‘Dancing with the Stars’ recap: It’s tug on your heartstrings week

Robin Roberts is the season's first guest judge. She's a huge fan and not a dancer, so she'll probably just gush over everything and talk about how much she likes her future guests, I mean, the performers. Also of note, this week each celebrity had to pick a song to illustrate their most important year, giving them an excuse to well up for the cameras. Some people have moving, emotional stuff. And some people really don't. Sorry, kids. 

James & Peta
The Background: James was a chubby kid who got bullied. His most memorable year is 2007, because that was when he was able to overcome bullying (read: he lost the baby fat). There is photographic evidence presented that yes, he was actually pretty heavy. He and Peta will be doing the jive.
The Dance: This is shockingly polished. The jive tends to trip up a lot of dancers (no pun intended) and they either get the hands or the feet or the pacing. He seems to have the feet and the pacing, and mostly the hands. We're only in week three, right?
The Judges: Len and Robin thought it was good. Bruno can't believe what he's achieved in three weeks. Carrie Ann was surprised and thought it was kinetic and vibrant, but he has “a claw thing happening.” 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 9 Len – 9 Robin – 9 Bruno – 9

Hey, the big switch-up is coming! In week four, everyone gets a new partner. Just for a week, though. Oh, and fans get to tweet the pairings we want to see. Pick weird, people, because this is your only chance to dictate ridiculous couplings. Tweet, America!

I want NeNe with Derek. Just saying. 

Billy Dee and Emma aren't dancing this week. He has a chronic back problem. And… I guess he's not coming back. Aw, that sucks. I mean, he really wasn't up for the task, but he was so likable (which is why he wasn't sent home). Billy Dee gave it his best, but maybe he should pick a less physically demanding reality TV show… or hey, clear Robin Roberts off the judges' table, people! Make room for Lando!

NeNe & Tony
The Background: NeNe has no problem with her criticisms last week, because she believes in saying whatever you want whenever you want. Of course she does. She and Tony are doing the rumba to “I Believe in You and Me” because it makes her think of her husband. Their relationship fizzled, then they divorced, then they remarried. Aww… I think. 
The Dance: This is kind of sexy, isn't it? OMG, Tony has great abs, doesn't he? I will say, NeNe is always interesting to watch, and this draws on her experience working the pole, I suspect (that isn't an insult; she was a stripper back in the day). 
The Judges: Robin thinks NeNe is the life of the party. Bruno thinks she's naughty NeNe, but adds that the basic backwards and foreword needed work. Carrie Ann thinks there was beautiful sensuality — and great arms. Len was pleasantly surprised. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 8 Len – 7 Robin – 8 Bruno – 8

Anyone notice Bruno doesn't fit in the frame? Poor Bruno.

Cody & Witney
The Background: His most memorable was 2010, because he came to the U.S. and signed a record contract. This is nice, but not exactly poignant. His family gave up everything for his career, which is what I'd call investing in future guilt forever. They'll be dancing jazz to his song “Surfboard.” Because self-promotion, yo. 
The Dance: I think he needs a taller partner. It's as if he's doing half of the routine in a squat. But for him, this is dramatically better than last week. 
The Judges: Bruno thought it was refreshing. Carrie Ann thought it was ridiculous in a good way. She was eating it up. Len thought it was tight, together and no wipe outs. Robin loves his style. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 9 Len – 8 Robin – 9 Bruno – 9 

Danica & Val
The Background: Danica's memorable year was 2010, when her son was born and a few weeks earlier her grandmother died. They'll be doing contemporary to “Lullaby” by Billy Joel. It's all about answering a child's question about a parent dying. Um, okay. That's not depressing or anything.
The Dance:  This was beautiful. Just so graceful. She takes her baby over to the judges' panel, and he clings to her like a little monkey. So cute. 
The Judges: Carrie Ann is going to cry. She thought it was beautiful, sincere and delicate. Len thinks her movements were as fluid as butter on a hot muffin. Robin thought it was a beautiful way to express a meaningful story. Bruno thought it was enchanting motion driven by emotion. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 9 Len – 9 Robin – 9 Bruno – 9 

Drew & Cheryl
The Background: His most important year was when his son Connor was born, which spurred him to lose weight and get healthy. They'll be dancing the waltz. I just wish this dance would be as good as he wants it to be.
The Dance: This was okay. Stiff and a little awkward, but he's in hold. Oh, he goes and picks up his kid and drags him to the judges' table, too. Copycat. 
The Judges: Len thought it was charming, but he got on the wrong foot for a while. Robin thinks he's been a pleasant surprise this season. Bruno thought it was a classic waltz and very elegant. Carrie Ann thought he looked stressed. Connor hits on Cheryl, which is either adorable or creepy depending on your perspective. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 7 Len – 7 Robin – 8 Bruno – 8

Meryl & Val
The Background: Meryl didn't chose just one year, but her 17 years of ice dancing with Charlie. She and Maks will be doing a foxtrot to “All of Me” by John Legend. Amazingly, Maks never seems to yell at Meryl. We need this woman back every season. 
The Dance: This really is a level above what everyone (except Charlie) is doing. Stunning. More romantic than I expected (given that she and Charlie aren't a couple), but still, so graceful. And man, that woman has extension for days! 
The Judges: Robin can't believe she was ever a shy young woman. Bruno thought it was irresistibly romantic. He thinks she's put incredible work in for this just being week three. Carrie Ann burst into tears because it was just so beautiful. She thinks she's out of this world extraordinary. Len thinks Meryl and Maks are incredible. 
The Scores: There are tens! And… the Slingbox died. Boo. But I think these scores were great. I hope they were. The total is 39, so someone dropped a nine in there. But otherwise, whoa, tens! I feel as if the judges are finally giving her credit where it is due, and it has been way overdue. 

Amy & Derek
The Background: Amy is dancing a tribute to the first time she danced with her dad in 1999 after she lost her legs, which inspired her to do everything she's doing now, like walking snowboarding, you name it. Talk about the power of music, wow. 
The Dance: Geez, those legs are pretty phenomenal. This is a really strong dance. Amy dances better than a few people in this competition who have legs. Not to name names or anything. 
The Judges: They are all pretty verklempt. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 9 Len – 9 Robin – 9 Bruno – 9

Charlie & Sharna
The Background: In 2010, he and Meryl didn't win the gold — and decided they would work that much harder to grab it next time around (which they did). He and Sharna will be dancing a jive to “Happy,” which I suspect will be buckets of fun.  
The Dance: This makes me “Happy,” too. He's so clearly having a great time, and he's a perfect partner.
The Judges: Carrie Ann loved it, but he got ahead of the music — again. Otherwise, everyone felt it was high energy and great. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 9 Len – 9 Robin – 9 Bruno – 9

Candace & Mark
The Background: She's doing a tribute to “Full House,” because branding, so its a jive to an Elvis song. Look, old co-stars! 
The Dance: This is really, really stiff. These aren't flicks, they're flops. She isn't getting down into it at all. 
The Judges: Len thought it was sharp and clean and precise, but he wanted more bounce in the feet. Robin thinks she came back. Bruno loves it when she goes wild. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann – 8 Len – 8 Robin – 8 Bruno – 8

So, that's it — we have Meryl and Maks at the top of the board with 39 points and Drew is circling the drain, I mean, at the bottom with 30. But overall, this was a remarkable episode — even the bad dances were still pretty good, and the celebrities did seem to connect with their material. Maybe they all just got the songs they liked. Whatever happened, take note “DWTS” and do it again.

What did you think of Meryl and Maks' performance? Were you sorry to see Billy Dee Williams go? Who do you think is positioned to win?