Finally! A contender! Click here to see how we got to the benchmark score of 26.5 as the minimum average score for a serious contender on DWTS. Until now, no one’s gotten over the hump.  This week, Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis surpassed her partner Charlie White to move into the rarefied air above the yellow line.

Also … throwaway Stat of the Week, this Season 18 cast has edged ahead of the Season 14 cast as the cast with the best average aggregate score through four weeks.

DWTS wk 4 standings

Please note, I’m separating out the guest judge scores from the regular three judges so that I’m able to normalize and compare casts season over season.

The real story this week

This week was the long awaited “Switch Up,” the much anticipated week when each couple switched pro partners for a single week. There was much drama and many accusations that the Twitter vote ended up not meaning anything (common sense and a passing familiarity with Twitter analytics tells me that would not be surprising,) that the pairings were produced, not elected.

The Twitterverse was pretty quiet all week since the couples were supposed to be surprises, but the pairs leaked along with spoilers about how the couples were faring together. No real drama played out onstage and I strongly felt like none of the pros did less than their best. Several things of note before the world gets set to rights and the stars go back to their original partners next week:

  • Julianne Hough accused Maksim Chmerkovskiy of mailing it in so he could get back to his beloved Meryl. I didn’t think that was the case, but I must admit … if I had been Danica McKellar (who Maks danced with), I would have absolutely felt like the new girlfriend who would never, ever, ever measure up to the ex-wife. Maks wears his big Russian heart on his sleeve where Meryl is concerned. I think he likes her, but I think he really wants to win too.
  • Charlie White and Peta Murgatroyd got jobbed. Their rumba was dubbed not a rumba by two of the judges and the best rumba ever by the other two, and Charlie got his lowest score of the season.
  • Derek Hough and Mark Ballas switched partners (sound produced?)  Without minimizing what Amy Purdy is doing, which is extraordinary (and it was actually fascinating to listen in as Hough and Ballas have a fedora discussion about the physics of dancing with someone on two prosthetic feet), I wasn’t so impressed with her salsa. If she sneaks up on Charlie and Meryl, it won’t be because she’s a better dancer. Nene’s jazz number meanwhile, was more like a cheerleading routine–a lot of side by side arm motions that lasted full counts of eight. I also was constantly distracted by the lack of unison between Nene and Derek. I thought both Amy and Nene were overscored.
  • Maks and his brother Val Chmerkovskiy switched partners (sound produced?) and while Maks saw Danica slide down the leaderboard, Val continued Meryl’s ascent past Charlie and into serious contender land.
  • James Maslow is quietly becoming the most underrated dancer this season. He didn’t miss a step this week in his tango with Cheryl Burke. Or sadly for him, make much noise as he was buried in the number two slot. But he’s hanging in there. There’s not a doubt in my mind that he’ll outlast Danica.
  • Candace Bure is falling off a cliff. She might have another big spike one week, but she won’t be a factor.

All in all, I would say the Switch Up gimmick was a success!

With regard to my pre-season predictions, I think I’m going to have to let go of my idea that Leakes is going to go much further. She’s only outscoring Carey by a single point (total) over the course of four weeks. She’s a closer comparable to Carey, I fear, than Maslow or even Cody Simpson, who REALLY loves himself in the mirror.