It's Switch-Up Week on Dancing with the Stars, meaning all of the pairs are getting, well, switched up - aka the only week where Derek Hough stands a chance of being partnered with someone over the age of 25. (Just kidding, he's coupled with Alexa PenaVega.) Other audience-determined pairings include Nick Carter and Witney Carson, and Paula Deen with Mark Ballas.
There's no elimination tonight, but the scores from this week will be combined with last week's to determine who's going home next week.
Let's get to the dances:
Tamar Braxton and Louis Van Amstel (samba)
The dance: Louis can barely contain his excitement to be paired with Tamar instead of Paula, which allows him to have objectives other than keeping the choreography simple. He may be overreaching a bit with Tamar, who looks a little intimidated by the intricate routine. But it's nice to see Louis unlock his potential, even if the dance is a little sloppier than it should be.
What the judges say: Maks says they each did well separately, but didn't connect very well when they were dancing together. Bruno tells Tamar she had some balance issues with the steps, and her arms were off. Carrie Annsays Tamar "owns the dance floor" but agrees with Maks about the disconnect. And Julianne notes that the dances this week are twice as long, but this one felt a bit "erratic."
Score: 29 (out of 40)
Hayes Grier and Allison Holker (Viennese waltz)
The dance: Allison is trying to bring out Hayes' more "sophisticated" side - so it's unfortunate that his voice keeps cracking during their pre-show interviews. But when it comes to the dance itself, he turns in a waltz that's serviceable, if not as mature as it needs to be. But hey, he is only 15, and can rock a set of coattails like nobody's business.
What the judges say: Bruno likens Hayes to a young Prince Charming, but says he could have used more control on his extensions. Carrie Ann calls the dance "sweet" but tells Hayes to keep his chin in check. Julianne agrees and compliments their new partnership. Maks is Team Bruno and says there wasn't enough Viennese waltz content, and Hayes looked too much like he was just trying not to mess up.
Paula Deen and Mark Ballas (jive)
The dance: "I'm so scared of you," Paula tells Mark at their first meeting - and by the time she's trying to get him to pick her up and turn her upside down during rehearsals, it's safe to say the feeling is mutual. And Mark goes Full Ballas for this routine, Southern accent and all. Seems like Louis should take a cue from this dance - Paula isn't going to win the competition on her footwork alone, but a little fun never killed anyone. This is definitely the most engaging dance we've seen her perform yet, and it's such a fun, feel-good number that the lackluster kicks and flicks can't sink it.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann correctly states that it's Paula's best dance to date. Julianne's critique is interrupted by Paula flashing the judges' table. Maks loved the production value, and Paula's toned legs - but he could have handled more jive content. Bruno tells Paula that "nice Southern girls" don't show their underwear (and her jive was a little flat).
Alek Skarlatos and Emma Slater (rumba)
The dance: Aww, Alek's crush on Emma is preventing him from focusing during rehearsals. (Is Lindsay insulted by his comments, I wonder?) Initially I'm thinking it's backfiring and making Alek too nervous during the routine, but the rumba turns out to be graceful and sensual. Alek seems like he's feeling much more comfortable with his body on the dance floor (and after his rehearsal injury), even if he does accidentally break into a smirk at one point, looking like a high school freshman who suddenly gets to dance with the prom queen.
What the judges say: Julianne says Alek is right on the cusp of moving to the next level, and shouldn't be afraid to show how much he's enjoying the dance. Maks says he underestimated Alek at first, but thinks he's now the "dark horse" in the competition. Bruno cautions Alek to not lift his feet during a rumba. Carrie Ann gets passed over, but gives Emma and Alek a wordless thumbs up.
Bindi Irwin and Val Chmerkovskiy (cha cha)
The dance: Coming off her 10-worthy dance last week, Bindi switches gears this week and is tasked with a cha cha. I almost miss the first part of the dance because I'm so horrified by the gigantic snake she brings into the rehearsal space, but she nails it. It seems like Bindi's confidence is through the roof after the positive feedback she got from her tribute to her father. That million-dollar smile is infectious, and she matches Val step for step.
What the judges say: Maks thinks his brother's dance is the performance of the night so far (and rewards them with a 10). Bruno tells Bindi she's "the essence of joy" and calls her foot placement "immaculate." Carrie Ann compliments Bindi on the trust she has in her partners, and says she showed a new level of flair. And Julianne says Bindi is a star regardless of who she's dancing with.
Carlos PenaVega and Lindsay Arnold (quickstep)
The dance: It's a fun number, but Carlos doesn't seem to have quite the connection with Lindsay that he does with Witney. (Maybe it's because she doesn't know who or what the Dalai Lama is.) His energy and exuberance is amazing though, and it looks like he doesn't miss a bit during this insanely, well, quick quickstep.
What the judges say: Bruno calls the Charleston-jive-quickstep hybrid "magnificent." Carrie Ann notes: "It doesn't get any better than that," and Julianne tells Carlos he owned it. Maks - the only judge who doesn't hold up a 10 - says it was "amazing."
Alexa PenaVega and Derek Hough (tango)
The dance: Alexa's out to redeem herself after forgetting part of her routine last week, and this dystopian-themed tango is the perfect dance to do it with. (Free publicity for the upcoming Hunger Games movie, perhaps?) It's dark and disturbing, and a side of Alexa we've never seen before - in a good way.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann gives them a standing ovation (even though she mistakenly calls the dance a paso doble). Julianne calls Alexa a "raw vixen." Maks says Alexa needs to get out of her head more, like she didtonight. And Bruno says it was like watching a metamorphosis.
Andy Grammer and Sharna Burgess (Argentine tango)
The dance: Andy continues to struggle with timing at some points during the beginning, but at least the staging and production for this number is decently captivating. And, for the second half of the dance, he finally embraces that "selling the performance" technique that Sharna was coaching him on. Later, we learn that her advice was to make a "smell the fart face." What's that saying about laws and sausages?
What the judges say: Julianne says Andy finally nailed the musicality and the footwork. Maks says there were minor errors in the feet and legs, but overall it was a great dance. Bruno compares Andy to a volcano (with small footwork issues), and Carrie Ann says Andy went from Pee-wee Herman to James Dean.
Nick Carter and Witney Carson (paso doble)
The dance: Maybe Nick should take the lead for all his routines, because this is possibly his strongest dance to date - just as good, if not better, than his and Sharna's "Backstreet's Back" dance last week. He's got the attitude to match the footwork, and tellingly, we don't hear anything this week about how he was the weakest dancer in BSB.
What the judges say: Maks says Nick is an incredible dancer, but then he channels his inner Len and adds that the dance wasn't his "cup of tea." Bruno, on the other hand, liked the "rock 'n' roll" feel of the dance, but offers Nick advice on his hips. Carrie Ann praises Nick for his consistency, but Julianne says he overdid it with the intensity at points.
The show ends with a sweet dedication to the memory of Tom's father, Ray, who apparently died today. Much love to the Bergeron family!
And that's a wrap. What did you think, Dancing fans? Who was your favorite Switch-Up partnership? Did you think Alexa and Derek's perfect score was deserved? And who do you think will be eliminated next week? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.