Couples are reminded that less is often more after a big production week.

By Michael Maloney
October 28, 2014 at 04:09 AM EDT
  • TV Show

Len Goodman returned to Dancing With the Stars just in time for Halloween. And can I just say what a pleasure it is having four judges at the table who are actually qualified to critique this show? If there are going to be future guest judges, can we have people who know what they’re talking about? I’d like to see Shirley Ballas, Mark’s butt-kickin’ mama, sitting at the table. Also, Maksim Chmerkovskiy did a great job two season ago when he was given a stack of paddles. While Len did his part in coming back to the show, it’s too bad that some of the couples didn’t give the man what he wanted—dances that are worthy of week 7 in this competition.

A recurring comment from the judges tonight was that the Halloween-themed productions may have overshadowed some of the performances. I have to agree. Sometimes adding smoke, cemeteries, and extra dancers can distract from a really great routine.

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: 28/40 (Quickstep)

It may have been “old home week” in the sense that Len is back, but why can’t the British announcer return as well? The names being super-imposed over the screen just isn’t the same. Anyway, Tommy confirmed again that he’s the sentimental favorite this season by giving everything he’s got to this dance. He appreciates Peta’s hard work and she, in return, helps him deliver. Tommy continues to amaze everyone by getting the moves down so well. How can this guy do this at the age of 76 when other, younger guys in the competition aren’t doing nearly as well?

Lea Thompson and Artem Chigventsev: 34/40 (Aregentine Tango)

A commenter properly schooled me last week by saying Artem’s a past winner on Strictly Come Dancing, the British version of Dancing With the Stars, so it’s no surprise that he and Lea bounced back this week with an impressive Argentine Tango. Artem’s incredibly strong, so they got in some nice lifts with their dance. I like this couple because there’s not a lot of forced drama in their pre-dance packages. She’s a little nervous about re-embracing dance as part of her life. He’s rock solid in his support. I agree with judge Julianne Hough, though. This duo needs to give itself a break!

Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 39/40 (Paso Doble)

What I love about Derek is that he doesn’t spend time in his pre-dance video segment bemoaning Leah Remini (last week’s guest host) smacking him around with her microphone, forcing some fake emotions about how that hurt his feelings. Derek’s always looking ahead to the next dance and how to continue his partner’s journey. In the past, he’s been a bit more expert in his strategy—meaning, he’d do stuff he knows Len wouldn’t like on a week that Len wouldn’t be there. This time, it was the opposite. Derek was more traditional last week; this week, he added all that “mumbo jumbo” that makes cranky Len so cranky. There’s still another month to go in this competition, however; plenty of time for Derek to start raking in a series of perfect scores.

Antonio Sabato Jr. and Cheryl Burke: 27/40 (Viennese Waltz)

I agree with Carrie Ann Inaba, who said watching this dance was frustrating. Antonio seemingly has all the external tools to do well in this competition, but he hasn’t been able to pull it together. Still, he’s gotta outlast Tommy, who’s 76, and Michael Waltrip, who just ain’t cutting it. Not sure why Antonio wanted to please Len so much in his video segment. Sadly, he didn’t. At least Len let him down gently.

Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: 20/40 (Jive)

We’ve witnessed plenty of times where a dance pair is full of frustration and despair in the pre-dance package only to see them go out on the floor and get 9’s and 10’s. Sadly, Michael and Emma’s jive didn’t even garner a 6! Bruno summed it up by saying “there wasn’t any jive.” I was so hoping the camera would cut up to the skybox to show a relieved Antonio or Tommy at this point, but I think they were getting changed for the upcoming group dance. Honestly, the best part of this portion of the show was when they went to commercials and we saw a promo for Nashville in which Derek comforted an anxious Hayden Panettiere (or rather her character, who is pregnant). Not that Derek needs the votes, but this spot just further endeared him to viewers.

NEXT: Methinks Val’s a pretty little liar…

Janel Parish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 31/40 (Viennese Waltz)

Still steamed that Val had to endure a celebrity guest judge last week—who had zero dance knowledge—giving him and Janel a lousy 7. Things will be better now that Len’s back, right? Maybe not. Time constraints prevented Len from giving his comments, but his paddle said it all: 7. I see Val restraining himself while the other judges dole our their remarks. He truly deserves better than 31. Kudos to him for thanking the judges up in the skybox. He’s taking the high road and, as I’ve pointed out, that worked really well for his brother last season. I see Val and Janel in the finals and possibly emerging as this season’s big showmance.

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 36/40 (Rumba)

Witney stuck to the basics for this routine and it paid off. She didn’t add a ton of extras and kept the focus on the dance, earning high praise from Len in the process. Alfonso scored a perfect ’40’ on the sentimental chart by sharing with viewers after his dance that he and his wife are expecting another baby. Awwww… what’s their voting number again?

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 30/40 (Paso Doble)

There’s so little conflict between these two, but still their pre-dance package was interesting because it showed Mark’s frustration over wanting to come up with just the right routine for their dance. Their graveyard Paso Doble was a BIG hit with the audience, however, as many could have predicted, the judges—especially Len—shot it down because the production was too big. Julianne was careful not to critique her pal too harshly (as she’s done in the past), but you could see Mark’s frustration behind those fake Zombie eyes.

Team Itsy Bitsy: 36/40

We’re now at the point in the competition where we get team dances. I usually cringe when team captains select pairs to be in their groups. It’s too reminiscent of school days when I someone would be picked last for basketball. That probably didn’t happen too often for Michael given his height, but tonight he was selected last on Team Itsy. After three-fourths of the team (Bethany/Derek; Janel/Val; Lea/Artem) did an amazing job, and Michael, as Carrie Ann put it “didn’t make anyone look bad,” I thought well, he’s gotta be going. Julianne said something nice to the race car driver, too, and traditionally, the show doesn’t kick anyone on their way out the door. Then, Tom Bergeron calls everyone on Team Itsy safe. Yikes! How is Michael still in this race? Did Emma sprinkle some magic Bill Engvall powder on him?

Team Creepy: 32/40

Sadie and Mark, Tommy and Peta, Antonio and Cheryl, and Alfonso and Witney comprise Team Creepy. While the judges said this group wasn’t in sync, I honestly didn’t notice that. I thought their routine was awesome; Tommy more than held his own. I kept thinking how could he or Antonio be going home when Michael gets to stay? Since couples are doing two dances a night now, I’m thinking it’s got to be Tommy. He’s 76! (I know I keep saying that, but it bears repeating!)

But Tom announces it’s Antonio and Cheryl who are leaving. He’s going to go back to making room over for his syndicated series Fix It & Finish It, and Cheryl will return for bumper performances with other ejected pros and troupe members. Plus, she’ll be back next season… or will she? Cheryl said as the show was wrapping up that season 19 was her “most memorable for so many reasons. I had the most amazing time.” Is “so many reasons” some kind of cryptic code for “I’m not coming back next season”? It’s probably too early to tell, but I’ll be listening to Good Morning America and The View in the morning to hear if she’ll be making any announcements.

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