'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Bonner's story comes to an end on Trio Night

For The Baltimore Sun

Julianne Hough is back at the judges table this week, just in time to see some awkward three-people-in-hold dances because it's Trio Night. And I swear on all that is holy, if Bonner doesn't go home tonight, I'm pitching a fit that will be heard across time zones.

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater

Jive

Emma chose "Shake a Tail Feather" for Rashad because he's fun and happy and so's the song. They have a sweet moment with a hug at the end of the interview.
It's a fun jive, and they don't slow it down for Rashad at all.

My only gripe is that they're on an platform stage with the audience right up next to it and it's hard to see Rashad's feet. Something clearly goes wrong with the camera work after they finish, which is a rare slip for this show.

Len Goodman says it was full of energy and jive content but wants Rashad to work a little harder on his footwork. Hough says it was fun but also wants Rashad to point his toes and work on his footwork. Bruno Tonioli compliments Rashad on his charisma. He gives specific advice to Rashad about putting weight on his heels and how that affects his footwork.

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

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy

Contemporary

Val chooses "Freedom," and Normani talks about how she was bullied online after an interview that went viral early in her career. I don't know that I would call that bullying — it's probably more technically harassment.

Bullying involves the exploitation of a power dynamic, and when only one side of the equation involves a famous person, I'm not sure it's accurate to say they've been bullied. Sorry for the mini-rant, but I think since it's become a hot-button issue, the word "bullying" has been misused and misapplied. However, what Normani went through sounds horrible, and I'm glad she's getting to exorcise her demons.

Julianne gushes and calls it art. She also praises Normani for being the center of the routine and nailing her extended solo moments. Carrie Ann Inaba compliments Val's choreography. Len isn't a big fan of contemporary and jazz, he admits, but says that the audience and he were both spellbound throughout the entire performance.

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

Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess

Argentine tango

Sharna's wanting to tell Bonner's story of overcoming his injury. But Bonner's having a hard time revisiting that time and trying to deal with those emotions again. He throws a little bit of a fit and walks out of rehearsal.

As for the routine, there's tons of dry ice and faffing around at the beginning before they get into proper hold. Bonner has one facial expression locked in and it's something like, "I really gotta squeeze this one out." It ends with a lackluster pose.

Bruno calls him diligent but says the links between his steps are a bit clunky. In other words, 'A' for effort, a lesser grade for the actual dance. Carrie Ann sees a greater range of motion but feels that at times they lacked connection.

Len says Argentine tango is supposed to be fluid and this was too stiff and blocky. Then Len just flat out says it: The viewers have kept Bonner on the show past his ability. Either Carrie Ann or Julianne exclaims, "Len!" But he presses on, saying that a story only has a happy ending depending on where you stop the story and implies that Bonner's story went too long.

Len is 100 percent right. I was talking to a friend recently who lives in Italy and is able to watch both "Dancing with the Stars" and the British original "Strictly Come Dancing." Apparently on "Strictly," the bottom two couples each week are put into a dance-off and then the judges decide who gets to go home between those two. I think I'd like that system a lot better.

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

Simone Biles & Sasha Farber

Foxtrot

Sasha's picked "That's What Makes You Beautiful." Simone rolls her eyes and it's a very teenage moment. It's so weird to me that she and Normani are the same age. Then she flirts with the cameraman T.J.

I have a whole rant about this song, how it seems to be saying that the singer is most attracted to this woman because she has no self-confidence and doesn't know her own worth. The dance is cute but somehow a little lackluster.

I don't know if it's just the foxtrot or something else. We'll see if the judges can explain why I felt that way.

Carrie Ann says Simone's skills are unquestionable, but her performance and authenticity are lacking. She points out that even Sasha doesn't know her well enough to pick a song she'd like. Fair point.

Len liked the mix of dancing in hold and out of hold. He says she had nice posture and the routine was full of youthful exuberance. Julianne says it was a very pretty dance, with nothing that wowed or disappointed her. She wants to see Simone challenged more. Bruno says that Simone is so good that she has to figure out how to surprise people with something about herself that is unique and unforgettable.

Erin Andrews asks them if they think they're playing it safe, and Sasha says no. Simone says she's lived in a gym for 14 years of her life and it's hard to show emotions she hasn't experienced. Well, then, Simone, that's your story. Erin echoes that.

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

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold

Waltz

Lindsay has picked a song called "Humble and Kind." She thinks it represents how David was raised and how he's raising his kids.

As Lindsay interviews that David has become like another dad to her, they show a clip of her dancing while standing on his feet, and it's really sweet. There's a tiny part of me, though, that can't help but point out that the age difference between Lindsay and David is six years less (17) than that of our current president and his first lady (23).

David admits to Tom Bergeron that even though we only saw a minute of his interview, it was a 30-minute interview and he bawled through 15 minutes of it.

Len says it was a little unsteady at time but that David at least attempted to get the footwork correct, which most celebrities don't. Lindsay laughs a lot at this.

Julianne says they have one of the strongest partnerships in this entire competition. Bruno says when people look at David, they see love, truth and honesty, and that all came through in this routine. Carrie Ann brings up that David and Lindsay call themselves "Lady and the Gramps." Sweet Jesus. He's not that old!

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

Trio Round

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater, with Witney Carson

Argentine tango

Rashad gets the line of the night when he says that Emma and Witney are like gymnasts who think he's the pole. Emma's supposed to be the good girl he's in a relationship with, and Witney is the temptress. So Emma's in white and Witney's in black.

The number has him dancing with Emma at first, then Witney. When he's dancing with the two of them, there are only a few moments of, "This is clearly a two-person dance being danced with an extra person."

Len says it was full of passion with terrific storytelling. He tells Rashad again to work on his footwork. "You've got dancing in your blood, it's just not reached your feet yet."

Julianne liked the different dynamics he had with the women while dancing. Carrie Ann says it was by far Rashad's best dance. Carrie Ann disagrees with Len and thinks Rashad's footwork was spot-on.

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

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy, with Alan Bersten

Jive

They find out their trio partner by being blindfolded and then feeling Alan. Then in an interview, they're asked, "Were you excited when you found out your partner was Alan?" There's a beat of silence and then the camera pans over to Alex saying, "I was super excited when I found out it was Alan."

Their story is that Normani is lost on a country road and Val and Alan come along to help her out. I have to smirk at how that story manages to completely ignore the race of all parties involved. How many black women do you know would be happy to be lost on a country road and have two white men approach her?

Val and Alan both rip off their shirts before the routine is over, and they need to hit the spray tan station a few more times.

Julianne loves that Normani's dances tonight showed opposite sides of her personality and dancing skills. Carrie Ann thought Alan added a lot to the dance and brought out Normani's joyous side. Len liked the contrast from the first dance. What he didn't like was the time spent dancing on the judges' table. See? He doesn't like it when you faff around during the dance — it's not just at the beginning.

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

After the scores, as he's throwing to commercial, Tom is standing on top of the judges' table to annoy Len. He's got his hip action going the whole time and I'm ready to see Tom get a full dance!

Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess, with Britt Stewart

Jazz

I'm excited to learn Britt's name because I've noticed her in the troupe and she's great. Basically, Sharna's story for them is something like the old soap opera "Dallas"; Bonner is an oil executive and Sharna and Britt are his sexy secretaries.

It turns out they're dancing to a hip-hop song and it feels so wrong for Bonner. I also really, really hate the porn cliche aesthetic of the costumes for Britt and Sharna. You should be better than this, show.

Bruno says a whole lot of nothing. Carrie Ann calls it kind of raunchy. She wanted Bonner to pop more in the routine. Len also calls it a little bit too raunchy for him, as an old guy. Julianne liked the production.

With Erin, we see footage from the dress rehearsal where Britt took a spill during the dance, but she's alright tonight.

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

Simone Biles & Sasha Farber, with Brittany Cherry

Paso Doble

Simone really bonds with Brittany, saying it's good to get a different coach. It's a sci-fi space age paso doble, to a modern Top 40 hit. And they have the problem of the bits in hold looking really wrong because it's meant for two dancers not three.

Carrie Ann felt her nervousness, but that drew her in. Carrie Ann wants her not to dance like a metronome. Tom says she wasn't smiling at the compliments from Carrie Ann and she says, "Smiling doesn't win you gold medals." Oh, snap.

Julianne wants Simone to bring out her artistry more. Bruno says she hit everything with a ruthless efficiency, but the dance required more flow and grace. He does this with so much gesturing and gyrating that he misses his chair when sitting down, and Carrie Ann worries that he's not OK and almost misses holding up her paddle. But he's fine.

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

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold, with Hayley Erbert

Paso Doble

Their theme is a gladiator contest set to an instrumental version of "Gangsta's Paradise." That makes perfect sense, sure.

There's a lot of business at the beginning that isn't really dancing and then when they do get dancing, David seems to interpret powerful as "stiff." He's so awkward in this whole thing.

Len says he'd like to end on a high note, but it was rough and he didn't like it at all. Julianne says David lacked shaping and he needs to get his tushy under. Carrie Ann calls it clumsy.

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

Elimination Results

Normani & Val are first to be announced safe. Then Simone & Sasha. And then, David & Lindsay. Bonner & Sharna are eliminated, meaning Rashad & Emma are safe. Good. Len wasn't wrong about Bonner being past his ability on the show. David is too, but he's at least charming and funny and fun to watch.

Scoreboard

Normani & Val: 40 + 39 = 79

Rashad & Emma: 36 + 39 = 75

Simone & Sasha: 36 + 36 = 72

David & Lindsay: 36 + 29 = 65

Predictions

David, that far down on the scoreboard, should be the one going home next week, and really it should be Normani, Rashad and Simone in the finals. But I'm worried for Simone for a couple of reasons: She maybe hasn't connected with viewers that much, beyond just being cute and really good. I'm also worried because the show has never had a finale before with three African-American finalists. The most nonwhite finalist group they ever had before was Season 6, with Jason Taylor, Cristian de la Fuente and Kristi Yamaguchi.

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