Welcome to the Dancing with the Stars semi-finals. This week, not only did the remaining celebrities grapple for a slot in next week’s finals, but producers struggled to fill two hours of primetime with just four dancers. To stretch the content, each dancer performed two routines, a cha cha relay and once again shared their most heart-wrenching back story in the hopes of mustering the votes to make it to the competition’s final round.
Let’s see how the teams fared this week:
Not-so-subtle cry for attention: U.S. soccer star Hope Solo has a shoulder injury, but she won’t talk about it. Unless it’s on national television to elicit sympathy votes. Her injury didn’t affect her performance, though, and she turned in a solid, if sluggish, paso doble for a score of 21.
Creepiest new attitude: After ticking off the judges (and possibly his costars), pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy has a new attitude. When host Brooke Burke-Charvat mentioned that he looked upset by the judges’ score, he simply smiled, said no, and thanked everyone. Host Tom Bergeron called it when he said, “Oh it’s Stepford Maks.” Stepford Maks was wearing a see-through mesh shirt, so he can stay.
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Most back-handed compliment: After weeks of studying dancers in their natural habitat, Hope Solo came to the following conclusion: Dancers are true athletes. It only took her nine weeks to come to that realization. [Insert eye roll]
Slowest beginning: When reality star Rob Kardashian and his partner Cheryl Burke rolled onto the dance floor shaking their maracas (not a euphemism) on a mini-Carnivale float, the judges visibly recoiled in horror. But by the end of the couples’ samba the judges were smiling from ear to ear, giving the duo their highest score yet, a 28, including a ten from Judge Carrie Ann Inaba. As Rob said, “Apparently [his] butt is a secret weapon in the samba.”
Most pain-filled performance: Veteran-turned-actor J.R. Martinez twisted his ankle in rehearsal, but having survived a land mine, paso doble practice was nothing. Unfortunately he re-twisted his ankle during the dance and was in obvious pain during the judging. For his efforts Judge Len Goodman told him that the performance was “More zero than Zorro.” J.R. may be injured, but Len’s not known for his bedside manner.
Best performance: After foundering last week, Ricki Lake regained her frontrunner status by delivering a dynamic samba with partner Derek Hough. The judges awarded the once and future talk show host with a perfect score of 30.
Worst opening act: The world’s best Argentine tangoers — Sandor and Parissa — choreographed an incredible, dramatic, and breathtakingly beautiful tango, that they performed along with pros Tony Dovolani, Kym Johnson, Anna Trebunskaya. Unfortunately, this gorgeous performance set the bar way too high for the competitors who had to perform their own tangos right after.
Most blatant filler: Way back in week three, dancers were asked to dance to the beat of their most emotional memory. Here in week nine, the stars are asked to re-visit those most challenging moments, but to use more words to kill more time. Hope Solo talked about her love for her father despite the fact that he was jailed and homeless during her childhood. Rob Kardashian spoke passionately about his father’s death and the impact on his life, this time with 75% more Kardashians including his mom, stepfather, sister Khloe, and brief shots of sisters Kim and Kourtney. Ricki talked about her struggles with her weight, but she brought along her nanny (?) and director John Waters (!!), so we’re not complaining. Well, not much.
Most tear-jerking back story: When the producers decided to once again play with our heart strings by asking the stars to (once again) tell their most tragic tales, there was no doubt that J.R. Martinez (once again) would win the most sympathy votes for his heroic tale. Plus, he got his All My Children co-star (and ex-DWTS contestant) Susan Lucci to vouch for him.
Most WTF moment: As part of tonight’s time filling festivities, the contestants were enlisted in a Cha Cha relay in which an Enrique Iglesias song was divided into four parts and each team took turns dancing the cha cha while the song played. The dance was not scored, but ranked by the judges. The best couple got 10 points, with everyone else getting eight, six, or four. The winner? Rob Kardashian followed by Ricki, J.R., and Hope.
Repeat offender: Once again Hope Solo opted to wear fully fringed pants. Does she not read this recap?
Final scores: Ricki and Derek 67, Rob and Cheryl 65, J.R. and Karina 56, Hope and Maks 49.
Come back tomorrow when we find out which stars will dance for the mirror ball trophy. Also, Muppets. Muppets! What more do you need?