Previously on Dancing with the Stars: Athletes: We kicked off a very short season starring all sports folks in varying degrees of fame. And due to the compressed schedule, two pairs were eliminated after one episode – Johnny Damon and Emma Slater plus Jamie Anderson and Artem Chigvintsev. I wanted to recap Johnny at least once because I already covered him for a season of Celebrity Apprentice and there I called him a “noted wooden plank” and was looking forward to busting that out again.

Hey, Tom Bergeron! Did you hear the Natalie Morales episode of Hollywood Handbook? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t recorded in the studio. In fact, it was…. LIIIIIIIIIVVVVVE!!!!! 

We open with a visit from Rashad Jennings, who’s a delight. It bums me out even more that this is a four-episode season because we’re not going to be able to see anybody get really good. Let’s get to some dancing!

Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess (30/40) – I’m very bad at knowing athletes unless they were represented in the Super NES version of NBA Jam or if they were on basketball cards my sister gave me during that same era. (She gave me any cards that featured people with hilarious names or very tall guys with dumb looks on their face.) Neither of these things are true about Josh. But Sharna is my modern day DWTS crush, so I’m rooting for him. They’re also going to do a paso doble, which is my favorite. And also it’s to the song from The Mask of Zorro, so I hope any rich couples taking their child to the live show don’t leave through a poorly lit alley.

There are backup dancers, and I feel like they’re a little too pivotal in the early moments. But once they get the floor to themselves, it’s quite good. It’s weird because this is associated with a movie that has a very famous (non-paso) dance scene, but once you get beyond the immediate mental associations, it’s really enjoyable. There are some silly bits and I thought it was a lot of fun.

Oh, hey! Rashad is a judge this week! He empathizes with Josh about how hard it is to translate football to the ballroom. Len says it was very good. Bruno compares him to the villain from Black Panther, which is kind of weak but bonus points for getting the full name right. Bruno’s been sitting on that reference for months. Carrie Ann says he was effective but needs to use his arms more. They get a 30!

Jennie Finch Daigle and Keo Motsepe (26/40) – Another Apprentice alum! And, hey, they didn’t give Keo an elderly partner this time. I mean, I expected them to pair him with Babe Didrikson, who died in 1956 and would still only have been Keo’s second oldest partner. She has some not super clear objections to their original song, saying that it goes against who she is. They end up dancing a Cha Cha to a song that I don’t know.

I… I don’t like it. Her moves are kind of awkward and they seem to be shooting from farther away to cover that up. It’s not a very complicated dance and I really don’t like the way she performed it. The audience likes it, but we’re very different people.

Len calls it “competent” and thought it lacked rhythm. Bruno compares her to Catwoman because apparently he’s doing all superhero references tonight. I’m into it. He makes fun of the weird way she holds her hands and says her timing was off. Carrie Ann says she admires Jennie standing up for herself but also thought it wasn’t good and she wasn’t connected to the music. Rashad is supportive and honestly, he doesn’t seem like he’s going to say anything bad. He’s a nice man who knows exactly how they feel. They end up with a 26.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and    Lindsay Arnold (26/40) – Hey, I know this guy! He fought Bruce Lee! And he’s been on Curb Your Enthusiasm! He also co-wrote a comic book called Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook and I promise you, I did not make that up. In their intro video, I’m just struck by how interesting his face is. Like, his face tells a whole story. He’d be a fan favorite tertiary character in a David Simon project.

They’re dancing Salsa and Lindsay is on somebody’s shoulders, but the dress makes it look like she’s a very tall dancer. They went full Vincent Adultman! It’s fun, but Kareem does not move all that well and his long limbs make the awkward steps really obvious. Still, I like watching him because he’s a legend and he’s got everything going against him here and he’s just having fun.

Bruno calls it “Harlem at its best”. Carrie Ann says it was a lovely tribute and it got better as they went along. Rashad is just geeked to meet him. Len says he brought the party to the ballroom. That’s Andrew W.K.’s job! It’s a 26.

Chris Mazdzer and Witney Carson (33/40) – Their pre-dance video is about Chris confessing he has ADHD and their dramatic music is maybe going a little bit too far. They’re doing a Viennese Waltz to a song that I would fast forward if I heard it on SNL. It’s quite good, all things considered. Waltzes always run the risk of looking like a wedding dance, but there are some moments of really nice choreography that you wouldn’t usually see in Week Two.

Carrie Ann calls it ‘pretty darn good’. Rashad says it was amazing. Len admires their sway and he doesn’t quite explain what that means. Bruno compares Chris to Booster Gold. No, he doesn’t make another superhero reference this time. Sorry. You let me down, Bruno. They get a 33. 

Tonya Harding and Sasha Farber (33/40) – Last week was super intense and I was reminded that she isn’t actually Margot Robbie. They’re doing a Quickstep to “Redneck Woman”, and Tonya talks about that a lot. This is a bad song. There’s also a guy in bear costume because why not. I think he’s there to distract from the fact that her footwork is off. It’s kind of a mushy dance all around, which is a bad sign since the Quickstep is one they usually throw at beginners.

Also, they have a bear costume and in 26 seasons they haven’t done “Simon Smith and his Dancing Beat”. (“I may go out tomorrow / If I can borrow / a coat to wear…”)

Rashad loved it and talks about how he’s writing a book. I hope it’s not an autobiography and it’s actually like an Updike-style novel about a failing marriage. Len liked the energy.   Bruno makes a reference to The Revenant, which is actually weirder than if he had talked about Booster Gold. Carrie Ann is impressed with her strength. They get a 33, which I did not see at all.

Mirai Nagasu and Alan Bersten (37/40) – Mirai had a tough week last time and Alan has to buoy her spirits. He seems like a genuinely nice man. They go to Disneyland and dance with the Incredibles, which is pretty rad. They’re doing a Foxtrot to “Small World”. It’s a song that I think carries a lot of excess pop culture baggage but they do a nice job with it. The thing is, it looks exactly how you imagine it’s going to look, but they did exactly what they were trying to.

Len says they had that Disney Magic because he knows a thing or two about branded content. Bruno calls her the embodiment of a princess. Carrie Ann says it what she thought Mirai would be capable of. Rashad also references Disney, because he got the memo. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Infinity War yet, to be honest. They get a 37, including a 10 from Rashad.

Arike Ogunbowale and Gleb Savchenko (33/40) – Arike didn’t wear heels last week, and Carrie Ann talked about it. This week, she’s wearing heels. That’s how you know this is a low-drama pair – that’s the bulk of the opening video. They’re doing a Foxtrot and it kind of suffers from appearing right after a better Foxtrot. There are long stretches where Arike doesn’t have footwork and the whole thing seems kind of awkward. It’s not bad, but it’s not good enough to remember either.

Bruno liked her posture but not her shoulders. Carrie Ann said she cried and that feels like a bit much. Rashad is genial and supportive. That’s his deal as a judge. Len says there was some fantastic footwork and we just don’t agree. It’s a 33.

Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson (37/40) – Adam struggles in practice and talks about his busy schedule. She basically has to travel with him to fit in a practice when they can. He says he only sleeps four hours a night and join the club, dude. Where’s my medal? They’re doing a Quickstep to a song I’ve never heard. It’s pretty good – nice and speedy, with some precise footwork. It’s maybe not the most interesting dance you’ll ever see, but it’s well-executed.

Carrie Ann freaks out about how much she enjoyed it. Rashad loves their chemisty. Len loves their content and clarity. Bruno says it was fantastic. It’s a 37!

OK, we also have the group dances. Stupid four week season. This is way too early for that.

Team 1950s Tennis (Chris/Witney, Josh/Sharna, Kareem/Lindsay, Tonya/Sasha) – They are dressed like 50s tennis players. I guess. They sort of look like they’re at a country club now. Erin Andrews claims that it was a time when “tennis was king”, and that surprises me. I don’t think of that being a big sport then, but Erin has never lied to me. It’s lots of fun to watch, but they’re not really at the level to make the most of this opportunity yet. And putting more people out there only underscores how little Kareem actually moves. I liked watching it, but I wish we’d seen this in Week Seven or Eight. The judges give them a 33.

Team 1970s Football (Adan/Jenna, Arike/Gleb, Jennie/Keo, Mirai/Alan) – Everything I know about ’70s football comes from old Doonesbury strips, which was always seen through the perspective of a huddle. B.D. would yell at Zonker a lot. That’s what I know. Oh, also I think Joe Theisman’s leg fell off. It’s more polished than the other team, but it also feels like four pairs dancing rather than a group number. That’s a disappointment. It’s good, but I wanted more of all eight of them as a group. It’s a 37, and they only have about four minutes for eliminations.

So let’s get to it!

Kareem and Lindsay are in jeopardy. So are Chris and Witney. As are Arike and Gleb. The safe couple is…. Chris and Witney, so that means goodbye to Kareen and Arike. Man, this season is way too compressed.

Myndi will be back next week, and she will probably know some of the songs!

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