Birds! Battles! Old Ballroom favorites! The semi-finals have a little bit of everything.

By Maggie Fremont
May 14, 2018 at 10:56 PM EDT
Kelsey McNeal/ABC
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It’s week three of DWTS: Athletes, and also the semi-finals. Wrap your sparkly head around it folks, because we have some dancing to do! The six remaining couples will each dance an individual routine dedicated to the MVP in their lives and then they’ll be paired off to dance in the Battle of the Ballroom round, hoping to score an extra two points to add to their total. Hey, every point counts in this baby.

Plus, we have season 24 runner-up David Ross sitting in as guest judge, and former athlete contestants Nastia Liukin, Von Miller, and Meryl Davis are here to mentor the celebs before the battle round. Really, it’s an excuse to have them dance with the pros one more time, but sure, mentor away!

If that isn’t enough fringe and sequins for you: Three couples will be eliminated at the end of the night. That’s half the cast. Who decided a four-week season was a good idea, again?

Mirai Nagasu and Alan Bersten
Quickstep, “Bo$$” by Ray Chew Live
We are all blessed to have Mirai on this season of DWTS, dropping partial shade on her competitors at every turn. It is glorious! More important, her quickstep is also glorious. She dedicates the routine to her MVP, her mom. Her mom is definitely an MVP, driving Mirai to practice and school and encouraging her to plow through the hardship. Mirai and Alan glitz up the dance floor with a fun, classic quickstep. Mirai has such confidence in her movement and the whole golden spectacle is glamourous. The judges note that she lost her posture and top line as the routine went on, but other than that, she nails this routine.
Judges Score: 35/40

Jennie Finch Daigle and Keo Motsepe
Viennese Waltz, “The Rest of Our Life” by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
Jennie brings Keo back to the woods of Lousiana to have him spend some time with her MVP: her husband Casey. Should every rehearsal take place in the forest? Discuss below. Jennie and Casey are v. in love and say things like “she’s part angel” and he “has a golden heart.” Good for them, I guess? I’ll just be over here, stuffing peanut m&ms into my mouth. The judges can see that Jennie is much more at ease this week. She finally trusts Keo, and as Bruno notes, that’s the biggest hurdle on the way to winning this thing. She still lacks fluidity in her arms and has some balance issues, but she is enjoying herself, so it evens out.
Judges’ Score: 29/40

Chris Mazdzer and Witney Carson
Foxtrot, “I Got Rhythm” by Ray Chew Live
Chris’ MVP is one of the biggest DWTS fans on the planet…who also happens to be his mother. Marty is a delight and Chris makes us all look like terrible children by making his mom’s dreams of being on the show come true for Mother’s Day. Chris and Witney perform a fun foxtrot with an old Hollywood vibe. The judges are harsh on Chris for his opening solo section, telling him he was stiff and not dancing big enough, but it didn’t read that terrible on TV. And David is right, dancing solo is scary — this is week three! Regardless, they make up for the whole thing with a fabulous group hat choreography, that I’ll surely be replaying all week. Hats win mirrorball trophies.
Judges’ Score: 33/40

Tonya Harding and Sasha Farber
Rumba,“See You Again” by Tyler Ward
Tonya and Sasha are feeling good after their quickstep last week, but knowing half the field will be eliminated is a lot of pressure. As if Tonya needs any extra emotion piled on this week, while dancing a tribute to her late father. He was her biggest supporter and best friend. Sasha choreographs a very moving rumba and you can see Tonya get emotional as soon as it begins. It only enhances her dancing. Her movement is so fluid and Bruno is happy to see her lines are much improved. Len would’ve liked more hip action but enjoyed the light and shade in the routine. Carrie Ann loves how Tonya dances with authenticity. So overall, nothing to worry about.
Judges’ Score: 33/40 (Recap continues on next page)

Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson
Contemporary, “O” by Coldplay
Birds. In. A. Cage. Can we call this season now? Adam and Jenna were actual birds in a freakin’ cage. They had feathers, people! But, like, gorgeous feathers. The beautiful contemporary routine is meant to honor Adam’s mom, who tears up just watching them in rehearsal. Adam’s mom is a single mother of six kids — that is not a typo — and she still found time to push Adam to skating glory. Not to mention that she is his greatest supporter, on and off the ice. So, the woman deserved a touching dance. Len complains about how staccato parts of the routine felt, but, uh, that was part of the loveliness. LET THEM TELL THE STORY, LEN. The other judges are all appropriately moved.
Judges’ Score: 39/40

Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess
Contemporary, “Stand By Me” by Bootstraps
Just as we’re recovering from learning that Adam’s mom raised six kids, we learn that Josh is one of five boys. Moms are seriously the best. Josh is dedicating his routine to his brothers. Brothers tease and wrestle, but also brothers gotta hug, ya know? And we get another lovely contemporary routine. Much to Len’s pleasure, this one is much more fluid. Seriously, it looked as if Josh and Sharna were just floating over the ballroom floor at certain points. And those lifts? Yes, please and thank you. Both Len and Carrie Ann are impressed with how confident Josh is, and they all can see how well Josh partners with Sharna. But David nails the critique in one, accurate word: smooth.
Judges’ Score: 36/40

Ballroom Battle Dance-Off 

Tonya Harding and Sasha Farber vs. Jennie Finch Daigle and Keo Motsepe
Cha Cha, “Dance” by DNCE
Olympic gymnast and season 20 semi-finalist Nastia Liukin (still thinking about her Charleston on a subway car with Sasha and Derek? You are not alone) swings by the ballroom to mentor Tonya and Jennie, athlete to athlete. With the cha cha, these ladies simply want to have fun on the dance floor. Mission accomplished! Both routines are bright and high energy. Neither couple looks completely confident in this side-by-side, but it’s clear Jennie is having some rhythm issues. David gives the battle to his softball sister, but the OG judges disagree.
Winner: Tonya and Sasha

Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson vs. Mirai Nagasu and Alan Bersten
Jive, “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry
Is this showdown — or, “Battle of the Besties,” as Tom calls it — a preview of our final two? If so, we are in for a treat. Both Adam and Mirai get a little visit from season 18 champ Meryl Davis because as Adam tells us, “everyone could use a little Meryl Davis wisdom.” These two probably didn’t need much mentoring, but whatever they did, it really works. How can the judges choose between these two high octane routines? I mean, Adam and Jenna do drag queen splits, so they should win by default but Mirai and Alan perform such a crisp, classic jive. The judges are split down the middle, so America chooses the winner. Not surprisingly, America loves drag queen splits.
Winner: Adam and Jenna

Chris Mazdzer and Witney Carson vs. Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess
Salsa, “WTF (Where They From)” by Missy Elliott featuring Pharrell Williams
Chris and Josh are the third evenly matched battle of the night, both in dance ability and abs, the latter of which they both do not hesitate to show us. Again, this really comes down to style preference. Chris and Wit stay in hold most of the time, while Josh and Sharna do a lot of side-by-side work. The lifts are insane across the board. There can only be one salsa champion, and although America goes with Chris and Witney, they judges lean a different way. Chris even shimmied in front of the panel, but alas, it was all for naught.
Winner: Josh and Sharna

Now that we’ve had so much fun, let’s go eliminate half of the cast. This is the saddest. Getting knocked out ahead of the finals are Jennie and Keo, Chris and Witney, and Mirai and Alan (um, what?). This means that Adam and Jenna, Josh and Sharna, and Tonya and Sasha will be freestyling it up in hopes of winning the illustrious mirrorball trophy. It’s not the final three most were expecting, so how is everyone feeling? Is this Adam’s to lose? Could Josh help Queen Sharna finally get the sparkling trophy she deserves? Will Tonya upset? Are there any other questions I could possibly ask right now?

Episode Recaps

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  • 03/21/11
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