Dancing with the Stars recap: It’s week 8, y’all

Dancing with the Stars recap: Season 24, Week 8

When you hit the two-month mark on Dancing with the Stars, you start to hear a lot of chatter from Tom and the judges regarding two topics:

  1. The Dancing with the Stars summer tour is coming to a city near you!
  2. It’s week 8. You should be doing better at this point in the competition.

And if your name is Len Goodman, you say that last one in a mean, old, crotchety way on national television, embarrassing one of your contestants who knows he is not the best dancer. More on that later.

It’s ‘Pro Pick” week! Our pro dancers get to choose a song from a small list of available selections on a piece of paper secretly handed to them from the producers. Then they have to pretend that they plucked this inspiring tune out of thin air because it reminded them of their “star” partner.

Our contestants also have to perform a trio. This season, the JUDGES choose the inevitable third wheel. I like to think it’s their way of giving Maks and Peta a break (both were MIA). It also separates besties Lindsay and Witney, unless of course, there’s some sort of dispute going on behind-the-scenes that we don’t know about.

Whatever the case may be, most couples have one goal: Beat Normani. Let’s see how they did!

Rashad and Emma
Jive
“Shake Ya Tail Feather” by The Blues Brothers
Emma “picked” this song because everyone gravitates to Rashad. He’s the ultimate teammate. Emma loves their bond so much, that she starts crying. Rashad is as cool as a cucumber, but it looks like the idea of being victorious for the first time on this show has given Emma a VIP ticket on the struggle bus.

The pair look cute in sleek black sequined jackets. Emma’s hair is divine and I’m still not sure how she bounced around on those tiny stiletto heels. My roommate Lara and I watched for a handful of seconds before Lara spoke exactly what I was thinking:

“I thought this was going to be the Nelly version of “Shake Ya Tail Feather.”

Ditto. Suddenly the outfits make sense. They are the Blues Brothers. They are also boring. Although there is a ton of personality and energy, I was unmoved by any part of the performance. The judges somewhat agreed with me, but in their mind, Rashad can do no wrong. They also have to judge him high enough to matter, but low enough to give Normani some wiggle room at the top of the leaderboard.
Bruno’s Best Line: “You really are a stage animal. You drive the performance. Nothing is held back.”
SCORE: 36

Normani and Val
Contemporary
“Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton
First, I still love Nomrani’s short hair. Second, her story about being cyber bullied broke my heart. Third, I think Val did a great job taking all of that helpless emotion and transitioning it into a piece that showcased both desperation and strength. The JV dancers pushing and pulling Normani in the circle was an added layer of drama that should have worked for me.

But it just didn’t. I don’t know why I wasn’t overwhelmed by this piece. I’m definitely in the minority, because the audience, including three of the judges, gave the team a standing ovation.

The only thing I can pin this on is that I am not a huge fan of flailing and kicking contemporary routines. It leaned abstract to me. I thought Normani did a great job acting out her pain, but I kept waiting for something else to happen. Something did happen in Normani’s mind. With messed up hair and a sweaty forehead, the tear-stained singer was cradled by Tom Bergeron the entire time she received critiques from the judges. THAT was my favorite part. Am I like Len? An old fuddy duddy? Probably so. But also like Len, I would have scored the dance a 10.
Bruno’s Best Line: “Tonight you are going to get the Pulitzer Prize of extraordinary storytelling.”
SCORE: 40

Bonner and Sharna
Argentine Tango
“Believer” by Imagine Dragons
Bonner is sick and tired of living his stupid bull riding accident over and over and over again. Sharna doesn’t care. She wants him to drop the robot posture and sink into the pain of that moment. Bonner isn’t having it. He’s working hard and she needs to not push so hard. He puts the cherry on top of this statement by walking out of rehearsal.

Whoopsie. Audiences and judges don’t like when the “star” is a little too big for his britches. Bonner needs to take a lesson or two from Cub Nation’s David. Fortunately, the Argentine Tango calls for a stoic demeanor and sharp, quick flicks and kicks. Bonner got one of those right. Bless it.

In a moment that made me gasp, Len tells it like it is when it’s his turn to speak. He berates Bonner, explaining that he has gone “one bridge too far.” Bonner takes the punch like a tough cowboy. Even Julianne, who tries and assuage the moment by reminding the viewers that week 8 is always the hardest, doesn’t cut through his clenched jaw.
Bruno’s Best Line: “You really make the most of what you’ve got.” (Ouch.)
SCORE: 30

Simone and Sasha
Foxtrot
“What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction
Simone is another contestant who is having a hard time on the dance floor. Even though she perfects every move Sasha gives her, the fake smile continues to dominate her performance. So much so that the judges barely recognize her stellar dancing, because they know without a shadow of a doubt that she is going to nail the steps.

Sasha decides to go full-on teenager with his foxtrot. He tells Simone that he picked the PERFECT song that reminds him of her: One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” His declaration is met with a millennial eye roll. Sasha got it totally wrong. I wonder if TJ, the camera guy, would have guessed correctly? Or maybe Sasha should have chosen “We’re All In This Together?” #zac-attack

Simone is dressed in a lovely red gown. Sasha is dressed in a juvenile outfit with red suspenders and Converse tennis shoes. They perform a flawless foxtrot and are docked for lack of authenticity, thanks to her gymnastics smile. Carrie Ann wants more. Len likes her posture. Julianne wants Simone to be raw during her trio. I totally get what they are saying, but I feel bad for the girl!
Bruno’s Best Line: “You’re looking good my darling. Nice and easy. Fresh and refreshing. It’s a walk in the park for you.”
SCORE: 36

David and Lindsay
Waltz
“Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw
This is one of the few “I picked this song” pre-show packages that I actually bought. It seemed genuine. Lindsay sees David with his kids and the other contestants and she believes with all her heart that David has instilled the character traits of “humble and kind” into his children. This moves David to tears. He valued that more than anything else Lindsay could have said in the two months he’s known her. He thanks his parents, knowing that what the taught him actually stuck.

You can imagine the tears that welled up in my eyes when Lindsay chose the opening sequence of the dance to be her standing on David’s feet as he swayed her around in a circle. Stop. I’ve said it so many times throughout the years, and I’ll say it again: Lindsay knows how to choreograph. She may not always have the best dance partner, but her material is always interesting and unique. They are a pretty, flowy, vision in pink, swirling all around the dance floor. It is slow, easy, and exactly what David needed at this point in the competition.
Bruno’s Best Line: “It was the best Father/Daughter dance. People will download it and copy it forever.”
SCORE: 36

Rashad, Emma, and Witney
Argentine Tango
“Dreams” by Bastille
After Emma explains to Witney that “Fleetwood Mac is not a rapper,” the two blonde pros treat Rashad like a human jungle gym. They jump on him and hang from his arms and coil around his muscular legs. Emma is all about making this trio super sexy. Witney, the antagonist, is in an outfit that somehow manages to be half of a costume split straight down the middle. Emma is the light side, in the same outfit, but white. Rashad is in grey. Get it? He can’t decide between the two.

Rashad begins by throwing Emma around. She’s choreographed an awesome tango. Rashad makes the switch to Witney and then before we know it, he’s flinging them both around his body at the same time. I was so mesmerized, I barely took notes. I’ll just have to show you. See below.
Bruno’s Best Line: “That was a exotic chain reaction. Can we do that on TV? Is that legal?
SCORE: 39

Normani, Val, and Alan
Jive
“Feeling Alive” by Earl St. Clair
Val and Alan are excited to do the jive. A country jive. And who might the ideal southern gentleman be? Bonner. Duh. Methinks Normani has a crush on the cowboy, which is easy to believe, yet also hard to believe when she has Val standing right there in front of her. Sweet Alan is under a lot of pressure to not suck. If he does, Val will kill him. Noted.

This particular jive is fast, fast, fast. Normani wears a typical country girl outfit, which as everyone knows, is a modern-day Ellie Mae. Her rhinestone bikini top was a bandana, her denim panties were riding up her butt, and her red boots had fringe. That’s exactly what I wore growing up in East Texas.

Val and Alan wear jeans that have enough give to allow them to do the splits. Their belt buckles appear authentic, and halfway through the dance when Normani is really shining, they both ditch their pearl snaps. That was a fun moment. Toward the end of the high-paced dance, Normani jives away from her two suitors to sidle up next to Bonner, who is waiting for her by his vintage truck parked in front of Old Glory. God bless America. Len takes off some points for Normani dancing on the judges table for about twenty seconds too long, as I knew he would.
Bruno’s Best Line: “It was a glorious, all-American jive!”
SCORE: 39

Bonner, Sharna, and Britt
Jazz
“That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars
Sharna is done. I think Sharna has been done. When Britt walks into their rehearsal, announcing that she has never done a trio before, Sharna looks waaayyyyyyy done. The good news is that they are dancing a jazz, which can easily be translated into musical theater. In this scene, Bonner is a billionaire oil mogul with two slutty secretaries who wear matching navy skirts split up to their waistbands. The dance is painfully slow and full of gyrations and pelvic thrusts on Bonner’s end. At one point I said out loud, “He needs to stop humping the air.” It was bad on all levels. Even the judges thought it was raunchy.
Bruno’s Best Line: “Those girls work hard for their money. You should give them a rise.” (Or a raise.)
SCORE: 28

Sasha, Simone, and Brittany
Paso Doble
“Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers
Brittany has been a JV player for a very long time. She is a great dancer who doesn’t stand out in any way when it comes to her emotions or facial expressions. Does that sound familiar? Something tells me this trio was just as much about seeing Brittany in action as Simone. Could she be in the running to be a pro next season?

Right away I was annoyed with the dance. I just don’t like space themes, and I mentally check out when I see shiny silver and stars. Simone’s belly ring was more interesting to me. I could see there were times when Simone wanted to smile, but she didn’t. She remained dead faced. Sadly, that’s not the opposite of plastic smiles. There was very little emotion and the judges reprimanded her for it.
Bruno’s Best Line: “Sharp, clear and precise. Ruthless efficiency. But at times, we lose artistry.”
SCORE: 36

David, Lindsay, and Hayley
Paso Doble
“Gangsta’s Paradise” by 2WEI
Hayley tells David that out of all the contestants, he’s had the most growth. I’m not sure I can trust someone who wears shortalls, but I’ll allow it. An instrumental version of “Gangsta’s Paradise” certainly intrigued me. Unfortunately, David’s dance did not. I didn’t take a single note other than the words “FIRE” and “gold everywhere” and “Roman sandals.” Bless it. It was very rough. Yes, he’s trying so hard, but man was it clunky. I’ll spare you the video.
Bruno’s Best Line: “At times you look like Godzilla chasing jet fighters.”
SCORE: 29

I assume the show was running out of time, because Tom and Erin immediately started ticking off contestants who were safe. Of course I was fast forwarding my DVR, but that’s neither here nor there. To no one’s surprise, Bonner and Sharna reached the end of their journey.

Everyone looked relieved.

What do you think? We have a pretty good group of semi-finals. Will Simone pick a new smile? Can David hang on another week? Will Rashad kick it up and beat Normai? Is it hers to lose? More importantly, who wants to borrow my Ellie Mae outfit for Halloween?

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