We kick off the episode with a live performance of "Wake Me Up" by Alloe Blacc, which is great, but the real reason to be excited about this episode of "Dancing with the Stars" is because it's the one that forces each star to pick their most memorable year and build a dance around it. This is not as easy as it might seem, but it does usually lead to tearful confessions and tugging on heart strings, so even if the dancing is marginal there's plenty of drama. Grab your tissues! Oh, and at this point, Tom explains a female star is on the chopping block, though that can change. Sweat, ladies, sweat!
Christina & Mark
The Background: Christina felt dissed by Julianne last week. But moving on! She picks 2010 as her most important year, which is when she had her baby girl. That year, her marriage to her cheating baby daddy also ended, so major highs and lows. She chooses CeeLo's "Forget You," because she survived this ultimate betrayal. Oh, I love this already! Go, Christina, go!
The Dance: She's dancing the cha cha cha. This is just as feisty as I hoped it would be. Christina has been very strong throughout, but this was actually a notch above.
The Judges: Len thought it was fire and ice -- fire in the performance, ice in the attitude. In short, he liked it. Bruno thought she had a sharp finish and it was indecently hot. Carrie Ann thought it was something special, and she really was right on with her technique.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 10 Bruno - 9 It's their first ten of the season -- and from Len!
Since a female star is going home, Brooke asks the women if they're miserable thinking about this.
Jack & Cheryl
The Background: He picks last year. His daughter was born in April, which was exciting. Two and a half weeks after she was born, he was diagnosed with M.S. He starts crying thinking about his baby not having her dad. He doesn't mention his wife's miscarriage, but that was this year.
The Dance: He's dancing the waltz for his wife and his daughter. Still some weird hands, and he always looks a little grim on the dance floor. I was hoping this particular dance would be more emotional for him, but I'm not seeing it.
The Judges: Bruno has so much admiration for Jack, and his dancing was wonderful. Carrie Ann thinks he's graceful and, I guess, aaaaaaaah. This is, she explains, good. Len appreciated how much he stayed in hold. But he noticed the weird hands, too.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9
Leah & Tony
The Background: Her most important year was the last year, which is when she left Scientology. She chooses not to be a victim, and she thinks her daughter has gotten to see the strength in her family. She'll be dancing contemporary. She hasn't danced contemporary, and neither has Tony. She comes up with the puppet concept.
The Dance: I can tell this isn't Tony's thing. Lean needed direction to work on her footwork so it didn't look so leaden. There's a lot of ballroom in this, unfortunately, which isn't working. This isn't her fault, by the way. And, really, it's unfair of the show to ask Tony to do contemporary.
The Judges: Carrie Ann loved the concept… but once it got into lifts, it didn't feel fluid. Len agrees. Great idea, crappy lifts. Bruno loved that she took on something difficult.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 7 Len - 7 Bruno - 8 Leah looks pissed, but she says she's just happy she got through the routine.
Paris Hilton in the house! She wanted to support Christina. Brooke suggests she do the show. Paris poses and smiles.
Corbin & Karina
The Background: 2011 his 12-year-old sister was diagnosed with scoliosis. I'm sorry, but a dancer personally fighting MS or friggin' brain cancer beats second-hand scoliosis. Sorry, but this doesn't feel personal at all but an attempt to jump on the physical ailment bandwagon.
The Dance: This is fine. I'm really not impressed with Corbin at all after his "most memorable" moment. Oh, look, he has to hug his sister in the audience. Not manipulative at ALL.
The Judges: Len thinks he's a terrific dancer. Bruno thinks he could be the love child of Fred Astaire and Ben Vereen. Carrie Ann thinks she saw a lift. Karina argues that didn't happen. Hmmm… Tom wants to know if she'll change her score if they can get a slow motion replay. It's like sports, but better outfits!
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 10
Bill & Emma
The Background: Yes, Bill cried last week when he realized he wasn't getting cut. He is just a big softy, and that's absolutely his charm, I think. Anyway, he picks his most memorable year as 1982, which is when he got married. The fact that none of this seems contrived speaks to how sincerely charming he's been on this show (and in his career).
The Dance: He's dancing the Viennese waltz to "Always A Woman," and it's so sweet -- but damn, his arms are just so rigid.
The Judges: Bruno tells him not to swing his arms. Carrie Ann thinks he touched our souls, but his timing was off. Len thought he stayed in hold, so kudos!
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 8 Bruno - 8
Tom weighs in on whether or not Carrie Ann can change her vote -- nope. Too bad. I was hoping for instant replays to become a part of the show.
Snooki & Sasha
The Background: She chooses 2012, which is when she had her son. That makes sense, as she has completely changed since then. She likes cleaning and doing laundry now. What?
The Dance: She's dancing a jazz routine to "Work Bitch" by Britney Spears. This is actually fun. Not entirely coordinated; sort of like a dance you'd see at a wedding reception, but it is fun.
The Judges: Carrie Ann was surprised, because she doesn't seem to be a natural but she barrels through. Len thought it had energy and attack. Bruno says she works hard for her money.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9
Time for pros to talk about whether or not previous dance experience is an advantage. Some say it isn't, some say it is, some say it's actually a disadvantage. Blah blah blah.
Brant & Peta
The Background: In 2009 his dad died of lymphoma. He's going to dance to Elton John's "Your Song," and this is probably going to be really emotional.
The Dance: Wow, this actually looks like a contemporary dance (sorry, Leah, but this is how it's done). Actually, the dance is too emotional for a soft little song like this, but it was REALLY good. Like, shockingly so. And he gets weepy at the end.
The Judges: Len thought it was terrific. Bruno says he threw himself into it and did some Martha Graham contractions, too. Carrie Ann thought every movement was driven from a true place of passion.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9 That's it? No tens?
Amber & Derek
The Background: She didn't make it onto "American Idol," but she got onto "Glee," so her most memorable year is 2009. That's fine. At least it's honest. Big year!
The Dance: As usual, very solid. Amber is always good, though I think the judges lay it on pretty thick.
The Judges: Bruno says she's a star. Carrie Ann thinks she's incredible. Len thinks it wasn't a foxtrot.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 7 Bruno - 10. Wow, Len was NOT happy with Derek, I think, and Amber paid for it.
Elizabeth & Val
The Background: She's doing a jive in '90s clothing with Mario Lopez rooting for her in the audience. I don't love Elizabeth, but kudos for her for saying her favorite year was 1) something that happened to HER and 2) wasn't just a second-hand illness. I'm still annoyed with Corbin. But wait! 2012 is actually her most memorable year, but she wants to tie it into "Saved by the Bell."
The Dance: They start out with a skit. Hmmm… I'm not seeing any 2012 in this, but okay. This looks really awkward, if you ask me.
The Judges: Carrie Ann thought it was a mess, but she loved the '90s. Len thought the kicks were clean and exact, so, basically he means, suck it, Carrie Ann! Bruno also loved the '90s. It was fun! So… Len liked it.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 9 Bruno - 9
Enough with the dancing -- someone needs to pack their dressing room! Elizabeth & Val are in jeopardy. Christina & Mark and Corbin and Karina are at the top. Leah & Tony are at the bottom.
Christina & Mark, Elizabeth & Val and Leah & Tony are the bottom three.
Elizabeth & Val are safe. So, who goes home? I have to think Leah & Tony. The couple leaving right now is… Christina & Mark. Seriously? That's crazy! Such a shame -- I think tonight's dance would have scored with voters, certainly more than Leah's did. I like Leah's story, I'm rooting for her, but not to the extent that I'm okay with a more talented dancer going home.
I'm genuinely surprised. It's a shame no one will get to vote for Christina routine tonight. She admits she's shocked, but she's happy to be going out with the first ten of the competition. I'd say good for her, but it's a pretty hollow victory.
Were you surprised she got the boot? Do you think she should have gone home? Who are you rooting for?