The home viewers served as the fourth judge in this night of memorable year inspiration.
Dancing With The Stars
Credit: ABC

Len Goodman was back in jolly old England this week, but instead of inviting a celebrity judge who, you know, might not have any dance background and/or intricate knowledge of ballroom technique (we still love you Robin Roberts, Cher, and Ricky Martin), Dancing With the Stars producers instead invited the viewers at home who definitely have no dance background or knowledge of ballroom to raise that fourth paddle.

But were voters moved by couples’ dance ability or influenced by the emotional video packages that preceeded each performance? In some cases it seemed to be the latter. And there were indeed plenty of emotional packages given that this week’s theme was “Most Memorable Year.” Let’s break it down…

Janel Parrish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 36/40

Parrish told the heartbreaking story of leaving her biggest supporter B.J., who was like a second grandmother to her, behind in Hawaii after she came to Los Angeles to pursue show biz back in 2002. “Her love inspired me,” Parrish said of her beloved pal. Poor B.J. passed away from breast cancer before Parrish could return home to visit with her, so she dedicated her rumba to her late champion. It was arguably the most emotional and heartfelt video segment. Parrish delivered on the dance floor, too, earning high praise from the judges. “B.J. would be very proud,” Julianne said. Added Carrie Ann Inaba: “The best way to pay tribute is to go on living a full life.” This is certainly one of the couples to watch as the season progresses. Might there be back to back Chermkovskiy wins this year? Fine by me.

Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker: 24/40

After showing initial promise, Bennett has hit a dry spell. His video package was certainly emotional, however. In it, he recounted the loss of both of his parents. But such is the roller coaster of emotion on DWTS and from sad to funny: One of the most hilarious parts of the show is the reaction shots taken of the other stars and pro dancers up in the skybox when they don’t realize the camera is on them. Most of the time, the other contenders applaud and show smiles of support when a couple finishes a dance—you know, the way Emmy nominees do when they just lost in their category to Allison Janney. But sometimes their guards are down and the looks on their faces are simply priceless. Such was the case when Alfonso Ribeiro was caught on camera reacting to Bennett and Holker’s samba. It was a mix of “Eeesh” and “I won’t have to worry about him in a few weeks.”

Betsey Johnson and Tony Dovolani: 29/40

Kudos to Johnson for being more physically fit than contenders much younger than her. She and Dovolani did an amazing jive. Johnson incorporated one of her trademark splits and told the heartrending story of how she set up her own company and why the most important year in her life was the year her daughter Lulu was born. Johnson gave herself a “98 out of 100.” (I give her 100.) The crowd went wild over her efforts and there were plenty of cheers in the press room, too.

NEXT: A battle of the Houghs

Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 33/40

Mota, the YouTube sensation, told the story of being bullied and how having the video platform enabled her to regain her power. Julianne Hough praised the message Mota was spreading, but then criticized her brother Derek for not having enough rumba content in the choreography. (She still, however, gave the couple a respectable score of “8,” so things shouldn’t be too awkward at Thanksgiving as host Tom Bergeron brilliantly quipped there might be.) America gave the duo a “9,” so voters were either moved by Mota’s message—or they really, really, really like Derek. Probably a little of both.

Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: 25/40

I would have predicted Waltrip was going home this week especially after the duo’s quickstep—which started out well—quickly went nowhere. (The best part of the routine was the cutaway shot of Slater’s previous partner Bill Engvall in the audience.) The judges summed up the routine by saying they wanted to like it, but they couldn’t. Bruno Tonioli noted that the dancer in Waltrip is “screaming to get out” but that his “frame wasn’t good.” Waltrip threw himself on the mercy of the Goodman-less panel of judges and asked that they give him a high enough score so he could return next week. “Can you give me a good paddle?” he asked/begged. The plea didn’t really work with the judges (each held up a “6”), but the voters at home came through with a “7.”

Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev: 39/40

Thompson combined a heartfelt emotional story of losing her dad with a heartfelt emotional tribute dance to him. Kudos to Chigvintsev, who supported his partner both physically and emotionally. Partnerships like theirs are why people watch this show. The judges were moved. The audience deeply appreciated the duo’s efforts. Well, at least the studio audience did. (And I know the reporters in the press room were touched.) The voters at home surprisingly raised a 9 paddle. Host Erin Andrews nailed it when she said “I did this dance with Maks one time…” “Eww, America.”

Antonio Sabato Jr. and Cheryl Burke: 29/40

Financial hardship is hard, so I don’t mean to diminish Sabato Jr.’s pre-dance video segment, but his tale of his parents not having much money and having to work two jobs wasn’t as powerful as the tales from other mirror ball contenders who opened up about deceased loved ones. Burke has said in interviews that the pre-dance package can be just as important as the dance itself in getting votes, and she’s probably right. Still, Sabato Jr. more than made up for it on the dance floor by going shirtless and turning in a sexy samba. He’s arguably the most popular celeb this season, so if his dancing improves, he could still be a contender.

NEXT: Sadie Robertson has “Shirley Ballas” moves

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: 28/40

Carrie summed it up perfectly when she noted that what saves Chong each week is that he has a naturalness that other celebs don’t and that brings down their scores. She added she wants to enjoy watching him because he’s totally natural. Chong, who opened up about his jail stint more than a decade ago, has a deadpan delivery, which helps endear him to audiences. When Erin Andrews asked (off the duo’s prison-themed dance) if there were pretty girls like Murgatroyd in the clink, Chong simply replied: “Not girls.”

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 37/40

Roberton’s video segment seemed a little off; she mostly talked about what it’s been like to be thrust into the limelight courtesy of her family’s reality TV series Duck Dynasty. But at least she didn’t make up some sob story (not saying that anyone did—this year); instead, she revealed a bit of herself and then proceeded to turn in a dynamite samba with dance partner Ballas. Judge Julianne Hough declared that Robertson was making some “Shirley Ballas moves”—that’s Mark’s mother by the way, a well-revered and highly respected dancer teacher (whom I’m hoping either drops by the judges’ table or does a turn as a pro some season—maybe both?).

Tom Bergon continued to prove he’s the most quick-witted host on the air when after taking a seat with some of Robertson’s family members (who were decked out in their Duck Dynasty duds) that “one of these things is not like the others” (a nod to that musical sketch on Sesame Street)—he quickly followed up by joking “now we’re going to have to pay them for that song.”

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 40/40

Once again, producers saved the best for last: Ribeiro recalled that his most significant years were the ones he spent as a cast member on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And since one of his most memorable scenes on that show was dancing “The Carlton,” he recreated that dance with his partner Carson. (Hey, wanna feel old? Carson wasn’t even born when Fresh Prince debuted back in 1990.) After getting rave reviews from the judges, America weighed in—this time getting it right—and Ribeiro and Carson took the top spot with a score of 40.

(Not) All Sewn Up: Betsey Johnson, Tommy Chong, and Michael Waltrip were all in jeopardy; and although I was thinking Waltrip had taken his last lap, that changed when Bergeron compassionately informed “Betsey and Tony” that they were the couple eliminated.

I’ll miss Betsey, her zany outfits, her splits, and her incredible facial reactions—I thought she had the potential to go at least halfway. America doesn’t always vote for the best dancer (remember the runs that Cloris Leachman and Bill Engvall had?). Alas, this time there wasn’t enough support for this eccentric, likeable, loveable lady. It’s a bummer not only to see her go, but also Tony Dovolani, too. He’s the third familiar pro we’ve lost in a row—following the exits of Sharna Burgess and Karina Smirnoff. Next week is the switch up when pros and celebs switch partners. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will be paired with whom, but one thing’s for sure: Tommy Chong’s not getting his choice. Sorry, Tony.

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