"Dancing With the Stars" is kind of already Hollywood, but nevertheless that was the theme of the week, thinking more about the silver screen than the small one, complete with guest judge Shania Twain … okay? We got a very ambitious and clever opening number with the professional cast and troupe telling the story of the Hollywood ream from its humble beginnings at a typewriter to the grand opening of a major motion picture. Usually, these pieces don't really do much to dazzle me, but this one sold the premise really well.
As we did last season, and we do for various competition shows, I will be acting as your fifth judge, analyzing, critiquing and breaking down what worked and what didn't work about each performance. A quick reminder about me: I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer, all for this moment: armchair judging a dance competition. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet.
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie-Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Shania Twain, and Bruno Tolioni. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. Yes, there are only three judges on the panel this season, but let's face it, you're the fourth judge. Your votes mean just as much if not more than the judges, so I'll gladly sit fifth behind all of you watching at home.
Editor's note: Videos from last night's "DWTS" are currently not available. TooFab will update this post when they are.
Nikki Bella & Artem Chigvintsev
The Argentine tango channeled through the unique style of French cinema was the challenge of the week. This week, Artem helped Nikki achieve some vulnerability in rehearsal and it really showed in the sultriest and most delicate performance she's yet given. What a beautifully choreographed dance he gave her, with lots of great leg flicks, lifts and plenty of steamy chemistry. It's a shame they misfired one of the lifts slightly, and completely lost their balance during a low hold, because this was on its way to being Nikki's finest performance on the show. Still, it was bold and confident and stunning in its execution … for the most part.
With an actual background in karate, Drew was looking to incorporate that into his action genre paso doble. After getting positive remarks from the judge, he's competing to win now. And he came out strong and assertive, again looking like a changed man from the first few weeks. But as the dance progressed, we started seeing some of the clunky footwork and jagged elbows that plagued his earlier dances. In the final spin, Emma looked like she was too heavy for him, which took me right out of the story of the dance. It's a shame, because it really was a great story, a fun piece and I'm rooting for Drew to keep finding his way, as I really think he's a dark horse to watch here. But he needs to be more consistent in the quality of his lines.
Judges Scores: 7, 7, 9, 7
My Score: 6
Nick Lachey & Peta Murgatroyd
After weeks of struggling with the judges, Nick is frustrated that his work isn't coming out on the stage and he's making a fool of himself. His confidence was low coming into this western samba, but he's determined not to quit. Unfortunately, he was right as it's just not coming to him. He was tepid and awkward to such a degree it looked like something you might see at a child's dance recital. Nick is a likeable guy and he nailed the line dancing segment, but I'm not sure he's going to be able to figure this out before his time on the show comes to an end. You can see the parts he's nervous about because he stiffens up and you can almost see him counting.
Judges Scores: 7, 6, 7, 6
My Score: 5
Victoria Arlen & Val Chmerkovskiy
The ESPN host was quite comfortable bringing sports movies to life in this paso doble. While the hockey set was inspired, the storytelling was a little lax. I wanted Val to push Victoria more in this piece, as she was more than competent in everything we saw, but it just seemed a little underwhelming. It should have felt more intense and fierce than it did, and the drop spin should have been a lot more than a half-turn. Victoria should be blowing us away each week, because she's capable of it, but it seems as if she peaked a few weeks ago and no one is interested in pushing her to the next level. Some of the hockey choreography left me counting the beats until they'd get back to the dancing.
Wow! I mean, really. Wow! T.O. turned on the fire for this spy-themed jive dance, hopping and dancing like a real pro out there. For the first time, he looked strong, happy and confident. The choreography was extremely clever, but it was also challenging and he handled it with almost no mistakes whatsoever. In the beginning, he looked a little heavy on his feet, but that lasted maybe three bars and he was off. Once they shifted to the "back room" there was no going back. The tricks were awesome. Everything finally came together for Terrell, and I'm so happy for him, This is the confidence booster he needs, and he proved America was right to keep him, after all.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 10, 9
My Score: 9
Frankie Muniz & Witney Carson
After a whirlwind week that saw him get his first 10s and then fall into danger, the couple had to channel animation for their jazz number. Unfortunately, this piece looked like it was a failure in concept. It's a good thing he had a great week last week, because this was a huge misstep for Frankie. Witney was over-the-top and big in every movement of the dance, which only accentuated the fact that Frankie just wasn't. Part of the problem may have been that he didn't have a character to lose himself in. Frankie isn't as comfortable being himself, and I think that's why he was a bit hesitant in this piece. Also, the choreography seemed repetitive and kind of dull for a piece that could have gone in unpredictable madcap and zany directions.
Judges Scores: 7, 8, 8, 8
My Score: 7
Vanessa Lachey & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Quickstep as filtered through the musical is the challenge presented to the one-time leader who's failed in recent weeks to live up to her early potential. She stepped up in a big way. There were actually quite a few dance styles incorporated throughout that piece, including a fun Charleston segment, but there was also plenty of quickstep in two larger segments. She wasn't consistently solid throughout, particularly in her frame, but this was a very difficult dance very well executed. She didn't let the skirt mishap throw her at all and showed more confidence than we've seen in recent weeks.
What a beautiful piece, and what a beautifully realized story. At this point, it's becoming cliche to even talk about the dances these two put together, because we're basically critiquing two professionals. Jordan may not have the background in ballroom, but it didn't matter in this rumba as he was flawless. His hip movements were liquid perfection, and the slowness of it added to the heartbreak of the romantic story at the heart of the dance. Perfect song, perfectly realized vision danced once again as sheer perfection.
Judges Scores: 10, 9, 10, 10
My Score: 10
Lindsey Stirling & Mark Ballas
What an amazing way to end the show, with back-to-back perfection. Lindsey channeled the robotic quirks of her character flawlessly within the Argentine tango. The music could not have suited the attitude and story of the piece better, and the choreography could not have been more clever. There were lifts and throws that were challenging and executed with such ease it once again looked like we were watching two professionals dancing. Lindsey has been a front-runner for awhile now, but the storytelling and technique in this piece literally took my breath away. Simply gorgeous.
Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10
My Score: 10 [I'd give it an 11 if it wouldn't break the system]
After opening the night's performances, Nikki Bella was immediately declared safe. Then, with more time to fill, five couples were brought out so Drew Scott and Frankie Muniz could also be told they were safe. Nick Lachey and Terrell Owens were then told they were in jeopardy, along with Victoria Arlen. It's all very odd and confusing to do the safe/not-safe dance throughout the show like this.
The final three performing couples came out more than midway through the show so that all three of them could be declared safe … who came up with this tonight? What a colossal waste of time!
Finally, we got to business at the end of the show with Victoria getting sent to safety, leaving Nick and Terrell in danger. After this week's performance, we should be saying goodbye to Nick, and it was so. Nick worked his butt off throughout the competition, but dance just doesn't come to him naturally or unnaturally. Now he can hang out and support his wife as she continues her own journey on the show … but she totally won the Lachey v. Lachey battle!
"Dancing With the Stars" continues Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.