“Dancing with the Stars” 2016 resumed April 18 on ABC with the always-intriguing Switch Up Night, which challenged the nine remaining celebrities to perform alongside a brand new pro partner. Who brought country to the ballroom and who rose to the top of the judges’ leader board with the season’s first perfect 10?
The two-hour episode began in style with a group number set to the Soup Dragons’ “I’m Free” that featured the remaining cast members. “DWTS” hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews then introduced the switched-up pairs and guest judge Maksim Chmerkovskiy –who vowed to be “just” in judgment– and the action began in earnest.
Up first to do their thang tango-style were Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris and “Dancing with the Stars” season 19 pro champ (and Switch Up Night critic) Witney Carson. Wanya is an awesome dancer. No one else in the competition hits beats like he does and he’s so sharp and precise that it’s hard not to shout “yes! Yes!” whenever he performs. But there was something a little off about his tango. It’s almost like it was too precise.
Len Goodman declared that Wanya had “hit turbulent waters.” He thought it was too “hectic” and had “too many moving parts.” (The audience booed heartily.) Maks said that based on Wanya’s previous performances, he’d “expected better” and that it felt like it was “a little bit falling apart.” Bruno Tonioli called it “torrid” and appreciated the difficulty, but wanted more moments of “stillness.” Wanya and Wit scored 30 out of 40 possible points (and Witney will no doubt continue to think the Switch Up “sucks”).
Second in the night’s dance order were “Real Housewife” Kim Fields and Keo Motsepe with a Viennese waltz. Kim may have spent her week missing usual partner Sasha Farber, but she looked elegant with Keo. She acts her dances beautifully and showed off some seriously lovely extensions.
The judges expressed widely varying views. Maks called it “beautiful” but complained that it wasn’t a Viennese waltz. Bruno likened it to “a series of beautiful pictures in a romantic novel” and thought they were “on the money” with their interpretation. Carrie Ann “loved it” and called it “delicious,” but Len sided with Maks, chiding the pair for a lack of movement in hold (and generally raging against almost everything about the performance). The result? Sixes from Len and Maks, and eights from Carrie Ann and Bruno, for a total of 28 points.
After the rumble at the panelists’ table died down, the third couple of the night –former NFL star Doug Flutie and Peta Murgatroyd– took their turn around the “DWTS” ballroom with a tango. The intensity of the tango looked good on Doug! It’s tough to say it, but Peta may well be a better match for him.
Bruno said it “wasn’t all gold but it wasn’t bad at all” and praised his “determination to get steps right,” but wanted him to work on his musicality. Carrie Ann loved Doug and Peta’s partnership, and Len called it Doug’s best dance to date. Doug and Peta –like Kim and Keo before– earned a 28.
The competitive action took a brief hiatus as up next, special guest James Bay performed his single “Let it Go” (no, not that “Let it Go”). Pros Jenna Johnson (of the “DWTS” troupe) and Artem Chigvintsev (who partnered Mischa Barton before she was sent packing a few weeks ago) danced an accompanying contemporary piece.
Moments later, the evening’s fourth new pair — “Good Morning America” weather anchor Ginger Zee and two-time mirror ball trophy winner Mark Ballas– hit the ballroom with a salsa. Ginger is so sassy and adorable that it’s almost impossible to not love her, and she and Mark made an adorable couple. It would be so fun to shrink them down, put them in a bag, and carry them around for on-the-spot entertainment.
Carrie Ann called her “liquid sunshine” and Len praised the effort as “fantastic.” Maks called it “totally your thing” and said he “loved it.” Bruno, finally, made it four for four with raves of his own. Ginger and Mark scored a 32. (Ginger’s usual partner Valentin “Russian love slave” Chmerkovskiy complained the mark was too low. He could be onto something.)
Moving forward, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (who apparently runs late a lot) and Karina Smirnoff opened the second hour with a cha cha cha. There was a certain sexy-factor to the dance and dude glittered like a mirror ball trophy from head to toe, but Antonio counted the music at times and it really took away from the overall effect. He needed more practice and polish.
Len called it “long on performance… [and] short on technique” and called the “bits of cha cha you did poor.” Ouch. Maks admitted that he’s a big fan of Antonio’s “shine” but knocked them for a lack of content. Bruno praised his “charisma” but noted that “at times, it looked like you were dancing in different time zones.” Carrie Ann, finally, agreed with everyone’s points, and called it “under-rehearsed.” Antonio and Karina earned a cringe-worthy 26 points.
Sixth in the dance order with what was arguably the most difficult assignment of the night were UFC fighter Paige VanZant and Sasha Farber, who were charged with performing the sultriest dance of all, the rumba. (Seriously, how hard would it be to do the dance of love with someone you just met, especially when you fight other people for a living? Awkward city.) Despite the challenges present, Paige brought the sexy and the elegant. It was a very pretty dance that somehow also managed to look strong and confident.
Maks called Paige “more than capable of winning the show” but knocked the content as lacking. Bruno purred “you’re sexy and I know it” and thought she’d “played it beautifully.” Carrie Ann loved on her “quality of movement” and called the pair’s partnership “spot on.” Len, however, wanted more emotion from Paige. (Wait, what?) He called it “acceptable but not exceptional.” (Len needs some tea and a crumpet stat.) Paige and Sasha earned a 31.
“DWTS” Switch Up Night continued on with season 22’s third and final NFL star, Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, and Lindsay Arnold, who performed a countrified jive. There were recognizable bits of jive tucked into their dance, but given the judges’ prior comments, stormy weather could be in their future.
Bruno called it “very creative” but called him out for screwing up in the beginning. Carrie Ann called Lindsay “very clever” for playing to Von’s style and putting together a “fun and lively” dance. Len praised him for giving it his all, and Maks gave Lindsay an 11 for performance value but wanted more overall. Fart-talk between his usual partner Wit and Linds followed before Von and Lindsay scored a 29.
“America’s Next Top Model” winner Nyle DiMarco and Sharna Burgess followed with a Viennese waltz. Nyle continues to be a virtuoso in the ballroom. He’s so elegant and expressive and his ability to interpret music –even without hearing it– is incredible.
Carrie Ann, near tears, paused before she said Nyle “take[s] her breath away.” Len likened the routine to “a total eclipse,” and Maks marveled over how it was possible for Nyle to dance so well. Bruno dubbed him “Mr. Dreamy” and said only someone with “a heart of granite” wouldn’t love his work. Nyle and Sharna earned a 37, including the season’s first perfect 10 — from Len, of all people! (Although there was a very awkward moment that saw Maks and Bruno hold up their 10-paddles as well even though they’d score the routine as a 9. Oops.)
With time almost up, just one pair remained, and “Fuller House” star Jodie Sweetin and Val closed out the “Dancing with the Stars” 2016 Switch Up Night with a paso doble. Jodie moved really well throughout the dance, but she had the weirdest look on her face most of the time. It was oddly distracting.
Len declared “last week it was lemonade, this week [it’s] champagne.” Maks called it “amazing” and cautioned America against letting Jodie become a Sabrina Bryan. Carrie Ann called it “by far your best dance.” Jodie and Val nabbed a 35.
Since it was an unusual night, no one was sent home, but one couple will be eliminated –based on viewer votes and judges’ point totals from both weeks four and five– when “Dancing with the Stars” 2016 continues on April 25. Topping the two-week leader board with a field-best total of 71 points are Nyle and Peta, while Ginger and Val are second with 68, and Paige and Mark sit in third with 67. With just 52 points –eight fewer than their nearest competitors– Doug and Karina will face the biggest challenge of all. So who will get the axe? Tune in and find out.