12:15 pm EDT, October 11, 2016

‘DWTS’ 23×05 recap: My sob stories will go on

By Irvin K

In Dancing with the Stars week 5, the celebrities came armed with sob stories of Titanic proportions.

“My Most Memorable Year” is perhaps the most tedious theme that DWTS insists on doing every season (outmatched only by “Iconic Dances” on occasion). True, it’s much more effective mid-season than it is at the beginning. But still, it’s a cornucopia of crying, as the celebrities all try to outdo one another’s crocodile tears, and any impact is dulled by the sheer quantity of emotion on display for two hours. One of these days, we’ll come up with a Bingo card for these weeks – Dead parents! Child born! Marriage! Olympics! Judges crying can be the Free Space.

The whole thing is further ruined by the introduction of the contemporary style, where the whole point is showing emotion. It’s rather unfair that half the couples have to portray their feelings through a dance style with formal technique and steps, while others just have to emote. And because no one wants to penalize a celeb when there are so many feelings about, the judges left their seven-and-under paddles at home, leading to a very clumped leaderboard.

The show opened on a beautiful orchestral rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” by violinist Andre Rieu. The first couple dancing was newly-engaged Sasha and Emma, and they were slowly joined by others until it was seven couples (dressed to the nines) twirling amid the musical crescendo. It was one of our favorite openings, well worth a watch.

‘DWTS’ 23×05 recap

And now, let’s welcome our stars!

First Place, 29 points: James & Sharna. We finally got to hear more about James’s dramatic crash last year, where he had a suspension thingy go right through his middle, and survived when anyone else would have died. But he may just be the most optimistic contestant this side of Bindi Irwin; he said that crash was the best thing that ever happened to him because it made him who he is today. He channeled all those complex emotions into a glorious tango, with perfect form as we’ve come to expect from him. Julianne was nitpicky about something or other and held him back from a perfect score, but there’s no question that James triumphed tonight. And he stayed humble the whole time, thanking his two miracle workers: his track surgeon and Sharna. It’s also worth noting how the narrative changed – we’ve said from the get-go that if Laurie were ever to stumble, James would swoop in as frontrunner. Laurie did stumble this week, and immediately the judges were calling James “unstoppable” and “the one to beat.”

Second Place (tie), 27 points: Terra & Sasha. Terra was the closing act of the show, both because of her dancing prowess, and because she had the best sob story. She danced to honor her late father, who died suddenly without Terra there. Needless to say, there were lots of tears. She had one of the most difficult pieces of music to work with, one that kept starting and stopping, but Sasha rose to the occasion in his choreography.

Second Place (tie), 27 points: Marilu & Derek. Marilu also got the parental death to tug on viewers’ heartstrings, which segued into her career on Taxi. This week was Marilu’s breakthrough, whether because she finally got over her fear of disappointing Derek or because she allowed “greatness to happen,” per Carrie Ann. Her emotional Viennese waltz (another specialty of Derek’s) was beautiful – it had great movement and emotion. It ended with all the judges rushing from their table to partake in a hug-fest.

Third Place, 26 points: Jana & Gleb. Jana got to do an emotional contemporary for her infant daughter, whom she credits for healing her after the abusive relationship. The most striking moment was when she did a dramatic fall that would’ve ended in disaster if Gleb hadn’t caught her – were we the only ones who gasped? Julianne described it all in one word: “perseverance;” she then managed to find plenty more words with the same gist.

Fourth Place, 25 points: Laurie & Val. It was an emotional week for Laurie, who struggled to manage Val’s intensity and high expectations, as she paid homage to her current Olympic triumph in a paso doble. Val choreographed a rather unusual paso that began with a contemporary-ish section of Laurie breaking out of a box before getting into the paso. Standards for Laurie are so high that the judges penalized her for small mistakes that would’ve easily gotten all nines for any other celeb. Julianne seems to be providing most of the drama in the ballroom lately: she said she wants to watch Val more instead of Laurie pulling all the focus. Val incredulously replied that if the focus is on Laurie, “that means I’m doing my job.”

Last Place (tie), 24 points: Calvin & Lindsay. Calvin’s most memorable year is 2012, when he broke some football record of Jerry Rice’s. To honor this, he performed a jazz routine that’s become par the course for this couple – high energy, fun, crazy lifts. The highlight came at the end, where DWTS once again utilized their deep bench of alumni to have Jerry Rice himself toss a football to Calvin – the first time these two have met. Erin seemed to think it was a big deal; we’d forgotten all about it by 10pm. If Calvin keeps being so early in the running order, it won’t do him any favors.

Last Place (tie), 24 points: Maureen & Artem. Considering how much Maureen is always crying, there was a distinct possibility she would just explode from emotion in “Most Memorable Year” week. She chose the year she married her husband, 1985. Her husband saved her from her heavy cocaine addiction, which she got when the bottom dropped out as it often does for child stars.  Her foxtrot was beautiful – elegant in its simplicity, with some great combinations thrown in. DWTS production design truly excelled during this number! Afterwards, her husband joined Maureen to chat with Erin (instead of just crying in the audience like they usually do). He talked about how he was crazy in love with Maureen back then, and still is 31 years later. Artem was trying to refrain from crying, because there’s only so many tears a couple can shed. We may have gotten a touch misty-eyed – it was the first number, our hearts hadn’t hardened yet!

Last Place (tie), 24 points: Amber & Maks. Amber had a meltdown during dress rehearsal about wearing heels, which proved more emotional than her most memorable year (giving birth to her son three years ago). As far as her samba went, it was decent – Maks put in a lot of content, but Amber being side-by-side with pros did her no favors.

Last Place (tie), 24 points: Ryan & Cheryl. Ryan’s most memorable year was 2008, where he triumphed at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, he then did his usual shtick of mentioning how absolutely awful Rio was for him and how victimized he is. He remained unrepentant, which is why we are still having trouble warming up to him. He is newly engaged, so good for him on that. The best part of this dance was an awesome dip back by Cheryl – we have major ab envy.

Who do you think will be eliminated next week? It’s really a toss-up at this point, there aren’t any weak links left. Which routine was most memorable for you? And who do you think Julianne will feud with next?

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