Well, now this is a treat: guest host Billy Porter got to open week 8 with a performance of “How Will I Know” to kick off Whitney Houston night. A way better opener than some of those silly skits from weeks and years past! Porter even had the chance to explain his role for the night before the competition kicked off: “I will be looking for storytelling. I will be looking for connection and I will be looking for intention.”
Not said but it was surely implied: Be kind to the memory of Ms. Houston, y’all!
Reality TV star Harry Jowsey (Too Hot to Handle) with partner Rylee Arnold. Arnold’s bandage-covered shoulders (for reasons unknown) were a bit of a distraction during the rehearsal package, as Jowsey talked about being an average Joe who can’t dance a plum lick. Then Arnold took him to a ballet class which made absolutely zero difference to their Viennese waltz (performed to Houston’s “I Have Nothing.”) Jowsey looked good in his crushed blue velvet suit, though. “You have grown exponentially,” said Porter. “It’s about the storytelling. The seduction was at about a 5. I need to see it at a 10.” Score: 28 out of 40
Actor Barry Williams (The Brady Bunch) with partner Peta Murgatroyd. Peta makes this partnership look superb, but Williams can only hide behind her talent and beauty for so long. He has to know that he’s living on borrowed time, so simply raising his arms and swinging his hips to “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” does not a rumba make, man. The judges were kind, though. “You have captured the heart so America,” said judge Derek Hough. “The way you used your arms. There were a few things here and there but great rumba, Barry.” Score: 32 out of 40
Actress Alyson Hannigan (American Pie) with partner Sasha Farber. Hannigan broke down talking about how the Houston song “Greatest Love of All” taught her how to love herself when she was a kid. “This song got me through so much,” she said. Wow. Talk about putting a lot of pressure on your contemporary dance! But something happens to the celebs when they get to go barefoot in the ballroom. Hannigan had her most self-assured performance yet. “Simple, effective, deeply felt and true,” said judge Bruno Tonioli. “I definitely saw a different side of you and I liked it.” She deserved at least one more 9 but only got one from Porter. Score: 33 out of 40
Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz with partner Daniella Karagach. The duo was tasked with dancing to “Higher Love” — a song that Mraz says is similar to his tune “I’m Yours.” The crooner behaved like he had two left feet in rehearsal but brought so much confidence to his samba, a messed-up-ball-change not withstanding. He’s obviously had the time of his life, but Porter hated how he mouthed the lyrics during the entire performance. Seriously, so what? But, whatever. Porter: “It’s distracting. Save that for when you are on Broadway because you sing at the same time.” Score: 33 out of 40
Charity Lawson (The Bachelorette) with partner Artem Chigvintsev. The reality star flashed a big smile when the music crescendoed; she was clearly swept up in the moment, dancing the Viennese waltz in her resplendent, crystal-encrusted gown to “I Will Always Love You.” Simply gorgeous. Wait, Porter said that! “My daring, so sophisticated, so classy,” said Tonioli. “That a cappella section, you were so on it. Everything followed the lyrics beautifully.” Score: 36 out of 40
Ariana Madix (Vanderpump Rules) with partner Pasha Pashkov. Madix was perfectly paired with the Paso doble and the song “Queen of the Night.” The woman is having a moment, between her newfound fame on Vanderpump Rules to her new business ventures with sandwiches and cocktails. I’m sure she’d like a mirror ball trophy to top it all off. She’s definitely headed to the final three. “You do not miss a moment,” said judge Carrie Ann Inaba. “You attack with everything you’ve got.” Score: 39 out of 40
Actress Xochitl Gomez (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) with partner Val Chmerkovskiy. We got a little more intel on the ankle injury that Gomez tried to dismiss during last week’s show; she suffered a bad sprain while practicing the team dance and it was still aching this week as they practiced their tango to “I Want To Dance With Somebody.” But if it still felt raw in the ballroom Tuesday, it definitely didn’t show. Gomez remains the frontrunner to beat. “That was flawless. So absolutely pristine,” said Tonioli. “Girl you are a black panther out there,” said Inaba. Score: A perfect 40
The Dance Off.
Madix and Pashkov got to sit this one out because they were at the top of the leaderboard last week.
Hannigan v. Jowsey. The two had to compete against other with the rumba. Jowsey and Arnold were so much louder and sexier with their moves, but as Hough said, Hannigan “had a leg up.” Oh, and Porter called Jowsey a tree trunk for Arnold to dance around. Lovely. Guess he didn’t get Porter’s vote! “Both of you have grown so much and it was really a pleasure to see that. Harry, you were telling the story,” Inaba said. “Allison, you danced little tiny circles around Harry.” Winner: Hannigan
Mraz v. Williams. The two were tasked with the salsa. This was a tough one to focus on because both men made HUGE moves to get the judges’ attention. It was so close until Greg Brady threw open his shirt to show off his freshly shaved chest. The audience chanted his name after it was over! Mraz knew he was toast after that. “Barry when I grow up I want to be like you,” said Hough. “I mean, the gyration. The movement and you are such a competitor! That was astounding to watch and I loved it!” Winner: Williams
Gomez v. Lawson. I love a good fringe pant so I wanted to give Lawson the advantage here with her cha-cha, but Gomez is just too refined, so crisp, so perfect with her dancing. Like host Alfonso Ribeiro said, it was “a battle of the titans.” “That was really good and exciting to watch,” said Inaba. “You were both competitive but one of you was just a little more competitive. I really loved seeing that. It was like, eye of the tiger. Both of you, fantastic.” Winner: Lawson.
Bottom threee were Williams, Mraz and Lawson. But it was Williams’ time to go. He broke up talking to Ribeiro and Julianne Hough.
Next week is Taylor Swift night.