Of course, she went all in on “The Lion King,” and the makeup and wardrobe team outdid themselves to the point it was hilariously distracting. At the same time, Carole again got emotional, though for a totally different reason than her heartbreaking talk about the online abuse her family has endured since “Tiger King” swept the nation.
Emotions are certainly rising among the contestants and dancers, sequestered as they are this season from pretty much everything that gives them life and meaning. And so many of them connected their Disney stories with family and togetherness, it only exacerbated that pain.
It also elevated several of the performances, with true passion shining through more than we’ve seen before. Partners are solidifying and front-runners are quickly emerging. Plus, we had the most hilariously adorable reaction we’ve ever seen to a high score as the 8s were flying much more frequently this week.
Last week, America stunned us by absolutely agreeing with the judges as to who the worst dancers of the week were, with Carole joining Charles Oakley in the Bottom 2 before he was snipped from the show. We’re so proud of America!
But could they get it right two weeks in a row? And could Carole pour enough of that emotion into her performances to avoid a return trip to the dance floor to face the final judgment to see if they’d want to save her for the second week in a row? There’s only one way to find out.
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 eighteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.
(Jive) Skai came out of last week’s shaky performance in tears of frustration, but within a day she and Alan were able to laugh about it, which bodes well for this partnership and her overall attitude as we move forward.
Skai knew most of the steps but she was giving somewhere between 50 and 60 percent commitment to them. She didn’t have enough hop in her step, her knees didn’t come up fully, her arms didn’t extend with the kind of command. Her flicks weren’t as sharp as they needed to be. Everything looked reserved and tight in a dance that should have been high energy and fun.
Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6
My Score: 5
Monica Aldama & Valentin Chmerkovskiy
(Viennese Waltz) What a way to redeem herself after a shaky last week. This had lovely rise and fall and the acting between Monica and Val did a great job of selling the passion and longing in the dance’s story. She needs to focus a bit on her posture throughout as she was leaning into Val a few times, which really pulled us out of the otherwise lovely fluid motion of the dance. But this was easily her most polished performance yet.
Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7
My Score: 7
Justina Machado & Sasha Farber
(Charleston) This was not Justina’s strongest dance. She missed the timing on the drop to the floor and even lost her place entirely at one point. Throughout, she looked a little too heavy on her feet, lacking that Charleston bounce that keeps it looking so light and frivolous. It’s a very difficult dance to muster, and even though Sasha gave her some breaks without it, she nevertheless did not have a full grasp on its energy, and you could see that she wasn’t feeling as confident in it.
(Quickstep) The fact that AJ thinks of himself as transforming into Prince Ali for his Disney-loving daughters is just adorable. And he really got into the character of this piece beautifully. He kept up with the rapid delivery of the steps for the most part, though there were a few times he didn’t quite have the hops and kicks aligned properly. He was also a bit too bouncy at times, but overall, this was a lot of fun with great energy.
Judges Scores: 7, 7, 7
My Score: 6
Anne Heche & Keo Motsepe
(Quickstep) Anne was a little noodly throughout this piece, as if she really was swooning over Keo’s transformation into Hercules. In position, she actually did quite well with the quickstep and even all those little hops, but the rest of it had unexpected problems creep in here and there, all the way through whatever was supposed to happen at the end and then that late slide to the final hold. She’s still an early favorite, but maybe her overacting the opening of this threw off her game the rest of the way a bit this week.
Judges Scores: 5, 5, 5
My Score: 5
Jeannie Mai & Brandon Armstrong
(Viennese Waltz) Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t make it untrue. Brandon was absolutely right in that there has been a cheesiness in their relationship thus far, but it’s one of the most fun partnerships on the show so far this season. It’s also sweet that this will be a birthday surprise for her man, as they prepare to build an “Up” life together.
As for the dance, while it gave us a strange ending after the balloon drop, we kind of loved everything before it. Even the bit of humor with Brandon’s back “going out” at one point fit the sweet and loving tone they presented throughout. Jeannie did quite well with the lyrical flow creating lovely movements across the floor, but it was all about the chemistry for us on this one.
One of the biggest highlights of the night had to be her adorable reaction to these well-earned stellar scores from the judges. By the time Bruno handed out his 8, she was so beside herself, she literally ran up and snatched the card away from him so she could hug it. Not Covid-approved, perhaps, but adorable nonetheless.
(Foxtrot) We were hoping Nelly would find his rhythm, but he walked through this one with a strict tension that never loosened. His hands were tightly gripped, lacking any grace, even his posture was stiff. He missed the steps entirely at one point, and his lack of elegance in movement was so much more pronounced as Daniella was killing it next to him. This was a disappointment, as he had none of the character and looked uncomfortable from the first step to the last grimacing pose.
Judges Scores: 6, 6, 6
My Score: 5
Carole Baskin & Pasha Pashkov
(Samba) If you thought Carole would step away from her recurring big cat theme on Disney Week when “The Lion King” is a thing, well you clearly aren’t a cool cat or kitten. Last week, she got emotional talking about how hard “Tiger King” has been on her personal life, and this week she teared up again when talking about her life’s work and passion, caring for all those big cats in captivity at her rescue.
The tragedy for her is that those cats, raised in captivity, could never survive in the wild and so they have to live out their years in reserves like hers. “I know I can’t give them the one thing they really want,” she said. “And that is their freedom.”
First of all, these costumes are so ridiculous we found ourselves laughing despite ourselves. But it was clear that Carole really did work very hard and try her best on this one. It was still a bit of a mess and she lacked any natural grace and rhythm, but we applaud her for keeping up with the steps (save at one point), and even putting a little samba flare into them once or twice.
Judges Scores: 5, 4, 3
My Score: 3
Kaitlyn Bristowe & Artem Chigvintsev
(Rumba) Every single moment of this performance worked, form Kaitlyn’s beautiful solo work at the top to her dramatic gesture into the camera at the end. In between, she was all elegance and grace, with dramatic hip action and some fantastic partnering with Artem. The lifts they explored worked very well because Kaitlyn has wonderful extensions in both her arms and legs. She looked like a natural out there.
(Quickstep) Vernon and Peta opened up about the challenges of being away from their kids, which is far more pronounced this season as the contestants are effectively quarantined away from everyone while doing this show. Even though it’s only Week 3, we can imagine that loneliness creeping in.
They were all smiles, though, in a very joyous performance with a bonus carbo-load at the end that cracked us up. And we applaud Vernon for his fancy footwork -- though football players are used to drills that would prepare him for this style -- though he did run a bit at one point rather than dance through the steps. His posture was a bit looming at one point, but he overall had a classic presentation that worked very well.
“Vernon has lost his mind!” Tyra declared after scores as he literally ran away from whatever questions she was going to hit him with. While Tyra was much better with her chats this week, maybe he was having flashbacks and just felt the need to get out of there. Whatever it was, it was cracking us up!
Judges Scores: 8, 7, 7
My Score: 7
Nev Schulman & Jenna Johnson
(Argentine Tango) Nev perfectly captured the attitude of this dance, marrying it as well as he could with Jack Sparrow’s drama and drunkenness. But we loved the aggressive strength of his movements, the flicks (we’d have liked to see more of this footwork) and the partnering with Jenna. This is a very strong pairing, with incredible chemistry and unbelievable timing, already dancing as one unit. This is definitely one of the strongest partnerships on the show and Nev continues making his case as a front-runner.
(Rumba) Johnny talked about the monumental sacrifices his parents gave to help him achieve his own dreams, including their retirement funds and even selling their cars. “Looking back and watching your family give up everything for you and believe in you that much is very special,” he said in tears. “My parents are definitely going to know this performance is for them.”
The final two spins of this dance weren’t quite as smooth as the rest of it. We have to say that Johnny’s ice skating arms are just incredible on the dance floor, but he lacks just a bit of that finesse below the waist adjusting to a regular floor. He was a bit wobbly at one point, but there was a beauty to this performance that overshadowed all of those little moments and his growth in such a short span paints a bright future.
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8
My Score: 7
Jesse Metcalfe & Sharna Burgess
(Jive) A very accomplished routine, the biggest criticism we had right off the top was Jesse’s posture during the mid-floor sequence. When he and Sharna were dancing in tandem and around one another, he was hunched over a bit, which takes away from that jive energy. Overall, though, his footwork looked good, even when his timing slipped, and the performance of the piece was on point.
Judges Scores: 7, 6, 7
My Score: 6
Chrishell Stause & Gleb Savchenko
(Waltz) Chrishell connected with Cinderella as a young girl wishing for a different life than the one she found herself in. She recalled the year of auditions before she landed “All My Children,” which changed everything for her, making all her fairy tale dreams come true.
She was an absolute vision in blue for this dance, and there was so much sweetness between her and Gleb throughout. We’ll admit that it didn’t feel like she did a whole lot of footwork in this one, as it was mostly Gleb spinning her around or dancing around her. Her arms did more dancing than her feet, and so we found ourselves wanting some of that classic waltz in there, but there was a lot of beauty in what she was given.
While Nelly and Skai faltered this week, they tied for the third-lowest mark. Carole easily had the worst score of the night, as she’s just not growing as fast anyone else in this competition. Behind her, or should we say just above her, was Anne Heche, who struggled with grace.
The big difference for us, though, is that Anne has had glimmers of potential throughout, even coming out strong in the first week with good performance and a solid attack. She just isn’t as confident on the softer side.
Alternately, Carole doesn’t appear to be comfortable with any of this and she’s just completely out of her depth. She’s clearly giving it her all, and we applaud her that work ethic, but it’s just not coming together.
Last week, America was right in line with the judges scores, dropping Carole and the ultimately-eliminated Charles Oakley into the Bottom 2. Would they follow suit this week and have Anne join Carole there to face the judges again? If so, we don’t think they’ll save Carole a second time.
Once again, they were on the exact same page as Skai was the last person called safe, leaving Carole Baskin and Anne Heche to square off in front of the judges. This one felt inevitable walking into it, but did the judges do what we’d consider the right call and offer Anne another chance?
Of course, the whole point of this new format is to keep the likes of Bobby Bones from winning again, and Carole was clearly a dancer of limited means who could have ridden popularity deep into this game -- though it doesn’t seem as if she had a whole lot of support these past few weeks.
Regardless, we applaud her for taking this huge step outside of what she does. And we think it was important that she was able to speak out about the unendurable vitriol that has been thrown her way since “Tiger King,” as well as some of her passion for these big cats she rescues and tries to give the best life she can.
Both Carole and Pasha noted that their spouses would be thrilled to have them home, another testament to the additional emotional turmoil everyone is dealing with in this quarantine season on top of having to learn all these new dances each week and compete.
"Dancing With the Stars" continues on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.