Normani Kordei delivered a powerhouse performance with her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, on Monday’s Dancing With the Stars — and for the second week in a row, she came just short of earning a perfect score, all because of judge Len Goodman.
While Carrie Ann Inaba, guest judge Nick Carter, and Bruno Tonioli awarded Normani three 10s for her salsa set to “When I Grow Up” by The Pussycat Dolls, Goodman shocked the audience when he gave her an eight.
Last week, the Fifth Harmony singer’s red-hot paso doble set to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan earned her three 10s as well, while she received only a 9 from Goodman.
So the question is, what will it take for Normani and Val to get a 10?
“I’ve been bribing him for three weeks now, so it’s obviously not money,” Val joked with ET’s Cameron Mathison after the show.
During the episode, as Len gave some feedback on the performance, tensions were elevated between the judge and the DWTS pro when it came to Len’s criticism that the dance didn’t contain enough traditional salsa content.
“My whole thing is he needs to specify what he means by content,” Val said. “Because your content depends on the song. And if the song isn’t a salsa song, which this wasn’t, then how can you do [traditional salsa]? It has to be an interpretation of salsa. It has to be advanced salsa, something that can mold into a different song.”
Normani and Val ended up getting the second highest score of the night, just behind Heather Morris and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Val’s older brother.
However, while the former Glee star earned the season’s first perfect score, she was also eliminated in one of the most surprising twists in DWTS history. The shocking turn of events sent an important message to the remaining contestants.
“By Heather going home it shows that it’s super unpredictable and it comes down to the fans voting,” Normani shared. “I was really nervous, especially because I was in jeopardy last week.”
As for Val, he said he was “really disappointed” that his brother was kicked off after spending the last four weeks on the sidelines as he recovered from a painful calf injury.
“He worked really hard to come back and give Heather the rest of the season,” Val said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to do that. But that’s why I tell [Normani] to enjoy every moment. It could be gone at any point.”
“I hope Heather feels at least a little bit fulfilled doing this show, and it was a pleasure having her,” he added.
As for many fans’ predictions that the season would have come down to the brothers facing off in the finals, Val said he tried to “play down” that possibility, because he knew there were a lot of obstacles. However, he’s still keeping hope alive that he and Normani make it all the way.
“It’s a long season, it’s a long journey, and anything’s possible. Injuries are possible,” Val said. “So I just hope people are voting for us and I want to give her the best chance possible.”
For more on the unexpected DWTS elimination on Monday, check out the video below.