If you only care about Drew Carey, notes on his performance are in bold below.
Welcome to the live, in-progress blog of the show. News already: Billy Dee Williams is not dancing tonight.
Robin Roberts is the guest judge. Admits to not being an expert but declares she is a fan, and that actually being on the show instead of watching at home is a surreal experience for her.
Theme is the most memorable year in your life. James is up first. Recalls being picked on for being fat. Showing pics of his younger self. His most memorable year is the one where he got past the bullying. His dance is the jive, his song "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. It's a school theme: He's kind of nerdily outfitted, while Peta is in a Britney-naughty-schoolgirl outfit. And the dancing by both of them is really good. Len thinks he rocked the place, "flat-out and fantastic." Robin likes the way he attacks every single dance -- and the story about being bullied. Bruno says it had the ex-PLO-sive energy of a lightning strike. Carrie Ann says he continues to surprise -- but there was little "claw thing" that was a flaw. Scores: four 9s, which sets the bar high for everyone else -- but might have been 10s if he was later in the show.
Pitch for the switch-up. Voters at the moment want Amy with Mark -- but the voting is ont over. Use the #DWTS hashtag with the names of the two partners you want. Drew imagines being partnered with ... Derek. And this is a very long push for participation. Unending, it seems.
But it is finally done, and Billy Dee says his doctor won't let him dance because of a chronic back problem. Sounds as if he is entirely done. Yup. Thanking his partner, thanking the audience, getting a standing ovation. And we get a recap of his participation. So does this mean no one else will be voted off this week?*
No answer yet. Instead, we get to see BD's grandchildren.
BTW, I expect to get to the "HIMYM" finale after "DWTS" is done. I am accordingly staying away from Twitter for now.
NeNe. Rumba to Whitney's "I Believe in You and Me." Memorable year: 2013, when she remarried her husband after they had split. Tony barechested. Lots of poses. OK but nothing I'm going to jump up for. Robin calls her the life of the party and that NeNe let us see a sensual side tonight. Bruno calls her a Southern siren but wants her to focus more on the basics. Carrie Ann likes Tony's chest and the passion in the dance. Len enjoyed it. Scores: 8 from CA, Robin, Bruno, 7 from Len. Total: 31.
Cody. Memorable year was when he came to the U.S. Dancing "jazz" to his own song, "Surfboard." Has some OK moves but he's so gawky. And is out of sync with Witney a lot. Bruno finds him "so right now," dancing "jazz for now." CA loved it, mimics eating it up. Len says it was like a boy band routine but "well done." Robin loves his style. So we are really on a roll of the judges loving everyone tonight. Scores: 9s from CA, Robin and Bruno, 8 from Len. Total: 35. Yup, lots of love.
Danica. Billy Joel, "Lullabye." 2010 is her year; son born, grandmother died without meeting Danica's son. Dancing contemporary. Well executed, but a little short on emotional punch; something in her expression. But Danica makes an extra pitch to the audience by bringing her son from the audience. Carrie Ann thinks Danica's grandmother is smiling. Len thought it was beautiful and smooth. Robin thinks she is a wonder and delight. Bruno thought there was such truth in it. Scores: Straight 9s. Total: 36.
Drew Carey. Waltz. The year is 2005, when his son Connor was born. Changed everything. He was diabetic, overweight and had a heart attack; his dad died when Drew was 8, and he doesn't want that to happen to his son. Cries, apologizes for it. Song: "Fade Into You." It's nice but not as big as what has gone before -- and the judges are going to have to sacrifice someone. Son joins him. Len is meh. Robin thinks he's a nice surprise who has blown her away. Bruno says there were fewer mistakes than last week. Carrie Ann thought his face looked stressed but the dance was a beautiful tribute. Connor wants Cheryl to teach him some of the moves. Scores: 7s from Carrie Ann and Len, 8s from Robin and Bruno. Total is 30. Drew promises to keep getting better and better.**
Meryl's year is 17-year journey from the one where she and Charlie began dancing together, when she was eight. Foxtrot. Slinky and hot. Could this be the first 10s of the night? Robin says there were moments when the judges were clutching each other with amazement. Bruno thought it was incredible. CA says she burst into tears because it was so beautiful -- and the chemistry between Meryl and Maks took her breath away. Len said M&M are "sweet and delicious." Scores: 10s from CA, Bruno and Robin. As I said. 9 from Len. Total: 39.
Amy. Year is 1999, when she contracted bacterial meningitis, lost her legs and kidney function and her father donated a kidney. Was unsure about her prosthetic legs until she heard some music and began dancing with her father. And that told her she could walk -- and snowboard. Using special feet in her routine which lets her point the toes. (And even on this description, does anyone doubt she'll get a 10?) Dancing contemporary. Because the feet have pointed toes, her movement is limited to what she can do while Derek is holding her -- aside from a step here and there. But the judges won't care.
But of course there's a standing O, and Bergeron is choked up. Bruno calls it heart-wrenching and "borderline miraculous." CA says she reminds them all of what it means to be human at fullest potential -- and marvels how she balanced on the toes. Len calls it truly beautiful. Robin says there are not enough superlatives. Bergeron even goes out of his way to congratulate them and calls it "amazing." Erin also notes that it's Amy's parents' anniversary. Could we just get to the 10s? Wow -- after all the praise, she gets straight 9s. Total: 36. I have to think the judges docked her for the lack of movement but did not dare say that on the air.
Charlie. Jive. 2010, silver medal year, made the decision to "go for gold." Song will be "Happy." Tries on a Pharrell hat for a moment. Gets to cover a lot of the set. Energetic, but he's not always in step with Sharna. Too much? Bergeron notes they're getting mileage out of "every square foot of the place." CA loved except Charlie was off the music twice. Len thought it was happy hour. Robin called it a celebration and also mentions how much ground they covered. (Will other dancers want that now?) Bruno likes it and thinks overall this has been an extraordinary night. Scores: Straight 9s. Total: 36.
Candace to close. Year is 1995, when "Full House" ended and she got engaged. FHers Lori Loughlin and Andrea Barber drop by. Jive to Elvis, as an "FH" tribute. Crowd up close.This is one of those cases where, instead of making the celeb look better by showing off, Ballas is making Candace's limitations more evident -- she always looks as if she can't keep up with him. But she's closing the show and "DWTS" likes a high-note finish. Len thought it sharp and clean and a proper ballroom jive. Robin thought she was snazzy and wonderful to watch. Bruno loves it when she goes wild -- but wanted cleaner footwork. (And he is heretical when he puts this in the same league as Ann-Margret in "Viva Las Vegas.") CA loves the way she moves but points out problems with Candace's shoulders, among other things. Erin plays the no-dance-lessons-before card for Candace. Mark also brings that up. Scores: Straight 8s. Total: 32.
And now on to "HIMYM."
*No elimination was announced, so Billy Dee was it.
**But his judges' scores were the lowest of the night.