Dancing With the Stars Recap: Crying Games

katherine jenkinsWeek 1 of Season 14 was heralded as Dancing With the Stars‘ greatest-ever kickoff. Week 2 landed with an unexpected thud. And so it was anyone’s guess what to expect as the show headed into Week 3. Would last week’s cavalcade of missteps create an ugly avalanche, or would our latest crop of celebs make a triumphant collective comeback? And most importantly, how much (or how little) would William Levy wear?

Fret not, ballroom watchers! Free to choose the dances (and songs) that best represented the most memorable years of their lives, the 11 remaining couples offered up an emotionally charged night in the ballroom. Here’s everything you need to know about Week 3 of DWTS:

Emotional Rescues | I know crocodile tears are as much part of the DWTS brand as fancy footwork, but genuine Kleenex-worthy moments tonight bordered on overwhelming: Jack Wagner’s emotional reunion with his long-lost daughter Carrie in 2011 inspired him to choose a celebratory samba (and to shed more than a few pre- and post-dance tears). OK, I was touched, but Wagner’s clear addiction to sherbet-colored dance attire kinda distracted me from truly feeling the moment. More tears came from Maria Menounos, whose rib injury was long-forgotten during a moving, sensual rumba (to what else, Madonna’s “Material Girl”), inspired by memories of her hard-working parents providing for her struggling family in Boston in 1988. Gavin DeGraw’s emotional mini-meltdown over the unconditional love he’s felt from his family left him temporarily speechless (good save, Karina!). Katherine Jenkins’ waltz in honor of her father’s memory was achingly beautiful (this woman is ridiculously gorgeous and she’s growing on me by the minute), and according to Carrie Ann and Bruno, perfect to boot!. Finally, Jaleel White and Donald Driver inspired more ballroom tears — what warmth and emotion! — so by night’s end, even my stone-cold heart had grown several sizes.

Putting On A Happy Face | When Len openly admitted he takes happy pills at the very start of the show, my self-satisfied “I told you so!” smile lasted for most of the first hour. I knew it! Adding to my giddiness was the empress of soul Gladys Knight, who glided through an uplifting, elegant Fox Trot dedicated to the legendary Sam Cooke (and yes, happy camper Len even ‘fessed up that he hankers to be a Pip!). I know Sherri’s rumba was inspired by tears at the memory of almost losing her son Jeffrey (who was born 15 weeks premature in 2005), but I was filled with joy when her megawatt smile beamed halfway through the dance. Of course, the anticipation in the ballroom built to a fever pitch for Mr. Levy, who more than lived up to the expectations. Kudos to Cheryl, who made American homes rejoice when — mere seconds into their salsa — she ripped open his shirt, and well, need I say more? Carrie Ann’s “that was ridiculously hot” pretty much covers it.

Rewind the DVR Moment | Her rumba may have brought the bedroom into the ballroom, but Maria’s post-score clip showing her kicking ass as a moonlighting WWE wild-woman was the biggest shocker of the night! Who knew? And Melissa “Half Pint” Gilbert was touring in a Little House on the Prairie musical in 2010? Who says you can’t learn anything watching reality TV?

Judges’ Leaderboard (Carrie Ann, Len, Bruno: Total)
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 10, 9, 10: 29
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 9, 9, 10: 28
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 9, 9, 9: 27
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 9, 8, 9: 26
Jaleel White and Kym Johnson: 9, 8, 8: 25
Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower: 8, 8, 9: 25
Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy: 8, 8, 8: 24
Jack Wagner and: Anna Trebunskaya: 8, 8, 8: 24
Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus: 8, 8, 8: 24
Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff: 8, 8, 8: 24
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 8, 8, 8: 24

Now it’s your turn. Whose most memorable year stole the show, and gave your tear ducts the biggest workout? Do you think the perfect scores were justified so early in the season? Would you go see the Little House musical? Leave your comments! –Mitch Rustad