It’s a big, big night, Dancing friends: Idina Menzel is in the house to judge us all (but specifically the competitors), the always exciting Team-Up Challenge is back to make us believe in friendship again, and most importantly, the Ballas is in the ballroom. Guys! We were all missing Marky Mark after the Halloween festivities, and here he is. Oprah was right — bread is awesome. Also, she once said something like “Put your dreams out into the world and they will come true.” I guess that’s the more applicable thing to share here, but the bread one just really resonated with me. She’s so wise.
Anyway, Ballas is in town to sing a little Jersey Boys for us during “Showstoppers Night,” which also could’ve been called “Broadway Night,” but okay, sure. We’ve got two rounds of routines to chat about and someone’s getting sent packing ahead of the Semi-Finals — so let’s get to stepping. And by stepping, I mean dancing.
Marilu Henner and Derek Hough
Samba, “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” from Jersey Boys
Will “Showstopper Night” be the breakthrough Marilu and Derek need? With The Ballas (and the rest of the Jersey Boys) singing in the background, anything is possible. Derek is certainly the most hopeful we’ve seen him in recent weeks. He admits he stopped pushing Marilu a little because he didn’t want to be too hard on her and ruin her experience, but it’s time for him to push. You’re such a pusher, Derek! That extra vote of confidence certainly seems to do the trick on the dance floor. Marilu looks like she’s enjoying herself again as the couple perform a classic samba (Len would go gaga). It looks like Marilu loses a little steam toward the end, but the judges are happy to see her and Derek working so well together. I’m happy to see Bruno in a fabulous polka-dot suit. We’re all winners tonight.
Judges’ Score: 36/40
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold
Waltz, “Memory” from Cats
CALVIN JOHNSON IN FULL BROADWAY CAT COSTUME. I’m not over it. I’ll never be over it. You got to give it to Megatron, the guy is fully committed. It pays off on the dance floor, too. Calvin is a big-time showman in the ballroom, but his waltz is a chance to show an elegant, graceful side to the big man. Having Leona Lewis sing live doesn’t hurt either. The judges call it elegant and majestic, and both Bruno and Carrie Ann applaud Calvin and Lindsay for being able to dance so well together even with their height difference. Carrie Ann has one little caveat in her otherwise positive review: She doesn’t think this was one of Calvin’s best, he wasn’t as in tune with the music as he usually is. They deserve all the points, though, for that final spin. Lindsay was a very slender ball of sparkle being tossed across the floor, and it was glorious.
Judges’ Score: 37/40
We now interrupt your regularly scheduled program to make your robot heart feel things again: Keo and Allison dance a beyond-beautiful contemporary routine to “Falling Slowly” from Once. Can it be 10 minutes long, please?
Okay, back to the competition. IF WE MUST.
NEXT: It’s not easy being green
James Hinchcliffe and Jenna Johnson
Jazz, “A Brand New Day” from The Wiz
Well, Queen Sharna is still out, and we really don’t know when or if she’ll be able to dance again this season. It is a ballroom tragedy. It especially hurts because once again, Sharna has put together a great routine for James. This week, it’s all The Wiz, all the time. Sure, it felt more like a group number than a routine for James and Jenna, but it was so entertaining, that’ll get a pass. What doesn’t get a pass, though, is the step James botches at the beginning of the routine. The guy is a pro and he recovers pretty well, but he won’t be getting a perfect score this go-around. Idina Menzel tells James he looks hot in green, though — and she would know — so the evening isn’t a total wash for our IndyCar racer. But still, how sad would it be for James to get to the finale without his ride-or-die partner?
Judges’ Score: 36/40
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber
Charleston, “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity
Here’s an actual note I wrote while watching this routine: “I’m having so much fun right now!” I know I’m safe to share something so ridiculous here, because you’re all big dancing nerds just like your recapper. Right?! Don’t answer that. But seriously, Terra and Sasha’s Charleston definitely fulfills the promise of “showstopper.” And to think, the cutest couple in the ballroom were worried — they had to adjust some of the Charleston’s typical steps to make it work for Terra. Terra decides to simply dance to her own best ability. The strategy works! The girl comes out all big movements and even bigger smiles. Terra’s performance value is so high in this routine. After her Beetlejuice number, the judges wanted some new content from Terra and Sasha. The couple delivers.
Judges’ Score: 38/40
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko
Waltz, “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress
Well, this seems a little unfair. “She Used to Be Mine” pretty much guarantees tears upon hearing it. There’s a full spectrum of emotion built into the song. What I mean is, I’M ALREADY CRYING. Jana knows she’s been given a gift, too. This song perfectly sums up her journey on DWTS. She started very broken, but each week has been a healing experience. So she’s obviously very worried when her partner through that journey ends up with a bum knee. Call it the Sharna Syndrome. Gleb presses on, and the hottest small-town pie waitress and maître d’ you’ve ever seen dance a lovely, emotional waltz. Julianne calls the routine “beautiful storytelling” and Jana a truly authentic dancer. Carrie Ann thanks Jana for sharing a part of herself out on the floor every week. Now let’s go eat our feelings with pie. Lots and lots of pie.
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Argentine Tango, “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago
When a couple is doing “Cell Block Tango” and they’re given the round’s last slot, you know it’s going to be a good one. That’s Dancing With the Stars 101. A lot could go wrong with having a 16-year old dancing a sexy Chicago routine, but once Laurie learns being sexy just means looking like you’re rubbing peanut butter off a man, she’s totally fine. It’s the secret to life, really. It’s a good thing for us that she gets it, because when Laurie feels confident and sexy, she does insane kicks over Val’s head and unreal feats of flexibility. Before the judges can give their critiques, all four of them have to lift their jaws off of the table. The tango is sharp, sexy, and simply electric. It shows off Laurie’s strength as well as her precision. Our little human emoji has come a long way. She’s a great role model for all of us: Confident enough to be sexy, but smart enough to know she should maybe ask her mom’s permission first.
Judges’ Score: 40/40
NEXT: The dream team times three
James and Jenna / Calvin and Lindsay
Paso Doble, “No Good” by Kaleo
Every season needs a good bromance, and season 23 is blessed with James and Calvin. They giggle at each other’s serious faces, share milkshakes, and say sweet things like “I was a big Megatron fan. I’m an even bigger Calvin Johnson Jr. fan.” Aww, you guys. Their friendship makes their cowboy-themed paso all the more entertaining. Their no-partner-for-30-seconds bit is a highlight — cape twirling never disappoints. The judges all had fun watching the routine, too. The last men standing in the competition are a good time! They could tell James especially wanted some redemption for his first round. Idina Menzel is all of us when she admits she really only saw “how hot they both were.” Elphaba only speaks the truth.
Judges’ Score: 37/40
Marilu and Derek / Terra and Sasha
Jazz, “Big Noise from Winnetka” by Bette Midler
Marilu and Terra are a surprisingly well-matched team. They’re both big performers, so a fun jazz routine is perfect for these ladies. Sasha and Derek pull out all the stops with their choreography, and by the end of the routine, it looks like the entire cast is out on the floor. There’s Charleston, there’s disco, there’s Terra and Marilu pretending to be one giant woman under a dress. Anything goes on Showstopper night, people. It’s one big celebration, but Carrie Ann also loves how they put in a lot of side-by-side steps and took the challenge very seriously. Marilu and Terra aren’t the best technical dancers in the competition, but the girls know how to throw a party.
Judges’ Score: 36/40
Jana and Gleb / Laurie and Val
Contemporary, “Bird Set Free” by Sia
How many times in one night can Jana Kramer make me cry? The answer is two. The second time gets a big assist from Laurie and the adorableness of their sisterhood. Val and Gleb want the ladies to use their chemistry to really make this contemporary routine soar. Get it? THEY’RE BIRDS. It’s a very affecting number, made even more emotional by the fact the gals clearly got so much out of dancing together. As Carrie Ann puts it, the sum was greater than the parts. Laurie is all strength and technique and Jana is all emotion; together, it is an unbeatable combination. It’s clear from the moment Laurie and Jana dance without their partners inside a giant bird cage: They’ll both be walking away with perfect 80s for the evening.
Judges’ Score: 40/40
Ugh, you guys. “Showstoppers Night” is so much fun, do we really have to eliminate someone? Not even rewinding to watch a tux-wearing Keo wink directly at the camera during the opening number again can make this unfortunate bit of business any easier. Two couples land in jeopardy: Marilu and Derek and Jana and Gleb. The couple taking their final bow: Marilu and Derek.
And so, our five remaining couples move on to the Semi-Finals. It’s shaping up to be a good one.