We’re getting down to it, folks. The Dancing With the Stars semi-finals are upon us, and with five talented couples still remaining, tonight’s elimination is bound to be a heartbreaker no matter who gets the boot ahead of the finals.
But don’t be too forlorn, Dancing buddies. Before we get down to business, we have two rounds of new routines to enjoy, one of which happens to be the Trio Dance. I don’t know about you, but I think the Trio Dance has surpassed the Freestyle as the season’s most anticipated routine. And this season, the Trio Dance comes with an added bonus: We get to set our peepers on The Brothers Chmerkovskiy dancing together again. Let us rejoice.
Also, let us recap. Here’s how the semi-finals went down:
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess
Argentine Tango, “Santa Maria” by Gotan Project
Guess who’s back? Sharna’s back. Not only is she back, but she’s back in velvety perfection. But seriously, is Sharna’s dress the best of the season? Debate in the comments. Oh, queen, you’ve been missed. Sharna hasn’t enjoyed sitting on the sidelines, and James is feeling a little down after some mishaps during his jazz routine on “Showstoppers Night.” They’re both ready to put the past behind them and get their Argentine tango on. Sharna choreographs a number in which she’s blindfolded the whole time, leaving James to lead the entire way. The risk pays off. Carrie Ann points out a few missteps in the beginning (anyone else miss these?), but Julianne and Bruno agree the couple’s partnering is beyond compare. Also, James does a routine-ending handstand on a chair over Sharna, so there’s that.
Judges’ Score: 29/30
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber
Rumba, “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara
Could Terra’s husband, Joe, be any cuter? He calls his wife Wonder Woman and judging from Terra’s hip action, he must be right. I mean, as wise philosophers have pointed out time and time again, “hips don’t lie.” Terra’s story has always been about determination and beating the odds, and as Julianne points out, the rumba should be very difficult for someone with Terra’s body — but nobody told Terra that. She’s fluid in her movement, has excellent shaping, and Bruno especially calls out her great underarm passes. Julianne calls it Terra’s best dance of the competition and Carrie Ann is moved beyond words. Maybe I’m a robot inside, but I think Terra’s had some more emotionally impactful routines throughout the season. Those 10 paddles might be flying fast and loose this evening.
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko
Quickstep, “Go Mama” by Wayne Beckford
Jana’s come a long way since the beginning of the season. Through dance, she’s regained her confidence and fighting spirit. She’s feeling like herself again. It’s a bit of a strange juxtaposition to hear her difficult story and then watch Jana and Gleb perform a quickstep about buying shoes. I love shoes and I love quicksteps, but how emotionally connected can a person get to this routine? (On second thought, I have a pair of black pumps in my closet I totally get emotional over.) The dance is fun, and it’s a proper, traditional quickstep, which really winds Julianne’s clock. Bruno calls it elegant and glamorous, and Carrie Ann commends Jana for being the most improved Star of the season. Okay, so maybe shoes are the way to go.
Judges’ Score: 28/30
NEXT: So. Many. Tears. But also dancing!
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold
Tango, “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
The more we learn about Calvin Johnson Jr, the more endearing the guy becomes. He opens up about his retirement from football, which he says was all about quality of life. The sport was taking a toll on his body, and he wanted to have a fruitful life outside of the game. HE WANTED TO BE ABLE TO PICK UP HIS SON, YOU GUYS. Maybe I’m biased because I’m so charmed by him, but I was hoping the judges would overlook Megatron and Lindsay’s jumbled turn in an otherwise powerful and sexy tango. They do not. Carrie Ann, especially, takes the couple to task for their stumbles and a lack of musicality. She gives them an “A for effort” but not much else. Did she even see that insane high kick Calvin does over Lindsay’s head?
Judges’ Score: 26/30
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Foxtrot, “Hollow” by Tori Kelly
Welp, I’m still crying over here. Laurie and her family talk about happily making sacrifices to help Laurie to live out her dream — a dream instilled in her by her grandmother, who moved to America from Puerto Rico in hopes of achieving the American Dream. Laurie’s very close to her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away this week and Laurie is devastated she’s unable to go home. Somehow, Laurie pulls herself together and she and Val dance the most passionate routine we’ve seen from her yet. She has a maturity out on the ballroom floor, and every movement has intention behind it. When the routine ends, Laurie breaks down in tears — as does every human with a beating heart. She gets through the critique, though (which is all great, obviously), because the gal is nothing if not a professional. Friendly reminder: LAURIE IS 16.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
TRIO DANCE ROUND
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess with Jenna Johnson
Jive, “Give Me Some Lovin'” by The Spencer Davis Group
“Welcome to our threesome,” says James. Oh, Trio Round, you are a delight. Of course, James and Sharna pick Jenna as their third dancer; she’s been an integral part of the team for weeks. Not only does James have his two lady lucks dancing alongside him, but they also trot James’ racing car — the one that saved his life during his crash — out on the floor. It’s a fun routine that showcases how insanely in sync James is with Sharna and Jenna. All three judges are big fans of James and the hottest pit crew in IndyCar history, and they’re glad to see James back to his old dancing self. It’s precise, sharp, full of content, and it ends with a giant Champagne bottle full of sparkly confetti. All routines should end with a giant Champagne bottle full of sparkly confetti.
Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber with Artem Chigvintsev
Tango, “Hideaway” by Kiesza
Terra and Sasha are a tight-knit couple, so how will the chemistry change with a third member added to their team? Apparently, it only gets better. Terra is quite smitten with handsome Artem, and she’s not afraid to show it. More than the three of them being sexy together, they also dance incredibly well as a trio. It does, indeed, take three to tango. The judges praise Sasha’s choreography, which lets Terra shine as the two boys act like shadows behind her. Terra is completely in control as she moves between partners. Julianne calls out Terra, who just weeks ago claimed to not be sexy and aggressive — no way that’s true anymore. Julianne also tells Terra she’s “literally on fire,” which is very alarming on many levels.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
NEXT: A new Queen of the Ballroom? [pagebreak]
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko with Alan Bersten
Paso Doblé, “Kill of the Night” by Gin Wigmore
What can I say? I like my Jana Kramer smoldering. Jana and Gleb bring on Alan — who helped the couple while Gleb was nursing a knee injury — to join them as one of Queen Jana’s prisoners. Full disclosure: In my notes, I had “Queen Sharna” written down because, well, you guys know how I feel about my ballroom royalty. Regardless, after a fun but less-than-substantive first round, the very good-looking team hits all of their marks and then some. It’s a strong paso, with a very cool “enchanted forest” vibe, and Jana is in control every step of the way. Carrie Ann and Julianne agree there’s a new fire that’s been lit within Jana. Our little country crooner says it’s all because of the finals, baby. In all honesty, did anyone expect Jana Kramer to make it this far? She’s the Very Sexy Engine Who Could.
Judges’ Score: 30/30
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold with Witney Carson
Salsa, “Limbo” by Daddy Yankee
Having Lindsay and Witney join forces is a staple of Trio Night, and this salsa number is a great example of why these two are such a winning combination. Those blondies treat Calvin like a giant, handsome jungle gym. You think you’ve seen everything, and then both ladies jump on Calvin and he spins them around the dance floor. BOTH OF THEM. It’s beautiful and scary, as are most things worthwhile in this world. Like Lindsay and Witney themselves, this salsa is high energy. The judges are thankful that after an emotional and intense evening, Calvin and Co. can come out and flawlessly execute a routine that is all party. The blondies strike again!
Judges’ Score: 30/30
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy with Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Samba, “Magalenha” by Sergio Mendes
If Laurie’s first routine was all about the American Dream, this one is all about the American Fantasy. Girl is dancing with Val and Maks AT THE SAME TIME. A Chmerkovskiy sandwich, if you will. Since Maks was Val’s teacher when they were younger, the brothers turn the routine into a fun story about Val and Laurie coming to Maks’ dance studio as he readies them for competition. The story is great, but the dancing is even better. There’s a lot of intricate content, and Laurie never misses a step. Julianne thinks it is the first time Laurie’s shown them she can be a proper Latin dancer. Carrie Ann is happy Laurie found a dance style that allowed her to show off her fiery spirit. It was fun, it was fast, and Maks and Val were both there. WHAT MORE DO YOU PEOPLE WANT?
Judges’ Score: 30/30
Only four of these couples can move on to the Finals. Finding themselves in jeopardy this evening are Calvin and Lindsay and Terra and Sasha. It’s tough to send anyone home just shy of the big, glittery trophy, but that’s life in the ballroom for ya. Taking their final bow are Terra and Sasha. Now that they have some time, can they team up with Artem and make a real episode of their version of Three’s Company? I would watch that show.
For the most part, there have been no surprises in eliminations this season. Are we in for a shock during the finals? Is there even such a thing when the final four are so evenly matched? And finally, has anyone stopped crying over Laurie’s first round yet?