A couple of brilliant dances done alongside a few disappointing ones; lightboard malfunction derails one of the team dances; shock elimination derails the entire evening.
For tonight, they came up with a new theme: boy bands vs girl groups. But they favor the boys in the start: all introducing, including that of the ladies, is done to the Backstreet Boys.
Although that might just be because Nick Carter, 21st season runner up, is a guest judge this week, filling in for Julianne. Hey, at least he knows boy bands, right?
Though we start with a girl group:
Simone Biles & Sasha Farber: Samba; “Survivor” Destiny’s Child
Of course, Destiny’s Child was all about Beyonce, and this is just a chance for Simone to impersonate her. Which means she has to figure out how to be sexy, when she’s a girl who’s been on one date in her life, and laughs when asked if she thinks Sasha’s sexy. And at the opening of the dance, she comes off as still a little girl imitating her elders. But then she gets more into it, and she has figured out how to be totally divatastic and rule the floor. Carrie Ann and Nick both find that sexy enough. Bruno calls her “sassy” and Len just praises the samba content. But she also had some timing issues, which keep’s Nick’s score down to Eight, and the other three down to Nines, to total 35.
Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess: Rumba; “I Want it That Way” Backstreet Boys
This is a pressure-filled week for Sharna. She was Nick’s partner during his season, and now she’s got to live up to one of his band’s better songs with a partner near the leaderboard’s bottom. Bonner even expresses a belief he’s the weakest remaining dancer. But she comes up with a routine that dramatizes the song well, and Bonner bares his chest and helps her tell it. The judges have mixed feelings on his technique, thinking he needed more fluidity. Carrie Ann has to apologize when she describes them as “in sync” with each other. Nick thoroughly approves of what Sharna did with his song, but Len thinks there wasn’t enough emotion! He and Bruno only gives Sevens, while Eights from Carrie Ann and Nick leave them with 30.
Nancy Kerrigan & Artem Chigvintsev: Paso Doble; “Free Your Mind” En Vogue
Nancy actually brings up what the show won’t: that Mel B & Maks did a famous paso to this song, and that’ll be hard to live up to. She then gets so anxious Artem has to follow her outside and talk her down. He tries to make this paso different with a weird opening in a cage, which is awkward even before Nancy, thrown by a last minute boot change, does some fumbling. Once she’s out on open floor things get a little better, and even when surrounded by men, she holds her own, and is good and aggressive. But her shoulders got too tense, Len tells her, and he says to her, “Just let yourself dance.” He gives her an Eight, as do the other two guys. But Carrie Ann praises her recovering and adds, “I loved it,” as she breaks out a Nine, so they total 33.
Nick Viall & Peta Murgatroyd: Jive; “Fun Fun Fun” Beach Boys
Nick too is a celebrity that needs to get pep talked by his partner over the week. The jive is a dance he finds the hardest, and he also starts talking about how he’s just a “reality reject.” (Well, now that he mentions it…) Peta puts them in a lively beach setting with plenty of girls about, and also gives him a chance to do a goofy solo, which is pretty much the highlight of the routine. Unfortunately, when he’s actually doing the jive steps, things aren’t quite so fun. His technique when doing that is not good at all, and Bruno calls it a “jive with a sunstroke” before speculating about what cities his feet strayed into. Len just says he wasn’t picking up very many good vibrations. The scores are straight Sevens, for 28.
Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Salsa; “When I Grow Up” Pussycat Dolls
Normani talks about this song’s significance to her growing up, when she would try to do the choreography for it. Val just talked about the high expectations. But in this routine, from the minute she appearance in the middle of the construction site, she’s absolutely brilliant. All her moves are perfect, and she brings to it both her youthful ambitions and her mature diva. It takes a while for you to even asked where on the floor Val is; she’s that absorbing. Three of the judges rave their heads off, with Nick telling her to stay the course. But Len ends up in an argument with Val about whether all the hip hop instead of salsa in the routine is justified. So three Tens get accompanied by his Eight, and they take 38.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Argentine Tango; “I Want You Back” NSYNC
And we have yet another fluff where the celebrity gets too discouraged, and David and Lindsay argue way too much as she pep talks him and helps him up. He can’t do anything, perhaps, about the fact that this song and this dance aren’t the most natural of matches. Maybe Lindsay creating a routine that started with an odd curtain and ends in odd lighting doesn’t help with that. Also, David doesn’t do it clean, making some mistakes, including an obvious bobble while lifting her up. Carrie Ann even asks him if there’s anything wrong with him. Nick humorously asks him if prefers NSYNC or Backstreets Boys, and he tactfully says the latter, because Nick’s the only singer of either he’s met. Nick then reveals he liked it enough for an Eight, but Sevens from the other three leave them with 29.
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater: Tango; “Reach Out I’ll Be There” Four Tops
“Treat me like a football,” Emma tells Rashad. The fluff even takes them to the football field, where he’s still doing training, trying to get onto a new team, and she helps him out there too. For the routine, he starts out as a member of the Four Tops lined out on the stage, which is another thing he does well. When Emma comes out and he joins her to tango, he does that extremely well too. Not perfectly; there are some issues with precision. But Nick tells him he’s lifted himself to elite level. The other judges don’t disagree, and Len is also very pleased by it being a very proper tango. Nick even breaks out the Ten, and the other judges give them Nines, so they total 37.
Heather Morris & Maks Chmerkovskiy: Rumba; “Waterfalls” TLC
Maks is back, and he tells Heather at the beginning of the fluff he’ll get her the Ten she really wants to get. He includes Alan in the routine, but that’s because it consists of him winning her back from him, and she even splashes her drink on Alan at the end. And really, they leave Alan and the bar set behind pretty quickly. And that’s for the better. The two of them fall right back in with each other easily, and are ridiculously sexy and sophisticated, nailing strong rumba moves at truly blinding speed. This isn’t the most ideal song for rumbaing to, but that doesn’t even matter at all. Maks is very happy when Bruno calls it “Dancing with the Stars Confidential” which was what he wanted. After the highest praises, Heather gets what she wanted too, and in spades: it’s the first dance to get perfect Tens.
It’s also team dance night, and with the remaining eight couples evenly split between the sexes, it can be boys against girls. The male celebrities become Team Boy Band, and the female ones Team Girl Group. Before they dance, Tom declares it’s time for results, by way of declaring everyone on one of the team is safe. You figure that’ll be Team Girl Group, since they were the top half of last week’s leaderboard…but no, it’s the boys who are safe! Including all the main candidates for the elimination. And there’s no time to think about that, because we’ve got group dances to do:
Team Boy Band: Freestyle; “Dancing Machine” the Jackson 5, “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” New Kids on the Block, “Best Song Ever” One Direction
During the fluff, we get a new rule this season: the celebrities have to do a section of the dance with each other and without their pro partners. Bruno tells them this and suggests they go shirtless, which the guys embrace. For the most part, the routine consists of them being a boy band and cavorting about on stage. The highlight is the celebrities-only section, when they go out shirtless and dance on chairs to New Kids on the Block. That turns out to be the best thing of either team dance. But it’s a good thing they weren’t dancing to NSYNC, since their sync during the rest of it isn’t too good.
Nick calls them a good boyband anyway, and the others enjoyed it, Carrie Ann especially, but Bruno still calls it, “the most fabulous mess I’ve ever seen.” They get a Nine from Nick and Eights from the other three for 33. Rashad & Emma go up to 70, Bonner & Sharna to 63, David & Lindsay to 62, and Nick & Peta to 61.
Team Girl Group: Freestyle; “My Boyfriend’s Back” the Chiffons, “No Scrubs” TLC, “BO$$” Fifth Harmony
In the fluff, they describe this dance as a “crazy night out with the girls.” Indeed, the celebrities-only section is them in their bathrobes getting ready for Ladies Night to “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Then they too get their section with the chairs, as their guys come out to lapdance them and they do some pretty good dancing with them to “No Scrubs.” And then during the last part, suddenly the ballroom goes dark! We’re not sure if it was supposed to do that or not as the dancers continue and finish their routine. It’s only after the lights are brought up to full right afterwards that Tom reveals the lighboard malfunctioned.
One would think the ladies should get a do-over, but that would be hard for them to do again when they’re tired out from the first performance, even if there was time for it. The judges spotted a mistake, and they’re split over the choreography anyway. Nick and Bruno liked it well enough. But Carrie Ann was underwhelmed, and Len says the guys were more entertaining. They two of them give Eights again, but Nick is joined in giving a Nine by Bruno, so the team takes 34. Heather & Maks have 74 points, Normani & Val 72, Simone & Sasha 69, and Nancy & Artem 67.
As the girls line up, we can’t help but think Nancy & Artem must be going, simply because any of the other three would be unthinkable. When first Simone & Sasha, then Normani & Val are called safe, it looks even more likely. Sure the viewers wouldn’t dismiss Heather & Maks from the ballroom after they got through that whole struggle with him being injured and he finally got back. At this point we’re just waiting for the “Nancy & Artem” from Tom…
But instead what comes out of his mouth is, “After a perfect score…” and shock and dismay fills the ballroom at the revelation that Heather & Maks have somehow been eliminated. The two of them are gracious, but they’re the only two to be so. Tom calls it the worst audience reaction ever, and it sure sounds like it. And for good reason. Dancing with the Stars has had shock eliminations before, but between their ability to dance and the perseverance they’ve shown, it’s an insult from America to kick Heather & Maks off. Honestly, it makes me a lot less sorry I’m probably going to miss next week’s show.