Although it’s been said many times, many ways: Welcome to “Most Memorable Year” on Dancing With the Stars. Now, prepare to cry.
It’s not like DWTS doesn’t know what it’s doing — just look at how many couples have been assigned the contemporary style of dance. “Contemporary” is dance speak for “Make them feel. Make them feeling every last thing.” They are begging us to cry! What with people dancing about late loved ones, premature babies, and LEARNING TO WALK AGAIN, we should be able to oblige.
Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson
Quickstep, “Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay
Frankie talks about all he’s accomplished in his life: actor, race car driver, rock & roll drummer. It’s inspired me to set off after a new goal: Make Bryan Cranston as proud of me as he is of Frankie Muniz. Bryan Cranston loves Frankie so much. What’s a Mirrorball compared to The Love of Cranston (trademark pending)? Frankie’s most memorable year is 2017, because after dealing with some memory problems, he’s finally learned to live in the present. Probably thanks to his sunny outlook and his girlfriend who is basically James Garner in The Notebook. Frankie, Witney, and Frankie’s jacket perform a clean, joyous quickstep. He has a solid frame and all the judges are happy to see he’s back after a shaky samba last week.
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke
Viennese Waltz, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston
The fog machine. The Whitney Houston ballad. A lovely story about a contestant’s grandparent. Yes, we really are watching “Most Memorable Year.” Terrell Owens reveals a softer side this week, as he talks about 2012, the year he lost his grandmother. Grandmother Alice raised Terrell, and he owes everything to her. The judges are right: Because this dance, an ode to his grandmother, is more than just a dance, Terrell performs better than he ever has before. He’s elegant and poised, and the routine has an easiness to it while retaining its emotional intensity. Just when you think you’ve made it out of the routine sans tears, Terrell declares that he misses his grandmother, eyes full of them. DWTS, you are a monster.
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev
Contemporary, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten
Nikki’s most memorable year is 2016, the year she discovered a possibly career-ending neck injury. And by “injury” she means her neck was about to snap in half. You know, that old injury. Nikki pushed through recovery (anyone else feel intense shame watching Nikki work out whilst wearing a neck brace?) and found herself back in the ring seven months later. She is a fighter. As Erin points out in the post-routine interview, the best part of this contemporary routine set inside a wrestling ring clad with silks is the big “thank you” Nikki gives to Artem when it ends. The routine showed off her strength and vulnerability, her power and artistry. She thought it was the first time she was really able to share her true self, and that was all Artem. Artem!
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd
Contemporary, “Falling Slowly” by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard
A contemporary set to “Falling Slowly” might be the thing that eventually forces me into a fit of fatal sobs. I mean, not this one exactly, but some version of it. Nick’s most memorable year is 2011, the year he married Vanessa in what honestly looks like a pretty great wedding. They jump into a pool together! That’s fun. Peta’s gorgeous choreography is the real winner of this routine. It’s playful, emotional, and as Carrie Ann notices, it shows off Nick’s strengths. There is one shaky-looking turn, but other than that, it’s nice to see Nick really putting his heart out on the dance floor. Nick always seemed like the reluctant Lachey in the pair, but he seems into it these days. The judges have to call him on his balance issues, but they applaud the emotion and vulnerability.
Judges’ Score: 22/30
Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas
Viennese Waltz, “Anchor” by Mindy Gledhill
Well, now everyone is crying. Lindsey dedicates her dance to her late father, and Mark choreographs a gorgeous Viennese waltz about a little girl dancing with her dad, in which Mark wears Lindsey’s father’s actual scarf and hat. If that visual alone doesn’t break you down emotionally, the final sequence in which Mark is just a shadow on a screen sure will. Don’t worry, I’ll be over here shoving mint chocolate chip ice cream in my face to cope. The judges are just as smitten, albeit without the dairy products. Bruno calls the routine “magical.” Carrie Ann loves how true Lindsey stays to herself. And Len, well, Len can’t help himself, and although he agrees that the dance was gorgeous, he would’ve liked some more Viennese waltz content. Len is who he is, people.
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Derek Fisher and Sharna Burgess
Jazz, “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield
Flowers and tears, you guys. Flowers and tears. Derek’s daughter Tatum suffered from a rare eye cancer at just 10 months old. They decided to treat it with an experimental operation and Derek recalls the total terror at handing his baby over to the doctors, not knowing if he’d see her alive again. This story has a happy ending though, and if you thought it couldn’t get any more emotional, Tatum is watching in the audience. The routine is a celebration of life, and a celebration of Derek’s daughter. The guy seems free, and what more could you ask for? I mean, maybe higher scores, but the judges are in charge of that. Sure, Derek’s fighter of a daughter is crying in the audience, but they still take off points for being out of sync with Sharna. Our judges have jobs to do!
Judges’ Score: 23/30
Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold
Contemporary, “Take Me Home” by Us The Duo
Throughout the entire episode, pretty much any time they’ve cut to Jordan, he’s been teary eyed. The guy is emotionally raw tonight, and it carries over into his gorgeous contemporary routine. Jordan chooses 2005, the year he was officially adopted by his grandparents, as his most memorable year. He wants to show his gratitude and love for them through dance. YOU GUYS. The pros are straight-up killing it with the choreography tonight. Can we all just live in Lindsay’s routine? It’s simple, beautiful, and it is full of joy. It also heralds in the first two perfect 10s of the season. What a night! At the end, Jordan basically sobs on his mom and dad and we all believe in good things again. I NEED MORE ICE CREAM.
Judges’ Score: 29/30
Sasha Pieterse and Gleb Savchenko
Foxtrot, “Over My Head (Cable Car)” by The Fray
In 2016, Pretty Little Liars ended and Sasha was dealing with health issues that were costing her jobs, but on the plus side, her boyfriend Hudson proposed and helped Sasha refocus. Her most memorable year is all about one door closing and another opening. And with that in mind, she and Gleb dance a foxtrot with…actual doors. Get it? Sasha looks gorgeous in her sparkly gown and perfect bold lip, and the routine is classic foxtrot done cleanly and with elegance. It is loads better than that time she and Gleb were trapped in a kitchen. Is it the best of the evening? No. But it does get Sasha and Gleb off the bottom of the leader board. Little victories!
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Vanessa Lachey and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Rumba, “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” by Nick Lachey
No. No. No, Dancing With the Stars. Nick Lachey got his time to make us cry already this evening; he does NOT get a second chance by talking about Vanessa giving birth to their third child at just 29 weeks and saying things like he’s never felt so helpless or that as a man he wants to think he’s able to protect his son and his wife WHILE WEEPING. No. This is a bridge too far. In case you were hoping for some clarification as to the “personal reasons” Maks sat out last week, you won’t find them here. You will, however, find Maks tearing up at Vanessa’s story while wearing a see-through shirt. Beggars can’t be choosers. Vanessa and Maks perform this sweet rumba in the round to one of Nick’s songs, and it is full of the classic rumba that delights Len’s heart (no one talks about sliding doors with as much affection as Len does), as well as the emotion that delights the viewers.
Judges’ Score: 24/30
Drew Scott and Emma Slater
Jive, “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
What. Is. Happening. Drew’s most memorable year is 2007, the year he struggled with his failed acting career but picked himself up by pushing his brother Jonathan into doing Property Brothers: a new kind of dream. On such an emotional night, the old footage from early PB days with Drew and Jonathan’s frosted tips is healing my broken soul — 2007 hair is the best hair. BUT THEN. In the middle of Drew and Emma’s lively jive (in which the tall guy does a pretty good job handling those tiny flicks and kicks), Jonathan joins them. ON THE DANCE FLOOR. He doesn’t just stand there either; Jonathan really gets after it. The three of them dance their little renovated hearts out. No wonder Len calls it Drew’s best dance of the season.
Judge’s Score: 24/30
Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy
Foxtrot, “I Lived” by OneRepublic
Sure, we’ve heard Victoria’s incredible story before, but watching her and her parents relive a time in Victoria’s life when no one thought she was going to survive never gets easier. No one believed she’d make it out of her vegetative state, and then after she did, no one believed she’d ever walk again. Except Victoria. Val choreographs a lovely routine telling that very story. Can we please talk about the gorgeous section in which Victoria danced while in her wheelchair? Once out of the chair, she and Val dance a traditional foxtrot that Carrie Ann calls “clean and precise,” while also commenting on their endearing chemistry as a couple. Even self-proclaimed “crusty old guy” Len Goodman loved the joyful experience of watching Victoria and Val.
Judges’ Score: 27/30
Now that we’ve emotionally destroyed everyone, let’s tell one couple they are no longer good enough to stay on this show. Up for elimination are: Nick and Peta and Derek and Sharna. Unfortunately, on this moving night, the time has come to say goodbye to Derek and Sharna. I feel like they were just getting started. Oh, Sharna. One day, the queen will have her Mirrorball.