Pass the bedazzled tissue box, if you would. Week 9’s “Judges’ Choice” round delivered off-the-charts #sparklebarf both physical and emotional on Dancing With the Stars. We peeked inside Bruno Tonioli’s twisted gem mine of a mind in “Black Swan Lake,” sobbed through a total Gene Kelly in Xanadu moment from departing DANCMSTR Len Goodman, and basked in the glistening glory of one of my favorite male fashion standards in the ballroom: shirtlessness with suspenders.
And as if all that weren’t dramatic enough, there was also a marriage proposal! It’s true: After many long years of will-he-won’t-he buildup, Derek Hough is finally marrying himself. Just kidding. Noah Galloway is marrying his girlfriend, Jamie. It is also rumored that fusion tried to marry jazz, but it didn’t make any sense and they broke up.
Who would the newly engaged couple hug first? Would it be Jamie’s family members? Their close friends?
Think again! Think on your feet, for God’s sake. Wait, not that foot. Broken toe.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhh-ber!
Nastia Liukin and Question Mark: 40 + 30 = 70/70 Attempting to answer “Who is Nastia’s partner?” at this point is as useless as Derek’s orthopedic diagnosis, or Julianne name-dropping “artistry,” or searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie. You just have to accept the clueless uncertainty of it all, laugh, and move on. Derek would later ooze in on Nastia’s trio with Len, but he left the first-round quickstep to Sasha. Because he has a broken toe. And only the miraculous Sir Farber, tumbler to the stars, could pull off this little swoosh of wonder:
There’s definitely a refreshing, somewhat sassier vibe to Nastia when she’s dancing (or double-one-armed-cartwheeling) with Sasha. I still wouldn’t say she’s’ “opened up” in some sort of emotional journey this season (when Erin handed her a tissue upstairs I half-expected Nastia to rub it between her hands like gymnastics chalk), but the judges insisted she has.
She’s a great dancer, but how awkward will it be if she wins? Will Sasha have to hoist Derek on his shoulders? And then will Mark Ballas lift them both? If only there were someone out there, some tremendously good man who knew all the answers…
The Judges’ Choice round was amazing overall, but its emotional significance really boiled down to a tear-jerking yet jaunty end-of-dance sign-off from Len.
That smile! The salute! There’s the DANCMSTR for ya. Hafta believe he is magic….
“I can’t swallow!” sputtered Carrie Ann, snapping us out of reverie and back into reality after Nastia, Derek, and Len’s Viennese waltz. Personally I could barely swallow the irony of Derek, an injured man, participating in a dance about how Len’s body had betrayed him over time — but hey, he’s known Len since he was a kid, and this was the Judges’ Choice round after all.
I could have sworn that during her single “Fall for You,” guest vocalist Leela James was singing “‘Cause I’m for Len” — as in, “for Len, the 10.” But she was actually singing the word “falling,” as in glittery tears were already falling from my eyes, so basically all my functions had shut down and I could not hear correctly either. I guarantee there was not a dry eye on Planet Mirrorballus after Len swept in. A sobbing Julianne rattled off the names of everyone else who was weeping.
Not even Our Host was exempt. Not tonight.
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker: 40 + 30 = 70/70 I agree with Bruno that Riker showed “gutsy physicality” during his first-round routine with Allison, but I question whether that “hardcore, uncompromising contemporary” was worth a perfect score on DWTS. And what was with Allison’s insistence that Riker’s overcoming his fear of the scary contemporary style showed us “how big of a man he really is”? We can see that he’s tall and hardworking. Maybe I’m just pouting because what I really wanted from this segment was more insight from Michael Vartan.
Alias: “family friend”. So random!
Never to be outdone by her brother, Judge Julianne joined Allison and another of her blood relations, Riker, for some serious guppy mouth action during the Argentine tango. No, it wasn’t weird at all. Relax, OK? This is just how you show your cousin you really, really like him on Dancing With the Stars. It’s traditional and timeless, much like Julianne herself.
Love her, hate her, or merely tolerate her as a judge, Julianne is such an electrifying dancer. I didn’t want her to slide off that rose-overlaid platform into dark, smoky obscurity during that number. Luckily she reemerged in the Celebriquarium, not out of breath in the slightest, to stretch the truth and gush, “I’ve been a part of this show since almost the beginning.” Sure — in spirit, maybe. Not in reality.
Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 38 + 30 = 68/70 How to transform the Viennese waltz into a turn-on? Tack a suggestive “Mr. Chmerkovskiy will see you now” onto the front end and wait for the sex shivers. (They’re like virtual crabs; hope you just caught ‘em.) Len thought Rumer and Val’s first dance lost its classical character somewhere deep within its 50-plus shades of foreplay, but Bruno thought it retained its essential lyrical quality throughout. Of course, these two have been singing different tunes for 10 years now. Oh God, what are we going to do without Len? I’m choking up! I need a powerful transitional image to snap me out of sadness.
“We’re dancing contemporary fusion, whatever that means,” Val stammered nervously as he wondered why everybody assumes that if you’re from Eastern Europe, you know how to do ballet. Hey, whatever, man. Just enjoy another glass of magical champagne from Bruno’s trailer and the “mad genius” moves of Black Swan Lake will spread across your white-tighted body with passionate sweat-fire! Val had no need to worry, though I’m sure endless hours of training had a lot to do with the fact that these two somehow pulled off a crazy, difficult balletic routine… while Rumer was barefoot!
She’s so versatile. Marvel at how Rumer seamlessly transitioned from a super stare-down against Val’s former partner Zendaya’s outrageously ballroom-inappropriate jeans…
…into this masterful swan-skyrocket!
Rumer’s personal history package was similarly uplifting and tear-jerking at once, as her mom Demi Moore shared just how difficult it was for Rumer to be thrust into the unforgiving internet spotlight in the aftermath of Demi’s divorce from Bruce Willis. “I could only just keep loving her and loving her until she could love herself,” said the perfect spokeswoman for Mother’s Day. Or any other day. Hell, let’s just put Demi in charge of all the days.
I also loved how she led the charge for a standing ovation reprise after Rumer’s second dance.
“Up, damned plebes. Up, I say!”
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess: 36 + 30 = 66/70 Then again, who needs Bruce and Demi when you’ve got The Shat and Hootie? William Shatner and Darius Rucker graciously lent their star power to support war hero Noah in the equally emotional segment detailing the loss of his limbs and all-around rehab into a life he’d decided once and for all was worth living. His first-round Viennese waltz wasn’t as seductively powerful as Rumer and Val’s, but it did contain this clever and sweet sequence in which Sharna delicately aped her partner’s stair-climbing technique.
Later on, the Judges’ Choice round boldly turned the season-long trend of Carrie Ann grabbing at Noah’s package from a mere concept into a beautiful and not-so-awkward-after-all reality. (We’re all adults here.) She brilliantly incorporated Henry, Keo, Alan, and Artem (!) into the paso doble not only as magnificent suspender-laden bulls, but as symbols of the recurring assists that helped Noah during his recovery.
And yet even amidst all those horns and sequins, nothing could top Sharna’s deafening “SEVEN, EIGHT!” count in terms of fireceness.
I feel like this should be the next Disney villain. Or princess. Ideally, both.
Life-Affirming Gem of the Week:
Haven’t done one of these since the olden days, but couldn’t pass it up: Tom Bergeron literally mined a hidden gem (Nastia’s earring) from the floor!
Cheap thrills, y’all. Who heads home this week? Are you still crying?
P.S. I wasn’t kidding about the Len-Derek-Nastia routine calling to mind Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton John dancing to “Whenever You’re Away From Me” in Xanadu. Giant chandelier and everything. They filmed this on a closed set after the movie wrapped; he conceived the choreography and camera angles based on what she could do. Dancing starts at 1:20 — it’s worth a watch.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.