They’re free to do what they want, declares the opening number. They’re free to do what America wants anyway; it’s switch-up week, and the pairs as America voted on them first team up to dance with each other before being officially presented. A little flirting between Erin and her former partner and current guest judge Maksim Chmerkovskiy(though that’s nothing compared to what Bruno will do shortly!), and we’re underway:
Wanya Morris & Witney Carson: Tango; “Hold Back the River” James Bay performing live The switch-up “kinda sucks,” Witney tells us in a frank moment, and Wanya talks about having to adapt to her method of teaching. She gets some very sharp leg movement and a bit of command out of him, but there’s something off of him during this entire dance, perhaps his upper body. Len breaks out the word “hectic,” and gets booed, and then put out when Maks agrees with him but doesn’t get booed. Though they both get booed when they break out the Sevens. Bruno and Carrie Ann liked it more and give it Eights, so they take 30, making his score for the two weeks 65.
Kim Fields & Keo Motsepe: Viennese Waltz; “These Arms of Mine” Otis Redding The fluff has her moping over Sasha and getting accustomed to the idea of getting cozy with Keo instead. The routine he comes up with is one with an intimacy to it many a waltz lacks, and Kim does it beautifully. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t qualify as a Viennese Waltz. Len and his new ally Maks rant about this, and when Keo explains to Len they weren’t in hold because of their height different, Maks reminds him he dealt with such a thing with Meryl Davis, and he and Len break out the Sixes. Bruno acknowledges the issue but he and Carrie Ann don’t really care; they break out the Eights, so it’s 28 for them and a total of 60 for her.
Doug Flutie & Peta Murgatroyd: Tango; “Black and Gold” Sam Sparro In the fluff Peta’s quick to say her fiancée will be hard on her, but they mostly talk about him wanting to be better and his troubles remembering steps. This leads into a routine where he does a lot of steps, and though you can see his sweat he more or less pulls the content off. Bruno and Carrie Ann actually dispute whether he was completely clean, but the judges generally agree that he greatly improved in how much he did but now needs to express the music too. They agree on the scores too: straight Sevens for 28, so he goes up to 52.
There’s time for a filler number tonight. James Bay returns to the stage to perform “Let It Go,” His singing’s very breathy, and the camera lingers on him way too long, even though dance troupe member and Jenna Johnson and eliminated pro Artem Chingvintsev come onto the floor to accompany him. They’re worth watching when we’re allowed to, doing physically and emotionally raw dancing that may be the best dancing we see tonight. Then we resume the competition:
Ginger Zee & Mark Ballas: Salsa; “La Malanga” Eddie Palmieri He’s revealed to her as her partner on Good Morning America, and then her husband goes into the studio to monitor his wife as she dances sexy with a new partner, who eventually wins his approval; he compares both her current and normal partners to alcoholic beverages to provide the quote of the night. The routine Mark choreographs has a lot of creativity and plenty of bounce, and Ginger brings the energy and the dancing and even the hotness. This proves the first routine of the night which all four judges unequivocally love, and indeed when they break out the straight eights there’s a little disappointment there weren’t any Nines! She adds 32 to last week’s score for 68.
Antonio Brown & Karina Smirnoff: Cha Cha Cha; “Son of a Preacher” Dusty Springfield The fluff notes Antonio’s busy schedule and the trouble he has showing up to practices remotely on time; leaving Karina very put out Sharna didn’t warn her about that. Perhaps she realizes the lack of rehearsal’s going to result in problems, since Antonio’s in a jacket ridiculously flashy even by DWTS standards, and there are lots of flashing lights. Combine that with his crazy high energy, and you can almost overlook the lack of good cha cha chaing. None of the judges do, however, although Len and Maks are much more cross about it than the other too. “When you get it right, oh God you’re hot, so get it right!” Bruno sighs, and the appreciation for his performance gets Sevens out of him and Carrie Ann, but Len and Maks give Sixes, so they total 22, making his total 57.
Paige VanZant & Sasha Farber: Rumba; “Perfect” One Direction She spends the fluff talking about how she’s still not used to the kind of trust needed for a romantic dance with anyone. Sasha’s quite clever with this routine, relying on a few moments of emotional connection with him that Paige manages, and showcases her dancing technique, ability to express emotion to the air, and even ability to move her hips, which are all far better. Except Maks declares that this wasn’t a rumba. Len actually saw more rumba steps, but not enough emotion, which all three of the other judges disagree with him on. Bruno and Carrie Ann liked it more, although while Maks gives a Seven, the other three agree on Eights, for 31, and she goes up to 67.
Von Miller & Lindsay Arnold: Jive; “Hips” Beans & Fairbank They make this jive into a tribute to his native Texas, setting it at a country hoedown and making it a country-style jive, which conveniently allows him to do moves that are very him. Although maybe his expressiveness in this one is just a touch over the top. The judges also don’t entirely like how the countryness hindered the technique and made it much less of a jive, and Bruno also notes how Von messed up at the beginning. That results in him joining Len and Maks in only giving Sevens, but Carrie Ann still pulls out her eight, so they take 29, and he goes up to 61.
Nyle DiMarco & Sharna Burgess: Viennese Waltz; “I Get to Love You” Ruelle Tyra Banks shows up to give him encouragement, and gets emotional. That’s only the beginning of the emotional displays, as he and Sharna then bring it in abundance and while they waltz about in enough fog to obscure his legs at times, it’s undisputedly a waltz, and every move we can see is truly wonderful. “You were born to dance,” says a choked up Carrie Ann, and Bruno adds, “You have to be made of granite to not fall in love with that dance.” Actually, it seems he and Maks both get caught up in the moment, since they and Len all raise their Ten paddles-except the scores they submitted right after the dance were Nines and they aren’t allowed to change them, so after some confusion and to some disappointment, only Len’s Ten counts and is joined by three Nines for 37 which is still the highest score of the night, and he takes the two-week lead too with 71.
Jodie Sweetin & Val Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble; “Under Control” Calvin Harris & Alesso feat. Hurts We learn in the fluff that the Chmerkovskiy brothers learned English while watching Full House as kids, so naturally he’s excited to dance with Jodie. She, on the other hand, is worried about messing up again. He drills her in the routine, which proves to be a very well-staged and content-heavy one, and it works: tonight she completely nails it. It’s a great flash of power and energy to end the night with. “From lemonade to champagne” declares Len, and while he restricts himself to an Eight, the other three judges rave equally and then break out Nines for 31, and a total for her of 58.
Save the best for last on the night without the elimination. Although that whole scoring mishap was unfortunate. Meanwhile, whoda thunk Len and Maks would someday becoming critiquing buddies? They’ll probably bring him back again in another season or so just for that…