Dancing with the Stars brought the tears with the episode that's always the most emotional of the season — Most Memorable Year!
From Olympic medals (despite debilitating injuries) and Super Bowl rings to losing beloved family members, the stars took us through the years that meant the most to them. While some routines were fast-paced and fun (thank you for bringing it tonight, Milo Manheim), others had us in tears with the realization that some of these celebs have overcome serious struggles to be where they are today.
There aren't enough tears in the world to stop one couple from going home each week though! Read our full recap below to find out which couples delivered memorable performances and which one is headed home with only memories of their time on Dancing with the Stars.
The dance: Mary Lou got us off to an inspiring start with the story of her 1984 gold medal win despite the serious knee injury she sustained only 6 weeks prior to competing. If you didn't know about that, don't worry, apparently they kept it secret because you never want to let the competition know you're operating at anything less than your best. Mary Lou was definitely at her best this week, and dancing on top of her Olympics photos was an A++ way to get us feeling all nostalgic. She really used this week's routine to remind us what a performer she is too, sporting big facials and striking great poses. The dance itself was a little rough at the beginning, but they finished strong!
What the judges said: The judges had nothing but love for Mary Lou this week, and Len even praised her hand placement and poses, which no doubt comes from her gymnastics background. They noticed she corrected her shoulder issues they'd criticized in previous weeks, which always scores big points. Carrie Ann had the only negative note of the night — "I saw more of the struggle tonight... even at the beginning of the number, you were out of sorts." — but she turned it into a positive by saying she recovered beautifully and it only made her more emotional watching the routine.
OK, it didn't deserve a 10, but how could they pass up the Olympic puns and not give her one?
The dance: As most young competitors do, Milo chose this year as his most memorable since it's the year his first movie came out, he got on Dancing with the Stars, and oh yeah — he's graduating from high school. Witney used the full range of Milo's abilities, from his energy and his personality to his ability to pull out some awesome tricks. Not only did he do a full portion of this dance on top of the judges table — yes, seriously — he actually back-flipped off of it! No wonder the kid was totally out of breath!
What the judges said: Bruno obviously LOVED that Milo danced on top of their table (he always loves to be close to the action), and Len predictably didn't. He did love the sharpness of the routine though. He even called it terrific! Carrie Ann is the buzzkill this week, apparently, calling out Milo's "zombie arm," aka his tendency to keep his elbow tucked in, creating a kind of chicken arm look.
That's the highest score of the season so far!
The dance: It's a little odd to pair a Rumba with a touching story about how much Nancy loves her husband and kids and felt complete in 2006 when her family was complete, but I was willing to roll with it. Val ended up doing an excellent job with the choreography (though it was a little waltz-y for my taste). Rather than spinning Nancy around the stage, which has not always been her strong suit, Val opted for tight turns and quick dips that kept the action in the same place.
What the judges said: The judges have loved Nancy every week, and I haven't been able to really figure out why, but Carrie Ann put her finger on it this week. "Every time I watch you, there's this joy that comes out of you that I haven't ben able to put my finger on; it's a love-based joy that comes out of you when you dance!" The joy is what draws them in, I guess?! Len and Bruno both would have preferred more hips in the Rumba (Val called it a "conservative Rumba"), which again would have been tough considering the rather vanilla theme of the dance.
You might have cracked 25 with more hips, Nance!
The dance: Alexis had the heaviest story of the night, since her most memorable year was the year her mother died of cancer. She couldn't get through the story without breaking down, and she even got me going a couple times. Then "How to Save a Life" started playing and... well. Tears were shed, OK? The choreography alone was worth a 10, but the way Alexis handled it all (the lifts were insane) was actually the most impressive part. She's never struck me as someone who'd be great at contemporary, but she dove and spun and twisted like she was born to do it. Then again, I might have missed some mistakes thanks to all those tears clouding my eyes.
What the judges said: Len found the dance to be too sharp sometimes, but he dismissed it as the emotion coming out. Bruno brought the tears again by assuring Alexis that her mother was her guardian angel and was always watching over her. Carrie Ann called this dance a beautiful gift and an elegant, poetic legacy for her mother, and OMG can we stop? I need to go call my mom!
As if the announcement that Maddie Ziegler would "possibly" join their trio next week wasn't proof these two are sticking around.
The dance: Evanna's eating disorder put her in and out of the hospital when she was young, and she actually became pen pals with J.K. Rowling because of how much Harry Potter helped her through it all. Naturally, that's why the year she booked the role of Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter was most memorable to her! This entire routine was magical, if you'll forgive the pun, from the all-too familiar music to the lovely symbolism of having her start by dancing with herself before joining Keo in the Wizarding World of the Waltz. The real impressive part of this routine, though, was how fast Evanna's gotten on her feet. Some of those turns and glides were pro-level, and they prove that she's actually got a real shot in this competition.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann loved how many sides we got to see of Evanna, from demure to strong and back. And OMG, Bruno comparing her fast footwork to trying to catch the golden snitch was probably taking it too far, but I still loved it. Even Len couldn't resist through in an HP pun: "Us muggles, we can't be bewitched, but that was a magical performance!"
The scores are really heating up this week, huh?
The dance: Joe also picked this year as his most memorable, which makes sense considering the way he's been thrust into the spotlight thanks to his time on The Bachelor and meeting his first serious girlfriend. Kendall showed up again to give him some much needed encouragement, and hey, maybe she should do that every week? For the first time, Joe didn't totally screw up his choreography, and while he didn't exhibit anything approaching grace, he also didn't look totally lost and afraid for once? Most of that can be attributed to Jenna's smart tactic of not actually putting too many steps in this routine. For the most part, Joe stood there while Jenna danced around him. Hey, whatever works!
What the judges said: Carrie Ann said she was touched and commented on how hard it was to judge him since she could see how hard he was trying and how sincere his effort was. Unfortunately, she still thinks he's a work in progress, and Len agrees that he's got a long way to go. He also totally called Jenna out for only putting two bars of an actual Viennese Waltz in that thing. Bruno liked that Joe at least got moving, he just now has to work on the quality of that movement.
That's actually pretty fair. You don't get extra points for not melting down Joe!
The dance: 1999 was the year Juan Pablo decided to chase his Hollywood dream, and if that's not a totally inspiring theme for a celebratory Samba, nothing is! It also brought back those Juan Pablo hips that don't lie, so obviously I'm on board. The dance itself was a seriously spicy Samba, but the really impressive thing is that every part of it highlighted how close Juan Pablo actually comes to passing for a pro. His lines are excellent, his footwork in unbeatable, and he's just got rhythm, y'all. Boy can dance, and he's running away with this competition.
What the judges said: Whoa! Ladies and gentlemen, Len Goodman gave this number a standing ovation, and that's not a common occurrence. Bruno called it one of the best Sambas he'd ever seen on the show, and Carrie Ann called Juan Pablo the love child of her three favorite men on the show: Emmett Smith, Mario Lopez, and Gilles Marini!
The first perfect score of the season!
The dance: Talk about tough times. Not only did 2016 mark the year John and his family's homes were destroyed in floods, it also marked the year he lost his mom. This waltz was a tribute to his mom, and it was actually pretty beautiful, despite a few bumps. There was one lift that didn't quite achieve take off, and a couple of the turns felt a little choppy. That being said, there were moments in this routine where John looked downright graceful, which has been something he's lacked all season. I blame the sappy video package for throwing him off his game. I hope he doesn't find himself in jeopardy over a couple stupid mistakes.
What the judges said: Bruno loved John's "caring touch" enough to reach out and touch Len, and Len's face in that moment? Priceless. Carrie Ann thought the emotion John was feeling actually took away from the form, and Len agreed he needed some polishing. He cut John a break though, saying it was actually a tough song to Waltz to, which is more than he's done for other contestants.
John wasn't exactly smiling at these scores.
Bobby Bones and Sharna Burgess: Contemporary - "A Million Dreams" from "The Greatest Showman"
The dance: We got to hear some pretty personal family history from Bobby about growing up living on his couch and being the first in his family to graduate from high school. Hearing that his mom got her GED before she died because his graduation inspired her to go back to school was heartwarming, and a nice change of pace for Bobby at a time we really needed to see that. That tone carried over to the rest of the routine, and honestly, I was totally blown away by how well Bobby danced this contemporary number. His form wasn't perfect, but it was miles better than any non-trained person had a right to be. The subject matter actually made us take him seriously, and that's probably going to keep Bobby alive for another week.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann gushed more than even I did, saying, "Every once in a while on this show, we get to see real moment of authentic magic... That is what I love about art and dance, and thank you for tapping into it." Bruno called it honest, real and fantastic, praising Bobby's inner child, and Len called this one Bobby's best routine of the season! Then why'd you only give it a 7 Len? Hm?
I honestly thought he deserved a little better than this.
The dance: Tinashe chose the year her first album was released as her most memorable, since it was the realization of a lifelong dream, and while that wasn't really reflected in the dance, that doesn't mean it was necessarily bad. I mean, they danced to her first huge hit, so... meh? While the theme wasn't all that and a bag of chips, this dance really, really was. Tinashe's Rumba wasn't missing any of the hip action that Nancy's was, and it was somehow both very sultry and very conservative at the same time. It wasn't quite on Juan Pablo's level, but...
What the judges said: Len called it her best dance, even though he was reluctant to say it. Bruno praised it for being sensuous and elegant at the same time. Carrie Ann called Tinashe unstoppable, which is high praise, considering she's been kind of a party pooper tonight. The judges just love her, making her feedback rounds kind of repetitive at this point.
I honestly expected more from the show's favorite on a night that saw so many high scores.
The dance: For an NFL star, the year you win the Super Bowl is obviously a peak moment, but DeMarcus took it to a whole new level by bringing his love for his kids into it. As for the dance... holy crap. Not only did DeMarcus bench press Lindsay's whole body, he then flip-tossed her like a rag doll, and I was DONE. You're braver than I am, girl. There was actually a lot of precision and skill in this Tango too — that was an unexpected surprise. Guys DeMarcus' size don't typically have great control over their huge muscles and bodies, but control is kind of DeMarcus' thing!
What the judges said: Bruno called him DeMarcus the Titan, which is what I'll be calling him from now on, thank you very much. Carrie Ann picked out that this tango leaned more towards Paso Doble, but she was impressed with that because it resonated with the story Lindsay and DeMarcus were trying to tell. Even Len couldn't find fault with anything in this dance — he even reach out and grabbed Carrie Ann and Bruno's hands to show their solidarity!
Lifts alone can't score you a 10 apparently?
Elimination: Nancy McKeon just couldn't keep up with the crazy talent in this year's lineup, which is not a knock against her and Val so much as a statement of how amazing the rest of the cast is. Erin asked Nancy to react to her elimination or to talk about how much Val's mentorship helped her, but she was just plain speechless when it came right down to it. Poor thing, I don't think she really expected to go home this week!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.