It’s not only Switch-Up week, we’ve also got the return of Maksim Chmerkovskiy, having another go at the judge’s table. He now has very different hair which honestly makes one do a double-take when he first appears with the other judges at the end of the opening number. Though it makes him prettier than ever; Bruno ends up having trouble keeping his hands off him! Also presented are the newly formed couples, which were already announced beforehand this season. Another montage of everyone talking about the switch-up also confirms this week’s scores will be combined with last week’s; as is normal for switch-up week, no elimination tonight. Then we finally get to the couples themselves:
Tamar Braxton & Louis van Amstel: Samba; “End of Time” Beyonce. Louis is willing to admit he’s had to dumb down the choreography for Paula, making him happy to throw fancier stuff at Tamar he thinks she can pull off. Unfortunately, he miscalculated; the technically difficulty is too much for her; it’s not clean plus she looks out of it at the beginning. The judges speak of a lack of connection. But Maks insists that’s not their fault and breaks out the Eight; Sevens from the others get them 29, which combine with last week’s 27 to give her 56.
Hayes Grier & Allison Holker: Viennese Waltz; “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” Meghan Trainor feat. John Legend. His voice is apparently breaking and Allison talks of presenting him as much mature. And he does come off as that, she creates an elegant if very light number and he goes along with that and plays the man at least somewhat. The judges disagree on how much he managed it though, and the lady judges give him Eights, but the men only give Sevens(although initially they think Bruno meant to give an Eight); they get 30 to go with 27, leaving him with 57.
Paula Deen & Mark Ballas: Jive; “Shake” Otis Redding. Well, it’s not like he’s not used to dealing with the right-wingers, and he compares her to his grandmother. Which makes it all the more disturbing when he wheels himself in as a sexy milkman and then draws her out to dance with him while in that role. But she not only gets the moves done this week, she does so with some of the expression the idea requires. Julianne and Carrie-Ann agree it’s her best yet, though Maks still wants more. Again the ladies give higher scores than the men; two Sevens combine with two Sixes for 26, and with 18 from last week she ends up with 44.
Alek Skarlatos & Emma Slater: Rumba; “Let it Be” James Fay. They have footage of her before learning who her partner is saying she hopes it him. She’s glad to have an appropriate partner to do a sexy rumba with, although perhaps she could’ve done without him continually being distracted by finding her attractive. There is definitely a strong spark between them which carries over into the dance and is the highlight of it. Unfortunately, while he does the moves fairly well, his face is still holding back, and Julianne and Val both talk about how he needs to show more expression, while Bruno criticizes his foot position. But while Carrie-Ann doesn’t get to comment due to time constraints, during the scores she declares she loved it and breaks out the Eight; Sevens from the other three add up to 29, combing with 24 to give him 53.
Bindi Irwin & Val Chmerkovskiy: Cha cha cha; “Hold My Hand” Jess Glynne. He says he’s nervous living up to her and Derek’s success last week, and declares the cha cha cha he choreographs as the most difficult one he’s ever done on the show. After some humor about animal metaphors and her bringing a huge-ass snake into the studio, she comes out, and becomes the first celebrity of the night to nail both the moves and the expression completely. Carrie-Ann even describes her as going up a whole new level, and Maks declares it the dance of the night, and breaks out the Ten, “because I can,” he says. Though the others restrict themselves to Nines, so they get 37, combining with 28 to give her 65.
Carlos PenaVega & Lindsay Arnold: Quickstep; “Bossa Nova Baby” Elvis Presley. Most of the fluff is our obligatory display of people getting jealous of their partner’s new partnerships, but Carlos also expresses a hope this’ll be his breakout week. And then, what do you know; it proves just that: he comes out guns blazing and blows the floor off the ballroom; it seems Maks spoke too soon about the dance of the night. Carrie-Ann says it: it doesn’t get any better than that. But while Maks makes a “it wasn’t great, it was amazing” comment, he apparently hasn’t changed his mind, because he only gives it a Nine, even as the other judges break out their Tens for 39, with 25 last week he goes up to 64.
Alexa PenaVega & Derek Hough: Tango; “Pompeii” Bastille. Lucky girl, going from Mark to Derek. She needs it, though, with Mark worrying about her getting eliminated after her stumble last week and her feeling the pressure. Derek knows what to do, of course: he gets creative, making a memorable number with fire and ominousness and a chorus line, and she rises wonderfully to the occasion, hitting it hard both technically and performance-wise; no feet wrong this week. Had Len still been here the question might have risen whether it was a tango or paso doble, with Carrie-Ann getting them confused even as she stands and claps for them, but really, who cares? Not any of the four judges we have; four raves later, this time they all break out the Tens! She came in with 21 and is now sitting pretty on 61.
Andy Grammer & Sharna Burgess: Argentine Tango; “Can’t Feel My Face” The Weekend. We learn how much Andy wants to do good at this: he actually cancels a concert, instead of just bringing Sharna on the road the way most musicians who compete on this show do. It pays off; he and Sharna come out under the red light, and he combines their chemistry with an intensity and drives the routine to easily make it the sexiest routine we’ve seen so far this season. Even when his feet actually don’t go quite right, and the judges feel the need to point that out, they still rave their heads off, though it keeps their scores down to straight Nines, so he combines 36 with 23 for 59.
Nick Carter & Witney Carson: Paso doble; “Don’t Look Down” Martin Garrix feat. Usher. Surprisingly, she didn’t want Nick; she’s so young the Backstreet Boys were what her mother listened to, and she was worried about following up what he did last week. But he brings some ideas of his own to her, and she goes with that, and they come up with a rock-themed paso which they sell hard, making for a good end for a night that got truly remarkable in its second half. Except that since it wasn’t a traditional paso, Maks suddenly develops a new sympathy for Len and declares it wasn’t his cup of tea, and the other judges point out his dedication to the rock theme hindered his technique. The three of them still give him Nines, but Maks lowers his score to an Eight, so they take 35, and Nick combines that with 27 for 62.
Since there’s no elimination tonight, everyone just gathers in the middle of the ballroom, and the last word is given to Tom, as those who hadn’t heard already learn that Ray Bergeron, his father whom he missed last week’s show to be with, in fact died earlier today. He always watched the show, Tom tells us with eyes too bright, and he’s sure out there somewhere he loved it tonight. We can certainly admire the hosting job he did tonight in the wake of that. I’m sure everyone’s thoughts are with him and his family now.