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'DWTS' recap: 'Semifinals'

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Dancing With the Stars

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Tom Bergeron, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman
Reality TV

It’s semifinals week, DWTS fans, which this season means more than the usual ramped up chest exposure and ramped up Hough exposure; season 20 means ramped up judge exposure! But really, why has it taken 20 seasons to integrate the judges into the dance to make them prove they’re worthy? I’ve spent 10 years Googling Carrie Ann Inaba each season to remember what it is that qualifies her to critique ballroom dancing—or any dancing—and 10 years discovering that being a fly girl is apparently all it takes. (That’s 20 seasons of face palms for those of you keeping score.)

Tonight’s semifinals was about more than technique, skill, and judges stepping on toes (metaphoric and literal) however, it was a show full of surprises, emotion, and a lot of tissues.

Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy

“Earned It” | Viennese Waltz

In a video package where we had to once again hear the awful story of how ugly everyone thought Rumer was as a child and how hopeless it made her feel, mom Demi Moore (or Courteney Cox, I’m not sure) prided her daughter on the incredible growth she’s shown since DWTS began, and dad Bruce Willis just told us he thought she was neat.

With Rumer’s voice-over starting the steamy waltz with, “Mr. Chmerkovskiy will see you now” (which I may or may not have recorded on my phone to play on a loop later), the two floated around the ballroom in an ode to “50 Shades of Grey,” complete with Rumer’s awkward lip biting tribute to Anastasia and Val’s tribute to Christian with, well, everything. He was forceful and controlling, and the minute the two of them spent on the dance floor was packed with more heat and chemistry than the entire two hours of the movie … and the next one.

Len thought it was great; it made Julianne a bit uncomfortable (IT WAS SUPPOSED TO!); and Bruno told Rumer that she “nailed the character.” Actually, Bruno, I think that was Mr. Chmerkovskiy’s job.

Score: 38/40

Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess

“The Time of My Life” | Viennese Waltz

Noah’s video package reminds us of the tragic story that led to him losing his arm and leg, and we also find out that he has a fan in Captain Kirk. Random, as is usual with Shatner.

According to the judges, Noah and Sharna have their best dance of the season waltzing to “The Time of My Life.” (If it sounded vaguely familiar, it’s because it was David Cook’s winning song on American Idol. David Cook. American Idol. Anyone?) Bruno, Len, and Carrie Ann are quick to offer praise of the dance they deemed “expressive, emotional, and charming,” and Julianne calls it “smooth” and then basically tells them goodbye.

Up in the red room (which is where Rumer and Val will most likely be hanging out after the show), Noah’s girlfriend greets him, and after she tells us how proud she is of him, Noah drops to his one knee and proposes, right around Glinda the Good Witch Erin Andrews! (But really, she could’ve taken a tiny step back, don’t you think?) Forget the finals, I think Noah just won everyone’s hearts. Again.

Score: 36/40

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker

“Work Song” | Contemporary

In the video package, Allison tells Riker that people have loved seeing his “deep, emotional side,” so they start off their contemporary dance by having Riker throw some chalk dust around in the air. Dancing in the cloud of dust in some khakis and a white Henley, Riker blurs the line between being a “star” and being one of the pros. At least according to Julianne. Carrie Ann loses her mind with excitement over his performance and throws herself across the judge’s table, inadvertently touching Len—twice!—which from his reaction is apparently something that is in his contract rider that is never to happen.

Score: 40/40

Nastia Liukin & Sasha Farber

“Feelin’ Good” | Quickstep

Born in Moscow with a name fit for a princess (literally), Nastia’s hopes for a second run at Olympic gold were dashed in 2012. But not to worry, her friends and family tell us, with the Olympic determination she’s shown this season, they can tell she’s going for a different kind of gold now. And the Quickstep she performs with Sasha (King Derek surprisingly stepped aside for this dance) proves it. With a big band behind her and definitely quick and perfect steps, she gives a “showstopping” performance.

Score: 40/40

NEXT: Bad Sandy steps in … and Len steps again[pagebreak]

This week, besides an individual dance, each judge was paired with a remaining couple and was in charge of choosing their song, dance style, and determining the creative concept each dance would take. Before the show even started I made my predictions: Len would create refined, classical ballroom; Julianne would create something fun, funky, and flirty; Bruno would create hot, sensual, and sexy; and Carrie Ann would probably be confused by the task. Was I right?

Rumer & Val

Coach: Bruno

Bruno’s concept is “Swan Lake,” having Rumer and Val integrate aspects of Tango and Waltz into a dance of Contemporary Fusion, which after watching it I now would like to refer to as “confusion.” He wants to see Val in white tights and no shirt, which makes the reason he chose this duo make perfect sense.

Rumer starts the dance in the infamous white swan tutu which instantly turns into a black negligee thanks to the magic of television. Instead of white tights and a bare chest, Val instead looks like Prince Charming in Puss’ boots. I liked Bruno’s idea better.

The highlight of the dance is Johnny and Baby’s signature lift, which they nail (I wonder if they practiced in a lake?) and which Carrie Ann compliments them on, telling them that it is the most difficult lift to do, which anyone who has ever seen the movie already knows. Duh. She also uses the phrase “genius, but a little mad,” and I’m not sure if she’s talking about the dance or Bruno, or if it even matters. Julianne and Len also love it (Julianne gives her best Bruno impression), and they get 30 perfect points.

Noah & Sharna

Coach: Carrie Ann

Carrie Ann creates a Pasodoble metaphor for Noah’s life, making him a strong, bare chested matador fighting a group of strong, bare chested bulls wearing Maleficent horns, and the judges love it. The performance gives Julianne chills from head to toe (but was it really the dance or was it the bare chested bulls, I wonder?); Bruno calls it “masterful,” and Len thinks Noah is fighting for the finals. Three more perfect scores.

Riker & Allison

Coach: Julianne

Proving yet again that nepotism isn’t a term DWTS cares about, Julianne is paired with cousin Riker and Allison and creates an Argentine Tango for them—and herself (of course)—to perform.

Showing up in a black studded leather jacket, Bad Sandy joins the team in rehearsals but tells us that she’s the “classic, traditional” one and creates a concept where Riker will choose Allison—the “modern remix”—over her.

With laser beams flashing, the three do a sultry dance to a techno version of Für Elise (??), and once again the other three judges hand out perfect scores. By this point I’m guessing the judges are all scared of one another.

Nastia & Derek

Coach: Len

Despite Derek’s injury, we’re told that he’ll be dancing because of Len’s personal concept and their history together. Um, hello? HE’S BEEN DANCING FOR TWO WEEKS. We’ve seen more of Derek since his injury than we have of all the other male pros combined. As usual.

Len creates a waltz for Derek and Nastia to perform where Derek will be paying tribute to the old Len; the 50 years ago Len; the Len without Arthritis who could still dance. Stop. It. With Leela James serenading them, Derek and Nastia’s waltz is beautiful and emotional, and when Len himself steps out onto the floor to take Nastia in his arms for one final dip (and give a cheeky salute to the camera), it’s a powerful and unforgettable DWTS moment. The other judges give them a perfect score through their tears, obviously.

What did you think? Who do you hope to see make it through tomorrow night? And be honest, how hot was that 50 Shades dance? You know, I better watch go watch it again to refresh my memory.