Dancing With the Stars Week 9 Recap: Len Goodman Shines As Judges Hit the Dance Floor

DWTS week 9 recap
Dancing With the Stars judges Len Goodman, Julianne Hough, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli took the stage with the final four couples. Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

And then there were four! After last week’s Dancing With the Stars double elimination that sent Robert Herjavec, Kym Johnson, Chris Soules, and Witney Carson home, the remaining couples threw themselves into high gear as they each realized they were getting ridiculously close to the coveted Mirrorball prize. The powers that be mixed things up in week 9 with the first-ever Judge’s Choice round, which partnered one judge with each couple — and gave the judge total creative control of the dance.

It was an emotional night for everyone, including the audience. In addition to a whopping six perfect scores, the evening also featured a marriage proposal, a crying Demi Moore, and (perhaps most touching of all) Len Goodman‘s triumphant return to the dance floor. Though on Tuesday one couple’s journey will end, after a show like this, it’s safe to say that everyone who danced this week is going home a winner.

Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy
Rumer Willis’ mom Demi Moore broke down crying during her daughter’s week 9 DWTS performance Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

First Dance: Viennese Waltz

Judge’s Choice: Contemporary with coach Bruno Tonioli

How they did: Most of Willis’ video package was taken over by her famous parents, who both gushed with pride when talking about what she has achieved so far. Demi Moore openly discussed her daughter’s struggles with self-image. “I could only keep loving her and loving her until she could love herself,” Moore explained before asserting that now, “America is falling in love with Rumer” too. For his part, Bruce Willis joked, “She is the oldest of my five daughters, but she thought she should be the only daughter.”

Willis and Chmerkovskiy took to the dance floor with a powerful performance inspired by 50 Shades of Grey. Though we have to admit, at times, we felt a bit awkward watching the hyper-sensual production, her parents didn’t seem to mind one bit — and neither did the judges. “I felt like I was back in the theater getting uncomfortable,” Julianne chimed (to be clear, in her eyes that was a good thing). “I have to be honest, your mother is completely right: America is falling in love with you, Rumer.” Carrie Ann followed up by calling Willis “a vision in white.”

For their Judge’s Choice dance, the pair teamed up with Bruno, who envisioned a Swan Lake-inspired performance for the sultry duo. He admitted it was a risky move, but his risk led to great reward (to the tune of a perfect score). “If I had my own private leader board, you are my highest marker,” Len announced. Carrie Ann echoed those thoughts, calling it nothing short of “genius.”

First Dance Score: 38 out of 40

Judge’s Choice Score: 30 out of 30

Grade: A

Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess
Noah Galloway proposed to his girlfriend after his first DWTS week 9 dance. (She said yes!) Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess

First Dance: Viennese Waltz

Judge’s Choice: Paso Doble with coach Carrie Ann Inaba

How they did: Galloway’s video package this week focused on his story of what motivated him to go to war, what it was like to return home injured, and how he struggled to rebuild his life. In a random twist, William Shatner also appeared in the video to sing the army vet’s praises. “Noah teaches us to take what life has offered and not only to deal with it, but to make it a plus,” the iconic actor opined.

It seemed that Galloway finally found his groove, as he and Burgess received glowing reviews for their Viennese Waltz. “There was such an ease about that performance,” Julianne said while Carrie Ann argued, “What made this so incredible to me was seeing you have fun.” The fun didn’t end there, however. After his dance, Galloway proposed to his girlfriend!

“This song, ‘The Time of My Life,’ you give that to me and you know, I’ve got to do this here,” he began before dropping to one knee. “Will you marry me?” (For the record, she said, “Heck yes!”) There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the newly engaged pair embraced and even Demi Moore was brought to joyful tears.

Carrie Ann carried this theme into their Judge’s Choice dance, which she hoped to use to tell the story of Galloway’s rise, fall, and recovery. Her instincts were correct, as Julianne announced that she had “chills from head to toe” and added, “To me, that was one of the best dances I’ve ever seen you do.” Len also gave rave reviews. “It had all the excitement of the bullfight. Conceived by Carrie Ann, believed by Sharna and achieved by Noah,” he declared.

First Dance Score: 36 out of 40

Judge’s Choice Score: 30 out of 30

Grade: A+

Riker Lynch and Allison Holker
Riker Lynch’s partner Allison Holker pushed him out of his comfort zone to perform a contemporary dance on DWTS week 9. Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Riker Lynch and Allison Holker

First Dance: Contemporary

Judge’s Choice: Argentine Tango with coach Julianne Hough

How they did: Lynch’s video story this week focused on his relationship with his family. The R5 singer’s siblings largely painted him as the ringleader of their group, while oozing with love and admiration.

Taking a cue from their success last week, Holker pushed Lynch even further out of his comfort zone into the realm of contemporary dance, which, to be clear, Lynch did not want to do. Their move worked, however, and Bruno could hardly contain himself. “That had such a gutsy physicality,” he began. “I tell you people, this was hardcore!” He also told the pop star he genuinely hopes to see him in the finals. “It wouldn’t be the same without you,” Bruno mused. “I could not tell who was the pro in that dance,” Julianne gushed. “I literally can’t even talk. I’m so blown away.”

It turned out that Julianne had spent quite a bit of time with this couple over the course of the week, as she was their mentor for Judge’s Choice. Determined to challenge the frequent frontrunner, Hough guided Holker and Lynch toward a sexy Argentine Tango in which she too took part. “You are a leading man, right up there with the best! Those two girls were dancing like hellcats,” Bruno cheered. “You were controlling it like a lion tamer!” Carrie Ann agreed. “Not only can you handle a champion, you dance like a champion.”

First Dance Score: 40 out of 40

Judge’s Choice Score: 30 out of 30

Grade: A

Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough
Nastia Liukin performed one dance with Derek Hough and one dance with Sasha Farber on DWTS week 9. Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough/Sasha Farber

First Dance: Quickstep

Judge’s Choice: Viennese Waltz with coach Len Goodman

How they did: Liukin’s video package began on a downbeat, showing the decorated Olympian reeling from the way she appeared in her video the week before. But Hough wasn’t rattled, and pushed her to dance through her uncertainty. Her parents recalled her tough spirit and desire to win. For her part, Liukin described the sadness of failing to make the 2012 Olympic team (which effectively ended her gymnastics career).

But dancing with Farber (because the Quickstep was too much for Derek’s recovering ankle), Liukin struck gold tonight. “That was a showstopper,” chimed Carrie Ann. “The sequins were on fire!” Julianne added, “You are now a dancer; you’re not just a gymnast” and Len declared the dance was “terrific.”

For the Judge’s Choice, Len conceived slower a routine for Liukin and Hough (one that his ankle could handle) that was essentially a walk down memory lane for the celebrated judge. “For everyone, there comes a time when you can no longer do something. But you always think back to how it was and what it was like,” Len explained. “Sometimes I get that feeling and I think, ‘Gee I wish I could still dance like that.'” Tonight, he did, first through Derek Hough and then eventually joining in himself at the end. Though Len’s legs aren’t as deft as they used to be, his presence is still a powerful thing, and from the moment he stepped on the dance floor he had pretty much everyone in tears.

“Len, that was incredible!” Carrie Ann gushed. “Tonight, that was something so spectacular. That was a moment that I will remember forever.” Julianne added that while the whole night had been “really special,” nothing could compare to this routine. “I think that was the most special dance I’ve ever seen,” she said as she wiped her eyes. Bruno added the performance “glowed with a nostalgic warmth and love” and even Len admitted that he “loved it.” Well, Len, so did everyone else.

First Dance Score: 40 out of 40

Judge’s Choice Score: 30 out of 30

Grade: A++

Tell Us: Who should make the finals? Which judge’s routine did you like the best?

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