Week 5 presented Dancing With the Stars’ Season 22 dancers with The Switch-Up, that pesky twice-yearly twist we all thought was a total outrage at first but now just blindly accept like a ‘6’ paddle to all four cheeks. Luckily, self-proclaimed “sex on a stick” Maksim Chmerkovskiy was on hand as guest judge to make everyone’s least favorite theme night go down a little easier — unless you were a pro, of course, in which case you were likely screwed either way.
No elimination this week, so the only ballroom entities to fly out the window were viewers’ preconceived notions that head judge Len Goodman and our former beleaguered pro could never see eye to eye.
The ballroom traditionalists are paddle buddies now! FOR LEN, A FRIEND.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Whoops! I almost forgot to address the overemotional reality TV deity in the room. Let’s go ahead and give Tyra Banks her moment, since she’s begging for one 24/7 and this morning/this website is certainly no exception.
Nyle DiMarco and Sharna Burgess: 37/40 If anyone’s used to too much drama, it’s the deaf America’s Next Top Model winner. Hardly flummoxed by a new partner, heavy fumes from the smoke monster, and TYRA MAIL!!! all in the same week, Nyle earned the first 10 of the season for his stunning Viennese waltz with face-tracing superwoman Sharna.
Is it any wonder Carrie Ann couldn’t breathe? “At first I thought you were at a disadvantage,” she told Nyle through sparkly tears. “But you’ve been telling stories with your body your whole life. You were born to dance.” Maks then went ahead and singled out Nyle’s “mind-boggling” musicality, just to remind the Lift Police that she’ll never really live that Week 2 comment down.
Jodie Sweetin and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 35/40 This time Val didn’t have to fudge the truth — he really did have a crush on TV’s Stephanie Tanner back when he used Full House to learn English in the early ‘90s. (His Season 17 confession to Elizabeth Berkley that he preferred Saved by the Bell’s Kelly Kapowski to her character, Jessie Spano, remains one of my favorite Val moments ever.) Jodie trusted her temporary partner immediately, and the proof was in the paso:
Pow! Jodie’s never looked fiercer — Val’s “laser focus” training method worked wonders on the inconsistent star. Her original partner, Keo — hung out to dry this week in the Shadow of the Chmerkovskiys — better start cracking the whip.
Ginger Zee and Mark Ballas: 32/40 Not to be outdone, Mark the Merlot seized this week’s opportunity to answer the age-old question: “What if Michael Jackson dressed like Bret Michaels and dipped himself in salsa?”
Good thing Sir Ballas always backs up his elaborate setups with fantastic, high-energy dancing, because I’m pretty sure no one wanted to know. What could have been a hectic routine had even Grumpy Len Goodman raving about the solid gold club scene that had flashed before his tired eyes. “I was there. It was fantastic!” he chirped, ready to party. Mark even won over Ginger’s husband, Ben Aaron, who’d previously been concerned about all the shimmying — but only because he so badly wanted to do it himself.
Ben Aaron, clearly the Tyra in this marriage, called “merlot” Mark the kind of guy you would marry, as opposed to “dirty martini” Val, “who’s more like the Russian love slave.” Good God, dude. Have you no respect? HE’S UKRAINIAN.
Uh, waiter? There’s something very wrong with my merlot.
Paige VanZant and Sasha Farber: 31/40 Our UFC fighter still has trust issues and can’t help considering her dance partners opponents. But once Sasha the feelings wizard laid his magic wand (an open shirt) upon her, Paige delivered a rumba brimming with character and far-out extensions. According to Maks, she could win this competition given her natural physical ability and charms.
But it wasn’t all smiles from Teddy Bearkovskiy. “There was one step from rumba in this entire routine. I have a problem with that,” said Maks, then glanced at the other judges. “Maybe they won’t.” Suddenly caught between a rock and Carrie Ann’s heart-face, Len fell somewhere in the middle. “I saw two cucarachas,” he mumbled meekly. “It was acceptable, but it wasn’t exceptional.”
Wanya Morris and Witney Carson: 30/40 Even I know the tango’s supposed to be all about light and shade, and this one, set to musical guest James Bay’s “Hold Back The River,” was a steady stream of hard-driven madness. “You’ve hit turbulent waters, my friend,” said Len before pausing to warn some errant applause-bots, “That’s not a compliment.” Like many of their critiques tonight, this one mostly dealt with the pro’s choreography instead of the contestant’s talent.
Witney was just thrilled.
One good thing did come out of this mess, though, and I’m not talking about the delightfully insane travesty that was Wanya’s gilded green shirt. It was in this opening segment that Len delivered his most jaunty “Seh-vehhhhhn!” of the season to date! Huzzah!
Von Miller and Lindsay Arnold: 29/40 Von technically kicked things up a notch in this week’s country-themed jive, but Maks wanted even more. “You look like you have so much to give,” he told the giant NFL star. “But I think everybody’s capable of something bigger.” Right on! Someone had to say it to Von! Because not even Lindsay’s expert strategizing could mask the greatest DWTS offense imaginable: not coveting the mirrorball trophy, not even a little bit. [EGREGIOUS FART SOUND.]
Kim Fields and Keo Motsepe: 28/40 I assumed their clean and classy Viennese waltz was setting up for rave reviews — Kim and Keo showed a more mature, romantic chemistry than we’ve ever seen between her and Sasha, and she even achieved the “stronger sense of surrender” she wanted to convey this week.
But Maks wasn’t having it. “It’s literally not a Viennese waltz,” he complained. “Half a step of Viennese waltz, and the rest is just beautiful movement.” Then the Season 18 champ pulled an Erin Andrews, so to speak, by looking back to his own time on the show in the third person. “I want to remind people of Maks and Meryl,” he said, effectively blowing off Keo’s “major height difference” excuse for not holding Kim in proper frame. (Keo deserves at least an extra point for that suit, shoes, and death-dip though. Right?)
Doug Flutie and Peta Murgatroyd: 28/40 Doug still can’t get out of his head, and the truth is the correct sequence of steps for his and Peta’s “Black and Gold” tango might not even be in his head anymore. Where on earth do the flakes end and the flicks begin?!
Costume-wise Doug was killing it this week, but unfortunately elaborate appliqués on vests do not speak louder than Bruno’s words: “It’s not just a series of steps. There is intention and feeling behind the step,” he said encouraging Doug. “Embrace the situation!”
Antonio Brown and Karina Smirnoff: 26/40 Len called their flashy cha cha “long on performance, short on technique,” which, okay. But we need to acknowledge how flipping cool this was!
Wheeeee! The symmetry between the twinkles in the background and the twinkles on Antonio’s costume is a life-affirming gem if I’ve ever seen one. And just when you thought the absurdity of the NFL star’s jacket could never be matched, out wiggled Karina in a belted-for-no-reason purple-laced bodysuit complete with….
This routine was one of the tackiest things I’ve ever seen, and I loved every second! Surely the judges would see the light. But no — they’re not visually stimulated sheep like me. “You’re getting away with what comes natural to you,” said Maks, citing Antonio’s natural charisma and overall body sparkle. “Everything, it shines,” Maks continued, rivaling Bruno for Most Poetic. “But it’s not enough.” According to Len, the few bits of cha cha Antonio actually danced were poor. “If you wanna shine, you’ve gotta polish,” he said. Fair enough.
“The judges are definitely experts, and their opinions are valuable, so… thank you,” Karina muttered through clenched teeth. She knew they’d brought the house down with their sex show, and no one could take that away.
That’s a wrap on The Switch-Up. See you next week for Iconic Dances night!
(Case in point.)