Week 8: The five remaining couples dance a traditional ballroom routine and a trippy Latin routine; may the best time travelers win.

By Annie Barrett
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:57 PM EDT
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

On the week 8 performance episode of Dancing With the Stars, the five remaining couples performed a nice little ballroom dance and a relatively insane Latin dance loosely connected to a certain decade (the 1960s) or general concept (”the future”). Oh, yes, it was Era Night! Break out the zebra patterns, face paint, and fake bangs!

Before we get to anything relevant, I’d like to swoon a bit because my favorite Harold Wheeler Ensemble member and yours, Enthusiastic Chimes Lady (ECL), was Enthusiastic Tambourine Lady last night! She is a percussionistic marvel! ”She’s clearly a woman of many talents. But only ONE enthusiasm. And it’s grand,” says commenter Lemon ”She is the best gem on any telecast,” chimes in reader Liz. Jeez, DANCMSTRs, are you trying to break my heart before I even get into the meat of the recap? Well, it’s working! Also, I am going to figure out how to make one of those ”animated GIF” doohickeys to illustrate the complete glory of ECL/ETL by the end of the night if it kills me. And I really might die trying. I can definitely see it happening. If you don’t get a recap tomorrow morning, this will be why.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inaba!

Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough: 29 in ballroom round + 30 in Latin round = 59 out of possible 60 ”There’s no drama,” Nicole insisted before bursting into tears during rehearsal footage. ”It’s not easy. I just want it to be good.” As a viewer, I’m confused: Is this the girl who has trouble counting to seven, or the one who complimented her partner for being so open when she collaborates with him on their choreography? Nicole might have even more personalities than Chad. The couple’s near-perfect foxtrot, which I’d like to call ”Nicole and Derek got the runs,” was spirited and quick, with plenty of props. Of course, I was obsessed with the special newspapers they were engrossed in at the beginning and end of the foxtrot, and paused my DVR to go squint at the headlines up close. My favorite by a mile: ‘DWTS’ Set Wins Top Awards For Industry. Amazing. (Sidenote: I suspect that the 1970s wasn’t an option for this season’s Era Night because the producers realized that visually, every night is 1970s night on Dancing With the Stars.) Bruno called Nicole’s foxtrot ”one and a half minutes of pure dancing joy, like a jewel created by a master.” Damn you, Our Lady of Perpetual Metaphor, for attempting to sway my vote with your allusions to gems.

Those silly judges thought they could stump Johnny Quest lookalike Derek with their ”1950s-style paso doble” card. Nice try, losers! Nothing is im-paso-ble! Obviously, Derek will work it out and get it right. It’s just what he does. I really liked the Grease-y feeling I got from the end of their paso, when Nicole’s perma-angry facial expression actually worked in her favor. She looked like Cha Cha Degregorio, dancin’ her heart out at the end of the Big Dance. She just wanted it so bad! She cares so much, you know. ”I care so much,” said Nicole. The judges all loved her paso, but DANCMSTR and Bruno looked horrified in their own unique ways after Carrie Ann presumed to illustrate the judging trio’s collective awe by panting like a rabid dog. I love it when C.A. does demos. Who needs words?

NEXT: ”Come on, woman, jump on me now…”

Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 28 + 25 = 53/60 I wonder if ”Come on, woman, jump on me now” will echo in her head long after this disco ball dream is all over. I know it will for me anyway. After much frustrated urging, Erin finally agreed to kick off their Argentine tango by leaping off the platform and landing on Maks’ shoulder with her pelvis in his face. Her hesitation is getting tiresome, but I understand where Erin is coming from. I’m not as twig-like (read: thin and beautiful) as she is, but I am an awkward six-foot-tall lady with a ridiculous wingspan, so I can relate to her whole make-way-for-the-freak approach to dancing (and life). In rehearsals, Erin seems to get preemptively embarrassed about every idea because chances are the new move will make her look like Lurch. Maks has little patience for this because dancing is dancing (spoken sternly in a Russian accent and pedantic tone). She’s gonna have to dance with that body no matter what, so why not just go for it? I get his pain, but I feel hers, too. I just care so much, you know? There’s no drama! I’m just a little tired. Overwhelmed. Please vote.

Erin and Maks’ 1980s-style rumba (?!) was ”jerky,” said DANCMSTR. Stop booing him; he does not lie! Carrie Ann made a good point that Erin could have rocked the solo at the beginning if she’d just let go and let herself enjoy the moves she makes. Maks insisted he and Erin weren’t dancing like the ’80s and that it was ”all the dress.” Maks’ lilac shirt and white high-waisted pants: merely terrible male costume, or the worst-ever male costume? You decide. As he said in the quote of the night, ”Wow, who made up the ’80s?” You do have to wonder. After the dance, when electric blue Brooke and her gobs of eyeshadow asked Maks and Erin about their speculated relationship, Maks batted away first the question and then the microphone, choosing to administer a verbal whip to DANCMSTR instead. ”There’s no whipping in ballroom!” cried Tom, who should know better having witnessed Mel and Maks’ ”Free Your Mind” paso in season 5.

Evan Lysacek and Anna Tre-BUN-skaya: 27 + 26 = 53/60 Anna told Evan he sometimes comes across as cold, and he immediately agreed with her. Crisis averted. This was all a setup for Evan taking Anna ice skating, of course. DANCMSTR didn’t like that they started their waltz by lying on the floor, but I thought it was perfectly clear that the two were supposed to be encased in ice, and that they were ”woken up” by the dazzling glare of the spotlights. The ”Prince Eric and Ariel” nature of Evan and Anna has never been more blatant than in this romantic routine. You might even say he pulled her out of the water instead of the ice. After all, ice is water in a different form, just like Enthusiastic Chimes Lady on the tambourine. As my mom always said, it all tastes the same once it’s in your stomach. Speaking of the Little Mermaid connection, I’d have appreciated a reworking of ”Under the Sea” called ”Out on the Ice,” perhaps sung by Princess Sparkle in lieu of Sebastian during Eric and Ariel’s rehearsal footage. Up on the floor they dance all night / under the mirrorball’s guidin’ light / While we providin’ / license to GLIDIN’! / out on the ice…

NEXT: Sometimes it’s a little boring with Chad, Cheryl

And then there was the futuristic cha cha cha (?!), a ”lucky draw” for Evan the robot, who does a fantastic/adorable impersonation of Wall-E. I’d call it more intelligent design than lucky draw, but whatever. Someone had to dress as Ross Geller from Friends and Leeloo from The Fifth Element in a cha cha last night, and I for one am glad it was Eric and Ariel. Unfortunately, Len didn’t see the merit in this particular smoke machine-enhanced atmosphere last night; he claimed the lack of fluidity in Evan’s paso ”confused” him. I hate when DANCMSTR knows full well ”the assignment” and then dings the choreography when all it did was follow orders. It was a futuristic cha cha. If he wanted something different, he should have scaled himself down to bite-size, planted himself in that great big red velvet cake of a disco ball, and offered the couples some alternate dance options (i.e. ”a traditional anything”) himself. Really, I would just love to see Len do this. I’m also putting in an official request for an intellectual summit on the relative merits of sheer black blouses between Bruno and proud audience member/Evan’s figure skating designer Vera Wang.

Chad Ochocinco and Cheryl Burke: 21 + 24 = 45/60 ”It’s never boring with Chad,” said Cheryl, who was trying to be nice re: Chad’s mood swings during rehearsals. As a viewer, I’m pretty bored with him as a dancer. I try to focus on his performances, but he just doesn’t bring enough to them on his own. In the case of last night’s tango, I had a hard time concentrating on Chad because I couldn’t figure out what was going on with the two nude-colored triangles on Cheryl’s lower back. Were they intended to symbolize her butt, which was right there and already fairly easily implied? They mesmerizing triangles reminded me of the ”tails” on the men’s costumes for foxtrot, but this didn’t correspond with Chad’s vest. Was she supposed to look more fancy? I spent way too much time wondering such useless things while I should have been studying Chad. His kids are cute! Intense medallion earrings on Cheryl. See, still not working.

To rev up for their 1960s-style jive, Chad delivered this stunning verse of beat poetry: ”I’m gonna float like a butterfly / I’m gonna sting like a bee / I’m gonna dance my ass off / Like I’m at the top of a tree.” You know who can peer over the tops of trees? Zebra pimps in red suits. For me, the highlight of Ochocinco’s jive was the odd one-armed push up that also invoked the beginning stages of the Worm, or at least more stages than Steve Wozniak ever mastered. Perhaps this was meant to signify the caterpillar chapter of Chad’s ballroom journey from wide receiver to Muhammad Ali and beyond. ”Your energy was a little wild at times, but I thought it suited you perfectly,” said Carrie Ann. ”Wow, that brought me back to the ’60s and Catholic school,” quipped Tom. They were both right.

NEXT: Niecy makes us feel lazy

Niecy Nash and Louis Van Amstel: 23 + 20 = 43/60 I thought Niecy’s Viennese waltz was much better than the judges seemed to — maybe I was just feeling generous because Niecy’s daily schedule had just caused me to feel like a lazy sack of s—, or maybe it was really that good. She didn’t appear to be overthinking the steps, which is a welcome change for a female contestant. Everything just flowed nicely; it wasn’t the greatest waltz in history, but it was impressive in its own right, for her. Cheryl and Louis certainly made some not-so-subtle digs at Nicole with their “it’s all about the improvement arc” suggestions in those pro segments and during live interviews. If Niecy goes home tonight, at least she’ll have the respect of busy people everywhere. I loved her ”day in the life” segment, especially when the captions kept undermining what she was saying by a few minutes. ”I’m up at 4:30.” (4:57). ”I get to my job at The Insider at 5:30 a.m. (5:38). Niecy never complains. ”That woman works,” said Louis.

Another reason I’ll be able to make my peace with Niecy’s probable elimination tonight is that at the beginning of her 1990s-style paso doble (?!) set to the classic ”Rhythm is a Dancer,” she reached up in angst for a dangling mirror ball that was just out of reach. ”I don’t do drama!” Niecy had insisted earlier. Uh, yeah, whatever, disco ball diva! This image was incredible and perhaps the defining moment of hers or anyone’s DWTS experience. It encapsulated everything: her blind ambition, the im-paso-bility of her attaining ”the mirror ball trophy” (as she insists on calling it, much to my delight), and the vague promise of hamburger meat or red velvet cake underneath that sparkly exterior. The rest of Niecy’s paso was as much of a mess as the black-and-gold print of their costumes, which actually hurt to look at, but at least she kept on a serious paso face throughout. I’ll be honest: Especially with that song, I thought they might add more personality and flavor to the routine. I fully expected them to incorporate Fudge Stripes (to match their outfits), for example. Just goes to show — as Tom said — ”You know we’re in the serious part of season 10 when we’re withholding snacks.”

My Week 8 Crazy Costume Watch photo gallery will be up later this morning; I’ll link when it’s ready. Update: Costume Watch is liiiiive! Who goes home tonight? Remember to nominate your Hidden Gems of the Week over at PopWatch, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the elimination recap!

‘TreasureQuest: Readers pick Hidden Gems of the Week!

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

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