As the final four take the floor, Jennifer gets perfect scores, Kyle surges, and Brandy and Bristol engage in a battle of the paso dobles

Dwts Palin Ballas

During the week 9 semifinals of Dancing With the Stars, each of the four remaining contestants — Brandy, Jennifer Grey, Kyle Massey, and Bristol Palin — danced twice. That’s it! No theme this week, except for that of OVERCOMING ADVERSITY. In some of the most dramatic sob-story character packages we’ve seen to date, Sarah Palin remembered the trials of being photographed with her baby-bumpin’ daughter after being “tapped” to run for Vice President, and Brandy waged an epic battle against Jennifer Grey for the coveted mirrorball title of “most tragic involvement in a fatal car crash.” (Nobody won!) I wonder if Kyle Massey’s viewer votes will take a hit because his life hasn’t been sad enough. Come on, producers. A measly life-changing phone call and stock footage of the airport? Are you sure Disney Boy never got anyone pregnant?

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann In-ahhh-ber!

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough: 30/30 + 30/30 = 60/60 Their opening cha cha cha began with an impressive amount of judges’ table flirting that surely our panel would have characterized as unnecessary “messin’ about” on one of their crankier nights. Silly Annie. It’s different when it’s a lap dance! (New slogan for the series???) The dance, set to “Mercy” by Duffy, seemed kind of slow, but I often think that about cha cha chas. A leisurely tempo can make other contestants seem awkward (for example: any tall athlete), but it just allowed Jennifer — a tiny force of “uh-mazing” sexiness, high heels, and feathered fringe (!) — the luxury of finishing and perfecting every move. Worth a 30? I don’t know! I kept focusing on Jennifer’s husband, Clark Gregg, freaking out in the audience. He gets a 10 in worrying from me. Ooh, lucky him. “Tehhhhhhhhn!”

The bizarre lack of spotlights made Jennifer and Derek’s waltz stand out from any other dance. I’m sure there were plenty of light sources I didn’t notice, but I liked how at the beginning and end there was just that one diamond-shaped light bathing the floor in sepia tones, throwing a giant middle finger to the barely visible giant chandelier. (Great shot!) The whole dance seemed very classic, like the “Antique Photo” setting under the “Effects” menu in my iPhoto for OS X. “This was a gem of a waltz,” announced Bruno, clearly in reference/deference to’s Hidden Gems of the Week. My favorite part was when Jen sort of floated behind Derek (my original notes said “rode on his back,” but that’s just wrong) for a weird non-lift. “Be still my beating heart,” said Len, who was lucky to be aliiiiiiiiive! “Sometimes a whisper can seem louder than a yell. If I’m dreamin’, don’t wake me up, because that was fabulous.” And Enthusiastic Activia Lady wept.

Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer: 29/30 + 29/30 = 58/60 “Hey,” Kyle acknowledged Carrie Ann, Len, and Bruno while getting all up in their judges’-table business after a solo complete with magnificent hip thrusts atop the platform. Kyle was so quick and lively that his pleather tie had to be painted onto his marigold shirt! Lacey, for her part, wore Version A of her signature Crotchless Tulle Petal uniform. I noticed that Kyle’s really begun to finish his Latin-round hand flicks with emphatic flair. He really cares! That’s how you know! He’s lovely. Appropriately, their song for this round was “She’s Got Me Dancing” by Tommy Sparks. (I don’t usually stoop this low, yeah right, but LOL at the Kyle-specific ad at the top of this lyrics page I stumbled upon during my snack fantasizing/fact-checking. Ugh, never mind, a few hours ago it was a cheeseburger; now it’s for AOL Music. Maybe by the time the sun comes up and my talented editor doesn’t cut this parenthetical, it’ll be a cheeseburger again.)

NEXT: Did Brandy’s paso doble really score the same as Bristol’s paso doble?

Later, the pair danced an Argentine tango to “Jai Ho,” the popular tune featured in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. CONNECTIONS! The song worked brilliantly for how light Kyle is on his feet. Lacey was able to choreograph some ridiculously quick leg flicks — my favorite Argentine tango moves, especially on fast-forward. Lacey was amazing here and Kyle kept up. Still, Len couldn’t bring himself to award pizza boy a 10, Bruno assured him “No matter what happens, you are season 11’s Mr. Charisma,” and Carrie Ann topped that off with extra mushrooms what Lacey clearly thought was the ultimate kiss of death: a comparison to season 3 winner Emmitt Smith. “At the end, he came out of nowhere and killed everyone!” Carrie Ann raved, as Lacey’s face silently screamed He’s been here all along! and implored viewers to scheme along with her to 1-800-CUT-A-BITCH. Hey, a win’s a win! I thought the comparison made sense.

Oh, and Kyle’s mom wins this week’s Best Coveted Mirrorball Trophy Impersonator. I know, I know, Jamie Lee Curtis was wearing something silvery and shiny and don’t even get me started on Brooke. But Angel deserved it this week. I loved Kyle’s self-correction backstage: “My mother and brother were in the front row all the time, except when they were in the back.”

Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 27/30 + 30/30 = 57/60 Did Brandy do a solo in the middle of their paso doble? I must have missed it while trying to determine exactly how much makeup Maks was wearing as he confidently marched directly toward me in the foreground. This definitely wasn’t Brandy’s best dance and her costuming certainly didn’t do her any favors (can’t believe how bitchy I sound here; wait, yes I can, it’s like the ninth week), but I still can’t believe that Bristol’s paso earned the same score as Brandy’s. (Again, wait, yes I can.) Side note: As soon as I realized they were dancing to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” I wished, almost as desperately as Brandy is gunning for the COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY, that they would have danced to “Fourth of July (Fireworks)” by Kelis instead.

Sorry, this has nothing to do with anything. I just think any self-respecting fan of sparkly ridiculata would be better off with this video — especially starting at 2:50 — in his or her life. It is the literal embodiment of the series. Whenever people ask me, “Annie, what is Dancing With the Stars about?” I stare at them, ask if they really want to know, and then force them to watch this video while I dance at my desk. Guess how many times this has actually happened!

Speaking of beloved pop divas, let’s hear it for Monica, who gave her former rival Brandy a standing O! It no longer matters to whom the boy belonged! I dug the traditional music the couple used for their second-round Argentine tango and the difficulty level involved in performing dips on the steps. Black Velvet Maks must have been holding back, because when they were backstage with Brooke, he dipped Brandy even harder than he did at the beginning of the tango (and harder than he dipped Florence Henderson way back when). Brandy is ALL ABOUT THE LACE this season and kudos to Planet Mirrorballus for veiling its entire atmosphere in a dramatic lace overlay each week as soon as she emerges out of a sparkly mist for her show-stopper. Where did Brandy’s lower back tattoo end and the eerie patterned tights begin? Who can say? What are you, an alien? Such quandaries are not for us lowly earthlings to solve. The answer lies in Maks’ patterned tie and lost earring. And maybe the lamp post.

NEXT: Does God’s plan for Bristol include a trip to the DWTS finale?

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: 27/30 + 26/30 = 53/60 “No offense to anyone” (suuuuuuuure), “but I’m not fake,” said Bristol in a confessional. “I’m not typical Hollywood.” The “untouched,” “raw,” and “vulnerable” “teen activist” danced a first-round paso doble set to “Gimme More” by Britney Spears. Did anyone want more from Bristol? It didn’t matter. This was good! Well, it was her best dance so far. Enthusiastic cape work abounded, and I was particularly impressed when she walked backward instead of forward. Carrie Ann wanted a hug — you know that’s a good sign. She was so happy to see Bristol finally come out of her shell and “nah-nail it.” I’m not sure which was working harder for the votes: Mark’s guyliner or Bristol’s weave!

What was with the dark hood on Bristol at the beginning of their waltz? Were we witnessing a rare double paso night? Nah, just a “haunting” waltz, as characterized by Len and the creepy music. The hood must have symbolized the shroud of shame Bristol now feels having dated Levi Johnston. She seemed morose verging on fearful throughout the dance, even during what I’m guessing was meant to be a joyous twirling section in the middle. Carrie Ann thought the waltz lacked emotion, while Bruno sugar-coated what was possibly the same sentiment by calling Bristol a “woman of mystery.” Even if she doesn’t win, “God has a lot in store for me,” Bristol told Brooke backstage. “Alllllllll right,” Brooke drawled, as she does to all people who ever speak, no matter what they say. I know she’s probably just never listening, but sometimes she sounds downright disappointed.

‘Til tomorrow, DNCMSTRs — who do you think will head home tonight? Discuss the semifinal performances in the comments, and nominate your Hidden Gems of the Week before 2 p.m. ET over at our PopWatch blog!

Read more:

All Hidden Gems of the Week

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

EVER WISH EW.COM HAD A RADIO STATION? Quit living in the past, man or lady! In this week’s TV Insiders podcast, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Michael Slezak grade the first week of Conan, pick the funniest Modern Family character, and discuss the trouble with the Survivor: Nicaragua cast and Bristol Palin’s improbable run on Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

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