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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Emotions run high on 'Most Memorable Year' night

For The Baltimore Sun

It’s “Most Memorable Year” night on “Dancing With the Stars.” Huh. Maybe they really did decide to make last week a non-elimination because of the Las Vegas shooting. Because, if I remember correctly, they often spare celebs on this night because of the emotions involved in the performances.

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson

Quickstep

Frankie says his most memorable year is this year because it's the culmination of everything he's done. Bryan Cranston, his “Malcolm in the Middle” co-star, points out that Frankie was first a TV star, then a race car driver, then a drummer in a rock band. He said he asked Frankie, “What are you going to do next, be an astronaut?”

Frankie says he doesn't really remember a lot of it, though, because he has significant memory loss. He's never seen a doctor about it, but assumes it has something to do with the concussions and mini-strokes he's suffered, mostly due to racing. His girlfriend keeps a diary now for him of all the things they do in a day.

There's a lot of faffing about with special effects at the beginning of the routine. They're dancing to a Coldplay song, which is uptempo but doesn't really feel like a quickstep song. Frankie's legs feel a little loose, too. I think they should be sharper for a quickstep.

Len Goodman says it was light and fluffy and reminded him of his mum's Yorkshire. He liked the amount of quickstep content and Frankie's frame. He wants Frankie to work on his footwork. Bruno Tonioli says Frankie has the spring back in his step. Carrie Ann Inaba says Frankie’s moves have an effervescence and his dancing is clean and neat.

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

Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke

Viennese waltz

Terrell's most memorable year was 2012 because it was a heavy time for him. Terrell was raised by his grandmother, who was diagnosed with dementia in 1996, his rookie year in the NFL. She died in 2012, and he starts to cry telling Cheryl about her. Terrell's daughter is in the rehearsal studio later and she's a cutie.

Terrell's posture is improved this week; now he's got to work on his hands. He's got the dreaded pancake hands. He's crying at the end of the dance and is pretty much too choked up to talk to Tom.

Bruno says it was Terrell's most accomplished performance to date. He praises his flow and his posture. Carrie Ann says she saw poise and reverence that elevated everything Terrell did. Len compliments Cheryl on a well-crafted routine and says it had an ease and an elegance.

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

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev

Contemporary

In 2016, Nikki sought medical treatment for pain and found out that her neck was injured to an extent that she was risking paralysis. She went through rehab and has since made her comeback to the ring.

The set is done up like a wrestling ring, but since it's a contemporary routine, Artem's shirtless and they're both barefoot. For extra contemporary spice, they're fooling around with aerial silks at the start of the routine. It doesn't surprise me that Nikki's really good with the lifts because they're not a million miles away from wrestling choreography.

Carrie Ann has her mouth hanging open. She calls it a "perfect blend." She says she saw Nikki's inner dialogue in her movements. Len liked it. He thought it was creative and showed off her dance skills and athleticism. Bruno says she was so powerful and also sexy.

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

Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd

Contemporary

Nick's most memorable year is the year he married Vanessa. You know, I only just remembered this week that Nick used to be married to Jessica Simpson and was part of a reality TV show about their marriage.

It's a contemporary routine that is meant to recall Nick and Vanessa's wedding ceremony. Nick is dressed in a white tuxedo shirt and black pants — which is what he should have been wearing last week, to emulate Hugh Grant in “Love Actually.” It's a sweet routine and I like when a contemporary routine isn't All Angst All the Time.

Len calls it poignant and touching. Bruno loved it because Nick sold the intensity of his feelings. He says Nick does have some balance issues he needs to iron out. Carrie Ann says it was beautifully choreographed to show off Nick's body and abilities.

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

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas

Viennese waltz

Lindsey's most memorable year was the year her dad died. He was a freelance writer until Lindsey needed violin lessons, when he became a teacher to earn money for her lessons. Last year he was diagnosed with cancer and he slowly deteriorated over months.

Lindsey's dad's signature look was wearing a hat and scarf, so Mark's donned both to evoke that. The song they're dancing to is lovely and sweet and everything about this number matches that — the choreography, the staging, the costuming. During a couple of close-ups, it's obvious Lindsey is fighting back tears. At the end of the routine, Mark goes behind a scrim so that Lindsey is dancing with his silhouette. Lindsey is really crying at the end, and I love how tender Tom is with her.

Bruno says she was dancing with her soul. Carrie Ann is fighting back the tears, too. She calls it a wonderful tribute. Len says it had a lovely floating quality and reminded him of a Banksy painting. (I looked it up and I think he means the “Girl with a Balloon” piece. Nice connection, old man. You've still got your eyes and ears open.) Len stops, tells himself not to say it, then says that he would've liked a little more Viennese waltz content.

Tom tells us that the hat and scarf Mark are wearing are not from the wardrobe department but are her dad's actual hat and scarf. Lindsey adds that Mark even kind of looks like him. Man. I don't know how she managed to dance at all. I'd have been sobbing from the minute Mark walked up in those.

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

Derek Fisher and Sharna Burgess

Jazz

Derek's most memorable year was 2007 because his infant daughter had cancer of the eye. He and his wife had to decide whether to try to save her eye or go with the more traditional treatment of removing the eye altogether. He chose to walk away from the remaining three years of his contract (worth $20 million) to help care for her during her treatment. The surgery worked and she's doing great now.

They're dancing to one of my favorite songs, Marvin Gaye's "Move On Up." The band is having fun with this one, starting it out down-tempo, kicking it up into its usual high tempo, throwing in a jazzy drum solo in the middle. And I'm really, really loving Sharna's choreography.

At the end of the routine, Derek goes over to his daughter in the audience and gives her the sunflower he was using as a prop in the dance.

Carrie Ann loved the celebratory nature of the dance but says some of their side by side moves weren't in sync. Len says it was danced with energy, great style and rhythm. Bruno calls it an "uplifting treat."

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

Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold

Contemporary

Jordan's most memorable year was 2005, when his biological grandparents adopted him officially. He, of course, now calls them Mom and Dad. His biological mother was only 16 when he was born and had substance abuse issues that prevented her from being an adequate parent.

It's another contemporary routine. There's a really interesting lift right before the end that's not like anything I've seen before on this show. I can't even begin to describe it, so you'll just have to find the clip online and check it out. It turns out they've been dancing to a live performance of the song ("Take Me Home") by its original artists Us the Duo.

Len saw Jordan sing the national anthem at the St. Louis Rams game Sunday and says Jordan was fantastic. He says the dance tonight was fantastic, too. Bruno calls it exquisitely flawless and adds that he danced it with open hearted sincerity. Carrie Ann repeats that it was exquisite.

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

Sasha Pieterse and Gleb Savchenko

Foxtrot

Sasha's most memorable year was 2016 because “Pretty Little Liars” ended. She was 12 when she did the pilot and grew up on the show. Her issues with polycystic ovary syndrome and weight gain meant she was losing out on jobs because Hollywood sucks. But now that she's started treatment for her health issues and she's engaged, her life is turning a corner.

The dance doesn't match the music at all; I don't care how lyrically appropriate it is. Also, the male singer really struggles with the sustained note.

Bruno says Sasha is back on track with a proper foxtrot. Carrie Ann likes to see her moving around the floor and dancing through the space. She also likes the storytelling. Len calls it lovely and well done.

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

Vanessa Lachey and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Rumba

Vanessa's proudest achievement is her family. She explains that when she was 8 years old, her mother left her on her father's doorstep and never came back for her. Vanessa's was born after only 29 weeks of gestation. Nick talks about how helpless he felt. She says it was one of Nick's songs, "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" that got them through a lot of the tough times.

They've done something with the costuming and lighting that makes Vanessa's legs glow an almost iridescent yellow throughout the dance and I find it very, very distracting.

Carrie Ann says rumba is the woman's dance and it was excellent for Vanessa. She points out that Vanessa lost her balance on an early turn but that it worked within the context of the storytelling when she had to dig deep and recover. Len says Maks knows what makes the old judge happy and then spouts off a list of technical terms relating to rumba choreography. Bruno calls it romantic and classic.

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

Drew Scott and Emma Slater

Jive

Drew's most memorable year was 2007. He and his brother Jonathan had built up a real estate business but his real dream was to be an actor. He put the real estate business aside and moved to Vancouver (the Hollywood of Canada) and put everything he had into pursuing acting. Then in 2007 he had the epiphany to combine his real estate expertise and television and the Property Brothers were born.

They're dancing to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" and Drew is wearing a royal blue satin tuxedo. He's a tall guy, so that's a LOT of blue satin. For the last bit, his brother Jonathan joins them onstage for some of the side-by-side jive steps. It's a cute gimmick.

Len says nothing is going to stop Drew now because he's on a roll. He says it was his best dance so far. Bruno says it was a full-on jive with a feel-good factor. Carrie Ann refers to Jonathan as a secret weapon. She loved it but she wants Drew to fix his hands for the future. She says he's "pronging" his hands.

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

Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy

Foxtrot

Tom points out that Val is clean-shaven now. He looks so much better. Take heed, young men with strong jawlines: Beards are best for men that have something they need to hide.

Victoria says she can't pinpoint a most memorable year, but the entire period of her acute illness. She was 11 when two incredibly rare neurological conditions began attacking both her brain and her spinal cord. She had seizures and was eventually in a coma. She has a memory of being in a coma and hearing the doctor tell her parents she was going to die. In 2010, she began to get movement back everywhere but her legs. Val has her wheelchair in the rehearsal space and asks her if she's gotten back in it since she regained her ability to walk. She says no, "Now that I can stand, I don't like to sit."

So, of course, the dance starts with her sitting in the chair on stage, doing some choreography with Val in it and then coming out of it to dance. It's a really well danced dance, and at the end she's sobbing.

Bruno says what Victoria has achieved is beyond belief and her determination is amazing. Carrie Ann says the dancing in the wheelchair was beautiful and praises Victoria for giving awareness for people who do perform ballroom dance in wheelchairs. Len calls her inspirational.

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

Elimination

The first couple in jeopardy are Nick & Peta. Joining them in jeopardy are Derek & Sharna. Erin then announces that everybody else is safe. Shows what I know about predicting this show.

Derek and Sharna are announced as the eliminated couple. I liked Derek just fine, but I think we're, fairly early, at the point in the season where we're through the obvious cannon fodder and picking off the folks who won't make the finale. Derek is as good as any of them to be the first to go.

Scoreboard

Jordan & Lindsay: 29

Victoria & Val: 27

Lindsey & Mark: 26

Drew & Emma: 24

Frankie & Whitney: 24

Nikki & Artem: 24

Sasha & Gleb: 24

Terrell & Cheryl: 24

Vanessa & Maks: 24

Nick & Peta: 22

Predictions

That's a whole lot of people bunched up in the middle with a score of 24. I think Nick is likeable enough and the gimmick of him and Vanessa competing against each other will be sufficient to keep him around another week, maybe? I think Nikki's WWE fanbase is going to keep voting strong. And I think Vanessa is bubbly and winning and has the potential to go pretty far in terms of good scores from the judges. Drew's got a big following of his own and is funny and charming in rehearsal footage.

So I'm guessing we say goodbye to Terrell, Frankie or Sasha next week.

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