The remaining four couples dance for a spot in the finals.

By Maggie Fremont
May 15, 2017 at 11:07 PM EDT
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Eric McCandless/ABC

Dancing With the Stars

S24 E9
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  • TV Show
network
  • ABC
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We’re so close to the mirror ball, you can smell it. It smells like sparkles and broken dreams. And sweat. So much sweat. Rashad, Simone, David, and Normani have made it to the semi-finals and, over two rounds of dance, will duke it out for a spot in next week’s finale. Between Normani’s fabulous hair and Rashad’s abs, even from the top of the show, you know they all came to play.

They’ll each face two rounds in the semi-finals. The first is the Judges’ Challenge, in which each judge is paired off with a couple for a little one-on-one training. In the second round, each couple will perform a dance style we’ve yet to see them dance this season, along with a package about where they draw their strength from. Which is code for: editing pieces in such a way as to induce crying. Should be fun!

Let’s get down to business.

ROUND ONE: JUDGES’ CHALLENGE

Normani Kordei and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Viennese Waltz, “Desperado” by Rihanna
It’s Len’s world and we’re all just living in it. That’s the takeaway from Normani and Val’s training sesh with our beloved head judge. If you’ve been watching DWTS for more than five minutes, you know Len Goodman loves a good Viennese waltz and is all about that technique. He wants to see proper frame and accuracy in Normani’s footwork. Unfortunately, Normani’s been basically perfect this entire season, and not even a glam black-and-white filter that highlights her red gown can cover one small stumble coming out of a turn. It costs her a perfect score. There is some good news though — we’re introduced to the greatest love triangle DWTS has ever seen: Len Goodman, Normani’s Grandma Barbara, and Val Chmerkovskiy. Who should Barbara end up with? Discuss in the comments.
Judges’ Score: 36/40

David Ross and Lindsay Arnold
Foxtrot, “You Make Me Feel So Young” by Michael Bublé
David and Lindsay are matched up with Julianne for their judges’ challenge, and apparently, Juls is obsessed with David’s butt. He squatted for a living, so, sure. Okay, she’s obsessed for a different reason. David tends to stick out his bum in his ballroom dances. She brings some lemons to rehearsal for David to, um, squeeze. This isn’t even the weirdest thing Juls has done on this show. The lemons are fun, but they don’t completely turn David into a dancing pro. Still, he’s a charmer and he wears a top hat! Dancing in top and tails will take you far in a foxtrot. David and Lindsay look like they’re having a blast on the dance floor, and even though the messy footwork gives Len nightmares, he can’t deny that David puts a lot of effort into his dancing. Yes, that sounds totally patronizing, but I swear it’s a compliment!
Judges’ Score: 34/40

Simone Biles and Sasha Farber
Jive, “Faith” by Stevie Wonder feat. Ariana Grande
Simone may have started with tears after some harsh critiques during “Trio Night,” but she ends with her first perfect score of the season. She’s upset because she feels like she’s trying her hardest and it just isn’t good enough. Sasha tells her it is good enough. We are all puddles. After some rehearsals in which Carrie Ann (Simone’s toughest critic last week) teaches Simone how to let loose (it involves hair flipping and somersaults, from what I can gather), Simone and Sasha perform a vibrant, lively jive. It’s true, Simone shows off more personality than we’ve ever seen during one of her routines, but I’m still not sold on her connection with Sasha on the dance floor. Doesn’t matter what I think though — the judges are all so proud, and those 10 paddles come flying out.
Judges’ Score: 40/40

Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater
Rumba, “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur
Bruno is the perfect judge to give Rashad a little dance lesson on his biggest challenge this season: extending his movements through his limbs. Moving with fluidity is like breathing air for Bruno. He shows Rashad (1) how not to throw a football ever and (2) how to extend his lines. The lesson sticks. Out on the floor, he and Emma dance a gorgeous, romantic rumba. Even Rashad admits how good it is to feel every movement he makes. I know I say this every week, but Rashad and Emma are such a wonderful match. Julianne’s comments about how Rashad allows Emma to fully express herself on the dance floor — not always the case for the female pros who have to back-lead their partners — make Emma cry, and possibly your recapper sheds a tear or two. Shocker, I know.
Judges’ Score: 38/40

ROUND TWO

Normani Kordei and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Jazz, “What A Wonderful World” by Ray Chew Live
Ah yes, the portion of the show where DWTS actively attempts to make the audience cry. We learn about Normani dealing with her mother’s breast cancer, followed by Hurricane Katrina, at a very young age. Normani’s only here because of her family. And that family includes Grandma Barbara, Dancing With the Stars‘ biggest fan. A woman who asks for more fringe and tosses a thumbs up after kissing Val is a woman after my own heart. Oh, you guys, this jazz routine is perfection. It’s a celebration of New Orleans, of Normani, OF LIFE. It’s fast and fun and somehow also extremely emotionally affecting. Even Grumpy Old Len gives Normani a standing ovation. This routine is the real deal.
Judges’ Score: 40/40

David Ross and Lindsay Arnold
Tango, “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran
These packages are rough, you guys. And by rough I mean wonderful, obviously. David’s mom talks about how proud she was to watch her son be lifted up by his teammates after winning the World Series, and honestly we should end the show here. But they don’t, thankfully, because David dances one of his strongest routines of the competition. He’s an excellent partner for Lindsay, and as Len tells the guy (again), no one works harder than David. His effort is showing in his improved technique. He’s not the best remaining dancer, but no one really cares. Bruno also blesses David (and all of us) with a new nickname: the Torpedo in a Tuxedo. Okay, now we’re done here.
Judges’ Score: 36/40

Simone Biles and Sasha Farber
Rumba, “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato
Oh, okay, Simone Biles. Go make a liar out of me. Simone and Sasha’s rumba is full of connection. Maybe it is listening to her package about how much she sacrificed to go after her dream of Olympic gold. Maybe it is that balance beam looming in the background as she dances her little heart out. Whatever it is, it works. Carrie Ann tells Simone that she danced with soul. Understatement of the year: Carrie Ann is a little dramatic. But also, maybe… a little bit right? Simone looks like she’s performing, not just following steps. This girl wants to win. Earlier Mary Lou Retton called Simone the best gymnast on planet Earth, so, maybe she’s already won?
Judges’ Score: 40/40

Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater
Quickstep, “Yes I Can” by Superhumans
Rashad drew a tough lot having both the rumba and quickstep in one night. Those are some tough dance styles! But some hard dance routines are nothing to Rashad. In middle school, he was diagnosed with a learning disability that stripped him of his confidence… until he found football. He uses that same tenacity and drive on the dance floor. Len may gripe about Rashad’s frame, but man if this guy doesn’t dance like no one’s watching. His quickstep is fast and furious, and I’m not sure how the guy doesn’t puke afterward. Julianne loves his confidence on and off the dance floor, and Carrie Ann just knew the quickstep would be perfect for Rashad. Len thinks there’s too much positivity being thrown at Rashad, which really makes me wonder if Len has ever watched an episode of Dancing With the Stars.
Judges’ Score: 39/40

Must we have an elimination this evening? Can’t we just go back to that dreamy place where Witney and Artem danced a gorgeous routine to Calum Scott’s cover of “Dancing on My Own”? It was safe there.

Alas, no.

When Normani and Val and Rashad and Emma are announced safe, leaving David and Lindsay and Simone and Sasha in jeopardy of being eliminated, you just know something is off. David seems like the easy one to let go, but to know Dancing With the Stars is to know it loves dramatic tension. So, yes, Simone and Sasha are the ones who fall short before the finals. Can you even believe it? This season is weird. But as the old saying goes, all’s fair in televised dancing competitions.

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