Three couples nab their first perfect scores of the season as the music of Janet Jackson brings out the best in everyone -- so who made next week's semifinals?
A brutal double elimination was made even more challenging by more 10s and more perfect scores than we’ve seen all season on “Dancing with the Stars.” Clearly the music of Janet Jackson inspired greatness in everyone!
There were no truly weak performances, though a few superstars emerged. But what was more remarkable was just how many of the star brought their best, most polished and most confident dances to the ballroom yet.
We also got a surprise return from the reigning Mirrorball champ, “Bachelorette” co-host (and former winner) Kaitlyn Bristowe, for a special routine to tease the upcoming “DWTS” live tour.
The biggest fear of the night after JoJo Siwa found herself in the Bottom 2 after earning the highest scores last week was that anyone and everyone was in danger -- especially with a double elimination.
That meant America could boot whoever they wanted, as the lowest combined total of points and votes was automatically eliminated. The judges’ save comes into play with the remaining two in the Bottom 3, so that first choice was America's alone.
Three couples got their first-ever perfect scores and another got their first 10s, so you know it was a night of strong dancing. It was also a night that saw each couple paired with another to “Dance-Off” at the same time for bonus points. Could they make a difference?
By the end, with one couple already eliminated and facing a tough choice to boot the second, Carrie Ann Inaba was in tears. Did America get it right? We don’t think so, but that’s become the story of the season for us!
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, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
Tyra kicked off this segment with the exciting news that reigning “DWTS” champ Katilyn Bristowe would be joining the professional dancers on tour -- and so she joined them for this special performance, too. As such, we were really hoping for more from her when she came out. It all looked under-rehearsed, and she definitely did not match their presence or passion on the floor, nor their intensity. As such, with her being a big reveal halfway through, it was a bit of a letdown. Hopefully, there will be much rehearsal now before they hit the road so she can be a more vibrant part of the whole, as we know she’s better than what we just saw.
Jimmie Allen & Emma Slater
(Cha Cha Cha) We see you, Jimmie Allen! He put a little funk on this cha cha and it was a fine addition, perfectly in the right vibe for the track. He brought a lot of great energy to the dance, as well. Plus, even better, there was a lot of great content and delivery from Jimmie throughout. We saw those hips swiveling, a nice little bounce in his step. Yes, his footwork wasn’t quite nailed, and he needs to sink into his hip action a little looser. But the bottom line is he’s growing, we can see it, and clearly he’s loving it out there with “Little Emma.” We’re also glad Bruno called him out on constantly singing along. Take the note!
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8, 8
My Score: 7
Suni Lee & Sasha Farber
(Samba) We wanted a little more fluidity in the body rolls and a little more looseness overall, but this is probably the most confidently and mature we’ve seen Suni move across the floor. Samba can often make or break a young dancer, as it requires a sensuality they can’t always get into, but she managed to find it. This partnership is clearly bringing out her confidence as a dancer and a woman. Hopefully, she can fully shed the negative commenters out of her head, because her biggest weakness is getting trapped up there with self-doubt, and her body is ready to do this!
(Paso Doble) During rehearsal, we got a glimpse of just how close these partnerships can get, and we appreciated that we not only were witness to these two snapping at each other, but about both of them opening about how they feel in these moments and hearing one another out. That’s healthy and deserves to be shown, too, so kudos to them for being that mature and to “DWTS” for not just leaning into sensationalism by showing only the uglier side.
It was all water under the bridge by the time they brought this command performance to the stage. The ending was so fierce, but Melora was really bringing that hard grace to every part of this dance. Artem packed it with great paso content and Melora was all over it. There was one point where she stuttered reaching to grab his hands, but otherwise, she looked incredibly confident out there.
Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10
My Score: 9
Olivia Jade & Valentin Chmerkovskiy
(Argentine Tango) A stunningly beautiful and artistic piece, Val really went all out to bring a real sense of sensual style to this piece, and Olivia was lockstep with him for every bit of it. She had such intentional grace and confidence in her movements, it was almost like looking at two pros up there. Her lines are stunning, her footwork quick and pretty damned precise and the chemistry was palpable. We are blown away now for the third dance in a row by how much the dancers seem to have grown just from last week to this one. They are owning this experience now and it’s amazing to see.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9
My Score: 9
Cody Rigsby & Cheryl Burke
(Paso Doble) Cody is definitely showing the growth we’ve been needing to see from him, but it wasn’t consistent throughout this piece. He had the command, posture and strength we were looking for, but his leading elbow was a little wobbly at times, and his footwork toward the end lacked finesse. But all of these are minor quibbles to the overall confidence he brought to the floor. Through most of it, he owned this dance with the right moves, extensions and strength.
(Jazz) A little sloppy in the finer details, like coming into and out of the lifts (especially the over-the-head one) and a little lacking in intensity compared to the track and the backing dancers, that’s not to take away from the overall quality of dance that Amanda brought. She really did commit fully to this piece and she almost nailed it exactly as written. We’d have liked just a tenth more passion and commitment throughout as it looked like she was just a bit in her head.
Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10
My Score: 9
Iman Shumpert & Daniella Karagach
(Cha Cha Cha) At times hitting just as hard as “Rhythm Nation,” but at others Iman was a little slow to hit his marks. There was actually less pure cha-cha in this than we expected, as it appeared more a tribute to Janet’s iconic “RN” dance itself. That’s good for Iman, as he was definitely stronger in those. But what we did see of cha-cha had respectable footwork and partnering, and his frame has improved from previous dances. He definitely seemed to be dancing the slower tempo in the piece at times in contrast to Daniella bringing it uptempo, which was a bit jarring, like they were at different energy levels.
Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9, 9
My Score: 7
JoJo Siwa & Jenna Johnson
(Salsa) There were some really great moments in this piece, with probably the only notable issue being the slight challenge getting out of that upside down lift. They started in a lift and had a few sprinkled throughout, but we were even more impressed with the tandem dancing. JoJo isn’t all the way down into the grit of the salsa, which has a sexy drive behind it, as there’s more of a bubble gum vibe to the way she delivered. So the content was there, but the tone wasn’t all the way what we were wanting.
This is the round where the couples hit the floor at the exact same time, performing side-by-side to try and pick up two important points from just one judge. In other words, the other judges can think whatever they want, but they really just need to impress the right person at the right time.
Jimmie Allen vs. Suni Lee
(Salsa) Suni brought a lot of athleticism to her part, as expected, while Jimmie was all about the swagger. She was in her head a bit and thus lacked a bit of the looseness in her body we’d have liked to see. But Jimmie was a little loosey-goosey with his technique overall, so neither of them absolutely nailed this. We think Suni was a little more in control of her overall performance and technique.
Bruno’s Points: Suni
My Points: Suni
JoJo Siwa vs. Olivia Jade
(Rumba) As an extra layer to this piece, professional partners Jenna and Val are married in real life, but Val wasn’t worried about that. On top of that, this is the first rumba for both ladies, making it a wholly new experience. Both of the young ladies looked uncomfortable with the deep sexuality of the style, but we fear Carrie Ann’s concern that JoJo would sink into her technical strength a little too far came out. Olivia had moments where we could see her body moving with a slinkiness, but JoJo was strength and command throughout, which partnered well for Jenna, but wasn’t bringing out as much of the flavor as we wanted.
(Foxtrot) We love a classy bow before the competition begins. Melora did her thing, which is always impressive and on point, but we were mesmerized by just how graceful and full Iman was. He and Daniella took the slower tempo for their dance and they managed to create so many beautiful lines and moments. He’s grown by leaps and bounds since starting this competition, but that’s not to knock the quality that Melora brought on her side. She is always grace and elegance, with perfect character. This was a close one because both felt very strong.
Derek’s Points: Melora
My Points: Iman
Amanda Kloots vs. Cody Rigsby
(Cha Cha Cha) Amanda seemed to get tighter and tighter as the dance progressed to the point that by the end of it, her hips were tighter than a pickle jar, losing all of that movement the style wants. Cody, meanwhile, seemed to grow in confidence and loosen up, delivering more as it went along. Amanda’s piece was technically more challenging and she nailed all of the steps, but Cody had more of the character you want to see.
We would never want to say that rig was in, but the top four couples after the first round were the four couples that got all the bonus points -- and as you can see above, we disagreed with almost all of those results. As such, the bonus round only deepened the divide, but didn’t change anything.
It also recreated the gender divide we’ve seen most of the season, with women dominating the top four spots, and another in the number six slot. We’re also not sure we agree with Jimmie being so far below everyone else in points.
He and Iman have struggled throughout the season, but we also know that they have a strong following. With a double elimination, though, the judges only have so much power. Whoever gets the lowest number of points goes home immediately, and with JoJo having hit the Bottom 2 last week, everyone is vulnerable.
Maybe the extra points were padded to try and protect the strongest dancers this week from a wonky vote from America. Or maybe Jimmie will be the one automatically eliminated. But with only three guys left and five women, we’ve seen all season that America has maintained a gender balance even over the level of talent -- as the women were much stronger all season.
Could this, then, be the end for Olivia? A part of us thinks she could wind up the one automatically eliminated. If we had to pick, we’d say that Olivia and Jimmie would be the ones to go this week.
Heading into the semifinals right away were Suni and JoJo -- who was thrilled not to hit that Bottom 3 -- followed by Amanda, Cody and Iman. That makes Iman the only upset (so to speak) of those declared safe, but we know he’s become a fan-favorite throughout the season, and we can’t fault the fans. This is a journey that we’ve been enjoying as well.
That left Melora to join Jimmie and Olivia in the Bottom 3 -- which brings us one step closer to our predictions being right. They’re also predictions we can live with, though we’ve enjoyed Olivia’s journey on the show and think she’s a stronger dancer than even the judges have given her. Jimmie, too, has had a nice arc, but he seems to have peaked and it’s not quite enough.
It also backs our play that viewers are somehow pushing for gender parity, as the women dominated again and two of them make up the Bottom 3. Either that, or they’re just supporting disproportionately the male stars over the ladies. That’s certainly happened in the past, too.
The couple eliminated automatically by viewer votes was not the lowest with the judges, but it was as we expected, with Olivia Jade saying goodbye after a solid run that never was fully appreciated -- and we can probably chalk at least some of that up to her involvement in the college admissions scandal.
Down to Melora and Jimmie, this should be a no-brainer. Melora is the stronger dancer hands down. It was a clean sweep, as it should be, with a lot of love for Jimmie Allen’s journey on the show. But that story had reached a logical end.
It’s the semi-finals already next week on “Dancing with the Stars,” Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.