Laurie Hernandez, Val Chmerkovskiy.
Laurie Hernandez, Val Chmerkovskiy. (Eric McCandless / ABC)

We're down to the final five couples on "Dancing With the Stars," and on Monday night they faced off for a spot in the finals. Let's get into it.

James Hinchcliffe & Sharna Burgess
Argentine tango

Sharna is back! Hope that doesn't jeopardize her knee.


And it's talk to family and friends week, apparently. James's girlfriend, Rebecca Dalton, says they met when she was in "Grade 10 and he was in Grade 12." So Canadian, that phrasing! Ooh, Mario Andretti gives an interview! Bringing in the big guns!

Their concept for this week is to have James blindfold Sharna at the beginning of the routine so the rest of the dance for her is by "touch" only. When she's doing tremendous one-foot leans off a chair while James supports her, it's clearly showing a ton of trust.

I'm not loving James's footwork, though; it doesn't feel precisely as sharp as it could. But then he ends the routine doing a handstand with one hand on the seat of the chair and the other on the back of the chair, and what I exclaimed can't be printed on a family news site.

Julianne calls it "absolutely sensational." Bruno praises the skill and trust in their partnership. Carrie Ann loves the risky part but says there were a few wobbles at the beginning of the routine.

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

Terra Jolé & Sasha Farber

Terra was the first baby born with her condition to the doctor in her small town. A year after she was born, her parents made a point of adopting a boy who was put up for adoption because he had that very condition. Then Terra's friends and family talk about her singing aspirations and coming to Hollywood. She really comes off as a person who works extremely hard to pursue her goals and succeeds thanks to that determination.

Bruno praises the fluidity, hip action and underarm turns. Carrie Ann is crying. She gets choked up talking about the "quality" of Terra's movement. Julianne thought the rumba would be a very difficult dance for Terra, and Terra proved her completely wrong. Julianne also points out that the routine contained a lot of new moves for Terra and then declares it her best dance of the season.

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

Jana Kramer & Gleb Savchenko

Jana grew up in Michigan and always wanted to be a singer and actress. From age 5 to 16 she was also a figure skater. Her parents divorced when she was a freshman in high school, and she traces her bad decisions with men back to that event. She moved to Hollywood at 18 and shortly afterward got involved with an older man in an ultimately unhealthy relationship that severely damaged her emotionally.

There's at least one kick sequence where they're out of sequence and then I swear there's a move that's a lift. Gleb also fumbles a bit sliding into his end pose.

Carrie Ann says they had a rough start getting into sync at the beginning. No mention of a lift, so I guess it didn't count as one. Julianne calls it a proper quickstep and mostly liked Jana's frame, except her neck was back instead of to the side. Bruno echoes the "proper quickstep" comment.

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

Calvin Johnson Jr. & Lindsay Arnold

Calvin's childhood pictures are adorable, especially the one where he's holding a trombone. Calvin talks a bit about walking away from the NFL when he still had playing years left, saying he left money on the table but it was about "quality of life."

They're dancing in front of two white walls that have holds in them and black gloves come out and grab them. Len would haaaaaaate this. They're dancing to "Seven Nation Army," and I still marvel that this song has become a stadium anthem.


Of one of Calvin's kicks, Tom says, "I think you kicked your leg into the next zip code."

Julianne mentions the big slip in the routine when Lindsay lost her footing because of the dress or something. Bruno praises the power and energy but thinks Calvin was almost too explosive, causing him to make some mistakes. Carrie Ann thinks Calvin may have overpowered Lindsay in parts.

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

Laurie Hernandez & Val Chmerkovskiy

Laurie goes to visit her grandmother Brunilda in an assisted living facility, and she is adorable. Brunilda has Alzheimer's and Laurie's schedule this year has kept her from seeing her as much as she'd like to. Laurie's crying when she interviews that she hopes she'll see her soon. Then a title card tells us that Laurie's grandmother died the day after that interview.

In rehearsals on Sunday, Laurie is crying and Val gives her a hug. The show then plays a recorded message from Brunilda saying she's very proud of Laurie and she should keep doing her best. Now I'm getting teary-eyed.

There's a pause in the dance when Laurie looks like she's carefully wiping a tear from her eye, and I can't tell if it's scripted as part of the story of the dance or if that intro package has her overwhelmed. This is a more powerful dance, less sedated than I generally expect a foxtrot, but it's beautifully danced. As soon as the number ends, though, she turns into Val and starts sobbing. I think it was only her years of gymnastics training that let her get through the routine at all.

Tom is choked up. Tom! Unflappable Tom! Carrie Ann starts by saying she's sorry for Laurie's loss. She then goes on to talk about the dance and its wealth of content and power. Julianne says Laurie should be very proud of her dancing and her growth on the show. Bruno says every bar of music was filled with difficult, intricate steps and she executed it brilliantly.

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

Trio Challenge

James Hinchcliffe & Sharna Burgess with Jenna Johnson

Well, of course, James and Sharna picked Jenna to work with — although James jokes that he wanted Keo but he wasn't available. Then there's a cut to Keo looking up from a phone saying, "What? I'm available."

They're dancing in front of the car James was racing when he had an accident. I must say, if that's THE car he was racing and not just a replica of it, someone did a lot of work putting it back together. Sharna and Jenna are each wearing a gold boot on the right leg and a black boot on the left leg. It's weirdly distracting costuming.

Julianne praises how in sync they were. Bruno praises James for never losing timing. Carrie Ann praises how in unison they were.

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

Terra Jolé & Sasha Farber with Artem Chigventsev

Terra is flirting shamelessly with Artem then there's an homage to a sitcom ("Three's Company") that began airing before any of these three people were born.

I think Sasha and Artem are supposed to be gangsters, with all the fake tattoos they've added to the both of them. Artem is several inches taller than Sasha and it's a little more awkward for him to dance with Terra, but they pull it off really well.

Bruno calls Terra a "saucy little vixen." He praises Sasha and Artem for the choreography, framing Terra and showcasing her throughout. Carrie Ann says it was fine-tuned to show Terra to best advantage.

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


Jana Kramer & Gleb Savchenko with Alan Bersten
Paso doble

Their story is that Jana is the queen and both Gleb and Alan are her servants and she's going to use them and then dispose of them.
They start with Jana on a chair in front of a video screen, tree branches coming out of her arms as she moves them. Some of Jana's stomping is less than elegant and looks more like she's trying to avoid the droppings of the bull than stalking one.

Carrie Ann calls it "artistry in motion" and compliments Gleb on the concept. Julianne and Bruno also both love it.

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

Calvin Johnson Jr. & Lindsay Arnold with Witney Carson

Witney and Lindsay argue about which one of them is "Dumb" and which is "Dumber." They can't figure it out. During rehearsals, it looks like Lindsay has decided she and Witney are going to treat Calvin like a human jungle gym, climbing all over him in all manner of lifts.

They do put in a lot of proper salsa content, which unfortunately looks a little weird as a three-person dance. Especially given how Witney dancing behind Calvin looks extra small.

The big jaw-dropping move in the middle of the routine is when Lindsay is hanging from Calvin's neck down his back and Witney is hanging from his front with her legs locked around his waist while she holds on to Lindsay's ankles — Calvin is spinning around the whole time. It's insane.

The judges all praise it as a fun and exciting routine.

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

Laurie Hernandez & Val Chmerkovskiy with Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Their routine is that Laurie and Val are students are coming in for lessons with dancing master Maks.

Laurie is so good that she can make deliberate mistakes that require "correction" as part of the narrative of the choreography. It's like an actor portraying a bad actor. It's not easy. I liked how they integrated Maks without making it seem like a two-person dance ill-adapted for three people.

Bruno likes that it had the structure of a very short play, with distinct acts. Julianne says Laurie was a "proper Latin dancer" and that the routine took her back to Julianne's days on the competitive dance circuit.

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


The first couple dancing in next week's finals is Laurie & Val. James & Sharna will be there too, as will Jana & Gleb. This leaves Calvin & Lindsay and Terra & Sasha in jeopardy.

Terra's been on an upswing but I love Calvin so much I can't be unbiased here. Terra & Sasha are the eliminated couple.

Jana & Gleb: 30 + 30 = 60
Laurie & Val: 30 + 30 = 60
James & Jenna: 29 + 30 = 59
Calvin & Lindsay: 26 + 30 = 56

Predictions: I hate to see Calvin miss out on the final three Tuesday night, but that seems the most likely outcome.