Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin

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 9.

On last night’s performances:

From a behind-the-scenes standpoint, it was very interesting to see a few things. First, the judging panel that involved a DWTS alum. Second, Derek and Marilu’s performance, and third, Mark Ballas, the special guest from Broadway, who’s another DWTS alum. All in one segment we have these three people, and it really warmed my black heart, seeing all three aspects of the show – one’s judging, one’s dancing, and one is now the special guest. It was sort of like three generations of DWTS, if you will. And it’s just such a testament to the show — we’ve all done well. Mazel to everyone.

On Marilu and Derek’s exit:

I think Marilu seemed to have a good time during Broadway week. Her performance was a result of weeks and weeks of maybe not being in the right frame of mind, but I also think she showed some improvement in the end and was able to enjoy herself. It didn’t seem like it was her forte to move that way, not at 100 steps per second, but again, that’s not my jurisdiction. I do hope she has some good memories of the show and was able to have some fun.

On James and Jenna vs. Calvin and Lindsey:

It seems like James is having the most fun of anyone this season, and he seems well equipped to deal with any sort of drama coming his way. Talk about s— coming at you 150 miles an hour… that’s literally in his job description! So, with his quick decision-making and adaptation to different scenarios, he’s able to problem-solve. I think he has the least worries of everybody, and he’ll do well in the end.

James could do some less complicated routines in the future. His number last night was a full-blown Broadway performance, and it seemed like too much, too soon, when we still have two weeks left. We don’t want him to burn out or be overwhelmed before the end, so they need to be strategic with him. Still, to me, he’s one of the best performers in the competition.

Since there have been several head-to-head dances this season, where two celebs dance against each other, it’s been a very eye-opening experience and you really see things see a little differently. Even in comparison to James, I think Calvin did a great job this week. We realized yesterday that he’s basically an anything-goes kind of guy: He’s very likable, he can really move, and he’s willing to do anything (like get in that cat suit!). He’s an easygoing guy, and I think that shows. Lindsey did a phenomenal job with him — they’ve been a well-managed and beautiful couple —and it seems like Calvin just gelled from the beginning.

On Laurie and Val vs. Jana and Gleb:

I don’t know what will happen between these two, but I think Jana needs to be careful. She’s had great moments, and less great moments, and in a competition like this, you don’t want to feel like you’ve “peaked” already. With Gleb hurt, they’ll need to get together and make that final push this week in order to stay after the semifinals. I think physically, Jana is capable of unbelievable performances, so there is still time to hold on in the competition — but they need to do something memorable. She’s a way better dancer than we all think she is, but we have to see it.

On Terra and Sasha:

Terra definitely stepped it up this week, and I was glad to see it! From her last performance, she definitely improved and added to her skills. It really showed last night and it was great.

On predictions for the finals:

I think I can be objective, and I don’t want to come off like I’m picking sides, but I think Laurie definitely ran away with it yesterday. She was incredible. She’s the best dancer in the competition, and she’s also part of a lineage of gymnasts doing well on this show. It makes sense that she would be in the finals at this point.

My second guess for the finals is Calvin Johnson. Not to say he’s necessarily the best dancer in the competition, but he’s great at what he does, and he’s also a freshly retired NFL player and future Hall of Famer. When you have a massive fan base like that, it helps you skyrocket in a competition like this. A whole city is supporting and voting for him. On top of that, he has a great personality and has really embraced this competition. He has a lot going for him.

I think James, Jana, and Terra should all be a little bit worried about trying to stay in the finals. Between the three of them, I’m not sure they have enough of a preexisting fan base to propel them above everyone else. In the semifinals, they’ll all have something to prove!

On a finale sneak peek:

I’m part of a performance that will be in the finale. I’m very excited! Our great choreographer, Mandy Moore, is in charge of it, and I’m looking forward to the number. I won’t give away the theme, but I’ll say it’s very Winter Wonderland-y, and I’m playing a bit of a character. I’m going to do a little something with Amber before this season ends too, so you can look out for that as well.

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