The hard-trying NFL star falls a few yards short, leaving The Dancer, The Olympian, and Maks' Abs to compete for the Mirrorball Trophy

By Annie Barrett
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:58 PM EDT
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

On the week 9 elimination episode of Dancing With the Stars, Chad Ochocinco made a classy exit. ”Chad is the most humble guy you’ll ever meet. The most amazing, soft, gentle man in the world,” said Cheryl. ”I’ll be here next year, as a professional,” said Chad. Hear that, football fans? We have a convert on our hands. Chad had definitely improved over the season, and I thought the combo of Monday’s solo from Chad’s pecs and his rabid fan base might have forced Erin Andrews out of the finals instead. I found it interesting that DANCMSTR insisted twice last night that in any other season, Chad would have easily made the finals. Nice gesture; not necessarily true. I like to imagine that if pressed for further comment, Len would add ”Why? Because you’re the NFL star, and it’s tradition. I’m a ballroom traditionalist, you know…”

Evan and Anna got the encore, and Evan was even better in this paso than in Monday night’s. It seems like something about the pavement-pounding nature of the paso doble clicked with Evan and he realized how much more he could do as a dancer when not limited by that silly, slippery ice. He looks like he’s having a blast, and I love how he keeps mentioning his partner first during every interview. Anna might be my pro MVP of the season, especially because she always ranks so highly in the Hidden Gem count. Don’t get me wrong; Hidden Gems are not a contest. I am the least competitive person in the world, which is why I feel so at home as sole curator of a landscape twinkling with magical yet ultimately meaningless moments. Still, you DANCMSTRs all enthusiastically chime in on the gems, like appraisers, and while I do not record any numbers in my special mining notebook, I can confirm that Anna is consistently GemVP.

Thanks to those four mini biopics of Our Pros, my recent Anna-centricity was able to thrive. We learned so much in these impressive ”packages” — Maks’ father is also an attractive man, young Cheryl was so quiet her parents thought she was deaf, and Derek’s parents had figured out human cloning over 20 years ago when they quadrupled ”the Julianne.” But most touching were Anna and Jonathan discussing their relationship and eventual marriage. ”When I first met Anna, she was really cold and standoffish,” said Jonathan before immediately remarking on her underlying warmth. ”He helped me become a better professional, a better person,” Anna said. I felt like there could be more to the story, like Anna’s transition from cold-hearted snake to warm-blooded mambo mermaid could be its own Lifetime movie if they’d just flesh it out a little. Jonathan, how exactly did she become Part of Your World? But I suppose J and A were simply being honest and cute and not everything needs to be made into a movie.

EXCEPT! I could definitely watch a feature-length film of Jonathan and Anna dancing to romantic and/or emotionally draining songs that may or may not have been used in commercials with desperate/dying animals that NEED YOUR HELP. (”Angel.”) If there was a movie of Jonathan/Anna and Edyta/Alec trading off routines while Sarah McLachlan presented a two-hour-long medley, I would go to the sad little theater that carried it every Sunday afternoon just to chill out. I was happy to see Damian/Lacey and especially Dmitry/Kym, but the power threesome of Jonathan/Anna/Sarah made me sprout a tear, and not just because there’s always one reason to feel not good enough and it’s hard at the end of the day. Here it comes…

NEXT: In the aaaaarms oooooof an angel…

I loved Sarah McLachlan so much in high school. I used to listen to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy in my car constantly as I sped around the southwest Chicagoland area mainlining Slurpees and getting lost on the way to summer league basketball games. I know now that these formative teen years represented the stepping stones — unique gem stones, you might say — that helped pave my lifelong fumble towards the ecstasy of Dancing With the Stars. I may not listen to Sarah currently, but this isn’t the type of love that ever truly goes away. She’s still so cool, I realized last night. And I just lied; I’ve been listening to her liiiiiiiiiiive album, Mirrorball, for an hour. Reading over that last sentence, I have no idea why this isn’t, like, a required element of my weekly process.

Last night, Sarah’s voice was as breathy and lilting as I remember, and Anna was pretty much floating the whole time. She’s in the arms of the angel! She’s flying away from here — to there! She is pulled from the wreckage of that last music-box spin! I could barely handle it. Clearly, I’m currently losing it. Sweet surrender is all that I have to give. Case in point: my next sentence.

Miley Cyrus left her stripper pole at home. This is Dancing With the Stars, not the Kids’ Choice Awards, you know? She had to show some respect. Maybe she can be tamed. Miley’s large-scale bird costume from the somewhat hilarious video for this song had been tamed, too, as she relied instead on thrashing backup avians and props for more wow effect. Then suddenly there was all this hay. For no reason! She just needed something new in the shot and went with a huge wall of hay. If DANCMSTR had critiqued this ”performance,” and I sort of wish he had, he would have completely flipped his s— about the hay. My favorite part of the ”performance” was a tiny little girl standing below Tom at the end, kind of hesitating to clap. You could tell she didn’t really want to, but then her dad encouraged it. Da-aaaaaad! Stop embarrassing me!

Melissa Rycroft and Joey Fatone did that Macy’s thing Tom’s been having to eye-rollingly mention once per episode all season. So at least that will end. Wait, that guy’s wearing KISS stuff on his face. Maybe it’s not Joey Fatone! No, it is. I’d recognize that wagging tongue and bulging arms anywhere. Perhaps tomorrow’s Lunchtime Poll in PopWatch should be Miley vs. the Macy’s Design-a-Dance costumer in an epic battle of Whose Face Moved Less. I think the designer was just nervous, whereas Miley’s bored-as-hell expression before a commercial break made her look like she’d just broken up with her boyfriend because her dad made her.

Whose Face Moved Less would be a pretty close fight, but this week’s installment of the college dance competition was laughably uneven. We had the gang from Rutgers University, a motley crew of coeds united by a few weeks of free time and a love of florescent pink, vs. the Utah Valley University Army, who have been training since birth. I got the feeling each of the five girls and guys had at least two alternates waiting backstage, you know? Or maybe they were sequestered at the hotel, nibbling on chopped veggies in plastic bags (no room service allowed) as they watched their more talented and/or camera-ready peers compete liiiiiiiiiive on TV. They’d sing along with Sarah McLachlan, while weeping. From this dark, cold hotel room and the endlessness that you fear…

NEXT: Hidden Gems galore! No more dizzies!

Unlike last week, both college teams performed the same dance: cha cha cha. But it was so unfair! It was like pitting Maks against a merry band of early-1990s Brooklyn scoundrels out for two things: Rollerblades and Russian blood. Or pitting a Holly Hobbie doll against a battery-operated robot and asking a little boy which one he thinks is cooler. Or pitting Miley Cyrus against Sarah McLachlan in a substance-over-style contest. Okay, I think you get it!

Sad but true: As much as I love the spectacle that is DWTS, I have to admit that if I were visiting a college campus and a kid who’d been training since 6:30 a.m. assured our tour group that ”Dancing at UVU is widely accepted,” I might not last the day there. If there was free lunch, maybe. It just might turn out that UVU’s lunch was better than ice cream, better than anything else that I’ve tried.

Hidden Gem of the Week: The semifinal standouts include Anna’s knowing glances, my sudden prowess with Photoshop’s opacity tool, another puzzle I’ve got for you, and that dancing diva Liza Minnelli. How grand! How terribly grand.

”When Brooke mentioned Evan was ‘shy in his package,’ Ana looked down at Evan’s ‘package’ and made a face. Cracked me up. Of course, I am pretty dirty-minded so I may have imagined it….” —Misty, confirmed wholeheartedly by Ellen, Colleen, Terri, Chris, Gio Gio, China Trail, Kate, Lars, Jenny, Collin, Rachel, kevinkawa, and Jenn, who didn’t want to say anything out loud because she watches with her mother

”Maks’ gratuitous bicep flash on the first 10. It looked like his bicep swallowed a tennis ball.” —IAA Evan, endorsed by Fridge

”I don’t know if it was the lighting or what, but Cheryl’s spray tan took on a surreal orange glow during rehearsal. What with her green top, she sorta looked like an Oompa Loompa.” —Mothra

”Not-so-hidden gem for my house: Evan dressed for the paso doble in a sequined old lady jacket. My husband said it looked like something Lucille 2 might wear.” —Katja, seconded by jrm

After I read that someone had nominated a DWTS Hidden Gem that had to do with the other greatest TV show in the world, Arrested Development, I became so excited I started flexing my muscles like the goddess of gems that I truly am. But you can’t chew gum, or hunt gems, 24/7 without suffering the consequences. My eyes remained fixed on my pants in horror as I rapidly expanded into a giant blue bauble. Who can explain why these things happen? They just do. My sponsor, Cheryl, had to help roll me to the moonlighting jeweler, a.k.a. the juicer, a.k.a. Chad. He happened to be free. Anyway, now I’m fine! Excited for the finals. Lots of inside jokes in this crazy paragraph, DANCMSTRs. Thanks for being here. Only the strong survive. See you next week.


Fringe Fairy

Visible Gems: Marvel this week’s complete gem collection — including Len’s battle against a Teletubby for ultimate ballroom cuteness — over at PopWatch!

‘TreasureQuest: Readers pick Hidden Gems of the Week!

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

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