It’s hard to believe we’re down to just nine remaining couples competing for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on this season of Dancing with the Stars. Most Memorable Year Night is always a fan favorite, as we get a personal glimpse into the celebrities’ most memorable moments prior to this competition. Some were predictable – Laurie Hernandez selecting 2016 because this was the year she was part of a gold-winning gymnastics team at the Summer Olympics in Rio, or James Hinchcliffe selecting 2015, the year he almost died in a fiery, frightening IndyCar crash – while others were a bit more revealing with their choices.
Violinist Andre Rieu was on-hand to perform Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” with his orchestra to open the show, while all the dance pros danced a dreamy dance around them, including the newly engaged Sasha and Emma. It was a magical opening to say the least. Head judge Len Goodman was still noticeably missing from the ballroom. Let’s take a look at how everyone did on this memorable fifth week of competition:
Maureen McCormick with Artem Chigvintsev, Foxtrot
Coming fresh off a comeback, Maureen and Artem danced a poignant wedding-themed Foxtrot to “From the Ground Up” by Dan + Shay. Maureen’s most memorable year was 1985 when she married her husband Michael. I hadn’t realized just how wild she had been in her teens. It was obvious she felt an emotional connection to their song choice because she credited her husband with saving her life and giving her the strength to overcome her past drug addictions. She’s improving by noticeable leaps and bounds in this competition. Julianne said it was art imitating life, showcasing her spectacular journey with dance. Bruno felt it was pretty and angelic, saying people will want to get married just to do that dance. Carrie Ann called her the slow and steady competitor who could win the race. Seeing her husband there to support her was also beautiful. One of my Facebook friends likened her to a delicate but elegant china doll – I’d say that’s exactly what she was this week.
Calvin Johnson Jr. with Lindsay Arnold, Jazz
Calvin’s most memorable year was 2012 when he broke Jerry Rice’s record, cementing his place as a wide receiver legend. I’m not a football fan, but it looked like a very special moment. Calvin and Lindsay rocked a Jazz routine to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell commemorating his big game – complete with fan favorite Jerry Rice ceremoniously tossing him a football at the end (to Calvin’s surprise). Bruno loved the Motown references in the dance and continues to admire his natural charisma. Carrie Ann told him he reminds her of Jerry Rice bringing out the fun in the competition. However, she told him he needs to still work on his musicality. Julianne called them magic together on the dance floor, saying his enthusiasm carries through every week. The judges all agree the potential is there, but MegaTron needs to continue to push himself.
Jana Kramer with Gleb Savchenko, Contemporary
Jana’s most memorable year proved to be 2016 when she became a mother for the first time. However, she also opened up about an abusive relationship in her past (though she didn’t say much about her recent split). Dancing an apropos Contemporary routine set to Martina McBride’s “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” Jana and Gleb were inspiring and emotionally connected in a way that we haven’t seen yet (no matter how consistently good they have been since week one). Carrie Ann commended her for her strength, saying it was a beautiful breakthrough this week. Julianne admitted the dance brought her to tears, admiring her perseverance in the dance journey. Bruno adored the pure, undiluted expressions of love and dedication in the dance.
Ryan Lochte with Cheryl Burke, Contemporary
Ryan’s most memorable year was winning his first Olympics gold medal for swimming in 2008. No matter what you think of Ryan’s mistakes in Rio, there’s no denying his passion for his sport. I enjoyed their powerful Contemporary routine set to “A Song for You” by Leon Russell. That’s a big song to fill, but I felt Ryan admirably filled it with the dance dedicated to his mother for always being supportive of him. Julianne was impressed because he stepped out of his comfort zone and revealed his vulnerability. Bruno said it was his most honest dance to date, while Carrie Ann thanked him for taking his dance to the next emotional level. And Ryan also got engaged this week; congrats!
Laurie Hernandez with Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Paso Doble
Earning the first perfect score of the season on week four? Holy continued pressure, Laurie! Unsurprisingly, Laurie’s most memorable year was 2016 when she won Olympics gold in Rio after years of pushing through injuries and other personal obstacles. Pushing herself literally outside of her box, Laurie and Val continued to sizzle with a mesmerizing Paso Doble from start to finish set to Katy Perry’s “Rise.” Bruno proclaimed she set off seismic alarms around the nation, although he did note that she made some mistakes in the intricate footwork of the dance. Carrie Ann admired the moments of brilliance and likened her to a fierce godlike warrior, but she was apparently not a fan of the beginning of the dance (she called it unnecessary and unauthentic to who Laurie is, but I thought it was creative!). Julianne said it possessed dynamic strength, but she wants to see more of their power as a couple and not just that of Laurie. I think that criticism made sense … but Laurie can’t exactly help it if she’s a breakout star week to week.
Marilu Henner with Derek Hough, Viennese Waltz
Out of all the contestants who have ever appeared on DWTS, do you think Marilu Henner had more difficulty than most when it came to picking out her most memorable year thanks to her perfect recall memory? Unsurprisingly, her most memorable year was 1978 when Taxi began. What did surprise me was learning that her mother passed away mere months before witnessing her breakthrough performance as Elaine Nardo. Dancing to “Surprise Yourself” by Jack Garratt, Marilu and Derek absolutely nailed their Viennese Waltz. It was ethereally elegant – I loved her dress and the starry backdrop! The judges were finally equally impressed – all three gave her a hug and a well-earned score of 9, placing her at the top of the leader board for the first time. Carrie Ann admired how she allowed herself to be great, while Julianne recognized how much Marilu wants this. Bruno said she hit the flow and she never stopped, saying it was brilliant. Bravo, Marilu!
Amber Rose with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Samba
2013 was Amber Rose’s most memorable year because that’s the year she became a mom and realized she was capable of achieving anything. Dancing a sassy Samba set to “Woman Up” by Meghan Trainor, Amber Rose and Maks continue to show improvement and momentum together. However, she also continues to up the ante on unnecessary drama week to week. I enjoyed her colorful costume and the choreography. Julianne loved the costume, content and concept, but she cautioned Amber Rose to trust her partner more. Bruno said it was a Samba resplendent with girl power, saying she killed it with the girls in the background. Carrie Ann could tell she was nervous in the beginning but told her she filled the room and was incredible, so there’s nothing to be nervous about as she continues to climb her dance trajectory.
James Hinchcliffe with Sharna Burgess, Tango
James Hinchcliffe has certainly come a long way since his fiery IndyCar crash in 2015. It’s difficult to believe he walked away from that crash or got back into a race car right away, let alone how he can be dancing so flawlessly in this competition just 18 months later. Dancing a Tango to “The Right Time” by Yves V featuring Mike James, James and Sharna have peaked at the right time in this competition. Bruno proclaimed it super slick and super controlled with the right poses at the exact right times. Carrie Ann called him a miracle, saying he’s the one to beat, while Julianne echoed that sentiment while admiring his amazing frame. A 9, Julianne? Really? Way to rain on his bedazzled parade of perfection on this Canadian Thanksgiving!
Terra Jole with Sasha Farber, Contemporary
2013 was Terra’s most memorable year because that’s the year her father passed away after suffering a surprise heart attack on the day he was being released from a liver transplant. Her package was particularly heartbreaking, as he didn’t get to be there to walk her down the wedding aisle or to witness her success in entertainment. Terra and Sasha continued to shine with their Contemporary routine set to “Stand by Me” (as done in the style of Florence + The Machine). The emotions were raw and powerful, and it was the perfect way to close such a profound and revealing night of dance. Carrie Ann was at a temporary loss for words, while Julianne told her that everybody believes in Terra after that performance. Bruno said her dad is looking down with the biggest smile from Heaven, while host Tom Bergeron noted the couple’s amazing connection and eye contact.
This week’s show was dedicated to the memory of someone the program lost from the props department, giving it an even more poignant touch. With such an emotional evening, the producers wisely chose not to hold an elimination this week (that and there was a double elimination last week). Thank goodness DWTS is returning to its one night of programming per week. Their secondary elimination nights have felt exceptionally fluffy thus far this season. Who do you think will be going home next Monday after Latin Night with guest judge Pitbull in attendance? At this point in the competition, all of the remaining contestants deserve to be there based upon their talent. I hate to see any of them eliminated, but if pressed, I’d say it’s time for Calvin and Lindsay to go home based on this week’s performance.
Who is your favorite so far? Who should go home next week? Tell us in the comments below!