Welcome, boys and ghouls, to the annual DWTS night of spooktacular dancing tricks and ballroom treats. Also, holiday-themed word play! For what would Halloween be without sparkly pumpkins, skeletons with abs, and crying whilst watching a sexy Willy Wonka perform? Nothing, I say!
There is one true horror on this spooky night: Queen Sharna is out of commission due to last week’s knee injury. James will be dancing with Jenna, who’s great, but the Queen needs to make a speedy recovery. It’s a rough night to lose your partner, as our couples will be dancing in two rounds. In the first round, each couple will perform a Halloween-themed dance, and the pair with the highest judges’ score will win five extra points and immunity, from both round two and elimination. Round two is America’s dance-off. The remaining six couples will pair off and dance either a cha cha, salsa, or jive. The winning couple in each dance-off gets three points added to their score.
Whew! That’s a lot of instructions and I haven’t even had my first candy bar yet. Enough with all the math — let’s dance!
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber
Cha Cha, “Day-O” by Harry Belafonte
Anyone else still thinking about how lovely Terra and Sasha’s foxtrot was last week? You’re not alone. Alas, we’re on to the next thing. And the next thing turns out to be a cha cha in the vein of Beetlejuice. Terra’s into it. That enthusiasm helps, since she’s having trouble with the style of dance. Cha cha calls for a lot of straight legs, which is difficult for Terra. Out on the dance floor, she and Sasha look like they’re having fun, but according to the judges, fun won’t cut it anymore. Terra’s a good dancer and it’s time they push the envelope. Julianne and her hair want more dance content in their routine, and Carrie Ann calls it good, not great. The semifinals are looming and just “good” may not be enough.
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Viennese Waltz, “Pure Imagination” by Jane Monheit
What in the actual hell, Valentin? Halloween is supposed to be about spooky scary stuff, and instead I’m crying all over my Peanut M&Ms. Not cool, dude. Val is emotional this week because more than anything, he wants to do right by Laurie. He’s so inspired by the pure joy she brings into the ballroom, and apparently just thinking about this joy and the immense gift he’s been given this season renders our Val speechless and teary-eyed. If you weren’t crying during Laurie and Val’s package, they must have gotten you with their gorgeous Willy Wonka-inspired Viennese waltz. The judges throw out words like “magical” and “enchanting.” I’ll have to take their word for it because, frankly, I could barely see the end of the routine, what with all the tears in my eyes. It’s one of the best of the season.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
NEXT: Cheryl’s House of Pain is open for business
Marilu Henner and Derek Hough
Argentine Tango, “Sweet Dreams” by Emily Browning
Marilu took a few steps backwards with her rigid Charleston during “Eras Night,” and both she and Derek are looking to make a comeback. It’s an uphill battle, though, what with Marilu’s ever-increasing foot pain (that’s a lot of tape on those babies), and lots of spider-web work for their Halloween Argentine tango. Marilu doubts herself during rehearsals and it carries over into her performance. She has several missteps and looks uncomfortable during most of the dance. The judges applaud her determination, but remind her to trust her gut and Derek. Speaking of D-Rock, he seemed pretty down tonight, no? Usually the guy is brimming with positivity, but instead he looks defeated after another lackluster performance. Is his Halloween costume a regular human person?
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold
Quickstep, “Dr. Bones” by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
Since when has there been this much crying on “Halloween Night”? I’m blaming my sugar rush, but once Calvin’s son Caleb pays his dad and Lindsay a visit — and Calvin dedicates the routine to him — I’m once again wiping away tears. Okay, I’ll also blame it on the immense appeal of Calvin and Lindsay’s partnership. They’re brother and sister! Calvin doesn’t open up to many people, but he’s hit it off with Lindsay (even if he teases he’d pick Witney as a partner). Their chemistry helps them on the dance floor. The judges applaud them for having so much fun during their routines while also filling them with content. Their skeleton quickstep had the perfect balance, according to Bruno. The best part, though, is how happy Calvin looks when he and Lindsay are awarded a perfect score.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke
Tango, “Howlin’ For You” by The Black Keys
Ryan Lochte gets to spend some time in Cheryl’s House of Pain, and he leaves a changed man. Okay, well, maybe not that changed — he still struggles with technique — but he’s trying! He also refers to himself as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Ryan” and that’s just adorable. You can see the improvement, especially in his performance value. Ryan survives the dreaded posture bar and a rehearsal-room ropes course, and he and Cheryl dance a respectable Maleficent-esque tango. He’s intense throughout, but the judges call him out on his hunched shoulders and less-than-fluid footwork. But, hey, the guy is wearing some fabulous feathered eye makeup. That should count for something in this world.
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko
Jazz, “Little Shop of Horrors” by Alan Menken
Like Phoebe Buffay before her, Jana Kramer is apparently very “bendy.” She shows off that flexibility in a jazz routine set to “Little Shop of Horrors.” Jana and Gleb hit one major obstacle before they even get started in rehearsals: Gleb’s never done a jazz routine before. Choreographing this style is new to him, and he’s feeling the pressure since he has such a capable partner. Perhaps this is why Gleb puts a lot of jive steps into the routine. Well, that, and the fact they earned less-than-stellar reviews for their first attempt at jive and want redemption. Carrie Ann likes seeing this bright, energetic side of the typically sultry pairing (did she forget that Laundromat-set samba already?). It wasn’t very Halloween-y, but I’ll let that slide since Gleb wears glasses. Handsome alert, you guys.
Judges’ Score: 27/30
NEXT: Head-to-head and toe-to-toe
James Hinchcliffe and Jenna Johnson
Viennese Waltz, “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace ft. G-Easy from Suicide Squad
This routine is tough to watch, because it just feels so much like a Sharna number. You guys know I love me some Jenna, but it’s no fun to see Sharna sidelined, watching her little James dancing such a great number from the Red Balcony of Safety. Sharna injured her knee during the group-dance dress rehearsal and has been advised to stay off it for three to six weeks. THREE TO SIX WEEKS. Obviously, we all want Sharna to heal, but we all also want her to dance. Thankfully, she may have a chance, since James and Jenna nail this Viennese waltz. James is the deranged Joker and he’s so good, Carrie Ann compares him to Mark Ballas. It’s fitting because a DWTS Halloween without the Ballas just wouldn’t be right. Since James and Sharna have the highest cumulative score, if James and Jenna get a perfect score, they’ll win immunity — and they could use a win after such a tough week.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
With their perfect score, James and Jenna are safe from elimination and don’t have to participate in the nausea-inducing Dance-Off. They head up to safety and give Sharna a much-needed and well-deserved hug. Sharna!
That leaves the remaining six couples to duke it out, ballroom-style. Laurie and Val get to pick their competitors first, and because Val believes that “to be the best, you have to choose the best,” they pick Calvin and Lindsay. Val is just crushing it on the heartwarming teddy-bear stuff tonight. There are no ghosts and goblins this Halloween, only gentlemen.
Laurie and Val and Calvin and Lindsay go head-to-head with a jive. It’s a tough race, but Laurie and Val have much more precision in their flicks and kicks than Lindsatron. The judges and America choose our Olympian in this matchup, and Laurie and Val add three points to their perfect 30.
Next up, Jana and Gleb select Terra and Sasha as their opponents. Terra wants a challenge, so she picks the salsa for their dance style. It’s no secret Jana and Gleb are using their sexy chemistry to win votes, and it becomes especially clear when Gleb rips off his shirt. Terra and Sasha are going for playful and fun in their salsa, but even Sasha going shirtless during the critiques is too little, too late. The three extra points go to Jana and Gleb.
Round three sees Marilu and Derek go up against Ryan and Cheryl in a cha cha. Julianne thinks Marilu and Derek play it too safe, but both she and Carrie Ann agree they couldn’t take their eyes off Ryan and Cheryl. Ryan and Cheryl go for it so hard, in fact, Cheryl ends up needing the assistance of America’s Dad Tom Bergeron to avoid falling. Bruno says it comes down to randy versus precise. In a shocking turn of events, he chooses the precise Marilu and Derek, but thankfully the ladies and all of America go for the party that was Ryan and Cheryl. Their score jumps to 26 for the evening.
And now for the scariest moment of all: elimination. We’re getting down to it, and there are some pretty evenly matched contenders still in this thing. The two latest couples placed in jeopardy are: Terra and Sasha and Ryan and Cheryl. After eight weeks of competition, it’s time to say goodbye to Ryan and Cheryl. And just as he was beginning to explore Cheryl’s House of Pain!
How is everyone feeling about season 23 at this stage in the game? Are Laurie, James, and Calvin a lock for the finals? Please say yes!