Welcome to “Most Memorable Year” night on Dancing With the Stars! It’s the one night twice a year where it’s normal for an adult woman to weep freely into her wine glass over a man in a bright red tux dancing to the national anthem. “Most Memorable Night” is a safe space, people. EXCEPT FOR YOUR TEAR DUCTS.
Three weeks into competition, we finally got a closer look into the lives of our celebrities, and those lives are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes empowering, but always, always easily translated into dance.
Let’s see how the season 22 celebs decided to honor the biggest events in their lives.
Ginger Zee and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Contemporary | “Home” by Phillip Phillips
How do I love Ginger’s husband? Let me count the ways: He’s an extremely vocal ballroom dance fan, he frames the sheet music to his wife’s favorite song, he gives Val a giant bro-hug upon request, and he brought the baby that Val then was able to kiss on the head in front of all of America. You’re my hero, Ben Aaron. You’re everyone’s hero. Ginger is such a nugget, there’s no way to not enjoy her sweetly emotional contemporary routine. I agree with Bruno: It was great to see her get into the character of the dance. Her dancing has always been so easy-breezy, but tonight’s dance, telling the story of her engagement and the formation of her family, had some real depth to it.
Judges’ Score: 21/30
Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff
Waltz | “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog
We’re two dances in, and I don’t know how I’m even typing through the tears. Doug’s most memorable year is 2015. In 2015, his father died of an illness, and just moments later, after watching her husband of 60 years pass, Doug’s mother died. He wanted a dance to honor his parents and share their love story. I mean, should we even be judging these things? Doug and Karina (accompanied live by goddess-amongst-mortals Andra Day) perform an elegant waltz that Len describes as “two people dancing as one.” Of course, he goes on to call it unstable and give it a 6 because nothing is precious. But thank the Mirrorball for Carrie Ann, my homegirl in tears, who is welling up as she gushes about the simple but emotional routine. Doug’s crying! Karina’s crying! We’re all crying! Except for Len. Len’s low on moisture tonight.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Kim Fields and Sasha Farber
Foxtrot | “The Facts of Life” theme
There’s so much joy in Kim’s dancing, it’s contagious. It could not come at a better time, either, since we’re all still wiping tears out of our Flutie Flakes. But you know who might give Kim a run for her money? Charlotte Rae. MRS. GARRETT IS IN THE HOUSE. And she makes a hilariously dark joke about being short but still above ground. She is a gift. As promised, Kim and Sasha dance to the Facts of Life theme song, and Tootie’s pigtails are just as glorious as ever. Kudos to Carrie Ann for pointing out how well these two work together. In a season full of great pairings, Kim and Sasha are close to the top. When Len gives the routine rave reviews (as much as being compared to syrup can be a rave review), Kim can’t help it but capital-C Celebrate. Celebrate, girl, Tootie deserves it.
Judges’ Score: 22/30
Next: Drum solo lifts are so hot right now
Von Miller and Witney Carson
Contemporary | “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
THAT DRUM SOLO LIFT, THOUGH. Oh, I guess I should back up. (But, seriously, that lift. We’ll get to it.) Von’s most memorable year is predictably 2016 — the year in which he won the Super Bowl and was named MVP, yadda, yadda, yadda. I guess we’ll allow it. Regardless, it means that he’s dancing to his pre-game hype song: “In the Air Tonight.” Anyone who knows this song knows it is all about the drum solo. So, yeah, that drum solo lift had to be a show-stopper, and it was. Dude is strong. I might have to disagree with Carrie Ann wanting full throttle Von (he was pretty full throttle to me), but I do agree that there’s still untapped potential there. So maybe the key for Von is no shirt, no glasses, no problem. SORRY NOT SORRY.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani
Jive | “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
Marla’s not like a regular mom — she’s a cool mom. So for her most memorable year, Marla picks 1993, the year her daughter was born. Marla and her daughter, Tiffany, seem like awesome people, and I’d like to go shopping with them some day (their treat!). This jive wasn’t my favorite of Marla’s dances so far, but the judges go crazy for it. And by crazy, I mean they all toss up their 7 paddles again. Can no one break this barrier? Probably Wanyá will, let’s be real. Anyway, they praise Marla’s energy and the amount of tough jive content she got through with a smile on her face. Tony’s so happy that Len liked their dance that he jumps up and gives the guy a kiss. Okay, fine, Tony. I loved it, too! My face is ready for your face.
Judges’ Score: 21/30
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Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess
Foxtrot | “7 Years” by Lukas Graham
It’s a little known fact that the simplest way to make a DWTS recapper cry is to make her watch ballroom dance performed to a song about getting older, because life, man. So from the moment I heard Antonio would be dancing to “7 Years,” I was in. I didn’t even need the added adorableness of Antonio Jr., but I’m glad it was there. I still find Antonio a little stiff in his movements, and all that smiling didn’t exactly fit the emotion of the song (but I’ll never truly complain about Antonio flashing them pearly whites); however, this was Antonio’s best dance thus far. I’m firmly in Camp Carrie Ann when it comes to her and Len’s disagreement over whether or not Antonio’s foxtrot contained more refinement than he’s brought to the ballroom in previous weeks.
Judges’ Score: 20/30
Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas
Paso Doble | “300 Violin Orchestra” by Jorge Quintero
Paige and Mark do a paso doble in the middle of a UFC ring, and if anyone needs more evidence as to why this show needs The Ballas, y’all be crazy. This dance is so cool. Mark must’ve known that Len would take offense to some of the less-than-traditional elements of the routine, but he wanted to best service Paige’s story of overcoming bullying through UFC fighting, and he wanted to do so in an innovative way. Could this paso have benefited from some cape work and skirt twirling? Sure, but that’s true of all pasos and most things in life. Bruno and Carrie Ann praise the creativity and power in the dance, and Bruno even intimates that Mark could have a winner on his hands. I mean, it’s week three, so let’s not get crazy, but the girl can dance.
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe
Foxtrot | “Rise Up” by Andra Day
Just when I was ready to give Paige the Dance of the Night, Jodie and Keo and Andra Day get on the floor and dominate. Jodie’s package is another weeper. She opens up about her addiction. She talks about how her light was dimmed for a long time but that it’s not anymore. Bob Saget says something lovely about being proud of Jodie for being so real, but I can’t tell because someone in my apartment is a loud crier. Giving Jodie Andra Day performing “Rise Up” live maybe isn’t the most fair thing, but who cares? The foxtrot is beautiful and emotional. Tom Bergeron speaks for us all when he says that he “wanted it to keep going.” The routine really was all about the emotions, but if we want to get technical about it, Len goes on to praise Jodie’s hold. Only Len could focus on hold at a time like this.
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Next: All Mischa wants to do is dance
Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev
Samba | “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus
A samba?! A samba?! Tonight’s supposed to be all about a person’s real story, and we give Mischa Barton a samba? Please let this girl dance her truth. It is a dark tale full of misery and longing to be released from a nationally televised dance competition contract. A samba?! Well, per usual, Old Mirrobalus himself is much wiser than I am because apparently, a samba set to a Miley Cyrus song is exactly what Mischa needed to get out of her funk. Was the samba good? Not really. Did Mischa look like she was having fun? Yes, completely. And that change in attitude has made all the difference. Sort of.
Judges’ Score: 18/30
Wanyá Morris and Lindsay Arnold
Waltz | “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as performed by Boyz II Men at the 1996 Olympics
Was Lindsay even born yet when Boyz II Men performed their legendary rendition of the national anthem at the ’96 Olympics? I don’t even want to know the answer (Just kidding, I totally do: She was 2!). It doesn’t matter, though, because, as the judges point out, her choreography to a rather difficult song is quite moving. I’m ready for Wanyá to knock my socks off with a really emotional dance, and this wasn’t it, but a person can only get so emotionally invested in the national anthem before it starts to get weird. However, it was nice to see him in a more refined dance. Len thought Wanyá lost his posture a few times, and Bruno wants him to rein in his excitement and concentrate on the details, but overall, the guy is still as smooth as ever. Realest question ever asked on this recap: What does one mean when one calls someone “the rocket’s red glare?”
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd
Tango | “Verge” by Owl City feat. Aloe Blacc
Peta’s pissed that the judges would call Nyle out on musicality after only two weeks of competition. Which, yes, it seems a little unfair, but I think they had to come up with something to critique the guy on because he’s pretty great. Nyle’s a shoo-in for the finals, right? I’m knocking on all the wood, but with a tango like that in week three, superstition is unnecessary. Nyle and Peta’s tango, telling the story of Nyle’s time abroad with no translator, is passionate, fast, and kind of awesome. Len found it lacking some quieter moments to balance out the speed, but even he knows he’s stretching. Bruno feels the connection Nyle had to the dance so much that he hands out the first 9 of the season, and Peta is so proud of her guy she tears up. When Peta is crying, you know it’s been a good “Most Memorable Year” night.
Judges’ Score: 25/30
After such an explosive final routine, it’s easy to forget there’s still an elimination to get to. Thankfully, it moves pretty swiftly. Doug and Karina, Mischa and Artem, and Jodie and Keo (excuse me, America?) are in jeopardy.
It’s kind of a shame, since it seemed like tonight was the first time she was happy to be in the ballroom and we had just gotten our first taste of Peter Gallagher interviews, but Mischa and Artem are sent home. It’s probably for the best, if we’re all being honest with ourselves.
On to bigger and brighter things: Disney week! What’s the over-under on amount of songs that will be used from Frozen? What weird animal costume will Mark “force” himself to wear this time? Will my face actually melt off if Keo dresses in some sort of prince get-up? Only time will tell.