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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Dance-off leads to double elimination on Movie Night

For The Baltimore Sun

The theme on this week’s “Dancing With the Stars” is "A Night at the Movies," so each couple will be dancing a solo dance to a different film genre.

The opening number was choreographed by Mandy Moore (not the actress), and Tom Bergeron says "More about her later." He also tells us there will be a double elimination tonight. The couple who gets the highest score in Round 1 will be safe from elimination. The rest will have a dance-off. Stop making up new rules, show. Oh, the more about Mandy Moore is that she's there tonight as a guest judge, filling the spot normally held by Julianne Hough.

Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess

Paso doble, Westerns

They get a "special message" via video from Len Goodman. He comes on screen in a quick homage to "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Good job, person who put that joke in there for only a few of us to even get — I laughed. Oh, but, the dance … they're giving Bonner the paso doble as his dance and Westerns as his genre. Here, kid, it's a softball up the middle for ya.

There's a lot of messing around at the beginning, with Bonner getting into a fight at the poker table. They're dancing to Aaron Copland's "Hoedown," which is a gorgeous piece of music that evokes wide-open vistas and galloping on horses, not a dark and dusty saloon. Bonner mostly stands while other people dance, but he and his jawline are good at standing. I must begrudgingly give him applause for kicking his heels at the end. I love that move.

Len Goodman congratulates Bonner and all the celebrities for making it through to Week 7. He then says Bonner got so wrapped up in being the cowboy (of the Western) that he forgot to be the matador (of the paso doble). Mandy says Sharna choreographed an incredible performance for Bonner. She adds that Bonner may not always have the same amount of content as the other competitors, but what he has he does well. Carrie Ann Inaba thinks he got lost a little bit, but she likes Bonner’s elegance. She also points out that during about half the number wasn't dancing. THANK YOU, for pointing that out.

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

Tom brings up the double elimination again and, as before, they give him a mic effect that makes it sound extra ominous.

Nancy Kerrigan & Artem Chigvintsev

Tango, romances

Nancy tells Artem it's much less scary to be judged with a partner than it was to be judged solo as a skater. They parody several scenes from movies including "Love Actually," "The Graduate," and "Titanic."

Ugh, it starts with a dumb prop moment, with Nancy riding on a fancy hotel luggage cart, instead of actually dancing. AND there are way too many backup dancers, including one female one who's only standing behind the hotel desk. Nancy's dancing is lovely and graceful, which seems fair as tango should be in her wheelhouse.

Mandy calls it impeccable but then "pecs" and says something minor about Nancy's shoulders during a final turn. Bruno Tonioli says Nancy had fantastic shapes and her shoulders are actually improving. Carrie Ann warns Nancy about losing track of her arms. Len says it had a quantity of steps and a quality of movement.

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

Simone Biles & Sasha Farber

Charleston, silent films

We could quibble as to whether "silent" is a film genre, given that silent films encompassed all the other genres, just without sound. Sasha says Simone is really embracing her character in this dance.

Her two-tone Mary Janes are adorable and I would wear them on my feet right now. This dance is so well suited for Simone; it's cute and fun and athletic, just like she is. They pull off all the tricks perfectly, as far as I can tell.

Bruno says it had fizz and sparkle. Carrie Ann says she bets no one knows how difficult that routine really was. Sasha pipes up, "I do!" Len says it had great characterization, but he'd have liked a little more swivel on the actual Charleston part. Mandy agrees with the other judges, but says her only critique is that sometimes Simone seems like she's on auto-pilot.

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

Time for Disney cross-promotion with a performance from stars of the “Descendants” series, in this case, the Villain Kids. I am not the demographic for this. Ask a 9-year-old if this was good.

Nick Viall & Peta Murgatroyd

Argentine tango, action movies

They're going action by way of James Bond, which makes sense for Nick. Maks Chmerkovskiy shows up to rehearsal to help Nick out with his training. Nick admits to having a man-crush on Maks.

Nick is still a little clumsy, and the routine ends up revolving around a USB drive, which is pretty much half of action movies these days, so that's funny. Carrie Ann says it was hot, but some of Nick’s footwork was lacking. She tells him he's not going to get the greatest scores because of the number of missteps. Len says Nick has improved from Week 1, and it had plenty of attack and aggression. Mandy loved the storytelling and thought Nick was excellent tonight. Bruno says it was his most mature and believable performance to date. He adds that he covered his mistakes well.

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

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater

Paso doble, horror

There's some way-too-involved backstory, giving this a horror theme. When you have “O Fortuna” as your music, just be a vampire or demon and call it a day. I wish Rashad's footwork were a little better, but hey, that's what the dry ice is for.

Len says the music was epic and so was the dancing, even if it was a bit scruffy around the edges. Mandy compliments the improvement in his performance quality since Week 1. Bruno calls it rich, lush and full of passion. He says that sometimes Rashad throws his hands away, which messes with his lines. Carrie Ann says he pushes his pelvis too far forward sometimes, which ruins his line.

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

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold

Salsa, sci-fi

David says "sci-fi salsa" sounds like a bad Mexican meal. He is pretty sure a double elimination means he's a goner for sure. And then he drops Lindsay at least twice during rehearsal — once because in the middle of a cartwheel split lift, she farts right into his face.

I enjoy the ridiculousness of their costumes this week. I hope David keeps his to use as a Halloween costume for years and years. They have no fewer than eight back-up dancers, which doesn't seem like a good sign to me. I'm not sure how much salsa was in that routine, but they hit the theme of sci-fi on the head.

Mandy thinks Lindsay did a great job with "sci-fi salsa." Her critique to David is that he's a little flat in his feet. She wants him to use the muscles that he used to use as a catcher to come up out of a squat and throw the ball quickly, translating that move to his dancing footwork. Bruno would have liked to see more hip action for the salsa. He also mentions David's footwork. Carrie Ann says it was fun and entertaining, filled with content and no mistakes. Len says there were lots of touches of salsa in there.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Mandy: 8; Bruno: 8

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy

Argentine tango, foreign films

Val says if "content is what Len wants to see, content is what we'll give him." See? Is that so hard? Normani's hurting in her backs and hips and ends up seeing a doctor and getting an MRI for her back. They're giving her medication and advise her to modify moves in ways that will strain the back less.

The performance seems pretty much flawless to me. And note to other couples: no backup dancers, very little set decoration — good dancing can stand on its own. I like that they kept the tricks to a minimum but perfectly executed the ones they did. Bruno calls it the best dance of the night. Mandy was most impressed by Normani's leg action and how much her legs have strengthened over the course of the season.

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

That score earns them immunity and means they don't have to participate in the dance-off.

Dance-Off Round

So, how this is going to work: The high scorers get to pick their dance-off opponent and the low scorers get to pick the dance style, choosing from cha cha, jive, or rumba. The audience will vote live and their score will count as a fifth judge. Based on the four judges and the audience "judge," the winner of each dance-off gets two points added to their score. Simone & Sasha and Rashad & Emma are tied for highest score of the night; the tiebreaker for first pick is "season cumulative score," so Simone & Sasha choose first. They pick Nancy & Artem, who choose cha cha as their style. Rashad & Emma choose to keep it in the sports world, picking David & Lindsay as their opponent. David picks jive as the style. That leaves Bonner & Sharna and Nick & Peta to do the rumba.

Tom clarifies that Normani & Val are not only immune from elimination tonight, they'll also get three bonus points on their score. And he tells us that voting only occurs during the Eastern/Central airing of the show, so I guess Mountain and Pacific time voters had to keep an eye on social media and vote without seeing the dances?

Simone & Sasha vs Nancy & Artem

Cha cha

Sasha is just better than Nancy in the opening bit of simultaneous dancing, although their solo has a weird ending. Nancy and Artem seem to do much more basic and traditional cha cha during their solo bit. Then both couples dance at the same time again.

Len didn't want these two couples to dance against each other. He says one team had sharper leg action and sharper movement throughout. Mandy says they were both very, very good but agrees with Len that one team was a little bit sharper. Bruno says one was more hard-hitting and energetic while the other was more elegant and ladylike, but both were good cha cha. Carrie Ann agrees, saying one was more classic and one was more modern.

Judging: Carrie Ann: Simone & Sasha; Len: Simone & Sasha ; Mandy: Simone & Sasha; Bruno: Simone & Sasha; Audience: Simone & Sasha

It's a sweep!

Rashad & Emma vs David & Lindsay

Jive

Quick costuming note: Rashad's pants are hemmed a little short and he's not wearing socks. David's a baseball player, so he doesn't know how to wear pants that aren't too long. David tries his best to keep up, but his kicks and flicks are nowhere as good as Rashad's. It's funny that Lindsay's kept on her sci-fi wig.

Mandy thought that was a good dance-off and both couples brought a lot to it. Bruno says they both were having fun and going for it. Carrie Ann says they both threw in their signature moves, but one couple stood out because it looked like a full-blown routine.

Judging: Carrie Ann: Rashad & Emma; Len: Rashad & Emma; Mandy: Rashad & Emma; Bruno: Rashad & Emma; Audience: Rashad & Emma

Another sweep!

Bonner & Sharna vs Nick & Peta

Rumba

Well, rumba is good for both of these couples because the guy is sexy and the women are used to dancing around them. Bonner's a bit more graceful than Nick and has better hip action in the side-by-side part at the beginning. The singer, doing Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" sings "bittersweet memories" to sound like "bittersweet mammaries" and I laugh through the rest of the number. But I can tell you Bonner & Sharna get in an epic one-foot spin, so Bonner isn't just standing still, he's running in a circle. Growth!

Bruno says both contestants peaked in this dance. He says one had bigger extensions and better movement, though. Carrie Ann says they were both in the zone and connected to their partners. Carrie Ann says Bonner's movements were smooth and compliments his hip action. She liked Nick's style. Len says neither of them lost the musicality and they both had plenty of hip action. Mandy says one contestant had his eyes toward the ground a little more than the other.

Judging: Carrie Ann: Bonner & Sharna; Len: Bonner & Sharna; Mandy: Bonner & Sharna; Bruno: Nick & Peta; Audience: Bonner & Sharna

Elimination Results

The first couple announced safe is Simone & Sasha. The next couple announced safe is Rashad & Emma. Also safe: Bonner & Sharna. Ugh. This guy is killing me. Tom says they're going to announce the last safe couple, meaning the other two are eliminated. David & Lindsay are safe, so that means Nancy & Artem and Nick & Peta are going home. Not unexpected for Nick, but I'm kind of surprised at Nancy, given that Bonner and David both scored lower than her.

Scoreboard

Normani & Val: 40 + 3 = 43

Rashad & Emma: 37 +2 = 39

Simone & Sasha: 37 + 2 = 39

David & Lindsay: 32

Bonner & Sharna: 29 + 2 = 31

Predictions

Well, winning that dance-off really helped Bonner, although he probably doesn't need any help because apparently this season should be called "Jawlines of the Stars." Blurgh. Bonner seems nice enough, but Nick and David are both funnier. Nancy and Heather are both better dancers. America, I swear, if you put Bonner through to the finals I'm going to be seriously disappointed. The final three stars left in this thing should be Normani, Rashad, and Simone.

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