Where were YOU the day that three Olympians were in jeopardy (though not necessarily in the bottom two)? I’ll always remember: I was on the couch. I’m surprised there wasn’t a breaking news ticker on the bottom of the screen to accompany Tom and Erin’s repeated mentions of this American Icon Night tragedy. “OLYMPIANS AT RISK; NATION SHEDS LONE SPARKLY TEAR” would have worked. Or maybe “MAKS AND MERYL IN JEOPARDY; WTF” on a continuous loop. And, finally: “CHARLIE AND SHARNA OUT BEFORE D.J. TANNER ARE YOU #$%^ING KIDDING ME?!”
Charlie White and Sharna Burgess have shockingly been knocked out of the finals, while Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Amy Purdy and Derek Hough were announced as “in jeopardy.” (The distinction is meaningless, as we don’t know the actual ranking, but still, it’s rather ominous!) Meanwhile, James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd and Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas sailed through under the bedazzled “Safe” umbrella typically reserved for Amy and Meryl. ’Twas a ballroom shakeup for the ages! The comfort of my sequined, fringed, feathered, and gem-encrusted blanket was nowhere near enough.
I kept hoping that, in honor of guest judge Kenny Ortega, a flood of muse-dancers and darting rays of neon light would sweep through the Rectagon and transport us to Xanadu, a sister orb of the currently gloomy Planet Mirrorballus. Instead, we didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye to Charlie and Sharna with a sentimental clip show. My TV is used to me screaming “Show me the package!”; it’s just usually uttered in a different context involving the pants of Our Pros. Ooh, and in an ideal world, “The Pants of Our Pros” would be coming soon to Skinemax.
The worst part of Charlie’s elimination is that this is the week I finally started LOVING him. That ice dancing solo at the end of “New York, New York” was just about the best foxtrot I’ve ever seen, plus they showed the cutest/strangest footage humanly possible of Charlie giving himself a pep talk into the rehearsal studio mirror. “Annnnnd now everyone knows I’m crazy,” he mumbled. Oh, sir, I’m so glad we do! “More money, more problems” forever.
Will the judges please reveal the finalists’ scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhh-ba!
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 40/40 jive + 40/40 Viennese waltz = 80/80 Back on top! A pesky mic pack and the intense pressure of choreographing above-and-beyond routines for “the best dancer on the show” both made a valiant effort to suck the life out of Teddy Bearkovskiy, but NO WAY, said the magical Zen-like powers within Meryl Davis’ eyes. Nice try, forces of evil! A for effort. (If you were Candace Cameron Bure, that A for effort would translate into 10s.) Their partnership is so magical I can’t even stand it, and tonight they won me over even more by pairing his turquoise jacket with her coral blouse. These two opposite ends of the color wheel have blended into the ballroom version of dynamite (a mirrorball in flames?). I love how Maks’ disdain for the rigamarole of the show is so easily and suddenly masked at various key moments by the heightened sense of goofiness that Meryl brings out in him. For example: Has dancing adorably DURING the scores ever been a thing? Meryl and Maks have now made it their signature thing — just in time for the finals.
Maks’ transition from Elvis Impersonator With Much Better Hair to Western Hunk in Suspenders was as smooth and lively as their second-round dance, the Viennese Waltz. I honestly cannot imagine a couple better-suited to drape themselves in denim (not to mention the other 50% of Meryl was WHITE FEATHERS) for a ballroom standard. This would work on precisely zero other humans. But on M&M? More magic. The dance ended far too soon, before we could even register that they were “Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor swept away in Texas.” Carrie Ann raved about Meryl’s mid-dance power surge until things got quasi-sexual: “It’s something only athletes can do…The whole room started coming into you and coming into you…a beautiful explosion!” I don’t usually say this about Carrie Ann, but honey? Even Bruno Tonioli could not have scripted that shlock any better.
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: 39/40 quickstep + 39/40 jazz = 78/80 Amy apparently has the almighty Oprah on her side — a mighty strong twist to be sure, but I hardly buy that Oprah has been “watching and rooting and actually dialing the number to vote.” That’s just way too many verbs. I might have believed “watching.” But dialing her own phone? Preposterous. Anyway, Amy wore “running legs” in lieu of her typical wooden prosthetics, so she could actually bounce off the ground during tonight’s quickstep. Which begs the question: Why, then, are these not her permanent dancing legs? I’d personally rather see Amy “travel” in more routines than stay in one place due to the societal pressure of having to wear heels. Lady problems!
Len only docked them one point for Amy’s posture in the quickstep, and later Carrie Ann delivered the severe blow of the 9 paddle following Amy and Derek’s “let’s table this” jazz routine due to a momentary lack of synchronicity. Wait, what?! Have I mistaken “Dancing With the Stars” for “So You Think You Can Sit on a Table”? Their jazz number was cool-looking for sure, but it was hardly in the same class as other 'True 10’ routines this season. “When you slid down, it was one of those moments you’ll never forget,” said Carrie Ann, blowing my mind because I had just been thinking that Amy's slide down the table was, like, the ONE move I could have done perfectly in this dance. And I am a mere blob. Amy is a “Dancing With the Stars” finalist! Have these people ever heard of a (ballroom) standard?
James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd: 40/40 cha cha cha + 36/40 rumba = 76/80 James’ American Icon L.A. Reid has a beard now — the face kind. Meanwhile, Mark Ballas, the inventor of black and white spats, must’ve been fuming during James and Peta’s Michael Jackson homage. I thought this worked about as well as it could have. No one could accuse James of taking the copycatting too far, because Michael Jackson wouldn’t have been caught dead dancing the cha cha cha. But that’s also why this dance played out as pretty weird. There’s something so tragic about yet another “DWTS” contestant pretending to be Michael Jackson just because the show got the rights to a new song. “It’s a level of pressure that’s kind of freaking me out,” said James. “I want to do it justice.” Or you could just not do it! There’s always that option. But not, I suppose, on American Icon Night.
I much preferred James and Peta’s rumba, which is right up there with Meryl and Maks’ as the best rumba of the season. All those glowing yellow lights arranged in two half-moons in the background, combined with Peta’s gilded country-western fringe — a marvel! — really distracted from the fact that they were dancing the rumba. When I usually think of the rumba, I first snooze for the following nine minutes, then wake up and picture too-dim lighting and toilet paper costumes. This “Islands in the Stream” rumba was nothing of the sort. I did notice James’ “little bit of a weird hand,” as Carrie Ann eloquently put it, but that’s something he can likely fix by next week. Peta, by contrast, creates such amazing shapes with her arms and she’s such an exquisite living figurine in general that I sometimes forget she even has a partner. Eh, James is pleasant, but I still can’t believe he and Candace are staying over Charlie!
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: 34/40 Viennese waltz + 38/40 jazz = 72/80 Candace spoke to her American Icon, some Bible lady who wants publicity for her bestselling books, and concluded on her own (but with the help of God #footsteps #sparklebarf) that “I’m really performing for an audience of one, and that’s for God.” WRONG. His name is DANCMSTR Len Goodman and you shall honor Him…or else!
Well, or else nothing. Candace continues to earn high marks for stilted routines. Tonight’s Viennese Waltz was notable only for Candace’s missed steps, Mark disappearing into the smoky haze of ballroom heaven (I think it was supposed to be a train station, but same diff), and a loving shot of Candace’s “Full House” star (and future Sparkalien?) Lori Loughlin after the music stopped. Guest judge Kenny Ortega raved about her determination and spirit: “You got a little lost, but I credit you.” Excuse me? That is some Week 2 B.S. right there. Also amateur hour: Mark basically admitted to feeding Candace the steps during the dance.
It’s too bad Mark couldn’t infuse Candace with “darkness” and “attitude,” both of which you’re gonna need by the leotard-ful if you’re gonna take on Janet Jackson’s “Nasty.” Mark, we know you love the Jacksons and felt left out, but this was just cruel. How in the heck did the judges give 10s to this mess officially labeled “jazz”? It was slow, wooden, and painfully dorky. “Like Janet channeling Liza Minnelli!” cried Bruno as his pants went up in flames.
Are you as devastated about Charlie as I am? Is a Meryl and Maks win a sure thing now that she’ll get Charlie’s viewer votes and is undoubtedly the best dancer? And will you allow Louis Van Intensité to wiggle into your living room this summer with his windshield wipers via his new line of workout videos? It could be more invigorating than going outside! Said the blob.
Be sure and check out my midseason Q&A with Our Host Tom Bergeron on THR.com.
Keep up with Annie on Twitter @AnnieBarrett