'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Shocking elimination sends front-runner Heather Morris home

For The Baltimore Sun

This week’s theme on “Dancing With the Stars” is Boy Bands vs Girl Groups. Oh yeah, because battle of the sexes is always so much fun. For reasons not explained, Julianne Hough is absent from the judges table and her spot is taken by Nick Carter, a previous “DWTS” runner-up.

Simone Biles & Sasha Farber

Samba

Simone is still struggling with being "sexy." She says she's been on one date ever in her life. The costuming and set design are all edging a little too close to "tribal" for my comfort, and Sasha's leggings are atrocious.

Something feels off to me about the dancing — it's a little stiff and seems at times to be off the music. But let's hear what the judges have to say.

Len Goodman talks about promenades and counter-promenades and praises the amount of samba content in the routine. He does go on to say that he thought their timing was "a little suspect." So it wasn't just me. Bruno Tonioli calls Simone beautiful and sassy but does say her timing wasn't quite as perfect as it usually is. Carrie Ann Inaba tells her she's sexy, so I guess that's good. Nick has very little to say that’s constructive, because he's not actually a dancer or dance judge.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Nick: 8; Len: 9; Bruno: 9

Nick gave the most accurate score of that routine — go figure.

Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess

Rumba

Bonner says in his interview that he's probably the worst dancer left in the contest, to be honest. I'm not going to argue with him.

They're dancing to The Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." True story: When I worked at a large retail chain in the late ‘90s, I never worked a shift during which I didn't hear this song on the in-store radio. I tell you this because it's better than talking about awkward, lead-footed Bonner, and Sharna dancing around him.

Bruno says rumba is hard for men because it requires continuous movement. Why is that harder for men? Carrie Ann likes that they were in sync, which seems like the bare minimum a couple should be getting in Week 6. Nick praises Sharna, his former partner. He advises Bonner to let go more in his dancing. Len says Bonner's lines were good but wanted the bits between the lines to be more fluid. So, basically, he makes a good mannequin but not a good dancer.

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

Honestly, each of those scores should have been a point lower. It bugs me how the judges stop scoring honestly and just keep upping them as the season goes on. If Bonner had done that same routine three weeks ago, he wouldn't have gotten 8s for it.

Nancy Kerrigan & Artem Chigvintsev

Paso doble

When Artem tells Nancy their song, she immediately replies that Mel B did it as a paso doble with Maks back in Season 5. Holy smokes — Nancy just outed herself as a “DWTS” superfan!

The routine starts with Nancy in a cage that's spinning around on the dance floor. It makes me dizzy and will probably make Len cranky, too. Wisely, they choose not to emulate the Mel B and Maks routine. (Of course, Mel & Maks did their routine back before backup dancers were allowed, much less regular features.)

Carrie Ann calls it amazing and likes that Nancy found her way after a bit of being out of control in the beginning. Nick says Nancy commanded the floor. Len tells her not to doubt herself, that her anxiety shows in her shoulders being too tense. Len says she was too long in the cage and it got on his nerves a bit. Told ya!

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Nick: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 8

Nick Viall & Peta Murgatroyd

Jive

Nick says he's been looking forward to the jive because it seems really fun, but Peta warns him it's really, really hard. This is a slow jive, but Nick's coping. He's a little pigeon-toed, especially in his kicks and flicks. He's also confused about his rock ‘n’ roll history (or Peta is) because he puts a Chuck Berry duck walk in the middle of a Beach Boys song.

Nick Carter wants Nick Viall to work on the moves a little bit more, but he thought it was fun. Len says Nick Viall showed the fun and freedom of the jive but was lacking polish and finesse. Bruno calls it a "jive with a sunstroke." He says jive is all about precision and timing, and Nick was lacking both. Carrie Ann says Nick didn't have the right toning in his foot and wants him to watch his hands more.

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

Week 6 score inflation again. Those are generous.

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy

Salsa

I'm not at all sure about this white halter top they've got on Normani — it looks a bit like a grandma's cross-your-heart, 18-hour-comfort, no-pinch bra. I'm not sure I could have identified this routine as a salsa if you hadn't told me that's what it was. It's also jam-packed with backup dancers and lifts. The lifts themselves are a bit awkward, especially the exits from them.

You know, I almost long for a throwback season of "Dancing with the Stars" with only legitimate ballroom dances (except for a freestyle in the finale), no backup dancers, and no lifts ever. Grumble, grumble — I'm a geezer who wants things like they used to be.

Len says the routine showcased what a great dancer Normani is. However, what it didn't do was showcase a great salsa. He wanted to see a little more salsa content and didn't like the hip-hop section. Hi, Len, I love you. Bruno, however loved the routine. He says Normani nailed every move. Carrie Ann says Normani sticks every move and her lines are perfect. Nick tells her she could go all the way in the competition.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Nick:10; Len: 8; Bruno: 10

Go with your heart, Len.

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold

Argentine tango

David says it's frustrating to work hard and realize you may still not be the best. He and Lindsay agree in rehearsal that the sexiness of the Argentine tango may be hard for them. Later, they bicker because David's frustrated and tired. Sometimes they should just just take a nap, get some electrolytes — more rehearsing isn't necessarily going to help.

They're both in purple, and it's a lot for David handle. I bet he's never worn a suit that's not blue, black, gray or tan before. There's a big lift in the middle, which is awkward going in and awkward coming out and lasts a looong time in the middle — because if you're looking at David holding Lindsay above his head while spinning, you're not looking at his feet and they're not having worry about his frame.

Bruno says the lifts were a little bit shaky. He reminds them that if you attempt spectacular lifts, they have to be flawless. He does compliment them for doing a proper Argentine tango, even if it had a few mistakes in it. Carrie Ann asks if David’s OK, because he doesn't seem happy tonight. He says he was worried about all the big lifts and still uncomfortable about the "sexy" quotient required. Carrie Ann says the dance, in general, was a little rough around the edges.

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

What was that, Nick? I don't understand your scoring tonight.

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater

Tango

Rashad is still training for football, hoping to get picked up from free agency. He takes Emma to a practice field and has her run some drills.

I do like that Emma's put a lot of proper tango content in the routine, including having most of the dance in hold. Rashad isn't quite as smooth as would be ideal, but he's definitely making an effort at the frame and even trying to lean his head back like a pro.

Carrie Ann says the beginning was perfection, when Rashad was with the backup singers. She also approves of the amount of dancing in hold. Nick says Rashad has elevated himself tonight. Len appreciates the amount of dancing in hold and proper ballroom tango content. Bruno says it was strong and driven, and Rashad has plenty of talent.

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

Heather Morris & Maks Chmerkovskiy

Rumba

Maks is back dancing this week, and he and Heather are trying to work on the sexy aspects of the rumba. Their storyline is that Maks is winning her back from Alan Bersten by using a sexy dance.

Sure, Heather may be a bit of a ringer, but she's got the best legs of any female star in the competition. So much control and precision. They've also got that continuous movement between poses that the judges were yammering on about earlier for the rumba.

Nick says it was his favorite dance of the night. Len welcomes back Maks and tells Heather she had "lovely leg action," with stretch and control. He also liked the speed variations in the dance. Carrie Ann says it was Heather's best dance and that there was a difference with Maks coming back tonight.

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

Here come some elimination results. Turns out all the couples in Team Boy Band are safe, which means we're losing one of the duos from Team Girl Group. That's some Grade A bull hockey, because all the couples on Team Girl Group were in the top half of the scoreboard last week. Fangirl voting will be the death of me.

Team Boy Band

Bruno tells the team in rehearsal that the stars will have to do 20 seconds without their female partners. And he asks them to take their shirts off. David is understandably a little shy about this, given his teammates.

They start out with the guys in a line on stage, and they're not even really in sync. As the dance progresses, Nick and Rashad clearly have the best technique, David has the best performance, and Bonner has the most clearly defined jawline. Then there's some “Magic Mike” stripper stuff with shirtlessness and dancing around chairs. The last sections starts with a lot of jumping around, which is barely dancing. They're wearing unzipped satin jackets, which is probably a relief for David.

Len says it was full of gimmick and crowd-pleasing moods, which is what they have to do to beat the girls. Bruno says they were a little bit of boy band by way of “Spinal Tap,” and he was crying he enjoyed it so much. Carrie Ann says there was one person who missed his staging a couple of times, Bonner, but overall it was a good dance.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8: Nick: 9; Len: 8; Bruno: 8

Those are appropriate.

Team Girl Group

Their medley will include one of Fifth Harmony's songs as a nod to Normani. During rehearsal, Simone whispers to Normani, "How do you make this not uncomfortable, when he's on you?" It's such a cute big sister, little sister vibe, but then I looked it up and learned these two women are the same age. Still, I like the bonding. Normani says in her interview that it's just acting, and Val is mock offended that there's no real attraction.

They start the routine with a slumber party setup, with the girls in bathrobes. It's cute, given that they're dancing to a ’50s girl group song. Then it gets really sexy really quickly, with the women on chairs and the men dancing around them until they switch positions. They do go into hold for a bit near the middle segment, which I don't think we saw from the men at all? Their third section also has a lot of in-hold work and has them dancing in formation around the floor as couples, which I really like because it reminds me of ballroom competitions. Near the end of their routine, some of the lights blow and they finish basically in darkness. It takes a while for the lights to come back up, and Tom Bergeron handles it all with his typical aplomb.

Bruno says somebody went wrong during the part he couldn't see in the dark. Carrie Ann says she was underwhelmed because she's holding these competitors to a higher standard. Nicks says he doesn't understand why the women are in jeopardy tonight because they were all amazing. Len says the dancing was better from Team Girl Group than Team Boy Band, but he found the guys' routines more entertaining. Gah. Such bullbleep.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Nick: 9; Len: 8; Bruno: 9

Rubbish. These couples needed the scores for next week, given the results information revealed so far. Why is the show hamstringing the female competitors?

Elimination Results

The first couple revealed as safe is Simone & Sasha. Also safe: Normani & Val. Man, I hate to see any of these remaining couples go home. But if I had to choose, I'd rather it be Nancy, because I think she's going to plateau and I want to see Heather do more dancing. And the couple going home is Heather & Maks. There are audible gasps in the ballroom, followed by boos and "No!"s. Tom says that's probably the most vocally unhappy reaction from an audience he's heard in 24 seasons. No kidding, Tom — there were THREE couples lower than Heather & Alan last week and they were tied with Nick & Peta. This elimination tells me a couple of things: Nick's got a fanbase, but WOW so do David Ross and Bonner Bolton.

This is probably when I should mention that the thing I miss most about the separate elimination shows is that it prevents the kind of thing that happened tonight: Heather worked really hard on a routine, and Maks pushed himself to come back very quickly after surgery, for a dance that ended up not counting. (Two if you count the team dance, but the show would've just done that on a different week.)

One more thought about this elimination: I know I've been on the "Heather is a ringer" bandwagon from the very start. HOWEVER, what should happen with ringers is they should make the semifinals or finals but ultimately lose. You should keep them on until the very end because they're good at dancing, and it's more entertaining to watch people dance well than to watch people dance poorly.

Scoreboard

Normani & Val: 38 +34 = 72

Rashad & Emma: 37 + 33 = 70

Simone & Sasha: 35 + 34 = 69

Nancy & Artem: 33 + 34 = 67

Bonner & Sharna: 30 + 33 = 66

David & Lindsay: 29 + 33 = 62

Nick & Peta: 28 + 33 = 61

Predictions

I don't know anymore with this show. If it's about being male and looking cute, I guess Nancy, as the oldest woman, goes home next week? Or maybe if being a really good dancer counts against you, Normani should watch out?

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