Warning: This recap of the Nov. 7 episode of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.
Welcome to Showstoppers Night, the televised ballroom’s tribute to Broadway featuring guest judge Idina Menzel, the unprecedented Team-Up Challenge, and the return of Sir Mark Ballas, who’s taking Season 23 off to star in the final run of Jersey Boys. Normally a showstopper all week every week in his own private dance land, Our Pro now stands at attention and sings amidst a sea of other Marks. (Or maybe they’re just lower-case marks? Shudder.)
Eh, it’s OK — we all know which one’s the real deal. Second from the left. I think. It’s been so long!
They had it comin’: After nine full weeks of dancing around her heightened expectations of him and his general disdain of her, Marilu Henner and Derek Hough have been eliminated.
Don’t cry for them — despite the fact that they make identical faces while receiving compliments, these two could not have been more done with each other. At least they went out on a Ballas-y high note, having earned a nice string of Sympathy Nines for their shirtless samba.
Moving on to the Final 5…
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 40 + 40 = 80 total “Your energy should be SEXY,” Val declared as the couple set out to slay “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago. “I’m sorry. We are there now.” Well, Laurie’s still not comfortable with that — shouldn’t they ask her mom first? — but damn if she can’t fake it, at least from afar.
“You stuck to him like Velcro!” cried Bruno. “How did you do it?” Two words: gymnastics training. Our Olympian has no problem “working Val like he was a vault, a balance beam, a bar, and the floor,” and kudos to Carrie Ann for nailing that Google search with a flourish as part of her individual all-around. But the more intimate, zoomed-in moments are still Laurie’s weak spot. We’re still waiting for the 16-year-old to woman up and stun us with the relentless sass we know she’s been storing up inside.
She’s getting there, trust. Two more weeks and she’ll be as golden as the imaginary peanut butter all over Val’s face.
Laurie had another chance to stretch her emotional muscles — and coaching instincts — as the rock to Jana Kramer’s hard place for their team dance, a contemporary flail-fest set to Sia’s “Bird Set Free” during which they thoroughly knocked out the judges from the confines of their cage.
“You guys are greater than the sum of your parts,” Carrie Ann sparkle-barfed. “I saw you merge into one more beautiful dancer. All four of you.” Huh? I mean, sure, that double-trust fall was pretty cool, but overall this number struck me as less “perfect dance” than “elaborate pantomime of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak.’”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But did this sisterly love romp deserve a higher score than James and Calvin’s bromantic paso? Nah.
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko: 40 + 40 = 80 total Jana’s eyes lit up with tears as soon as she learned she’d be dancing the waltz to “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress — a song that’s “so authentic to me it’s not even funny.” But In order to pack the most authentic punch she could, Jana needed her original partner. Never mind that Gleb’s knee is killing him and Alan was ready to stand in, having practiced with them all week. No one knows her journey like Gleb, so Gleb it had to be.
Wait, is his knee OK?! Sorry. That’s privileged information. All you need to know is that the waitress in the backless gown was crying, and a very specific man needed to waltz in and save her from the dread of another spilled pie. So much for self-empowerment.
Though shattered, Idina Menzel gathered up her facets and spread it on thick: “You would make Jessie Mueller and Sara Bareilles proud,” she gushed. “They have so much complexity in their voices, and you have so much complexity in your dancing. Thanks for breaking me.” There’s an 11 paddle if I ever heard one. But don’t worry. Hers only went up to 10.
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess: 36 + 37 = 73 total To risk or not to risk? That is always the question on Dancing With the Stars, a brutal 11-week swim through a sea of eggshells and intense joint pain for both the Stars and Our Pros. Right now, Sharna’s knee is screaming louder than her heart, and she’s boldly decided SHE WILL NOT BREAK, at least not this week. Sad, but wise. So Jenna Johnson stepped in to partner James again, and the Indy driver took the tumult like a champ, expertly jazzing his way through “A Brand New Day” from The Wiz.
James missed a step at the beginning, but the judges admired his resilience in the face of dance doom. Not to mention, as Wicked’s meanest witch would know, managing to look hot in head-to-toe green is a very special talent indeed. “I’d share the stage with you any day,” Idina raved as Julianne rushed to brag that she’d thought of James’s Broadway potential first.
Meanwhile, Sharna the Good Witch gazed upon her royal subjects with nothing but pride and a solid amount of knee pain. To be honest, it was throbbing.
Luckily for James, a colorful cushion of supporting characters wasn’t the only thing softening the blow of Sharna’s injury. Teaming up with Calvin Johnson Jr. was the best thing that could have happened to him in a difficult week. I haven’t seen a bromance so sweet since Carlos PenaVega and Alek Skarlatos’s epic love story from Season 21.
Aww. Seriously, though, James and Calvin brought out the best in each other and then some during their Wild West paso doble, rife with synchronized cape work and a whole lotta love.
James revved up his stamina, while Calvin ramped up his performance level. ’Twas a mutually beneficial power stomp for the ages.
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold: 37 + 37 = 74 total Meet Meowgatron, the former NFL star with zero shame and a strong aversion to dance belts who wandered onto the New York set of Cats during a particularly sparkly afternoon daze.
Yes, queen! Damn, he/she looks good. Calvin is 100 percent GOING FOR IT on DWTS, and I couldn’t be more delighted. With Lindsay’s hard-driven teaching style and Calvin’s willingness to look crazy, this couple is a match made in ballroom heaven.
Leona Lewis was all up in their waltz, singing “Memory” and confusing the heck out of us. Having the young, beautiful singer portray Grizabella — a withered old gutter ball of fur — didn’t really work, but I’ll throw her a fish bone or two because on the other hand/paw, dating one of Our Pros (troupe member Dennis Jauch) in real life is pretty much the definition of “glamour cat.”
Plus, the more Lindsay and Calvin spotlighted Grizabelleona, the less we had to focus on their ridiculous costumes.
Let’s be honest, a real pack of Jellicles would have torn Holiday Barbie and her pimp to shreds.
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber: 38 + 36 = 74 total Sasha had to significantly modify the Charleston in order to accommodate Terra’s height, but they continue to soldier on in solidarity, rarely taking their stress out on each other. Boy oh boy, does Terra love crying for that camera, though. It’s working for her. In accepting her limitations, she has found her strength!
If former Terra could see Terra now, she’d be bowled over by the performance quality and fighting spirit of this Sweet Charity-inspired routine, which reduced guest judge Idina to Paula Abdul levels of rambling. Did you know people tweeted bad things about Idina after she bungled a high note on TV? “Doesn’t matter. The real thing about it is your soul.” Huh. “And how you make me feel.” Mmm-hmm. “We see you.” Oh! OK. So … it worked.
Sadly, Terra and Sasha got a bit lost in the crowd during their team dance with Marilu, Derek, and the rest of the Planet Mirroballus population.
Crank up the volume right at this moment and you can hear Bruno yelping “Gorgeous mess!”
On that note, it’s almost time to go vote in that other, decidedly not at all gorgeous mess. Here’s hoping it’s not a total showstopper. See you next Tuesday to discuss the Season 23 semifinals!
The Fringe Fairy
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of DWTS on Yahoo View.