Meanwhile, "Grocery Store Joe" continues to defy the odds by dancing terribly and skating through with viewer votes. Did they come through again?
The theme this week on "Dancing with the Stars" was "most memorable year," which always means tears and heartfelt dances. But this year it also meant our first perfect score.
And while it did come from one of our strongest dancers, we didn't expect to see one so soon, and in such a difficult style. Still, we couldn't help but agree with the judges on this one. It was absolutely stellar in every aspect.
Meanwhile, "Grocery Store Joe" continues his improbable run on "DWTS" with one sub-par performance after another, and yet America really loves this guy. Can his popularity with viewers keep overcoming the terrible scores he gets -- and deserves -- from the judges, or will better dancers keep going home before him?
Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. 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. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I've spent the last sixteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
It's a no-brainer that 1984 would be Mary Lou's most memorable year as that's when she won the gold at the Olympics, but it was also a story of will and perseverance as she was only weeks out of knee surgery at the time. Today, she continues to grow strong and more confident as a dancer, and was really quite lovely in this Viennese waltz. There were a few times she seemed unsure of where to go, but they were small moments and Sasha guided her well. The spin move was executed beautifully, and their motion and lines were just fantastic.
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8
My Score: 8
Milo Manheim & Witney Carson
Adorably, 17-year-old Milo chose this year as his best. And he really got a chance to shine and show off in this piece that gave him two solo numbers, and showed off his surprising athleticism. On top of that, the boy can really dance. He still needs to work on his crooked elbows a bit and following each motion through completely with his arms and legs. He still has a tendency to stoop a bit to try and reduce his height to match Witney, which also goes with his lack of full extension. Once he embraces his body fully and dances to its full potential, he's a real potential contender here.
The choreography on this rumba was a little unusual, because Val let Nancy stand in one spot so many times throughout the routine while he danced all over and around her, it became glaringly obvious he was protecting her. That said, her arms and presence for him when she was called on were quite nice. But we're supposed to be seeing growth and progression here from these stars, and it didn't look like he even gave her the opportunity to really show the audience or the judges much of anything. The turns were nice, and there were good moments when she was given them. This was a frustrating performance to critique.
Judges Scores: 8, 7, 7
My Score: 6
Alexis Ren & Alan Bersten
There was definitely a beauty and grace to this contemporary piece, which was unusually choreographed by Alan. The story wasn't particularly clear, other than its focus around the wedding ring Alexis wears to honor and remember her mother. The lifts were beautifully executed, but it felt like Alexis was about 80 percent committed to the actual dance moves she had to perform on her own, which paled next to Alan's commitment creating a dissonance of movement and visual presentation. Perhaps she got too emotional reliving her mother's passing?
First of all, Keo did a magical job choreographing to the "Harry Potter" theme, but even more amazing was Evanna's transformation into a confident, elegant and beautiful dance in this Viennese waltz. Her lines, her footwork, her carriage, even her hands, everything was absolutely divine. It's as if she stepped out of all of her insecurities and anxieties about stepping into a ballroom and emerged as a professional. Yes, it was that impressive. Evanna just made a huge statement to the other competitors with this performance, and it's that they'd better watch out. She's not planning on going anywhere!
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9
My Score: 9
Joe Amabile & Jenna Johnson
Joe is just not good at dancing. He admitted his nerves consume him, but he's also not committing to anything he was doing, making things much worse for that anxiety. He needs to get out of his head and let go or he'll never improve. Tonight, he managed to make a Viennese waltz lose all of its fluidity and grace, looking as if he was hopping around the stage, and standing there stiffly while Jenna moved around him. Honestly, it was a mess from top to bottom, but he stuck to the beat and remembered the steps. He's so very lucky his "Bachelorette" fans are legion and keeping him around.
What a fun dance and performance. Juan Pablo nailed those body rolls, the hip swivels, the footwork. He danced that samba like he'd danced the samba before, and he did it very well. There was a confidence in him, and even though Cheryl did outdance him at moments, Juan Pablo was definitely there with her and fully into the spirit of their performance together. His hip action could have been a little more consistent, but he was definitely confident in the Latin dance theater.
Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10
My Score: 10
John Schneider & Emma Slater
Full credit to Emma for choreographing a beautiful Viennese waltz in tribute to John's late mother. This was elegant, beautiful and poignant, and John felt so present throughout. On top of his technique, which was the strongest we've seen from him yet, his performance of the piece was flawless. There is a grace and gravitas to John that is just natural in his character and charisma, and he channeled that beautifully. And then, he had fluidity and grace of movement, a lovely cadence across the floor and his lines were lovely. He's so close to being right there.
This was an interesting contemporary piece, as Sharna tried to rein in Bobby's frenetic energy. Inspired by his own high school graduation, which made him the first in his family to achieve that, Bobby was more in control and emotional than we've seen yet. He was still too stiff and amateurish in his actual dance movements, but it was nice to see him finding the character of the piece. Sharna did a good job of incorporating his more wacky side into the piece, but he was actually better in the more tender moments.
Judges Scores: 8, 7, 8
My Score: 7
Tinashe & Brandon Armstrong
Just like the song, which was an acoustic remix of Tinashe's first single, Brandon really stripped this rumba down to its core. He didn't do as many of the stunts and tricks that have become a signature of their time on the show thus far. Instead, it was a slow jam of sensuality and grace, with both of them partnering beautifully. Tinashe is so impressive in how she uses her arms and body to express the dance, carrying each motion all the way through to the tips of her toes and fingers. She is mesmerizing to watch and a truly gifted dancer.
Wow, DeMarcus is strong! We pretty much knew that already, but it was on full display in this Argentine tango, as was his impeccable footwork and precision. He had flicks, kicks, everything you want to see in this style. The one overhead left later in the dance looked like it took an extra oomph to get Lindsay fully above his head, or it was just oddly choreographed, but this was a stellar show-stopping type of performance. So powerful, so commanding, and absolutely engrossing from start to finish. He's really in this thing to win.
Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9
My Score: 9
At the close of the night, Nancy & Val were paired with Tinashe & Brandon, which just makes no sense at all. Tinashe is consistently one of the strongest and most beautiful dancers in the competition, and yet she seems to be toward the bottom in viewer votes each week.
Is it because Brandon is new and doesn't yet have a fanbase of his own? Are her fans not watching this show? It really doesn't make any sense. Jordan Fisher dominated last season and won and she has a similar quality to her performances each week.
And really, America? Is "Grocery Store Joe" just going to win this whole thing even though he is a terrible dancer? We get it. He's cute. He was fun to watch on "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise." But this is a dance competition.
In the end, it was farewell to Nancy & Val, so at least the final eliminations each week have been acceptable in that it seems to be one of the lowest-scoring couples ... with Joe being the obvious worst. How long will he last? And will Tinashe get booted too soon?
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays 8 p.m. ET, and check out new companion show, "Dancing With the Stars: Juniors," Sunday at 8 p.m .ET on ABC.