OMG, omg, omg, what happened to Derek?! Is he all right? Can he perform? And if he’s not able to, can Nastia carry on without him?
Those were the major questions swirling around “Dancing With the Stars” for the past week. That’s because pro dancer extraordinaire and fan favorite Derek Hough took a not-so-nimble spill during a rehearsal for the “DWTS” 10th anniversary special.
He posted about his fall immediately on social media, saying that he’d had a run-in of sorts with “a light and some stairs,” which makes it sound like a fairly pedestrian accident. See? Professional ballroom dancers – they’re just like us!
He later clarified to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying he stubbed his toe on a light fixture and, on his hasty way to get ice for the first injury, he “rolled” his other ankle, causing more serious damage.
Poor Derek racked up trauma that included a broken toe, a doubly sprained ankle, bone bruises and other related owies. That put him on the “DWTS” sidelines for days, and took him out of his New York stage job, a Radio City Music Hall gig with the Rockettes. By Monday’s “GMA” appearance, he could “wobble around,” but not dance, he said, even though he’d shed his crutches.
His partner, former Olympian Nastia Liukin, practiced with another pro, Sasha Farber, while Derek tried to do some speedy rehab magic. Will it bring him back to finish the contest? That’s yet to be determined, though his live update during the show included the phrase “ahead of schedule.”
But a bigger shock than Derek’s tumble was the celebrity sent packing, not from leaderboard scores but obviously from lack of support by the voting fans. Willow Shields, the youngest-ever “DWTS” contestant at 14, went home. Travesty!
Better news: Having a new partner didn’t slow Nastia down. She and Sasha snagged the highest scores of the night, earning immunity from elimination. Next week: double elimination during the first Tuesday night results show.
Couples without immunity – that would be everyone else – had to dance it off to earn a few extra points from the judges. Willow won her salsa face-off with Riker, Noah and Robert tied in their cha cha challenge, with head judge Len’s vote breaking the stalemate. Advantage Noah. And in the most lopsided match-up of the night, Rumer killed it against Chris in the foxtrot.
On to the breakdown, in chronological order.
It was “Eras Night,” where the remaining seven couples performed different dance styles to songs from different (mostly modern) time periods. No one busted out a minuet, for instance, but Willow pulled the long straw with a “futuristic jazz” number. Remember her dystopian “Hunger Games” contemporary dance that nabbed a near-perfect score a few weeks back? This was definitely in her wheelhouse, making the outcome even tougher to bear.
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker
First, a truism: no other guy in the contest could’ve done what Riker did with that 1920s-style, baseball-themed quickstep. Fancy footwork! Next: Len gave his first 10 of the season. Home run! So, it was a good start to the night and a tough-to-dis effort for Riker, who was determined to get that top score out of Len “Crankypants” Goodman. The other three judges heaped praise, with a few nitpicky form cues tossed in, opting for 9s. Bruno thought it had a “Field of Dreams” quality with “excellent” content and Carrie Ann noted that Riker continues to show “new sides” of himself as a performer. Score: 37
Chris Soules and Witney Carson
Prince Farmer, who cannot clap in time to music, somehow remains in this competition. Witney said during their rehearsal video that she wanted to pump lots of personality into their ‘40s foxtrot. Well, at least she has some. Honestly, she couldn’t be cuter and he couldn’t be a stiffer prop for their sailor-and-beautiful-dame routine. Julianne, for some inexplicable reason, thought it was “awesome,” and Bruno declared that he’s turning “into a dancer,” with “wonderful fluidity,” and improvement week on week. Carrie Ann named him the underdog with momentum who’s “the most exciting one to watch.” Wha? Len said he needs polish in his holds. Score: 31
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy
Rumer’s famous dad, Bruce Willis, dropped by rehearsals and said he’d likely not be a future “DWTS” contestant. Was anyone holding out hope for that? He said he loves to see how happy his daughter is when she performs, beaming and tearing up like a truly proud pop. And Rumer pushed through a bouncy ‘60s jive, even though Val had nearly given her whiplash on Sunday during practice. Bruno thought it was a slice of Americana, and Len said it had flair. Carrie Ann deemed it a tad “safe,” and Julianne admitted that the judges are nagging Rumer over tiny style points and technique issues. Score: 35. Adjusted score: 37
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess
Noah got his swagger on! Go, pimp daddy! Maybe it was the pep talk from double-amputee Amy Purdy, season 18 runner-up, who dropped by his rehearsal. Purdy coached him to play down his physical limitations and amp up the showmanship. Noah said he was still having trouble shedding his own strait-laced skin and getting into character. But he broke through that barrier with a superfly ‘70s jazz number that Sharna smartly choreographed to take advantage of the movements he could reliably crush. Carrie Ann nearly lost her mind (and tossed out a perfect 10). Was it the Huggy Bear faux-fur coat? She thought the number was “insane” and couldn’t stop babbling incoherently as the in-studio audience went fairly wild. Len thought it was “strong and clean,” while Julianne said it was a new high on the fun scale for her as a judge. Bruno called him a badass. Score: 36 (plus two points for the dance off). Adjusted total: 38
Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson
They were well aware of their last-place spot on the leaderboard, but Robert and Kym didn’t seem to be ready to give up, choosing a languid, super sexy ‘80s Argentine tango. Robert promised during the pre-show video that he had a new lease on life in the contest, and Kym said people shouldn’t underestimate them. Julianne said his timing was so much better this week, and Len said Robert was at a peak, not a valley, in his roller-coaster ride on the show. Carrie Ann, like most everyone paying attention, noted the chemistry between the partners, but wondered if Kym was “so much woman” that Robert got distracted. Host Tom Bergeron joked that for Robert it was the Argentine tango version of “Squirrel!” That should become a recurring joke for the series, no matter who stays or goes. Score: 31.
Nastia Liukin and Sasha Farber
Derek hobbled to practice and choreographed the modern Charleston for Nastia and Sasha, writing himself into the number, where he mostly stayed sitting but still added some background brightness and energy. He just can’t stay away, that workaholic. Julianne said they killed the subway-themed dance, and Bruno called it a revelation because it was an unexpected, completely repackaged Charleston. Carrie Ann, who’d cautioned Nastia previously about falling back on gymnastics, said she was thrilled to see so much flip-free dancing. Both she and Bruno handed out 10s. Score: 38 (plus three bonus points for their immunity). Adjusted score: 41
Willow Shields and Mark Ballas
What’s futuristic jazz, anyway? How about ninjazz? Mark, best known and sometimes maligned for his production-heavy routines, made up a ninja-centric number where everybody was kung fu fighting. The best part: those aerial stunts that weren’t actually aerial. Carrie Ann spoke a lot of Japanese in her critique, which probably meant that she liked it, but there were no subtitles so it’s hard to say. Julianne thought it was intricate, and Len called Mark’s mind “fertile and creative.” Bruno said something about a crouching tiger. It may not have proved to be everyone's cup of oolong tea, but it had some artistry to it. Sorry to say, but her fans let her down. Where were you, Army of Katniss? The judges did their part. Score: 37 (plus 2 from the dance off). Adjusted total: 39
I’ll be recapping Tuesday night’s 10th-anniversary special, so check back for all the details on the greatest-hits show.