Plus: What he thought about Monday's performances, and Halloween with Peta

By Maks Chmerkovskiy
Updated November 01, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin
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This season on Dancing With the Stars, fan favorite pro-dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy will be blogging for EW to give us the behind-the-scene scoop on each week’s competition. With his and Amber Rose’s elimination behind him, Maks brings us into season 23, episode 8.

On Monday night’s performances

James and Sharna/Jenna:

I think James is the best. Last night was an important night in terms separating our front-runners from the rest of the competition. It was a tough situation with Sharna’s injury, and we hate to see that happen with people we love. Sharna did a great job managing everything, and Jenna did a fantastic job stepping in, but James did the absolute best job out of everybody getting all of this done, the way it was supposed to be, not getting himself in trouble, not missing a step. He, to me, had the best dance of the night.

James is really improving week after week, and keeps getting better and better. I felt last night’s dance was amazing, I loved everything about it and I loved his presentation of it. He was smooth, and comfortable. It reminded me of watching DWTS in other countries, when we don’t know who is the pro and who is the celebrity. That’s how it felt with James last night, where maybe you couldn’t tell who was who, he was that good. James just impressed the s— out of me.

Calvin and Lindsey:

I’m a big fan of Calvin and Lindsey, but I feel like Calvin needs a bit of a shot in the arm of something. I think next week will be a big deal week for Calvin. He’s come very far and has kind of plateaued at his dance level.

I also didn’t think last night’s performance was a 30. Where his abilities showed even more was when Calvin and Lindsey had the dance off with Laurie and Val. You saw them do exactly the same thing next to each other, so it became more obvious as to who was a more seasoned dancer. And even though Calvin’s high card is that Jive — he’s very good at it — you could tell that there was a big dance-ability separation between them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of Calvin, I still think he’ll be in the finals, but I think he has some room to improve, and now is when he’ll have to start stepping it up a little bit.

Sasha and Terra:

When their dance started, I thought “Great! Finally!” Finally we’re seeing something more than the same set of movements from them. Of course we understand that she has limitations, but I had been hoping to see more from her. But then the table portion didn’t really get me, and it seemed like the actual Cha-Cha content was minimal, so in the end it was all a little bit underwhelming. Terra started to move her legs a bit more and her footwork was super quick and precise, and I was so excited because she was doing so great, but it didn’t go on for long enough!

As a fellow dancer I get it: it’s week 8, we’re exhausted. But it wasn’t really a full minute of Cha-Cha and that was a downfall to me. Their scores (all 9s) seemed a little inflated, but it is what it is.

Jana and Gleb:

It seems like we’re missing her and I’m not sure why. For a while there, she was improving and getting better and better every week. After the 40 they got with their Argentine Tango, I haven’t seen a dance that came even remotely close. It’s funny, because I think I said a few weeks ago that it’s important for them to keep up after that perfect score and keep building on it, but last night just felt like kind of a let down to me. I look forward to every couple each week, and seeing what they can do, and it seems like maybe they’ve just run out of it.

Maybe it’s a part of their strategy; sometimes as a couple we give ourselves a few weeks to skate by and take it easy on our routines. But I don’t know if that’s something that Jana can afford given the level of competition left. This next week might be their do or die.

Marilu and Derek:

I think this is the first time we’ve seen Derek in a role he’s not used to. It’s the role of not being the best couple in the competition, nor having a partner who can do things the way he wants her to.

We always see similarities from season to season — all of us pros recycle stuff. Having several years of DWTS experience, we know there are weeks that are easier than others. We know a set of steps that we can put in that will impress, we know a set of lifts that we can put in that will impress, we know some choreography pieces that we can do over and over. I’m not saying this in a bad way at all — it’s just the way it is.

But I think maybe Derek is attempting this and it’s not working. Marilu is a different person than other people he’s worked with. I don’t doubt that he puts an effort into choreography and stylizing the dance and trying to make her look her best. But when he hits a wall and sees that she’s not responding the way he wants her to, I think he just gives up and moves on. She needs something that needs to be styled for her, so Derek’s signature fast footwork doesn’t really work. She needs to be a little bit smoother, and maybe slower action, or different song styles.

To me Marilu seems like she wants this the most — she genuinely loves the show and loves to do this, but it seems like she has zero fun. The look in her eyes as soon as she messed up just seems like she’s not comfortable in the situation. And Derek just doesn’t seem supportive enough. You can get frustrated (believe me, I know this) but then you have to come back and figure it out, work together, and try something else. You change your approach, and sometimes change your own personal style for the benefit of your partner.

Like I said I’m not innocent; I’ve obviously had issues and been frustrated with a partner in this competition, so I get it. But I feel like I’ve come back and adjusted my approach and made the best of a situation. Not everyone comes into the competition being great, but it’s a matter of adjusting to have the best outcome, and more than anything, being professional.

Ryan and Cheryl:

I really liked Ryan’s last dance, I thought they would stay! They’re very fun to watch, and he’s actually improved from the beginning. I would say yesterday’s Tango was not that bad, and probably deserved to stay in the competition. Now, I am not Ryan’s fan, at all. But it was clean, and it seemed like they were having a good time. Perhaps it was due to Cheryl’s ‘House of Pain.’

My predictions for the finals at this point are: Laurie, James, and Calvin.

On Val getting emotional

As his brother, I’m like, “Bro, what’s wrong with you? How are you gonna be crying on national television? Come on, bro.” Probably 100 of our friends and family were watching going “REALLY? C’mon dude! What’re you doing?!”

Listen, if he had an older sister, this conversation might have been different. But he has an older brother, who was also his coach. So we both, at one point or another, have had like crazy bad sprained ankles, probably tore some stuff, three to six-week recovery type injuries. I mean, I’ve had to carry him off the floor before! We’ve both done things before that are extremely painful… and we didn’t cry. So this was bulls—. [Laughs.]

And hey, maybe this was a sign of him growing up! Maybe he’s grown now; grown men cry you know. I’ve never known Val to be very emotional. Usually he’s very much like “here’s what we have to do, now do it.”

But I guess maybe this was him becoming an adult. He is 30 years old this year, there are certain things that start to get to you when you get older, which I’ve come to understand as well. Maybe he’s feeling very paternal towards Laurie and I’m sure he’s proud of her, so to me it just looks like he’s being very hard on himself. He’s talented, and has proven himself in the past, and he knows what kind of responsibility he has here.

Tears aside, it was cute for TV. I’m sure he did get emotional for real, but my reaction is, “C’mon, bro!”

On his Halloween GMA appearance with Peta

I don’t know what we look like from the outside as a couple, but we’re actually really attached to each other, and genuinely like spending time together. I had to head back to L.A. to finish up some stuff with DWTS this week, and it’s been harder on me than I ever expected to be away from her! But we’re both working hard to make sure our children will have a different life than we had.

We had a great time at GMA for Halloween, and it’s so nice that they consider us family there. The makeup team was obviously amazing — we can thank them for our whole look — so a massive hats off to them for all of their hard work! Just like on DWTS, without them we’d be nothing.

We were thinking, we kind of want to be like Heidi and Seal on Halloween; you know how they used have a massive party every year? Halloween has really grown on me, after being in the U.S. for 23 years. In the beginning we couldn’t understand what the hell it is, or what we’re celebrating. But in the midst of this ridiculous election and everything that’s happening around us, Halloween came at the perfect time this year. It takes people’s minds off things, and allowed us to make fun of some things, so it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time I think.

—As told to Christina Ciammaichelli

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