“Dancing with the Stars” season 20 continued April 27 on ABC as the seven remaining couples took a journey through history –and into the future– via Eras Night. After a fabulous set of creative routines and some equally creative scores from judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Julianne Hough, and Bruno Tonioli, one couple snagged immunity and the other six engaged in a trio of head to head battles for extra points. The episode eventually ended on a rock-bottom low as a former front-runner was sent packing in one of the series’ most shocking eliminations of all time.
The episode opened with a slick professional number set to “Anything Goes.” Co-hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews touched briefly on pro Derek Hough’s injury and explained that Sasha Farber would fill in for him for the evening, and then the jaunt through the decades began with singer Riker Lynch and Allison Holker’s 1920s quickstep.
Allison looked amazing in glittering red and Riker worked it as an old school baseball player during their “Wiggle” dance. His neck and shoulders looked a little stiff and awkward sometimes, but it was fast, furious, and fun, and they even squeezed in a tap segment!
Len pounded the table and grinned as he energetically praised the effort. Julianne enjoyed their “innovative” routines but noted that they struggled a little with their height difference, and Bruno dubbed Riker “twinkle toes on the field of dreams.” Carrie Ann said she preferred their week six effort and knocked Riker’s awkward chin placement, but liked his “new glow.” Riker and Allison earned 37 points, including a much-coveted 10 from Len.
Up second with a 1940s foxtrot were week six’s comeback kids, “The Bachelor” Chris Soules and Witney Carson. Their sailor-themed ditty was cute, and it was a genius move on Wit’s part to include the troupe like she did: it really look attention away from the flaws in Chris’ performance. Tricky, but it worked.
Julianne called it “awesome” and praised them for the entire production. Bruno joked “I think you are turning. You’re turning into a dancer” and praised his “wonderful fluidity,” but noted some awkwardness with their hold. Carrie Ann called him the underdog and said he was “in the right place, at the right time.” Len, finally, thought it footwork was good, but thought he needed more work while dancing hold. Chris and Wit scored 31 points.
The show cruised into the ’60s as model Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy performed a jive. Set in a hair salon and featuring the troupe members, their “My Future Husband” jive was cute, but Rumer’s movement seemed a little less sharp and precise than usual. But she still looked amazing.
Bruno said she was “as wholesome as homemade apple pie” and enjoyed the “nostalgic look,” but told her to watch her hand movement a little more. Carrie Ann called it “really pristine” but felt like the dance was “a little bit safe.” Len “liked the dance very much” and appreciated that the “backing dancers didn’t get in the way.” Julianne, finally, echoed her co-panelists comments and noted that they were being nitpicky because Rumer is “so awesome” on the ballroom floor. Rumer and Val’s jive notched 35 points.
War vet Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess ushered in the decade of disco as they tackled a 1970s “Super Bad” jazz routine. Sharna rocked a serious afro while Noah embraced his inner pimp, and the number had lots of nice changes of speed and some pretty sweet synchronized series with the troupe. A memorable one for sure.
Carrie Ann jumped to her face and declared “what what what” before calling it “insane” and going totally off. She was insane. Len called it “strong” and “clean,” and called Noah “twice the man” despite his absent limbs. Julianne said she was “pretty much obsessed with you both right now,” and Bruno closed out the comments by calling him hot but “so cool it gives me chills.” They scored 36 points, including a 10 from Carrie Ann.
“Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson brought the competition into the decade of Trans Ams and parachute pants with a hose-worthy ’80s-inspired Argentine tango. Their “Word Up” routine was hot, hot, hot. Robert didn’t plant a smacker on Kym, but darn, he should have.
Len likened Robert’s dancing to “Chutes and Ladders: one week you’re down, one week you’re up” and said it was an up week. Julianne called it “clean” and said the timing was improved. Bruno told Kym that Robert clearly wants “everything” from her. Carrie Ann, however, threw out a smackdown, noting that Kym was “too much woman” for Robert at times. (Robert must’ve peed in her Cheerios. Or not given her a ride in his LaFerrari.) Robert and Kym earned 31 points, including an inexplicably low seven from nutty Carrie Ann.
After four previous dismissed pros –Tony Dovolani, Emma Slater, Peta Murgatroyd, and Artem Chigvintsev– glossed over the ’90s with a “Push It” transitional number, Olympian Nastia Liukin and her stand-in partner Sasha Farber hit the floor with a modern-day Charleston. Set inside a make-shift subway train with singer Andy Grammer aboard performing “Honey I’m Good” live (and Hough as one of the passengers), Nastia and Sasha’s dance was super fun and creative.
Julianne thought they “killed that dance” and Bruno called “the best subway ride” he’d ever taken He termed it “a revelation of dance.” Carrie Ann came out from behind the desk to give Nastia a hug and praise her for living the dance. Len gave it a thumbs up. Nastia and Sasha (and Derek) scored a 38, including 10s from both Carrie Ann and Bruno.
Up last to hoof it for a shot at immunity were actress Willow Shields and Mark Ballas, who were tasked with delivering a futuristic jazz number. Or, as Mark called it, a Nin-jazz routine. (Har de har har, but it’s Mark, so it’s well-within normal limits.) Dressed as (of course) ninjas and set to “Electric Feel,” their dance featured yet more of the creativity the world has learned to expect from Mark.
Bruno appreciated every detail of the routine, and Carrie Ann loved the concept, but thought they’d lost a little bit of energy, and it showed in some moves. Len called it “a little bit posed on occasion for me” but loved the creativity. Julianne, finally, appreciated the “small movements” that drew Carrie Ann’s criticism. The pair scored 37 points, including a 10 from Bruno. Although it was good enough to secure them a tie for second place, it wasn’t good enough to nab them immunity, which went to Nastia and Sasha. (Go figure!)
Excluding the pre-saved Nastia and Sasha, the competition continued as the six still endangered pairs went head to head in a dance-off. As the next-highest scoring couple (which is puzzling, since they had the same score as Mark and Willow, but whatever), Riker and Allison opted to battle Willow and Mark, who quickly chose to engage in a salsa showdown.
Riker and Allison went first. Riker is a good dancer, no doubt. But there’s something so odd and angular about his moves sometimes that it feels weird even watching him dance. Plus he looked nervous. Willow and Mark looked a little more natural and showed off a bit more actual salsa content (plus a pretty cool lift and a pro-calibur ending).
Len termed it “very, very close” and Julianne agreed, calling both “so tight” but “very, very different.” Bruno thought both were “hot and spicy” and said it was like choosing between chocolate and vanilla. Carrie Ann also liked both and noted that they were very (very) different routines. Given the strikingly equal judges’ comments, the result –a sweep for Willow and Mark– was a surprise.
Battle number two featured the arguably over scored Noah and Sharna opting to go head to head with the arguable under scored Robert and Kym, who picked the cha cha cha as their weapon of choice. Noah and Sharna went first and the war vet wore a nice smile as he showed off his hip action. Robert and Kym followed. Robert seemed to get lost at one point, but they too had a good showing.
Julianne called it “really difficult” to decide and Bruno agreed. Carrie Ann called one “super tight and clean” but without much content (uh, Noah), while the other had a lot of content but a lot of mistakes (Robert). Twitter predicted Noah would win with 69 percent of the vote. When it came down to it, Carrie Ann and Bruno voted for Robert and Kym, while Len and Julianne voted for Noah and Sharna. Even though it was a tie, head judge Len’s vote tipped the scale and Noah and Sharna won the two available bonus points.
By default, Rumer and Val closed out the competitive portion of the program with a foxtrot battle against Chris and Witney. Rumer was all grace, elegance, and personality, period. Chris was fine, but as slick. (It wasn’t even close.)
Bruno said both were “dazzling” and Carrie Ann agreed, but said one “hands down stole the show.” Len bemoaned Chris’ bad luck (foreshadowing, anyone?), and Julianne called it “tighter than I thought it was going to be.” (Ouch, ouch, and double ouch.) In an outcome that surprised absolutely no one (except maybe Chris’ mom), Rumer and Val swept the votes and earned the all-important bonus points.
With the competition finito, Tom and Erin addressed the six endangered couples to deliver the final results. First saved to hoof it again were Noah and Sharna. Joining them in the safe zone were Robert and Kym, who looked stunned and whooped with glee. (They are the most adorable couple ever.) Also stunned to be called safe were Chris and Witney, which left the high-scoring pairs in jeopardy. Riker and Allison advanced next, leaving Willow and Mark, and Rumer and Val to face the music.
After a dramatic pause, Willow and Mark were eliminated from “DWTS” in what was truly a shocking, unexpected turn of events. Willow looked inconsolable as she hugged Mark, and the pro said “it is what it is” and thanked the teen for being “the most incredible partner.” She kept quiet as Mark spoke, but was clearly devastated to be sent packing relatively early in the game.
With just six couples still in the hunt for the mirror ball trophy, “Dancing with the Stars” season 20 will continue May 4 with America’s Choice Night. Is another shocker in store for the planned double elimination? Watch and find out.