'Dancing With the Stars' recap: The wonder years

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Ugh. Not only is it "Most Memorable Year" night, Tom is absent from host duties for the first time ever. If it weren't for you, faithful readers, I'd probably skip this episode.

Alfonso Ribeiro is guest hosting for Tom, who is home with his ailing father. I guess I didn't realize Tom was that much taller than Alfonso, because Erin towers over Alfonso.

Alexa PenaVega & Mark Ballas
Song: "Mama Said"

Alexa says Alfonso's comment about she and Carlos both not being able to win really didn't sit well with her, because marriage is more important than winning. Hmph. Half the married couples I know would relish the chance to engage in some friendly competition like this.

Alexa's chosen the year 2000 as her most memorable year because it was when she booked "Spy Kids." Her entire family moved to Austin, Texas, for the filming. This song is one her mom blasted in the car when she was young.

It's an elaborate production number with fake rain and umbrellas and old-fashioned eyeglasses.

They don't ditch the umbrella until about halfway through the number which means there's not as much in hold as I'd like. Near the end of the routine, it's clear that Alexa forgets a step or two and just kind of freezes.

Julianne Hough attributes the mishap to the emotion of the evening. Bruno loved the imagination. He gives her advice about lifting her frame from the center of her body. Carrie Ann likes seeing her theatricality. She calls it elegant, light, and fun.

I love Alexa's green dress - someone needs to make me a copy in my size.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Julianne: 7; Bruno: 7

Gary Busey & Anna Trebunskaya
Song: "That'll Be the Day"

Gary's most memorable year was 1979 when he starred in "The Buddy Holly Story" and received an Academy Award nomination for the performance. They finally address Gary's traumatic brain injury. He was in a motorcycle accident, without a helmet, in 1988.


Wear your helmets, kids - most people wouldn't have survived that crash.

Gary's hair is darkened for this routine and it's so weird-looking to me. Gary may or may not be doing the choreographed steps, but he's having a heckuva good time out there. And if Anna's not too, she deserves her own Academy Award nomination.

Bruno says that Gary's passion almost makes him overlook Gary's unique interpretation of the dance. Carrie Ann says in a roundabout way that everybody else is improving except Gary. Julianne praises his persistence.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 5; Julianne: 6; Bruno: 5

Erin gives Gary an opening to ramble. Sigh.

Coming back from commercial we find out that Bruno's most memorable year was 1983, when he was in Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" video. It's never not great to see this footage.

One of the troupe members comes out dressed in one of the outfits Bruno wore in the video and copies some of his dance moves. I can't tell what Bruno's saying, but it was exciting enough that they cut the audio.

Tamar Braxton & Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Song: "King"

Tamar's most memorable year was 2012 when her husband was admitted to the hospital for treatment of multiple blood clots in his lungs. They put him in a coma and he was hospitalized for 40 days.


When he came out of the hospital, he and Tamar decided to have a child and her son was born about a year later. They're dancing to her own song.

It's very rumba. I thnk her husband was maybe playing the piano during the dance. Carrie Ann is talking through tears because she was deeply affected both by Tamar's story and her dancing.

Julianne says Tamar has never been more beautiful and takes a long time to explain why she's going to give them a 9 tonight.

Bruno says the connection between Tamar and Val was spot on tonight. He also thanks Val for doing a traditional rumba from start to finish.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9

Back from commercial, Erin is backstage with Allison Holker and her daughter and husband (Stephen "Twitch" Boss). They announce that Allison is pregnant. She says she'll still dance the rest of the season - every week will be trio dance, she jokes.

Hayes Grier & Emma Slater
Song: "Stitches"

Everything about Hayes makes me feel so old.

He's a "social media star." His most memorable year is 2014 because how many years does he even have to choose from?

The whole Vine thing started with his older brother and then somehow he went on tour. How do you go on tour for a Vine? I'm so old.

My cat was 4 years old when this kid was born. That's how old I am.

I still dislike seeing contemporary routines on this show. It's a BALLROOM dance show. I miss Len.

Julianne is shocked because Hayes has finally broken out of his shell. Is that a reference to the turtle costume from last week? Bruno says it was technically demanding and Hayes didn't miss a beat. Carrie Ann says Hayes understood the nuances of the dance.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9

Hayes seems genuinely ecstatic at the scores.

Back from this commercial break we find out that 2007 was Julianne's most memorable year because it was her first season on "Dancing With the Stars" and she won it.

Alek Skarlatos & Lindsay Arnold
Paso Doble
Song: "Wake Me Up"

We get a "some of these images may be disturbing" warning before Alek's story. And they make a big point of telling us that his interviews were recorded before the shooting at the Oregon college campus.

It turns out Umpqua Community College is where Alek planned on attending school before he postponed plans because of the activity following his heroic efforts on the train. He went home last week to Roseburg because that's where he felt he needed to be. He says in some ways what happened on the train made more sense than what happened in Oregon.

As to the dance itself, he's still got issues with his hands, but the kid's got talent for this dancing thing. I'm still astounded he's never had dance training before this.

Bruno says his heart is with Alek, for dancing under such emotional stress. He gives him notes about how to lead with his hips if he does Paso Doble again. Carrie Ann says she has a lot of respect for Alek. She says it wasn't the most expressive dance, but was strong and sturdy like Alek himself. Julianne praises his connection with Lindsay.

I think it's during this judging time that you can most tell that Alek doesn't come from a performance/public arena background. He's clearly still very upset about events back home and isn't able to mask it.

I definitely get the feeling that if he wasn't the kind of person that follows through on his commitments he'd have left the show to be home with friends and family.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8

Nick Carter & Sharna Burgess
Song: "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"

Nick says his most memorable year was 1992, when he was 12 years old, when he auditioned for and joined the Backstreet Boys.

They interview the other Boys and they have fond memories of how young Nick was. Nick says he came from a dysfunctional family, with a lot of fighting. He's choked up when he says he wanted to have the "movie mom and dad" and that never happened.

A.J. Mclean interviews that a lot of Nick's childhood friends are either dead or in jail and that Nick used performing to get on a different path.

Sharna is super excited to meet A.J. and they all three work on one of the iconic bits of choreography from the Backstreet Boys. They've packed the dance floor with 300 screaming fans.

At one point we see the performance from behind the judges table and I have no idea how they're able to see any of the performance. It's tons of fun and I love Nick for being a good sport and embracing the whole Backstreet Boys thing wholeheartedly.

Carrie Ann says to Sharna that every girl who was ever a Backstreet fan wants to be her right now. Julianne says it was "hot, hot, hot." Bruno calls it a mega-sexy, mega-hit while doing that Backstreet Boys move.

Nick compliments Erin on her dress and she seems genuinely surprised by the compliment. If he wasn't married, I'd be rooting for a Nick/Erin hook-up.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9

Alfonso does his Backstreet Boys impression and I'd forgotten that he actually can sing.

Carlos PenaVega & Witney Carson
Song: "Amazing Grace"

Carlos says his most memorable year was 2012 and he picked "Amazing Grace" because it was one of the first songs he ever heard in church.

Apparently, back then he got really depressed when he came back from a tour, locked himself in his house and smoked a lot of weed. So he called a friend and asked to go to church with him. It was at that church that he met Alexa.

I really feel weird about seeing anybody dance to a sacred song. I don't feel comfortable commenting on it as a dance, so I'll leave it to the judges. I will note that they're both dressed all in white and are being spotlit in such a way that they literally glow with a halo sort of effect.

At the end of the performance, we see Alexa up in the skybox and she's crying.

Julianne thanks Carlos for sharing his story and that dance. She said she felt a connection to Carlos. She adds that right now he's in the middle of the pack and if he wants to rise to the top he needs to work on his shoulders.

Bruno says they were two "luminous heavenly bodies," and that Carlos' conviction in the performance was the best he's ever given. I wonder if Bruno is aware of the connotations of the word "conviction" in evangelical Christianity. Carrie Ann says Carlos danced from his soul tonight and it was "mind blowing."

Alfonso congratulates Witney on her engagement and she gets a quick chance to show off the ring, which is a lot of diamond. I looked it up so you don't have to: She's engaged to her high-school sweetheart. Their combined age is only 4 years older than mine. Mazel tov, kids.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8

Carrie Ann's most memorable year was 1993 when she toured the world with Madonna as part of "The Girlie Show" tour. Some of the pictures they show require a black bar because Carrie Ann was TOPLESS. Scandalous!

Paula Deen & Louis van Amstel
Song: "Respect"

Paula says her most memorable year was 1989, when she left a marriage of 27 years and started her first business, The Bag Lady.

So Paula's legs are shapely enough to show off in a miniskirt, but at the same time, it shows how awkward they are when she's dancing. During the dance, words are flashing on the floor and it's like someone's vision board in the ballroom.

Bruno is impressed she only went wrong once. He tells her to camp it up more in future performances and have fun. Carrie Ann thinks the way Paula moves is hot and sexy but Paula keeps losing focus.

Julianne tells her to do some self-affirmations. Honey, if that worked, everybody could win this show.

When Paula says the word "fell" it's two syllables. Yep, she's Southern.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 6; Julianne: 6; Bruno: 6

Andy Grammer & Allison Holker
Song: "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)"

Andy's most memorable year was 2009. He was a street performer at the time and he also found out that his mom had breast cancer. It was discovered really late and they only had a couple of days to say goodbye.

Andy doesn't mention his own faith (Bahá'í) by name, but he does make reference to God and to wondering what God's plan was for his life. The song he wrote inspired by these events, "Keep Your Head Up," was his first hit.

They're dancing to his newest single, instead of the song referenced in his story. Is this crass self-promotion or having to fit a prescribed dance style?

Alfonso greets Allison and congratulates her on her pregnancy. He says he's done the math and if she and Andy make the finals, she'll be six months pregnant at the time. Eh, that'll work.

Carrie Ann says Andy looks uncomfortable and that sometimes his top half and his bottom half don't know what each other are doing. Bruno wants him to work on his flat-footedness.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8

Bindi Irwin & Derek Hough
Song: "Every Breath You Take"

Bindi says all she ever wanted to do was grow up to be just like her dad.

They show video of Bindi speaking at Steve Irwin's memorial service and I'm not made of stone people.

She breaks down in rehearsal when Derek suggests they hold hands like how a kid holds onto only one finger of an adult's hand. It's genuinely touching.

So, to celebrate her deceased father, Bindi's dancing to a song written from the point of view of a stalker. Nobody ever listens to the lyrics, do they?

She's sobbing at the end of it, though, and who wouldn't be in her shoes? Metaphorical shoes, of course, because they're dancing barefoot to contemporary.

How do you judge something like that? Julianne says the dance was breathtaking. Bruno says her dad, Australia and the world are proud of her right now. Carrie Ann says she dances with beauty and passion.

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


Because Kim and Tony withdrew last week due to injury, the votes and scores from the last two weeks are combined. In jeopardy are Carlos & Witney and Gary & Anna.

Gary and Anna are eliminated and I'm relieved. He rambles on and sounds just like someone you'd cross the street to avoid.

Bindi & Derek: 28
Tamar & Val: 27
Hayes & Emma: 27
Nick & Sharna: 27
Carlos & Witney: 25
Alek & Lindsay: 24
Andy & Allison: 23
Alexa & Mark: 21
Paula & Louis: 18

It has to be Paula gone next week, right? Although with it being switch-up week, maybe they won't eliminate anybody? Who knows with this show.