Once again, Dancing with the Stars is switching things up. The nine remaining stars all get new professional partners for one week only to see how well they can do without their training wheels. It’s usually a hard week filled with subpar performances, but it also allows the cream to rise to the top.

'Dancing with the Stars' Recap: Switch-Up Challenge for the Top 9

The good news is that there’s no elimination as the scores and votes from last week will be combined with the ones from tonight. And season 18 winner Maksim Chmerkovskiy is back as a guest judge. The biggest question of all may be whether we get our first 10 from any of the judges tonight. Seasons 1 and 12 are the only times that no one got a single 10 in the first five weeks of the competition.

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Wanya Morris and Witney Carson: Tango

Going from Lindsay to her BFF Witney is probably one of the easier switch-ups. And she already won with Alfonso Ribeiro, another older, charismatic, natural talent. He moves well enough and has fast feet, but it’s too herky-jerky. I prefer the routines where he can get funky. He’s just not a Tango guy. Len Goodman says he hit turbulent water and the audience applauds, at which point he lets them know that it’s NOT a compliment. HA! The audience is full of sheep. He found it hectic and the other judges agree that it wasn’t his best.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+7+8=30

Yikes, he’s only had one other 7 all season. But it’s nice to see Len and Maks on the same side.

Kim Fields and Keo Motsepe: Viennese Waltz

It’s sweet how attached Kim has become to Sasha, but it makes the Switch-Up more difficult for her, especially with a dance that’s a love story. I get the romantic aspect of it and Kim does a surprisingly good job with it, but she doesn’t do a whole lot. The routine is mostly Keo dancing around her. Maks calls them out for the fact that it wasn’t a Viennese Waltz at all, maybe for just half a step with no frame, and Len totally agrees. Is he auditioning for Len’s job? Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba disagree and simply loved the beauty of the storytelling.

Judges’ Scores: 8+6+6+8=28

Wow, it’s a full-on judges’ civil war!

Doug Flutie and Peta Murgatroyd: Tango

Peta won with another football player, Donald Driver, and in the interest of full disclosure, she acknowledges that guest judge Maks is her fiance. Doug is very forgetful with the steps in rehearsals. I appreciate that he does a lot of actual dancing with a lot of steps, and he seems to do his best, but he’s clearly the worst dancer left. He’s just wooden and has no rhythm. Bruno is right that he got a lot of the steps right, but he has no real musicality. Maks is complimentary, despite calling it “pedestrian.”

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7+7=28

All 7s is the best he’s ever done.

Ginger Zee and Mark Ballas: Salsa

She’s happy coming off Disney Night and she knows she hit the jackpot with Mark. Her adorable husband Ben shows up to make sure it’s not too sexy. I seriously love him and I also love Mark’s bandana because it makes him look like he’s doing an Apolo Anton Ohno impression. Ginger gets into the sexy shimmying, but she seems a little uncomfortable with Mark. I didn’t get any chemistry, but it was fun. The judges go a little overboard with the praise.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8+8=32

Ha, Ben called Val a “Russian love slave.”

Antonio Brown and Karina Smirnoff: Cha-Cha-Cha

Karina is brutal in rehearsals and she’s not happy that Antonio is always late for rehearsals. He starts with a giant flip onto the stage and the performance is pretty great. He has tons of swagger and dances like a total player. It’s fun, happy, exciting, and smooth. I wish the transition were a little more fluid, but it was fun. Len thought there was too much bumping and grinding and not enough quality technique. Maks points out that he’s getting by with flash and style without pushing himself too hard. Carrie Ann actually agrees with Len and Maks that he needs to put in some effort and work harder so he doesn’t rely solely on his charisma.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+7=26

Tom Bergeron refers to Len and Maks as “paddle buddies.” So funny and so true.

Paige VanZant and Sasha Farber: Rumba

Sasha might be more adorable than Ginger’s husband. He’s stripping down the dance so it’s just the two of them being sexy together, but she’s uncomfortable with trusting people and letting people in. She’s a beautiful dancer and I think this is good for her growth, taking away Mark’s overdone concepts and choreography. It’s very nice to watch, though I think she could let go of her apprehension a little more. The judges love her quality of movement, but Maks points out the lack of Rumba content and Len needs her to be more emotional. I see what he’s saying, even if no one else does.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+7+8=31

Ooh, Maks is the bad guy.

Von Miller and Lindsay Arnold: Jive

Like Wanya, going to Witney’s BFF Lindsay is a safe switch for him. It also helps that she’s a huge football fan, even though she didn’t remember whether he won the Super Bowl. They’re letting loose and going country. I still don’t know how to judge him. He can be stiff and he’s definitely not as naturally fluid as Antonio. But he’s endearing in a weird, goofy way. This routine is all over the place with silliness and spastic movements. Carrie Ann thought it was clever that Lindsay embraced Von’s shortcomings as a dancer and turned into them.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+7+7=29

The scores tonight simply reinforce that the Switch-Up is a nice idea in theory, but it’s not good for the dancing.

Nyle DiMarco and Sharna Burgess: Viennese Waltz

Sharna is excited but knows that it’s a learning experience for her as well, adjusting to not looking at the interpreter while talking to Nyle. Sharna tries to out Nyle by asking about a 10-year relationship he had with a guy, but it was actually with a girl. Awkward! Also, Tyra Banks shows up for rehearsals. As always, he is simply stunning, with graceful, lyrical movements that are more in tune with the music than most of the stars who can actually hear. Carrie Ann cries and finally realizes that he has an advantage because he’s been telling stories with his body his whole life. The judges rave.

Judges’ Scores: 9+10+9+9=37

HOLY CRAP, the first 10 of the season, and it’s from Len! Maks and Bruno raised 10 paddles, but they didn’t actually score them as a 10. Tom explains that the judges write their scores on a pad of paper first and that’s official, not whatever paddle is raised.

Jodie Sweetin and Val Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble

He guest-starred on Fuller House with Maks and he also learned to speak English based on Full House and had a crush on her. He’s a lot more intense than Keo and he wants to get the best out of her. Whatever he did, it worked and Keo needs to take notes. She’s confident and dances with a ferocity and determination we haven’t seen from her yet. If she was paired with Val from the start, she’d be a frontrunner. The judges love it and Maks compares her to Sabrina Bryan, which is supposed to be a compliment but could be a kiss of death.

Judges’ Scores: 9+8+9+9=35

Now I feel bad for Keo, cuz tonight made it look like he’s the problem.

Overall, the Switch-Up was mostly bad for the stars but good for a few. I feel like Paige and Jodie made the biggest breakthroughs and I hope their original partners keep them on the right paths. I think tonight also revealed the biggest weaknesses of Wanya and Antonio, so hopefully, they’ll work on that.

Next week the show brings back Famous Dances night, which is great since last season it gave us a ton of 10s for iconic routines from Dirty Dancing, Singin’ in the Rain, Janet Jackson, Saturday Night Fever, and Magic Mike.


71: Nyle DiMarco
68: Ginger Zee
67: Paige VanZant
65: Wanya Morris
62: Jodie Sweetin
61: Antonio Brown, Von Miller
60: Kim Fields
52: Doug Flutie

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8 pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.