When America votes like this, the judges’ scores don’t even seem to matter — and neither does the quality of dance!
The most shocking result of the season left Tyra Banks, the judges and probably the audience at home speechless and stunned at the close of Queen Night on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Tyra was probably a little better off tongue-tied, as she was a bit of a mess throughout the night — at times her own fault and at times due to technical difficulties. If she wasn’t messing up the lead singer’s name or making the confusing tiebreaker rule even more confusing by messing up her explanation, it was technical problems.
This show has been on the air forever, and this may be one of its sloppier seasons. We’ve had terrible camera blocking and some other awkward moments, but tonight brought us the wrong package airing before one dance and a return from commercial with Tyra’s mic just not working at all … and it went on a long time!
At least the dancing was fantastic tonight, with all of the guys showing great improvement after some real surprises last week. All season long, it looked like the ladies were going to run away with it, but the guys are really stepping up and making it a competition. And after tonight’s result — well, we now believe anything can happen!
Tyra brought “Fredury Mercury” energy to the stage with her enthusiasm after an incredible dance performance by this season’s pros, showing how some of these moves should really look and really nailing their synchronicity — with eight of them hitting the floor. We love these reminders of what real pro-level dancing looks like before it’s time to judge how the amateurs are measuring up after two months.
Suni Lee was also feeling under the weather tonight, which we were told has nothing to do with Covid. But it was bad enough she had to run off the stage to vomit right after her first performance, leaving partner Sasha Farber to get their results alone. And she didn’t look much better when she took to the floor later in the Relay Round. Get better, Suni!
Next week brings the music of Janet Jackson and a double elimination, to reveal our Top 6. And this week brought “DWTS” embarrassment Sean Spicer back to the ballroom, though at least it was only in a brief cameo. Even that we wanted to score at about a 2 (yes, he was that bad on the show).
Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
Amanda Kloots & Alan Bersten
(Jive) What a great high-energy piece from start to finish — with even Alan getting faux tired about halfway through. Amanda was great in keeping up the momentum, but it could definitely use some polish to bring us the little hops and jumps and kicks that make the jive so much fun to watch. It almost looks like you’re dancing in a bounce house if done right. She brought a fantastic attitude to the piece, though, with a sense of lightness and fun in her facial presentation and body language, but she needed a bit of pep in her step.
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8, 9
Olivia Jade & Valentin Chmerkovskiy
(Quickstep) Olivia had about ninety percent of this footwork down solid, and she was very close on the rest of it. It was definitely a challenge to find that rhythm — so important in the quickstep — with those opening bars a cappella, but they slid into it effortlessly. Seeing her struggle in rehearsal only proved how hard she must have worked. Her confidence wasn’t always there, but there was so much great content in this piece, it’s impressive she got throughout with a smile on her face (and a great ending). Val didn’t go easy on her and she stepped up to the plate! Her frame was pretty solid throughout. and their turns were beautiful to watch. She really is coming into her own on this journey; we can see why she doesn’t want to go.
Judges Scores: 10, 8, 10, 10
Iman Shumpert & Daniella Karagach
(Paso Doble) Definitely feeling confident after last week’s perfect score, Iman was nevertheless not quite ready for this style. He wasn’t nearly as sharp as he needed to be, and he started dancing down again, not owning his full height. He hunched into Daniella a few times, and he was looking at the floor way too much, which pulled his frame down. He wasn’t hitting sharp with his arms, twists or much of anything. All of the steps were right where they needed to be, he just needed to own them and put that polish on them to make it a passable paso.
Judges Scores: 9, 7, 8, 8
Jimmie Allen & Emma Slater
(Viennese Waltz) Clearly a fan of the music, Jimmie once again sang along to the track, which didn’t really work with this particular style that works better when the connection you see is between the partners and not between one of them and the song. His lines were nice, though — the lines of that suit are incredible — and he had a nice rise and fall that you want to see. We didn’t quite see as much effortless grace in how they moved across the floor, there was something more mechanical in this when we were looking for more of a dreamy quality.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 10, 10
Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin & Witney Carson
(Foxtrot) Without Witney’s guidance, Mike has a tendency to creep ahead of the music a bit, which could just be nerves and eagerness. He was also a little robotic in hold, with an intensity that was a bit unnerving at times. His dad was right to suggest he loosen up some while dancing as it would help him settle down, as well. This was a pretty solid foxtrot throughout, with some lovely line work across the floor, and a gracefulness in overall movement that was nice to see. There was a gentleness in how he partnered Witney, with great work on the tricks and spins. He really is growing by leaps and bounds these past couple of weeks.
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8, 8
JoJo Siwa & Jenna Johnson
(Tango) We feel like we say this a lot, but what an interesting piece. There was a lot of tightened sensuality from both partners, but we love that they were at the exact same level with that expression. The whole thing had an intensity to it that made for an interesting tango, as it felt even tighter than a typical tango would be. Their synchronicity and overall dance quality remains top-notch; this was performed basically by two professionals of the form. It was like a supermodel runway strut filtered through a tango. Fascinating!
Judges Scores: 10, 9, 10, 10
(Paso Doble) We are stunned at the brutal tempo that Sasha maintained for this piece, and kudos for Suni for just getting through it! She wasn’t fully committed (in her arms especially) to following through each movement fully before moving onto the next, but the tempo was probably fueling that, as well as clear uncertainty and a lack of confidence in herself. She knew the piece, though, so it was just about execution; there was a little slip midway, as well. The timing was a bit off in places, but again we chalk that up to the incredible tempo. Overall, though, while she lacked some of the strength we wanted to see, there was hardly time to notice!
After the performance, Suni took off immediately, leaving the stage entirely (looking like she was going to sick up). Tyra told us it wasn’t Covid related, but she was dancing sick and had to leave immediately. That we were told this as/while judges were scoring, is that fair in a competition? Does it really matter as it’s just a silly show. We do hope she gets to feeling better — and that she was able to keep up at all while feeling under the weather is incredible!
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8, 9
Cody Rigsby & Cheryl Burke
(Foxtrot) This song was dedicated to Cody’s best friend Oscar, who he lost to addiction at 28 years old. As Cheryl has been open about her own struggles with alcoholism, it was clearly a moment that was heavy and poignant for both of them. There was a joyfulness in the performance, paying tribute to his friend, but Cody wasn’t quite at the same level as Cheryl in that or the dance. He also looked like he was about to take flight the way he stuck that arm out over and over again; it lacked any finesse or grace. We did see some nice fluidity in his movement across the dance floor overall, as he joins the other guys in showing a surprising level of improvement these past few weeks.
Judges Scores: 8, 8, 9, 9
Melora Hardin & Artem Chigvintsev
(Foxtrot) Melora was treated to a rehearsal visit from her three “Bold Type” proteges and co-stars; Katie Stevens, Meghann Fahy & Aisha Dee. You could instantly see the love the four have for one another, and knowing they would be there on Monday for the live broadcast had Melora feeling even more motivated and excited to perform.
She’s always been a great actress on this show, and she certainly brought a regal grace to the foxtrot. There were two places she appeared to lose her place in the dance, and the latter one seemed to take over the final measures with her either completely losing how the dance ended or maybe it was supposed to be that? Other than those moments, though, she was grace personified, with a lovely movement across the floor, great frame, partnering and lovely lines in everything she did. We’re just not sure what happened at the end.
Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9
The choices here were based on styles the couples have performed before in the season already, but it also created a divide where some of the dancers were facing much stiffer competition than others. Each judge could award one point to their favorite couple in this round, so there was a chance at 4 bonus points, which is huge, if you dominated!
Then, they rolled the wrong package, so we saw the JoJo/Olivia/Jimmie prep package first, followed immediately by Mike/Iman/Cody. Of course, that just meant no package before the second dance of the round, but kudos to “DWTS” for keeping it classy for “Fredury Mercury” Night!
Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin, Iman Shumpert & Cody Rigsby
(Jive) Right off the bat, we were missing some of that hop and energy from Mike, but he came through with it about halfway through. As always, Iman had his own swagger that he brought tot the dance floor and the style, making it look cool and effortless, but it, too, felt like it was missing something. Cody’s jive felt the most polished, with a bounce that matched Cheryl effortlessly when they got to the side-by-side portion, but he wasn’t as polished before that.
Judges Points: Carrie Ann (Iman), Len (Cody), Derek (Iman), Bruno (Cody)
JoJo Siwa, Olivia Jade & Jimmie Allen
(Foxtrot) Jimmie was feeling the pressure against the ladies, while Olivia was more concerned because she’s the only one who hasn’t gotten a 10 yet and she’s been in the Bottom 2, wondering if it’s because the fans hate her. All of them needn’t have worried, as this was rock solid foxtrot and beautiful to watch start to finish. We thought JoJo had it in the bag, but then Olivia came out with so much personality and sweetness in her piece, and we were transfixed. But then Jimmy came out, and he had us excited with his control, grace and command of the stage. Everyone delivered everything you could have wanted. It couldn’t have been closer or more beautiful throughout.
Judges Points: Carrie Ann (Olivia), Len (Olivia), Derek (Olivia), Bruno (Olivia)
Amanda Kloots, Suni Lee & Melora Hardin
(Viennese Waltz) Suni seemed a little out of sorts at times during the middle of this piece — which may again have to do with her feeling sick — though she had better contact than we’ve seen in the past and overall good quality waltz. But she was bookended by two incredibly strong dancers in Amanda and Melora. Melora lacked just just a bit of the grace we were looking for, while Amanda seemed to ooze it from the moment she hit the stage — and her lines were incredible, to boot.
Suni admitted at the end that she was a bit embarrassed because she’d never done it before — though she has — and that informs so much of what we’ve seen all season from her. She has danced like a self-conscious teenager embarrassed because she isn’t 100 percent confident in what she’s doing, and it’s held her back from rising to her full potential. She is only 18 years old, so part of that is natural, but she would grow so much if she could somehow get past it.
Judges Points: Carrie Ann (Suni), Len (Melora), Derek (Amanda), Bruno (Melora)
The bonus points didn’t change much as Olivia, who got the most, was already toward the top of the leader board. But, the round did show how the contestants were stacking up against one another, which is certainly informative.
Surprisingly, after all was said and done, Amanda found herself toward the bottom of the Leader Board, though we know she has tremendous fan support out there. The only one firmly below her is Mike, while she’s tied with Iman and Suni for a very tight Bottom 4 situation.
There is a bit of a gap between them and Cody, two points ahead of the three tied above Mike, but we’ve seen in this competition that that doesn’t always matter when it comes to America’s vote. As such, we have a feeling it’s going to come down to that Bottom 4 — and we suspect Suni being sick is going to help her a bit with America.
Going into the elimination, our bet was on both Iman and Mike winding up in the Bottom 2, but we say that with women having fallen there last week despite their higher overall scores. That could spell bad news for Amanda, though we suspect the judges would save her over either of those guys.
As predicted, Suni was the first one declared safe, followed by Olivia and Cody. Then, defying predictions — and possibly riding that wave of amazing from last week — Iman was safe, as well. Does that spell bad news for Mike?
Melora got the good news next, followed by Jimmie (and a very excited Emma), with Amanda the last couple announced as safe. Yes, you read that right and you’re right that JoJo wasn’t announced as safe.
In the season’s biggest shocker yet, JoJo was actually in the Bottom 2 with Mike. We know there’s some controversy out there with her dancing with a woman, but is it enough to override the quality of her dancing? Well, we’ve seen America ignore dancing quality before on this show, too.
With the judges having to choose, this one should be an absolute no-brainer. Mike is a lot of fun to watch out there, and he brings a lot of energy, but JoJo is a clear front-runner to win this whole thing.
Maybe we’re learning here that America doesn’t want to allow it — it’s like a Rotten Tomatoes review bombing for political reasons — but she has delivered consistently among the best dancers week after week, no matter who she’s dancing with, and had the second highest score of the night tonight.
Maybe it’s to do with her dance background; another point of contention with some. Still, she’s here and she’s great, so there’s no way the judges were going to let her go, right?
Tyra again fumbled her words, saying “If after Len’s vote” when she meant before, when describing the extra weight his vote gets as the Head Judge, so she started and ended with a very obvious verbal flub. Live TV, y’all!
We have to give credit to Mike for what a sport he was in what looked like an obvious decision, as the judges pretended to struggle. He was all smiles, and fully aware of the right decision here. It was, of course, just that obvious as JoJo was saved and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin said farewell with a smile on his face.
It’s a double elimination and the music of Janet Jackson on “Dancing with the Stars” next Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.