It’s that time of the season on Dancing with the Stars to keep a box of tissues handy. Most Memorable Year Night has become synonymous with powerful and emotional routines dedicated to the most important years in the stars’ lives, usually centering on birth, death, tragedy, or triumph. It’s also when the judges let their hearts melt all over their paddles, so the first 10 of season 24 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Of course there’s still going to be an elimination, and with four couples lumped together at the bottom, it could be any one of them.
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Normani Kordei and Val Chmerkovskiy: Rumba
2012: That’s the year she was put into Fifth Harmony on The X Factor. We learn that her dream was to be Beyonce and her family sacrificed everything because they believed in her.
The performance starts with Normani singing and then she dances while the rest of Fifth Harmony sings. Her lines are beautiful, but it’s hard for me to tell if this is a ballroom dance or a Fifth Harmony concert. It’s very distracting. Len Goodman complains that Val didn’t put nearly enough Rumba content in the routine. Bruno Tonioli says that Val was almost unnecessary, which in my mind is not a good thing. Carrie Ann Inaba doesn’t care about the lack of content because it was all about empowerment, but she does bitch about the lift.
Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8+9=32
Len needs the content.
Nick Viall and Peta Murgatroyd: Rumba
2016: That’s the year he was on The Bachelor and found “true love” with Vanessa. His mom talks about how he was determined to find love and Vanessa thinks he’s patient and thoughtful.
The dance mimics his Bachelor journey, starting with a group of women fighting over him. It’s also about the journey of him slowly losing his shirt and ends with him picking up Vanessa from the audience and kissing her. He’s definitely not as frantic as he usually is, and while there are good moments, it’s also a tad stiff in places, with Bruno pointing out that he sometimes stops his hips.
Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8+7=30
That’s definitely his best score yet.
Nancy Kerrigan and Artem Chigvintsev: Foxtrot
1996: That’s the year she had her first child. She wanted three kids before she was 30, but she gets emotional because she had six miscarriages in eight years and felt ashamed. Almost a decade later she had IVF and got her three kids. That’s a beautiful story of triumph that goes beyond her figure skating career. The moral is never to give up.
It’s another beautiful dance from Nancy and I’m happy to see she’s definitely gotten over her jitters from the first two weeks. Getting out of your head is hard, but she’s done it. Bruno loves the lyricism of her movement and Carrie Ann likes her courage. Len correctly points out that she’s moved from the middle of the pack to the frontrunner.
Judges’ Scores: 8+9+8+8=33
Erin Andrews gets genuinely choked up during her interview, which is something that usually doesn’t happen.
Mr. T and Kym Johnson: Waltz
1995: He may have been a star in the ’80s, but this is the year he was diagnosed with cancer. He asked God for the strength to fight and win his battle with cancer. Huh, I did not realize Mr. T was this religious, but it explains his endlessly positive attitude.
It’s a typical Mr. T performance. He tries very hard to get all of the steps and does a decent enough job hitting them, but there’s a lot of walking and standing. Carrie Ann cries over his grace and the religious spirit pouring out of him. Julianne Hough jumps onto the “God is good” bandwagon.
Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7+7=28
Here is where I point out that Len gave Normani, Nick, and Mr. T the same score tonight.
Heather Morris and Alan Bersten: Cha-Cha-Cha
2015: That’s when she got married to a guy she went to high school with. She didn’t know him in high school because he was a baseball player, but later he reached out to her on MySpace. Oh wow, that is so old school. Their dance celebrates the fun of marriage.
Maks is still injured, so Alan is filling in for a third week (meaning he’s done as many dances this season as Keo and more than Witney). The routine starts with Heather and her husband recreating their wedding, then Alan shows up to reenact her life’s story from buying a house to having a baby. The concept is fantastic and her dancing is so energetic and exciting, with lots of technique and content. She really is way too good of a dancer to be on this show. The judges loved it, but there was a lift.
Judges’ Scores: 8+9+9+9=35
That 10 paddle remains elusive. Maks is still working on his recovery, and he endorses Alan to be an actual pro next season. I second that motion.
David Ross and Lindsay Arnold: Viennese Waltz
2016: This is the year hell froze over and the Cubs won the World Series. He caught a no-hitter, hit his 100th homer and hit a home run in the final game, making it a magical final season for him. Now he can focus on being a dad.
The opening was a little clumsy to me and the whole thing felt too rushed. Julianne calls it “squatty and skippety,” but the judges still praise his spirit. Meh, he was good in week 1, but I think he’s fallen a lot since then. He’s likable, but this wasn’t good. Erin tells us that the Cubs are currently on a rain delay, so they showed this dance in the stadium.
Judges’ Scores: 7+8+8+8=31
Those 8s are generous.
Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater: Contemporary
2006: He had a rough relationship with his dad because, while he provided financially, he was shut off emotionally. Then in this year his dad had a stroke with diabetes and needed to have his leg amputated. He was willing to drop out of school to be with his family.
It’s a powerful and raw routine with great lifts, ending with Rashad going into the audience to hug his dad. It’s absolutely beautiful, but I still have a serious issue with these Contemporary routines being scored the same way as actual ballroom dances. Still, the judges love that it was a work of art and it had perfect movements. Julianne cries.
Judges’ Scores: 10+9+10+10=39
The 10s are here!
Erika Jayne and Gleb Savchenko: Cha-Cha-Cha
1989: That’s when she moved from Georgia to NYC to become a star. She did commercials, modeling, and singing then moved to Los Angeles. She’s all about doing it on her own and achieving her goals.
Dancing to “Express Yourself,” it all feels like a cheap, imitation knock-off of Madonna. Yawn, she’s a one-trick pony and the trick isn’t that interesting. Carrie Ann loves that she’s bold and struggles to properly phrase her comments about the choreography. Len is tired of the sexy thing and wants Gleb to do give her some actual ballroom routines. Gleb tells Erin that they’re NOT going less sexy. Ugh, Erika and Gleb are a perfect pair because they both think they’re perfect and refuse to accept any criticism..
Judges’ Scores: 8+7+7+8=30
Not a great score, and she’s in trouble next week if not tonight.
Simone Biles and Sasha Farber: Viennese Waltz
2000: Her most memorable year isn’t when she won at the Olympics, but it’s when she was adopted. Her mom was an addict in and out of jail. She was in foster care and the people she thought of as grandparents became her mom and dad.
It’s another brilliant dance, now with an added emotional weight. As is the custom tonight, apparently, she runs into the audience to hug her parents. Tom Bergeron even brings them up to get the scores with her. Simone is crying and it helps to break her out of that stern, overly perfect gymnast mode.
Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9+9=36
No 10s for her.
Bonner Bolton and Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot
2016: At the start of last year, he had a severe accident on a wild bull. We see it and it’s horrifying. You can see him land on his neck and it looks as bad as it was. It took him months to walk again, but doctors told him he can’t do his sport anymore. He’s thankful to be alive.
He’s very dapper and the routine is solid, though it feels a little quick with an elongated opening and ending. Bonner is back to the way he was in week 2. He’s definitely better suited to these traditional ballroom styles like this and the Viennese Waltz, not so much the others and Latin styles.
Judges’ Sores: 8+8+8+8=32
And the yo-yo is back, going from 22 to 29 to 24 to 32. He’s a lot of things, but consistent is not one of them.
And now it’s time to make this night one that a couple will wish they could forget.
The first couple IN JEOPARDY is…Mr. T and Kym!
The second couple IN JEOPARDY is…Erika and Gleb!
Everyone else is safe and right now I wish this was a double elimination.
Mr. T and Kym Johnson ARE ELIMINATED!
He was a great sport, but he definitely deserved to go. It’s just a shame because I think he would’ve been a lot of fun for Disney Night next week, and I’m not sure if Erika’s sexiness will be appropriate.
39: Rashad Jennings
36: Simone Biles
35: Heather Morris
33: Nancy Kerrigan
32: Normani Kordei, Bonner Bolton
31: David Ross
30: Nick Viall, Erika Jayne
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)