‘Dancing with the Stars’ recap: Why were judges so mean on switch-up night?

Last season brought “Dancing With the Stars” its first-ever partner switch-up, in which viewers voted to pair the stars with a different pro partner for one time only. This week, the show tried it again, and if one pattern has emerged, it’s that the contestants can expect their scores to take a nosedive. The judges were merciless.

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It was probably a relief to the stars and pros alike that no one was eliminated this week given the beating many of them took for their routines. Then again, no elimination means the stars will have to carry these scores into next week’s results.

Last week’s lowest scorer, Jonathan Bennett, dancing this week with Peta Murgatroyd, earned another set of straight 6s for his jitterbug, which featured a number of risky, fumbled lifts that made Julianne Hough hold her breath, “but not in a good way.” Even guest judge Jessie J felt “uncomfortable” watching them.

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It must have felt like a disaster for Bennett, but there was worse to come. Michael Waltrip and Witney Carson took a hit for their disco and scored even lower. Bruno Tonioli commented that he put all his polish onto the car on-stage but none into his performance. And the kindest words Jessie J could muster were that he was neither amazing nor terrible, but consistently somewhere in the middle.

Waltrip scored 5s from the entire panel, which places him beneath Bennett when the last two weeks’ scores are combined. But Waltrip has been at the bottom before, and he has yet to be eliminated; his fans have come out in force in weeks past, so Bennett’s fans may need to mobilize if they hope to keep the “Mean Girl” star around a while longer.

Tommy Chong has usually been popular with the judges, but this week his charm seems to have worn off. He and Emma Slater got three 6s from the judges for their mambo, but Julianne gave them a 5, warning him that he has become repetitive and needs new material.

Even the stars who scored well weren’t immune to the judges’ harsh comments. Janel Parrish and Artem Chigvintsev got three 8s and one 9 for their burlesque, but Julianne and Carrie Ann Inaba didn’t recognize a true burlesque in their choreography. Lea Thompson and Janel’s regular partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, impressed with a Broadway-style routine, but Julianne thought Lea looked unsure of herself for the first time. Alfonso Ribeiro, who received a perfect score last week, was down six points for his flamenco with Cheryl Burke; Julianne thought he needed to temper his intensity, while Bruno gave him notes on some problematic posture.

Young Sadie Robertson was spared the judging bloodbath for her Charleston with Derek Hough. With straight 9s and only minor criticisms about her timing, she finished on top for the night, though she is still slightly behind Ribeiro when last week’s scores are taken into account.

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This week’s scores were as follows:

Sadie Robertson – 36
Alfonso Ribeiro – 34
Lea Thompson – 34
Janel Parrish – 33
Bethany Mota – 32
Antonio Sabato Jr. – 28
Jonathan Bennett – 24
Tommy Chong – 23
Michael Waltrip – 20

But what really matters are the combined scores, which are as follows:

Alfonso Ribeiro – 74
Sadie Robertson – 73
Lea Thompson – 73
Janel Parrish – 69
Bethany Mota – 65
Antonio Sabato Jr. – 57
Tommy Chong – 51
Jonathan Bennett – 48
Michael Waltrip – 45

Checking in on a different leaderboard, our best user predicting this week’s show was alokin, who correctly predicted every result: Sadie as the highest scorer, Michael as the lowest, and no one eliminated. He’s also our best predictor this season overall, which might be good news for Bethany Mota, whom he’s currently predicting will win the season.

How did you do predicting this week’s show? Click here to see our complete leaderboard, and then respond in our poll below: Were the judges too harsh this week, or do the stars really need to step up their game?

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