The first half of tonight's Dancing with the Stars was Dancer's Pick, meaning the pros got to pick songs that they thought best represented their celeb partners. That's a pretty tall order for both the pros and the stars, but it gave everyone some pretty emotional material to work with.
The second half was even tougher, forcing the new couples to recreate iconic dancing from previous seasons, all of which got perfect scores in their first incarnation and most of which were danced by couples who ended up winning their season. Matching up to something that's already achieved perfection is never easy. Let's recap the evening's events!
The dance: When the best part of your routine is the costumes, you know you've kind of missed the mark. I never expected Drew to blow me away in this competition, but he has been a pleasant surprise in certain weeks. This week just wasn't one of them. At this point in the competition, loose form and unsure footing isn't going to fly anymore, and this round might be the last one that Drew skates by on less-than-stellar technique.
What the judges said: "I must say you came out full of determination and attack," Len said. "However, dance is a balance, you lost your posture, you lost your technique." Carrie Ann did mention that Drew always brings the entertainment factor, so he succeeded in that respect.
Considering the negative comments from the judges, this is a pretty high score.
The dance: The subject matter for Victoria and Val's routine this week was super emotional, paying tribute to Victoria's parents as she came out of her coma and learned to walk again. It was obvious that the way they took care of her and lifted her up was woven into the dance in every way. Val's choreography was honestly so touching. It was a little off-putting that this number was more of a contemporary piece than a waltz and that it called for a second pro to dance through the majority of the routine, but those problems didn't end up outweighing the positive elements of it.
What the judges said: The judges adored the subtlety of this routine as well as how committed Victoria was to showing the true emotion of it. They also had a ton of praise for Val's choreography, which is always an important part of numbers that have so many contemporary elements.
At least we know she probably won't end up in the bottom with this score.
The dance: Did anyone else watch this routine with bated breath, waiting to see if Lindsay was going to crumble thanks to her knee issues? I'm not going to lie, I was seriously nervous. This dance had just as many quick turns and stunning lifts as Jordan and Lindsay's other routines, but there just wasn't the same wow factor and emotion this week that I'm used to from these two. Finding out that Jordan had scratched his cornea earlier today might have played into why he wasn't so expressive tonight. Can people please stop injuring themselves?!
What the judges said: Carrie Ann mentioned that there was a disconnect during this number, which is pretty true all things considered. "Ballroom Tango is like a guy dancing with his wife. An Argentine Tango is like a guy dancing with his mistress," Len said. He didn't see the passion of the Argentine Tango since they spent so much time focusing on the premise of the routine. Bruno disagreed, saying this was Jordan's most mature routine of the season, and he put his money where his mouth was by giving them their only 10 for this routine.
Even with so-so judges notes, these two still own this competition.
The dance: Besides a few hiccups in the beginning (which were so small you could barely see them) this dance was pretty stunning. For receiving no dance training, Lindsey really can pull of some insane lifts and turns that would look awkward from most novices. I could have done without the random bits of paper the wind machine starting blowing into the dance in the middle section, but aesthetics are everything on Dancing with the Stars, aren't they?
What the judges said: Len said Lindsey blew him away with this performance. "Dynamic, athletic, surprising, primal, beautiful, and stunning" were a few other words the judges used to describe this routine, so it's fair to assume they kind of liked it.
Darn that Len and his 9!
The dance: OMG GUYS we finally got Frankie Muniz to take his shirt off!! And even better Witney ripped that thing off him. Besides getting tangled in Witney's hair that one time, this dance went off without a hitch. Frankie's got the enthusiasm to make anything work. Getting into character was integral for this slightly over-the-top routine, and Frankie did it beautifully, right down to the slow motion, assisted slam dunk.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann didn't think the song quite matched his personality (fair), but she loved that he gave it his all and made the song work. "Too much hip hop and not enough hip action," Len complained. That's a fair expectation when the song is called "Shake," I've got to say.
WHAT?! Shirt rip = perfect score. I thought we all knew this?
Drew Scott and Emma Slater - Jazz - "Yeah!" (feat. Lil Jon, Ludacris) by Usher (Season 17, Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff)
The dance: Ok, Drew actually rocked this one, and I couldn't be happier about it. When you're measuring up to Corbin Bleu, you're kind of setting yourself up for failure, but Drew knew how to make this dance his own instead of Corbin's. He leaned into the cheesy factor and didn't try to tap into the swag-factor that Corbin always had in his corner. As for complaints, synchronicity has never been Drew's strongest suit, which was definitely an obstacle in this routine. And that spinning lift? I think every man, woman and child watching was clutching their pearls, waiting for the worst to happen.
What the judges said: "It was like a pizza! It was crusty at the bottom and delicious at the top!" — Len, I have never loved you more. Drew got notes about staying on beat and keeping his form in check, but at this point we should all acknowledge that it's probably not something he's every going to nail.
Yikes, not exactly what you're hoping for when the original got a 30.
Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy - Charleston - "Bang Bang" by will.i.am (Season 17, Amber Riley and Derek Hough)
The dance: The performance (and the facials!!) were this routine's secret ingredient for Amber Riley, but that element has never been easy for Victoria to master. She's not an actress, so it sometimes feels forced when she tries to put on a show. Rather than focusing on her feet this week though, Victoria focused on nailing the performance factor, which really took her to another level. Sure, the technique wasn't all there, but this was easily one of Victoria's best routines so far. Now if only she could stop hurting herself in rehearsals!
What the judges said: "Your acting tonight was right on the money," Bruno praised. Even better, Carrie Ann mentioned that she didn't perform it the same way that Amber did, which made it all hers.
Victoria and Val finally snagged themselves a couple 10's!
Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold - Jive - "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner (Season 22, Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas)
The dance: As much as I love the emotional routines from Jordan and Lindsay, these two really shine when you give them some fast footwork and let their hips go wild. This high-energy jive was exactly what the doctor ordered after their less-than-stunning tango, plus it had an on-stage outfit change, which the viewers always adore. With the bump-and-grind factor back (and the technical intricacies to match) this routine lit the dance floor on fire. The remake actually managed to outshine the original!
What the judges said: The joy of the newly proclaimed "Jordan Jive" is officially the only thing that can put a huge grin on Len's face, and he wasn't the only one smiling. Who knew a double cartwheel with straight legs could get Carrie Ann out of her chair screaming? Bruno was nuts, as always.
I was going to throw my TV out if they didn't get a perfect score for this one.
Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas - Tango - "Feel So Close" by Calvin Harris (Season 18, Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy)
The dance: You know, I've never felt any kind of sexual tension between Lindsey and Mark, though there's always been some serious intensity in their routines. This week? They actually managed to pull out some sex appeal, and this routine highlighted all of Lindsey's strengths. She's got awesome lines and she can pull out the elegant turns while still keeping this feeling natural. I would have liked the speed of the dance to match the speed of the music, but maybe that just wasn't on the agenda since they were copying an old routine.
What the judges said: The sharpness of this routine could have killed Lindsey and Mark, but even Len couldn't find anything wrong with her technique. "Every change of direction was absolutely on the money," Bruno praised. Carrie Ann didn't feel the sexual chemistry, and she noticed some turns that were less-than-perfect, so ultimately she was torn.
When was the last time Lindsey got a perfect score? Hmmm, she might be slipping in the rankings.
Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson - Paso Doblé - "Carnival De Paris" by Dario G (Season 4, Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough)
The dance: This couple was the only one to keep all of the choreography from the original dance exactly the same, including the moves that they maybe couldn't manage. Slides and splits and wardrobe tricks made this routine a minefield of possible disasters, but it also had that stone cold intensity that Frankie does so well. Everything they were initially worried about went perfectly, so that's a relief, but some of the arm movements felt a little wooden. That's literally the only complaint I can even find with this dance. Bravo!
What the judges said: The goofiness of their first number didn't wow the judges, but this one definitely did. Bruno took issue with the shoulders and the open chest of the Paso Doble (Technique! Technique! Technique!), and Carrie Ann told Frankie to breathe more to make the movements less choppy.
They're on shaky ground, but not as bad off as others.
Elimination: With all the "dead weight" contestants out of the competition at this point, whoever went home tonight was going to be a disappointment to quite a few fans. Ultimately Victoria and Val just didn't snag enough high scores or votes to make it to the finals. Her tears were seriously hard to watch, but the final bow she took was gratifying. She worked so hard!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.