A weak season loses a further asset for the week; Tom Bergeron is taking the week off, going to be by the bedside of his ailing father. Alfonso hangs around for another week to host in his place. We get an opening montage of the stars chalking out their most memorable years on the screen which is actually pretty neat, and then we head into the sentimental waltzes(and other dances), which will be peppered by a couple of other announcements to concerning the pros, Witney is engaged, and crazily, Allison is pregnant!
Alexa Penavega & Mark Ballas: Foxtort; “Mama Said” The Shirelles. Her year in 2000, the year she landed her breakthrough role in Spy Kids, but her main focus in her family, and especially her single mother, and their support; the song is one her mother liked the play. The dance has an adorable story about her being a newcomer to London, but she doesn’t do it clean; there’s a bad stumble near the end. The judges like her expression, dislike her dancing steps, and Bruno gives her tips for improving her frame before they break out the straight Sevens for 21.
Gary Busey & Anna Trebunkaya: Jazz; “That’ll Be the Day” Buddy Holly. His year in 1979, the year he landed his own breakthrough role in The Buddy Holly Story. Though they also talk about his brain injury in 1988. He does a fun Buddy Holly impression in this dance, but unfortunately that’s pretty much all he does; his dancing it still more awkward fumbling than anything else. Carrie-Ann specifically calls him out for not improving any, but Julianne praises his persistence and gives him a Six; Fives from the other two leave him with 16.
Tamar Braxton & Val Chmerkovskiy: Rumba; “King” Tamar Braxton. Her year is 2012, the year her husband nearly died, and they decided afterwards to have a baby; the song is one she wrote for both of them. And so she and Val talk about working on their chemistry and connection, and they certainly have it in a strong content-focused routine as she becomes the first celebrity of the night to do her dancing right. The judges are very happy about that, and they break out the straight Nines for 27.
Hayes Grier & Emma Slater: Contemporary; “Stitches” Shawn Mendes. His year in 2014, when he had his breakout on Vine. His fluff emphasizes how he wasn’t someone who sought the spotlight before then, and how big a change this has been for him. Not that you would guess such a thing from the emotional routine Emma choreographs which he nails both stepwise and emotionally. More raves from the judges, and another set of straight Nines and 27.
Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold: Paso doble; “Wake Me Up” Avicii. His year is this one, of course, and in the end, it turns out this week was an emotional one for him too; as the shooting at Oregon happened at his college. An set of interviews about the train incident done before the shooting is followed by his reaction to the shooting and going there, and Lindsay suggesting his channel his feelings about it into the routine. He doesn’t quite pull that off, understandably holding back a little, but his paso dobling is very strong, and technically good enough that the judges combine their sympathies with straight Eights, for 24.
Nick Carter & Sharna Burgess: Jazz; “Backstreet’s Back” Backstreet Boys. His year is 1992, the year he got into the Backstreet Boys, and the fluff is about his extremely troubled background, and how getting into the band pretty much saved him; he calls the dance a tribute to her bandmates. Or maybe just to the band in general; they have the audience crowd in an incorporate Backstreet Boys dancing moves. That means Nick is absolutely in his element, of course. Plus Carrie-Ann expresses the ability the ballroom training has made him able to do even the boyband dancing better, calling him a “Ballroom Backstreet Beast,” and it’s another set of straight Nines.
Carlos PeneVega & Witney Carson: Waltz; “Amazing Grace” Ray Chew. His year is 2012, when he had a struggle with drugs and depression, went to church to help shake it off, and there not only did so but first met Alexa. Witney choreographs a routine which along with the lighting makes them both look positively angelic, while he infuses it with very human emotion to make a truly memorable one. Bruno even calls himself “lost in rapture.” He and Julianne do nonetheless have technical criticisms which keep their scores down to Eights-but Carrie-Ann suddenly decides in this case she doesn’t care! So she gives them a Nine and they total 25.
Paula Deen & Louis van Amstel: Cha cha cha; “Respect” Aretha Franklin. Her year is 1989, and her story, about leaving an long unhappy marriage and setting up her own business, would be a good one, but she ought not to be touching Aretha Franklin. She actually manages most of the steps, going wrong once, though it’s not exactly the steadiest or most sure-footed performance anyone ever gave. Still Bruno congratulates her for keeping the mistakes down, and the judges give her straight Sixes, for 18.
Andy Grammer & Allison Holker: Cha cha cha; “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)” Andy Grammer. His year is 2009, the year his mother suffered a sudden death from breast cancer; and he wrote his cheery breakout hit as therapy. This latest single of his too is a joyful one, and so is his dancing, especially when he’s lip syncing along to the worlds. But it’s another one where the judges are critical technically, plus Carrie-Ann is of the opinion he actually got awkward, and only gives him a Seven. The other two strong disagree and give Eights for a total of 23.
Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough: Contemporary; “Every Breath You Take” Aaron Krause feat. Liza Anne. Her year, too, was when she lost a parent and found herself newly in the spotlight, as she opens up about losing her father in 2006. She’s danced tribute to him on the show already, of course, but in this one she focuses specifically on the loss and feeling him with her in spirit. Derek comes up with some choreography to brilliant illustrate that, she hits it hard both technically and emotionally, and when she breaks down at the end, she’s certainly not the only one getting choked up. So is Julianne, in fact, calling it breathtaking, and the other two say similar, and after the two ladies give Nines, Bruno breaks out the first Ten paddle of the season, giving them 28.
Once again there’s little time for the elimination, and Alfonso just calls two couples in jeopardy: Carlos & Witney and Gary & Anna. When you consider both the 12 point different between them over the last two weeks and just Gary & Anna being such a weak couple in general, there’s no question which of the two couples ought to be going home, but given how much they’ve escaped elimination already, will they somehow do it again?
Well, actually, maybe Kim & Tony’s withdrawal allowed them to last week; we can’t know there. But in any case, that’s now over; they’re out. Gary makes a sentimental speech with charming quirks that goes on too long with him ignoring Alfonso’s telling him he’s talking too long, which is appropriate enough a farewell.