DWTS marks the midway point of the season with a mediocre episode
by Kim Krober
Dancing with the Stars needs to get its act together. This week's episode felt like another ho-hum filler sandwich in between '80s Night' and 'Halloween Villains Night' without an obvious theme.
The most exciting thing was a special performance by judge Derek Hough with his girlfriend Hayley Erbert, who used to be a member of the show's dance troupe. The couple danced a mesmerizing Paso Doble to "Uccen" by Taalbi Brothers. I've missed Derek's amazing choreography and unique flair. The competition has felt seriously lacking without him or Mark Ballas competing in recent years.
We've reached the midway mark of the season, and it's getting harder to say goodbye to the couples. Who goes next is really anyone's guess, and this is both exhilarating and frightening with so many of my favorites remaining on the ballroom floor. Let's take a look at how your favorites did on this sixth week of competition:
Johnny Weir & Britt Stewart, Samba
Coming off the heady aroma of a couple of 10s from last week, Johnny and Britt attacked their Samba set to "On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull. Derek noted a few misses, but said it was a great way to start the show. Bruno loved the costumes but thought it lacked some of the hip action and styling of the Samba. Carrie Ann didn't think it was his best dance, but she enjoyed watching it. I would probably agree with the judges. It lacked a little sizzle.
Nev Schulman & Jenna Johnson, Jazz
Nev and Jenna got to Jazz it up this week with a fun, spirited routine to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations." Bruno told them they were deliciously bonkers with the feeling of a rave, but it worked. Carrie Ann thought it was amazing with every Jazz step thrown in, while Derek noted it was clean and in sync. Funky good!
Monica Aldama & Val Chmerkovskiy, Rumba
I'm always fascinated by love stories in which people break up and then get back together because they realize they miss their soul mate. Monica and Val's Rumba to "Have I Told You Lately" by Rod Stewart was dedicated to Monica's husband Chris, whom she divorced and remarried. Carrie Ann was wowed by watching her come into her own with refined, sensual, and radiant movements. Derek complimented her softness and impressive balance, saying he loved the story of her Rumba. Bruno called it a classic Rumba with inspired lines and shapes.
Skai Jackson & Alan Bersten, Cha-Cha
Skai and Alan danced a Cha-Cha to "Say So" by Dojo Cat and Nicki Minaj. I'd never heard this song, but I enjoyed their hypnotic rhythm and costumes. Derek commended her for carrying on despite some mistakes, saying she had some great Cha-Cha moments. Bruno loved the K-Pop look and praised her for handling challenging choreography the best she could. Carrie Ann said she came back stronger than ever and would give her a 10 for her recoveries.
Vernon Davis & Peta Murgatroyd, Cha-Cha
I knew Peta looked like she was in pain last week - I read she pulled her neck and had to have therapy. However, you couldn't tell during the couple's Cha-Cha set to Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" this week. Bruno loved the colorfulness and groove, but said Vernon needs to learn to use the balls of his feet. Carrie Ann enjoys watching him because he's so comfortable and at ease on the dance floor. Derek said he would give him a 10 for joy, but from a technical and timing standpoint, he's still having issues. I thought Vernon looked a lot less stiff and more in his element, but was it too little too late? I'd hate to see him go out on such a high note.
Nelly & Daniella Karagach, Viennese Waltz
Nelly brought out his softer (and country!) side for a gorgeous Viennese Waltz set to Tim McGraw's "Humble and Kind." Carrie Ann was at a loss for words, finally saying she loved seeing his many layers and beautiful storytelling. Derek loved the masculine softness but cautioned him about watching his frame. Bruno called him charming and endearing, saying he was turning into a swan before his very eyes. It made me love watching Nelly even more!
Jeannie Mai & Brandon Armstrong, Rumba
Jeannie and Brandon's Rumba to Des'ree's "You Gotta Be" was dizzying and surprising. Derek admired its sensuality, complimenting her legwork. Bruno said it was right up his alley with a smoldering passion. Carrie Ann called her stunning and sexy, praising her for dancing at her powerful edge, which she noted is difficult for a woman.
AJ McLean & Cheryl Burke, Samba
AJ and Cheryl looked muy caliente during their Samba set to "Mi Gente" by J Balvin and Willy William. Bruno told him to just do it and not be sorry for dominating Cheryl, saying he always delivers with a strong performance. Carrie Ann called it a breakthrough. Derek said, "when in doubt, shake it out," telling AJ it was really fun and easy to watch.
Chrishell Stause & Gleb Savchenko, Contemporary
It was a good week for a Contemporary for Chrishell and Gleb, as this type of dance usually elevates scores. Set to "Stars" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, it was a moving tribute to her parents who both passed away in the past year. Carrie Ann could tell she poured her heart and soul into the dance, but she told her to be careful about pointing her toes. Derek commended her for bringing joy and light to the dance floor every week despite her challenging year. Bruno called it emotionally engaging and irresistible because of its rawness. She earned her highest score from the judges (a trio of 8's) and made me change my number of votes I was casting for her. Powerful peak at the right time.
Kaitlyn Bristowe & Artem Chigvintsev, Samba
Kaitlyn and Artem's Samba to "Sorry" by Justin Bieber was probably one of her strongest performances to date, but I'm sorry to say it lacked sizzle. Derek thought it was fantastic with proper Samba hip action but told her to work on her attack. Bruno believes in her, calling it a first-class Samba. Carrie Ann felt it was well-executed in its precision and technicality, but it failed to impress her. She deserved the high judges' scores, but it was kinda boring to watch.
Justina Machado & Sasha Farber, Viennese Waltz
"She's Always a Woman to Me" by Billy Joel is one of my favorites. They saved the best for last with an ethereal Viennese Waltz from Justina and Sasha. Bruno thought it was a fantastic show, complimenting Justina for being light as a feather and filling the floor with joy. Carrie Ann called her elegant and refined, saying she's a beautiful dancer. Derek told her she's a very consistent performer, admiring the way she floats across the floor week after week.
Johnny & Brit and Vernon & Peta were revealed to be in jeopardy at this critical point in the competition. Derek voted to save Johnny & Brit. Carrie Ann voted to save Vernon & Peta based on this week's performance alone. Bruno cast the tie-breaking vote, choosing to save Johnny & Brit. Vernon may have had a good week, but I 100% think the judges made the right decision. How did your favorites fare this week?
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8:00 PM on ABC.