When Dancing With the Stars first announced that this season they’d be bringing back alums for the trio round instead of another pro, I thought, “America’s Dad Tom Bergeron, aren’t you supposed to protect us from potentially damaging stuff like this?” But then I saw who’d be coming back and I just knew America’s Dad Tom Bergeron would never really lead us astray. I mean, who didn’t miss Rashad Jennings? Or Laurie Hernandez? And, ahem, KRISTI YAMAGUCHI. Things are looking up.
Before we get to those trio dances, each couple will be dancing an individual routine to get the evening started. After last week’s surprise double elimination, honestly, anyone could be going home from now on, so it’s time for our contestants to dance their behinds off.
Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke
Charleston, “Bad Boy, Good Man” by Tape Five (feat. Henrik Wager)
Who would’ve thought that Terrell Owens would be so good in these fast-paced ballroom styles? He has a tough time with the speed of the Charleston during rehearsals and some of the old, defeatist T.O. starts to come out, but once he’s on the dance floor, he’s feeling the groove. He doesn’t look as in control of this dance as he has previously, but Carrie Ann is pleased to see him use his athletic prowess again, and Bruno loves how much Terrell and Cheryl capture the spirit and style of the Charleston. Len delivers his score while wearing a hat, so we’re all winners. Cheeky Len is in the house, you guys.
Judges’ Score: 27/30
Drew Scott and Emma Slater
Waltz, “Both Sides Now (Torch Songs)” by Years & Years
Drew and Emma’s season has been a roller coaster. They were sitting way down on the bottom of the leaderboard, only to shoot up to second place after their quirky-spooky (it’s a thing) Corpse Bride routine. Unfortunately, it looks like they’re sliding back down after their waltz misses the mark. Don’t get me wrong, I teared up as Drew poured his heart out about his lady Linda, both in rehearsals and out on the dance floor (maybe it was because I was thinking about Emma Thompson listening to Joni Mitchell’s version of this song in Love Actually, but when am I not?), but the judges found his technique missing something. Mainly, fluidity. And confidence. And the correct frame. Okay, so it was missing a lot of things.
Judges’ Score: 22/30
Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy
Argentine Tango, “Down” by Marian Hill
Victoria has a tall order this week. She needs to imbue sexiness into her Argentine tango. Sexiness is not her forte. Anytime she starts to break character, the routine looks cheesy. Side note, my new ringtone is going to be Val making that noise impersonating Victoria’s inability to look sexy. You know the one. On top of a tough character dance, Victoria has a spasm during dress rehearsal and lots of scary memories of paralysis come flooding back. It’s extremely worrisome, but also we get to see Val demand people call Victoria’s mom. Silver linings, people. The dancing is nice — there are some great lifts and the Argentine tango basics are done well — but Victoria falters when it comes to character. She was trying so hard, too!
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas
Samba, “Morning Drums” by Gregor Salto
Here’s the thing: I’ve never been to the circus. Is this what it’s like? Sexy lion tamers and sexy lions doing the samba? If so, man have I been missing out! Yes, Lindsey is back to full form — she is no longer feeling broken physically or emotionally, just so you know — and she is ready to make up for last week’s tumble down the leaderboard. She…sort of does? She definitely doesn’t look like she’s in pain anymore, but Len and Carrie Ann are right: Lindsey is lacking the confidence and intention in her steps that we’re used to seeing. Lindsey also makes a rookie mistake when she asks an already unhappy Len about her samba bounce and the dude tears into her performance. DO NOT ASK THE JUDGES QUESTIONS, LINDS. Help me, help you, you know?
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson
Viennese Waltz, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran
Hey, remember last week when Frankie and Witney “elevated the world of dance” with their creepy contemporary? It’s no wonder Frankie is feeling the pressure to be perfect this week. He never thought he’d be a contender and now here he is. But will his crippling self-doubt sabotage his attempt to stay on top? Can you even stand the drama? Well, his Viennese waltz with Witney isn’t exactly as captivating as their contemporary, but it is very sweet and charming. Both Bruno and Carrie Ann thought it was polished and elegant. Len Goodman was not watching the same performance as his cohorts. He chides the pair for the lack of rise and fall, and for the fact that there wasn’t enough choreography in hold. His score isn’t quite as bad as his critique, so hopefully it doesn’t send Frankie into too much of a tailspin.
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold
Quickstep, “Chuck Berry” by Pharrell Williams
Carrie Ann describes Jordan and Lindsay’s psychedelic quickstep as it being like “Bob Fosse and Austin Powers had a baby.” I mean, is there really anything else to say about this? It’s fast and fun and full of so much quickstep content. Did you guys see how high that leap was? CAN YOU EVEN? Len doesn’t even give a critique, he just gives the couple a standing ovation. Len Goodman doesn’t even have words for this routine. Oh, we can talk about how lovely it is to hear that one reason Jordan really wants to win this competition is that Lindsay is the only pro left standing who hasn’t won. He also probably wants to win for the eternal glory, but the Lindsay thing is really nice.
Judges Score: 30/30
Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke with Kelly Monaco
Rumba, “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan
The trio round is known for its entertainment value, showing off the pro dancers’ creativity and the many, many “threesome” innuendos. The first trio dance of season 25 goes way past innuendo. Kelly Monaco, the OG Mirrorball champ, returns to heat things up with Terrell and Cheryl. There’s lots of rubbing and grabbing and Kelly promises to go on a date with Terrell if they get three 10s. The judges felt the chemistry, but there wasn’t really enough rumba to make this a knockout. Suffice it to say, the judges do not help a dude out and give T.O. some 10s for his date — but the boys of the troupe do. Will Terrell and Kelly find love on the dance floor?
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Drew Scott and Emma Slater with Rashad Jennings
Cha Cha, “Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown
The reigning champ is back in the ballroom! Let’s be honest, Drew is a little bit of a third wheel in this trio. Drew, Emma, and Rashad are dancing a cha cha to a James Brown song that is full of style and swag, which is very much in Rashad’s wheelhouse and not in Drew’s. Drew does his best to keep up, but this is RASHAD AND EMMA. Carrie Ann tells Drew that she can see dancing with Rashad made him up his game. Bruno liked it as well, even if Drew looked a little off during the cha cha sections (stick to disco, I guess?). Len loved the choreography but found Drew stiff next to his teammates. It’s a good effort, but I’m going to go watch some old videos of Emma and Rashad from last season. Okay, baiii.
Judges’ Score: 25/30
Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy with Laurie Hernandez
Jive, “Magic” by B.o.B. (feat. Rivers Cuomo)
Could Laurie Hernandez and Victoria Arlen be any cuter together? They talk about what color their lightsabers would be. THEIR LIGHTSABERS. Laurie, not surprisingly, infuses Victoria and Val’s rehearsals with a ton of sunny energy that they hope carries into their jive. The story of their routine is so sweet: We go back to the moment Laurie and Val won, and they pass on their “magic” to Victoria. Unfortunately, due to Victoria’s injuries, her flicks and kicks are nowhere near as sharp as they need to be. She’s missing the precision the jive calls for. Like with Rashad and Drew, Laurie is the real standout in this routine, when it should be Victoria. What were people expecting by bringing back former champs?
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas with Kristi Yamaguchi
Jazz, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” by Seth McFarlane
Queen Kristi Yamaguchi is back to lift our spirits after nine years away from the DWTS ballroom. Seriously, season 6 was nine years ago. We have dedicated too much time to televised ballroom dancing (or not enough?). These days, Mark Ballas is a little calmer, but still makes the same silly “I have an idea!” face. Some things never change. That includes how fun it is to watch Kristi and Mark dance together. This trio performs an Old Hollywood-glam jazz routine that is as cute as it is clever. As Carrie Ann points out, Kristi was known for dancing clean, pristine routines, and this one is no different. One does not need to dress up as a sexy lion in order to perform such creative choreography so fabulously.
Judges’ Score: 28/30
Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson with Alfonso Ribeiro
Jive, “Good Place” by Leo Soul
What starts out as dance rehearsal with a former champ turns into life coaching from Alfonso Ribeiro. Free of charge! Alfonso wants Frankie to be more confident. Frankie is a contender and he needs to acknowledge that. From my seat, it seems like Frankie is 20 times more confident in this performance than in his earlier waltz, but Carrie Ann calls him out for looking intimidated and missing some of his marks. The whole jive routine is so stinkin’ fun though — right down to the playful choreography with “The Carlton.” You knew there’d be some Carlton. The critiques, too, turn into life coaching for Frankie. Like Alfonso, Len is over the self-doubt. We’re all rooting for you, Frankie Muniz!
Judges’ Score: 27/30
Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold with Corbin Bleu
Salsa, “Que Viva La Vida” by Wisin
Can Corbin Bleu stay forever? Oh, Corbin. I really liked Amber Riley, too, but you probably should’ve won your season. No matter — the runner-up has pressed on. Now he’s back to remind us of what we’ve been missing and also immediately enter into an epic bromance with Jordan. They have some startling similarities in their personalities, looks, and careers, and Lindsay uses it to her advantage when choreographing this salsa. Tom tells the boys that they look like “two bookends dancing”; that’s how insanely in sync they are. Carrie Ann loves how both guys learned from one another and improved because of it. Bruno tells them it was like watching two bodies but one soul dance. That’s basically the definition of bromance.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
Although it was great to see some familiar faces take a turn on the dance floor, I’m still lukewarm on this revamped version of the trio dances. There’s no time to iron out my complicated trio round feelings though, because it’s time to send someone home.
There are two couples in jeopardy: Terrell and Cheryl and Frankie and Witney (WHAT?). The couple going home just shy of the semi-finals is…Terrell and Cheryl. Now Kelly Monaco definitely has to go on that date with him, right?