First they tell me I'm going to have to deal with Abby Lee Miller as a guest judge, then they open the show with Mark Ballas singing. I've given and I've given to you, show, and this is how you thank me?
Erin Andrews is wearing a JUMPSUIT. I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, Yay for her for wearing pants. On the other hand, I'm not thrilled with jumpsuits generally.
Now that NeNe Leakes is gone, the only dancer I'd be upset to see not make the final is Meryl Davis. So, that means it's wide open.
First results of the night: Charlie and Sharna are safe.
Sharna's frustrated that they can't get a 10. Charlie decides he needs to bring back his optimism to succeed. And then Charlie's mom visits and she seems really sweet.
This is a perfect dance for Charlie, because he doesn't have to try to be sexy or serious, just charming, affable and athletic, all of which come naturally to him. He's really good in hold, which isn't surprising for an ice dancer.
Len Goodman teases Charlie as to whether or not the routine is "special" enough for a 10. Abby Lee gives very technical advice about Charlie's knee in arabesque. Bruno Tonioli jumps in to correct Abby Lee's criticism. Abby Lee does compliment Charlie's "impeccable musicality." Carrie Ann Inaba raves; while receiving the compliments, Charlie points to Sharna, giving her credit. What a sweetie.
During rehearsal, Val says he wants to put in plenty of content to please Len. He then reveals that Len has been judging him as a dancer since Val was 12 years old.
After saying all that, Val starts with a lot of "business" at the beginning I bet Len won't like. It's appropriate for the song -- a Goth-y cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" -- but I still bet Len gripes.
Abby Lee loved the concept, but gives Danica advice about not hunching her shoulders. Bruno babbles and then says he'd be devastated if she goes tonight. You and me both, Bruno. Carrie Ann says it was challenging choreography, especially with a broken rib. Len does grump a little about it taking a while to get started (told ya!). but liked it once they got into hold.
Meryl needs to change her foundation makeup -- her face is several shades lighter than her arms and chest. Meryl also calls Maks a big teddy bear and pets him. These two have a weird relationship.
Things start with the two of them sitting at a table. Then there's flinging dishes and domestic violence as Meryl slaps Maks. This feels more contemporary than rumba. Especially with the arm movements when they're not in hold. Also, the professional makeup-people have given Meryl the right shade of foundation for the performance. Honey, ask them what they're using and switch for your off-duty hours too.
Bruno calls it "melodrama" and "Tennessee Williams" and blah blah. Carrie Ann loves the chemistry between these two and talks about how even when they had stops, they maintained a kind of movement with their eyes. She does ding them for not enough rumba content.
Len says he doesn't normally go for overly dramatic moments, but he liked the routine. He does agree with Carrie Ann that it needed more rumba, less contemporary. Abby Lee has some very specific criticisms about Meryl's feet. Abby Lee may grate on my nerves, but at least she does have some more legitimate dance credentials than some of the other guest judges.
There's a lot of business with a couch at the beginning of the routine -- I swear Candace doesn't stand up for about the first 20-30 seconds of the dance. Look, I admire her determination and spirit, but I still think she's the weakest of the remaining dancers. I have a strong suspicion that, had she been paired with a male pro who was less of a fan favorite, she wouldn't still be here. In other words, how many people are voting for her each week and how many for Mark?
Carrie Ann says Candace has found her footing again this week. She also says her frame is good, even if there were some flawed moments. Len says it was "joyful to watch" but he had minor quibbles with the posture.
Abby Lee critiques Mark's choreography. Bruno praises Candace's vivacity and loved the touches of slapstick in the routine. He does tell her to watch her lines -- she doesn't always complete them as well as she could.
The other members of James's band, Big Time Rush, show up in rehearsal. They tease James and Peta about whether or not they're dating each other.
James is doing a really good job finishing his lines with arm movements. But he's doing something weird during some of their hold moments -- sticking his butt out more than I think he should. It may be a weird reaction to Peta's (proper for the dance) head and shoulder positioning.
Len loved the free-flowing momentum of it. Len, first thing, says that James is keeping his knees bent in hold, which is making his butt stick out. LEN AND I ARE MIND-MELDING TONIGHT.
Abby Lee says that James made Peta look good during the dance. Bruno wonders why James is wearing too much clothing tonight. Bruno does mention how well James finishes his lines in the side-to-side moves, but agrees with Len about the problem with James's "buttocks" and says James needs to learn how to control them better. Bruno offers to help him in this regard. Tom Bergeron calls Bruno "a giver." This whole exchange has gotten very dirty very quickly
Anyway. Carrie Ann likes James' flexibility in portraying different characters, sexy one week, romantic the next. She agrees with Len about the posture in hold and adds that Peta's foot came off the floor for the beginning of the lift, so that will cost them a point.
Apparently, last week Amy's back pain was actually something to do with her rib -- where it's attached to the rib cage near the shoulder blade. For rehearsals, Derek brought in another dancer to allow Amy to watch and learn the choreography without having to push her body.
It's an amazing routine, involving a bar stool for a lot of it; at one point, Derek has Amy sitting on the stool while he leans it nearly parallel to the floor. It's an incredible display of strength and balance on Amy's part. Amazing.
Abby Lee tells Derek that a great choreographer makes the dancer look great, takes risks and pushes the envelope, and that Derek did all three tonight. (I might argue that the second and third items are pretty much the same thing.)
Bruno calls her "Amazing Amy" and calls the dance "spellbinding," with power, control, precision,and immersion into the character. He concludes with "Perfection!" Carrie Ann says she stopped breathing three times during the routine. Len says to Tom, "If I'm dreaming, don't wake me up."
I remain amazed that when Amy dances on her "high heel" feet, it's essentially like she's dancing en pointe, which is a whole different way of dancing than what Derek is used to choreographing for and totally affects balance and hold. Forget all the stuff about how "inspirational" she is, it's utterly FASCINATING from a technical standpoint, both for her dancing and Derek's teaching and choreography.
Tom's been deepening his voice all night when teasing this segment, so now that's in my head.
Meryl & Maks and Danica & Val, Samba
Danica tells Meryl that the way to deal with the Chmerkovskiy brothers is to filter out the insults. Maks takes offense at this, because he is a first-rate prima donna. Danica looks exasperated and tells Val privately that she thought they were all a family and families fight.
THEN into the rehearsal studio walks Sofiya, grandmother to the brothers. This should be good. Grab 'em both by the ears, Gramma, and tell them to be nice to the young ladies. The boys look really surprised and delighted to see her.
Early on in the dance, we see Meryl turn the wrong way and bump into Maks. Whoops.
After the dance, we see Sofiya in the audience next to a tall guy with a beard who looks like he could be the scholarly Chmerkovskiy brother. Which is to say SUPER HOT.
Len loved all the "proper samba" in the routine and adds that the technique was terrific, but the synchronicity was off. Abby Lee criticizes the arm placement of the women when the men weren't on the floor and Val chafes a bit at the criticism.
They show Sofiya and the burlyman again and I have a new crush. Bruno says it was a sexy samba. Carrie Ann liked the content, but there were issues with the synchronicity and the coordination of movements between the two stars.
Tom goes over to talk to Sofiya and calls the guy sitting next to her "Teddy." Is he Teddy Volynets? The former troupe member? Because if he is, I TOTALLY APPROVE OF THE BEARD AND GLASSES. Hubba hubba. He agrees to do the translating for Sofiya.
Tom asks Sofiya if what Val said is true: is Maks her favorite grandson? She protests that it's "not a good question." Tom gives her an out saying, "So you like them both the same?" and she agrees.
From rehearsal, Candace: "Being lifted is something I do really well." So then they decide to choreograph it so that her feet never touch the floor. Is that dancing or being carried? (I kid, I kid. I know being lifted isn't entirely passive.)
Oh, looks like they didn't actually go with that premise for the entire routine, maybe just for the solo part. And Charlie looks like he's really struggling with Candace in and out of the lifts. Candace is taller and bigger than Meryl, ain't she, Chuck?
Abby Led says that Candace looks like an "Abby Lee Dance Company member." Bruno calls it brilliant. Carrie Ann says the lifts were gorgeous, because she didn't see the same thing I did. She also points out a part when Charlie dropped Sharna. I missed that -- I wonder if it was after the solo with Candace and he was just tired?
Amy and James work together, talking about how she needs to dance with a partner. Then, when she's doing a move with James, his ankle gives out and they fall to the floor together. She's OK, though.
This routine feature A LOT of synchronization and it seems to be pretty on, as far as I can tell. It helps that Amy and Peta are almost exactly the same height. It's also cool that when Amy and James do their "solo," they're dancing in hold the whole time and doing a lot of straight-up, no-frills jive content.
Bruno calls it extraordinary. Carrie Ann points out that when Amy & Peta switched partners, they were dancing so much alike that it was almost unnoticeable. Carrie Ann also points out a small flub James had at the very beginning, but then compliments the quartet on the level height of their knees.
Len says "It's everything and more that he could have wished to see." Abby Lee calls it brilliant.
Candace & Mark are safe and she goes apenuts. Danica & Val are eliminated. I blame the rib. Boooooooooo. If we hadn't seen the injury in the rehearsal footage, I'd've wondered if Candace had pulled a Tonya Harding on Danica.
Amy & Derek: 40 + 39 = 79
Charlie & Sharna: 40 + 38 = 78
James & Peta: 36 + 39 = 75
Candace & Mark: 36 + 38 = 74
Meryl & Maks: 36 +34 = 70
Whoa. I hadn't realized until I was putting together the scoreboard that Meryl & Maks were not only last, but last by so much. I swear, if Meryl goes home next week I'll… I'll… swear and then complain about it here.