7:15 pm EST, May 5, 2015

‘DWTS’ season 20, week 8 recap: Quarterfinals with a five-armed salsa

By Irvin K | Edited by Karen Rought

Between America’s Choice Week and trio dances, the remaining seven couples were subjected to a lot of outside influences in the quarterfinal.

This led to some interesting routines, where half the couples faltered and half succeeded, and the elusive perfect score appeared for the first time all season. With the return of Tuesday results shows, there is no elimination to discuss, and that really helped the pacing of the show (which always seems to run out of time). Instead, there will be two eliminations to discuss the next day.

The trio dances always make for good television, and this week was no exception. Interestingly, not a single couple picked a third member of the same gender as the celebrity, a tried-and-true tactic for showing that a celebrity can keep up with a pro dancer. So before they crack under pressure, let’s welcome our stars!

First Place, 80 points: Rumer and Val (40+40). Since the judges have halted the perennial inflation of scores this season, Rumer got the first perfect score of the season. She followed that up with a second perfect score, making for a perfect night. Rumer is peaking at just the right time; with Nastia’s partner-swapping and Willow’s sudden elimination, Rumer is the current favorite to win.

American chose a “classic rhumba” for the couple. After some drama the previous week, Val was keen to bring back a sense of fun. Armed with a super-positive attitude, he created a high-velocity rhumba that was full of content. Rumer performed with great technique, and the number avoided all shenanigans (which have gotten on Len’s last nerve, and ours). All the judges were impressed, and a disgruntled Len was won over, resulting in a perfect forty.

The third member of the trio was Artem, which led to an immensely entertaining storyline about Artem and Val’s potential shirtlessness. Artem inquired why the question of wearing shirts kept coming up. (Try being a woman on a red carpet!) Rumer, generous soul that she is, wanted to share with America what she got to enjoy all week. Val protested that he was being “exploited… sexually, by the show,” which holds less water given his reprisal of a dance in a speedo during last week’s 10-year anniversary special. They settled for matador mini-shirts, which still prominently displayed the guys’ physiques. Continuing the no-frills setup of the first dance, the number was pure paso doble with the seamless incorporation of a third dancer, and resulted in a second perfect forty. Elimination odds: 1 in 10.

CARRIE ANN INABA, LEN GOODMAN, JULIANNE HOUGH, BRUNO TONIOLI

Second Place, 78 points: Riker and Allison (39+39). Allison doesn’t care about steps or technique! She just wants emotion! Riker is, understandably, just trying to remember the steps, and struggles with being vulnerable on purpose. Nevertheless, come showtime, he brought forth a “raging torrent of emotion” (per Bruno) in his Viennese waltz. To be fair, it was hard to identify as a Viennese waltz — it was more sharp than flowy — but whatever it was, Riker danced it well. Len, who is just not having it anymore, called out this dance (and all the dances of late) for being all contemporary and showy instead of actually delivering the assigned dance. Preach it, Len!

For the trio, Riker and Allison invited Brittany. If you are wondering who on earth that is, you’re not alone… we can only assume she’s a troupe member heretofore unseen. Riker admitted to having experience with jazz dancing (which may not be the smartest move), so the standard was set high. Riker met that standard, delivering the ultimate party in the form of a jazz routine. Most impressive was all the side-by-side dancing done in perfect sync. Elimination odds: 1 in 4.

Third Place, 76 points: Nastia and Derek/Sasha (36+40). With Mark gone, Derek feels it his duty to uphold the standard of high-concept insanity. Per America’s choice, he created a gladiator-themed paso doble for Nastia to dance with Sasha (who is thrilled to be out of the crab outfit). Derek’s paso dobles are always a treat — four have received perfect scores, which doesn’t include the iconic futuristic paso with Joanna Krupa. This one was no exception, with superb choreography that featured Sasha and Nastia as gladiators. When Nastia triumphed, King Derek ordered Sasha’s execution, brilliantly represented with a red cape. Nastia lost sync with Sasha on occasion, costing her the judges’ 10s, but it was an awesome dance.

Since they were already working as a trio, Derek decided to just include himself and Sasha in the trio dance. Essentially, he would stand and hold Nastia as she did tricks, and Sasha would actually jive with her. Everyone fawned over this dance as the best thing since sliced bread, awarding it a perfect score. We didn’t think it was an effective trio dance, as the point of a trio is to creatively use three dancers instead of two, and shuttling Nastia between partners is a cheap way out. No complaints against Nastia, who delivered the bipolar jive with aplomb, but Derek needs to bow to the inevitable and stop insinuating himself into routines when he can’t dance. Nastia did finally get frustrated in rehearsal this week, but refused to give any tearful confessionals to producers… a highly unusual move for a DWTS contestant. Elimination odds: 1 in 7.

Fourth Place, 64 points: Chris and Witney (34+30). America chose for Chris to do a contemporary routine that was dark and surrounded by candles. As thanks for such valuable input, Chris and Witney took some time to hang out with his fans. The contemporary was fine — this writer still has no idea how to judge contemporaries, other than by the number of tears Carrie Ann sheds. Chris is anointed this season’s most improved, and gets nines as a reward.

Witney wanted to recreate her success in last season’s trio paso doble, so she recruited BFF Lindsay. The two girls are hilarious together, particularly when they are trying to bring forth Chris’ inner anger. But two women proved too much for Chris (ironic, considering his Bachelor background, as Carrie Ann pointed out). He was overwhelmed, with footwork shoddier than usual, butt a mile behind him, and one could almost see steam coming out of his ears as he tried to keep track of both women on the dance floor. Unless Bachelor fans mobilize like never before, this will likely be the end of the road for him. Elimination odds: 2 in 3.

Fifth Place, 63 points: Noah and Sharna (31+32). Noah decided to ignore America’s choice of a military-themed dance (been there, done that), but as a compromise wore an all-white tuxedo for his tango. This week featured probably the two worst dance styles for Noah. The tango is all about holding a frame and having bent knees, neither of which is possible for Noah. He did as well he could, but bounced back in a big way in the trio round.

We’ve said it before, but Sharna really needs a choreography Emmy for her work this season, and the trio salsa may be her crowning achievement. She choreographed a salsa — a dance that is all about intricate arms — for a man with only one arm. Utilizing the extra arms that came with Emma, this number featured astounding arm-ography, some of our favorite choreography seen on this show. Noah may not have done too much in this dance, but what he did was well-done. Bruno was so excited, he knocked himself out of his chair — a moment Tom has waited 10 years for. Noah’s scores seem a tad low relative to the others, but it’s hard to score him on the same scale. While his scores are on par with Robert and Chris, we think Noah is likeliest to emerge unscathed from the double elimination because he gets the sympathy vote (battle-scarred veteran versus a Bachelor and a billionaire… kind of a no-brainer who people will root for). Eliminations odds: 1 in 3.

Last Place, 62 points: Robert and Kym (33+29). America’s choice was for Robert and Kym to kiss, so kiss they did! It was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in a contemporary that reminded Bruno of a deodorant commercial (that’s a good thing!). Asked how it was, Kym said, “It was actually kind of nice.” A ringing endorsement! It was Erin’s birthday, so she requested a second kiss… and Robert went to plant one on her. Never one to be the other woman in a showmance, Erin did a dramatic dip to avoid Robert’s lips.

They were joined by troupe member Jenna for a trio samba. The trio challenge may not be Kym’s forte (she’s only done it once before) because the choreography was unspectacular. So was Robert’s dancing, but he was too busy enjoying having two beautiful women dance around him. Not even sevens could wipe an enormous grin off his face, which this writer found endearing. This could very well be the end of the road for Robert (which explains the kiss), but it has been an awfully fun one. Elimination odds: 1 in 2.

Who do you think will be eliminated? Did you agree with America’s choices? And which was your favorite trio?

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