Last season, the only thing the dance pros dreaded more than the “Switch Up” was guest judge Abby Lee Miller of Dance Moms. This season, Val, Cheryl, Peta, et. al. seemed to mostly have fun with the fact that they were getting new celebrity partners for one night. It helped, of course, that there was no elimination, so pros felt that no matter how badly their partner did with another pro—or how badly their temporary star did with them—there’s the chance to redeem things next week.
The switch also gives the pros a chance to break loose a little. Remember the big winner from last season’s “Switch Up”? It was newbie dance pro Witney Carson. Despite her regular partner Cody Simpson’s surprising early exit, Carson and Simpson were competing just fine. Their packages and interviews weren’t the best (remember what it’s like trying to talk to a pair of teenagers?), but Carson shined both on the dance floor and in the pre-dance video package when she was paired with Drew Carey. Viewers—and producers—saw a more playful and nurturing side to the blonde dynamo.
Tonight’s “Switch Up” gave pros and stars alike the chance to shake up their on-screen images. Here’s how it happened…
Antonio Sabato Jr. and Allison Holker: 28/40 (Bollywood)
Antonio has all the elements to be a contender in this competition—fan favorite, winning smile, athletic body—but he has yet to connect with the steps. Doing a Bollywood-themed dance was probably a good thing. Since the style isn’t seen too often on DWTS, it’s not like he could be compared to that many others. He and Allison got along just fine, and it was probably a nice respite from Cheryl Burke’s, um, let’s say, “demanding” style of teaching. The routine climaxed when Antonio was hoisted up in the air, but he seemed to lose control while suspended. Still, it was visually impressive. My guess is soap devotees and fans of shirtless celebs will keep General Hospital‘s Jagger in the competition for a few more weeks.
Bethany Mota and Mark Ballas: 32/40 (Hip-Hop)
Bethany and Mark did one of those “who’s the pro and who’s the star” dances. That’s a testament to Bethay’s dance skills, by the way, not that she’s a YouTube.com “star.” It was a nice touch having their regular partners, Derek Hough and Sadie Robertson, make cameos in the routine, but I think troupe member Sasha Farber’s talents are being wasted as a background bartender. He should be back as a pro. (Okay, how weird is this—JUST as I’m writing this at my desk where I’ve got Wheel Of Fortune on in the background and who comes out to do a dance demonstration for Pat and Vanna but four DWTS pros. And Sasha is one of them. The universe is telling us something.) Mark gets kudos from the judges for his instruction, and Bethany is complimented for keeping up with him. Great dance and it should have been scored higher.
Jonathan Bennett and Peta Murgatroyd: 24/30 (Jitterbug)
After showing early promise, Jonathan had a bad dance for the second week in a row. Granted, the Mean Girls star didn’t drop the future Bond Girl (yes, I believe Peta is destined to play a Bond Girl someday—you heard it here first), but he came close. It wasn’t so much “Wow! Look what they just did!” during all the flips and turns and spins as much as it was “Oh, boy, she almost went thud!” Height can often be an advantage in doing flips in dances, but Jonathan’s didn’t really work for him in this routine. The judges summed it up when they said this number was filled with mis-grabs and missteps. Unless there’s a big sympathy vote, Jonathan could be gone next week.
Alfonso Ribeiro and Cheryl Burke: 34/40 (Flamenco)
Cheryl went to the finals not too long ago with Jack Osbourne, an inspiring surprise dancer. She hasn’t won a mirror ball since season 3, and it’s easy to see that she wants it. She dived into her temporary partnership with Alfonso with gusto. He stepped up to her demands, and they turned in a dynamic, sexy dance. It’s possible Alfonso holds back a little bit with his regular pro since Witney Carson is so young, but tonight he was able to dance with someone more adult, which led to a more intimate connection. Kudos to him for wearing that ruffled shirt that made him look like he was trying out to be in a revival of The Partridge Family. Alfonso gets the mirror ball trophy for diplomacy—he gave a shout out at the end of his dance to not either of his dance pros, but to his wife, Angela, with whom he’s celebrating their second wedding anniversary.
Janel Parrish and Artem Chigvintsev: 33/40 (Burlesque)
The bit where Janel was blindfolded and figured out she was paired with the sexy Artem by feeling (up) his rockin’ body was a precursor of the racy routine. I can’t remember the judges ever being this prudish, but they scored this pair low for being too sexy. (Okay, they used the word “raunchy.”) All the flipping that Jonathan got wrong with Peta in their routine, Janel and Artem got right. The funniest part of the pre-dance package was Janel’s regular pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy playing (faux?) offended by the couple’s obvious chemistry. “I thought we were friends, bro,” Val sighed. Funny stuff, Val.
NEXT: Disco gets burned, baby, burned!