It’s Famous Dances Night on Dancing With the Stars. We open up with a number that samples a bunch of them. The incongruity of a number that combines 1930s Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, notwithstanding, this is a pretty fun number.
Everyone’s back with their normal partners except Tom, who is hosting alongside substitute co-host Leah Remini, since Erin Andrews is off covering baseball.
Olivia Newton-John is at the judge’s table, which may be why they start the night’s competition with the dance they do, and so they can plug Julianne’s upcoming live starring in Grease coming up next year. Let’s get to the dances.
Hayes Grier & Emma Slater: Jazz; “You’re the One That I Want” Grease. Hayes tries to claim he isn’t familiar with Grease, which, really, not fooling anyone there, kid. Luckily, he is somewhat more convincing both as Danny and as a dancer, but not enough to take the attention away from Emma, who kinds of steals the spotlight by just being too good as Sandy. Oops. Olivia even tells her she wants her shoes, though she still calls Hayes a “baby John.” The other judges agree with her about him, though Bruno and Carrie-Ann critique his lines, and they break out the straight Eights for 32.
Andy Grammer & Allison Holker: Jazz; “Good Morning” Singing in the Rain. This may not be the most famous moment of its movie, but both Allison during the fluff and the judges later wax on about how it’s still a very iconic number. She and Andy even pay a visit to Gene Kelly’s widow Patricia in the fluff piece. The number combines the joy and the setting of the original number with a mandatory moment with raincoats. Andy is good at expressing joy, channels some Gene, and hits it all perfectly. The audience is on its feet, the judges are raving, and the Ten paddles are all out for our first perfect 40 of the night!
Alexa PenaVega & Mark Ballas: Cha cha cha; “I’m a Slave 4 U” Britney Spears. In this case, they’re recreating her famous Video Music Awards performance involving the snake, not the original video. They’re even using a real snake; brought in Sunday to be danced with, which makes everyone nervous. Alexa only dons the snake at the end of the number, after she’d done all the hard dance steps. But her dancing doesn’t feel all-out, which, as the judges point out, is a problem when this number was Britney at her boldest and wildest. It keeps her scores down to Sevens from Julianne and Olivia, though Eights from the other two leave her with 30.
Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough: Rumba; “Time of My Life” Dirty Dancing. Even though the rumba on DWTS isn’t supposed to have lifts, Derek and Bindi are quick to say they’ll be doing them here, since doing this number basically requires it. You expect it from the fluff, as well as Jennifer Grey’s visit to the studio. Derek admits he’s scared of being able to pull the big lift off. You worry more about how they can possibly live up to this dance. But they do. Bindi manages to just embody Baby perfectly, and she and Derek effortlessly bring us back to that famous scene; it’s just magical, really. And yes, they pull the lift off too. Thankfully the judges are nice enough to waive their normal lift penalties, so the raves are followed by the night’s second perfect 40.
Paula Deen & Louis van Amstel: Jazz; “Vogue” Madonna. Sigh. Why’d she get Madonna? (Ed note: how is she still here?) Louis’ plan is to recreate Madonna’s famous performance from the 1990 MTV Music Awards. (Ed Note 2: Still the benchmark. Watch it here.) Paula talks about how much she just wants to have fun, but this is beyond her. She pretty much just walks through the routine. She manages to make it feel so tedious even a mostly bare-legged Louis crawling out of her skirt doesn’t engage you. Worse, Bruno and Olivia don’t even call her on it, though Carrie-Ann and Julianne do. They all give Sixes, which is beyond generous, leaving her with 24.
Carlos PenaVega & Witney Carson: Rumba; “Pony” Magic Mike. Not a selection he’s comfortable with. Carlos we learn, is pretty religious, and he and Witney clash on how sexy he has to be. Ultimately she gives him a routine he can throw himself into: sexiness, rumbaing, tearing his shirt off, and all. He proves very good at what it requires him to do. Julianne even calls it the sexiest rumba she’s ever seen! Despite this, she and Olivia only break out the Nines, while Carrie-Ann and Bruno break out the Tens, giving them a total of 38.
Nick Carter & Sharna Burgess: Samba; “You Should be Dancing” Saturday Night Fever. The fluff is him being nervous about filling John Travolta’s shoes. Walking the streets with a disco ball segues into the routine. He didn’t have much to worry about; he dances on the floor of the disco like he belongs there, nailing moves and character both. Carrie-Ann disagrees, she felt he was in and out of character. Everyone else, including the other three judges, strongly disagree, and they counter her Nine with three Tens, resulting in 39.
Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold: Jive; “Jailhouse Rock” Elvis Presley. The fluff has him trying to get into character, getting advice from an actor who’s portrayed Elvis a lot, and going out in public dressed as Elvis. But it doesn’t carry over to the routine. There’s no feeling of anyone in particular doing this jive. Plus it’s not clean. Julianne and Carrie-Ann do talk of him as having gotten better at expression than he’s been. But they admit he’s still got way too far to go, even as they break out the Eights. Olivia and Bruno are harsher with Sevens, and the score totals 30.
Tamar Braxton & Val Chmerkovksiy: Jazz; “Rhythm Nation” Janet Jackson. It’s their turn to have a stressful week; she gets sick and misses two days of rehearsal. Even when she comes back, her voice makes clear she’s still pretty ill. When recreating the game-changing choreography of the music video means the kind of side-by-side dancing where, for it to work, she simply must nail it. By tonight she’s recovered though, and when our TV screens go black and white, she nails it. She’s even mouthing the words. The judges do some more raving, and then they break out the straight Tens once again, for the third perfect 40 of the night.
As has become the custom this season, the couples are lined up for a three-minute elimination process, and two of them are called in jeopardy while the rest are dismissed as safe. This week it’s Paula & Louis and Alexa & Mark, two teams with 16 points between them, and that’s the kind of gap you really don’t want to believe the vote is able to make up. Thankfully it isn’t; Paula & Louis are out. She talks about going to see her grandbabies. We’re just glad we’ll never have to see her butcher Madonna again.
Finally, we rid of all the dreadful couples this season. Plus we’ve got three deserving perfect scores, and a fourth routine that pretty much deserved it too. Maybe this season isn’t quite so bad after all.