DWTS Carlos PenaVega

Dancing With the Stars Week 4 Recap: Did the Right Couple Go Home?

Being a regular Dancing With the Stars viewer comes with an important cardinal rule: Don’t even attempt to watch the traditional “Most Memorable Year” night without buying Kleenex in bulk beforehand.

Monday’s Alfonso Ribeiro-hosted installment forced even the iciest of hearts to thaw, providing us with two hours of emotional pre-performance video packages and tearjerking routines. (I just about lost it every time Bindi Irwin’s dance was even teased at the commercial breaks.)

In keeping with the reality staple’s uplifting theme, I’ll gladly forgo my usual “Worst of the Night” negativity and instead highlight the evening’s five strongest performances, ranked from least to most compelling:

5. Carlos PenaVega and pro Witney Carson (Waltz) — Until Monday’s episode, Carlos had yet to perform a truly memorable routine, relegated instead to watching wife Alexa get all the kudos. And while his pre-performance video package might not have had the emotional gravitas of, say, Bindi Irwin’s or Nick Carter’s, Carlos still masterfully channeled his past loneliness and loss of faith into a beautiful, breathtaking routine. Judges’ Score: 25/30

4. Nick Carter and pro Sharna Burgess (Jazz) — Not even I, a diehard ’N Sync fan, can deny how fun and nostalgia-driven Nick’s routine turned out (and Joey Fatone’s presence in the audience should prove that even the most dedicated boy-band lovers can reach across the aisle). Complete with a few cameos from other BSB members — and original “Backstreet’s Back” choreography! — Nick’s performance was easily the most entertaining of the night. Judges’ Score: 27/30

3. Hayes Grier and pro Emma Slater (Contemporary) — Confession: Whenever Hayes takes the floor for a new routine, I can’t help but remember his first-ever rehearsal with Emma, in which he said, “Damn, you’ve got a big one,” in regards to his partner’s booty. Ever since then, Hayes’ lack of maturity — both on and off the dance floor — clouded my enjoyment of his routines (whether or not he was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume at the time). Monday night, though, he was able to prove me wrong, matching Emma step for step in a tricky contemporary routine that he made look easy. Judges’ Score: 27/30

2. Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy (Rumba) — Perhaps even more compelling than Tamar’s elegance on the dance floor — which she had in spades — was her willingness to be so vulnerable before, during and after the routine. After three weeks of watching Tamar give Val major side-eye for his so-called sexist performance concepts, it was wonderfully refreshing to watch the TV personality let her guard down (and deliver her best performance as a result). Judges’ Score: 27/30

1. Bindi Irwin and pro Derek Hough (Contemporary) — You may need to check yourself for a pulse if Bindi’s tribute to her late father, Steve Irwin, didn’t have you blinking back tears. Not only was the Aussie able to perfectly encapsulate her relationship with her dad throughout the number, but Derek provided the means to do so with absolutely stunning choreography. Judges’ Score: 28/30

And your results:

TWO COUPLES IN JEOPARDY
Carlos PenaVega and pro Witney Carson
Gary Busey and pro Anna Trebunskaya

ELIMINATED
Gary Busey and pro Anna Trebunskaya

Your turn! Were Gary and Anna the right choice for elimination? Which performance tugged at your heartstrings most? Hit the comments!