This week’s theme on Dancing With the Stars was “Switch-Up,” in which the celebrities switched professional dance partners. Those truly excelling at this ballroom thing get to show off how well they can adapt for one week with someone they haven’t been dancing with for the past four weeks (and more, taking rehearsals into consideration).

For some — notably, those who have been struggling — breaking the routine might be a refreshing change. But it’s unquestionably a disruption. The judges were tough, led by guest Maksim Chmerkovskiy, taking a break this season from the DWTS ballroom. But no elimination this week, since the contestants weren’t dancing with their regular partners. How did the four athletes handle the switch?

Doug Flutie: Tango

The fan vote almost certainly saved Flutie last week, as he drew the lowest score. Switching to partner Peta Murgatroyd (who won season 14 with former Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver, and danced with Michael Sam in season 20), Flutie had difficulty remembering the steps for the tango. Performing a more formal dance that requires excellent posture, discipline and sharp movements seemed to suit him better. Yet Flutie also seemed to be in his own head throughout the routine (Murgatroyd was noticeably talking him through the steps), which once again led to him looking stuff and unnatural. One of these weeks, he has to lose himself in the music and look like he’s enjoying himself out there.

But Flutie can always say that he got encouragement from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Instagram. (Tom Brady gave him a Facebook shout-out last week.) There’s a face we’d never thought we’d see on DWTS.

Results: The judges thought Flutie had his best dance of the competition, praising him for his precision, but knocking his lack of “musicality.” All four gave him a 7 on their scorecards, resulting in a 28 and his best score of the season. Flutie seems to getting better, even in small steps, but is he falling too far behind in the competition? Perhaps the fan vote will keep him alive one more week.


Antonio Brown: Cha Cha

Coming off his best dance of the season last week, Brown was paired with Karina Smirnoff, who might be a bit of a tougher teacher than regular partner Sharna Burgess. Smirnoff told Brown he needed to be sharper with his movements, and maintaining clean lines (how he flairs his arms) in his dance has been a problem for him thus far. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made a brief appearance, talking about how Brown tends to be late (he made Smirnoff wait an hour for him), but the receiver was splitting his time between rehearsals and offseason workouts.

Brown probably scared the hell out of Tomlin, management and Steelers Nation by doing a flip onto the dance floor to begin his routine. (That’s wood, not grass!) Acrobatics and entertainment value aside, did he really dance a Cha Cha? Well…

Results: The judges knocked Brown once again for a lack of technique — “If you wanna shine, you’ve gotta polish,” as Len Goodman put it — though acknowledged his natural dancing talent. He scored a 7, 6, 6 and 7 for a total of 26, drawing the lowest score of the night. Not performing the dance steps correctly is eventually going to catch up with Brown, as the judges get more frustrated at his lack of execution.


Paige VanZant: Rumba

New partner Sasha Farber encouraged the UFC fighter to tap into her sexy side, trying to play the part of lovers on the dance floor. Though the taped rehearsal package made it seem like that might be an issue for VanZant (and maybe it was, since she wasn’t paired with regular partner Mark Ballas), she’s shown an ability to do anything on the dance floor this season. VanZant admitted she still has difficulty completely trusting her dance partner — which seems natural, given what she does for a living — but she also had to switch in week 2 because of Ballas’ back injury, so adjustments don’t seem to be a problem.

Actually, nothing seems to be a problem for VanZant on the dance floor. She continues to look like a total natural out there (if you wonder what Antonio Brown’s lines should look like, watch her), and appears to be well on her way to being one of the three finalists in the competition.

Results: Chmerkovskiy was a tough judge all night, noting here that VanZant performed beautifully, but didn’t do many Rumba steps in her routine. Goodman said she needs to sell the emotion better, which seemed harsh. Despite what looked like a great routine, VanZant scored an 8, 8, 7 and 8 for a total of 31, which ranked fourth on a night with some standout performances.


Von Miller: Jive

Miller had to dance a Jive routine this week, and switch-up partner Lindsay Arnold tried to tap into the big Texan’s country side for his performance. A big ol’ cowboy hat and bolo tie surely helped him get into character as well. But really, Miller’s quick feet were well-suited to the Jive, which requires springy steps, in a routine that resembled a country two-step. But as much fun as Miller appeared to be having, maybe he was holding back a bit and not cutting loose — which he might feel better about doing later in the competition — seemed to hurt his scores.

Results: The judges certainly noticed that Miller messed up his first step, and felt he had a hard time recovering from there. Though he had good energy, his kicks could have been sharper (higher). Each of the judges apparently felt like Miller could have done more, perhaps been more bolder with his steps. With his regular partner, maybe he would have been. He scored an 8, 7, 7 and 7 for a 29, drawing the third-lowest score of the evening.

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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.