Monday, August 26, 2019

DTWS S026, Athletes, Week Two: Quickstepping Through a Really Fast Season

The show opens with a quick cut of sports stuff, and the Athletes talking about how they want to win. (Well, of COURSE they do. They are athletes.)

Then everyone comes out with their partners, and the lovely and wonderful Emma Slater introduces her former partner, Rashad Jennings, who is guest judging this time (by tweaking his tie). (Still bummed about her leaving so damn soon.)

Tom marvels about how we have already reached the halfway point of the season (at the opening of Episode Two). (Technically, that’s not true until the END of the show.) He also mentions how we are doing Team Dances (for gosh sakes) in this episode. WHAT? :-0

Josh and Sharna, paso doble

They are doing a paso doble to the theme song from Mask of Zorro, and they are practicing for it out on a farm, with horses. Um, ok. (His farm in South Carolina.)

First of all, LOVE THEIR COSTUMES. Stunning.

Second, from the first move, their lines are incredible. Truly an artform. Sharna had them hold a dynamic pose, as the camera circled around. Beautiful.

The “bad guys” in Sharna’s choreography are mostly women (love that!) Josh does look pretty darn dashing in his hero’s outfit.

Great stuff.

Tom calls it “a dynamic start to the night.”

Rashad: “Be honest. You never thought being on the gridiron, football...translating to the ballroom would be so difficult. Never in a million years did you think it would be that hard. (Josh shakes his head no.) But you came out, you did it first. You came out of the tunnel like you do, you came out on the football field like you do, and take control. You did it on the ballroom tonight, and I’m proud of you. You did a great job.” Len: “I was expecting a little dip in the standards of the dancing tonight, because you’ve got two dances to do. That puts a lot of pressure on you. Last week, you did a terrific cha cha cha. You’ve come out and done an equally good paso doble. Full of aggression, full of attack, and I’m full of admiration.”

Bruno: “I loved the strength and the power, and you just went for it. The sculptural shapes were great. You have to sustain the lines all the time. Great performance.” Carrie Ann: “You and Sharna, the opening game in both of your performances so far has been strong. That pose... people don’t understand. You weren’t still. You were so alive in that full pose, which is what’s so great about the paso doble, and what you need. You were very grounded. You were very effective. You were very passionate.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 40)

Tom mentions another double elimination. Ugh.

Jennie and Keo, cha cha

One of the biggest problems that I think Keo has on this show is that he doesn’t really understand what he’s supposed to do with his partners. On the spectrum from most understanding and incorporating of a person’s essence (Sasha Farber), Keo is the opposite end of the spectrum. He never plays to the person’s strengths (or needs). He just does his own thing, and drags the other person along. Sometimes that's ok. Other times, we have this train wreck.

Jennie has a problem with the “song choice.” (The song the producers and/or Keo gave her for this week.) Keo ignores her. She tells Keo that “it’s not really me.” He doesn’t care. She says in voiceover that she finds it a little too risqué. Keo assures her that he will “make it work.” So Jennie calls the producer, since she’s obviously not being heard.

Well, I don’t know what the previous song was, but this compromise song is pretty terrible. She’s dancing a cha cha in a well-concealing catsuit. Keo, OTOH, is wearing a leather jacket, open with no shirt underneath.

Forgive me, but this song doesn’t seem really “like her” either. I feel really sorry for her.

Some people get what this show is, and some just don’t. At least half of this show is for the pro dancer to figure out what makes their partner tick, and playing to that, using that, for best effect in their dances. Keo just falls flat on his face in this aspect. This is just a disaster. This poor woman looks miserable, trying to do these steps, with this dance that she CLEARLY doesn’t vibe to. And in a normal season, it sure seems like they smooth these things out more.

Len: “I thought it was a competent performance. Cha cha cha, you’ve got to show sharp and clean and crisp movement. At the same time, you’ve got to show rhythm through your body. I liked the crispness of it. It lacked a bit of rhythm. You lost timing on occasion.” Bruno comments on how she holds her hands, and her lack of timing. “But you look great, who cares?” Carrie Ann: “I applaud you for choosing what felt right to you. I think that’s setting a great example. Especially in this tight a competition to make that choice is very very bold, and I’m very impressed with that. However, I do think that is also maybe what held you back a bit. But you looked like you felt good out there, which is maybe half the struggle.” Rashad: “Cha cha is a difficult dance. I thought you came out and you were confident. You were sliding across the floor. I’ve watched you pitch some lightning-fast pitches that no one could return. Tonight, you had the opportunity to swing the bat, and you knocked it out of the park.” (Not true, but nice sounding. I also appreciate him speaking to the athletes in sports lingo.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 26 (out of 40)

Emma helps Rashad lead the audience in a wave after the break. Tom says: “I’m all waved out.”

Kareem and Lindsay, salsa

The package shows Kareem and Lindsay looking at tape of couples dancing (probably in the 1920s) at the Savoy Hotel. Kareem talks about how his dad met his mom, dancing there. He says they were doing “the Lindy hop.” Kareem dedicates this salsa to his dad.

They open on a club called La Malanga. Dudes in white hats, women in white dresses. Lindsay appears almost as tall as Kareem (?). Turns out that she's sitting on Hayley’s shoulders! The whole first part of the dance! Amazing. But the dance turned out to be a stunt thing. Kareem can barely move. Even when he just walks, it’s awkward. And his “dancing” is mostly just shuffling and doing hand movements. I really hate this pairing so much. It’s right up there with the all-time worst #DWTS competitors. Salsa, my butt. Dreadful.

Tom, at the end of the dance, gives a shout out to the wondrous Hayley, who really went above and beyond in this dance. But Brit also did a fine job, while we are calling out amazing troupe members.

Bruno: “That was so clever. So very well-constructed. The choreography was so imaginative. It really took you to a time and place. It really was Harlem at its best.” Carrie Ann: “It was such a lovely tribute to your father. I love what you did. In the first half of it, I was a little worried. You weren‘t at the top of your game. The second half, though, the audience went crazy. It was your best dance so far.” Rashad: “I know 7'2" is tall, but you can stand taller today, cause your father is looking down on you, proud.” Len: “Compared with last week, there was far more content, far more rhythm, far more fun. The salsa is a party dance. You’ve brought the party to the ballroom.” Now watch all the fives they give him after all that hot air.

Erin asks Kareem to describe his teammate. Kareem: “It’s hard to describe, cause it’s like going on a basketball court with your coach. Lindsay is an incredible choreographer, and a patient teacher, and that’s why I was able to learn a few things.”

 JUDGES’ SCORES: 26 (out of 40)

Erin teases about Kareem in the team dance. She says it’s “hysterical and fantastic.”

Then, they show Lindsay in the skybox, getting on Hayley’s shoulders. They dance with Kareem (without the mounds of fabric covering her). Fun.

The black and gold DWTS flags are flying again. Thanks, Troupe!!

Chris and Witney, Viennese waltz

Chris tells us in the package about his ADHD, and how he’s not able to concentrate on details. Which makes it unfortunate that their dance this week is the Viennese waltz, which has many many details.

But their Viennese waltz was beautiful. Witney packed it with more Viennese waltz content than she usually does, and it worked well.

Carrie Ann: “Wow. I am so impressed. From Week One, you showed a lot of potential. That was outstanding. You had all the nuances. You had the finesse. You had the grace. You had eloquence, you had poetry. You were telling a story, all the while being natural. You had good body contact, your footwork was nice. Pretty darn good, if you ask me.” Rashad: “Not too much to say after that. It was absolutely amazing. One of the hardest things for me to get done was heel leads. You had heel leads, and it’s early in the show. So, hats off to you. You talked about ‘controlling your body.’ You controlled your body the whole time, and that was organized chaos, which is amazing. Great job.” Len: “I didn’t like the spinning, holding the leg (see above). It was out of character with the Viennese waltz. (He’s right about that.) That aside, what I admired was when you were in hold, you got sway. I gotta agree with Rashad. Your footwork was good. Every forward step was on the heel, which I congratulate you both for. It was a very competent dance. Better than last week.” Bruno: “You are a leading man. You are the Waltzing Heartthrob. The dance was wonderful. It was fluid. You used the space very well.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 33 (out of 40, getting the first 9 of the season from Carrie Ann)

You know, I love Erin Andrews as a host. But she has a side job where she covers football. You can tell she knows a lot about football. You would think she’d put the same effort into this job. She goes off on asking Chris about the “sway” thing (which, as you can see above Len said HE HAD SWAY). She is obviously not clear on what exactly “sway” is (even though it’s a large part of a Viennese waltz). She has both Witney and Len try to explain it to her.

Then, she gets confused about whether it’s “the first 9 of the season or of the night”? Has she been paying attention? What’s going on here? (For the record, it is BOTH the first 9 of the season and of the night.)

Not one of her finer moments.

Tom tries to get us out of it by declaring “that was swaytastic.” Thanks, Tom.

Troupe members Brit and Artem bring us back from commercial with a hot samba bumper. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure think Brit is ready to be a pro. She just brings it every time.

I love this photo so much. Remember when Sasha used to be the bear?
Tonya and Sasha, quickstep

Sasha surprises Tonya by telling her they are dancing to “Redneck Woman.” (Most people would probably bristle at this.) Tonya whoops! She loves the idea. Without missing a beat, she says, “Gretchen Wilson. Yeah, ‘Redneck Woman’ is totally me. I drive a big truck, I cut firewood, I hunt, I fish, I’m a country girl. So, it’ll be really fun to show the world another side of me. Being able to be part of something so special makes me feel alive again.” I am reminded again and again of how empathetic and kind Sasha is to his partners, and how he’s totally the perfect partner for Tonya.

“And I get one more chance to prove to America: Hey! I can dance now,” she laughs.

The stage is set with a little campfire and tent, some woodsy action. Sasha is pantomiming fishing. And then a BEAR jumps out (remember when Sasha used to be the Bear? Wonder who it is this time?)

They are quickstepping to “Redneck Woman.” All throughout, it’s Sasha who acts scared of the bear. (Gosh, I love #DWTS sometimes!) At one point, Sasha dives under Tonya’s skirt. The bear then runs off into the woods. The song ends with a “Hell, yeah!” And it’s perfect. The part at the end where the guy dips the girl, Tonya dips Sasha. That was also perfect.

Tom thanks “Ray Chew live, right there, behind the campfire.”

Tom: “I just wanna say that it’s so good to see the Dancing Bear back at work. Hasn’t had a gig since Captain Kangaroo was cancelled.” (I’m dying...)

Dancing Bear then goes and sits behind the judges for comments.

Rashad: “I absolutely loved it. Country girl! One thing you said in your package: you get to show the world another side of you. You are showing the world a new chapter of your life. I love it.” Then we find out the Bear is troupe member Brandon. Len: “It was fast, but it would be if you’re being chased by a bear. I liked the routine. I liked the energy. Quickstep is a tough dance, because it’s one of those dances where you pretty much have to maintain the frame. There’s no hiding places. But this dance made me feel good. I liked it so much.” Bruno: “It was great fun. High energy, high spirited. I was counting. You didn’t lose the timing.” Carrie Ann: “What’s most impressive about this dance: you need to have so much strength. What I noticed the most was your strength. Not only in the way that you were leading Sasha through the dance,  but you did it in a way that was appropriate. You’re very strong, you’re very powerful. And you’re poignant. There’s a poignancy when you dance. It’s a real joy. I love watching you dance.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 33 (out of 40)

Not only do they have a sparkly Jumbotron for this Athletes edition, they also have number 1 fingers with D, W, T and S on them (which the judges wave around). I knew they needed four judges for some reason.

Mirai and Alan, foxtrot

Mirai’s package starts with her crying because she got a 7 last week. *eyeroll*

“My skating is really good, but my dancing is all super-new to me,” she says modestly. Alan: “All of this is new to you.” He tells her they are doing a foxtrot, and dancing to Disney (even though the season is too short to do a whole Disney night). “And there are no tears in Disney, only smiles.” COUGHsuckupCOUGH They do a hokey cut where they are suddenly enjoying a day at Disneyland.

She wakes up from this “dream” onstage on a bed, now a Disney princess (being sprinkled with fairy dust by the other Disney princesses). They break out the magical Disney carriage (that no other channel gets to use, see above). They are dancing to ”It’s a Small World.”

Now nearly everyone in the audience has on Disney ears. Sheesh.

Len: “I think, at the beginning, you were sprinkled with a little bit of Disney magic, because that for me, was the best dance so far.” Bruno: “Radiant, literally. You were the embodiment of a Disney princess.” Mirai, “Actually, the real Queen is sitting over there.” (She points to former Mirror Ball winner and pro skater Meryl Davis, in the audience, who blushes.) Carrie Ann: “That was gorgeous. This is what I thought you were capable of. Every movement was finessed perfectly. You have the Disney force with you tonight.” Rashad: “I thought it was a great dance, great choreography. You have a great partner. And you’re a true athlete. You didn’t like what you had last week, and you proved that you want better scores.”

So, for this Disney dance, they break out the Disney paddles for Rashad, who gives them a 10. (In case Erin missed it, it is also the first 10 of the season. And of the night.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 37 (out of 40)

They cut to Tom, who is standing with another previous Mirror Ball winner, Bindi Irwin, who does the toss. How cute.

Awwwwww! They have Rashad do a bit of 24-carat magic with his Mirror Ball-winning partner, Emma (and the troupe). Great bumper.

Arike and Gleb, foxtrot

Again, they make a big deal about her wearing heels (as is standard for women on this show).

They do a foxtrot to Pink’s “What About Us?” Yes, she is in heels, but she is barely moving. (Although it is a softer song.) It was more artistic and beautiful than most of the songs Gleb picks, I’ll give him that. And he did some great choreography.

Bruno: ”The heels did the trick. Your poise and posture was much better. You have a wonderful connection to the music and your partner.” Carrie Ann: “You are magic. What I saw just now touched me so much, I was crying. It was so powerful. There’s something so powerful in you being vulnerable. Thank you for putting on the shoes. Thank you for playing full out with us here on Dancing with the Stars. It has paid off, you touched us all.” Rashad: “It’s powerful. We know you can perform under pressure. You are a beautiful woman with those sneakers on, but just in case nobody ever told you, you’re also beautiful with those shoes on.” Len: “As a basketball fan, it must’ve felt strange to start (the dance) sitting on the bench. Once you got up, you did fantastic footwork. Great job, Gleb. Terrific.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 33 (out of 40)

They come back, showing the “Dance Cam” on the Jumbotron (people in the audience dancing to the music playing).

Adam and Jenna, foxtrot

They show how Adam is on tour with his “Stars on Ice” partner, Mirai. “And Jenna goes literally everywhere with me.” *pet peeve alert* (Man, I hate stars who do this...) He and Mirai don’t get back until MONDAY, the day of the show. Ugh.

But, despite all that, they do a killer quickstep. Actually my favorite dance of the night. His footwork is amazing.

It begins with Adam sitting in the audience, taking selfies. And then it's oh so very good. Legendary, even.

Carrie Ann: “So tight! Do you guys measure it out with a centimeter stick? Everything is exactly in sync together.” Rashad: “That was absolutely stunning. This outfit, though? I love the routine. You all are a true partnership, and I love watching y’all dance.” Len: “If you was wearing one of those watches that told you how many steps you did, you did a day’s steps in a one-and-a-half minute quickstep. So much content, so much speed. But so much clarity of movement.” Bruno: “No messing around, no distraction. Absolutely fantastic dancing all the way through. Your timing is impeccable, and your partnerwork is outstanding.”

 JUDGES’ SCORES: 37 (out of 40)

So now both Stars on Ice dancers (Mirai and Adam) are tied for the lead.

Tom announces the team dances: “Team 50s Tennis will take on Team 70s Football cause... Why not?”

LOL The Jumbotron says “Make some noise!” (I think they attended a Dodgers game to get ideas for all this...)

I always roll my eyes at these hokey team dance concepts. They just add a little bit of points. Big whoop. Think what you will. These were the choices. Tonya twisted her ankle. Sasha puts ice on it. She says: “Unless that ankle’s broken, we’re dancing.” Wow. They dance to this really cool adaptation of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby, One More Time.”

OK, the coolest thing about that was when they poured a bucket of silver confetti over Tom’s head.



Going home?

Urike and Gleb and Kareem and Lindsay are going home in this double elimination. Tom says that next week features THREE COUPLES eliminated. And that David Ross is going to be the guest judge.


1. Adam and Jenna (quickstep)

2. Tonya and Sasha (quickstep)

3. Josh and Sharna (paso doble)

4. Chris and Witney (Viennese waltz)

5. Mirai and Alan (foxtrot)


Jennie and Keo


Sunday, July 7, 2019

DTWS S026, Athletes: Tonya Harding Returns as Emotional Center of Night One

So, a strange thing happened between the last season of #DancingWithTheStars and this one. ABC/Disney bought American Idol. What this means, and has meant, in practice, is that the solid franchise that is #DWTS gets kinda short shrift as they make room on their schedule for the monolith American Idol.

The very first visible casualty of this decision is this. Dancing with the Stars: Athletes. (An entire cast of just athletes.) In concept, that's all well and good. In practice, the regular DWTS season is shortened from 11 weeks to four. I am among those not at all happy about these developments. At the time Athletes started, I had not watched one minute of American Idol ever. Also, I am, as anyone reading this column knows, a HUGE DWTS fan.

But, all of that being said, here we go. The first “Athletes” shortened season of DWTS begins. Athletes because a good chunk of the early weeks of DWTS (regular) is teaching these non-dancers what rigorous training is all about. Athletes already know that. (Although they don't necessarily know what DANCE training is all about...)

So, for example, in this opening number, they have the first contestants as part of the dance, which actually works. Each one gets a spotlight over them, and some nod as to what their sport is, and their part in it. All ten competitors are all clothed in sparkly bronze outfits.

They also have Tom and Erin behind a broadcast booth, doing color, which is kinda funny, cause that's what Erin does in the DWTS off-season.

The judges dance out dressed as referees. Bruno in short shorts, of course. ;-) All of this to a Queen “We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You” medley. My favorite part of the dance is when Kareem Abdul-Jabaar comes out (all 7 or 8 feet of him) and Sasha tries to high five him. Other dancers have to lift Sasha up to do it. Makes me laugh. Great stuff so far.

Tom and Erin come down on the floor, which kinda looks like a giant football field, complete with Jumbotron®. Tom: “Look what they've done with the place.” Erin, the football sportscaster (now in a resplendent red gown): “I love it.” Then, they tell us that TWO couples are going to be eliminated tonight, due to a “live” vote (which means only East Coast people can really vote. We West Coasters don't like this AT ALL). We have barely gotten to know anyone yet!

The crowds are cheering so loudly in the ballroom that Tom and Erin can barely hear each other (not a great idea). But, here we go.

WITNEY AND CHRIS, the silver-medal luge athlete

We have a luge package, describing what it is luge competitors do. And Witney is extremely impressed with Chris‘ toe point. Also, it‘s pretty great that ABC covered the Olympics, cause they now have lots of great scenic footage of athletes to use on DWTS.

Witney tells Chris they are going to do a salsa, and his hip-swiveling attempts are painful.

I have to give props to the graphics team, because each graphic introducing each couple is beautiful.

But, as usual with Witney, her music sucks. As usual with first-night men, his hip action leaves lots
to be desired. However, his open shirt (I’m sure) goes a long way with Bruno. He does get points for attempting all these lifts though. Lotsa dry ice smoke going on.

In fact, you can barely see the judges from all the dry ice that was used on the stage so far. Bruno mentions that he’s “an expert laying down.” We know, Bruno, we know.

Len starts out with: “What a joy for me to be among fellow athletes,” which makes me laugh out loud. (Oh, he meant that.) Len was impressed with Chris (so was I). This is also the season when I realize that Len ends EVERY contestants’ judging with: “Well done.” (Even if he hates it and thinks it sucks.) Bruno, of course, likes that Chris decided to open up his shirt in the first number. “I like what he does already.” This cracks Carrie Ann up immensely. “The king of luge gets into the groove... you really had very very good action.” (No, he didn’t, Bruno is just still swooning from his open shirt.) Carrie Ann, waving a gold pom-pom,  is also enamoured of the open shirt. “I think I speak for all the women... Woo hoo! You are incredible. The choreography was jam-packed. You did not take it easy on him at all, Witney, which I appreciate, because there's only four weeks. I think you have so much potential. You have star quality. Great movement, great rhythm.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 21 out of 30 (Amazing first scores)

They broadcast the score on a mock Jumbotron, which Tom says "We shoulda had one of those a long time ago." (It's actually VERY high up, so I don't suspect they will have it after the Athletes season.)

LINDSAY AND KAREEM, “the greatest center in the history of the NBA”

What do you do with someone very very very tall? Well, this.
Erin, in introducing these two, reminds us that Lindsay is “the reigning Mirror Ball champion.” Kareem reminds us that he was in the game for 20 years, and for those Millennials who may not even know him, he also reminds us that what he was known for was called “the Skyhook.” He also says that he is the all-time leading NBA scorer. But since then, he has published 14 books (WHAT?), was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, and is now on DWTS. Wow.

He says he’s 7-foot-1 “and some change.” Lindsay says she’s 5-foot-4 “and no change.” Then, they show Kareem and Lindsay chatting up Magic Johnson in the Lakers big offices (with all the trophies around) and Magic once again talks about “the Skyhook” and how they used to “put on a show.”

Kareem (now in his 70s) says, “I might have old feet, but I do have dancing feet.” As we are about to see, um, no, no, he does NOT.

Kareem and Lindsay are both wearing gold, with Lindsay clutching a gold basketball to start. Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” starts playing. The massive gold basketball backdrop says: “The Skyhooks.” Then you see that Lindsay is standing on a huge purple platform to appear to be Kareem’s height. The gold troupe dancers (and Lindsay) basically dance around Kareem like he’s a Maypole.

He is easily one of the worst dancers that I can remember in a long, long time.

Bandleader Ray Chew, being acknowledged by Tom Bergeron, gives a Wakanda salute.

Bruno: “How can I possibly criticize a national treasure? So much going on around you, it was like a party on New Year‘s Eve. But you didn‘t overdance. You kept it very simple.” And by “simple,” he means the man barely moved. OVERDANCE? hahahaha I can‘t wait for the other judges’ variations on “You really sucked.” Carrie Ann: “As a performance, this is right in the zone of what our audience really loves. Everybody’s been waiting to watch you entertain us, and dance for us. You were surrounded. So much energy. It was wonderful. You sir, could get a little groovier.” Len: “If I was scoring purely on admiration (PUKE), you would get a 10 from Len... You need to loosen up.”

Erin is totally fangirling out over Kareem.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 17 out of 30 (More than generous)

Then, Tom points out Val Chmerkovskiy’s bright orange jacket (he is sitting in the audience, not competiting this time around).

After the break, Val and Tom have switched jackets. (They both still look great.)

KEO AND JENNIE, “the greatest pitcher from the greatest softball team of all time”

They show Jennie winning the gold medal for softball. Then, they show her on her ranch in Louisiana with her cattle and goats and her kids.

Jennie and Keo do a foxtrot, with our favorite house with a picket fence. The song is terrible. Way too much talking. The dance looks awkward and choppy to me, but she looks very pretty. And awww, her kids join her at the end.

Carrie Ann: “That was such a joy to watch. (Especially after that train wreck that was the Kareem dance, I bet!) I sense your competitve nature, and I think it's going to take you very far. Try to rely on him just a little bit more.” Len: “Foxtrot is a tough dance. You did a good job.” Bruno: “Abandon has to be controlled, especially in dances like the foxtrot. It’s all about maintaining control. We wanna see sophistication and elegance.”

There is something that was cut out of Keo’s comments for the West Coast feed. Not sure what it was. (I didn’t think they cut out anything. Must’ve been rude.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 21 out of 30

We come back to the crowd doing the wave, while “We Will Rock You” plays.

ARTEM AND JAMIE, “two-time Olympic gold medal snowboarder”

Her package shows her, in snowy lands, walking around. And snowboarding, of course. “It feels pretty badass to be a professional snowboarder.” They show Jamie doing an interview. She says, in the California way, “I’m really hoping and praying that my partner is really good vibes to be around.” (Boy, I wouldn’t say that about Artem...) And then, in he walks.

I would seriously like to slap the producer that saddled this poor woman with the Viennese waltz in the first week. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Ugh. But they try it anyway. She looks totally panicked and terrified (as she should. It’s arguably the hardest dance on this show.) “I really underestimated this whole situation,” she says. (Well, in fairness, MOST people who come on this show say that. They really really don’t get how hard this all is, until they get there and start trying to do it.)

The set, as you can kinda see above, is a snowy replication of the footage we had just seen. And she does look beautiful in blue. Still. It’s a hard dance.

Len: ”Viennese waltz is like freshly fallen snow... (Now he’s got her attention.) It’s smooth. This was a bit skippy on occasion. Especially once you got in hold. There was an elegance about your dancing.” Bruno: “You started very well. It was like watching Elsa on Frozen (sic).  But then you hit a slippery patch. Whatever you do, don’t show it. Never lose the flow.” Carrie Ann: “You’re way more elegant than I think you think you are. There’s a beauty that comes out of you naturally. There’s an artistry to you. You were nervous, and you were rushing. That’s what messed you up. That’s it. There’s a lot going on. That is a very challenging dance.”

Jamie: “Artem is so good at dancing and all of it, and I’m a little bit intimidated...” Erin: “If Artem went into a snowboarding competition, let’s be candid. He wouldn’t be as good. Our dancers are really, really good. I’m just going to break it to you. They’re amazing.” She asks her how it is to partner, when she does a solo sport. Jamie: “It’s definitely out of my comfort zone. But it’s so fun to take on a new challenge. Artem has been really patient with me.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 19 out of 30

We have an excellent salsa break from the amazing troupe (Brit, Hayley, Artur and Brandon) to bring us back from commercial. I really appreciate the troupe a lot in these moments, to show us what the dance is supposed to look like.

ALAN AND MIRAI, the bronze medal figure skater

They show her skating. She talks about the triple-axle, and how two women were the only ones (Tonya Harding being one of those) to land a triple axle in competition. Then she says, “But I guess I snatched the crown for the first U.S. lady to land it at the Olympics.”

I really don’t like this chick’s attitude. Sass and trash-talking doesn’t get you far on this show. Humility does. So Alan, at their first meet, is gushing: “I saw you on the Olympics,” and she says, “I’m so sorry, I never saw you on Dancing with the Stars.” :-0  Wow.  (In Alan’s defense, he’s had some really memorable dances on DWTS, so she’s just not watching enough.)

They show Mirai and Adam Rippon at the Olympics, and say that they are “best friends.”

So Mirai and Alan do a salsa, better than previous competitors.

They are both in pink. They excel at the spins and twirls. They even do several lifts!

Bruno:  “Well. That was a spicy, crispy cracker of a salsa.” Mirai butts into judges’ comments: “We’re Team Fire, Ice and Spice.” Bruno continues: “Actually, you did (the tricks) very well. It’s hard to land and maintain the rhythm. That’s the hardest thing to do. You did it. The armography was very good.” Carrie Ann: “You’re a boss out there. You owned that dance. We only have four weeks of competition. Everything matters. Watch your head bopping. You don’t need to do that. You need to be a little bit calmer, more one with the dance.” Len: “It was full of vim, vigor and vitality. The lifts were great. I could say that maybe there was a few too many tricks, however,  I can't because the dance was so terrific.”

Erin asks if her ‘bestie’ can keep up with her. Mirai: “We wanna go to the finale together, so America, vote for us.” Erin: “Wow. And my job here is done.”

 23 out of 30

Tom says he’s calling this season a “seasonette.”

After the break, Tom introduces “reigning champion” Jordan Fisher in the audience.

GLEB AND ARIKE, the “buzzer beater” basketball player for the University of Notre Dame

She says she’s excited to be the first college athlete on the show. Gleb tries to shoot a few hoops. Arike: “I think he’s a better dancer than a basketball player.” Gleb tells her they are dancing a salsa.

“Dancing is way harder than I thought,” says Arike. “I need to loosen up a bit.”

Gleb tries to put her (as all women dancers) in a pair of heels. She rejects that, and insists on wearing her tennis shoes. “How can I dance in them, if I can barely walk in them?” Well, maybe for the salsa, but that look sure isn’t going to fly for all dances.

Once again, for the dance, they give the basketballer a basketball. The set is a college locker room. There are quite a few troupe members onstage. The dance, to me, is a train wreck. Painful.

Carrie Ann: “I’m really impressed. You have a real ease with yourself on the dance floor. You’ve got your own style. You know what works. You’re really loose. It’s really comfortable watching you. I want to see you in heels, though. You’re in Dancing with the Stars. You gotta do what we do here. Put the heels on next week. This week, it’s a pass.” Len: “It was fast-paced. It was energetic. Just what you want from an athlete. I would’ve liked to see a little more hip action. You need a little bit more gear in the rear.” Tom doesn’t let that “gear in the rear” comment pass. Bruno: “You were shaking it up, there, girl. As a performer, the hardest thing is to draw people in. And you drew me in. You had your own individual style, and it worked with the salsa.” He criticizes her shoulders for being stiff.

PET PEEVE ALERT Tom asks Arike to tell Erin her schedule “for the next 12 hours.” She talks about going to Chicago, and how she has a project management class in the morning. HONESTLY! WHY can’t they get people who have clear schedules who can just do THIS? Sheesh.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 20 out of 30

JENNA AND ADAM, the bronze medal figure skater

Adam, in his package, calls himself “the first openly gay American Winter Olympian.” They show Adam on the ice at the Olympics. They show Jenna come up to Adam in a locker room. They both start screaming. Jenna said when she met Adam, “it felt like we had known each other for years. Immediately, there was a connection and a chemistry.” Adam: “I was feeling like a dancer. Jenna and Gene Kelly.” He is the first competitor to say he wants the Mirror Ball. They cut to a mirror ball above his head. “I want that. In a trophy form, in my house.”

 Cut to Adam onstage at DWTS for the first time, with two GIANT sparkling angel wings behind him. Adam and Jenna are dancing a cha cha. This is easily the star performance of the night. Their chemistry is really apparent. They seem to play off of each other. (They do this “Vogue” thing in the middle that is just stunning.) The song is perfect for them.  It’s really a joy to watch this dance.

They both end up, kind of upside-down. It’s truly awesome.

Jenna has long been one of my favorites. She always stood out to me as a troupe dancer, with her presence and her smile. But as a pro on this show, she never really clicked. Boy, that ended with this dance. What they have is truly magical.

Len: “I think that was good. It was sharp. It was crisp. It was clear. The whole thing was full of cha cha content. I really enjoyed watching it.” Bruno: “Oh, Adam. The angel of the dance floor, with the hip action of a devil. Everything I like. What is amazing is the finish of your line, and your synchronicity with your dance partner. On Week One, to achieve that level is quite extraordinary.”

Carrie Ann: “You were born to do this show. I know you are an amazing skater, but this is your thing. That was fantastic. So polished. So precise. You guys are a match made in heaven.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 out of 30

As they are introducing them, Erin calls Emma, a “brand-new bride.” (Emma and Sasha are one of my favorite couples in the world. They are just so cool together.)

EMMA AND JOHNNY, the World Series baseball player (outfielder)

Johnny is the second baseball player they've had on DWTS. They are dancing a foxtrot. Once again, Emma scores with the best music (with “Put Me in Coach”). Well, other than the Steive Wonder.

Such a fun dance. “Look at me, I can be Center Field...” (and he is) Awesome.

Bruno: “From the field of dreams onto the dance floor... Did it all go smoothly? No. But it was a very complicated routine, a dance that is very demanding. Footwork, posture, frame, timing. All things have to gel together, effortlessly. Was it effortless? No, but it will get better.” Carrie Ann: “You’re adorable. There’s something so likeable about the way you dance. You put so much effort into every move. Get that frame right, and it’s gonna look great.” Len: “The problem is, once you get into hold, it’s difficult. You gotta get in hold, and that was the bit that I didn’t like. It’s a very technical dance. First week, to come out and do the foxtrot, I salute you.”

Tom has a question for “newly married” Emma. He wants to know if competing with Sasha is “going to hurt the marriage.” She basically says, as long as I score higher, it’s fine. (Course, this is also her one Mirror Ball to his zip... SO FAR...)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 18 out of 30

Tom wonders how “her husband will do?”

Hayley, Morgan and Brit dance us back with (I think) a nice cha cha bumper.

Tom: “Right now, Emma’s other half dances with the first American woman to ever land a triple axle in competition. Before Sasha Farber takes the floor with silver-medallist Tonya Harding, let’s find out why she took up the challenge of this demanding season.”

SASHA AND TONYA, the figure skater (“first American woman to land a triple axle, figure skater and two-time Olympian” as it says at the beginning)

She lists all of the things she thinks America thinks of when they hear “Tonya Harding.” (None of them, btw, is what America actually thinks of when they hear Tonya Harding.) “I was the best figure skater in the world,” she says (actually, no, she wasn’t, Nancy Kerrigan was). “I had it taken away from me.” (That part is true.)

“It was my life. I wasn’t allowed to compete, to perform in shows. You have people looking at you like you’re nothing. You start to believe that you are nothing. I just wanted to do what I was good at, and that was skating.” They show her now, getting onto the ice, almost unnoticed, and doing a spin.

I have to pause here for a moment. At the time of the Tonya Harding “incident,” (as they call it in the movie) I was very deeply involved in the skating world, because it was a passion of both my sisters. The Nancy Kerrigan incident did not go unnoticed in my world.

But, I also believe that forgiveness is a good quality to possess. Dancing with the Stars is my favorite show, and Sasha Farber is one of my favorite pros. One of his true fortés on this show is working miracles with the women he partners. He is the only pro with the heart and the compassion to be paired with Tonya Harding, given all the circumstances.

So I go into this season, willing to put down my own resentments and grudges against Tonya Harding, because she is partnered with one of the best people on the show. And because she’s asking for forgiveness. She gave up something that she really loved and was really good at, and really, America, isn’t that punishment enough?

Sasha (back to the package) says: “I just watched your movie.” He’s talking, of course, about I, Tonya, which had just come out. He asks her (about DWTS): “What made you do this?” Tonya: “I got banned in 1994 from skating. But nobody can tell me I can’t dance. Being on Dancing with the Stars, I get to perform again. My skating ability will translate. I’m not sure how much, cause I wasn’t very graceful.” She cries and says, “I don’t wanna fail again.”

She is now standing, alone on the stage, with gold dust sprinkling down on her (from the Jumbotron). She raises her arms to the skies. Sasha comes from behind her to begin the dance. They, too, are doing a foxtrot. The lyrics are singing about: “Who knows what miracle you can achieve, when you believe...” They do that floor spinning move that the pros usually do. It just looks beautiful. The dance seems so joyous. The song ends with “You believe.” They both raise their arms up. The lighting is angelic. So beautiful. She takes a bow, and people are on their feet, applauding her. They also throw roses at the floor (which is what they do to skaters). A really nice touch.

Allison Janney, who just won an Oscar for playing Tonya’s mother in the movie, sits in the audience, applauding her debut return.

Tom: “I don’t know if you were worried about the reception you’d get, but you gotta be loving this one.” Tonya looks up from her tears and says, “It’s absolutely wonderful.” Tom points out the “recently minted Academy Award winner Allison Janney beaming over here, alongside young Tonya, Makenna Grace.” Allison blows her a kiss. Pretty spectacular stuff.

Carrie Ann: “Tonya, I know that your journey to here has been an emotional and challenging journey. But I have to judge your dancing. You are a beautiful dancer.” Tonya cries more at this. Sasha hugs her. “You have something so powerful. Your lines are gorgeous. There’s an eloquence, a depth to your performance. The mind-body-music connection that you just displayed blew me away.” Len: “Tonya, I thought it was a charming dance. Beautiful fluid movement, great mix of steps in hold and out of hold. You shouldn’t be weeping. You should be happy. Because that was a lovely performance.” Bruno waves at her and says: “Hi, Tonya.” (yuck, yuck) “I see you brought your movie mom with you. That character makes Len look like a pussycat. I wasn’t expecting you to have such a lyrical quality of movement.”

Erin tells her she looks beautiful. “How do you feel?” “Like a princess,” she says. Sasha hugs her.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 23 out of 30

The troupe rushes back out with giant black flags with gold DWTS letters.

We return with the football floor and huge gold footballs on the backdrop. (Of course, Erin reads the football parts.)

SHARNA AND JOSH, the football player

He is the only football player in all these Athletes. Josh says, speaking in third person: “Josh Norman comes with 110 percent laser focus. If he’s in it, he’s in it.”

(I guess 24 is his number on the Redskins?) They are about to do a cha cha. And it looks like he's about to jump over Sharna, who is not facing him. BOOM! And the smoke goes up all around. Pretty cool.

The song is all about “dripping in finesse.” (It’s Bruno Mars’ tribute to Fly Girls.)

Len: “I thought it was bright and breezy, free and easy. Full of rhythm and style. You’re just another one of a long list of footballers that can dance.” Bruno: “Josh! Star quality, charisma, sex appeal, you’ve got it. By the truckload. You have natural musicality, a feel for the dance. You’re the ones to watch.” Carrie Ann: “I agree with Bruno. I think you have something really special. You have an X factor. When you came out... I didn’t hear the crowd go crazy until you came out. You’ve got the moves, and you have style. Because I was a Fly Girl, I’m gonna crown you Fly Guy.” Wow.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 out of 30

They are about to announce the couples leaving.

Yikes. Who’s going home?

They put BOTH Sasha and Emma into jeopardy. (WHAT?) As well as Artem and his partner. Two of these three couples are going home. (NOOOOOO!!!!) Really? Not horrible dancer Kareem? :-(  #SoAggravating

Going home:

Sasha and Tonya are safe! WHEW! (Sad to see all of Tom’s comments about the husband-wife rivalry go away, but REALLY glad Sasha is still here.)

Tom announces that next week’s guest judge is Emma’s former partner Rashad Jennings.

Miche’s Favorite Athletes, Night One
1. Adam and Jenna (cha cha)
2. Tonya and Sasha (foxtrot)
3. Johnny and Emma (foxtrot)
4. Josh and Sharna (cha cha)
5. Mirai and Alan (salsa)
6. Jennie and Artem (Viennese waltz... seriously? WEEK ONE?)
7. Chris and Witney (salsa)
8. Jennie and Keo (foxtrot)

1. Kareem
2. Arike