LOS ANGELES -- High scores, low scores and controversy ruled the night on Week 8 at “Dancing with the Stars.” Once again, a Team USA athlete danced their way to the top of the leaderboard, but this week it was Amy Purdy who notched the top score instead of previous frontrunner Meryl Davis, who had the lowest score of the night. Charlie White also hit a high, earning his first perfect score for his individual dance. Meanwhile, “Dance Moms” star Abby Lee Miller served as a guest judge in an appearance that was deemed controversial by the cast.
Davis, Purdy and White continued to prove fan favorites as they were the first three celebrities declared “safe” (based on last week’s scores and the viewer votes leading into this week). Actress Danica McKellar was eliminated, but actress Candace Cameron Bure and singer James Maslow will head to next week’s semifinal with Davis, Purdy and White. Fan votes are crucial this week more than ever to ensure all three athletes reach the final.
Here’s a look at the drama that unfolded Monday night:
Amy Purdy Overcomes Injury To Reach Perfection
The para-snowboarding bronze medalist quickly became a fan favorite as the first double below the knee amputee to compete in the show’s 18 seasons. This week, Purdy continued to defy the odds, entering the week unsure if she would be able to perform at all and still pulling out the highest scores of the night. During last week’s show, Purdy injured her upper back while walking to get her scores. She was unable to participate in the team dance (causing the judges to score her team based on dress rehearsal) and was taken away on a stretcher.
“I overworked my upper back and it spasmed, and then it pulled a couple rib heads out and pushed on some nerves,” she said of the injury. “So I’ve had to have a lot of chiropractic, and a lot of ice and massage, and trying to keep those muscles moving.”
Purdy, who is no stranger to injury, recovered just in time for show time and her decision to dance was well worth it when she and professional dance partner Derek Hough received a perfect score of 40 for their Argentine tango. It marked their first perfect score of the competition, which came on a very fitting night.
“That dance is like the dance of the legs, with all the gauchos and cool little movements, so it was cool to do a dance that was about something that is so unique to her,” said Hough, a five-time “Dancing with the Stars” champion.
This week’s new twist was the celebrity dance duels, which featured two couples performing together and included a 20-second solo by the celebrities.
Purdy and Hough performed a jive with Maslow and partner Peta Murgatroyd. The quartet received a 39 out of 40 for the highest score of all three duels, and giving Purdy the highest combined score, 79.
“It was really cool,” Maslow said. “I’ve only been dancing with professional dancers, so to go to someone else that is like me and is trying to learn was actually exciting. In a weird way it made me feel better if we did screw up, but she’s awesome. She gives it 100 percent and we both had a lot of fun dancing together.”
Charlie White (Finally) Finds Flawless 40
It’s no secret by now that three-time Olympic medalist ice dancer Charlie White has been desperately seeking a perfect score all season, especially since his skating partner Meryl Davis reached that milestone in Week 6. White and partner Sharna Burgess had almost given up hope on obtaining that perfect score and settled back into a place where they were focusing on the journey more so than their scores. Lo and behold, that was exactly what they needed to earn an elusive 40.
“I think it’s been a real journey and process both in how we approach our training and the momentum that we’ve been building, as well as the technique I’ve been working on,” White said. “I feel like it really came at a great time.”
Burgess admitted she was not expecting their first perfect score to come for the quickstep, a dance that well-suited White’s always-happy nature.
“Not because he wasn’t amazing, but I thought maybe that’s not a part of our journey yet, maybe it’s going to happen for us in the finale, which isn’t unheard of,” she said. “At the end of the dance, when we took that bow, I already was so proud of him and the way that we performed together that whatever happened up on that judges’ table, I was ok with. To know that we got all 10s in the end anyway is an amazing feeling, but first and foremost I’m incredibly proud of him and the wonderful week we had. We got back on track with how we’re approaching the competition.”
White’s dance duel, a contemporary number with Cameron Bure and partner Mark Ballas, earned him a 38 for a total of 78 on the night. White put his ice dance experience to work for his 20-second solo with Cameron Bure, which was filled with lifts and saw her feet off the ground the entire time.
“She was completely fearless and just attacked, and that’s not something that you would expect from someone that has no dance experience,” White said of working with the “Full House” star. “But she was super strong and just went for it, and in the end it was the highlight of what became a really powerful dance overall.”
Meryl Davis Reaches An Emotional High
Meryl Davis and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who have become known for their close bond and undeniable chemistry in the ballroom, earned the top score for five of the past seven weeks. Their winning ways came to a halt Monday night as they earned a 36 for the rumba, which marked the first time they have had the lowest score of the night.
“I was definitely a little disappointed with the scores, especially an 8,” Davis said. “When you feel really great about a routine, it’s kind of hard to take, but I always take constructive criticism so I’ll take that into next week with us.”
Davis’ night wasn’t all bad, though, as she still walked away saying her rumba was one of her favorite dances all season. Highlighted by an intense opening scene that had Davis slapping Chmerkovskiy, the dance allowed her to tap into a raw emotional energy she hasn’t previously experienced on the show.
“She’s an amazing student and she embraces what I offer,” Chmerkovskiy said. “We have a worked out way of doing things together since this is Week 8, and we’ve had some awesome performances together. This isn’t any different but it was something different for her, and I love the way she attacked it. I got slapped 40 times during the week so it definitely was a good practice and today was great.”
Davis and Chmerkovskiy performed their duel dance, a samba, with McKellar and Chmerkovskiy’s brother Val for a score of 34, giving them a total of 70.
Abby Lee Miller Stirs Up The Ballroom
Abby Lee Miller, who is known for her unique coaching style of young dancers on “Dance Moms” (which boasts the tag line, “She makes stars, not friends”), appeared as a guest judge Monday night. While one of the Abby Lee Dance Company students who was in the audience said she expected Miller to be “ruder,” the “Dancing with the Stars” cast found that her appearance alone on the show spoke volumes.
Read how the stars reacted:
“Out there she was fine. We didn’t really want to focus on her too much. A lot of people disagree with the way she conducts herself professionally. We just really wanted to focus on how proud of ourselves we were.” –Charlie White
“The main thing is I’m sad we endorsed her behavior. I don’t like the way she teaches children. I don’t believe that’s how anyone should teach, no matter what you’re teaching. And I’m sad we gave her the power to sit behind that desk and judge such quality dancing like was on our floor tonight.” –Sharna Burgess
“She gave us a 10, so I’m happy about that.” –Amy Purdy
“Controversial would be a good word for it. I think she is infamous for speaking her mind to her young students, so as Maks spoke his mind when he was asked about how he felt about her comments. I think that when you bring controversy into something, it’s not surprising to get controversy back.” –Meryl Davis