“Dancing with the Stars” season 20 resumed March 30 on ABC with the always spicy Latin Night. So what went down, which two couples tied for the top spot on the judges’ leader board, and what were the eliminated hopeful’s sweet final words to her partner?
After a fiery hot opening number choreographed by Mandy Moore that featured the show’s talented pros, the competition kicked off with actress Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy’s disco-flavored salsa. Willis owned the opening bars of the “Turn the Beat Around” number and commanded the performance like a boss. That girl is confident, secure, and in charge in the ballroom.
The four judges loved it, to varying degrees. Len Goodman loved it most of all, calling the dance the best dance of the season, while Julianne Hough wished for “a bit more freedom” from the actress. Bruno Tonioli called her “completely disco fabulous” and Carrie Ann Inaba called the salsa elements “fantastic.” They scored 33 points.
Up second to hoof it were model Charlotte McKinney and Keo Motsepe, who struggled through plenty of conflict during their rehearsal session. The pair’s rumba to Shakira’s “Empire” gave McKinney an opportunity to show off her amazing legs and extensions, but the dance lacked flow and felt a bit awkward.
The judges were less than impressed, to put it mildly. With a frown on her face, Hough said she was “so sad” by McKinney’s failure to “take Keo’s instruction.” Tonioli insulted her intelligence by noting that she’ll “never win the Nobel Prize in quantum physics” and Inaba explained that she was frustrated because of her failure to take advantage of the incredible tool that is her incredible body. They walked away with just 22 points.
Third in line to do their ballroom thing were football player Michael Sam and Peta Murgatroyd, who danced a salsa set to Pitbull’s “Celebrate.” Sam has great rhythm, but he looked almost over-eager to perform. On the plus side, the lifts were death-defyingly amazing and fun to watch.
Tonioli marveled over how well Sam controlled his muscles, but called the timing “really, really wrong.” Inaba said she felt unsafe watching them, but Goodman enjoyed the lifts. Hough told him to work on his foot placement. The duo earned a disappointing 24 points.
Singer Riker Lynch and Allison Holker kept the party going with a high-octane salsa to Daddy Yankee’s “Limbo.” It was fast, it was fun, and Lynch’s moves were spot on and downright hot. He’s a real-deal mirror ball trophy contender.
Inaba rose to her feet and exclaimed “you blew my mind” but then very oddly noted the “androgyny” of the pair and told him to bring the testosterone to the dance floor. Goodman drew boos by proclaiming that he was “not the best dancer” of the season, but told him to keep working. Hough loved it, but wanted to see more interaction and chemistry between the two. Tonioli called it “salsa, full throttle, no speed restriction, go go go!” They earned three nines and a seven (from crankypants Goodman) for a night three total of 34 points.
Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” served as the musical backdrop for the next pair’s samba. Actress Suzanne Somers and Tony Dovolani’s routine was cute and fun, but she made a few mistakes. Still, that smile is pure gold and her fruit hat was awesome.
Goodman called it “juicy, fruity, and full of fun,” and Hough praised both the content of the dance and Somers’ commitment to the competition. Tonioli noted a few errors, but loved the performance, and Inaba said it was “fun,” but wished for more “depth.” Somers and Dovolani notched 25 points.
With the specter of a poor week two performance lurking in the shadows of their minds, “The Bachelor” Chris Soules and reigning pro champ Witney Carson followed with a “Dangerous” Argentine tango. Soules didn’t seem to move his feet very much, but he brought a palpable intensity to the routine, so it worked.
Hough paused before proclaiming “you are the comeback kid!” and praised his focus and intention. Tonioli said he could “feel the sparks flying” between them, but told him that he looks “like a fridge” when he turns. Inaba praised him for going for the character of the dance, and Goodman called it his best dance to date. The duo scored 28 points.
Season 20’s “are they or aren’t they” pairing of “Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson kept the competition moving forward with a rumba. Set to Ellie Goulding’s “How Long Will I Love You?”, the dance was lovely and passionate. (And the two sharks in the audience –Lori Greiner and Kevin O’Leary– approved, too.)
Tonioli said he felt the “commitment” between Herjavec and Johnson. A week after saying their cuteness made her “nauseous,” Inaba said she was “praying to the porcelain god” because their chemistry is “so ridiculous,” but wanted to see the shark “sustain his movements.” Goodman noted Herjavec’s “middle of the pack” status and told him to work on being great. Hough disagreed with her co-judges, calling it “raw and vulnerable.” They scored 29 points, including their first eight (from Hough).
Competition elder stateswoman Patti LaBelle and Arten Chigvintsev were up next with their Latin Night offering, a cha cha cha set to “Oye 2014.” LaBelle looked stunning in light blue and performed her role like nobody’s business, but there wasn’t a lot of cha cha content.
Inaba was “a little underwhelmed” but missed her week two “swagger.” Goodman wished for more content, while Hough called it “as a whole, so much fun.” Tonioli liked the concept but agreed with his co-panelists about the lack of the cha. Despite earning just 22 points, LaBelle very genuinely thanked the judges for the scores.
Actress Willow Shields and Mark Ballas kept the evening’s entertainment rolling on with an innovative fire and ice themed paso doble. Set to appropriately intense music in the instrumental “Hanuman,” they brought it big time. How is this girl only 14? Also, Ballas is a genius.
Goodman said that though it’s the first paso of the season, it’ll be “hard to beat.” Hough praised her slow and steady growth, and Tonioli quipped “my little mockingjay is catching fire.” Inaba called her “a seasoned performer” on the ballroom floor but told her to work on her core. They nabbed 32 points.
With time waning, war veteran Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess followed with an Argentine tango. The pair faced a significant challenge as Galloway made a late-game decision to not wear a prosthetic arm, but it didn’t show at all during their “Rather Be” number: it was precise, intense, and admirably innovative. The lifts that Galloway executed with just a single arm were absolutely mind-blowing.
Hough was “blown away,” and Tonioli called the interpretation “spot on and on the money” as he likened the pair to “two instruments totally in tune.” Inaba noted a few small errors, but liked it, and Goodman called Galloway his hero. They scored 30 points.
Closing out the show with a lightly rehearsed “Chillando Soma” samba were New York to California commuters Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough. Even handicapped by significantly limited rehearsal time, these two are incredible. Liukin has such natural rhythm and her movements are so crisp that it’s just insane to watch her dance.
Tonioli called it “almost inebriating” but cautioned her against overextending her movements. Inaba loved her flexibility, and Goodman called her “a fantastic dancer.” Hough, finally, called it “one of the most difficult sambas” she’d ever seen but told her to watch her “loosey-goosey” arms. With 34 points, they tied Lynch and Holker for the top spot on the leader board.
Long-time “DWTS” host Tom Bergeron immediately Liukin and Hough that they were safe, and then turned to the rest of the hopefuls. He asked Soules and Carson, Galloway and Burgess, and McKinney and Motsepe to come forward and told the others that they too were safe to dance again. Galloway and Burgess were proclaimed safe, leaving just two couples –and not necessarily the bottom two– in peril. After the requisite dramatic pause, McKinney and Motsepe were eliminated.
Turning to Motsepe, a tearful McKinney told him that she’d just “wanted to make you happy” and said that she felt like a better person thanks to the experience.
So which couple will follow them out the door at the close of the next episode? Find out when “Dancing with the Stars” season 20 continues April 6 on ABC with a night of dances inspired by the contestants’ most memorable years.