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Sean Spicer finally begins to show signs of improvement, Ally Brooke is stunning in contemporary and James Van Der Beek's powerful performance brings down the house.

The celebrities and the entire dance troupe of "Dancing with the Stars" took over the Disneyland Resort for a rollicking opening number to kick off the annual Disney Night event.

It was a great way to kick off the evening, filled with joyous performances and a real sense of fun from the remaining competitors before the sweating and fretting began again.


And once it did begin, we got some incredible performances throughout the night. The judges handed out their first 9s of the season, and so did we ... two of them in fact. And that's not just because Disney makes you feel good.

Literally everyone stepped up their performances this week, including the guy who's been circling the drain for weeks now. Sean Spicer gave his best performance yet, and while it still wasn't good, per se, it was a huge improvement for him and something to build from, should his journey continue.

Beyond him, though, we got the season's best performances yet, as well as expansions into jazz and contemporary styles which allowed the celebrities to express themselves more naturally that some of the more structured Latin styles.

Oh, and Carrie Ann totally fell out of her chair, and we're not completely convinced that it wasn't Tom's fault. We don't know how he did it, but the timing was too suspicious.

Tom moved a vibrating broom prop from in front of the dais where she was sitting and down she went, and it looked like a pretty hard fall! Was this a witch joke gone wrong? Actually, it was Carrie-Ann trying to get up to see what Tom was doing and when she went to sit back down, her chair had rolled further back than she expected. Cue epic pratfall!

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 seventeen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.

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, and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

Sailor Brinkley-Cook & Val Chmerkovskiy

(Viennese Waltz) While she could have been a bit grander at times to match Val's extensions, there's no doubt that this was Sailor's most accomplished dance yet. She captured the magical wonder of the music and the character of Cinderella beautifully, and her movement across the dance floor was beautiful to watch. The Viennese Waltz can be kind to stars on this show, but it still takes work and precision to make it look so effortless and flowing and Sailor definitely put in the work.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 8

Karamo Brown & Jenna Johson

(Samba) Karamo continues to improve, but he was plagued with dead fish for hands on this one as he didn't follow through his extensions completely. There was a little hip action at the top, which was nice to see, and an overall sense of greater confidence than we've seen in his previous dances. He still needs to work on technique, but we can see improvement We loved the inclusion of the African elements in the piece, as it was definitely his most confident, but it shows he can get where he needs to be with time and effort.

Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7

My Score: 5

Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov

(Jazz) Oddly enough, Kate was too bouncy when she needed to settle down at the top of the number, but quickly found her groove when they shifted into the quickstep portion. As a jazz routine, Pasha sprinkled all kinds of different styles and Kate tacked each with aplomb, though you could see her working at times, which made her performance a little stiff and disconnected. But she powered through and proved why she remains one of the front-runners right now. And how cool she was able to descend like Mary Poppins?!

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8

My Score: 7

Sean Spicer & Lindsay Arnold

(Quickstep) Well, it wasn't very quick but the slower pace allowed Sean to actually show some technique and that he did get down some of the basics of how this dance worked. His overall stiffness worked better here, but also he was looser than we've ever seen him. Could this dance be the turning point where Sean actually starts to find himself as a dancer? Lindsay was certainly shouting at him every step of the way to keep him on track and it worked. He's got a long way to go yet, but there was actual dance content here and he didn't look like he was lumbering through it.

Judges Scores: 7, 6, 6

My Score: 5

Ally Brooke & Sasha Farber

(Contemporary) That was absolutely incredible. From the choreography to the ethereal grace of Ally throughout, this was mesmerizing. In the tandem dancing portions, she and Sasha were perfectly in sync not only in the steps but in extensions and level of performance. Not only was this her best performance, but it may be the performance of the season so far. And not just because it's contemporary, because Sasha gave her content in other styles and she nailed those, too.

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9

My Score: 9

Lauren Alaina & Gleb Savchenko

(Samba) Lauren had a misstep with this week's routine as she never really settled into the samba style. Her hip action was uninspired but she did have nice bounce. Part of it is probably her hesitation in being too sensual, as she's been very open about her conservative values and concerns about going too far. The samba, though, is a sensual dance without being sexual, and maybe her fears held her back a bit.

Judges Scores: 8, 7, 8

My Score: 7

Kel Mitchell & Witney Carson

(Jazz) What a fun routine with so much personality. Kel looked like he was really in his element here, with lots of swagger and get down throughout this piece. He even got down literally for a quick breakdown breakdance segment. It was a joyous piece of celebration, and his partner work was great, his solo work was great, his rhythm was spot-on and he was having so much fun it was infectious. Kel is a natural mover and dancer, and these technical requirements didn't trip him up much, leading to a polished and professional looking routine.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9

My Score: 8

Hannah Brown & Alan Bersten

(Foxtrot) It was elegant. It was beautiful. It was graceful. The smoke cover didn't really help us see her feet very well, but every other part of Hannah's body looked like it was absolutely on point throughout this dance, which was admittedly light on foxtrot content. Hannah continues to grow throughout this routine into an accomplished dancer, and she absolutely looks the part. Her arms and her hold are just gorgeous, and she looks like she's floating through the air out there.

Judges Scores: 9, 7, 9

My Score: 8

James Van Der Beek & Emma Slater

(Paso Doble) This was a strong and powerful way to end the night. James was on fire and in total command throughout this piece; you almost didn't even notice Emma. It's a testament to his strength and commitment as a performer that he embodied this character (which was definitely not Jack Sparrow) so fully.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9

My Score: 9


With Karamo improving bit by bit this really should be the week that Sean Spicer finally sees the end of his journey. Ironically, it was his best week yet as well, which is just a testament to his partner and this show.

Outside of those two, who have flirted with the bottom all season, Lauren faltered every so slight this week, though she was only one point behind both Kate and Sailor.

Tom was right in that we have a very competitive season this time around. After just a few more eliminations, it's going to be really tough each week to determine who goes home. And we do not have a front-runner anymore, as several dancers are currently vying for that spot.

When the credits started to role as they were just beginning to reveal who was safe, we knew this was yet another fakeout. That means we've only lost dancers every other week thus far this season, and Sean Spicer lives to dance another day.

We're going to have to get a double elimination at some point, right?

"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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