The tears are out tonight as the stars recall their best (and sometimes worst) years.

By Lynette Rice
April 07, 2015 at 08:56 PM EDT
Adam Taylor/ABC
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The “Most Memorable Year” night makes for good video packages… but not-so-inspired dances. I mean, how do you adequately pay homage to an IED attack?

Len Goodman certainly wasn’t in the mood for sob stories: The ol’ boy was grumpy all night and didn’t seem to like anybody, least of all Rumer Willis, who performed a brilliant waltz as a snub to all her early haters. Then again, anybody can have a bad night in the ballroom. To wit: Poor Michael Sam, who poured his heart out about coming out to the world last year, only to have his homophobic dad diss him in the newspaper. The football player got the last word by sharing his world of hurt with viewers—but his national stage was short-lived as he became the third dancer to leave the dance floor.  

“She was amazing, I had a great time,” was all Sam could say.

Here’s what else happened on a night of memories (as well as a few moments we’d love to forget):

Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough

The extraordinarily limber gymnast remembers her Olympic run in 2008 during this show-stopping Argentine tango-cum-lift-a-palooza. “Your back was so strong, but you nailed it in 2008 and you nailed it tonight,” said Julianne. “It was stellar. It was fill of exhilarating shapes and shades,” added Bruno. 

Score: 36 out of 40

Michael Sam and Peta Murgatroyd

A teary-eyed football star danced the rumba in memory of his father, who turned against him when he came out in 2014. Song choice? “I’m not my father’s son.” D’oh! Poppa, you got served—and in a ballroom, no less. “It takes an enormous amount of guts to stand for what you believe in,” said Bruno. “Your voice is very important and I guarantee you, it’s helped a lot of people.” “Dance is so much more than movement,” added Carrie Ann. “Tonight you understood why so many of us dance. It was breathtaking.”

Score: 30 out of 40

Riker Lynch and Allison Holker

The musician who began the night in jeopardy exploded red in this “hectic” tango he dedicated to R5, his band he formed with his siblings. “You stand out like a vibrant neon light!” Bruno said. “That music was so odd to interpret to a tango.” “You seemed like you guys were fighting,” added Carrie Ann. “You’re dancing against each other.”

Score: 34 out of 40

Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson

The shark got emotional reflecting on how much his mom loved watching DWTS before she died of cancer. “I know how much it would have meant to my mom,” he said before his impressive waltz. “That was so sweet,” said Carrie Ann. “You remind me of why this show became a hit.” “Your frame was incredible,” added Julianne.

Score: 34 out of 40

NEXT: More tributes and tears…

Chris Soules and Witney Carson

Prince Farming dances a rumba in memory of his fiancé—but not the squeaky one from The Bachelor. The one that pre-dated reality TV. “It wasn’t that great,” deadpanned Len. “What is missing is a little connection between the both of you,” added Julianne. Wait, which Whitney is she talking about?

Score: 27 out of 40

Patti LaBelle and Artem Chigvintsev

As a way to look back to 1973, the singer danced the jazz to her tune “Dan Swit Me,” though “if I knew this was a song I was dancing to in 2015, I would have recorded it slower,” she quipped. “You made me want to get out and dance with you!” exclaimed Julianne. “That was out of control,” Carrie Ann added.

Score: 30 out of 40

Rumer Willis and Val Chermkovskiy

The actress recalls all those “nasty” people who used to say she looked more like her “masculine” dad than her “stunning” mom. Mean people are mean! Seriously, Rumer—they suck. At least her waltz didn’t. Seriously, anything but. “You have an uncanny ability to connect with the character in your dance,” said Bruno.

Score: 35 out of 40

Suzanne Somers and Tony Dovolani

The actress looks back to 1977, when she nabbed the life-changing role of Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company. But a send-up of her old sitcom may not have been the best way to pay tribute to the late John Ritter. And yet the judges were totally forgiving. “Suzanne you were totally in your element,” said Julianne. 

Score: 28 out of 40

Willow Shields and Mark Ballas

When you’re 14, there’s not a whole helluva lot to reflect on—and its pretty hard to choreograph a contemporary ditty around, say, a moment from kindergarten. So Shields dedicated her number to her work in The Hunger Games—and did a pretty decent job. “I’ve never seen The Hunger Games. I thought it was about something to eat,” said Len. “Everything about that was pitched perfectly! I’m blown away by you,” added Carrie Ann. 

Score: 39 out of 40

Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess

The show left the most moving story for last by flashing pictures of the Army vet’s devastating injuries in Iraq—and when he came back to life. Also, he took his shirt off! “Your experiences are unimaginable,” said Bruno. “You are really the ultimate role model. You want a superhero? There he is.” “With very few words you say something very profound,” added Carrie Ann. “No guts no glory,” said Len. “Everyone here can stand up and applaud you.”

Score: 32 out of 40

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