“Most Memorable Year” night brought out the best on Dancing With the Stars: tears, rainbows, knockout punches to Mark Ballas at his own request, and head judge Len Goodman challenging his naysayers to boo him harder or GTFO. They know what we want. Here! Just take it!
Week 3 was the end of the sandy road to nowhere for The OC star Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev, who earned the Devil’s favorite score (6-6-6) for their slow-rolling “Party in the U.S.A.” samba. Mischa’s had a tough time adjusting to life as a DWTS Sparkalien, so I’m glad she got to escape on a high note: momentarily thriving at the center of a televised clique.
Classic Marissa move.
Mischa’s exit from this scary plane of alternate reality is perfectly timed with the digital and DVD release of her latest movie, The Hoarder, in which a relentless psychopath tries to murder her character in his storage unit. No, it’s not Artem trying to get her to dance another day. How dare you.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd: 25/30 Nyle’s tango, a fearless 90-second flourish depicting his year traveling the world without an interpreter, earned the couple the first 9 of the season from Bruno and a long-winded apology from Carrie Ann for calling Nyle’s “musicality” into question last week. This week, the deaf America’s Next Top Model winner was “on the wave of the music” and she thought he was, like, “better than Superman.” Clearly Nyle’s partner agrees.
Who could get enough of Peta gazing up at this Mirrorball Marvel with such pride and joy? I’m also getting such a kick out of Nyle’s translator Ramon, who had no idea what he was in for when he signed up for a whole season of…
TRANSLATING CARRIE ANN. Give this man a raise!
Wanya Morris and Lindsay Arnold: 24/30 Len dusted off his 8 paddle after their waltz, and not a moment too soon — I’m impressed he held out so long. All the guys from Boyz II Men showed up to support their bro as well as their just-recorded cover of the national anthem (in remembrance of when they sang it during the closing ceremony of the terror-stricken 1996 Olympics). Die hard “Star-Spangled Banner” enthusiasts may cry wolf at the Boyz’ strange a cappella rendition, but I love that they deliberately paced it so that the song could feasibly accompany a waltz. Sure, the whole effort was as big a stretch as Len waxing poetic about ice cream on hot apple pie, or “red on sparkly red on dark red on…red” being considered a good color palette for a man dancing on television. But who cares? It all worked.
“You were the rockets’ red glare!” cried Carrie Ann, still lost inside the music, searching for a beat.
Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe: 23/30 “I dimmed my light for a long time,” said the five-years-sober child star come full circle in her intro package. “I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore.” Just when I didn’t think my tears could gush any harder, freaking Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) appeared on-screen to confirm Jodie’s authenticity! I’ve never been more pumped to cry. Jodie and Keo’s foxtrot, a warm, enveloping hug of a dance depicting Jodie’s triumph over addiction, got a powerful vocal assist from Grammy nominee Andra Day on her single, “Rise Up”.
But for Len, Jodie’s story lost some of its resonance when the pair broke hold and went all free-form at the end. Faint boos rose up from certain pockets of the audience, also not strong enough for the head judge. “If you’re gonna do it, DO IT,” he taunted the booers, who’d broken hold on their convictions. Len has no time for all this messin’ about, okay? He’s tired.
Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas: 23/30 Mark’s back! Who’s excited?!
Our Pro made a valiant return to the dance floor after slipping a disc last week, and while I still think Paige and Alan the stand-in have totally fallen in love, only Sir Ballas could have orchestrated this brilliant boundary-pusher set in the DWTS Octagon.
Are we fighters? Or are we dancers? On Planet Mirrorballus, you never have to decide. I liked that this dance was a paso doble instead of a contemporary — as we’ve seen many times, anyone can bounce around kicking and screaming and call it a contemporary. “We have to keep the show moving forward,” said Carrie Ann. “We need innovative ways to do these dances.” And nothing says innovation more than a closeup of Mark’s face imprinted onto a chain-link fence. Seriously, though, this dance was a blast and showed UFC fighter Paige’s artistry (pointed toes) as well as her athleticism (beating her partner to a tattooed skulls-and-roses pulp).
That neck tat was painted on, right? Let us pray.
Kim Fields and Sasha Farber: 22/30 Kim took us back to 1976, the year she booked the Mrs. Butterworth’s commercial that would lead to her roles on Good Times and The Facts of Life. The pair’s zippy foxtrot on the immaculately recreated Facts of Life set was just “like maple syrup, smooth and tasty” according to Len, and you’d think Kim had never heard a compliment before because she just about died from giddiness.
After noting how freaky it was that Kim hasn’t aged beyond 7 years old, Carrie Ann marveled at her and Sasha’s seemingly effortless syncopation. “You two dance like Wonder Twins!” she said, then made a syrup-esque transition from the ‘70s right on into the ‘80s. “Together, you are just the A Team.”
Thumbs up to the original Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae), who’s “still above ground” and loving it!
Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani: 21/30 The former Mrs. Donald Trump (”Wow, what an interesting person,” thought 20-year-old Marla at the time) relived 1993, the year she gave birth to daughter Tiffany, in a bright and zesty jive loaded with content. “You did not take a shortcut,” Carrie Ann approved as Tony shook his head vigorously. He then leapt onto the table to give Len a quick peck once the head judge dropped a classic we’re-running-out-of-time non-critique: “You’re happy? I’m happy.”
Tony and Marla have matching Sparklemouth toothpaste ad grins! This partnership just keeps getting better.
Ginger Zee and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 21/30 Their pastel-hued contemporary piece telling the love story of Ginger and her now-husband Ben was a perfectly benign, if forgettable, way to kick off the show. But having Val clutch Ginger’s tummy at the end as the pair looked up expectantly just didn’t seem memorable enough. So post-dance, baby Adrian hit the Celebriquarium to bawl his eyes out despite Peta’s best attempt to shush him.
He was by no means the first crybaby they’ve had on the show, quipped host Tom Bergeron. “Usually they’re much bigger.”
Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess: 20/30 The NFL star emerged as a big ol’ softie this week once he started talking about his family. “I tell my kids I love ‘em all the time, just so they know,” said Antonio, who grew up without his father. Then he bestowed the greatest gift of all — a few moments of spotlight on a competitive reality show — upon his namesake, Antonio Jr., who co-starred this week in Antonio and Sharna’s foxtrot.
Little AB got a 10 from Carrie Ann! It’s not a real 10. It’s just for kids, just so they know. The judges wanted more refinement from Antonio, but they loved his newfound excitement and appreciation for the show. If you didn’t catch this dance, just take a deeper look at those ridiculous costumes for confirmation. Any time a contestant unapologetically dons a shiny version of ugly upholstered furniture, he is IN IT TO WIN IT for the season! Antonio Brown has embraced the cheese!
Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff: 20/30 This week’s waltz honored Doug’s parents, who died on the same day mere months ago in 2015. I’m impressed by how emotionally expressive Doug has become in just three weeks; it seems having a delightfully fierce Ukrainian woman scream, “You’re saying goodbye to your soulmate, the love of your life!” on any given training day can really speed up the acting/grieving process.
Doug tripped over Karina’s gown near the end of the waltz, but it actually worked in the spirit of never knowing quite what will happen and then crumpling into a pile of tears.
Plus there’s a giant tissue just draped all over him, ready to absorb. It’s fitting.
Von Miller and Witney Carson: 20/30 This year is his most memorable, of course. He’s the MVP of the Super Bowl. How much cooler can you get? Quite a bit, actually: Against all odds, the song Von Miller uses to psych himself up before big games (such as Pin the Tiny Hand on the Large Tattooed Man’s Chest) is “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins! Not only did they get to use Phil’s original track for this week’s routine, but the contemporary style and Von’s shirtlessness allowed Witney plenty of opportunities to hit her sweet spot: the incredulous “Can you believe my partner is THIS BIG?” reach-around.
Carrie Ann called Von out on “not giving us 100 percent” as of yet, and she has a point. But what Von lacks in the dance department, he almost makes up for with extra-expressive reactions to the judges’ comments.
“Sculpted to perfection,” according to Bruno. Thanks but no thanks, little man.
See you next week for Disney Night with guest judge Zendaya!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC