Time to chow down on some samba rolls — it's Latin Night in the ballroom
Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC

Crank up the air conditioning, because things are about to get very hot. It’s Latin Night in the ballroom, and Latin Night is always full of sexy, steamy, dare I say spicy routines. Latin Night also typically brings out some serious ruffles. You may be here for the heat, but I am always (and forever) here for the ruffles.

After surviving their first elimination night, all our couples are dancing under the stress of knowing this show just got real. Let’s see how they perform under pressure.

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev
Samba, “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee
As Nikki puts it, she went “from Nana to J. Lo real quick.” On Ballroom Night, Nikki was an elegant princess. On Latin Night…let’s just say most princesses wouldn’t be caught wearing Nikki’s skimpy getup. Or maybe they would. I don’t judge! Surprising both Nikki and her partner, Nikki has some trouble getting into the sexy routine. She giggles any time she gets too close to Artem. I mean, his abs are laughably perfect. The couple perform a true, slower samba, but as Carrie Ann points out, slowing things down only highlights Nikki’s mistakes. She needs more of the samba bounce and to be stronger and more flexible in her legs. Len is already hating on all the gyrating. This is going to be a long night for our favorite curmudgeon.
Judges’ Score: 18/30

Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy
Rumba, “Easy” by Sky Ferreira
On this, Victoria’s 23rd birthday, Val introduces the young gal to her hips. You need to use your hips in the rumba! Much like Nikki, Victoria has a tough time getting into the intimacy of her routine, but she decides to channel a rumba-ready character. She mostly succeeds. The greatest thing about this routine is that Victoria finally shows off her gams — and that’s a big deal for her. She also gets flowers and a thank you note from Taylor Swift for dancing to her song last night. That’s a pretty solid birthday. I mean, aside from Len being extremely unhappy with Val’s choreography. Len doesn’t see enough — or any, really — traditional rumba content. He’s a traditional guy, and he always will be. Birthday or no birthday, Len is always brutally honest.
Judges’ Score: 20/30

Derek Fisher and Sharna Burgess
Paso Doblé, “Diablo Rojo” by Rodrigo y Gabriela
After landing on the bottom of the leaderboard, Derek is using his Latin Night paso for redemption. Typically a smiley guy, Derek is trying to harness some aggression and power. To do so, he pictures sparring against Kobe Bryant. Sharna’s way prettier to look at, but whatever works, dude. Carrie Ann is happy to see Derek taking the judges’ critiques to heart and can tell that he is trying to fully own the dance floor. In just one night, he is already dancing bigger. How about that solo section? That’s intimidating to take on for week two. Although the judges are all happy to see Derek’s determination shine through, his scores are pretty low. Can’t a guy catch a break? A point for all of Sharna’s ruffles, perhaps?
Judges’ Score: 19/30

Sasha Pieterse and Gleb Savchenko
Samba, “Most Girls” by Hailee Steinfeld
Apparently Latin Night is Sasha’s big coming out party. She lets Gleb know how meaningful it is for her to dance to this song and opens up about gaining weight due to her PCOS, and the harassment she faced because of it. People are just the worst sometimes, huh? After a few tears, Sasha is all smiles on the dance floor. Who is this person? She is confident and sexy and also, I’ve never been to a prom like this one. Even Crankypants Len noticed an extra sparkle in Sasha’s dancing tonight. Carrie Ann applauds Sasha’s polished technique, but even more so her flair. Although it’s been said many times, many ways, DWTS is all about the flair, people.
Judges’ Score: 22/30

Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd
Argentine Tango, “She’s a Lady” by Lion Babe
Nick and Peta’s Argentine tango teaches us a few things about going on a first date (the story behind their routine). First, men do not remember any details about their first dates with a woman. While Vanessa can recall the location of their first date and the fact that they made out hardcore for a few hours, Nick recalls nothing. Second, if Peta’s costume is what we’re supposed to be wearing on a first date, well, I’ve been doing it all wrong. On the dance: The judges have mixed reviews. Carrie Ann saw the passion, but Len was not feeling it at all. Nick knows he needs to work on his tight hips, but Len pretty much wants a top-to-bottom overhaul. Isn’t Latin Night supposed to be fun? Somebody get this guy a margarita.
Judges’ Score: 19/30

Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold
Samba, “Mi Gente” by J. Balvin and Willy William
Lindsay teaches Jordan some samba runs and the kid cannot contain his glee. He is all of us. Jordan knows the samba is a tough dance to tackle, but he is so game. Once again, the judges praise this partnership. I think we’re all just used to seeing Lindsay with someone double her age. Nevertheless, they all feel the energy and vibrancy coming from this couple. Carrie Ann is glad to see Jordan took her previous note to heart and added some true latin nuances to his movement. Jordan certainly started out with an advantage, but it’s nice to see that he is still eager to learn. After their routine, Jordan goes on and on about how incredible it is to have Lindsay as a partner. Doesn’t Jordan know he’s not supposed to make us cry on Latin Night?
Judges’ Score: 24/30

Drew Scott and Emma Slater
Rumba, “Lights Down Low” by Max feat. gnash
The couple that spray tans together stays together. To help Drew get the feel for a sexy rumba, Emma sprays her guy down. She’s had enough of those pale abs. It must be magic spray tan, because Drew has never looked so in control on the floor. Not for nothing, but for a guy who is a non-performer in his day job, Drew does a great job of inhabiting the characters he’s asked to play. All the judges are impressed; Bruno literally falls off his chair (that’s because he’s laughing, but let’s just say he was knocked off his feet by the dancing). Len, who has been Drew’s toughest critic, asks the Property Brother to hold his gaze (a girl should be so lucky!) and tells him this rumba is his best dance to date. A round of spray tans for everyone!
Judges’ Score: 21/30

Debbie Gibson and Alan Bersten
Argentine Tango, “Havana” by Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug
Now, this is what Latin Night is all about. Len tells Debbie and Alan, who want to play up their noted chemistry even more, that they really gave us the vibe of a nightclub in Buenos Aires. It’s steamy and sexy, and they dance on top of a table. What more do you want? Well, for starters, Carrie Ann and Bruno want Debbie to work on pretty much everything going on from her hips down. She needs stronger footwork and to work on extending her legs. Honestly though, the way this evening is going, if Len is happy, you should be content. He calls Debbie a “little strumpet,” and it is pretty much the nicest thing he’s said to anyone all night.
Judges’ Score: 21/30

Vanessa Lachey and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Salsa, “Instruction” by Jax Jones feat. Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don
In rehearsals, Vanessa is having some trouble matching the energy of the samba. Maks wants her to channel her inner-20s party girl. She doesn’t come out on the dance floor chugging Boone’s Farm, but any energy issues are clearly issues no more. Our little Mama kills it. She and Maks are having a blast out there, and it shows. Len is so impressed, he tells Maks to keep Vanessa focused because she’s a real contender. It seems a little soon to say it out loud, but we’re all thinking it. The routine is fast and furious, but Vanessa only goes off balance once — it’s small, but it’s enough for Bruno to knock her down a point. Still, a little criticism can’t dampen Vanessa’s mood. She is LIVING.
Judges’ Score: 23/30

Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke
Samba, “Hot in Herre” by Nelly
Some things you should know about Terrell Owens: His relationship status “is like Kraft cheese: single,” and in his singledom, he typically spends his nights cuddling his pillow and putting in some quality time with HGTV. I never knew I could have so much in common with a professional football player. Am I an athlete now? Terrell only brings this up because he needs to look extra sexy for the samba, and he thinks he is nailing it. His samba with Cheryl is pretty sexy, and even better: Len congratulates the guy on his good posture and his obvious will to improve. Carrie Ann gives Terrell a note similar to the one she gave Derek during Ballroom Night: He needs to dance bigger. It’s like Carrie Ann completely forgot that this routine included an actual fire extinguisher.
Judges’ Score: 19/30

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas
Salsa, “Mani Picao” by Ricky Campanelli
Serious question: Could Mark Ballas love the salsa any more? Sure, this is supposed to be about Lindsey, but there is nothing better than watching The Ballas in his element. Boy was bringing it. Lindsey was pretty good, too. This was a stripped down, fast-paced, classic salsa…with a Ballas spin, of course. I thought I saw some clunky arm passes, but the judges were simply wowed. Len, of course, loved that the routine was all dance and no “larking about,” and Bruno found Lindsey’s ability to keep up with the sheer speed of the choreography breathtaking. Carrie Ann says something about Lindsey not dancing to the music, but being the music. Tom’s earlier theory that the judges hit happy hour before coming to work still holds.
Judges’ Score: 24/30

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson
Cha-Cha, “Perm” by Bruno Mars
Frankie Muniz has come TO WIN. My notes for this dance were just “high-pitched squealing.” Who is this person? Frankie, president of the DWTS fan club, comes out on the floor with attitude and swagger perfectly suited for his gold sequined blazer. He is living his best life. We are all living our best lives by watching it. Witney’s choreography is cha-cha content with fun, hip flavor, and Frankie doesn’t seem intimidated by it at all. On top of the entertainment value, Carrie Ann points out that Frankie was seamlessly able to go from party into good cha-cha technique. It’s enough for Bruno to dole out the first ‘9’ of the season. Malcolm is clearly on top, you guys.
Judges’ Score: 25/30

The season 25 race is already so tight, most eliminations are going to seem shocking. On the Latin Night chopping block are Nick and Peta and Debbie and Alan. It would be sad to see either couple go! Unfortunately, getting to see Debbie Gibson dance to “It Was Only in My Dreams” was only in my dreams, because Debbie and Alan are sent packing. Too soon, America!

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