'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Partner switch-up week

For The Baltimore Sun
"Dancing With the Stars" recap: Partner switch-ups keep everyone on their toes.

America has been given the power to switch up couples on "Dancing With the Stars." America, I hope you got it right. Maksim Chmerkovskiy is also in the house as a guest judge for the evening.

In the opening number, Wanyá Morris is in a cardigan and looking totally cuddly and sexy. He's the rare man who can do both at the same time. Erin Andrews is wearing a dress that pools on the floor. We all know she's 9 feet tall, so how long is that dress?

Maks is working a Don Draper look, with razor-parted hair and a clean-shaven face. It's a good look on him.

Wanyá Morris and Witney Carson
Tango

They're performing to a live rendition of their song by its original artist. Wanyá has shed his opening-number cardigan and this mandarin collar shirt isn't nearly as flattering. The song feels wrong for a tango. I mean, even if they're doing all the tango steps, the routine doesn't have the feel of a tango.

Len Goodman calls it hectic with too many moving parts. While Maks is talking, they cut to Lindsay, Wanyá's regular partner, and boy does she have a puss on her face, as the saying goes. Bruno Tonioli says the routine had a torrent of constant steps and variations and goes on to praise Wanyá's ability. Carrie Ann Inaba misses the chemistry Wanyá usually has with Lindsay. She also makes a comment about the difficulty of creating a tango mood with that song.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Maks: 7; Bruno: 8

Kim Fields and Keo Motsepe
Viennese waltz

When Keo comes into the studio to let Kim know he's her partner this week, he literally sweeps her off her feet and swings her around as she squeals in delight.

Ooh, they're dancing to "These Arms of Mine," one of the sexiest songs I know. My dad refers to it as a "Y-dance." As in, "When you're that close, why dance?" I'm also compelled to point out that Keo is looking extremely handsome in a vintage-inspired suit. His legs look a million miles long.

Maks says it was a beautiful performance from beginning to end, but wasn't entirely a Viennese waltz. He says he can't criticize the frame because there wasn't one. Bruno calls it a series of beautiful pictures in a romance novel and then gets off-topic and starts pawing Maks. I understand, Bruno — I wouldn't be able to resist it, either.

Carrie Ann likes seeing the sensual, graceful side of Kim. Len starts his comments with, "Thank God you're here this week, Maks, 'cause it's usually me against the world." Then he lambasts Keo for not having one step in hold. Len is ticked off. Keo responds by saying the reason he avoided the traditional frame is the significant height difference between him and Kim. He takes her in his arms and demonstrates how awkward they look together in traditional Viennese waltz hold. It's kind of a case of both sides being right. Keo was trying for a routine that looked good despite the height difference, but Len and Maks are right about the lack of traditional hold.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 6; Maks: 6; Bruno: 8

Doug Flutie and Peta Murgatroyd
Tango

Peta tells Doug that her fiance is going to be on the judges table. Since Len and Carrie Ann are both married already and I'm pretty sure Bruno isn't looking to marry a woman, I can only assume that this is the first I'm hearing of Maks and Peta being engaged. Weren't Maks and Karina an item for a while? I bet that's an interesting holiday party on the "DWTS" set.

More than usual, you can see Peta talking through the routine, presumably telling Doug the steps or the count. Maybe this is one occasion on which I would advocate "nude" lipstick.

Bruno says it wasn't "all gold" (a nod to the song), but it was good. Bruno wants Doug to lose himself in the music more. Carrie Ann says Doug didn't miss a step in a routine filled with content. Len calls it the best one yet. Maks tells Doug to get past the idea that he may forget something and allow himself to get into the music.

We get to see a quick Instagram video of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick wishing Doug good luck. He's smiling and I about fall over in shock. Earlier, during the rehearsal footage, they showed an Instagram photo of Tom Brady cheering for Doug. I know they usually look for this type of endorsements from the contestants' famous friends and connections, but to get Belichick to smile and talk and commit it to video? That says a lot about how much people like and respect Doug Flutie.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 7; Maks: 7; Bruno: 7

Ginger Zee and Mark Ballas
Salsa

They revealed Ginger's new partnership with Mark on a "Good Morning America" episode. Later, Ginger's husband, Ben, drops by to supervise the new pairing. He explains he's got an understanding with Val, but this Mark guy is new. Ben, Mark is wearing a top knot smack in the middle of his head AND a bandanna — I think you're safe from his "sexy."

They start the routine with some dialogue and then a quick bit of solo mugging by Mark. He whips off his obnoxious hat to reveal another bandanna, this tip to go with his usual top knot that's farther back on his head.

The dancing? Oh, it's fine, except it's way too fast in parts for Ginger to keep up with footwork at Mark's level. Val wouldn't have left her exposed like that.

Len pronounces the routine fantastic. Maks says Ginger sold the fast dance. Bruno calls her a devilish fiend.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Maks: 8; Bruno: 8

Antonio Brown and Karina Smirnoff
Cha-cha-cha

Karina and Sharna have a quick chat about how late Antonio usually is to practice. That's never a good sign.

Antonio starts the routine with a forward flip onto the dance floor. Is that one-upping Nyle's backflip from last week? Karina is wearing a leotard over a sparkly bodystocking. It's really cool because it highlights her legs and their movements.

Len says it was long on performance, short on content. He objects to all the "bump and grind," too. Maks accuses Antonio of getting by on what comes naturally and exhorts him to put in a little effort, like pointing his toes and straightening his knees. Bruno likes Antonio's moves and his charisma. He wants him to do a little bit better job with synchronization. Carrie Ann praises Antonio's natural charisma but criticizes his form.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 6; Maks: 6; Bruno: 7

Paige VanZant and Sasha Farber
Rumba

Sasha shows up with flowers to meet Paige and it's the cutest. He's adorable. Paige admits she still has trouble trusting her dancing partners, be it Mark or Sasha.

Even though I still can't really connect with Paige, this is a pleasant routine to watch. Paige is graceful and it's sexy without being overwrought.

Maks says Paige is more than capable of winning the show, with her "natural ability." (Wherein "natural" means 13 years of dance experience.) He's disappointed, however, in the lack of rumba content, claiming there was only one rumba step in the whole thing.

Bruno loves her form. Carrie Ann likes the chemistry between her and Sasha. Len claims to have seen more than one rumba step, however he wants Paige to do a better job of selling the dance. I get what Len means — Paige feels like such a blank, both in rehearsal footage and during her performances.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Maks: 7; Bruno: 8

Von Miller and Lindsay Arnold
Jive

Supposedly this dance is inspired by Von's Texas roots. I guess that explains the cowboy hat. Right off the bat, Von looks off somehow. Maybe there's something going on with his legs? Like, they're not straight enough or sharp enough? It also looks like Lindsay is doing twice the dancing he is. Up until now, Von hasn't looked like the guy the ladies dance around. They end the routine on an up note, with a "kicking his heels" leap from Von, a jump over Lindsay, and then Lindsay jumping onto Von's back.

Up in the skybox, I swear it looks like Witney is giving the hand signal for the University of Texas Longhorns. Oh, baby girl. You don't do that when Von is an Aggie. I rewound it and she was using thumb and pinky, rather than index finger and pinky, so she's in the clear.

Bruno says the performance value was high but the kicks and flicks weren't sharp. Carrie Ann thinks Lindsay worked with Von's strengths, turning his "hunched over" look into part of the feel of the routine. Len decides to only give the good part of his critique. Maks wants a little more from Von.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Maks: 7; Bruno: 7

Nyle DiMarco and Sharna Burgess
Viennese waltz

I would think this would be the most challenging of the switches, since Nyle and Peta have developed their own language. Sharna admits she's having to remind herself not to look at Ramon, Nyle's interpreter.

She asks Nyle if he's ever been in a relationship with the kind of strong feelings they're looking to portray in the dance. He says he was in a 10-year relationship with someone. Sharna asks, "Was he just as deaf?" Nyle gently corrects her by answering, "She was deaf." Sharna looks mortified by the pronoun confusion, but Nyle doesn't seem bothered by it. He's publicly answered questions about his sexuality by saying he's "sexually fluid." If you were as hot as he is, you could basically say yes to whoever you wanted to, so why limit yourself, eh?

Tyra Banks stops by rehearsal to get her pound of flesh, I mean, contractually obligated exposure, I mean, to support Nyle.

Nyle dances just as well with Sharna as he does Peta, so while much credit is due to Peta, it's proof of Nyle's personal aptitude and talent.

Carrie Ann is emotional and says that Nyle takes her breath away. She makes an interesting observation about Nyle's deafness and his performance on the show thus far: He's been telling stories visually, and with his body, his whole life. There's something to that. Len calls it fantastic.
Maks calls it the best dance of the night and then says something very complimentary that nevertheless requires an audio cut. Bruno says you'd have to be made of granite not to fall head over heels for that performance. Then he calls Nyle "Mr. Dreamy."

Backstage, Peta's crying real tears. Makeup!

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 10; Maks: 10; Bruno: 10
NO WAIT! Actual scores after the rules people come in: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 10; Maks: 9; Bruno: 9

What the heck, judges? Can you really not remember what you wrote down less than five minutes before holding up your paddle? What an emotional roller coaster for the poor contestants. But, hey! A 10 from Len is nothing to sneeze at.

Tom explains the scoring snafu. Basically, the judges each submit their scores before they give their comments. I guess to keep them from influencing one another or scoring to directly compensate for another judge's vote.

Jodie Sweetin and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Paso doble

So, apparently, Maks and Val were on an episode of "Fuller House." Val tells Jodie that he learned English watching "Full House." He also tells us and then her that he had a crush on her back in the day. He's only four years younger than her, so that's all in order.

Maks compares her to Sabrina Bryan, a contestant with a lot of talent who got voted off way too early. She's not eliminated yet, Maks! Bruno is pleased Val included so much Spanish content in the choreography. Carrie Ann calls it Jodie's best dance so far.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 8; Maks: 9; Bruno: 9

No elimination this week, but tonight's scores will be combined with scores from last week and viewer votes from both weeks to determine the eliminated couple on next week's episode.

Scoreboard

Nyle & Peta/Sharna: 34 +37 = 71

Ginger & Val/Mark: 36 + 32 = 68

Paige & Mark/Sasha: 36 + 31 = 67

Wanyá & Lindsay/Witney: 35 + 30 = 65

Jodie & Keo/Val: 27 + 35 = 62

Antonio & Sharna/Karina: 35 + 26 = 61

Von & Witney/Lindsay: 32 + 29 = 61

Kim & Sasha/Keo: 32 + 28 = 60

Doug & Karina/Peta: 24 + 28 = 52

Predictions

Look, I said right up front I'm a big Flutie fan. But it'll surprise me if he overcomes that kind of distance at the bottom of the leaderboard. Someone on my Twitter feed suggested Antonio was overscored last week and, boy, does last week's score help him out this week, given that he had the lowest score tonight. I also get the feeling that Sharna's patience is wearing thin with his lack of commitment to rehearsal. I would be shocked if Jodie went home next week given her high combined scores for last week and this week. I think her "in jeopardy" status last week may have been a producer fake-out. So who do I want to see go? Maybe Antonio? Who do I expect to see gone? Doug or Kim.

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