This week’s theme on Dancing With the Stars was “Disney Week,” capitalizing on some corporate synergy and giving the costume and production design teams a chance to shine. But the dancers also seem to relish this theme each season, either tapping into their inner child and Disney fan, or performing a routine that their children can enjoy.

The judges’ table also had an additional presence with pop star Zendaya as a guest judge. She competed in season 16 of the show, and that perspective lent to some intriguing feedback (such as telling Doug Flutie to enjoy himself more, otherwise he’ll regret it later). Here is a look at how each of the four athletes in the competition performed on a fun night for DWTS.

Antonio Brown: Jazz

Maybe tapping into his inner Disney fan, or dancing a routine sure to appeal to his kids, is just what the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver needed. Antonio Brown had his breakthrough on the ballroom floor Monday night, with smooth and natural moves matching the perma-smile on his face. Maybe performing a Jazz dance, which is a bit more freeform than more formal dances like the Waltz or Foxtrot, also helped Brown to relax and let his physical talents take over, rather than think about his next steps.

As the competition progresses, he’ll surely be graded harder on his lines (look at how he doesn’t flair his arms out, in comparison to partner Sharna Burgess), so there’s still some technique to refine. But personality goes a long way, especially if Brown gets to perform routines that let him shine in that area.

Results: The judges were extremely impressed by Brown appearing to make a big jump with his dancing skills. Even if you argue that he was helped out by the production and other dancers, he fit right in with the pros and looked like a performer in a Disney production. Brown received a 9, 8, 9 and 9 on the four scorecards for a total of 35. That tied him with Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris at second place for the evening.


Doug Flutie: Jazz

Competitiveness and being a tough self-critic surely helped Flutie to great success in football as a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL player, but it can make for a somewhat scary presence on the dance floor. During the segment showing Flutie in rehearsals with partner Karina Smirnoff, the quarterback expressed his frustration several times when not being able to pick up a step quickly, even breaking his cane against the floor. Smirnoff is notoriously hot-tempered herself, so for her to tell Flutie to calm down might be a DWTS first.

Flutie does appear to be having more fun dancing, which is important. But he seems easily rattled if his steps trip up and the routine quickly falls out of sync. Maybe props like canes and chimney sweep hats are distractions for Flutie, rather than helpful crutches.

Results: Flutie’s effort gets credit from the judges. He is clearly trying out there, but hard work and Flutie’s obvious athleticism do not make up for an obvious lack of dancing skills. He always looks like he’s laboring out there, not natural, and it gets more difficult to ignore each week. All four judges scored Flutie with a 6, and his 24 gave him the lowest score of the night. That apparently put him in danger of elimination, but in a curious move, host Tom Bergeron immediately announced that Flutie was safe for next week. Evidently, the fan vote kept him alive. They’ll have to keep supporting him.


Von Miller: Viennese Waltz

Playing the role of Prince Charming potentially put Miller in a tough spot, requiring him to look elegant and formal. That was especially true next to partner Witney Carson, who looked like the embodiment of Cinderella, thanks to the costume and make-up team. But Miller nailed his role, keeping his posture upright and his footwork graceful to help create an elegant routine. Miller’s willingness to be goofy is charming, but his obvious acting skills definitely served him well here. (Some Hollywood producer needs to give Miller a chance to show off those acting talents.) During certain weeks, this might have been the best routine of the night.

Results: Demonstrating that he can perform more formal, refined dances, rather than rely on sheer athleticism and personality impressed the judges. Miller played his part well, and his scores reflected that. All four judges gave Miller an 8 for a combined score of 32. That’s a good number, but it ranked fourth on the leaderboard, which shows how competitive the contest is getting and how good the other dancers are getting.


Paige VanZant: Quickstep

VanZant’s background and personal story continue to make her one of the most compelling contestants of season 22. She’s obviously had a rough life and found both a purpose and camaraderie in the fighting world. But she also appears to be finding herself in this dance competition, tapping into a fun, expressive side that doesn’t get shown in the MMA world. The production design crew did a great job creating the look of Toy Story (especially with the green toy soldiers), but VanZant didn’t need the help. Her footwork, posture and lines were all nicely done. She and partner Mark Ballas are doing great each time, especially when she gets to show a different side of herself (compared to last week’s MMA-themed routine).

Results: VanZant continues to excel in this competition. Maybe she should have adopted dancing instead of fighting. (Of course, she’s plenty young enough to make that turn, though there’s presumably more money in MMA.) A 10 has been elusive thus far, but VanZant scored four nines from the judges, tying her with Good Morning America‘s Ginger Zee for the highest score of the night. Even this relatively early in the contest, it’s beginning to look like VanZant will be one of the three finalists this season.


No suspense for either of the athletes this week. Flutie’s place in the competition looked to be in jeopardy, as he’s consistently drawn low scores. But the voters saved him this week, quite possibly because of last week’s touching, emotional routine. But he may not have done himself any favors with voters this week. Even if he wasn’t one of the bottom three, Flutie and Jodie Sweetin are the top candidates for elimination next week. This week, Marla Maples was sent home. Evidently, the Donald Trump supporters didn’t turn out in force for her.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.

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