Is that Mark Ballas singing? Yes, yes it is. And then he's dancing. He's a man of many talents, that Mark Ballas. He's got a single, because why not? It's called "Get My Name" so quick, go to iTunes! Anyway, Abby Lee Miller of the Lifetime show "Dance Moms" will be joining the judges' panel, which will either be great fun or extremely stressful. She isn't going to be shy about what she thinks, and while I have to believe she'll be easier on celebrities than she is on little kids, there's a good chance she'll tangle with the other judges since they're used to guest judges who say things like, "I don't know anything about what you were doing, but you were so passionate!"
As usual, we're starting off with the stressful elimination countdown, which is a natural prelude to relaxed performances. First up, Charlie & Sharna are safe. They'll be dancing a quickstep. Isn't it more fun to dance when you know you're not going home?
Charlie & Sharna
The Background: Sharna knows Charlie is hurting on the inside. His mom visits, and he feels so much better! He'll get those tens, dadgumit!
The Dance: I saw some flat feet here and there, but otherwise this was sharp. He's having a good time, he has excellent posture, and he really is a dancer. But we knew that. Why he hasn't gotten better scores is a mystery, really.
The Judges: Len isn't sure if this was special enough to earn a 10 from him. Abby Lee Miller is just so happy there's someone else is mean. She points out that his foot flopped going up the stairs. Bruno interrupts. It was an attitude! No, it wasn't'! It's almost a fight, but she continues. She thinks he has impeccable musicality. Bruno thought he was off the starting block like a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby. Carrie Ann thinks he's gone a step beyond. And I think the judges are not entirely happy having a qualified fourth judge on the table, because they barely get a word in edgewise.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 10 Len - 10 Abby - 10 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: Straight tens? He's golden for at least another week, and I still think it's him and Meryl in the finals.
More elimination panic! Meryl & Maks are safe, Danica & Val are in jeopardy. So hey, Danica & Val, dance, dance, dance!
Danica & Val
The Background: She's ready to do a sexy tango, and Val is determined to wow Len.
The Dance: This looks hot, and I'm really enjoying Danica as a dancer. She's not Meryl, maybe, but she's very good.
The Judges: Abby thinks it was an amazing dance concept (sort of a "Game of Thrones" idea), and she wishes Danica had danced on "The Wonder Years." She loved it, but she needs to watch the shoulders. Bruno thinks it was her most powerful performance. Carrie Ann thought it was challenging choreography and she was so refined! Len thinks it took a while to get started, but once she was in hold, she was on it like a bonnet.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 10 Len - 9 Abby - 9 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: I would really, really hate to see Danica go. That's all.
Meryl & Maks
The Background: Maks is putting together a rumba about a dysfunctional relationship. Like his desperate love for Meryl? Meryl says Maks is just a big teddy bear. A really big teddy bear. Maks is sure he and Meryl are going to "maintain whatever it is that we have" way past the show. This is so sweet unless it ends in a restraining order.
The Dance: This is a rumba? It's excellent, but it seems to be more contemporary than rumba.
The Judges: Bruno thought it was "Streetcar Named Desire." Carrie Ann thinks there was energy in every single move, but there wasn't enough rumba content. Len thought the mood and feeling was fantastic. Abby wants Maks to know she'd never hit him. Meryl's feet needed work, though, as they were sickled. Maks says he doesn't care for anything she has to say. Yikes! Well, that's Maks the teddy bear. Maybe Meryl meant the bear in Ted.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Abby - 8 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: Whatever happens this week, she's still a lock to win.
More sweating. Amy & Derek are safe, James & Peta are not and Candace & Mark are also on the bubble. I am worried Candace is going to have a heart attack, but preferably not while she's dancing.
Candace & Mark
The Background: It's time for a foxtrot. She is his turtle, and they are in a turtle race. I think this is cute? Her kids are rooting for her, and her daughter thinks she's an inspiration. She explains this in a way that does not seem coached at all. Ha.
The Dance: This is good, but it's soooo slow. Whenever there's a foxtrot set on this speed, it makes me think the pro is dialing it back because the talent just isn't up to the task. That being said, she does a very nice job, and I like the retro concept.
The Judges: Carrie Ann thinks that she's made a breakthrough in her mind and spirit, so she's so proud of her. Len thought it was fun and frivolous. Abby loved it, too, but thinks Mark should have dropped her on the floor to improve the choreography. Bruno thinks she has the vivacity of a '50s sitcom, but he wants her to extend her lines.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Abby - 9 Bruno - 9
The Verdict: If I had to pick between Candace and Danica, I'd pick Danica, but Candace is fun to watch. Still, her scores don't suggest another week is likely.
James & Peta
The Background: The boys from Big Time Rush stop by to leer and make leading comments about James and Peta dating. James is so glad to see them for some reason.
The Dance: This is good, but why does it not move me? James hasn't wowed me the way he's wowed the judges, I'll admit.
The Judges: Len thinks James never straightens his legs in hold, and his butt pops out. Abby thought it was romantic. Bruno thinks the chemistry is remarkable, but he needs to control his butt. Carrie Ann agrees about the posture, plus Peta's foot came off the ground.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 9 Abby - 10 Bruno - 9
The Verdict: It would be weird for only one guy to be left on the show at this point, but if he had to go it wouldn't be the worst thing ever. Then he and Peta can date with impunity!
Amy & Derek
The Background: Amy had to rest after her back went out last week, but she's toughing it out. Don't break her, Derek!
The Dance: An Argentine tango with flicks and kicks, and the beginning is incredibly sharp. It gets a little loose here and there, but I love the choreography and the way Derek works around a bad back and a lack of legs. This is great, really.
The Judges: Abby has to tell Derek how great his choreography is. She wants her dancers to be inspired by her. Bruno thinks she's Amazing Amy. It was all there. Carrie Ann felt like she stopped breathing three times. Everything was perfect. Len thought it was amazing.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 10 Len - 10 Abby - 10 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: Straight tens, and so well deserved. She really can't go home. She's just so good!
Next up, couple dances. Tom keeps calling these duels, which was confusion at first because I thought the judges would be scoring each couple separately, but it's really two couples competing together. Thanks for making it confusing for no reason! It's Meryl & Maks plus (not versus) Danica & Val. Oh, it's tense during rehearsal, as Danica is dismissive of Maks and Maks thinks she's being condescending. Eeek! But wait, Maks and Val's grandma comes to visit, and everything is better. Meryl thinks she's sweet! Meryl loves everyone!
The Dance: They're falling in and out of synch quite a bit. Otherwise, it's good, but this seems to be a problem.
The Judges: Len says samba is no easy dance, but he loved the content. There was a lack of synchronicity, too. Abby starts critiquing Danica's turn, which has Val on the defensive, but she would have been happier had the girls been in heels. Bruno thinks they were out of synch. Carrie Ann thought they did well in coming together, but some of the timing was off.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 9 Abby - 8 Bruno - 9
Charlie & Sharna pair with Mark & Candace for the next "duel" that is not a duel. They want to do something where the celebrities' feet never touch the ground. Well, if you're gonna go weird, why not go weird in contemporary? Go for it!
The Dance: Okay, their feet touch the ground, so I guess that idea didn't fly. Wow, Charlie whips Candace around like a bag of potatoes, but they look amazing! Gets a little out of synch here and there, but really, not bad.
The Judges: Abby thought it was lyrical. Bruno thinks they worked like a unit. Carrie Ann thought it was spectacular except when Charlie dropped Sharna. Len thought it was so great except for that slip with Sharna. So, nines.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Abby - 10 Bruno - 10 Hey, a few tens! Didn't expect that.
Amy & Derek and James & Peta are next. In rehearsal, James drops Amy! Yow! No one is hurt, though. Amy feels that she's limiting the team because of her lack of feet. I want someone to tell Amy anything she does is better than she realizes.
The Dance: Hey, this was fun! And spangly!
The Judges: Bruno thought it was extraordinary. Carrie Ann loved that each non-pro danced at the same level as the pro. It was so in synch! Len thought it was everything and more. Abby wanted to get up and dance. It was brilliant!
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 10 Abby - 10 Bruno - 10
Alright, enough dancing. Time for an execution! Next couple safe is… Candace & Mark. The next couple going home is… Danica & Val. No!
She's had a great time, Val thinks she's a wonderful person, and it's all warm and fuzzy. Huh, Mark says something about how it took two years to talk her into doing the show, but "no hard feelings." I can't believe Meryl & Maks are at the bottom of the leader board. What is happening here?
As for Abby Lee Miller, I thought it was kind of great to have a guest judge who had a valid opinion and didn't just step in line with what the other judges were doing. She did seem to have clear biases (James and Derek could do no wrong), but I don't think there were any decisions she couldn't back up. I also think Bruno wanted to hit her a few times, which just made it more interesting all around. We're down to just five couples? Well, I hope that means no more duels that aren't really duels, at least.
Do you think Danica was sent home too soon? Are you surprised Meryl is at the bottom? Who do you think is going home next?