The show opens with Aloe Blacc performing "Wake Me Up." This is one of those songs that I've heard a million times but couldn't have told you the title or the singer.
Now that we've gotten rid of a few couples, we should go back to the individual walk-out, long-form introductions, but they're just coming in from the side of the stage instead of down the stairs. They're also entering to the house band's rendition of "Wake Me Up" instead of my beloved cheesy "Dancing with the Stars" theme music.
WAIT! WHAT IS THIS? Based on last week's viewer votes only, they're telling us it will be a female star going home. But the judges' scores will still determine who goes home tonight. So, let me translate: A female star got the fewest votes from the at-home audience last week.
This is the "most memorable year" night. Blech. I don't care about FEELINGS.
They replay Julianne's diss of Mark from last week's show, where she said what I've been saying for years, which is that Mark steals the spotlight from his partners.
Christina's most memorably year was the year she became a mother and then found out her husband was cheating on her, which led to their divorce. So that leads to them using Cee-Lo's "Forget You" (aka "F*** You"). Mark is wearing a bright neon-green vest and neon=pink tie to match Christina's dress. He's restrained himself to merely white for his spats. I take great delight in the fact that his pants make him look hippy.
Len's glad to be back, and one reason why is getting to see that dance. Bruno loved it as well. Carrie Ann liked that it was full of cha cha content with good technique.
Coming back from commercial, Aloe Blacc is singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enoughm" with the house band backing him. I dig it.
Brooke is standing with Amber, Elizabeth and Nicole. My German exchange student says of Nicole, "The one on the right -- she's not very clever, is she?" When I say, "What makes you say that?" my student responds, "That is not the face of a smart person." Ouch. Nicole wasn't even talking and she gets judged.
Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke Waltz
Jack's most memorable year was last year, 2012. He became a Father in April and his daughter, Pearl, is so cute it's unbelievable. Less than 2-1/2 weeks after she was born, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He says the worst part of the diagnosis was how it would affect his daughter and his ability to care for her.
Every now and then Jack's got the dreaded "pancake hands," but he's really going for it with his arm extensions. They do one of those "guy walks backward dragging the lady as she drags one foot" moves, and it's not the most graceful thing you've ever seen.
I was speaking recently with a professor who teaches introductory English composition at a big state university, and she said one of the hardest essays to grade is the "personal essay," because how do you honestly critique someone's recounting of the time their mother got hit by a drunk driver while rushing their terminally ill grandfather to the hospital when he'd been bitten by a rattlesnake? When someone's been through something really emotional and devastating, how do you grade that honestly? That's how I feel about the judging on "Most Memorable Year" night.
Bruno called it light and musical with great lines and is even amazed that Jack got his butt under control. Carrie Ann says, "The grace of [his] being translates into the grace of [his] dance." Len says the waltz is a big dance and that he appreciated that they did so much of the dance in hold. Len also critiques his hands slightly.
Tom asks Jack about a half-smile he gave to Cheryl during the routine and Jack jokes that Cheryl smiled at him and he remembered dancing is supposed to be fun and so he smiled back. He then quips, "It smiled, so I smiled back." Hee.
Leah's most important year has been this last year. Without saying the words "Scientology" or "church," she talks about leaving a way of life you've known your whole life. She implies that a big reason she left the church was for her daughter's sake.
Leah comes up with an idea for choreography: Tony is a puppeteer pulling her strings and she finds her strength and breaks away. She explicitly says, "Whatever that means for anybody. Could mean anything." Someone's worried about HQ getting litigious.
I'm not sure how much this is real "contemporary" choreography, but from a standpoint of Leah asserting her message of independence, it's great. Especially with Katy Perry's "Roar" as the soundtrack.
Carrie Ann says it felt like it went "lift to movement to lift" and that the transitions in and out of lifts were a bit rough. Len loved the concept but says the lifts were a little bit labored. For him it was good, but not great. Bruno yells, "Leah strikes back!" He says the performance and storytelling was good and effective.
When Tom asks Leah what she's thinking after that score, she says, "You don't want to know." Tom assures her he does, and she says, "It's not for this audience."
Oooh.Back from commercial, Aloe Blacc is singing, "I Need a Dollar." AND THAT'S WHERE I KNOW HIM FROM. It was killing me why his name sounded familiar. I hope he gets to sing "Loving You Is Killing Me" from that same album.
Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff Foxtrot
Corbin's most memorable year was 2011, the year his sister Phoenix was diagnosed with scoliosis.
Len compliments Corbin on his "sway" in hold. Bruno says Corbin could be the love child of "Fred Astaire and Ben Vereen." Tom quips that they need Bill Nye around to explain to Bruno why that would be biologically impossible. Bruno explains that "It's a metaphor, darling." I wish Bruno had taught some of my lit classes in college.
Carrie Ann quibbles over whether or not that was a lift in the first part of the routine. Karina swears it wasn't. Tom asks if they could get a slo-mo replay that shows no lift, would Carrie Ann give back the point she's planning on deducting. Carrie Ann doesn't know if she'd be allowed to, but she'd be willing to, sure. There are strict rules, like, laws, even about game shows and their rules.
Judges' Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 10
Back from commercial, Brooke is interviewing Bill Engvall's wife, Gail, who says since he's started dancing he's tired and spends a lot of time in the hot tub.
Bill Engvall & Emma Slater Viennese Waltz
Bill's memorable year is 1982, which is the year he married his wife. We see a hilarious montage of photos of Bill & Gail through the years and it's like looking at pictures of your parents or something -- sweet and cringe-worthy, all at the same time.
Apparently this is also the week the celebrities are supposed to do solos, which explains Bill's awkward swaying at the beginning of this number.
Bruno calls it honest and heartfelt, but gives him some advice about his arms and how much they swing. Carrie Ann says it was off-time here and there. Len says he kept his frame well, even if there were some timing issues.
Judges' Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 8
If Bill had had to go up in lifts like Leah did, I bet he would've gotten scores more similar to hers.
Tom clarifies that the judges score based on what they see and the score is final. Therefore Carrie Ann's 9 for Corbin & Karina stays.
Back from commercial, Aloe Blacc is singing "Soul Man," surrounded by some of the troupe dancers. I like this guest-artist-with-the-house-band thing.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi & Sasha Farber
Nicole's most memorable year was 2012, when her son was born. He's a chubby little punkin' of cute. She tells Sasha that Lorenzo caused her to make a 180 with her life. He teases her that that's only halfway and she means 360, because that's a full circle. NO, SASHA, NO. If she'd gone 360 degrees, she'd be back where she started. Instead she's exactly opposite of where she started. POINT FOR SNOOKI. I should defend her to my exchange student who questioned her intelligence.
That wasn't half bad. Was it "jazz"? I have no idea.
Len says it was fun and vibrant with clean lifts. Bruno LOVED it.
Tom assures Nicole that she was right and Sasha was wrong on the 180/360 thing. Attaboy, Tom.
Judges' Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 9
Honestly? Nicole's kind of growing on me. She's plucky.
Filler segment about whether or not it's an advantage to have a dance background. Mark and Karina say no, Peta and Tony say yes. I'm agreeing with Peta and Tony. Especially Tony, who points out that if someone comes in with previous dance experience, they're making it to the semi-finals. Peta points out that stars with extensive dance experience come in knowing how to keep time and how to learn choreography.
Brant Daugherty & Peta Murgatroyd
Brant's most memorable year was 2009; that's the year he moved to Hollywood, and that his dad died of lymphoma. Brant tears up telling the story, because he's human and it's his dad. His dad was only 57 years old.
Brant seems to think Elton John's "Your Song" is about when someone has a great influence on your life. Um, sweetie, no. It's a love song. Through and through. Like a romantic love song. About people who love each other like lovers.
It's contemporary, so they're barefoot and wearing night clothes and there's a lot of "Come here, go away, no come back."
Brant's crying. Go ahead, judges, I dare you to critique him now. Len thought it was terrific, with good passion and chemistry. Bruno says something about "contractions" and Martha Graham and seems to love it. Carrie Ann "wrapped her heart around that routine" and I think she's crying off one of her false eyelashes.
Judges' Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 9
Amber Riley & Derek Hough Foxtrot
Her most memorable year was 2009. She was working as a customer service representative at IKEA, auditioned unsuccessfully for American Idol and then landed the role on "Glee."
There is dancing happen -- but I'm too distracted by the band absolutely MURDERING "Try a Little Tenderness" to form any coherent thoughts about the actual dancing. Except to note that every time Amber twirls, her skirt flies up and it looks like we're seeing the tops of her thigh-highs. Huh.
Bruno says it was absolutely and utterly sensational. He acknowledges that it wasn't a traditional foxtrot but that it could've come off of Broadway. Carrie Ann praises the singer because, apparently, that false eyelash migrated into her ear and deafened her. She then praises the dance.
Len says it didn't have enough of the dance in hold and that it didn't have enough foxtrot content. He also points out how many of the other celebrities this week had to learn a ballroom frame and did a good job of it.
Judges' Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 7; Bruno: 10
Elizabeth Berkley Lauren & Val Chmerkovskiy
Elizabeth's most memorable year was 2012, when her baby boy was born. He shows up at rehearsal wearing a flat cap and I'll allow it because babies in old man clothes are adorable. She's tying this routine into her most memorable year professionally, 1989, when she landed her first big break on "Saved by the Bell."
She and Val start the routine vamping on the "Jesse takes caffeine pills" episode of "Saved by the Bell." And then Elizabeth rips off her outfit to reveal '80s clothes. There is so much pop culture being mish-mashed together here that I can't even begin to explain it to my exchange student.
Carrie Ann enjoyed the time warp, but not the kicks. She also points out some bobbles from Elizabeth in the routine. Len liked her kicks and thought the routine was clean. Bruno echoes Carrie Ann's happy feelings of nostalgia.
Judges' Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 9; Bruno: 9
Corbin & Karina: 28
Christina & Mark: 28
Jack & Cheryl: 27
Nicole & Sasha: 27
Brant & Peta: 27
Amber & Derek: 26
Elizabeth & Val: 26
Bill Engvall & Emma: 24
Leah & Tony: 22
Tom lowers the boom on Elizabeth and Val as they stand in front of the judges, telling them that those scores, combined with the viewer votes, puts them in jeopardy.
Given that we already know a female star got the fewest number of votes, Leah should also be shaking in her boots after her low score tonight. But maybe Elizabeth's "in jeopardy" status means good news for Leah.
All the couples are gathered on the stage and Tom reels off a bunch of couples that are safe: Corbin & Karina, Amber & Derek, Bill & Emma, Jack & Cheryl, Brant & Peta, and Nicole & Sasha.
Those six couples that have been announced as safe are sent off stage. Left on the stage and in jeopardy are Elizabeth & Val, Christina & Mark, and Leah & Tony.
Elizabeth & Val are announced safe. When Brooke points out that Christina is tonight's top scorer and Leah is tonight's bottom scorer, Leah can't help but chuckle ruefully.
I'd love to see Leah stay, but the math makes it hard to foresee that result.
When Tom says it's Christina and Mark going home, I literally gasped a "WHOAAA" in my living room. If she had the top score and lost out to the dancer with the lowest score, she REALLY REALLY had no fan base. Or is it a swell of Ballas-backlash? I'd like to take partial credit for that. I mean, guest judge Julianne Hough would get the lion's share of the credit, but I helped.