‘Dancing with the Stars’: ‘Eras Night’ & team dance surprises make us reconsider season 23 frontrunner

Is it time to anoint a new “Dancing with the Stars” frontrunner for season 23? Maybe so after “Eras Night.” In the seventh week of competition, after scores were combined for this week’s solo and team dances, there were surprises at both the top and bottom of the judges’ leaderboard, though we were spot-on about this week’s elimination.

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“Brady Bunch” actress Maureen McCormick was sent packing. We gave her leading 2/3 odds of being sent home even though she had a higher judges’ score last week than either swimmer Ryan Lochte or reality TV star Terra Jole. That means it was fan voters who ultimately let her down. But at least she got to leave on a high note. Though her 1980s-themed tango with partner Artem Chigvintsev was a step down for her, receiving straight sevens for a total of 28 out of 40, she scored two nines and two 10s for her team dance with Lochte, football player Calvin Johnson and race car driver James Hinchcliffe.

McCormick, Lochte, Johnson and Hinchcliffe’s collaborative dance as Team Past was the highest scoring routine of the night, and it gave a much-needed boost to every member of that team. It helped Lochte avoid the lowest total score of the night, while Johnson and Hinchcliffe added to their already high individual dance scores to tie as the top contestants of the night.

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That took us by surprise. We expected Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez to return to the top of the judges’ standings, giving her 8/11 odds. We had ranked Hinchcliffe a close second with 13/5 odds, while Johnson was a distant sixth in our predictions with 33/1 odds of coming out on top.

This was Johnson’s second time at the top of the leaderboard and the third for Hinchcliffe, who now ties Hernandez for the most weeks at number-one this season, so is it time to call Hinchcliffe the season’s new frontrunner — or at least Hernandez’s co-frontrunner? Hernandez seemed indomitable earlier in the season; she was the judges’ favorite for three of the first four weeks of competition, but since then she has drifted back towards the middle of the pack; this week she scored 34 for her 1960s quickstep with partner Val Chmerkovskiy and then a disappointing 35 for her group dance with Jole, actress Marilu Henner and singer Jana Kramer.

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Hernandez, Henner, Kramer and Jole joined forces as Team Future, but they’re probably glad it’s now in the past — especially Henner, who took a spill in the middle of the routine. That mistake resulted in a score of 35 from the judges. When added to her 1920s-inspired Charleston with partner Derek Hough, that left Henner at the bottom of the leaderboard for the first time this season. Nobody saw that coming: she had 100/1 odds of getting the week’s lowest score.

That makes Henner extremely vulnerable going into next week’s show. If her fellow classic-TV star McCormick could be eliminated this week, does it stand to reason that Henner will be next? Or perhaps now that McCormick is gone her fans will carry over to Henner and keep her safe. Our predictions center is open so you can start betting on next week’s “DWTS.” Refer to the judges’ scores below before making your picks:

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James Hinchcliffe – 36 + 38 = 74
Calvin Johnson – 36 + 38 = 74
Laurie Hernandez – 34 + 35 = 69
Terra Jole – 34 + 35 = 69
Jana Kramer – 34 + 35 = 69
Ryan Lochte – 28 + 38 = 66
Maureen McCormick – 28 + 38 = 66 (ELIMINATED)
Marilu Henner – 29 + 35 = 64

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts throughout the week, just click “Save” when you’ve settled on your choices. You’ll compete to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate, bragging rights and a place of honor on our leaderboard. Our racetrack odds change as you make your predictions, just as they do when you bet on the Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes and more. Be sure to read our contest rules and sound off on the season of “Dancing with the Stars” in our reality TV forum.

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