"Dancing With the Stars" was all about Team USA this week, as "American Icon" night featured the stars' role models, celebrated our troops with our Troupe, and highlighted classic Tinseltown liiiiiiiive from Hollywood itself.
Season 18's Week 9 had each of the five remaining couples dancing two full individual dances and resulted in a shocking elimination that sent one of Season 18's three Olympians home without a Mirror Ball medal.
Kenny Ortega of "Dirty Dancing" and "High School Musical" fame took a seat at the table as guest judge this week, and we were treated to one last rousing Macy's Stars of Dance routine choreographed by Derek Hough and Christopher Scott that was like a modern day remix of classic Hollywood film numbers. Classic Hollywood's imprint was all over this semifinal program. As were the Jacksons (as in Michael and Janet). We were also treated to a bevy of perfect routines.
But unfortunately, the curtains fell a bit prematurely to a classy competitor in a somewhat shocking Week 9 conclusion, as Charlie White and Sharna Burgess were the latest couple to be eliminated. And the Sochi gold medalist took the ouster like the champ that he is, not letting the fact that he and his pro partner failed to make it to the finals deter that megawatt smile or those golden ringlets that look like they were transported straight from the "Blue Lagoon."
It's sad to see Charlie go -- I had hoped to see him giggling maniacally straight into the finals after his pep talk from Scott Hamilton and his joyously perfect "New York, New York" fox trot that Bruno said started out as Fred Astaire and ended up like Baryshnikov.
Sure, the ice dancer had a little more trouble with his swagger and making it rain with his "Mo' Money Mo' Problems" samba, but we can't all be like fellow "in jeopardy" couple though "not necessarily in the bottom two" Meryl and Maks.
"It's been an amazing journey ... I think all these people are deserving from star to finish," the blond half of the Olympic ice dancing team said graciously. "And now I can 100% be a cheerleader. Team Meryl."
Here's how the remaining stars aligned. Roaring their way back to the top of the leaderboard with a vengeance were Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Last week's slip left Maks worried and slapped him with a cruel bout of creative block. But clearly what did not kill M&M or their microphones made them stronger, as their "Hound Dog" routine ended up being the King of all jives.
"No peril, Meryl. That was fantastic," Len said. Kenny thought Meryl was "ice skating tonight ... setting sparks all over the floor." "Stylistically it was impeccable," Bruno remarked. Carrie Ann called Meryl's moves "flawless."
And Meryl and Maks continued their flawless streak with a picture perfect barn dance of a Viennese Waltz that was so achingly cinematic, Bruno likened it to Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in "Giant." "These Canadian tuxedos never looked so good," Erin admired. "I love the fact that you took it right on," Len said. Kenny said it was "everything you could want in a partnership." "Your role playing is just out of this world," Bruno marveled. Carrie Ann extolled the "quality and grace the elegance ... and then the power kicked in," she said. "It was like you were running for a touchdown."
Meryl and Maks received a perfect 40 for their jive and another perfect 40 for their waltz. Total: 80 out of 80.
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough were able to travel the floor and ballroom dance by leaps and bounds when the Paralympian replaced her usual wood and foam prosthetic legs with a pair of carbon fiber running legs and allowed her "You Can't Hurry Love" quickstep routine to be that much more amazing.
The Sochi bronze medalist also wins out the week for getting a call from her icon, Oprah Winfrey. "What we get to see with you really defines and defies it," Winfrey said about Amy as an inspiration. "When you win I'm going to take you both out to dinner."
There's nothing like the thought of dinner with Oprah to get that motivation going. And Amy and Derek's resulting bounce was out of this world.
"The lightness of touch, the speed, the floor-craft was just incredible," Bruno marveled. Carrie Ann thought it was "so nice to see you in your full throttle." Len would have liked "a little more body contact," but thought "there was plenty of bounce to the ounce."
Amy and Derek kept up the wow factor in their fiery jazz tabletop routine. Bruno called it "another classic moment on 'Dancing With the Stars.'" Carrie Ann said Amy "killed that routine," before pointing out one slip of sync in the side by side. Kenny said Derek has "redefined choreography for this generation." The routine had Len on his feet with applause.
Amy and Derek received 39s for both their quickstep and jazz routines. Total: 78.
James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd got to use one of Michael Jackson's previously unreleased numbers (cowritten by "DWTS" attendee Paul Anka) and James got to meet with Epic Records Chief Executive L.A. Reid to help channel the King of Pop in a seamless pop-rocking cha cha that was equal parts "Thriller" and cha cha chiller.
"What you did tonight was spectacular because you did Michael Jackson James Maslow style for 'Dancing With the Stars' with cha cha all over it!" Carrie Ann exulted. Kenny called it "electrifying." "You managed to make it effortlessly cool and yet on fire," Bruno crowed before punctuating it with a MJ crotch thrust.
Their rumba to "Islands in the Stream" was a weird kind of Urban Cowboy by way of Fringeville mix that displayed an impressive amount of gold fringe on Peta's part but left James oddly buttoned up. The judges lauded the Big Time Rush's Maslow for straightening and strengthening his legs ("Islands in the Steam!" Bruno bellowed) but said he still lacked that last bit of expression in his hands.
James and Peta received a perfect 40 for their Michael Jackson cha cha and a 36 for the rumba. Total: 76.
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas were the first out of the semifinal gate this week, and the nerves got to the "Full House" star, despite her growing confidence and a pep talk from Christian author Angela Thomas. Their Viennese waltz set an evocative mood with Bruno Mars in the background and Candace reluctantly accompanying Mark to the train station.
Loved Candace's look, from her stylized hair down to her adorable saddle shoes, but the dance itself had trouble getting out of the station. The judges were kinder than Candace was to herself.
"We've all been there, we've all messed up," consoled Carrie Ann "OK, there were a few mistakes in there," Len allowed. "The pressure got to you a little." "Cover it up, carry on, don't block it," Bruno said.
But not even the judges' comments could help console the former DJ Tanner, and Candace still looked emotional after the commercial break.
But Tom's declaration that Candace and Mark had made it to the finale no doubt helped her shake off her wobbly waltz and get "Nasty" for her jazz routine. And Candace (Ms. Cameron Bure if you're nasty) even showed off some stink face along with all that jazz.
"I never saw that side of you before," Bruno marveled, likening the routine to Janet Jackson channeling Liza Minnelli. "Nasty but tasty." Carrie Ann was impressed at how Candace "rehearsed the heck out of that, it was so pristine" but would have liked "a hair more attitude in some of the movements."
Candace and Mark received a 34 for their waltz, and a 38 and their first 10s for their jazz routine. Total: 72.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Shocked to see Charlie and Sharna go? Is the Mirror Ball Meryl and Maks' to lose? Happy with who made it to the finals? Who knew Carrie Ann was such a Paul Anka fan?