Warning: This recap of the Oct. 3 episode of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.
Like a creepy clown lurking in a packed Celebriquarium, major frustration settled in for most of the DWTS couples this week. But you can’t ever avoid stress, especially in the televised ballroom. You’ve just got to embrace it! “We want to be transported into the mesmerizing, magical world of Cirque du Soleil,” judge and professional fantasist Bruno Tonioli warned the 11 remaining flamingos. “So free your imagination, and let the show begin.”
Meanwhile, over in NYC, Mark Ballas — sitting out this season to dance on Broadway — wept. He’d been living every day as if it were a Cirque du Soleil theme night since Season 5. Years upon years of aggressively creepy costumes. Thwarted! A lone sparkle tear leaked from one of the fuchsia contact lenses he’d applied, for old times’ sake. He glanced down his portable hall of mirrors and sighed. It just wasn’t fair.
But back to “reality”: It’s a surprise double elimination week in Hollywood. Was anyone able to achieve what Tom called “a level of excitement that exists in Bruno’s head 24/7”?
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 30/30 We have a winner! The Olympic gymnast and her ferocious dance claws nabbed the first perfect score of the season for a positively shirt-splitting jazz routine inspired by Michael Jackson ONE.
Val’s no stranger to Jackson family-based jazz numbers, having performed “Rhythm Nation” with Tamar Braxton and “Nasty” with Ginger Zee. But here he got to go full-on Michael about it — and the way Laurie makes him feel is: in LOVE. He couldn’t believe she actually pressed play on the training video he’d sent her while she traveled with teammates to D.C. Laurie’s a dream come true, and for that, she gets a beard wipe.
The 16-year-old’s technical precision and ability to get into character left judge Julianne Hough — in full costume as the ninth understudy for the seventh muse in Xanadu — speechless.
She couldn’t even remember which theme night it was. So embarrassing. Luckily, she recovered. “[Michael Jackson] may be the King of Pop, but you are queen of the ballroom!” she sputtered as Val played with Laurie’s hair and tried to sneak in some extra snuggles. She’s still just a kid, you know.
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess: 28/30 “I sit for a living,” joked the Indy car driver who’d be the last to admit that like it or not, he’s become a very convincing theater star in a matter of weeks. Their charismatic quickstep — inspired by Paramour, the first-ever Cirque/Broadway production — prompted a nearly orgasmic Bruno to name-drop “Fred and Ginger” and “the Oscar-winning film The Artist” in the same run-on sentence. So they must have done something right. Carrie Ann and Julianne noticed a misstep, but Bruno sure didn’t. "Tehhhhhhn!”
“You brought to life everything this show is,” Carrie Ann gushed. “Fantasy. Glitter. Magic!” That just about covers it. Sharna’s liquid sparkle Jessica Rabbit gown was certainly all three of those things, but background acrobats Chris and Romy as well as James’ subtle guy liner were also working overtime.
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber: 25/30 Had it not been for Terra’s newfound sexiness and Sasha’s surprise bare chest, these two surely would have been out-staged by the blindfolded dude twirling a baton of fire in the background. Well, step aside, circus freak. There’s an ultimate party dance in play, and you’re not invited.
“What makes you so incredible… is you dance beyond your body,” Carrie Ann told the Little Women: LA star. “When you do that, the whole room feels it.”
Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev: 24/30 The Brady Bunch actress hit a wall of her own emotions dotted thousands of ticking clocks this week while trying to nail down steps for an Argentine tango inspired by Mystère. (Freak accident during a routine circus lesson. It happens.) “Honeymoon’s over,” Artem bluntly put it after Maureen’s fear of failure ballooned into an argumentative bubble from which he had no escape. “Maybe I’m in the wrong business.” And that, my friends, is how you create a DWTS villain: Make her such a needy mess that a beloved pro threatens to quit.
A spirited red bird attempted to diffuse the couple’s obvious tension with his fresh antics and near-nudity, but we could still feel it. And that bird was the worst. Not according to the judges, though, all three of whom raved about the dream-like quality of Maureen’s dance and and her otherworldliness. Clearly the bird had put a spell on them. “Dreams come true. Dreams come truuuuuue,” Maureen murmured after scoring straight 8s.
Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 24/30 “I don’t dwell on things — I’m a Libra,” Amber began their rehearsal segment, so right away you knew it would be annoying. See, Amber had taken offense to Julianne’s comment that last week’s salsa made her feel “uncomfortable.” She assumed Judge Juli was talking about Amber’s body because… well, who cares why. Everyone needs an agenda, and Amber’s is her body. Defending it from shame. Protecting it from aerialists. Arching it on a table.
This week’s Argentine tango, inspired by the burlesque-themed Zumanity, was all about embracing sexuality amidst a smoky haze, and as such it was Amber’s best dance by far. But before she could hear about that, she had to revisit the silent feud no one cared about. "I felt like you weren’t talking about my dance,” Amber took us back to last week, thus thwarting the judges from discussing this week’s performance. “If I misunderstood, then I apologize.”
Her reward? A dismissive “whatever, sweetie” smirk from Julianne and the least-convincing standing ovation in history. Plus, 8s. Not that the scores matter.
Vanilla Ice and Witney Carson: 23/30 Ice is apparently so hot right now — five concerts, five cities, five days! But his busy schedule left him uncharacteristically stressed about their “calculus”-esque Viennese waltz inspired by La Nouba. Considering he flew back into town on Monday, the day of the show, this could have been devastating. Luckily there was a colorful aerialist on hand to totally distract from anything the rapper was (not) doing.
His decision to not go “full clown” was a good one. Really helped the single zigzag tear pop.
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold: 23/30 Not even a death-defying Charleston inspired by KURIOS — Cabinet of Curiosities could lift the curse of going first: Calvin and Lindsay deserved better scores for their high-flying routine featuring an airborne cyclist.
At least Carrie Ann didn’t knock off a point for excessive heavy lifting. On Cirque du Soleil night, all bets of reality approximation are obviously off.
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko: 23/30 Lack of sleep and constant travel further plagued the couple who’d already been saddled by Jana’s injury and iffy fame factor. But that’s nothing Gleb’s unrelenting positivity and ability to rock a tiered leather necklace can’t fix. “Let’s just dance for each other and nobody else,” he suggested, brimming with light and The Beatles LOVE for their “Here Comes the Sun” foxtrot.
Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke: 22/30 You have to hand it to Cheryl: After a goofy tease of the “inflexible” Olympian trying out synchronized swimming in a 1.5 million-gallon pool, she choreographed a sophisticated, content-rich waltz that beautifully paid homage to Cirque du Soleil’s water-based O.
Invoking the classic costuming motif of black-and-white cookies never hurt anyone, either. Should Ryan manage to avoid Tuesday’s double elimination, he just might get to live out his new fantasy of becoming a proper “floating flamingo” in the ballroom and get to wear all pink. [Splashes excitedly.]
Related: Ryan Lochte Talks ‘O’ Week on ‘DWTS’
Marilu Henner and Derek Hough: 21/30 The circus stress continued: This week, the Taxi actress’ Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory prevented her from remembering steps. “I sometimes default to things I’ve done in the past,” Marilu admitted, clearly still obsessing over the fact that May 17, 1985 was a Friday. Their rehearsal mind-field was pretty intense, but so was their Ka-inspired paso doble, during which I spent way too much time squinting and wondering if Derek was wearing a shirt. (Nope.)
The flesh-toned cummerbund must have thrown me off. “The creativity was out of this world!” raved his sister Julianne. The judges urged Marilu to try and let go of her uncanny mental powers and just — as Julianne phrased it while standing and flailing like a Bruno in heat — "Let it out.”
Kenny Edmonds and Allison Holker: 18/30 Sometimes people just flat-out lose it out there, and that’s what probably happened during Babyface and Allison’s “Come Together” tango inspired by The Beatles LOVE. But how could we know for sure when we couldn’t even see it?
Ambitious camera blocking + precisely timed spotlights = STRESS CIRCUS.
See you Wednesday morning to discuss Tuesday’s double elimination…
Dancing With the Stars airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.