Dancing with the Stars is switching things up this week with new partners for everyone. The nine remaining stars have all traded in their pros for new ones with yet another Switch-Up Challenge. Will Nick and Witney shine? Will Derek bring out the best in Alexa? Can Bndi handle Val?
In addition to the Switch-Up, season 18 winner Maksim Chmerkovskiy is back as a judge. He’s always willing to bring a bit of harsh criticism to the table, which is appreciated. Although you have to laugh a little at a panel where half of the judges have siblings who are competing on the show.
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Tom Bergeron is back and Erin Andrews says that the elimination is next week with tonight’s scores being added to last week’s. Maks is sitting between Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli, making him the third score.
Next week, Olivia Newton-John is the guest judge with a night full of iconic dance routines from the stage, screen, and music videos.
Tamar Braxton and Louis van Amstel: Samba
Louis is happy to be away from Paula, meaning he can actually come up with some challenging choreography. He’s not taking it easy at all, giving her the hardest routine she’s had yet. It definitely shows with a rough routine that mixes fast and slow movements. Tamar seems uneasy with the level of difficulty and it’s just really awkward. Maksim points out the lack of connection between the two and tries to be as polite as possible about criticizing the dance. Bruno found her off-balance and the other judges agree it wasn’t her best. Julianne explains that the routines are all twice as long as they were previously now that we have fewer contestants, which also made it harder.
Judges’ Scores: 7+7+8+7-29
We get to see Louis’ original audition tape from 10 years ago when he had hilariously long hair. He was a bit of a dick and calls out the show’s director and producer for baiting him. Also, why is Maks the nice judge?
Hayes Grier and Allison Holker: Viennese Waltz
Hayes’ voice cracks because he’s still going through puberty while Allison’s maternal instincts kick in and she treats him like her dance son. They’re going for sophistication and it’s another surprisingly strong performance from him. He moves very nicely and while it lacks a bit of refinement, he’s still fun to watch. Bruno thought it was too jumpy and “kangaroo-ish.” The lady judges like it more than the male judges do, with Maks playing the role of Len Goodman, criticizing the lack of Viennese in the Waltz.
Judges’ Scores: 8+8+7+7=30
There’s controversy around whether Bruno gave a 7 or an 8. They also bring in a lie detector with some funny moments, like asking Derek if he thinks he’s the best pro. He says “No,” but that’s a LIE!
Paula Deen and Mark Ballas: Jive
Paula is scared that Mark is too edgy and might not have enough patience for her. He calls her “Bad Grandma” and wants to take risks that involve spanking and kissing. Mark plays a milk delivery boy dealing with a saucy housewife. It’s so insane and I love Mark’s concepts, but the dancing isn’t great. It’s a very slow, dull Jive, and, as always, she loses steam halfway through. The judges had a lot of fun, but it gets weird when Paula seems to proposition Maks and Mark for a threesome.
Judges’ Scores: 7+7+6+6=26
Once again, the men and women are split.
Alek Skarlatos and Emma Slater: Rumba
They’re both excited to be partnered together. Emma is very happy to do a sexy, steamy routine with a hot guy. I see some growth as it’s a very sensual performance and, in parts, he seems to let loose and embrace the sexual chemistry. But other parts are a little stiff and robotic, as usual. The judges liked it, but need him to act with his face and show some emotion. Maks speaks the truth, saying he gave this guy no shot of winning at the start, but now he’s a dark horse.
Judges’ Scores: 8+7+7+7=29
Wow, I didn’t expect the scores to be that low. Erin isn’t happy because she wants to force Alek and Emma to go on a date, which they tentatively agree to.
Bindi Irwin and Val Chmerkovskiy: Cha-Cha-Cha
He’s pushing her hard and she wants to impress him, but he’s confused by her constant animal references. She even brings a giant freaking snake into the rehearsals. It’s a fantastic dance and Bindi really impresses me. I always like her attitude, but the technical aspects are stronger than normal. This might be the best she’s danced ever and the Switch-Up worked out well for her. She challenged herself and stepped up with a new partner.
Judges’ Scores: 9+9+10+9=37
That’s some brotherly love.
Carlos PenaVega and Lindsay Arnold: Quickstep
It’s easy for him because Lindsay is BFFs with his original partner, Witney, but he also gets jealous that Witney is dancing with a Backstreet Boy. I like that he finally gets to do another upbeat routine and it’s fast and full of energy. This is perfect for him and he’s superb from stop to finish. The judges found it magnificent and they’re happy he made a huge comeback.
Judges’ Scores: 10+10+9+10=39
Boo on Maks for depriving us of the first perfect score.
Alexa PenaVega and Derek Hough: Tango
Alexa is down after her bad scores last week, but she loves being partnered with Derek. Derek goes for a full-on post-apocalyptic theme and, as always, his Tangos are supremely cool. She kills it and gets a standing ovation from Carrie Ann Inaba, even though she may have thought it was a Paso Doble. It’s crazy that she’s now the fourth star in a row who actually got better with her Switch-Up partner.
Judges’ Scores: 10+10+10+10=40
The first perfect score of the season and, as always, it goes to Derek. It’s also only the eighth time that a perfect score was given in the first five weeks.
Andy Grammer and Sharna Burgess: Argentine Tango
She wants to find the sexy side of Andy and unleash his potential. There’s a laser show and it’s yet another amazing routine tonight. It’s dark and erotic in all of the right ways. Maks loves the performance value even though there were some footwork problems. Carrie Ann thought it was hot. After a rough start, tonight is turning out to be a great evening of dance with vast improvements thanks to the Switch-Up.
Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9+9=36
Andy reveals that Sharna told him to act like he’s smelling a fart.
Nick Carter and Witney Carson: Paso Doble
In rehearsals, Nick seems to take charge and Witney doesn’t seem that interested in it. The dance is fast, powerful, and very sharp. All of the moves are precise and this now makes five dances in a row that I absolutely LOVE! Maks can appreciate it, but this style wasn’t his cup of tea. The judges like it, but they don’t love it because he overdid it.
Judges’ Scores: 9+9+8+9=35
Whew, I actually expected lower scores.
A whole lot of great performances and no elimination. Next week someone goes home from the combined scores and votes of the last two weeks as everyone dances to iconic routines, from Dirty Dancing to Britney Spears music videos. And in a sweet final moment, Tom Bergeron gets emotional about how his dad loved the show.
65: Bindi Irwin
64: Carlos PenaVega
62: Nick Carter
61: Alexa PenaVega
59: Andy Grammer
57: Hayes Grier
56: Tamar Braxton
53: Alek Skarlatos
44: Paula Deen
(Image courtesy of ABC)