"Halloween" brings out the best in many dancers, with two perfect scores on the night, three highest scores on the night and four neck snaps. What was up with that?
Halloween hit the dance floor on "Dancing with the Stars," but rather than bring the frights, it brought frighteningly strong performances, and even a hint of love in the air.
It looks like one of our couples is getting bit by the love bug, but can they survive long enough in the competition to see where things go ... or should we say, so we can see where things go with them?
This week also brought our second perfect score of the season, paired with a third as well. Even the worst dancers on the show, "Grocery Store Joe" really stepped it up and earned his best score of the season. And it was enough to pull him out of the basement. Barely.
All season long, the worst dancers have been eking by thanks to the support of their fans at home. How much longer can this carry on? Let's find out who went home this time after Disney Night spared everyone last week.
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.
This was some of the coolest and creepiest contemporary choreography we've seen on the show, reminiscent of Frankie Muniz' transformative contemporary piece last fall. And Milo absolutely stood up to the challenge of portraying an asylum inmate who may or may not be hallucinating a dance partner. The one-armed lift was truly magical, and the body language and performance from both of them kept my eyes glued throughout this masterful piece.
Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10
My Score: 10
John Schneider & Emma Slater
An ambitious concept to be sure with Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn battling it out in the afterlife, but John looked more like a clockwork animatronic in this piece than an undead spirit out for vengeance. He did have some good moments, but lost it in sashay moves across the floor that looked more comical than commanding. The paso is about strength and control, and John was just lacking in these areas, including the lift where he nearly dropped her. It just never came together completely at all.
Judges Scores: 6, 7, 6
My Score: 6
DeMarcus Ware & Lindsay Arnold
This was a clever piece, but DeMarcus took a little while to warm his hips up to the salsa format. He had a nice groove during the marionette phase, and was good through half of the lifts. For the other half, though, we could see him setting them up a little more than we should. At the beginning, he paled next to the pros dancing in tandem with him, but as he sunk into the floor a bit throughout the piece, he really was able to hold his own admirably.
Evanna really came with a lot of attack and verve into this tango, and she was the cat's meow. Her feline persona really brought out a slinkly sensuality to her performance that was quite striking, and added even more to what was a technically pretty sound tango. Her footwork suffered a little here and there, but she was mostly in the right character and frame of the dance, This may be her most confident and best dance yet.
Judges Scores: 10, 9, 10
My Score: 9
Bobby Bones & Sharna Burgess
This may have been the most committed performance we've seen as Bobby stepped into the role of an evil sandman. But as tangos go, there wasn't much tango content and he didn't bring much else to the table than good character performance. Yes, he was where he needed to be for their lifts and tricks, but those whole routine was about 90 percent Sharna, who was fabulous in it. Not really a criticism of Bobby, who really did commit to what he was given to do.
Judges Scores: 8, 7, 7
My Score: 7
Mary Lou Retton & Sasha Farber
The story didn't really fit all that well with the tango, and the tango elements weren't the strongest. Performance-wise, Mary Lou did great, but her technique was sorely lacking. The school marm dress wasn't doing her any favors either as it hung really heavy on her legs, hiding their movements. But there were a few spots where it looked like Sasha was dragging or pulling her into position. This one was a bit of a struggle for her.
"I am developing feelings for Alan," Alexis admitted. "I didn't see this one coming, but it happened really quickly." Alan wasn't quite ready to say he felt the same, but he's definitely almost there. And then, after watching that vulnerable package, they had to perform a jazz routine. Alexis was a little withdrawn for such a broad piece, and the judges were a little too generous on those lifts, as there was some clear labor in some of them.. That said, Alan always makes these routines extremely challenging, so for Alexis to rise to most of the challenge still puts her well above much of the competition.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9
My Score: 8
Joe Amabile & Jenna Johnson
Even though he botched the last lift and neck crack, this was easily Joe's most capable performance yet. It was totally recognizable as a tango, and it felt like he was in character throughout as Frankenstein. Granted, that character may have helped hide some of his natural stiffness. Joe is always the most uncomfortable and in his head (i.e. in his own way) of all the contestants, but he really felt like he was more in the dance this time than we've ever seen.
Judges Scores: 8, 7, 7
My Score: 8
Juan Pablo Di Pace & Cheryl Burke
This energetic jive was a hybrid of a few different dance styles, and Juan Pablo handled everyone of them extremely well. He is one of the strongest dancers in the competition and may well run away with the whole thing. His posture, poise, grace, attack, extensions, lines, presence... Honestly, it's everything. The guy is a natural on the dance floor. He hit the jive section with perfect bounce and pep and kept his energy throughout a fun and quirky piece.
The leaders of the season are further separating themselves from those struggling to keep up. With two perfect scores on the night, it's going to be harder for the viewers at home to defy the scores of the judges as they've done thus far.
Or at least, that's what you'd think. They pulled from the middle of the leaderboard to put Mary Lou & Sasha in jeopardy, joined by Alexis & Alan, who seem to find themselves here every week. If they survive this one, could their burgeoning romance make a difference?
We're talking about the couple who finished fourth out of nine this week and is usually much higher in the rankings than that, and yet they find themselves here week in and week out. And once again, they managed to avoid elimination as it was goodbye for Mary Lou & Sasha.
"Grocery Store Joe" and Bobby Bones have spent all season in the basement by judges' scores, but America keeps putting them through. John Schneider joined them this week. Mary Lou was just above them, but how much longer can their good will last with viewers?
That said, both showed genuine growth this season, and America loves a comeback kid. Mary Lou came in a champion, and she exits with a new lease on life and a fresh start to look forward to.
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET, and check out new companion show, "Dancing With the Stars: Juniors," Sundays at 8 p.m .ET on ABC, though it is skipping next week for Mickey Mouse's 90th birthday special.