Spring training was in full force tonight on Dancing with the Stars!
With only six couples left, the competition was fierce, and I found myself wondering yet again... can anyone beat Adam Rippon? Obviously Chris Mazdzer has more rhythm than ever anticipated, but all three of these skaters have Olympic medals in dancing on ice.
This week brought out the competitive nature in these athletes by making them face off in the Ballroom Battle, where two couples had a dance off to the same song. Weirdly enough, no one made a kneecap joke about Tonya Harding going up against another woman in competition. Well done, people. Stay classy. Here's what happened.
The dance: Team Fire, Ice and Spice showed up to win this week, with a glitzy, fast-as-lightning Quickstep. It's honestly not very fair to have Mirai start the night, seeing as she sets the bar so high it's impossible for the rest of the couples to reach it. She's even one of those rare few that can throw a jeté in like it's no big deal. I'll take the time to remind you that the last person who did that was Jordan Fisher, who won the freaking mirrorball last season. Just saying.
What the judges said: "You came out all guns blazing, full on attacking the dance. This is the fight for the final, and you mean business," Len praised, though he did say she lost her posture as the dance went on. Bruno and Carrie Ann found tiny issues too, which frankly felt kind of nit-picky. She and Adam are miles ahead of all the other dancers, let's stop pretending otherwise.
That score is a crime, she deserved at least a 37.
The dance: The song choice posed no problem for Jennie this week (it was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, so it was totally on brand for her), and the slow nature of the waltz actually helped her out a lot. She didn't get off the beat like she had in previous weeks, and she looked like she felt way more comfortable with the soft, sweeping movements.
What the judges said: Len, of course, found issues, but what else is new? "I would have liked a little bit more fluidity through the arms on occasion and there was one or two unstable moments." Carrie Ann and Bruno had some issues with the arms and her balance too, but everyone agreed that she's definitely grown over the weeks.
Not a terrible score, but can it keep her in the running for the finale?
Chris Mazdzer and Witney Carson - Foxtrot - "I Got Rhythm" by Ray Chew Live
The dance: After ending up in jeopardy last week, Chris and Witney doubled down on everything we love about Dancing with the Stars. There were lifts, there were heel kicks, there was some stylish synchronization with hats — what's not to love?! Well, the fact that a lot of this dance wasn't in hold emphasized some of Chris' weaknesses. Witney really shouldn't have had him dance so much of this routine on his own.
What the judges said: "I think I've been razzle-dazzled by the fox trot!" Bruno raved. "Was it perfect? No, but as a tribute, as an interpretation, it was outstanding." Carrie Ann noticed he wasn't as comfortable as he used to be, especially towards the beginning, and she took issue with one fall that turned into an illegal lift. Since when has that been a rule?
Two nines saved Chris from ending up at the bottom of the leaderboard
The dance: Tonya went hard on the mushy-gushy feelings this week, singling out her father as her MVP. She set the record straight, emphasizing that though he had to leave her when she was little, he never abandoned her. As far as the dancing goes, Tonya continues to impress with how capable she is. She had beautiful lines and the routine was so graceful it almost felt like more of a Waltz than a Rumba.
What the judges said: The judges loved the tearful tribute to her father, closing in on her authenticity and emotion as the strongest parts of the dance. Len complained a little, criticizing the lack of hip action in a Rumba, but ultimately even he couldn't find too much fault with Tonya and Sasha this week.
Figure skaters seriously have an edge!
The dance: I feel like I say this every week, but Adam seriously knows how to sell himself to the audience like no one else. Not only did he pick the song he skated to at the Olympics for this tribute to his mom, he also decided to perform shirtless because... you know, GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT. Technically speaking, this was Adam's strongest week since he's very well-suited for a contemporary style of dance — so much so it was actually hard to figure out who was the pro and who was the star while watching this dance.
What the judges said: Len liked the control and flare of the dance, but obviously he took issue with the unconventional stop-start of the routine, calling it "spikey." When Carrie Ann looked like she was about to bite his head off for the criticism, Len changed his tune, saying it was his favorite dance of the night. Bruno totally agreed with me (because I'm awesome) that Adam was so good it was actually hard to tell who was the professional on the stage.
Adam deserves an extra 1o calling himself a beautiful cryer
Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess - Contemporary - "Stand By Me" by Bootstraps
The dance: Sharna played this one super smart, relying on Josh's strength and ability to flip and lift and throw her around. Beyond that, there wasn't too much substance to this performance, but going right after Adam Rippon's flawless Contemporary routine is a pretty tough ask from a footballer. And yeah, okay, the rough and tumble family pile-on when Josh finished the dance dedicated to his brothers was super cute.
What the judges said: Bruno accidentally made a pretty inappropriate euphemism about "getting it up," but we can push right past that. The judges loved the lifts and especially appreciated how well he took care of Sharna in a routine that could have been a disaster full of drops.
Tonya Harding & Sasha Farber and Jennie Finch Daigle & Keo Motsepe - Cha Cha - "Dance" by DNCE
The dance: The split screen made it hard to focus on since they kept dancing out of the camera's line of sight, but that didn't distract from realizing that both couples were struggling through this routine. Even though they claimed not to, each girl's eyes wandered to the other side of the line to check out the competition more than once, which probably killed their concentration.
What the judges said: "I thought one had maybe a little bit more of a tick going, and a little bit more rhythm," Len said during the feedback round, and Bruno agreed that the timing was off a little bit for both couples.
Winner: The judges gave the points to Tonya and Sasha, though the audience ended up giving 60% of their votes to Jennie and Keo... hmmmm
Adam Rippon & Jenna Johnson and Mirai Nagasu & Alan Bersten - Jive - "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry
The dance: It was only fair to let Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu compete against each other in this round since they'd both blow anyone else out of the water. Their friendship may be cuter than a video of puppies learning to climb down the stairs, but they both came to win, and it showed. The jive might not have been a strong style for either of them, but they managed to kick and flip and do the splits all the same.
What the judges said: The judges were at a loss as to who to pick since both couples came out with strong routines. "The quality was extraordinary. It comes down to taste and different style," Bruno said. "It comes down to what you felt you preferred because you were both excellent." That pretty much set the tone for the feedback round — Carrie Ann even called it ridonkulous!
The Winner: The judges were split, meaning the audience got to be the tiebreakers. Adam and Jenna ended up grabbing the extra points with 64% of the votes.
Chris Mazdzer & Witney Carson and Josh Norman & Sharna Burgess - Salsa - "WTF (Where They From)" by Missy Elliott featuring Pharrell Williams
The dance: These boys know what the audience wants — SHIRT RIPS. Both guys ended up shirtless midway through their routines, and beyond the seriously stunning lifts, I missed most of the rest of it. What? There were shirtless men on stage, don't pretend you were paying attention to the footwork.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann liked that there was so much "contact" between Witney and Chris — yeah, girl, get yours — but she appreciated how synchronized Josh and Sharna were side by side. All the judges agreed that both guys deserved some extra points for these performances.
Winner: Josh and Sharna ended up getting the points, even though there was some confusion with judges paddles. Get it together, people!
The Elimination: This week is where it got tough because we're down to the stars who are actually pretty darn talented. Ultimately though, three couples had to go home and those couples were Chris & Witney, Jennie & Keo and Mirai & Alan. Raise your hand if you think Mirai was unfairly voted off so that it wouldn't be an all-figure-skater final?
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.