The first three weeks of Dancing With the Stars‘ 25th season have essentially been a tug-of-war between Lindsey Stirling and Jordan Fisher, who have far and away been the strongest and most consistent contestants.
But every season, there is the great equalizer known as Most Memorable Years Night, in which even the weakest names on the roster turn in poignant, stirring routines as they reflect on crucial moments in their lives.
Though several of Dancing‘s contestants still have some work to do where technique is concerned, each one of them was emotionally connected to Monday’s choreography in a way they hadn’t been until now. Below, let’s recap the highlights of the broadcast:
BEST OF THE NIGHT
Jordan Fisher and pro Lindsay Arnold (Contemporary) — OK, so maybe that tug-of-war between Jordan and Lindsey hasn’t quite ended. Though several other dancers showcased their personal bests on Monday’s episode, Jordan brought a skill, elegance and emotional openness to the dance floor that remains unmatched. And if Jordan’s story of being legally adopted by his grandparents didn’t bring tears to your eyes, surely his muffled sobs while hugging them after the performance had you reaching for the Kleenex. Judges’ Score: 29/30
BEST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP)
Vanessa Lachey and pro Maks Chmerkovskiy (Rumba) — From a technical standpoint, Vanessa and Maks’ rumba wasn’t flawless, as evidenced by the eights they received across the board. But Vanessa, who was dancing in celebration of her prematurely-born infant son, delivered movements so vulnerable, so passionate, that it was easy to overlook any shaky footwork. It’s recently been reported that Vanessa and Maks aren’t exactly chummy when the cameras aren’t rolling — but on the dance floor, where it counts, their chemistry is just lovely. Judges’ Score: 24/30
Victoria Arlen and pro Val Chmerkovskiy (Foxtrot) — Oh, you thought you were done crying just because the Property Brothers danced a lighthearted jive together? Wrong! Victoria Arlen is here to remind you that she literally recovered from a four-year-long vegetative state, and learned to walk again after being told it was impossible to do so. By using a wheelchair as an integral piece of his routine with Victoria, Val offered a beautiful interpretation of his partner’s inspiring story, and Victoria’s confidence and grace was simply awe-inspiring. Judges’ Score: 27/30
Lindsey Stirling and pro Mark Ballas (Viennese Waltz) — Lindsey has already proven she’s a major contender for this season’s Mirrorball, so her technical mastery of the Viennese waltz wasn’t much of a surprise. It was the quiet, tender emotional connection that she forged with Mark in this routine — an homage to her late father — that blew me away. It would have been easy for Lindsey to fall apart during this number, given how close she was with her dad; instead, each combination that she and Mark showcased was gentle, careful and so, so sweet. (Oh, and if you needed another reason to openly weep on your couch, Mark was wearing the actual hat and scarf that Lindsey’s dad used to don when he was alive. Hope you were in the mood to feel emotionally fragile tonight!) Judges’ Score: 26/30
It doesn’t seem right to harp on the evening’s weaker performances, given how uplifting the two-hour affair was… but I will confess that I was shocked at how much praise Drew and Emma’s jive (with a guest appearance from Jonathan Scott) received. Frankly, I was holding my breath until the dance ended without incident.
And now, the results:
COUPLES IN JEOPARDY
Nick Lachey and pro Peta Murgatroyd
Derek Fisher and pro Sharna Burgess
Derek Fisher and pro Sharna Burgess
Your turn! Were Derek and Sharna the right choice for elimination? Drop a comment below with all of your thoughts on Monday’s episode.