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'DWTS' 2014 week 3: Meryl and Maks turn up the heat, foxtrot to the top

"Dancing with the Stars" 2014 resumed March 31 on ABC with a week devoted to performances inspired by the celebrities' most memorable years. Although all nine couples delivered judge-pleasing turns around the esteemed ballroom, it was Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis who wound up atop the leader board thanks to a mercury-riser of a foxtrot with fan-favorite Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy danced a foxtrot that fell just a single point shy of a perfect score during the March 31 episode of 'Dancing with the Stars' 2014 on ABC.
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy danced a foxtrot that fell just a single point shy of a perfect score during the March 31 episode of 'Dancing with the Stars' 2014 on ABC.Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

During the duo's pre-performance segment, Meryl explained that rather than devoting her dance to a single 365-day period, she'd be performing in honor of her entire "17-year journey" to Olympic gold with ice dance partner and fellow "DWTS" 2014 contestant Charlie White. The pre-taped segment ended as Maks quipped "I like your foxtrot. You trot like a fox," and his words foreshadowed what was to come.

Meryl and Maks' "All of Me" foxtrot was precise, elegant, and sensual throughout, and the duo raised the temperature in the room with a lingering non-kiss midway through the routine that left the audience breathless. It was, by far, the best dance of season 18 to date, and given Meryl's prowess on the ice, it wasn't a surprising turn of events to see her dance it with such expert agility.

Guest judge Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" began the panelists' commentary with "there were moments we were all clutching each other over here" as Meryl and Maks danced, and Bruno Tonioli nodded in agreement. She praised Meryl for not choosing a single year since "life is a journey." Bruno called the effort "irresistibly romantic" and said it was "like watching a love story develop before your eyes." He called the musical phrasing "world class" and the choreography "extraordinary." Carrie Ann Inaba called Meryl "something out of this world extraordinary" and "phenomenal," and head judge Len Goodman closed out the commentary by quipping "Meryl and Maks, M and M, sweet and delicious. Well done."

Meryl and Maks scored a season-high mark of 39 for their foxtrot, with only Len failing to flash the 10 paddle. The near-perfect score placed them comfortably atop the week three leader board. Four couples, including Charlie White and Sharna Burgess, Paralympian Amy Purdy and Derek Hough, "Big Time Rush" star James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd, and "The Wonder Years" actress Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy, share second place with 36 points each. Comedian Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke round out the bottom of the leader board with 30 points. The week three non-elimination saw Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater voluntarily withdraw from the competition per medical recommendation.

"Dancing with the Stars" 2014 continues April 7 on ABC with the series' first-ever switch-up week, which will see the celebrities temporarily re-coupled with different professional partners.