“Dancing with the Stars” loses one star and breaks out the 10 paddles for the first time this season, as the show squeezes the tears out of people on its emotionally manipulative tearjerker night.
Oh, I’m sorry – it’s “most memorable year” night.
As the stars parade out, I immediately notice that actor Billy Dee Williams and Emma are missing. Host Tom Bergeron says that the couple are backstage and not able to dance tonight.
Is Billy Dee done? Did NeNe improve? Is Meryl perfect? (Yes.) Put on your froggy slippers, cause here we go!
First up, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts serves as guest judge. In a Chmerkovskiy sandwich, Maks and Val escort her over to the judges’ desk, where she’s mashed with Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. She says she’d normally be home watching the show with her froggy slippers on. Cause that’s how you maintain your dignity.
First up, Nickelodeon star James Maslow and Peta with a jive. He picked 2007, when he overcame bullying in high school, because he was picked on for being a pudgy kid. Who hasn’t been bullied? Get over it, Adonis; you’re a millionaire now. (Is that bully talk?) In their routine, he’s a nerd, she’s the cheerleader. The sexy cheerleader. James backflips off the table they’re dancing on and nearly crushes his Kent Clark glasses. Jive-wise, he’s got it nailed down with great kicks and smooth hips. It’s honestly hard not to just watch Peta. Homerun performance. Len calls it his best dance, an earthquake. Robin calls it an inspiration for bullied kids. Bruno cays he can’t believe what James achieved in three weeks. Carrie Ann tells him to watch his claws. Cause who wasn’t thinking that? Tom says, “James and Peta will get their score – in this outfit, I’m sure you’ll be able to.” Cue Peta’s shocked expression. Score: 36 out of 40.
Sorry to ruin it west coast but I can't believe we got 4 9s!!! East coast call in or go online and vote right now! 18008683402— James Maslow (@jamesmaslow) April 1, 2014
The hosts remind us that fans can still vote for the partner switch-up, when their tweets will pair up the star with a different pro next week, before they go back to their original partners for week 5. Cue the fantasy sequence with team Drew/Derek. Not kidding – the show actually taped that dream sequence. Also, why does Erin Andrews keep standing with her legs crossed?
As for Billy Dee, we learn that he will not be able to dance, on doctor’s orders. Say it ain't so, Lando! So the 77-year-old is eliminated this week. Billy Dee says Emma was the partner he needed. He was going to do a dance dedicated to his grandchildren. But he can’t dance – so bring out the grandkids!
Reality star NeNe Leakes and Tony have a rumba. She dedicates her performance to the second time she married her husband. There’s a bed on the dance floor. That improvement I called for last week on NeNe to bring? Finally, she actually performs. She has believable spins and extensions. And it ends with her straddling Tony upside down on the bed. Robin calls NeNe the life of the party. Bruno calls her a Southern siren. After salivating over shirtless Tony, Carrie Ann says NeNe dance as large as her heart. Len enjoyed it. Score: 31.
Originally, I said NeNe would be out pretty quickly, but I may have to revamp. That kind of improvement is what fans eat up on this show, so she may have a shot. (But probably not.)
Before the next star is even introduced, I hear excited shrieks – the mating cry of the needy tween girl. Ugh, I suspect I know who might win the season by that alone.
Here comes singer Cody Simpson and Witney with a jazz. His most memorable year was 2010, when his family gave up everything for his musical dream and he signed his first record contract. It’s a jazz, so that means anything goes. But this is almost a freestyle with a splash of hip hop. Cody clearly committed this routine to memory and is utterly in his element. Btw, anyone notice the jellyfish backdrop? After Big Foot checks to make sure his “There’s Something About Mary” hair is in place, he gets his critique. Bruno calls it refreshing, so right here, so right now. Carrie Ann says she was eating it up – then makes a Dr. Hannibal Lecter fava beans/chianti noise. Not kidding. Len says it was a tight boy band routine. Robin loves his style. Score: 35.
Actress Danica McKellar and Val have a contemporary. She dances for the year her son was born, which happened soon after her grandmother died. Her message: for her son to always know she’ll be there even when she’s gone. Cue the tears and the votes. Danica does a beautiful, delicate, restrained performance. She looks at ease nailing complicated tricks and flips with controlled grace. She picks her son up and carries him to the judges’ table. Carrie Ann says grandma is smiling down on Danica. Len calls her butter on a hot muffin. Robin calls it a beautiful way to express a beautiful story. Bruno says, enchanting motion driven by emotion. Score: 36.
Comedian Drew Carey and Cheryl have a waltz. He dances for the year his son was born, but his health was terrible, so his son inspired him to turn it around. Drew’s dancing seems a bit stuffy, but we don’t really notice because he seems to be enjoying the routine and moves confidently. Len calls it charming, but Drew hit some wrong steps. Robin is blown away with his approach. Bruno likes the classic waltz. Carrie Ann says Drew felt more intense than ever. His little son asks Cheryl to teach him some moves, so she picks him up and spins him. Score: 30.
Ice dancer Meryl Davis and Maks have a foxtrot. She says her dance is about a 17 year skating journey, starting when she was 8. In her dance, Meryl handles a series of fast spins and makes it look like art. Again, she makes Maks look like the novice. This girl is like a racehorse: the gate opens and she just takes off full steam. Her finishing sweep is so flawless, she looks like a ballerina music box. Robin calls her beautiful to watch. Bruno calls her irresistibly romantic. Carrie Ann says she burst into tears because it was so beautiful. Len calls it sweet and delicious. Maks kisses Meryl’s hand, because she’s his master. Erin replays the intimate kissy moment from the dance and speechless Meryl laughs uncomfortably. Score: 39. Nearly perfect. That’s three 10s – the first of the season.
Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy and Derek have a contemporary. She picks 1999 when she lost both of legs to bacterial meningitis, and her father gave her a kidney. She says her dad gave her life twice. "If I can dance, I can walk. If I can walk, I can snowboard. And I can live a great life." Seriously, DWTS? Grab those tissues. Her routine represents her falling and her dad catching her. Her performance is rare, surreal, unique and precious. It’s inspiring. The crowd is thunderous. Robin looks decimated. Bruno says the dance was life-affirming, and transcended dance with a universal message of value, borderline miraculous. Carrie Ann says Amy reminds us what it is to be human at its fullest potential. Len says she touched his heart. Robin hopes Amy knows what she does for people who see her dance. Score: 36. No 10s?
Ice dancer Charlie White and Sharna have a jive. He picks the year he nearly won a gold medal. It starts off with him wearing Pharrell’s hat, cause they’re dancing to “Happy.” What a slick cat. He’s got the speed and agility to glide across the floor while doing fast footwork. Carrie Ann says the moves were fantastic. Len calls it happy hour. Robin calls it a celebration. Bruno says it was delightful, and that this is an extraordinary night for DWTS. Score: 36.
Last, actress Candace Cameron and Mark have a jive. She picks 1995 when “Full House” ended and she got engaged. “Full House” reunion! Lori Loughlin and Andrea Barber stop by practice. In the dance, Candace’s energy rocks and her choreography is full of little coy moments, but her kicks and flicks do not look that sharp for a jive next to Mark. She’s better with broader gestures and signature Elvis moves. Len calls it a proper ballroom jive. Robin says she’s wonderful to watch. Bruno calls her Ann-Margret in “Viva Las Vegas.” Carrie Ann says Candace needs to wear heels more. Score: 32.
So, who will go home next week? I suspect either NeNe or Drew. They not only go the lowest scores this round, but the other stars simply had mesmerizing dances tonight (but Candace was a little iffy). I’d typically say that Drew’s personality and fan base would carry him through, but he simply hasn’t demonstrated the lovable goofiness of Andy Dick or the charm of Bill Engvall, who were also so-so dancers. And NeNe really improved her game this week.
As for those switch-up results? I don’t know. I guess the new couples just practice in secret this week and we find out who got stuck with who when the show airs next week. Stay tuned.
Former pro dancer Julianne Hough returns to guest judge next week. The competition continues Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.