Season 18 endures a partner shuffle; EW.com's Annie Barrett signs off

By Annie Barrett
April 08, 2014 at 04:30 AM EDT
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Did the season 18 Partner Switch-Up need to happen? Nope. Did it happen anyway and we all just had to deal with it and maybe it didn’t turn out to be that bad? Ding ding ding! (The sound of a fork clanging against a hollowed-out mirrorball.) That’s just how life works sometimes, on and off Planet Mirrorballus. It’s the way of the worlds. You think a partnership’s going really well, and then suddenly it’s over.

But relax! It’s just for one week! Order shall be restored soon enough. Have some faith, DANCMSTRs.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhhh-ba!

Meryl Davis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 39/40 “Can I fall backwards?” wondered a wide-eyed Meryl upon learning her “new person” (wait, is this Grey’s Anatomy?) had just entered the room. “Can I go now?” Oh, to be an ice dancer! Just lean on back and chances are someone is waiting there to catch you. And if they’re not, hey, it’s just ice. Your life is like a box of trust falls.

Anyway, ARE YOU KIDDING ME with this Argentine Tango?!

“Oh, hey, just hanging out in this specific pose, no big deal.”

Incredible results from Meryl and Val on what tends to be the seethingly jealous Maksim’s favorite dance. Head judge Len Goodman called them out for being a bit too staccato at times, but I’m pretty sure he was just desperately trying to be creative. If you look at the totals from this week and last week (I’ve compiled them all at the end of tonight’s ranking), Meryl is ahead of the pack by miles. (Seven points.) Looks like the “Chmerswapskiy” — Tom Bergeron wordplay for the win — worked out for our ice goddess.

What’s the biggest difference between the Brothers Chmerkovskiy? “Val is down to business,” Meryl confided to the cameras. The business of braiding her hair.

James Maslow and Cheryl Burke: 35/40 Cheryl always gets what she wants (except for Peta’s height, long legs, and blonde hair), so this “perfect storm” of a tango — which involved James executing a cartwheel in just a few feet of space between some stairs and a freaking gem-tastic throne — had to make her happy even though the dramatic outpour of support for her original partner with his temporary partner (Drew and Witney) probably made her a little sad. Ever the pro, though — Our Pro — she carried herself like the dancing queen she is.

James is really going for it with his refusal to wear shirts, huh? I’m into him as a dancer. As soon as he distinguishes himself from Adam Levine as a person, I will probably be on board with him in the more humanlike aspects as well.

Amy Purdy and Mark Ballas: 34/40 Awww, poor Mark — he’s “never been like the physical type” (HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE IF YOU ARE A BALLROOM DANCING PRO), so he was absolutely nerve-wracked when it sank in that his temporary partner Amy had no legs. Luckily, Mark’s BFF Derek was on hand to sit down with him for a poignant chat about how they were both wearing fedoras.

“I mean, we’re indoors! So they’re even more unnecessary!”

The Switch-Up really worked in this case, though — Mark remained his “space-giving” self, leaving Amy on her own to find her balance during the salsa. It sounds treacherous when I explain it — and believe me, for a moment there I was horrified — but his hands-off style allowed her to claim her own danceability in a way that Derek’s more “I gotcha” human-chimney-sweep style had not. So, good work, guys! Effective switch. And I’m so glad the judges were all able to agree that they love Amy Purdy’s tight ass!

NEXT: Is Drew Carey suddenly a contender?

Drew Carey and Witney Carson: 33/40 Here’s another Switch-Up success story that at first seemed like a disaster: Witness Drew and Witney’s “grandpa-granddaughter” dynamic! Ewwwww.com. But hey, it worked out in a huge way for him. I’m no Julianne Hough — now officially the hoochie version of Claire Underwood of Dancing With the Stars with that short haircut and “statement cleavage” against a sharp business dress — so I’m not sure Drew was technically any better in this cha cha cha than he’s been in previous routines. But his demeanor within the dance had a sense of joy and freedom we’ve never seen from him. When he did the Lisa Rinna Signature Disco Point to Heaven (™), I really believed it. He looked confident! This was an awesome performance for both Witney and the cross “between Elvis Presley and Liberace.” (Of course that’s Bruno’s idea of “making it work”!)

Charlie White and Peta Murgatroyd: 33/40 Who? What? I refuse to believe that was our floppy-haired Charlie trapped inside a no-zone of severe hair shellac. I’ll take Tom’s word for it, though, I guess. (This was my “Doubting Thomas” moment of the episode.) Len claimed their billowing purple rumba — staged within a cloudy intimate circle because Charlie is in the advanced class of this season’s sparkle-aliens — wasn’t a rumba at all, but was more like a contemporary piece. Again, I wondered if he was just coming up with imaginary stuff to tell the flawless ice dancers. But Len fumed that “there were no hips!” in Charlie’s performance, and he is the one judge we tend to believe, so I suppose it’s good that Charlie now has something to work on.

Nene Leakes and Derek Hough: 32/40 Nene’s worst nightmare and most passionate dream (I feel like she has the same reaction to all polar opposite occurrences in life, which is to scream wildly) came true: She got paired up with that munchkin Derek in the Switch-Up. What followed — after a liiiiiiiiive musical mishap wherein the vocalists came in “really, really early so everything was off” — was a bizarre and heated jazz routine in which the two blonde siblings (LOL) reenacted the African Anteater Ritual from Can’t Buy Me Love alongside a raging fire — plus, Nene’s hair was also a fire.

Altogether it was the weirdest Survivor Tribal Council I’ve ever seen. Eights it is!

NEXT: ‘This week you just had to phone it in.’ -the missing part of Julianne’s dress

Danica McKellar and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 32/40 Julianne Hough wanted to make a statement with something other than the screaming metallic jigsaw puzzle piece clawing at her neck, so she told Maks, “I felt like this week you just had to phone it in so you could be back with Meryl.” Whoa! Hold up! Actually, I don’t really care about Julianne’s bitchy comment — have we ever seen Maks wear black spandex tights during rehearsals?! Because that was the moment in their segment that really stood out to me.

Sorry!

Anyway, I didn’t get the sense that Maks phoned it in from the dance itself because a) apparently the music people effed up again, so the whole thing could’ve been thrown off by that, and b) especially after Danica removed her skirt to dance the rest of the number in Just a Bathing Suit (a DWTS costuming favorite!), she and Maks looked ridiculously amazing together. I’m sorry to have to say this, especially during my last EW column, but the two of them seamlessly blended into one perfect black-and-white bubble butt.

Cody Simpson and Sharna Burgess: 31/40 It turned out Cody preferred his original partner Witney too — those harshly aging taskmasters Sharna and Cheryl (who are both still way younger than you) just can’t catch a break! But Cody and Sharna’s shared Aussie spirit and his willingness to pick up tough choreography made their bridal-themed foxtrot very enjoyable. What I found really enjoyable, though, was that Bruno told Cody, “You still don’t quite control your length of bone.” LENGTH OF BONE.

And talk about Maks phoning it in — do you think Sharna was sabotaging Cody when she suggested he sing at the beginning of their number? (I’m kidding!) (Am I?)

Sharna is my hero:

“I don’t wanna see these pants in rehearsal for the rest of the week.”

Candace Cameron Bure and Tony Dovolani: 28/40 Tony really went all out on this “Ballroom Blitz” quickstep — butt chains, back-pocket bandana (is Tony secretly a member of the Red Feathers from Troop Beverly Hills? very disappointing), red spray-painted hair, the works. He was all about developing the character of the dance, Candace explained, whereas her original partner Mark tended to focus on footwork first. She could use the footwork lessons more, it turns out. Bruno called her quickstepping “manic” and Julianne and Carrie Ann pointed out the extra “gapping” between the two perfect strangers. Rude! Don’t they remember that Candace needs to leave a little room for God?

The dancers’ total scores are below — next week, one of the original couples will be eliminated once the viewer votes and these combined scores have been tallied….

Meryl: 78

James: 71

Amy: 70

Charlie: 69

Danica: 68

Cody: 66

Nene: 63

Drew: 63

Candace: 60

A parting thought: Do you ever wish you could randomly call out, “Honey, wait…..”

And this would happen?

LAST: EW.com’s Fringe Fairy signs off

The nasty, beige-hued, sequin-devoid rumors are true: This is my last post at EW.

I know a lot of you are upset, to which I say: Cool it, girl! We’ve all got some problems! But also: THANK YOU for caring. I loved doing my job for eight years. And through it all — especially near the end — the work’s greatest reward was knowing that so many readers returned again and again to peer through whatever absurdist filter I felt like applying to the same. old. sh*t. TV can be fun enough on its own, but you and I wanted to meet up the morning after and make it even better. I’m so grateful for that.

Try to control your #sparklebarf for now, as it’s unladylike to vomit, plus logistics won’t allow me to push a mirrorball tissue box your way. This is just one billowing word-puff on the big, bad, infinite internet. What you and I have, the camaraderie we’ve built up over the years — that’s the real stuff. And we can replicate it anywhere.

Keep up with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and at anniebarrett.com.

My Dancing With the Stars recaps will live elsewhere starting next week.

So this isn’t goodbye. It’s just a wave.

Thank you from the gooey center of my gem-encrusted heart for reading me.

XOXO,

Annie Barrett

Your Fringe Fairy forever

Follow @AnnieBarrett

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