Week 8 of Dancing With the Stars, Eras Night, guided us through the history of dance itself — from the bejeweled corsets of yesteryear to the fringed underpants of today. We whizzed up the express line all the way from a clean-cut wartime train station to a modern-day New York City subway stuffed with panhandling pros. (I like to think of porn-‘stached Bruno Tonioli as this crazy train’s conductor.) But even the most dazzling journeys across Planet Mirrorballus’s vast timelines carry the risk of exhaustion, whiplash, black holes, and un-subtitled commentary from Carrie Ann.
After a trio of “dreaded dance-offs” and a shocking elimination, I am just about as drained as DANCMSTR Len Goodman.
Eliminated sixth: Willow Shields and Mark Ballas, which is pretty crazy considering she can do this:
It’s also crazy because she’s technically a better dancer than Robert Herjavec and Prince Farming, both of whom looked stunned as Mark gently coached his 14-year-old salsa dance-off partner down the gilded staircase for the last time. Tom Bergeron deserves another Emmy, or maybe just a Father of the Season trophy, for switching from TV host mode to dad mode in order to wrap the weeping Willow in a great big hug. Were any of you not crying here? Liars! #sparklebarf
Sadly for Willow — or perhaps all too fittingly as she was Mark Ballas’s partner — she had to go out on a strange note following their big, swinging… um, leather flap of a “futuristic jazz” routine.
They were ninjas. That’s right: The future is littered with nin-jazz and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhh-ber!
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess: 36/40 +2 = 38 I was almost as uncomfortable with Carrie Ann’s assertion that Noah “blew it all over the ceiling” as I was with her scatting (“What? W-w-w-what? [squeak] Was that?”). She loved everything about this pair’s ‘70s-inspired jazz, but specifically its thrust. Noah and Sharna were supposed to be a fierce gang pulling off a heist, but most of the time they looked like colleagues posing for a photo set about how fun it is to work in their swingin’ office. In other words: Whatever, Mad Men.
Noah deserves extra credit for remaining front and center the whole time, but the troupe’s theatrics did tend to overpower him this week. Len wondered why all the extra dancers’ messin’ about was necessary at all. (Funny that he waited ’til Patti Labelle was eliminated before knocking the use of the dance decoys.)
Nastia Liukin and Sasha Farber: 38/40 Derek has been nastily injured by a stationary light and is likely out for the season. But do you think he’s just gonna sit there silently and let Nastia and his “body double” Sah-sha Fah-ber dance their modern Charleston in peace?
Fat chance! This mischievous floor gremlin is here to stay. And he’s definitely gonna sing. Derek joined musical guest Andy Grammer on the mic for most of “Honey, I’m Good” so that he could best reiterate to the crowd his talent in all walks of artistry. Meanwhile, Nastia and Sasha (who have been practicing together at least part-time all season due to Derek’s packed Broadway schedule) churned out a delightfully quick-paced dance that played out like an instant three-act musical.
I’m already thinking of Nastia and Sasha as “the tumblers” — they’re both so powerful and compact. He seems to energize the Olympic gymnast in a way Derek did not. Would the traumatized hobbler finally take a backseat for the final pose and allow the new couple to share the spotlight without him?
No! Hell to the no! Not even close.
All joking aside, this was one of my favorite DWTS routines ever, one I’ll watch again and again. I loved the drama of Sasha stepping up big time under Derek’s heavy hand… liiiiiiiiive! If Hop-along Hough does this every week, it’ll be truly absurd and babysitter-like. But I thought his participation here made Nastia’s partner transition rather magical.
Carrie Ann rushed down to embrace Nastia in front of the judges’ table and marvel, “You were living, girl!” A nod to Nastia’s robotic demeanor in a long-gone era, perhaps. Judge Julianne was just as enthusiastic about both Nastia and the excellent production value of the number. But she wisely remained seated, otherwise she’d surely have fallen out of her dress.
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker: 37/40 Add this classic baseball story to the roster: If you beg for it during your training package, a halfhearted “From Len, the Ten” will come. Some viewers might assume that two skinny people dancing a ‘20s-style quickstep to a song about innately knowing “what to do with that big fat butt” would not command a perfect score. But those viewers obviously don’t know anything about eras.
I was not aware of this Jason Derulo song (“Wiggle”) and assumed I might be hearing “big fat blunt” instead, because then maybe the blunt could be a metaphor for the baseball bat, and then maybe it’d all make sense. At least Riker caught the bat during the quickstep (top hat tip to Charlie White, who dropped the cane) and hit most of his steps. But Riker’s awkward baseball uniform and their nonsense song thwarted the performance for me. Basically I refuse to accept “Instagram” in the lyrics of anything. And on Eras Night?!! The humanity.
Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 35/40 + 2 = 37 Finally, Rumer’s dad Bruce Willis visited the rehearsal studio to avoid eye contact with an approval-seeking Val in a much closer setting than usual.
Bruce loved seeing his daughter so happy right after finishing a dance. “She makes me cry,” Bruce told us with no emotion… and then SMIRKED instead of just DOING IT and crying! No way would Dancing With the Stars get all access to Bruce Willis’s tears. Old habits die hard. It’s a good thing pops wasn’t around on Sunday night, when Val got a little too intense in his desire to achieve the perfect death drop with his partner, who — as confirmed by mom Demi Moore in the audience — had never even worked out before doing this show.
Rumer just snapped, and I don’t mean just the neck kind; I mean emotionally. It’s like the drop struck her with a dizzying, terrifying reminder of just how tired and frail she was. Plus: whiplash. It was just an unbeweaveable situation all around.
What do you expect? They’re both such driven people. “This is not casual dance,” Val sputtered to his amateur partner. “It’s a competitive sport!” Yikes.
I enjoyed the unexpected vulnerability of Val’s sparkly forehead against the pastel-hued barber’s pole as he sensitively raged against the impossibility of it all.
Carrie Ann thought that in Rumer’s ‘60s-inspired jive, “We lost a little something that makes you so spectacular — this velocity when you dance.” But what she saw as safe, Len saw as smart. How can the judges have it both ways? Rumer can be fierce all the time and risk one-noting herself, or she can be versatile and apple pie-like when the situation calls for dessert. And it seems to this low-level dance historian that crumbling into sweet, sparkly goo is what the eras are all about.
Prop wigs, facial hair, and pleather hats are all crucial, too.
Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson: 31/40 Robert and Bachelor Chris seem like the most likely candidates for next week’s double elimination, despite a strong showmantic effort from the Shark Tank star who’s hot for his pro.
Kym sizzled in this week’s ‘80s-inspired Argentine tango, but her leggy highness’ footwork (and elaborate swanky shoes with tutus sprouting out of the heels) weren’t enough to make Robert himself stand out as someone who should stick around. The couple’s cha cha dance-off was the real disaster of the night, with Robert’s forgotten steps and obliviousness to the beat. Then again, their challengers Noah and Sharna weren’t great either.
Chris Soules and Witney Carson: 31/40 I had to look past my mild distaste for the Bachelor and appreciate their ‘40s-era foxtrot — luckily, there were tons of places to look, as Witney and the production staff had concocted an almost cinematic glimpse back in time at a sailor’s last dance with his love before shipping out. I loved the way the two troupe couples in the background had their own agendas that seamlessly wove into Chris and Witney’s dance but didn’t command attention from it. My only wish was that Witney would have kept on that adorable red printed dress she wore in the train station setup scene.
Vengeful Ninja Warrior Shot to Haunt You All Week:
Sorry, sparklebarfers. Cheers to the mad genius of Mark Ballas.
Don’t forget to tune in for Tuesday’s Perfect 10th Anniversary special at 8 p.m.! I have two words for you: Vintage Maks. Extra-vintage. It’s Eras Week, after all.
’Til next time!
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.