Welcome to the Relay Challenge Round, friends.

By Maggie Fremont
November 02, 2020 at 10:44 PM EST
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The bad news is that due to health concerns, Jeanne Mai had to exit the competition early. The good news is that on this Dancing With the Stars “Double Elimination Night,” there will in fact only be one elimination. Hey, we need to look for silver linings wherever we can. Jeannie and Brandon were a fun couple to watch and will be missed! Thankfully, we get a little moment to say goodbye: Jeannie sends an update from the hospital — she’s doing fine — and there’s an emotional look back at her DWTS journey. But we must press on! We have regular routines plus relay dances to get to. To the ballroom!

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev

Jive, “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen

Kaitlyn and Artem took a bit of a tumble down the leaderboard during “Villains Night” but they're back with a new strategy: To make themselves happy with their dance. Their jive is bright and fun, but Kaitlyn seems to lose steam throughout. Derek wants “more attack” and “sharper” legs. Bruno notices a lack of passion and intention in Kaitlyn’s performance. And Carrie Ann calls the couple out for an illegal lift. That’s how DWTS goes, people.

Score: 25/30

Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson

Viennese waltz, “Stuck with U” by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber

Hey, look! It’s the recipients of the first perfect score of season 29 coming through! Nev and Jenna are surely riding a high from their perfect Black Swan performance, but this week is much more stripped down. Derek notes that Nev started out a little wooden at the beginning of the routine, but he eased into it. Carrie Ann, too, points out a few places where Nev went wrong (some stumbles and falling out of balance in the turns), but minor issues aside, the judges agree that Nev was a charmer on the dance floor once again.

Score: 27/30

Justina Machado and Sasha Farber

Samba, “Magalenha” by Sergio Mendes

Although Laurie Hernandez’s samba to this song with the Chmerkovskiy brothers in season 23 will always have a special place in my heart, I will make room for Justina and Sasha’s take on it. Justina is a joy and she’s dedicating this dance to the queen Rita Moreno, who’s been inspiring her since she saw her dancing in West Side Story and who now plays her on-screen mother on One Day at a Time. The power of Rita is with Justina in this fun, sexy routine. There are a few technical notes: The judges want more bounce and Derek tells Justina that at times she looks a little flat-footed, but it’s hard not to be won over by how much Justina is clearly enjoying her time on the dance floor.

Score: 27/30

Nelly and Daniella Karagach

Rumba, “Nobody Knows” by The Tony Rich Project

Nelly is dedicating this dance to his sister who passed away from leukemia in 2005. This was one of her favorite songs, and Nelly’s bringing the heart tonight. The emotion is there, but the judges have lots of notes on technique. By lots of notes, I mainly mean three words: more hip action. Carrie Ann thought Nelly mostly danced with his top half and they need to see yes, more hip action, but also “more variety of shaping.” The "level" of technique the judges would like to see from him "isn't there quite yet," she tells him.

Score: 21/30

Chrishell Stause and Gleb Savchenko

Viennese waltz, “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna

Oh, okay, steamy Viennese waltz. By the end of the routine Bruno has to fan himself, that’s how hot this thing gets. So, the passion is there, but there are some technical issues. Carrie Ann wants Chrishell to “relax” more — she can see awkwardness in Chrishell’s arm and neck. Derek, although pleased to see how much Chrishell is improving each week, asks her to work on “the transitions” as Chrishell moves in and out of frame. The whole thing needs to be more fluid. Bruno echoes this: There are “good moments” but Chrishell needs to “be able to sustain it” through the entire routine.

Score: 24/30

Skai Jackson and Alan Bersten

Salsa, “Work It” by Missy Elliott

THAT FINAL POSE. Bless Alan and his strong, capable arms because that was a risk, friends. The entire routine is a lot of Alan tossing Skai around, but it seems like they’re having a great time out there on this one. The judges all agree that although the tricks brought the wow factor, they weren’t always executed to perfection. Coming out of the lifts, Bruno thought Skai lacked the "balance" needed to “continue the flow of the dance.” Derek wanted a little more salsa content, but was happy to see Skai “more grounded.” It’s a two-step forward, one-step-back sort of situation.

Score: 25/30

Johnny Weir and Britt Stewart

Foxtrot, “Wonder” by Shawn Mendes

Aw, Johnny and Britt are just the best of friends, guys, and that is 100 percent evident in their dancing. They seem so in sync in this foxtrot. Derek tells Johnny he has “beautiful arms” and Bruno commends Johnny’s “wonderful sweeping movement” that fills the ballroom. Both Derek and Bruno call out the stilted rise and fall in the routine when the foxtrot calls for a more gradual, seamless rise and fall, but Carrie Ann actually thought that the “stylized, jerky” movement was an “artistic choice” and loved that they were being themselves and showing us something different. She’s a fan of their artistry.

Score: 27/30

AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke

Rumba, “Way Down We Go” by KALEO

It’s been a surprisingly emotional evening in the ballroom, and that continues with AJ McLean, who opens up about his struggles with addiction. He’s found the perfect partner in Cheryl, who is two years sober and understands where AJ is coming from. All of that emotion is poured into this "passionate" and "intense" rumba. The artistry and intention are completely there, and although the judges are impressed with the emotion and storytelling, they want more rumba content. It felt more like a contemporary dance at times and was lacking in traditional hip action.

Score: 24/30

THE RELAY CHALLENGE ROUND

Relay One: Cha Cha

Competing Couples: Nev and Jenna, Chrishell and Gleb, Nelly and Daniella

Judge: Carrie Ann Inaba

What...is...this...challenge? The three couples dancing have already performed cha chas, so this is a chance to show some improvement. Since they’ll be dancing one after the other, it’ll be much easier to compare couples, and then when it's all over, Carrie Ann Inaba is allowed to award each couple anywhere between one and three points to their overall score based on how well they did. She gives Nev and Jenna three bonus points because they clearly outshined everyone else. She awards Chrishell and Gleb two points for keeping it tight, even with some shoddy footwork. Nelly and Daniella also get two additional points for being the couple most improved from their previous cha cha. 

Relay Two: Viennese waltz

Competing Couples: Justina and Sasha, Johnny and Britt

Judge: Derek Hough

This was the relay Jeannie and Brandon were supposed to be a part of, but due to obvious circumstances, now we’re getting a head-to-head matchup between Justina and Sasha and Johnny and Britt. This is an excellent matchup. Both couples offer up elegance, but Derek thought Justina and Sasha needed “more energy.” He awards them two extra points. Johnny and Britt, however, brought some real passion. Derek praises Johnny’s frame and arms and for their “phenomenal” Viennese waltz, he gives them three bonus points to add to their overall score.

Relay Three: Samba

Competing Couples: AJ and Cheryl, Kaitlyn and Artem, Skai and Alan

Judge: Bruno Tonioli

All three of these couples want to stand out in the hopes of some bonus points, but perhaps none more than Skai and Alan, who are looking to redeem themselves after their fumble in the samba earlier this season. Bruno tells Skai that she still needs to “soften the bounce” in her samba, but otherwise, it is a huge improvement and she wins two points. AJ earns three bonus points for his bouncing prowess, and Kaitlyn is also awarded three points for her “well-placed” and “well-finished” lines. 

On to the elimination: It’s not as dramatic as the double-elimination we were originally bracing for, but we’re at the point in the competition where the call on who should stay and who should go is incredibly difficult. Our bottom two this week: Skai and Alan and Chrishell and Gleb. The judges unanimously save Skai and Alan, which means we bid farewell to Chrishell and Gleb.  

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Dancing With the Stars

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