Rashad & Emma get the first Tens win the season’s most sentimental night, as the general quality of dancing goes up.
After a number of seasons of Most Memorable Years, it seems Dancing with the Stars has gotten a trunk. The opening montage features the celebrities putting things in it. Then they march out, and Heather is still with Alan. People are advocating for him to get to be a full-time pro, and he really should get the chance. But for now, the show goes on.
Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Rumba – “Impossible” Fifth Harmony performing live
Her year is 2012, the year she became part of the band. The fluff is mostly about the work and sacrifices she and her family both put in so she could pursue her career as a singer. It’s then very touching to see her bandmates take the stage to accompany her. Why exactly they picked the song “Impossible” to dance to is uncertain, what with it being a song about a breakup. But she strides right through that, a strident and powerful presence as she always is on the dance floor. Len expresses his annoyance at the lack of rumba content, and Carrie Ann cites them for a lift, giving them a Seven and Eight respectively. Julianne also gives them an eight. But Bruno calls her a “rumba dominatrix” and breaks out a Nine, so they total 32.
Nick Viall & Peta Murgatroyd: Rumba – “Shape of You” Ed Sheeran
His year is 2016, when he did his season of The Bachelor and met his fiancée. Vanessa talks during the fluff, and either they’ve mended whatever disputes they had or are putting up quite a front. They express the general mood of the show with the dance; Nick gets sexy with three other ladies before getting even sexier with Peta. And it really is quite a hot affair with her, even before he loses his shirt. Then it ends with him running over to Vanessa and making out with her until that’s somewhere between sweet and uncomfortable to watch. Len and Julianne think it’s his best yet. Bruno has some concerns about his hips. Carrie Ann thought the beginning was awkward, but that worked with the story. Ultimately Sevens from the men and Eights from the ladies leave them with 30.
Nancy Kerrigan & Artem Chigvintsev: Foxtrot – “My Wish” Rascal Flatts
No, her year is not 1994. It’s 1996, when she had the first of her three children. Though she mostly talks about the crazy six miscarriages she suffered while trying to have two more children. Which she eventually managed, and she calls this an expression of persistence and telling her children to never give up. It’s technically her best yet, and she is truly beautiful in this one. But even besides that, and it has a magical quality about it, a feeling of lightness and joy that makes it her first great moment. The judges agree, with Len and Julianne saying she just became a frontrunner. Len even breaks out the Nine. Eights from the other three judges leave them with a total of 33.
Mr. T & Kym Herjavec: Waltz – “Amazing Grace” – Ray Chew
His year is 1995, when he battled cancer. He gets very religious about it, and calls the dance a tribute to God, whom he credits for saving him. They even get a gospel choir to sing the song live in front of stained glass projections. Kym is still doing the hardest steps, but Mr. T does a good deal of waltzing himself. And it’s by far the best he’s performed, either technically or emotionally. Still not the most skilled dancing done on this floor, but he’s very moving, and the improvement alone is truly impressive. The judges say as much, calling it his best, and Carrie Ann is even in tears. Their scores are straight Sevens for 28.
Heather Morris & Alan Bersten: Cha Cha Cha – “Shut Up and Dance” Walk the Moon
Her year is 2015, the year she married her husband. They danced to this song, their son’s favorite, at their wedding. So for the dance, they start at the altar, then dance out onto the floor for their life together, until they have to get quiet because the baby’s asleep. It’s choreography that works well, making for a story of pure joy. Meanwhile, Heather absolutely nails a not at all easy cha cha routine. Bruno asks if he can marry them both, and the judges all rave their heads off about her, the routine, and how well she did it. Except there was a lift, and Carrie Ann has to dock a point for it, which costs them straight Nines. Instead they get three Nines and an Eight for 35.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Viennese Waltz – “Forever Young” – Youth Group
His year, of course, is 2016, with his final storybook drought-breaking baseball season. We see a teammate of his in the studio, and also his children. He dedicates the dance to everyone, basically, from his family to his teammates to his fans. And the mood with which he dances is a strong one, until one does get the feeling of floating a waltz ought to have. Unfortunately, his legs refuse to get with the program, as he’s still less than brilliant technically, and they’re skipping and jumping way too much for the waltz. The judges say so, although Len chooses to give his feedback with gestures you have to be a baseball fan to understand. A Seven from Carrie Ann and Eights from the other three give them 31.
Rashad Jenning & Emma Slater: Contemporary – “Unconditionally” – Katy Perry
His year is 2006, the year his father had a stroke and lost a limb, and he was ready to sacrifice the football career to go to school closer to home for his sake. We learn about the not always easy relationship between father and son; this is a more complicated story than we’ve had so far. It also turns out to be the most emotionally raw routine so far. Rashad & Emma rouse our hearts even before it ends with him going over to his father and hugging him for quite some time. Now it’s Julianne who’s choked up, and the judges all seem a little awed. Carrie Ann calls him “a born dancer.” From three of them we get out first Tens of the season, but Len only gives them a Nine, though their total of 39 still ultimately leaves them with the lead.
Erika Jayne & Gleb Savchenko: Cha Cha Cha – “Express Yourself” Madonna
Her year is 1989, the year she first strcuk out on her own and went to New York to try to hit it big. Madonna’s one of her icons, and so she recreates her look, with a proper costume and background dancers. Of course she can more or less embody her. Her cha cha chaing isn’t too bad either, although she is a little stiff at times. The judges dispute how much of a stretch this was for her; Carrie Ann thought she did leave her comfort zone, but Len thinks she’s plateauing and relying too much on being sexy. (They do not intend to stop being that.) Julianne just wanted more hip action. She and Len give Sevens and Carrie Ann and Bruno Eights for 30.
Simone Biles & Sasha Farber: Viennese Waltz – “Good Good Father” Chris Tomlin
Her year is 2000, the year she was adopted by her biological grandparents. She breaks down during the fluff, telling the story, and she’s in tears when it’s time for the dance to begin to. Afterwards, she admits she did it on muscle memory. But that gets the job done, and the emotion is certainly there too, as she goes to being happy. Like Rashad, she ends the routine by running over to her parents and she hugs the stuffing out of both of them. Len sums up what the rest of the judges also say: she too has had her best so far, and when for her that’s no small feat. It even makes you hope for a Ten or four, but they ultimately get straight Nines for 36.
Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot – “Feeling Good” Michael Bublé
Third person whose year is 2016, with the accident that nearly killed him and ended his bull-riding career. The dance ends up largely focusing on his having to reinvent himself even after he recovered physically. He wears a suit, walks away from the cowboy, and dances with Sharna and dapper and handsome. This doesn’t make their chemistry the most electric, but it certainly still helps. His footwork isn’t perfect, but like a proper model, he looks good doing it, and Len praises his frame as he tells him, “Welcome to the competition.” Bruno tells him, “I am feeling good after that!” They break out the straight Eights for 36.
Our two couples in jeopardy are Mr. T & Kym and Erika & Gleb. There were two points between them last week, a gap Mr. T & Kym could certainly have made up with votes. In all fairness, Erika & Gleb are not the couple here that should be going, but you hardly want to say goodbye to Mr. T either…
But we must, because he & Kym are indeed out. The audience stands for him, and Tom and Erin aren’t even up to asking exit interview questions: she just thanks him. He calls it a “great experience,” and Kym calls him a “friend for life.” It’s a very heartwarming end to a very heartwarming night.