Eric McCandless / ABC

Dancing With The Stars Gets Fierce And Ferocious

Halloween brings out the best in some couples, even if that may not be enough to keep them around for another week.

The show opens with a giant dance number featuring the couples and the troupe in full Halloween costumes. I always enjoy these numbers because I watch the celebrities and try to figure out which one looks most out of place and out of sync. This week's "winner" is Ryan Lochte. He looks terrified that he's going to miss a step. He really doesn't miss any that I can see, but the quality of his dancing is way lower than anyone else's. Maybe it will be his week to go.

This week, the highest-scoring couple will get immunity. Then the next high-scoring couple gets to choose an opponent for a dance-off to earn bonus points; this continues until they are all paired off. Viewers will vote live for the couple they feel is doing better, and that will be combined with the judges' scores. I didn't love any of these dance-offs; I don't think this season's best dancers are particularly good improvisers, so this type of impromptu dancing falls a bit flat. I am ranking them all near the bottom in no particular order. Your rankings:

10. Laurie and Val vs. Calvin and Lindsay: Jive

I have to give Laurie and Val the edge here. Both couples have great content, but Laurie and Val have smoother transitions from one element to the next while Calvin and Lindsay seem to vamp a lot before they move into the next set. The judges agree, with all three of them choosing Laurie and Val, and so does the audience. Laurie and Val get +3.

9. Jana and Gleb vs. Terra and Sasha: Salsa

Jana and Gleb seem like they are just dancing while Terra and Sasha seem to be doing a routine. The problem with doing a routine in a dance-off is that it was originally choreographed to another song, and it doesn't always quite fit. That is the case here. But the actual dancing was good on both sides. The judges choose Jana and Gleb 2-1, and the audience chooses Jana and Gleb by a narrow margin, so they get +3.

8. Marilu and Derek vs. Ryan and Cheryl: Cha Cha

Ooh, boy. This is actually not as bad as I had feared. Marilu has a lot more innate musicality but Ryan somehow brings something sexy even though his technique is terrible. Like, this is Ryan's best performance, period, but he's super-sloppy. Marilu is precise but kind of boring. Ryan and Cheryl win the judges 2-1, and American chooses Ryan and Cheryl as well. They were magnetic to watch, which earned them +3.

7. Ryan Lochte and Cheryl: Tango

Cheryl tells Ryan that he's made it this far, but if he's going to keep going, he really needs to work on technique. She drills him hard, and makes him do kick after kick with his foot hitting a rope and his head below a higher rope. Ryan is into it; he's an athlete, so he gets drills, I guess. I'll say this for Ryan: there is a ton of content in this routine, and he doesn't miss a step. His footwork is also good. But his posture is not great, and his kicks aren't quite sharp enough. This was better than Ryan's usual, but not as good as everyone else. The judges also had mixed feelings. Scores: 23/30.

6. Marilu Henner and Derek: Argentine Tango

As always, Derek is trying to give Marilu more confidence so that she can perform the songs instead of focusing on the steps. These two have the same story every week. She needs to have a breakthrough soon or this is going to get really boring. Derek seems bored, anyway. Marilu looks incredibly graceful and fierce this week, and their lifts are really amazing. They mess up one move slightly near the end, but Derek covers and it's the last one, so they get through it. Overall, I really liked the intensity this week. The judges loved the performance, though they still see some small technical issues. Julianne thinks it's because Marilu is second-guessing herself and getting too in her head, which is actually good advice. Scores: 23/30.

5. Terra Jolé and Sasha: Cha Cha

They're doing a Beetlejuice theme -- you know, the "Day-O" dance. During rehearsals, Terra struggles a bit with the technique because sometimes her body doesn't quite go the way an average-sized person's body goes, but she works hard. Their routine is a delight; it starts out just like the scene in the movie with Terra in the Catherine O'Hara role, but then they do move into a more traditional cha cha. Her technique looks great and her performance is the best she's done this season. The judges liked it but thought it was missing some oomph or something. I totally disagree. Maybe I'm just flying high on Halloween candy. Scores: 24/30.

4. Jana Kramer and Gleb: Jazz

This week's routine is very complicated, and Gleb has never done a jazz routine before, so he's nervous. Their routine is complex, but there's too much of them dancing with the troupe and not enough of them dancing together. Jana seems to handle all of the content well, though. It's like a Broadway number instead of a ballroom number. The judges liked seeing a side of Jana other than steamy and sexy, and thought she did well. Scores: 27/30.

3. Laurie Hernandez and Val: Viennese Waltz

I don't normally think of Willy Wonka as a Halloween theme (though that tunnel scene was nightmare fuel for years) but that's their theme. Laurie is disappointed that she hasn't repeated her perfect scores from a few weeks ago, so she clears her schedule for rehearsals all week. Val worries that it's his fault. Laurie's dancing is so beautiful, and this theme (Val's Wonka, she's Charlie) is perfect for her wide-eyed innocence. I'm still sensing a bit of a disconnect between them, though. It's all a bit mechanical. They need to find a routine that she can really emotionally connect to, and this wasn't it for me. The judges thought it was beautiful and they felt the emotions, so maybe my Halloween sugar crash is setting in. Scores: 30/30.

2. Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay: Quickstep

Calvin and Lindsay are becoming closer as they spend more time together, and Calvin calls it a brother/sister relationship. And then Calvin brings his two-year-old son to rehearsal and shut the front door, this kid is adorable. Anyway, they are dancing as skeletons. This one is tough because, since they're skeletons, there's not a lot of facial expression and Calvin's smile is his best asset. That said, the dancing is great. They complete one section side-by-side that is in perfect sync. I loved this routine. The judges agree with me for once, and especially praise how much content that routine had. Scores: 30/30.

1. James Hinchcliffe and Jenna: Viennese Waltz

Sharna's injury last week was bad enough that she is out this week and possibly for the rest of the season. James is obviously really upset, but he's ready to work with his new partner, Jenna, on their Suicide Squad-themed routine. This is a really twisted routine -- James is the Joker and Jenna is Harley Quinn, and they are basically having a violent love/hate relationship. And yet somehow it totally works. I was so caught up in the story of it that I forgot to watch for James's technique for a minute. The judges are delighted to see that James was just as good with a new partner. With their perfect score, they tie for the lead, so the results depend on previous judges' scores. Since James has the highest cumulative scores of the season, he gets immunity. Scores: 30/30.

Elimination

As previously mentioned, James and Jenna have immunity. The two couples in jeopardy are Ryan and Cheryl and Terra and Sasha. And the right choice is made as Ryan and Cheryl go home. He wasn't going to get much better, and he was a cut below everyone else on the show. I hope all of his PR dreams came true.

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