while the others give Sevens for a total of 27.

Patti Labelle & Artem Chingvintsev: Jazz; “Dan Swit Me” Patti Labelle.  Her year is 1973, the year her son Zuri was born.  The song was one she recorded shortly after his birth, and she emphasizes this one’s going to have a lot more steps, because he’s been watching the show and telling her she should do more steps.  It’s content-heavy for sure, and there’s a moment halfway through when you even wonder if it’ll be too much.  But then she’s dancing at the front with the background guys behind her, she’s being the star again, and it turns out she’s all right.  Julianne even expresses a wish to dance with her, and all the judges are happy about the increased content.  But Julianne and Len still only give her Sevens, and the other two Eights, for another 30.

Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy: Waltz; “Turning Tables” Adele.  Her year too is 2014, when he sister Tallulah went into rehab, and inspired her to not let her feelings about herself be dictated by the continual criticisms by the media and the world about her looks.  Perhaps it says everything about the routine that it literally starts with her on a spinning disc, which should be silly, but instead it feels intense and powerful, and when Val gets her off it and she starts to dance, it all gets better still; by the end things feel practically sublime.  Aside from a toe-pointing issue Bruno feels the need to point out there’s only one real problem with the routine: it doesn’t feel at all like a waltz.  Len is probably the only person in the ballroom who cares, but having to make this objection for the second time of the night leaves him even crankier than usual.  As with Nastia & Derek, it keeps his score down to Eight, while Carrie-Ann and Julianne give Nines, but thanks to said toe-pointing issue Bruno too only gives a Nine, leaving Rumer & Val with 35.

Out comes out final trio of Suzanne & Tony, Willow & Mark, and Noah & Sharna.  Of these three Willow & Mark had the highest score, so naturally, they’re the one of the three declared to be in jeopardy, though as the last to be called, the first couple to perform must have really wondered:

Suzanne Somers & Tony Dovolani: Waltz; “Three’s Company, Too” Ray Charlies & Julie Rinker.  Her year is  1977, when she was about to give up on her acting career, when she landed the role of Chrissie on Three’s Company opposite John Ritter’s Jack.  She calls this dance the one “Chrissie and Jack never got to have,” and it has a bittersweet element as well, because she also calls it her farewell to the now deceased Ritter.  They recreate the set from the show, and she and Tony even bring back a rather memorable exchange from the first episode, and when they break into the dance, it really feels like the characters, or at least the impression of them conveyed to those of us who had no prior exposure to them, and like it easily could’ve happened in this TV scene, which is it’s own kind of delight.  Carrie-Ann also commends her for fulfilling her request for more depth, though more than one judge has comments about Suzanne’s use of her upper body-but she blames her bad shoulders on Chrissie!  The scores are straight Sevens for 28.

Willow Shields & Mark Ballas: Contemporary; “Atlas” Coldplay.  Her year is 2011, when she landed the role of Primrose Everdeen.  She also calls the routine a tribute to the fans, and Mark recreates the Catching Fire arena, and she and he are the tributes from District 12, where they battle and kill their opponents before she’s also forced to kill him.  It’s all very tragic and requires her to perfectly project to the music both physically and emotionally, and that’s something she proves able to do.  Bruno even cries out afterwards that the Capitol is at her feet, while Len, in contrast, admits to knowing nothing about The Hunger Games, but says he thought it was fantastic.  Except when the other three judges all break out their Ten paddles, he still only gives a Nine, leave Willow & Mark with 39, which still ultimately wins the night.

Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgress: Contemporary; “American Soldier” Toby Keith.  His year is 2005, when he lost half an arm and half a leg in Iraq.  He tells the story of how it happened, and how he struggled to cope afterwards, and then describes the routine of the story of accepting who he’d become.  For once a routine with a man shirtless feels utterly appropriate, as he stands in front of the mirror, and then is the strong man with Sharna.  She’s really getting the hang of choreographing for him; for this one it doesn’t even feel like there are any hindrances they have to work around, just their expressiveness and connection and all the things he can do.  Now both the female judges are choked up, Bruno calls him the ultimate role model, and Len orders everyone to stand up and give him a second ovation before they break out the straight Eights for 32.

Although Tom actually has to cut said ovation short, since by this point there’s only about three minutes left to wrap the show up.  Michael & Peta, Riker & Allison, and Willow & Mark are all lined up.  Already at this point it seems hard to believe, if only because of the point gap, that Michael & Peta aren’t the ones going home.  When Willow & Mark are the next ones call safe, it gets even harder.  Perhaps there’s a thought that maybe Riker might have the same problem getting votes fellow young second tier popstar Cody Simpson did a couple of years back, but really, the main thought at this point is that either way, this is going to be painful.

Indeed it is, when Michael & Peta are confirmed as the ones out.  We all really did want him to last longer.  But he calls it an awesome experience, praises Peta, and thanks everyone.  Here’s hoping we see him on the field yet.

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