Pyrotechnics, penguins, a pratfall and three perfect 40s! Now we’re talking, “Dancing With the Stars.”
Judges finally stopped grading Rumer Willis on a curve, putting her at the top of the leaderboard where she belongs. Noah Galloway suited up, Kym kissed Robert, and Riker got his jazz on. These folks were dancing like it was a double elimination week! (Check back for coverage of Tuesday’s results show when two couples will pack it in.)
All that made for a thoroughly entertaining episode, dubbed “America’s Choice” because voters on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram helped pick dance styles and songs for the remaining six couples. They also had a hand in wardrobe choices, set design and visual effects.
See how it all shook out here (from highest to lowest scores):
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy
Rumer apologized to Val and Val apologized to Rumer for last week’s mediocre outcome, but really, they probably just both needed a good night’s sleep to see this situation a little more clearly. Here it is: the judges have been gypping you, guys! There, I said it. Now on to the couple’s classic, classy and sensual rumba to “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Doris Day. For a gal who claims she’s never worked out, Rumer’s in amazing shape, possibly at least partly because of this physically demanding competition. She showed off that smokin’ hot bod in a stunning red dress. (She’s obviously a winter – she should wear red all the time). And then, she crushed it with what’s immediately became my favorite dance of the season. Julianne called it gold, Bruno said it was a “pitch perfect, refined high-class rumba.” Carrie Ann called it “sheer perfection” and Len the Purist loved it. Score: 40.
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker
Riker’s not a heart-on-his-sleeve kind of guy, he said during the rehearsal video. Maybe that’s why he was so comfortable in that penguin suit? No emoting necessary! He told Allison that he was having enough trouble week to week just trying to remember the choreography, much less worry about psychological torment. I appreciated his honesty, but Allison wouldn’t hear it. She explained the devastating break-up song they’d be doing the Viennese waltz to – Rihanna’s “What Now” – and told him he had to feel it. He wasn’t sure he could muster up sad, lonely and other related sentiments, but he did, along with some right nice holds and footwork. Carrie Ann declared him “semi-final worthy, hell yeah,” and Len thought the dance was big and bold with clarity of movement. Julianne said it showed strength in its vulnerability and was his “best dance” ever. Three 10s (Len gave it a 9). Score: 39
Nastia Liukin and Sasha Farber
A fan suggested that Nastia and Sasha do a paso doble with a gladiator theme. It seems like she had a down-and-dirtier version in mind, but she did get Derek on a throne. Derek on a throne! And Nastia “killed” Sasha at the end of the number, danced to “Centuries” from Fall Out Boy, so that’s cool. Len could appreciate the “full-on intensity” but would’ve preferred more traditional paso doble. (He always says that.) Julianne called her a roman goddess, and Bruno conjured “Game of Thrones” and said it made the Lannisters look like pussycats. Score: 36
Chris Soules and Witney Carson
Prince Farming and Witney were still visibly shocked that they didn’t get cut last week when Willow Shields inexplicably went home. Maybe Chris is more self-aware than I thought? Nah. In their pre-performance video, the couple went to “surprise” some fans who suggested their stage direction for the night – dark, spare set and tons of candles. Those gals sure were “surprised,” weren’t they? Oh well, it was a way to add some social-media-savvy repeat-voting fans to the proceedings, so I can let it slide. The contemporary routine to Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down,” with Chris’s shirt open, natch, had some nice lifts and tricks. Julianne handed him the “award for the most improved,” and Bruno thought it was “emotive and tastefully sexy.” Carrie Ann, a huge Chris cheerleader, said it was “simple and understated,” and deemed it his “best dance yet.” Score: 34
Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson
The couple hit the Original Farmer’s Market to chat up some fans in their pre-dance video, and everybody – ev-er-y-bo-dy – wanted to see the couple smooch during their contemporary routine to “Champagne Kisses.” Seriously, they weren’t coached to say that at all. So, hey, if America demanded it, Robert and Kym must’ve felt compelled to deliver. I think they’ve been saving it. They’ve worked this showmance for all it’s worth, and this week was an ideal time to bust it out. Plus, Robert unbuttoned his shirt! Carrie Ann thought it had a “special sense of magic” and Julianne said he upped his game and made her happy. Bruno compared it to a deodorant commercial, but he meant that as a boy-gets-girl compliment. Score: 33
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess
Real military heroes don’t wear costumes, said Noah during the pre-dance video. He had to school the fans, who wanted to see the disabled vet perform an Army-themed dance. That just wouldn’t have been copacetic, so he and Sharna went with the second choice. Noah rocked a dapper all-white suit, with Sharna in a gorgeous, floaty filmy sparkly white gown for their tango to “Geronimo” by Sheppard. Len wanted more intensity, but Carrie Ann thought it was “innovative and elegant” and “continued to push the boundaries.” Bruno called Noah a “valiant white knight.” Score: 31
Time for the trio challenge -- don’t call it a threesome -- where the couples danced with another pro. Here’s the lowdown, in chronological order.
Noah and Sharna with Emma Slater: Sharna took full advantage of all those extra limbs to create a unique salsa number. Bruno said he truly dug the “armography” and then he fell out of his chair, which was awesome. Show host Tom Bergeron nearly lost his mind and said he’d been waiting 10 years to see that happy accident. Score: 32
Chris and Witney with Lindsay Arnold: Witney said the trio dance was supposed to show that a competitor could hold his own alongside two professional dancers. In this case: Ha ha! But Chris did was Chris does and the crowd responded with way too much applause. But the judges busted out some honest criticism for a change, calling it clunky and stiff, out of time with the music and basically kinda sucky. Score: 30
Riker and Allison with Brittany Cherry: Heck yes, it was a G-rated jazz routine, and Riker looked like he was completely in his element. He was in the prime position, with the pros serving almost as his backup dancers. It totally worked. Carrie Ann lost track of how many snaps she wanted to give and said he “hammered” that dance. Score: 39
Robert and Kym with Jenna Johnson: Robert continues to thank his great good fortune for being part of this TV show, which is totally endearing. Maybe that’s why he’s lasted so long with cellar dweller scores? The guy loves leggy women and the fans love him enough to keep him around, at least for now. It works out. He “handled” the two women, Carrie Ann said, but Len and Bruno thought it was messy. Score: 29
Nastia and Sasha with Derek Hough: the guys were tough on Nastia while teaching her a jive, and hours five and six seemed to push her to the end of her rope. She’s a former Olympian, but she’s not a robot, people! It was worth the sacrifice, though, for that inventive split-screen-style choreography. Bruno thought it was genius, with a hint of “Singing in the Rain.” Carrie Ann called it beyond brilliant, “double the fun, double the taste, double the pleasure. It was like…gum!” No, it was not like gum. But it was spectacular. Score: 40
Rumer and Val with Artem Chigvintsev: They saved the best for last with this fiery paso doble. There was nary a misstep, with everything sharp and defined and strong. The judges, predictably, loved the back to basics approach, free of gimmicks, props and tricks. Just solid dancing. Score: 40