'Dancing With the Stars' recap: And then there were 3

For The Baltimore Sun
A double elimination as the final three are chosen on "Dancing With the Stars."

During the introductions, Antonio is labeled "The Underdog." Hmm. I feel like if he'd shown the commitment throughout the competition that he has in some of the last couple of weeks, he wouldn't be an underdog but the one to beat.

Tom and Erin tell us tonight is a double elimination night and that our first round of the night will be the "Trio Dance." I don't know why this gimmick has persisted. It almost always looks weird in any ballroom style.

Paige VanZant & Mark Ballas, with Alan Bersten        
Samba

Alan stepped in as a replacement for Mark when he was injured earlier in the year, so it was an easy decision to have him as their third dancer. Apparently the storyline for this routine is that Paige is a bird and Mark and Alan are a couple of peacocks fighting over her.

So, Mark is literally giving us a cockfight. Well, then. Mark can't help himself, hamming it up with bird moves throughout the routine. And then the three of them do a samba roll together and it looks very crowded.

After the routine, Tom quips they used "more peacock feathers than they have at NBC." Len says they started the night with a "showstopper." Bruno cannot resist dirty ornithological puns. Carrie Ann calls Paige unstoppable and then says "on fleek" because she's young and hip with the kids.

Erin tells us in the skybox that she's afraid of birds. She and I have that in common. Then there's a long, protracted discussion continuing the tease in the rehearsal footage that Alan and Paige might be dating. Blurgh.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Antonio Brown & Sharna Burgess, with Hayley Erbert
Argentine tango

Sharna says she's making this a little more playful than the average Argentine tango but doesn't exactly say why. The first 15-20 seconds of the routine is Antonio taking off his jacket, rolling up his sleeves and unbuttoning his shirt, all while walking toward the camera.

Not that I mind the view, but it is a bit of faffing about. His footwork isn't as sharp as you might want and during the kicks, he forgets to point his feet a lot.

Bruno says Antonio was in command and the side by side work was beautifully handled. Carrie Ann likes his intensity but wanted to see more of the elongated lines from last week's Viennese waltz. Len disagrees with Carrie Ann, saying that the Argentine tango is a more compact dance.

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

Wanyá Morris & Lindsay Arnold, with Witney Carson
Paso doble

No shocker that they've picked Witney, given that she and Lindsay are best friends and she was also Wanyá's partner during switch-up week.

At least they're getting something approaching traditional paso music but it still looks weird when they dance in hold and the one woman is just holding on to the other woman's shoulders from behind. A dance made for two just doesn't look right as a dance for three sometimes.

Carrie Ann likes it so much she comes out to hug Wanyá. Len likes the walks and holds and sharp edges and finishes by telling Wanyá, "This is what you get, son," and gives him a one-man standing ovation. Bruno loves it.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Nyle DiMarco & Peta Murgatroyd, with Jenna Johnson
Jive

Jenna interviews that she took three years of sign language but she's a little rusty. Jenna clearly also has a crush on Nyle and it's cute.

Again, they do that awkward thing where the second woman is dancing as shadow to the first woman in hold. It's nice to see Nyle playing a goofy and happy persona but this jive is slower than I'd really like it to be. They've totally neutered "Hit the Road, Jack" in slowing down the tempo this much.

Len thinks it was a great blend of fun and energy. He says it got a bit hectic here and there and they lost sync, but he appreciates that Nyle went for it. Bruno calls it charming and points out the complexity of the choreography.

See, I think they should have gone for simple choreography but at a faster speed. Carrie Ann mentions a few problems with timing, which started at the beginning of the routine.

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

Ginger Zee & Val Chmerkovskiy, with Artem Chingvintsev
Paso doble

There's some business in the rehearsal about Artem being the honey and Val being the mustard and Ginger being the chicken nugget. I mention this only because I can see no way Tom leaves this unremarked upon.

Bruno calls it one of the most intense and surreal paso dobles he's ever seen. He is mildly critical of the shaping. Carrie Ann tells her she looks stunning and that she's enjoyed watching Ginger's confidence increase throughout the season. Len calls Ginger amazing.

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

Round Two

Paige VanZant & Mark Ballas
Argentine tango

So they finally, finally address the fact that Paige grew up taking dance lessons and her mom was a dance instructor. She made varsity cheerleader as a freshman and that's when the bullying started. Her family eventually moved to Reno, Nevada, to give her a change of scenery. That's where and when her MMA career started.

It's definitely a sultry routine but I don't love some of the lifts — they feel a little rough compared to the rest of the routine. Near the end of the routine, Paige shimmies out of the slip she's wearing to reveal a leotard underneath and then they play with Mark's dress shirt that he's removed.

Len is grateful the music stopped when it did because who knows where they would've ended up. He praises the choreography but says it was a little bit too hot and spicy for him. Then he starts yelling at a guy in the audience who's booing him.

Bruno, of course, loves the X-rated-ness of the routine. He threatens that if Paige doesn't make it to the final, he'll judge in Speedos next week. Threat or promise?

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 9; Bruno: 10

Antonio Brown & Sharna Burgess
Contemporary

Antonio's dad is interviewed and basically he regrets having not been as involved in Antonio's life as he could have been after he split up with Antonio's mom. It gets a bit heavy.

They're dancing in front of projected images of Antonio to a song about making it into the Hall of Fame. It's all very portentous. It ends with a tremendous leap from Antonio where he goes from the floor to the top of the stage in one bound.

Bruno gets caught up admiring Antonio's physique and Tom steers him toward discussing the actual dance. He calls it Antonio's best performance. Carrie Ann says he may not be the best dancer left in the competition but that his presence is huge. Len says it had the most spectacular lifts he's seen on the show.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 10

Wanyá Morris & Lindsay Arnold
Charleston

Wanyá's mom and grandmother are both interviewed and I would put cold hard cash on Wanyá's mom calling her handbag a "pocketbook." And in that pocketbook, she has tissues, crackers and breath mints.

Wanyá says his mom got caught up in "the game" and he wanted to be a star to help his family. He was picked up by other members of Boyz II Men when he started at a performing arts high school. Wanyá's mom says she appreciates that her mom and Wanyá never turned their backs on her.

This Charleston is giving me what I didn't get out of last week's jive from Wanyá. And they are doing a complex Charleston, putting in a lot of moves you don't always see when this style is performed. It's also evident that Wanyá has shed a lot of weight since the beginning of the season.

Carrie Ann is giddy, she likes it so much. Len hopes they'll be in the final. Bruno likes that they fused the Charleston, Lindy Hop and quickstep.

Before the scores, they roll a video from Kevin Hart encouraging Wanyá but telling him not to twerk. So when he gets a perfect score, of course Wanyá busts out some serious twerk.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Nyle DiMarco & Peta Murgatroyd
Argentine Tango

Nyle went to Gallaudet University and majored in math with the intention of becoming a math teacher. One of his professors laments that, "Then Tyra stole him from us," referring to his decision to compete on "America's Next Top Model."

For reasons I don't entirely understand, Nyle is going to perform some of this dance blindfolded. It's only a small segment in the middle but it seems to go well.

Len says Nyle never ceases to amaze him. Bruno says the acting, dancing and magnetism were off the charts. Carrie Ann says Nyle reminds us to constantly push our boundaries.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Ginger Zee & Val Chmerkovskiy
Quickstep

Ginger talks about how after her parents' divorce she coped by "not eating" and suffered through anorexia from age 10 to 14. She also developed her love of the study of weather in her teenage years and her past and present colleagues sing her praises as a meteorologist.

They're dancing while Leona Lewis sings and it's weird because she looks so modern and the song feels so modern and yet here are Ginger and Val doing a really great, but really old-fashioned dance around her. I think there's one spot where Ginger either misses or seriously underdoes a leap, but it's hardly noticeable.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 10; Bruno: 10
Carrie Ann's score reflects a minor catch of Ginger's heel on her dress.

Elimination

Ginger & Val are the first couple announced safe. Nyle & Peta are also announced safe. I'm really worried for my Wanyá because of his off week score-wise last week. And indeed, Paige & Mark get the third slot.

This was a tough cut. Antonio not making the finals is neither unsurprising nor unjust. But the remaining four couples really all deserved to be there. So it was just dumb rotten luck that Wanyá had his bad week on the worst possible week.

Scoreboard

Paige & Mark: 30 + 29 = 59
Nyle & Peta: 27 + 30 = 57
Ginger & Val: 27  + 29 = 56

Prediction

I think it's too close to call a winner, and any of them would be a deserving. Personally, I'm hoping for Nyle.

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