It’s a very special week on Dancing with the Stars because an old champion is returning. Len Goodman is taking some time off, so former pro partner Julianne Hough will be taking over as guest judge. The two-time Mirror Ball winner will oversee the Top 10 couples and trade in her dancing shoes for judging paddles.

How will Judgy-anne Hough do? Will she be fair to everyone, including her brother Derek? And which couples will be third to go home?

We’ll find out tonight on Dancing with the Stars!

The opening group number ends with an introduction of the judges, with a special solo intro for Julianne Hough. Tom Bergeron then helps Julianne promote her upcoming movie, Paradise, which opens in less than two weeks.

Julianne promises to be kind, but she’ll crack the whip when she needs to. She also lets us know she’s focusing more on the stars, so there will be no conflict of interest with judging her brother.

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: Quickstep

Cheryl admits to PMSing during rehearsals, which might be why she seems so cranky with Jack (who has some serious envy of Corbin). Jack certainly slipped last week, but this week is a bit better. He seems to do a good job with the steps, but he lacks fluidity. Julianne thinks ballroom is his best style, but he needs to have more fun. Carrie Ann Inaba then disagrees with Julianne. Ooh, I think someone is a tad jealous over not being the prettiest girl at the table anymore.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8=24

Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy: Argentine Tango

During rehearsal Elizabeth gets into character by staring into Val’s eyes for a disturbingly long time to form a connection. The routine itself has Elizabeth as a puppet master controlling Val’s violinist. It’s wonderfully passionate and exciting, everything I want from a steamy, sultry tango. The judges love it, and Carrie Ann is especially fond of Elizabeth’s sharpness. Julianne says that Elizabeth has already fixed the one flaw she was going to point out.

Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9=27

I was kind of expecting a 10. I feel like these judges are too scared to give out the first one.

Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd: Salsa

Brant has an old bike injury that’s making some of Peta’s more ambitious lifts hard, but she’s pushing very hard because they want 10s. The dance itself features Brant taking his shirt off, which is an easy way to give everyone something to shout about. It’s definitely hot, but it seems kind of sloppy and they’re focusing too much on big moves and lifts and not enough on the actual dance. Carrie Ann loved the lifts, but points out that, by taking his shirt off, he exposed his loosey-goosey arm movements. Julianne agrees, but adds that she’s single now. Naughty girl, but I can’t really blame her.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7=21

That’s unfortunate. I’d have given them an 8, with the extra point for Brant taking his shirt off. I hope the fact that the audience vote is from last week (when he was the best) offsets his low score tonight.

Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus: Viennese Waltz

Valerie knows she was a disaster last week but wants to forget it and move on. This is definitely a better style for her. She still seems a bit lost at times, but there are some solid moments and it’s definitely a slight improvements. It’s pleasant and beautiful. Julianne points out that it’s much better when Valerie and Tristan are together rather than having her off on her own.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6=18
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: Cha-Cha-Cha

Leah’s idea to get better scores is for Tony to show off some skin and let her sit down and do fewer moves. He refuses to listen. I have to give her a ton of credit, because she was shaking her cha-cha all over the ballroom and did a pretty great job at making it sexy. Carrie Ann loves the face but needs better movements. Julianne and Bruno Tonioli have a bit of a fight over footwork and shoes. It’s all very constructive and great feedback.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8=24

I’m kind of bored with the judges agreeing with the scores.

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: Paso Doble

Karina’s strategy is to make it as technical and traditional as possible with no gimmicks. It seems like a waste to do that the one week Len Goodman isn’t here. The actual routine is mesmerizing. Corbin is powerful and dominant. He goes shirtless, which would be more special if Brant hadn’t already done it, but Corbin is damn fine in his own right and it fits with the Paso so it doesn’t feel as shameless. The whole thing is just kind of flawless. The judges all point out some very minor hip problems, but they agree that it was brilliant and near perfect.

Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9=27

Seriously, they are now actively looking for ways to avoid giving out 10s.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber: Jive

It’s a cheerleader theme, which brings up Snooki’s history with anorexia when she’d only eat one salad, cracker or grape per day, if that. The dance feels kind of lazy, even though it’s quite energetic and they’re jumping all around. Also, the cheerleader outfit makes Snooki look really small. Like, she looks like she’s an actual little person. Carrie Ann regrettably brings up Len calling Snooki a “pocket rocket.” The judges criticize her wayward knees and T-Rex arms.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8=24

Of course they all agree. I think that deserved at least one 7.

Christina Milian and Mark Ballas: Foxtrot

She’s very worried about going home because she was in jeopardy last week, even though that didn’t actually mean she was at the bottom. As always, their routine is too stylized for my taste. It opens behind prison bars and then proceeds. It’s the polar opposite of what Karina did with Corbin, because everything about the choreography seemed to distract from Christina. Julianne gives voice to my primary complaint, that Mark is a spotlight hog.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8=24

Why do we even have three judges? I’m not sure, but has there ever been an entire night of DWTS where the judges agreed every time?

Amber Riley and Derek Hough: Tango

She had a knee injury this week, so she’s also been struggling with a lack of rehearsal time this week, having to just watch. The routine is solid and consistent with the two connected almost the whole time. It’s severe and precise, which is just what you want in a Tango. There’s a cute moment where Derek tries to bribe his sister with $10, bringing up all kinds of sibling rivalries about Barbie heads. But they all love it.

Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9=27

I feel like if Derek wasn’t Julianne’s brother, she may have dusted off the 10 paddle. Just kidding, that paddle clearly doesn’t exist.

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: Samba

Last week during dress rehearsal, Bill bumped Emma’s head, and he took it harder than she did. For the Samba, it involves a little more hip action than he’s used to. He tries hard, and it’s funny in certain places, but it’s pretty sloppy. He seemed to have fun and it was entertaining, but not as good as I’ve come to expect from him. Julianne thinks he’s like her dad, and she loves dancing with her dad. Bruno said it had everything you want in a Samba, “except timing and rhythm.” HA!

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7=21

So the judges were in agreement for every single performance. Yawn. Also, there’s no way Bill and Brant deserved the same score.

The Results

Right after Bill and Emma’s scores, Tom gives some somewhat surprising news.

Bill and Emma are…SAFE

Wow, way to take away some of the drama. I feel like this bodes poorly for Brant, but I hope not.

These couples are also SAFE:

Elizabeth and Val
Leah and Tony
Corbin and Karina
Amber and Derek
Jack and Cheryl
Christina and Mark

So the three IN JEOPARDY:

Brant and Peta
Valerie and Tristan
Snooki and Sasha

Snooki and Sasha are…SAFE

Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus are ELIMINATED!

Whew, that seems fair. Sure, her story is amazing and inspiring, but getting to dance for four weeks seems like enough of a gift. She gets a standing ovation and she’s so incredibly positive and happy to have had this opportunity. Tristan adds that meeting Valerie has changed his life for the better, which is sweet as well.

She had a remarkable run, but I appreciate that the worst three dancers were the first three couples eliminated this season. That restores my faith in democratic voting.

That does it for another week of impressive dances where just about everyone got either a 24 or a 27. Julianne Hough was fun and offered constructive criticism, even though the scoring was embarrassingly consistent.

Next week on Dancing with the Stars, the couples will celebrate the most memorable years and moments of their lives. It’s fine that Valerie won’t be around, because I suspect we saw her best year unfold over the last month.

The Leaderboard

27: Elizabeth Berkley, Corbin Bleu, Amber Riley
24: Jack Osbourne, Leah Remini, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Christina Milian
21: Brant Daugherty, Bill Engvall
18: Valerie Harper

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(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.