Everything changes this week on Dancing with the Stars. The much-heralded Switch-Up is finally here, which means the nine remaining stars will all be paired with new pro partners. I’m nervous, excited, terrified and curious all at the same time.

Now we get to see which stars can actually dance and who was relying entirely on their pro partner to carry them (pun not entirely intended). But don’t worry, the Switch-Up is only for one week, so next week the original pairs with their varying degrees of chemistry will be back. And as if switching the couples wasn’t enough excitement, former DWTS champion Julianne Hough returns as a guest judge after her very successful time as a judge last season.

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For the opening group numbers, I always wonder if the male pros and troupe members draw straws to decide who gets to go shirtless.

Julianne Hough joins the judges at the end of the number sporting some major cleavage. I’m worried about a wardrobe malfunction. She’s seated between Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, so she’ll have the third score.

Candace Cameron Bure and Tony Dovolani:Quickstep

We’ll see the new pairs revealed throughout the night. Candace gets NeNe’s old partner, and after his sexy shirtless routine last week, it’ll be interesting how he handles the more prudish Candace. Tony is more focused on the character, not the footwork like Mark Ballas did.

The routine is rocking and I definitely see the improvement in the character work, but the steps look bad to me. He seems to be dragging her along and there are plenty of bits where it looks kind of sloppy. This bodes poorly for the Switch-Up, because her dancing is definitely worse than before. The judges really call out the technique, but liked her energy.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7+7=28

Ouch, that’s terrible.

No Elimination Tonight

Tom Bergeron explains that there is no elimination tonight. The scores and viewer votes from tonight will be combined with the scores and votes from last week, and that total will decide who goes home NEXT week. That’s kind of insane. I don’t like that they’re watering down the relevance of the Switch-Up this way.

James Maslow and Cheryl Burke: Tango

Cheryl got a big improvement from Drew to the sexy James. He’s totally down to flirt with any chick he gets, though he’s a tad jealous that Peta is with Charlie and may kiss him. They really play up the James/Peta chemistry.

In the routine he plays a suitor for her queen. It’s pretty intense and he’s definitely great. I can certainly see that he has slightly better chemistry with Peta, but it’s still another strong performance from him. Julianne thinks he’s the total package and more than just a hot shirtless dude, but he sticks his butt out so maybe he should have Peta help him tuck his pelvis. Naturally, there’s a whole lot of naughty sexual innuendo. Carrie Ann Inaba thinks the Switch-Up didn’t hurt him at all.

Judges’ Scores: 9+8+9+9=35

Erin Andrews goes overboard begging James and Peta to tell us that they’re dating because she wants them to have a baby. And so far we have two couples who’ve done worse with the Switch-Up.

Drew Carey and Witney Carson: Cha-Cha-Cha

Wow, he got the new young girl? Going from Cody to Drew is a big leap, and he thinks it’s like dancing with his daughter (he’s actually older than her dad and she calls him “Gramps”). Drew enjoys rehearsals and doesn’t miss Cheryl that much (that’ll be awkward next week), but Witney is struggling because he doesn’t pick things up as quickly as Cody.

It looks like she tried to turn him into Cody with poofy hair and a gold suit. It’s kind of weird, but it works for me. It’s so silly, but he commits to the routine so hard and it all makes sense. Bruno thinks it’s like a combination of Elvis and Liberace. This is now going to be even more awkward for Cheryl, because all of the judges love it and think it’s a lot better than he’s ever been.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+9+8=33

Julianne LOVED it! He’s up three points from last week, so suck on that, Cheryl.

Macy’s Stars of Dance

This is really an excuse for Emmy-winning choreographer Derek Hough to do whatever he wants. And what he wants is to be one of four sexy shirtless dudes in an intense flamenco-style routine. I’m on board with any excuse for Derek to take his shirt off (and to see So You Think You Can Dance finalist Kahtryn McCormick), but I’m not that impressed. And the slow-motion camera thing Derek raves about doesn’t look nearly as cool as he thought it would. It’s certainly not as cool as that rotating room thing he did.

Danica McKellar and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Jive

She traded from Val to Maks, which doesn’t seem like a big switch. But it is because Maks doesn’t explain anything to her. Clearly Danica and Val are more fun, but Meryl is better at just taking directions and following Maks’ strict rehearsal process.

For some reason I’m not feeling the routine. It seems like Maks sapped some of the fun from Danica, though maybe that’s because there was a problem with the music at the start which probably caused some of their out-of-sync problems. Len thought there was too much goofing off and not enough dance content. I agree, and ending with Danica running into Val’s arms emphasizes the lack of chemistry here. Julianne calls Maks the “Mark” of this season, which means he makes it all about himself, and she accuses him of phoning it in this week so he can get back to Meryl. Ooh, is she suggesting that he sabotaged some of Meryl’s stiffest competition? Is Maks that sneaky and evil?

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8+8=32

Boo, that low score is entirely due to Maks and not Danica.Now I really don’t like this Switch-Up.

Charlie White and Peta Murgatroyd: Rumba

Charlie thinks the two blonds will have fun, but Peta is more free-form than Sharna. It’s hard for him to get into the sexy mindset for this dance.

His hair is slicked back, so maybe she’s trying to make him look like James just like Witney did with Drew. He’s still a great dancer and there’s some solid connection. However, their hair looks the same and, this may sound weird, but it’s hard for me to tell who’s the man and who’s the woman in this routine. It’s so androgynous, which detracts from the sexual chemistry. The judges didn’t think it was a Rumba at all (well, Len and Carrie Ann don’t), had no hip action and there was a lift.

Judges’ Scores: 7+8+9+9=33

That’s a lot of disagreement. I tend to side with the first two judges, Carrie Ann and Len.

Amy Purdy and Mark Ballas: Salsa

It helps that she’s partnered with Derek’s BFF. She needs him to be more stable, but he’s definitely having problems choreographing for her since there are so many limitations. He literally goes to Derek and asks for his advice on how to work with Amy.

It’s yet another dance where he never lets her go, lifts her up for about 10 seconds and she seems to do almost nothing. I do think the problems with her are emphasized because Mark’s choreography isn’t as great as Derek. The judges once again praise her for being so inspirational while giving her a total pass on how little she dances. Carrie Ann claims Mark gave her a lot of space. Really? From what I saw, they didn’t have physical contact for maybe five seconds the whole time. Len focuses on Amy’s hot butt. This is reaching a critical point where the judges are being way too easy on her and it’s getting really annoying.

Judges’ Scores: 9+8+8+9=34

Julianne claims she messed up. I disagree. Carrie Ann and Bruno messed up being so generous.

Cody Simpson and Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot

They’re both Aussies, so there’s an instant connection. But there’s a bigger age difference so she’s more like a mom than Witney, even though she’s only 28.

It’s another solid Cody performance where he adds his cool swagger and fluid movement, but the technical parts don’t have the stiffness they need. But he opens the performance by singing, so the girls are in love. Bruno thinks his hold is off and he needs to “control your length of bone: while Carrie Ann wants him to work on his arms. They all seem to agree that he’s in the middle. He’s good at what he does, but he doesn’t seem to have embraced the ballroom side of it. Julianne gives great advice by saying he needs to do something outside of his comfort zone without those typical Cody moves.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8+8=31

The judges are over him and need him to work harder if he wants to get better score.

NeNe Leakes and Derek Hough: Jazz

Yay! Even though he’s tiny, pairing the best pro with the worst star is a good thing, because if he was with Meryl, that would’ve been unfair. He knows how to use her attitude and has hit the jackpot with this style instead of something Latin like Tony had to do with her.

I’m not sure I understand the routine at all. He’s like a tiny bird dancing around her as a giant African queen. She does a decent job, especially since Jazz doesn’t require any real precision and lets her spread her wild wings. It’s good for what it is, but it also shows why Jazz and Contemporary shouldn’t be on this show because they’re so different. Also, I’m a tad distracted because Derek’s shirt is open.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8+8=32

The audience booed, but those scores are fair. Derek may be great, but there’s only so much he can do.

Meryl Davis and Val Chmerkovskiy: Argentine Tango

So Meryl and Danica swapped brothers. After Julianne’s harsh words for Maks, this could add fuel to that fire if Val is a better partner to Meryl than Maks was to Danica. Vall calls it “incestual adultery.” Somehow Meryl thinks Maks is the funny brother and Val is all business. It’s weird that Danica said the opposite.

WOW! I know Meryl is gonna be great every week, but I honestly think this was even better than last week when she got a 39. It was flawless, intense and magical. And I actually think Val is more personable than Maks, which makes this pairing better than her original one. Julianne wishes she could dance like Meryl. And that’s coming from a professional who won this show. I’m now just mad, because Val would finally be able to win if he was with Meryl for good.

Judges’ Scores: 10+9+10+10=39

So Val and Maks are equal and get the same scores with Meryl. That makes it obvious that it’s all about her.

Final Judgments

At the end of the day, I feel like the Switch-Up was a cute idea, but one they should never do again. Out of nine stars, only two got better scores while six got worse scores and Meryl is the only one who stayed the same. In fact, four of the stars went down three or more points, so the new partnerships really didn’t work out so well.

Next week on DWTS the scores and votes from the last two weeks will all be combined to decide which original couple is eliminated. It’s also Disney Week, so everyone will be dancing to classic Disney songs alongside animated characters. That should be cute.


Since the results next week are based on the combined totals of last week and this week, this leaderboard contains those combined scores.

Right now, when I look at this, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if this order is exactly how the entire season ends up.

78 (12.83 percent): Meryl Davis
71 (11.68 percent): James Maslow
70 (11.51 percent): Amy Purdy
69 (11.35 percent): Charlie White
68 (11.18 percent): Danica McKellar
66 (10.86 percent): Cody Simpson
63 (10.36 percent): Drew Carey, NeNe Leakes
60 (9.87 percent): Candace Cameron Bure

(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.