Following an unexpected double elimination last week, this week's show – which featured Robin Roberts as a guest judge – had one couple backing out of the competition due to injury, and the rest of the couples digging into their most personal moments and sharing them with a teary-eyed audience during a most memorable year-themed episode.
Kicking off the emotional evening was a crowd (and judge)-pleasing jive by Peta Murgatroyd and her partner James Maslow, who shared stories of being bullied for his weight when he was growing up. The 36 out of 40-point routine had critic Bruno Tonioli boasting that the musician is "a contender, my darling."
Reality star NeNe Leakes showed off her uncharacteristically serious and sensual side during a 31-point dance with Tony Dovolani that Roberts felt "got this party started."
Cody Simpson and Witney Carson were ever the adorable duo as they performed a 35-point jazz routine to the singer's own tune, "Surfboard." Head judge Len Goodman raved: "Cody, this is right up your alley. It was tight, it was together … Well done."
Danica McKellar really kicked off the waterworks with a 36-point contemporary that honored the year she had her son Draco, which was around the time she lost her beloved grandmother. "I'm sure that your grandma is smiling down at you," judge Carrie Ann Inaba said. "[That was the] most sincere, delicate performance … [You had] the most graceful lines … It was wonderful."
Drew Carey shared the pain of losing his dad at a young age and wanting to lose weight for the sake of living to be a father to his own son. He performed a touching, 30-point waltz with partner Cheryl Burke that Goodman said "got a little bit muffled for a while," but Roberts praised because she felt like the funnyman has "been such a pleasant, marvelous, beautiful surprise this season."
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Amy Purdy stunned yet again, sharing her emotional journey to recovery after losing both of her legs. Her story, combined with her mind-blowing, 36-point contemporary with Derek Hough had Goodman saying, "It touched my brain with a level of difficultly and touched my heart with a level of artistry."
Last week's leader board heavyweight Charlie White didn't make the very top of the chart this time around, but he still performed up to par with a 36-point jive alongside partner Sharna Burgess that caused a "beaming" Goodman joy, even though Inaba thought he was too ahead of the music.
Candace Cameron Bure danced with a couple of her former Full House costars in the audience. Lori Loughlin and Andrea Barber cheered her on as she danced a 32-point jive with Mark Ballas that Roberts called "wonderful to watch," while Tonioli critiqued for footwork that needed to be "a bit cleaner."
The biggest surprise of the night involved Billy Dee Williams, who announced his sad departure from the competition, due to back problems. He and partner Emma Slater were planning to dedicate their dance to his grandkids.