The saying is “Kick up your heels,” not “Kick off your heels.” Sorry, Patti, but that footwear malfunction may have cost you your (already tenuous) spot in this competition.
A lot of fans had to be sorry to see Patti LaBelle go, knowing full well that a clear chasm had opened on this season’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Season 20. It’s been the top four contestants -- Rumer, Willow, Riker, Nastia – and then everybody else. It was just a matter of time for any of the stragglers.
But I was hoping, as soon as I heard that he’d be dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s sappy ballad, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” for the series’ “Spring Break Night,” that the day would belong to Prince Farming. Please, send that guy packing right back to Smarmville, population: one cardboard goofus with nice abs and marginal talent. Maybe next show?
There was advance chatter about this being a non-elimination week, but that turned out to not be the case.
Nor was it the return of the infamous Switch Up, where dancers change partners for one night. The pros hadn’t much cared for that wrinkle in the competition when it launched two seasons ago – with fans voting on the swaps -- and critics have called it “wonderful,” “dreadful” and “totally unnecessary.” No word if that dynamic-shifting stunt will be back this go-around.
But the team dances, a first for the season, did prove that mixing up the stars gave a sum-is-greater-than-the-parts outcome. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all?
Quick note: double elimination next week, announced during Monday’s episode, plus Flo Rida!
On to the breakdown, from highest to lowest scores this week:
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker
Allison, we had no idea you were such a prude. She pitched a fit over “Work It” by Missy Elliott because of its sexually explicit lyrics. That just didn’t fit with Riker’s boy band brand, she said during the video segment. Her protest worked, and she and Riker danced the samba to the much less suggestive pop ditty, “Want to Want Me” from Jason Derulo, instead. (Producers have considerable sway in music choices, fans have learned over time, though they claim that they don’t dictate to the celebrities. This would be one case where the star put his foot down and got his way). There’s just no doubt that Riker is having a great time on that floor – he’d reinvigorated himself with a spot-on Capt. Jack Sparrow last week -- and that makes him a joy to watch. Three judges loved it – to the tune of two 10s and a 9 – and Len thought it was too much of a mishmash and that Riker looked like Spider-Man. Huh? Score: 37
Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough
Even someone as accustomed as Nastia to using her body and putting it through difficult paces can hit a rough patch. She certainly looked beautiful in that sparkly white gown. But the judges weren’t blown away with the tango she and Derek did to Calvin Harris’ “Summer.” Len, a.k.a. Crankypants, went on a bit of a tear about too much rotation, too much speed, not enough neck craning or some such. He would’ve preferred low and slow. Julianne and Carrie Ann felt a disconnect between the partners. Bruno was the only judge who effused, in typical Bruno manner, about their “attack” on that tango. Score: 34
Willow Shields and Mark Ballas
Willow discovered she has extra ribs. Extra ribs! At least none of them were broken, which was the good news from her X-ray, revealed during the pre-dance video segment. Mark, who went full White Rabbit for last week’s “Disney Night,” reined in his more outlandish production tendencies for a salsa to Xavier Cugat’s classic tune, “Tequila.” There was little to distract from the routine, which was energetic but just fair compared with the couple’s recent efforts. Bruno said Willow always “packs a punch,” and that the many lifts were incredible. Carrie Ann dubbed it “G-rated,” “sassy” but not overtly sexy, befitting the light theme. Julianne loved all the tricks but cautioned Willow to straighten and lengthen her legs. Score: 34.
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy
They were tops last week after Rumer played the villain (Ursula from “The Little Mermaid”), and they got down and (ever-so-slightly) dirty last night. There were butt cheeks! Val felt like he had to apologize for the routine. Hey, they were stuck with the song choice, “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child, he explained after the performance, and his interpretation was saucy. Len huffed and puffed and declared that, “it’s a ballroom, not a bedroom.” Julianne was underwhelmed, likely because expectations had been so high for this couple. Carrie Ann thought it was “disjointed,” yet powerful, but Bruno claimed it was “raunchilicious.” Score: 32
Chris Soules and Witney Carson
Chris was still belly aching about his injured calf during the pre-performance video. Boooooring. And he proved he can’t clap in time with the music. Maybe, then, it’s a wonder he’s come as far as he has? I’m disinclined to give this guy any breaks, as if that wasn’t immediately obvious. He did loosen up a bit during the Viennese waltz, and Bruno called it “a spring awakening.” Carrie Ann thought he “wooed us all,” and Julianne was blown away and proud. Purist Len pointed out Chris’ sorry footwork and noted that the dance “lacked technique.” Score: 31
Patti LaBelle and Artem Chigvintsev
Pushing past injury last week, Patti had all kinds of built-up goodwill from the judges and the fans. Did she make a mistake by admitting she had no idea what that wacky thing called spring break was? Regardless, Artem said in their intro video that she was on her game, big time. Then their quickstep started to “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas and about halfway through, Patti kicked off a cream-colored pump and kept right on going. Len thought it was the “best dance so far tonight.” It was also the first. Oh, Len. But he predicted no one would bring more fun and entertainment. Julianne -- now with pink hair! -- had praise for both dancers, and Carrie Ann thought it was “effervescent and extra special.” Not to be outdone by the now-departed Suzanne Somers, Patti shoehorned in a plug for her barbecue marinades and hot sauces. Long live celebrity merch! Score: 29
On her way out, Patti remained a total class act, thanking the judges and her partner. I still can’t believe she has fewer fans in the “DWTS” demographic than Chris. Why didn’t they vote?
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess
Sharna called Noah on the carpet for his ‘tude in their practice session after he snapped at her about some of her instructions. She’d already explained that she had to increase the level of difficulty in their routines or they’d end up on the bottom. They hugged it out. And then Sharna played her trump card for a rumba to “Waves” from Mr Probz: topless Noah! The dance, unfortunately, wasn’t without its bumps, but Len thought it was like a conversation, with lovely action and reaction. Julianne said his hip action was fantastic, and she learned the anatomical term “lats.” Bruno said he found the partner work “magnetic” and “intuitive,” and Carrie Ann said he belonged in the contest. Score: 29
Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson
Can we look now? Is Robert over his naughty Mary Poppins fetish from last week? Let it be over! He did talk about the burning fibers of his being in the pre-performance video. Yikes. One thing is certain: This is a guy who knows where his bread is buttered. Kym makes him look good, and he appreciates her for it. And I like him for that. Carrie Ann might’ve had the best description of the jive he and Kym did to the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari.” She said he didn’t miss a step, he just didn’t do them at the right time, instead he took a “slightly time adjusted” approach. She didn’t mean that to sound nasty. Len thought it was better than last week, and Bruno called him a “frisky pony.” Julianne noted that doesn’t dumb down the choreography, and Robert goes full force on every performance. Co-host Erin Andrews tried to force a makeout session between the partners, but they politely declined. (In front of the cameras, at any rate). Score: 28
Teams! This episode really did save the best for last, as it turned out.
#TeamYOLO’s members: Nastia (team captain), Noah, Willow and Robert. Derek has never lost a team competition, yet he and Nastia’s other commitments left the group little time to get their act together. But it turned out to be all about beach balls, “Wipeout” and adorable vintage-look bathing suits on the women, and near-perfect synchronized moves from the whole crew. Throw in a few acrobatics, and it was “tight, together and terrific,” said Len. Carrie Ann said, rightly, that they killed it. Score: 39
#TeamTrouble with Rumer as team captain, Patti, Chris and Riker chose a “Breakfast Club” meets “Grease” meets some other high school movie where one guy (Chris, of course) ends up shirtless. They danced to “Trouble” by Iggy Azalea featuring Jennifer Hudson. They needed a perfect score to overtake #TeamYOLO, and Bruno thought it was cleverly put together. The judges raved across the board and gave the performance a near-perfect mark. Score: 39.
What did you think of the outcome, fans? Did the right star go home?