It’s Judge’s Challenge the week before the semi-finals and no one is safe, declares the opening montage, before we have an opening number full of fog and flashy glowpoles. Except for the first time this season, they’re calling results as they go, and turns out one pair of people are safe right after intros: the first couple to perform:
Nyle DiMarco & Peta Murgatroyd: Paso Doble; “Victorious” Panic! at the Disco After last week; she’s sure to work on his bum position. They also decide to have a silent section, so we all experience the dance the way Nyle does. After some good strong pasoing, I think the broadcast actually cuts the sound out, and…seriously, the results just give you shivers. Carrie Ann breaks down, and she’s not the only one in the ballroom to do so. She pulls out the Ten, of course, and so does Bruno, calling the dancing “mind-blowing,” and making sure he submits the right score this time! But Len still has some issues with where he’s positioning his body, and only gives them a Nine, so they get 29.
Three more couples are lined up on the stage for more results, including the two from the bottom of last week’s leaderboard. Paige & Mark are declared safe, then Jodie & Keo in jeopardy, and the latter are then joined there by the next couple to perform:
Antonio Brown & Sharna Burgess: Viennese Waltz; “Love on the Brain” Rihanna He humorously has to work to learn how to pronounce that dance. At least he’s working on his punctuality issues: he starts showing up for practice half an hour early! It improves his ability to dance considerably: tonight he pulls off steps, and lots of them, and by the end of the dance he’s doing them as a pretty smooth waltzer as well. The judges are all very happy about the improvement, although they do still have some technical quibbles remaining. “More yes than no, Antonio,” is how Len sums it up, and they break out the straight Nines for 27.
Jodie Sweetin & Keo Motsepe: Jive; “Something Got a Hold on Me” Christina Aguilera Apparently the press is now accusing him of holding Jodie back, a notion Jodie’s very quick to reject. Whatever steps he missed last week, he tries to make up for by choreographing a creative church-based routine which is maybe a little weird but ultimately delightful. Jodie then nails it with energy and joy. “Rejoice, Hallelujah!” cries Bruno, Carrie Ann calls it her best ever, and all three take time out to praise Keo’s creativity before they break out the straight Tens for the first perfect score of the night.
Paige VanZant & Mark Ballas: Viennese Waltz; “Stone Cold” Demi Lovato Mark Ballas is feeling creative too this week, as one would expect from him. He comes up with a routine about a couple lost in a snowstorm, which he calls Game of Thrones-esque, one of three sets of costumes he and Paige don during the fluff. Honestly, the costumes and makeup they were tonight are maybe a little over the top, but the dance itself is far better, and he and Paige sell the emotion of it very well. Bruno calls it “both chilling and thrilling” and Carrie Ann loves is so much she gives it a Ten, but the two men only give Nines, so their scores is 28.
Two more couples are left to have their status declared. Thankfully Ginger & Val’s perfect score has left them safe, which at this point means Wanya & Lindsay have to be in jeopardy because you can’t have only two couples until the final moments, and so they are declared.
Ginger Zee & Val Chmerkovskiy: Argentine Tango; “Telephone” Martynas Levickis This is not the kind of character that comes naturally to Ginger, and throughout the week she struggles to make character and moves both work for her. But tonight it all comes together; she finds it within herself and embodies it perfectly, and she pretty much breathes the Argentine Tango. It’s Carrie Ann’s turn to use the phrase “mind-blowing” and Len calls it one hell of a dance. It’s the second perfect score of the night-and it’s only after the numbers are in that Val reveals he actually tripped a couple of times and Ginger saved him!
Wanya Morris & Lindsay Arnold: Jive; “Can You Do This” Aloe Blacc She too is feeling a little insecure as a partner, and takes refuge in creativity, but she plays to his strengths, giving the routine a Western setting and giving him a colorful sheriff character to portray. Portray him he does, big and showy and lots of fun, even when he trips over her fallen bandanna, and that’s not his only mistake either. The judges do say they enjoyed themselves, but the mistakes are bad enough it keeps Carrie Ann and Len’s scores down to Eights. But Bruno makes remarks about Wanya being the favorite to star in Blazing Saddles the Musical and gives them a Nine, so they take 25.
The Judge’s Challenge, where each judge takes charge of a dance, has been done once before, but this time around they’ve got a couple of twists: each of the judges works with two couples instead of one, and with only two judges left to judge each routine, the viewers(at least those in the Eastern & Central Time Zones!) are invited to score the dance themselves via the ABC website to provide a third score, something else that was done on the show once. Bruno’s team is Nyle & Peta and Jodie & Keo, Len gets Wanya & Lindsay and Ginger & Val, and Carrie Ann takes Antonio & Sharna and Paige & Mark.
Team Bruno: Argentine Tango; “Habanera” Carmen Bruno does like his classics. This routine’s a lot less weird than the one he created during the last challenge, just lots of good and creative dancing combined with the two women and the two men getting chances to dance with each other, as well as the two celebrities(all three routines do that). Turns out Jodie has electric chemistry with Peta and Nyle both, and Keo even lifts Nyle up. It’s icing on the cake of a terrific number. Both judging judges love it, Carrie Ann especially praising their sync(including with the background dancers), and they break out the Tens; but America only gives them a Nine, so they take 29. Jodie & Keo finish the night with 59, Nyle & Peta with 58.
Team Len: Samba; “Jump in the Line” Harry Belafonte Len comes up with a silly story making the two guys explorers who row up to a tropical island with the two ladies dancing on the beach. Silly, but it works; from the start it’s hard not to grin. Wanya especially is in his element, filling up the ballroom with his personality, but when he and Ginger are on the floor alone she’s not too shabby herself there. Just when you think it can’t get any better, Island King Len emerges in a grass skirt, and he makes it better when he starts dancing with them. “Sambalicious!” cries Bruno, and he and Carrie Ann break out the Tens, but once again America only coughs up a Nine. Ginger & Val keep up with Jodie & Keo for the 59-point lead, and Wanya & Lindsay end up with 54.
Team Carrie Ann: Paso doble; “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” Lorde Carrie Ann deliberately picked the athletes, she says, because she wanted power. Paige event talks about how two athletes have never danced with each other on the show before(hey, not true, Meryl & Charlie did have that bumper!) The routine they do is very intense and visceral, even before the rain starts pouring down at the end, and their execution of it is flawless, but…it’s kind of a misfortune they performed after the other two teams, because those were spectacular, and this was merely great. Still the raves from Len and Bruno are pretty much earned, as are the Tens, though once again America won’t go above a Nine. America truly cannot agree on anything anymore. Paige & Mark go up to 57, Antonio & Sharna to 56.
Antonio & Sharna, Jodie & Keo, and Wanya & Lindsay line up for the elimination, and Antonio & Sharna are called safe. That leaves two couples with four points between them, except the lower scored couple are the one with the Full House vote that got Jodie’s co-star to the final behind them. Will they get Jodie to the semi-finals?
No, she and Keo are out. She takes it philosophically, saying she’s glad to have landed the perfect score, and also she starts filming again for Fuller House tomorrow anyway.
Hard enough a loss, except once again Tom’s got that awful bomb to drop in the final minutes: another double elimination next week! You’d think with this kind of suspenseful season they’d let there be four couples in the final but guess not.