Anyone who's been reading these "Dancing With the Stars" recaps for any length of time knows that "My Most Memorable Year" is my least favorite of the theme nights. And I'm already feeling a bit cranky anyway. I'm like Len when he hasn't had his porridge that morning.
Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy
Ginger's most memorable year was 2013 when she met her husband. They're dancing to "Home" by Phillip Phillips because she loves the song and her husband made her a gift with the sheet music.
Val is sporting a top knot this week. It displeases me. Unless he consents to wear a tiny bow in it like a Yorkshire terrier fresh from the groomer, I'm not a fan.
Len Goodman would have liked more fluidity in the arms on occasion but calls it a great start to the show nevertheless. When Len's criticism garners some mild boos, he encourages the audience to get the boos out of their system. I feel ya, Len.
Carrie Ann Inaba says Ginger and Val created a beautiful story that Ginger can pass down to her children. My cold black heart remains dark and frozen.
Ginger's husband, Ben Aaron, is there with Ginger's infant son, who is crying so loudly he's blowing out Erin Andrews' audio feed a little bit. I like this kid already.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 7; Bruno: 7
Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff
Doug says his wife was so proud of him last week, and that's what he's always done — try to impress his wife. He's dancing tonight to honor his parents. His father had been ill for a while, and moments after he passed away, Doug's mother went over, kissed her husband goodbye, and promptly died as well. They show a quick interview with Doug's sister, who can't help but cry while she says her parents had been married 60 years and just wanted to "go together."
Doug and Karina are dancing to "The Rainbow Connection," sung live by Andra Day. Man, this song. However, Karina is wearing a sheer panel cinched at the waist over what appears to be an undergarment in the shape of a jockstrap. Oh, wait, it's underpants trimmed in white. I'm not sure I should be focused so much on her underpinnings when I'm supposed to be thinking about Doug's dead parents. So with all that, I have nothing to say about the dancing itself. Thank heavens for judges.
Wait, Tom Bergeron greets Doug with reassurances about a good recovery, so now I have to go back and see what happened. Ah, right near the end, when Karina was going for a pseudo-death spiral, Doug tripped over her outstretched leg while trying to walk around her. But he didn't fall and did indeed recover well.
(For those of you wjo don't know, Tom experienced something similar to Doug. His father died in October and his mother just last month.)
Bruno Tonioli says Doug's parents must be very proud of him right now. He compliments Doug on the lyrical and smooth qualities of the waltz and adds that Doug was so connected emotionally that it's hard to criticize. But then he does what he's paid to do, and judges Doug's dancing. He seems to have some issues with Doug's rhythm.
Carrie Ann is holding back tears when she says, "This is how your parents live on." She also says she gives "bonus points" when contestants move her emotionally. Len's review is brief but favorable.
During his chat with Erin, Doug is a man of few words, clearly trying not to break down crying.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 6; Bruno: 7
Kim Fields and Sasha Farber
Kim's most memorable year was 1976, when she booked her first gig: a commercial for Mrs. Butterworth's syrup. Charlotte Rae of "The Facts of Life" is interviewed and explains the reason Kim was in roller skates as Tootie was to boost her height so she'd be in frame with the rest of the cast. Charlotte adds that now she's the shortie at 4 feet 7, but quips that she's still above ground. Ha!
Kim and Sasha dancing to the theme song from "The Facts of Life" with Tootie in a rough approximation of the Hall uniform, but with a long skirt. And no roller skates. She's also wearing a wig to give herself dark hair with pigtails and bangs, like her younger self.
Carrie Ann says that Kim and Sasha dance like wonder twins, they're so in sync. Len likes that they came out and got straight into the dance. He says it was smooth like syrup. This delights Kim to no end and she can't stop shrieking. Or maybe it's because she's spotted Charlotte Rae in the audience. Bruno leaps out of his seat and starts bouncing and screaming about having had too much sugar. I'll have what he's having. He compliments them on a proper foxtrot with a lot of foxtrot content.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Bruno: 7
Von Miller and Witney Carson
Von's most memorable year is this year, thanks to being the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. Apparently, Von listens to "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins before every game, so that's their song for tonight.
Von takes off his shirt just before the routine starts and just about every inch of his torso and arms is covered with tattoos. But his back looks mostly ink-free. Huh.
Len likes that Von comes out and gives it 100 percent. Len compliments the lifts and adds that it's charming when a big guy tries to be graceful. Bruno says Von wants to be the Super Hunk of 2016. He keeps going on and on about how hot Von's body is; you can tell it's making Von a little uncomfortable and Witney is amused by it all. Giving actual dance criticism, Bruno tells Von to work on his turns, that his high center of gravity may be what's making them difficult.
Carrie Ann thinks Von isn't giving a full 100 percent. She could see that he got amped up after a big lift, but until then, he was kind of sleeping through the routine.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 6; Bruno: 7
Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani
Marla's most memorable year was 1993, when she gave birth to her only child, Tiffany Trump. Marla tells us she met Donald Trump when she was 20 years old, which is two years younger than Tiffany is now. She talks a little bit about life as a single mom, saying she kind of enjoyed not having a man there pushing buttons, telling them what they could and couldn't do.
The dance is a bit slow for a jive, but Marla's at least making it look lively and doesn't miss any steps.
Bruno praises the fact that it was a proper jive all the way through. He does want Marla to stay on her toes a bit more and not go flat-footed. Carrie Ann likes Marla's energy and athleticism. Len says, "You're happy, I'm happy!" Tony leaps over the judges table to give Len a kiss. Love it!
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 7; Bruno: 7. I thought there would be at least one 8 in there. Hmm.
Before heading to commercial, they tease Antonio Brown's upcoming dance by showing him with his "mini-me," his son Antonio Jr. Antonio Jr. is wearing a suit to match his dad's and he's having so much fun dancing.
Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess
Antonio's most memorable year is 2007. He was a freshman at Central Michigan when Antonio Jr. was born. He's now father to four children and says they are the part of his life that brings him the most joy.
That suit, the one his son is wearing a duplicate of, is a champagne brocade. It's quite the outfit. Don't listen to closely to the lyrics of the song because it sounds really depressing. The routine ends with Antonio Jr. coming out to do a few steps alongside his dad.
Carrie Ann pulls out the 10 paddle just for Antonio Jr. She says that Antonio Sr. did what so many football players have successfully done in the ballroom, which is to reach out and harness the energy of the audience. She does want him to watch his hands, saying they still have a bit of a "catcher's mitt" look to them. She may be mixing her sports, but the description is accurate.
Len didn't see enough refinement. The crowd boos. He thinks the performance was merely "competent." Bruno calls Antonio Jr a secret weapon, a "weapon of mass enchantment." He speaks directly to Antonio Jr., telling him, "You are a delight." The kid is grinning from ear to ear. Bruno then admonishes Antonio Sr. not to get too excited and skip steps.
Antonio's daughter Antaniyah joins them in the skybox for the interview with Erin. Erin asks Antonio Jr. how it was to dance with dad and he doesn't hesitate when he enthusiastically replies, "Boomin'!" This kid is a natural.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 6; Bruno: 7
Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas
Tom claims that we'll see the newly returned-from-injury Mark get the crap beat out of him in this routine. Oh, if only, Tom, if only.
Paige's most memorable year was 2014 because it was her UFC debut. When she was in high school, she was bullied to such an extent that her grades suffered and she missed a lot of school. She was the second youngest female fighter in the UFC upon her debut.
Oh, hey, what's this? When I went to look up more about Paige's background, Wikipedia tells me her parents owned a dance studio and she studied ballet, jazz and hip-hop dancing for over 13 years. Congratulations on your ringer, Mark.
Back on the ballroom floor, they are in the chain link octagon and Mark is shirtless and sporting his silly bun. Same rule applies to him as to Val: Gimme a bow or take down the bun. That being said, this is an interesting routine because of the octagon — Mark's done some interesting choreography to highlight the limited space.
Len says it was a wonderful performance, as a contemporary dance. But it didn't look like a paso doble to him. Bruno says he was watching Wonder Woman. Carrie Ann totally disagrees with Len, saying the show needs to keep moving forward and being innovative. I'm all for innovation, but everything can't be "freestyle."
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Bruno: 8
Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe
Jodie's most memorable year was 2015. She talks about how when the original "Full House" wrapped, she was only 13 years old. She'd been on the show since she was 5. Drugs and alcohol were what numbed her feelings of grief over losing the life she'd known for so long. She's been sober for five years now. Her castmates Lori Laughlin and Bob Saget give interviews about her.
Andra Day is back to sing again, this time her own song, "Rise Up." The first 30 seconds of the routine look much more like a contemporary number than a foxtrot. Betcha Len will have something to say about that. It gets more traditional for the middle third, then finishes as a contemporary number. Harrumph.
Bruno starts out by complimenting Andra's vocals. He adds that the power of those vocals helped inspire what is Jodie's best performance to date. Carrie Ann politely disagrees with Bruno, telling Jodie,"That performance came from you." Len likes the bits that were in hold but then says it got a bit melodramatic at the end and lost the foxtrot feel. Told ya.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Bruno: 8
Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev
Mischa is wearing a terribly aging caftan that I hope is just a precursor to a better costume to be revealed upon its removal.
Some interviews and backstage footage clearly show that Mischa has not been having a positive experience or attitude. She discusses how in 2008, when "The O.C." had just finished, she got overwhelmed by it all and felt like she was "in a machine." Then they show a picture of her partying with Lindsay Lohan and Kelly Osbourne. In rehearsal, Artem says that this week, Mischa wants to show that she does care about the show and wants to be there.
She's dancing to a song by Miley Cyrus, the poster girl for young starlets going a teeny bit crazy as they mature. And, like I hoped, the caftan is ripped off nearly immediately to reveal denim cutoffs and a T-shirt. They've got a lot of backup dancers with them. Mischa still looks like she's only halfheartedly doing the routine, with her arms dangling through most of it.
Carrie Ann feels like Mischa had a breakthrough tonight but she needs to work on her musicality. Len says this was her best dance so far. That's damning with faint praise. Bruno says she seems more relaxed and engaged but timing is still not her strong suit. He diplomatically comments that there is "space to grow."
Scores: Carrie Ann: 6; Len: 6; Bruno: 6
Wanyá Morris and Lindsay Arnold
Wanyá's most memorable year was 1996, when Boyz II Men sang the national anthem at the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympics. So that's what he'll be dancing to tonight. That's weird.
There's a little stumble mid-routine, but Wanyá has his toes under control — pointing when they should be pointing, leading when they should be leading. He's a natural.
Len thinks Wanyá lost his posture on occasion but that, overall, his fluidity is impressive. Len's a big fan of Wanyá's dancing. Bruno calls it grand and majestic. Carrie Ann praises Wanyá's musicality.
Erin compliments Lindsay's choreography. Oh, and then they cut to some of the other Boyz of Boyz II Men who are in the audience tonight.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 8
Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd
Peta was upset that Carrie Ann criticized Nyle's musicality last week, given that he can't hear the music. But what Carrie Ann seemed to be criticizing to me was the interpretation of the tone of the music. So that's up to Peta, to tell Nyle that the music is melancholy or wistful or yearning. Those minute distinctions are what Carrie Ann is talking about.
Nyle surprises me by saying his most memorable year was 2012, the year he travelled the world. I thought he'd be contractually obligated to say the year he won "America's Next Top Model." Good on you, Nyle, for seeing a bigger picture. He clarifies that he is from four generations of deaf people. He felt like he wanted to see the world outside the deaf community, so he traveled the world without an interpreter. That is brave.
Wow. He's so, so good. This tango is fast and complicated and he's nailing it. He, like Wanyá, is a natural. Tom asks, "How do you say 'goosebumps' in sign language?"
Carrie Ann addresses her comments from last week. It sounds to me like she did mean what I thought. She tells Nyle he's better than Superman tonight. He thanks her for the compliment. Bruno says that was what he was waiting for all night. He uses words like whiplash-inducing, breathtaking, passion, belief, connection, beauty of movement. He singles out a moment when Nyle and Peta stopped and says time froze right then because the routine was so mesmerizing.
Len says Nyle lost his frame on occasion but thinks it was due to the speed of the dance. Len would've liked more stillness throughout the dance. This gets a round of boos from the audience.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 9. Good for Bruno! I'm surprised Carrie Ann didn't score that a 9.
Tom immediately tells Nyle and Peta that they're safe. The first couple in jeopardy is Doug and Karina. So are Mischa and Artem. Well those two aren't surprised, because they were at the bottom of the scoreboard. The third couple in jeopardy is Jodie and Keo.
Because they've jibber-jabbered so much earlier in the show, they get right to the elimination and cut Mischa and Artem. Not a shock and kind of a relief for everybody, actually.
Nyle and Peta: 25
Wanyá and Lindsay: 24
Paige and Mark: 23
Jodie and Keo: 23
Kim and Sasha: 22
Ginger and Val: 21
Marla and Tony: 21
Antonio and Sharna: 20
Doug and Karina: 20
Von and Witney: 20