Week 3 of "Dancing With the Stars" was full of emotionally charged, heart-wrenching performances, all part of the show's "Most Memorable Year" theme, in which the contestants paid tribute to one of their most formative life experiences. Deaths, births, families, and friends were all celebrated in this poignant episode, which had both judges and contestants in tears.
The judges continued this season's trend of awarding extraordinarily high scores to the talented collection of stars, doling out three 10s. (The lowest score of the week was still a relatively decent 24.) Last week, the show said goodbye to tennis star Martina Navratilova, who couldn't manage the jive's complicated footwork or find her rhythm. With such high scores this week, it will be up to the audience to do the dirty work of deciding whom to send home. Here are the week's top five performances:
(5) Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower (25 points)
Roshon, the triple-threat Disney darling who charmed last week, cites the first time he saw Michael Jackson onstage as the most decisive moment of his life. Jackson's very own choreographer, Travis Payne, stopped by to teach the teen how to authentically emulate his hero in a lighthearted, '70s-themed samba. Roshon's high-energy, disco-flavored dance had some unmistakable Jackson twists that blew away judge Bruno Tonioli. Although Roshon and partner Chelsie strayed a little from an actual salsa for the other judges' tastes, his infectious and enthusiastic performance is worth watching.
(4) Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd (26 points)
The NFL star dedicated his rumba to his best friend, who died of cancer in Donald's arms in 2010. His dance was sensationally stirring and emoted warmth and strength. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba was mesmerized by his passion, despite some technical issues she pointed out, and Bruno noted Donald's control and ability to push himself to the limit. Donald, who was on the brink of tears as he waited for his scores, once again proved his versatility in this touching performance.
(3) William Levy and Cheryl Burke (28 points)
Cuban-American actor and model William Levy is indisputably this season's standout heartthrob, and as usual, it was hard to hear him speak over the screaming girls in the stands. His sizzling salsa was a tribute to his 1995 arrival in the United States, which came about when his stepfather, a political prisoner, was granted asylum. His performance, which represented his ties to Cuba and his future in the U.S., was effortless yet sensual. It was delivered with an intensity that had more than a few audience members wishing they were in Cheryl's shoes. Judge Len Goodman told him that he "conquered the salsa," and Bruno was almost speechless, managing to blurt out, "I hate you. That was AMAZING." Bruno then gave him an emphatic full score, unabashedly joining the ranks of William's die-hard fans.
[Related: See Who We Think Will Win 'DWTS' This Season]
(2) Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas (29 points)
Classical singer Katherine Jenkins showed off her "naughty bits" with a sultry jive last week, which helped shoot her to the top of the leaderboard. She kept it classy and traditional this time with a magical waltz that honored her father, who died of lung cancer in 1996. Her performance was pretty, precise, and loaded with sentiment. It had the judges falling off their seats. Her facial expressions conveyed the joy she felt at having the opportunity to celebrate her father's life, and topped off a technically excellent dance. Bruno had only one word: "sensational." She and Mark giddily gathered up the first 10s of the season.
(1) Maria Menounos and Derek Hough (27 points)
Although Katherine technically beat Maria this week with extra points from the judges, Maria's jaw-dropping rumba snags the top spot for surprise factor. Maria honored the year 1998, when she was 10 years old and would tag along with her parents as they worked as janitors in nightclubs. She'd pop a quarter into the jukebox to hear Madonna's "Material Girl" and dream of a better life. But instead of a sassy, kitschy Madonna tribute, Maria and Derek delivered an ethereal, emotional, and utterly beautiful dance that is totally unlike anything usually seen on the show. The chemistry between these two was electric -- lit like movie stars, they seemed to be falling in love before our eyes with what Len called "smoldering intensity." Bruno pointed out that the song's arrangement completely lacked a beat, which required Maria to dance solely to the melody, a complicated challenge for even a professional dancer. Add the fact that she pulled all this off while burdened with a hurt rib, and it's clear that Maria is a top contender for the show's coveted mirror-ball trophy.
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 PM and Tuesdays at 9 PM on ABC.