‘Dancing With the Stars’ Recap: D.J. Freestyles


The Deej and Mark Ballas strike one of many stilted poses.

Following Monday’s Season 18 Finals, shirtless tuxedoed man James Maslow and his partner Peta Murgatroyd have been eliminated, despite earning near-perfect scores on their post-apocalyptic freestyle sponsored by Victoria’s Secret (The Secret Is She’s On Acid) and a tango “tighter than a trumpeter’s cheeks” (you know head judge Len Goodman just misses Impeccably Manicured Trumpeter from the Harold Wheeler Band, as do we all). James’ exit isn’t too shocking as he never quite distinguished himself as a frontrunner. He kept up like a champ, but he was never going to win. I think the bigger surprise is that middling hoofer TV’s D.J. Tanner has somehow made it to the finale.

James leaves behind a significant trail of now-gooey eye makeup, plus finalists Amy Purdy and Derek Hough, Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas, who will compete for the COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY during Tuesday’s finale. He made a solid and shimmering effort, but James the Big Time Rusher could not overcome Candace the faithful try-hard. Nickelodeon may be many things, but it is not more powerful than God. Now you know for sure. 

Here’s how the rest of the judges’ leaderboard shook out in a smattering of sparkles… 

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ba! 

Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 30/30 Argentine tango + 30/30 freestyle = 60/60 “I don’t need you to be better,” Teddy Bearkovskiy told his new “friend.” “I just need you to be you, and I’ll be better.” Things are looking up: Maks’ few months of intense psychological warfare against himself are almost complete, and the winner will undoubtedly be Maks. My only complaint re: their “sumptuously seductive” Argentine tango is that I wanted to see Meryl’s legs work their fluttery magic, but they were cruelly shrouded by her billowing red skirt-pants. No more skirt-pants! I would happily take fringed pants over these, and fringed pants are insane. 

Both Meryl and Maks’ A.T. and their freestyle were flooded by the motif I love the most from them — she's executing some glorious move that’s nearly inconceivable in itself, while he’s there to catch or support her… but his huge, fierce, teddy bear body pretends it’s no effort whatsoever! Case in point: Meryl flying backwards into Maks' arms during the tango, or him barely holding her foot as she back-bended to the floor during their lyrical freestyle. He’s like a smoothly gliding sexual force field that doesn’t even need to whisper “I’m latching onto you” because she gets it and she’s soooo into it and they’re DANCING THROUGH THEIR SOULS. No need for a James-Peta-esque open-mouth smooch at the end of their freestyle; all Maks and Meryl needed to do was “Stand, yeah? And that’ll be more powerful than anything.” Especially once her nails gently caressed the nape of his neck. This was not their first time at that rodeo.

Bruno Tonioli said Meryl and Maks’ season-long story was “almost like watching the dance version of a concept album.” Hey, Crazy: YES. I agree. The concept is that they’re gonna get married, at Carrie Ann’s and basically the entire viewing audience’s request. The album, a set of orchestral maneuvers by ye olde Harold Wheeler Band, shall be called “Count Maksula and the Ice Queen With Needless Pants.” Or for short, “M&M.” And they’re gonna Beyoncé that sh*t and release impeccably costumed dance videos for each song. Hashtag #LoseThePants. Boom. Done. Pre-ordered. I love music. 

Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: 30/30 salsa + 29/30 freestyle = 59/60 I’m ashamed to admit that the people I kept thinking were John Waters and Lesley Ann Warren (?!) (please be contestants) in the audience were actually… Amy’s parents! Good ol’ Stephen and Sheri. I should’ve recognized them from the home footage that had lurched me into hearty sobs a few weeks ago. For Amy and Derek’s samba, he went sparkly black jacket — respectable — and she went full-on red-fringed monster suit. As mentioned before, fringed pants are always insane, but the creature-like nature of Amy's costume allowed for plenty of visual hip action dramatics, and I had to admire her commitment to what Bruno called “flashy, exhilarating flamboyance.”

Can a garment be called a onesie if it only has one shoulder? And should it count as full-bodied animal fur if hair extensions are also involved? These were my most pressing queries during their crisp romp throughout a small portion of the floor. I noticed with both delight and horror that this time, the Butt Bongo made a more thunderous plea than the Crotch Bob inside Derek’s beautiful mind.

Their contemporary freestyle, at first mostly lifts and floor work, exploded into a dazzling P!nk concert at the end as Amy FLEW UP TO THE MIRRORBALL, then whirled around and around while clinging to a suspended rope of dreams. “Talk about flying high. You are in orbit tonight!” Bruno seized. Carrie Ann described a “Come to God” moment through the tears, but mean old Len “didn’t think the rope was necessary, totally.” Booooooo. Whatever, Goodman! Perhaps Len will overcome this glaring mental obstacle and defy his own limitations by dangling himself within anti-gravity during the finale. Based on imagination alone, I’ll give his prospected airborne performance a 7. “Seh-vehhhhhhhn!”

Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: 27/30 quickstep + 24/30 freestyle = 51/60 Ahem. Speaking of 7s. Candace, Mark, and especially Candace’s daughter couldn’t believe the judges dared to dip lower than a 9 on a Finals night — but indeed, all three of them scurried frantically to find their dusty 8 paddles after this pair’s jerky and over-ambitious liquid-gold freestyle, set to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat.” Any fan of the 2000 cinematic masterpiece "Center Stage" knows that Candace Cameron is no Jody Sawyer, not by a long shot, but I still think Mark could’ve directly spoofed the final dance number in that movie, set to the same song. At least then the costumes would have been less absurd. Jody did have poor turnout after all. And similarly, Candace has found herself in the unexpected role as a principal dancer in the prestigious Sparkle-Alien Company (SAC) on Planet Mirrorballus. “I love a disco diva, and you went for it with gusto,” cried Bruno. “Girls just want to have fun, what the hell, it’s the finale!” So essentially he said: nothing? Then he agreed with Carrie Ann that Candace had lost the beat. 

I didn’t see much rhythm in their first dance, the quickstep, either — but my struggle in watching this one probably stemmed from my extreme displeasure in knowing how badly people are injured while they’re just blithely dancing their lives away, because they’re nuts! Mark’s rotator cuff had been ground to a thin film of glitter after some tempestuous rehearsals in which Candace kept forgetting the steps and knocking him around with her legs. Gee, maybe don’t do cartwheel lifts if that’s happening and you’re in pain, Marky Mark? Stress has taken its toll on this partnership big-time. At one point, Candace broke down and ran away after Mark forcefully pushed her chin where it needed to be for the quickstep. But previously in the package, Candace had swatted furiously at Mark like he was a swarm of mean-spirited bees scheming to cloak her in a hideous honey-colored leotard. (Which turned out to be true, but the swats occurred right after he’d paid her a compliment!) 

I did love, however, that Candace’s escape plan involved her disappearing into the rehearsal studio wall. We haven’t seen that hidden mirror-door nearly enough in season 18. Hello, old gem friend. You’re the best. 

Who will win: the Olympian, the Olympian, or the Deej? Remember, Tuesday’s finale starts an hour later — it’s 9-11 p.m. ET on ABC.

Don’t miss my Q&A with departing “DWTS” boss Conrad Green on THR.com

Keep up with Annie on Twitter: @AnnieBarrett


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