Now that we’re halfway through Season 18, “Dancing With the Stars” has made a nod to ABC’s parent company and star Meryl Davis’ uncanny resemblance to Jasmine the princess in Disney theme night, which host Tom Bergeron likened to Disney on Ice -- but without the ice!
All the original star/pro partnerships are back, to the delight of most. “We’re doing some conscious recoupling,” Tom quipped.
Though the couple who did not end this evening happily ever after came as a shock: Cody Simpson and Witney Carson. (Low-scorers Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas were also in jeopardy, but not necessarily in the bottom two.)
The gasps that came from the audience showed this went over like the reality ballroom equivalent of the “Game of Thrones” purple wedding (cue the Rains of Castamere, but set to a pop beat). Apparently Cody’s gaggle of teenage fans invaded the ballroom in droves with their swooning screams of devotion but didn’t bother casting their vote for the teenage YouTube sensation. Though was Tom’s interesting word choice of “and the thinning of the herd continues,” could have been a hint to Cody’s safari routine.
And it’s too bad, because while he wasn’t the best ballroom dancer, it seemed Cody was finally embracing his lion stance in this cheesy reality dance extravaganza with his Simba samba, slathering on the unexpected joys of bronzer, and getting a sparkly taste of what it was like to be ballroom king.
“It’s tough, but it its what it is,” Cody said with his trademark laidback attitude.
Well, Witney did say both Cody and Simba are “young, energetic, a little wild, and they have good hair.” Maybe Cody will make like the lion cub and take down Scar and come back in some sort of circle of life mirrorball triumph.
Ah, but that was the sad ending to an otherwise mostly enjoyable evening devoted to classic songs from Disney’s repertoire of animated films. Season 9 winner Donny Osmond said he was there to evaluate performance and then critiqued stars on their technique, flirted with Bruno, and was as self-referential as a guest judge could be. And a new star leader emerged out of the frozen depths of our dancing pack.
Big Time Rush’s James Maslow got the week’s highest scores, and he wins an extra gold star for bringing Hannah, who invited James to her prom, to the “DWTS” stage instead. And then he and Peta Murgatroyd reunited to perform a perfectly lovely contemporary routine to “Let it Go” from “Frozen.” And it could not have been performed better had Adele Nazeem Idina Menzel belted it live herself. The cool graphics that made the ballroom floor look like ice were a dazzling touch, and Peta was the perfect blonde snowflake to James’ flawless tree-trunk. Bruno called it “a contemporary blockbuster.” Carrie Ann said she cried the whole time. Donny was “blown away by the whole performance.” Len said that routine “would melt the coldest heart, even mine.” And very much like “Frozen” broke the record set by “Toy Story 3” to become the highest-grossing animated film of all time, James and Peta broke the season record with a perfect score – the first one of the season. Total: 40 out of 40.
Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy are back to play Beauty and the Beast and wow the audience with their “Be Our Guest” quickstep. Some of Maks rubbed off on Danica as she’s continuing to learn not to sweat the details and just go with the flow in her quickstep. And this was the most, um, “animated” Danica’s been all season. Loved the dancing dishes and Val’s Beast-turned-Prince in "Purple Rain" get-up, hair and all. Though the real unsung hero was that humongous bottle of champagne, just chilling on the stage. Bruno bellowed that the “Wonder Years” actress tamed the beast. Carrie Ann gave Danica a hug. “Both of you guys knocked it out of the park!” Donny exclaimed. Danica was as excited as a kid on her first trip to Disneyland. “I love Disney and I love this dance and I love this song, and I love this dress,” she gushed. Total: 39.
Charlie White is back with Sharna Burgess, and his competitive Olympic spirit is raring to get himself and his golden locks back to the top of the leader board where he used to belong. And whoa, he and Sharna performed that “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” jazz routine with something to prove, like it was on fire. The ice dancing gold medalist should get extra points not just for that cane work, but also for that breakneck pace that only got faster and faster (though his bouncing locks were a hair behind). And for dancing with the “Mary Poppins” penguins right after a commercial break. “That was an amazing performance,” Donny said, wowed. “You’re like a wave of happiness,” Carrie Ann said, giggling. “Every single move you did was difficult … but it was like water dripping off of you” he made it look so easy. Len called it “eye popping” and “jaw dropping,” Len said. “You came out and just wowed this place.” And that was the routine that earned Len’s first 10! Total: 37.
This is the first week that Paralympian Amy Purdy was dancing a ballroom dance, and the first week where the Sochi bronze medalist seemed to hit a wall. For the first time, Amy felt her prosthetic legs weren’t working the way she wanted to move them. But she was in great hands in choreographer-extraordinaire Derek Hough, who was able to come up with a routine that made Amy look like the belle at the ball to go along with the Cinderella story. And the athlete embraced her inner princess and let it show. Lift Nazi Carrie Ann started to call out Amy for a lift, but then said she wasn’t going to take off points for her lifts because of the “unique circumstances” (ya think?). Len said Amy drifted across that floor “like smoke through a keyhole.” Bruno said Amy never looked more beautiful. Amy received a 37 and her first 10, and got emotional.
Other than the errant incendiary comment by guest judge every now and then, this season has been relatively drama free. So when tensions abounded on the NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani’s reunion, it’s almost like nobody knew how to deal with it. After NeNe had a taste of Derek, she seemed reluctant to get back in Tony’s hold. Tony felt like this partner switch-up was a road bump in their partnership, as insecurities and jealousies came to rear their ugly heads. Will the partnership end in a divorce? You couldn’t tell by their performance, as NeNe coolly embodied the villainy of Cruella de Vil in their sassy “101 Dalmatians” fox trot. The judges acted like children who didn’t like seeing Mommy and Daddy fight, taking care to praise both NeNe’s characterization and Tony’s choreography. Carrie Ann even went so far as to say the switch-up was the best thing that ever happened to them, because they were both better than ever (Tony vehemently disagreed). “You two are a match made in dance heaven,” Len said, before calling it “your best dance.” Total: an emotional 36, though any conscious uncoupling tension seemed to have dissipated when NeNe and Tony discovered they were safe.
Nothing like an extra-long hug between Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy to show these two peas in a pod, back together again. And when you’ve got Meryl and Maks and moneys, you’ve got a “whamba of a samba” as Len said. This, despite Maks’ reluctance to come up with a comedic samba set to “I Wanna Be Like You” from “the Jungle Book” and the pro’s insistence that he looks more like Mowgli on steroids. But Maks played nice and even managed to share Meryl with Baloo the Bear and King Louie the orangutan during the performance, which was stuffed with juicy butt shimmies and delicious samba rolls. Mak sported a pared down costume from the “Rudyard Kipling collection” and let his “au naturel body sparkle” shine. “I’ve never seen Maks dance so in tune with somebody,” Carrie Ann marveled. Bruno said it was “more jungle fever” than “Jungle Book.” “Thank you, Maks, for the eyeful,” the judge concluded (“The eyeful tower of Chmerkovskiy,” Tom quipped). Meryl and Maks got straight 9s for their samba. Which, considering Maks doesn’t do well in un-sexy sambas, isn’t so bad. Better than being a phoner inner. Total: 36.
Candace Cameron Bure needed a rebound after last week’s dance left her at the bottom of the leader board. It was when she got her lowest scores of the season that the “Full House” actress realized how badly she wanted to be here. It just took a little mermaid action, a little skin, and a crab walk to get her back in the dancing groove. While the red Ariel wig looked a little heavy for Candace’s head, the green fringe of a fin was just right. “It was like the rebirth of Venus,” Bruno declared. “You let yourself go, you let loose, and it works!” Carrie Ann said Candace was one of her favorite movers on this season … when she’s in the zone. “You have another notch,” the judge insisted. “It is just a mind game.” Len said the routine was irresistible. Total: 35.
Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke kicked off the night with a “Friend Like Me” quickstep from “Aladdin,” and it would have been great had the genie not been so off midway through the routine. Cheryl took some teaching techniques from Witney and broke up the routine into parts so Drew could learn better, which resulted in less frustration. But not even Cheryl’s sexy Jasmine peekaboo harem pants could distract the judges from Drew’s decidedly unmagical technique. “The performance had plenty of zip, the technique was very very doo-dah,” said Len. Bruno likened Drew to “Aladdin at the edge of a nervous breakdown.” Total: 28.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Did you enjoy Disney night? Were you shocked to see Cody Simpson go?
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