Oh, cruel “Dancing With the Stars” fate!
One week, one hurdle before the dance reality show finals, and producers set up the biggest drama – cutting two couples for the first time all season in a dastardly double-elimination.
Still, Monday’s sizzling semifinals brought out the best moves of the season from six couples, with each celebrity dancer exhibiting two dances in a bid for a finals spot – a so-called “redemption dance” do-over from a past blunder and a new dance style.
Giddy judges were throwing out perfect 10 scores like Mardi Gras beads, before being forced to end the party for two dancers.
Here’s what went down Monday night.
Last week’s ‘DWTS’ epic drama: Backstreet Boy AJ McLean meets his fate
Skai Jackson was sublime and elegant in her two dances with Alan Bersten. But was she standing at the end of the double elimination semi-finals? Read on! (Photo: Eric McCandless, ABC)
Tearful Kaitlyn Bristowe dedicates her dance to lost childhood friend
“Bachelorette” star Bristowe couldn’t believe she was told to bring more drama to her redo dance, a paso doble. If there’s one thing the reality show vet knows how to bring, it’s drama. Real, manufactured, whatever. She’s got drama game.
The coaching worked. Her redemption paso doble to “Hanuman” by Rodrigo y Gabriela made it seem like she was auditioning for the inevitable ballroom version of the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise. Bristowe nearly scorched pro partner Artem Chigvintsev on the dance floor with her intense gaze alone, and finished off the judges with fantastic footwork.
Frequent critic Carrie Ann Inaba was wowed, calling it “passionate and powerful” and leading off the perfect 10 scores. (Total: 30/30)
Part two: Bristowe’s paso doble to “Cowboy Take Me Away” was dedicated to her childhood best friend Lindsay, who died in a car accident. The Chicks song was played at her funeral. There were makeup-smearing tears in rehearsal. But come game time, Bristowe floated in a white dress, her blond hair unleashed, Chigvintsev’s shirt showing utter disdain for buttons.
The dancer sent a kiss to the sky at the end.
“You friend Lindsay is smiling down on you,” said Inaba, leading the perfect 10 scores again. Bristowe was a lock for the finals. (30/30, total score: 60/60).
Nelly lost his shirt, then his cool
Judge Bruno Tonioli said rapper Nelly’s previous paso doble with pro Daniella Karagach made him look like Megatron with the robotic dance moves. The rapper’s redemption paso doble to “Run Boy Run” brought out his live beast. Shirtless and silhouetted in the moody light, Nelly impressed the judges.
“Megatron no more; you can see the artist,” said Tonioli, who spoke for the world by adding, “And by the way, you’re looking good.” (Total score: 26/30)
Second round: The second effort foretold disaster, with a training video that showed real tension as Nelly struggled with a jive. He called partner Karagach, “Annoying as hell, like a sister” as he clearly struggled with the steps.
But Monday night Nelly was all smiles, donning nerd glasses and throwing impossibly executed kicks to “Jump Jive ‘n Wail” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. “Nelly, you nailed it,” roared Tonioli. “It was almost miraculous.”
“You need to have drama more often,” said judge Derek Hough, calling it “magical.” Each judge dropped a 10. (30/30, total score 56/30)
Skai Jackson pulled a supreme dance from a disaster
Disney star Jackson admitted that her previous cha cha was a “disaster” after she blanked on the moves mid-dance. With pro partner Alan Bersten, she gamed out her redemption dance to “Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior with a clean, sharp dance. A stunning, beaded gold dress that was ready for the Met Ball was the icing.
“Papa is proud,” Tonioli, who had mentored Jackson, proclaimed, giving a 9 score matched by all the judges. (Total: 27/30)
Round two: Jackson revealed her sophisticated yet vulnerable side in a Viennese waltz to “Lonely” by Noah Cyrus. She could have stopped midway through and still left the judges with mouths agape.
Hough called it “exquisite, perfection” as the judges unfurled the 10 paddles. (30/30, total score 57/30)
Justina Machado was a fire hazard with her smoldering redemption tango
The “One Day at a Time” contender brought out the fire in her re-do tango with pro Sasha Farber to “El Tango de Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge.” Her intensity threatened to set off studio alarms.
“Girl, you’re on fire,” said Inaba, who gave a 9.
“It was so good, I loved it,” said dance mentor Hough, who threw down a perfect 10. (Total: 28/30)
Round two: Machado soared to spiritual levels in her contemporary dance to “Holding Out for a Hero” by Ella Mae Bowen and Bonnie Tyler. Her red dress literally floated as Farber hoisted her into the air for a final twirl, and the two ended in an embrace.
“What is a 10? It’s when magic happens on the dance floor.” Inaba said as each judge gave a 10 score. (30/30, total score 58/60)
No butts about it, Nev Schulman mastered Monday
The judges have had to focus on tiny faults for overperforming, perfectionist Schulman. For his redemption foxtrot, Hough mentioned Schulman’s posterior. “His tush was in another area code,” Hough said of a past dance. In the redo with pro Jenna Johnson to Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times,” the pink-suited Schulman didn’t just pull in his butt. He kicked flawless booty.
“It was pure foxtrot; you were in absolute control throughout that entire routine,” said Hough.
“Even your bum was under control,” Tonioli added, as judges flashed the 10s. (Total: 30/30)
Round two: Schulman went next-level art choreography in white with a contemporary dance to “If the World Was Ending” by JP Saxe & Julia Michaels. More bravos followed.
“I forgot to judge; it was wonderful to witness and watch” Hough said. Perfect scores followed. (30/30, total score 60/60)
Johnny Weir returned to his figure-skating glory
Weir and pro Britt Stewart brought their own muy caliente for their redemption salsa to “X” by the Jonas Brothers. Weir’s Cuban heels were storming as he flew across the floor.
“I’m so proud of you,” said Inaba, who still had criticism over a few missteps. “It’s still about growth.” The judges scored straight 9s. (Total score 27/30)
Round two: Weir went back to his skating roots as the couple performed a dynamic jazz dance to “I Lived” by One Republic, mimicking skating moves and poses on the dance floor. The Olympic gold medal winner rediscovered the glory.
“Beautiful routine” Hough said “I want to give it an 11.” He settled for a 10, matched by all judges. (30/30, total score 57/60)
But still, peril lurked!
The dancers assembled knowing two were doomed. Nelly pumped his fists as he was told he was heading to the final. Schulman and Bristowe were spared as well.
With three couples left, the dancer with the lowest combined judges’ scores and viewer votes was sent home. Weir wordlessly exited the dance floor, leaving Jackson and Machado in the final two.
It was up to the judges to decide the second causality.
Hough chose to keep Machado based on the entire season. Inaba stammered and then agreed.
“I have to go with who scored more consistently higher,” she said. “I’m going to go with Justina.”
Skai Jackson, ever classy, smiled as she was eliminated from the competition.
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