Latin Night turned up the "Dancing With the Stars" heat with a visit from guest judge and performer Ricky Martin, oodles of bare skin, waxed chests and a whole lot of sexy booty shaking. Each of the seven remaining couples performed a group dance to a Ricky Martin hit (split into Team Vida and Team Loca, of course) in addition to their individual routines.
But the night wasn't all Latin flavored fun and body glitter, as Season 18's wear and tear put many of the seven remaining stars on the disabled list.
Team Loca's Amy Purdy suffered back spasms after performing her individual routine and had to be rushed to the hospital before her team dance. So the judges scored the team's taped dress rehearsal footage instead.
But Team Loca came out on top despite that, thanks to the powerhouse combination of Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy, Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy, Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas, and Amy Purdy and Derek "I've never lost a team dance" Hough. The group was as tight and in sync as a well-calibrated Swiss watch. Though I wish we could have seen the dancers perform their parts on stage while the rehearsal footage ran. "That was insane," Carrie Ann said. "I have never seen a tighter group performance." Ricky Martin gave them "mad respect." "I really regret we don't have a results show," Bruno said, "Because this was worth a repeat performance." Total: 39 out of 40.
Not that Team Vida was all that shabby, even though the judges found their "La Copa de Vida" routine a bit out of whack. At least Charlie White and Sharna Burgess, NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani, James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd did well enough with their assets and their smoothly waxed chests to earn themselves an invite to Ricky Martin's tour. Bruno likened their dance to "an extra large tequila" but pointed out "a couple of sync problems." Carrie Ann agreed, though "the energy was fantastic." Total: 35.
It didn't help that all three of Team Vida's couples were all in jeopardy when they performed. And sadly, the glitterverse said hasta la vista to NeNe Leakes and her pro partner Tony Dovolani.
Though with all the talk of how pleased NeNe had been of herself throughout this two-hour program, she had to have seen this coming. "I'm so proud of myself and I hope I have inspired women all over the world," the Real Housewife and sometime Gleek said tearily. "This has been an amazing positive experience for me. … I couldn't have been happier to step out of my element. … I am so proud of myself and I know my husband and kids are proud, too."
No doubt NeNe (and her alter ego NayNay)'s outsize personality and singular shimmy will be missed. At least we got to see Albanian stallion Tony's #DWTSShirtOff one last time, thanks to the power of social media.
Here's how the remaining contestants scored:
Retaining the lead were Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Meryl had to dig into the depths of her sexuality for her salsa. Maks believed it was in there, just needed to "switch it on, like a turbine." Maks had Meryl "go to the dirtiest place on earth to draw inspiration for your character." And whoa, nelly, she did. Is there anything this Olympic gold medalist can't do? In a way, Maks and his brother Val had very similar routines: they both danced Latin pop music video-like salsas with other Pros. But while Danica was hindered by her broken rib, Meryl was really able to go as big and as loose as her huge coif of hair. And the results were quite impressive. Carrie Ann was blown away, thinking for sure that Meryl and the salsa didn't match. "You turned into a whole different beast," the judge said. "You looked like you were so in your element." "She bangs!" Bruno said, calling to mind that Meryl "always pulled focus of attention" even when dancing in front of six of the best professionals in the country. Len, however, thought they got "too involved in the whole production of it. … I found it a little hectic throughout." Meryl and Maks received a 39 out of 40 for their salsa, and a 39 for their team dance. Total: 78 out of 80.
Amy Purdy was having a tough week, as the rigors of the Paralympian's schedule had taken a toll on her relationship with her boyfriend of a year and a half. But Derek is a pro partner who wears many hats (often fedoras), so the ace choreographer and partner also provided a little comic relief to alleviate his star partner's stress. And the judges thought her rumba, set to an acoustic version of the Doors' "Light My Fire," was just the right amount of sexy. "You lit my fire out there," Len lauded. "First out: first class." "The sexuality was there, but you had the class," Bruno declared. Carrie Ann called Amy "Wonder Woman" before docking a point for taking a foot off the ground(!). Ricky Martin was awash with emotions. "I felt a lot of things." So did Amy's boyfriend, who looked a bit confused and overwhelmed when the cameras panned to him in the audience. Amy and Derek received a 36 for their rumba, and a 39 for their team dance. Total: 75.
While some stars' "DWTS" suffered physical injuries, Candace Cameron Bure was ailing mentally. She was getting blocked during blocking. The "Full House" actress would mysteriously blank out during camera blocking and dress rehearsals, to the point where Mark Ballas took her to see sports psychologist Dr. Jenn Berman. Dr. Berman uncovered the actress had "perfectionistic tendencies" in her performances. And all it took was a visit with the doctor, some deep breathing, and reminding herself that she does have access to her choreography to deliver a breakthrough Argentine tango that was sensuous and completely in the moment. "Now we're in the business!" Bruno boomed. "Hot flesh, warm blood, basic instinct." Len liked how the "legs were clean and sharp," and while he could have used a little more smolder, "that was hot, and it was right on." As Carrie Ann said, "the game is on." Candace and Mark received a 35 for their Argentine tango, and a 39 for their team dance. Total: 74.
Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy wanted to challenge the very best in their Latin Night dance, so Danica gave Val free license to get down and dirty in rehearsals for their salsa. Only, one errant lift catch ended up fracturing a rib and sending the "Wonder Years" actress down a swirl of disappointment for being "weak." And yes, it was a bit odd to go from tearful video footage of Danica saying she needed to find the balance between being strong and being stupid, to her jauntily jumping rope in what Bruno called a "ghetto fabulous … salsa from the hood." And Danica and Val did look like they were dancing in a fly girl-like video from the '80s, what with her frizzed out hair, short jean shorts, and fluorescent colors. Unfortunately, "the injury stifled the movement and we needed more down and dirty," Carrie Ann said. Len said there were just two sections of salsa, and "the rest was kind of pop videoish for me." Ricky kindly commented on Danica and Val's "amazing chemistry. … It's really powerful what you bring to the stage." Danica and Val received a 33 for their salsa, and a 39 for their team dance. Total: 72.
Charlie White isn't used to being in the middle of the pack. The Olympic gold medalist started out Season 18 at the top of the leaderboard, but he's since slipped a bit since and now is raring to get those elusive 10s. And you could see the desire in the Sochi gold medalist's eyes during his paso doble with Sharna Burgess. But maybe his want got in the way of his routine, because the judges did not see perfection out on that dance floor. "This wasn't special," Len said harshly. "You put so much into it that you lost a little bit of steadiness," Bruno stated. "I want to see more sharpness to your movements," Carrie Ann said. Ricky saw what the judges were saying, but "I was fine with you guys. I was blown away." Charlie and Sharna received a 36 for their paso, and a 35 for their team dance. Total: 71.
James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd's off-the-charts chemistry nearly ignited a ballroom explosion, as their double entendres ("You have to be more than next to me in this dance," Peta said about their samba. "A lot of hip action going on down there") came to eye-popping life in their stripped down, sexed up oil slick of a rumba. Their routine to Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina," was like some gas station calendar fantasy revved to sensational life. "That's exactly what happens at the gas station I go to," Tom quipped. (As James said during rehearsal, "Gotta love good family fun.") The routine had Carrie Ann fanning herself and wishing her prop pina colada was real. Ricky called James "the gift that keeps on giving." Len joked that a scantily clad Peta was "a little overdressed" but "the footwork wasn't all there all the time." A pumped up Bruno wanted to book a full service: "That was filthy, dirty, and I loved it." Total: 35, plus 35 for their team dance. Total: 70.
Team Vida's second place finish in the group dance puts the men on the hot seat going into next week's performances. And who knows what's going to happen when Abby Lee Miller from "Dance Moms" takes her place at the judges' table?
What do you think, ballroom fans? Did Latin Night sizzle or fizzle?