People, i.e. the imaginary things I pretend talk to me, often ask me, what was your most memorable year? I always respond with "this year" because it happened the most recently and therefore is the most memorable.
All bad joking aside, this week Dancing with the Stars held its annual "Most Memorable Year" night, where the stars reminisced on an important time of their life and performed a dance to commemorate it. These are stories of triumph over difficult odds, times when best friendships were formed, or times when you eliminated 30 women down to one on a reality television show to find true love.
It was hanky time as the emotions flowed, and the best chance for these stars to play the sympathy card and steal some votes. Let's review the dances and find out who got eliminated.
The dance: Whoa, hold on! I didn't even know the show started when Normani started dancing, because she was out there with her bandmates Fifth Harmony and then just jumped into a very solid and classy Rumba. Normani even sang the first verses of the song, then seamlessly stepped into the dance! As usual, Normani looked so natural and comfortable out there that it was hard to tell who was the so-called "star" and who was the so-called "pro." I didn't know who Normani was before this season, but I know now: she's the one who could win this whole thing.
What the judges said: "My eyes are always drawn to you," Len said.
The score: 32/40.
The dance: Nick's most memorable year was like three weeks ago, of course, because this guy lives for the NOW! Screw you, 2016! He used his Bachelor fame as the tentpole of his routine, saying finding love with Vanessa made his most memorable year. Sure, fine, whatever. The dance itself was B+ Nick, about on par with last week, because he's still out there giving the energy of a teenager forced to perform at his mom's office party. The routine opened with Nick surrounded by women and ended with him picking Vanessa out of the crowd and finishing the dance with her. What a pretty prop!
What the judges said: Julianne said he looked very comfortable around a lot of women, ha ha. #BachelorHumor. Carrie Ann said things were awkward at first, which told his story better and BAM she nailed it! She also didn't penalize Nick for lifting Vanessa at the end there, because she's his love.
The score: 30/40. By far his best score of the season.
The dance: Nancy's intro video — focusing on the difficulties she had having a family — was so sad and joyous, the show used Coldplay as its soundtrack. Coldplay! After the vomit cleared my throat, I watched her dance. And how about it? I think of anyone, Nancy has improved the most from her first dance, killing the rumba last week and pulling off a fantastic foxtrot this week. She is grace incarnate, and I don't know if the dance told a story, but this was a joy. When she extends, her arms unfurl like ferns in time-lapse photography. I like Nancy!
What the judges said: Bruno said something about toplines. What's a topline? Len said she's moved into a frontrunner, and Julianne saw childlike innocence in her dance.
The score: 33/40, Len and I were on the same page with a 9. Oh god, I'm going to turn into Len when I'm older, aren't I?
The dance: I know we're all expecting Mr. T to go home this week — I thought he was a goner last week, to be honest — but he's really figured out that it's not as important to be the Mr. T that people remember, but the Mr. T that he is now. Whoa. I'm profound! A simple waltz to a gospel classic recalled the time he defeated cancer, and again, this new version of himself is working wonders. Mr. T is a national treasure and this dance had people moved and inspired. T didn't look feeble out there at all, he was dancing. Nick may be decades younger, but T is out there dancing with emotion.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann was bawling. Len said, "You two are definitely the A-Team." Keep those zingers coming, Len, you're first in line for a Gong Show revival.
The score: 28/40, much higher than any of his previous dances.
The dance: Heather was inspired by her wedding day, or the time she bought a house, or when she had a kid in this dance. It was kind of hard to tell with all the weird set stuff out there. But the upbeat and energetic dance itself was Heather at some of her best. I could watch Heather's hair sweep and swoop for hours when she twirls, there's something so hypnotic about it, and she really takes advantage of it out there because she probably did about 1,000 full revolutions out there. If she kept spinning like that she'd drill a hole to China. Great technique, great effervescence, great dance.
What the judges said: "Great hip action," said Len. Awww yeah. "Technique was on it, girl," said Heather. Bruno tried to set up a thruple with them, he wanted to marry them so badly!
The score: 35/40, and I hope someone screen-capped Heather's reaction to the scores.
The dance: David picked 2016 as his most memorable year because he won the World Series with the Chicago Cubs after a 3,982-year championship drought for the franchise. David went with Proud Dad That His Daughter Just Graduated High School this week, and it showed his ability to transform appropriately for the moment. It's not right in his wheelhouse — he still kicks ass as Goofy Dad — but what great work out there, David. Side note: Hey Anthony Rizzo, how about you stop watching DWTS and get in the batting cage? You're hitting .160!
What the judges said: Carrie Ann said he was hopping and skipping, which isn't what you do in a Waltz. Len said because of David, he's been watching baseball, and then he did some third-base coach signs. Did someone give Len some wacky tobacky before the show?
The score: 31/40, same as last week.
The dance: This was a big week for Rashad, as he had to bounce back from a bit of a disappointment last week. Using the unconditional love he had for his dad after his dad wasn't always there for him as a kid, Rashad put a lot out there and it showed as he sobbed into the chest of his dad after the dance. This was more of a story than a dance, and it jumped out of Rashad like a demon he had to exorcise. Rashad was graceful and expressive and wonderful, and we just saw someone use dance as a tool for healing rather than as a performance. Kapow!
What the judges said: Bruno said this was more like artists than dancers. Carrie Ann called Rashad a born dancer. Julianne could barely get her words out, and it reminded me a lot of what Julianne did last week in her dance.
The score: 39/40, with Len giving the 9. He's baaaaaaaack!
The dance: Hey surprise, surprise! Erika chose the year she became successful as her memorable year. I wouldn't have it any other way, personally. Erika is all about Erika, and I'm all about Erika, too. But! This dance was a bit of a disaster, from synching issues to a lack of emotional connection, especially following Rashad's performance. Her work shouldn't be compared directly to everyone else's, but it's hard not to put her side by side with, say, Nancy's routine about her family struggles and Mr. T beating cancer. Plus, this isn't even one of the two best "Express Yourself" songs, bested by N.W.A.'s and Salt n' Pepa's.
What the judges said: Len said she's on a bit of a plateau. Julianne said she wants to see some of that hip action.
The score: 30/40, a little generous if you ask me.
The dance: Simone reached back to when she was very young and adopted by her grandparents after her birth parents couldn't care for her because of addiction problems. She's had some problems really shining through in the past, but she started the dance crying and ended it crying as it was obvious this meant so much to her. The dance itself was great, and led by Sasha's fantastic choreography, it was Simone's best dance to date. This was probably the point she broke through that wall that separated really good from really great.
What the judges said: Everyone rightfully fawned over the performance, praising her emotional work in the routine.
The score: 36/40, the second highest score of the season so far.
The dance: Bonner's story is absolutely incredible, so this was one we were all looking forward to. The man was paralyzed just over a year ago, for crying out loud. This was Bonner's best dance, much better than last week, that's for sure. He's still learning, so the minor hiccups are still there, but we're seeing him find his strong points and working with those.
What the judges said: "Ballroom dances suit you well," Julianne said. Carrie Ann said there was "effortless dignity" out there. Len said the footwork was suspect.
The score: 36/40, sounds about right. His best score yet.
Who got eliminated? It came down to Mr. T and Erika, and the crowd was NOT happy to hear Mr. T's name called. But the couple going home? Mr. T and Kym. Sad to see him go, but he got a well deserved standing ovation. What a class act.
Dancing with the Stars airs Monday nights at 8/7c on ABC.