Dancing With the Stars, Season 23, Week 5: Most Memorable Year

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Dancing with the Stars has one of its best Most Memorable Year weeks, even as the show reverts back to a one night per week format.

After two weeks of seeing a Dancing with the Stars broadcast halved, tonight we’re getting two hours. Except tonight’s also the only show at all this week, because we’re back to have the eliminations at the end of Monday night. We’re also still without Len.

It’s going to be an intense two hours, though, because this week is Most Memorable Year, when the stars choose a pivotal year in their lives. We start out big. After a montage of the stars and their years, the opening number involvings a group of elegantly dressed pros, violinist André Rieu and his full orchestra, and an instrumental version of “My Heart Will Go On.” It manages to come off as grand and sweeping, a magic start to the night. Now the only question is: will the competitive dances be able to live up to this?

Maureen McCormick & Artem Chingvintsev

Foxtrot; “From the Bottom Up” Dan + Shay. Her year is 1985, the year she married her husband Michael. But she also talks about the years immediately before, when she struggled as a former child star and got caught up in drugs. She credits Michael for saving her. He appears in the fluff, although the real sappiness there won’t show up until the interview afterwards. The song she notes is one that matches her story. The dance perfectly expresses the uplift of it so. So does her smile, and the deep emotion she radiates throughout it. Technically she’s pretty good too. Bruno calls her “absolutely angelic,” and Julianne calls it one of her best. They break out the straight 8s for 24.

Calvin Johnson, Jr. & Lindsay Arnold

Jazz; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terril. His year is 2012, the year he broke Jerry Rice’s record. They also talk about his family, and how when he caught the record-breaking ball, he ran off the field and handed it to his father. The dance is mostly him and Lindsay doing celebratory dancing around the bleachers. Between his feet and his ability to bring the joy, that’s good enough. But then they reenact the record-breaking catch-with Rice himself showing up to throw it to him! We quickly learn he didn’t know Rice was going to do that, and the two of them had never even met! That by itself kind of becomes a bigger moment than the dance. Meanwhile the judges rave, though the two ladies still insist he could be even better, and they break out another set of straight 8s.

Jana Kramer & Gleb Savchenko

Contemporary; “In My Daughter’s Eyes” Martina McBride. Her year is this one, as her daughter Jolie was born at the beginning of it. This fluff takes a serious turn, as she talks about having been in an abusive marriage with a man who tried to kill her, something she’s only recently started talking about publicly. It took ten years and Jolie’s birth for her to recover herself. Then she and Gleb come out and dance to a perfect song for such a story, she performs with a new level of excellence as well as emotion. When the number ends with images of Jolie coming up on the screen, and her running to the audience to hold the real deal, you get misty-eyed. Julianne even says she’s going to cry. Though the other two rave even more, and while Julianne sticks to 8, they break out 9, for 26.

There’s a pause while a bunch of the pros come to give us a sample of their upcoming live tour. It’s as stunning as you’d expect from them. At this point one wonders if this might be one of the best-danced Most Memorable Year nights ever. But we’ve got a lot of stars to go first:

Ryan Lochte & Cheryl Burke

Contemporary; “A Song for You” Leon Russell. Ryan’s year is 2008, the year he first achieved fame(and an individual gold medal) in Beijing. But he talks about Rio too, before dedicating the dance to his mother, who’s stayed by him through good and bad. The dance actually feels a bit more like this year and coming out of the dark. But Ryan dances out his feelings through it, with very strong results. How much of that is him and how much is Cheryl and his surroundings is difficult to tell. Nonetheless, Julianne praises him managing what he did with this song, a hard one to express oneself to. Bruno calls it his most honest emotion, and Carrie Ann simply calls it what it is: by far his best performance. Then they break out a third set of straight 8s.

Laurie Hernandez & Val Chmerkovskiy

Paso Doble; “Rise” Katy Perry. As the use of Rio’s official theme suggests, her year is this one, when she lived her Olympic dream. But she finds the dance stressful to learn, and the fluff shows this week she actually can get upset and hurt over Val’s sometimes hard pushing. Val notes she’s not good at expressing negative emotions, and one wonders how that’ll be reflected in her dance tonight. She starts with a solo routine within grey walls, in which she’s her usual perfect self, technically and emotionally. But when they part and it’s time for her to do the paso with Val, though she stays fierce, she ends up making technical errors, to this point it’s noticeable. Plus Carrie Ann doesn’t like the beginning. But Julianne loved it, and she breaks out the 9; 8s from the other two leave them with 25.

Marilu Henner & Derek Hough

Viennese Waltz; “Surprise Yourself” Jack Garrett. Her year is 1978, the year her mother died, and then she landed her breakthrough role in Taxi, so this one too is a dance dedicated to a mother. Derek declares for this dance, he’s going to stay out of the way and let her shine. Actually, he keeps a hold of her and helps guide her though the whole thing. But with that done, it still showcases her, and she does absolutely shine in it, more than she has before. It’s to the point that not only does Carrie Ann come out for a hug afterwards but the other two follow suit. “You are another woman tonight,” Bruno tells her, and she gets straight 9s for 27.

Amber Rose & Maks Chmerkovskiy

Samba; “Woman Up” Meghan Trainor. Her year is 2013, the year her son Sebastian was born. She calls the dance a celebration of woman and mothers. But the fluff mostly consists of the fight she and Maks had during the Sunday rehearsal. Although the push of it seems to be his pushing her to do better out of the belief she can. He turns out to not be wrong there either. He actually leaves the floor for part of the dance, during which Amber and her lady background dancers absolutely rule it. She keeps up the confident attitude when he’s with her too, but Julianne actually isn’t as happy with her dancing there. The judges break out their fourth set of straight 8s for the night.

James Hinchcliffe & Sharna Burgess

Tango; “The Right Time” Yves V feat. Mike James. His year is last year, when he had the crash. During the fluff we get the doctor who treated him, who said his was an injury no one survives. But since he did, James calls it the best thing that ever happened to him. The dance he and Sharna do seems a bit generic as these commemorative dances go, but he absolutely nails it. Even though it’s not a traditional tango mood, Bruno praises him for getting the pacing of it unusually right. Carrie Ann calls him the one to beat, and then Julianne gives him one thing to fix and says he’ll be unbeatable if he does! That one thing keeps her score down to a 9, but the other two break out the 10 paddles, and he wins the night with 29.

Terra Jolé & Sasha Farber

Contemporary; “Stand by Me” Florence + the Machine. Her year is 2013, and her story similar to Marilu’s: she lost her father right before she started filming Little Women: LA. She heavily regrets not being there when he died and his not seeing her success, and she describes the dance as her communing with him. To that end they dance in front of the gates of Heaven, and at first there’s too much mist, but then it dissipates. Not that it would’ve hidden how she absolutely throws herself into this dance emotionally, and we’re able to see she does well technically as well. The judges tell her that her father is smiling down on her before they break out the straight 9s.

The couples line up, and for a moment it looks like there’s really going to be an elimination. But we already eliminated two couples based off last week’s scores; we’re not eliminating a third. Tom announces no elimination at all this week. We’ll resume that process next week.

Next: Check out this Real Life Star Wars Duel

Next week is fact Latin Night, and we’ll be having Pitbull make a return as a guest judge. That’ll be on ABC on Monday at 8.

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