'Dancing With the Stars': Semifinal smackdown
The Mirrorball trophy is so close, you can almost see the remaining stars’ reflections in those shiny beveled squares. It’s semifinals time, and there is no room for error on the ‘DWTS’ stage. The stakes have been ratcheted up again, with each contestant having to perform an unprecedented three whole routines this week: a ballroom number, a Latin routine (with a 15-second solo), and the secret sauce knockout dance (which is a shorter routine, but still). Who had all their ducks in a row and stepped their way into contention for reality TV’s “most reflective prize,” and who lost their footing? For the “semifinalith” time, here’s a rundown of how the stars stacked up.
Topping the leader board and blazing a glittery trail to the finish were Mya and Dmitry Chaplin. Earlier in the competition it seemed natural front-runner Mya could do no right by the judges. Now it appears that the Washington D.C./Maryland-born-and-raised singer and former tap dancer can do no wrong. Wouldn’t it be funny if that's what the judges/producers had in mind all along – to bring Mya down to Earth so that she wouldn’t dominate the entire season, and then unleash her like a sparkle-worthy superstar on the ballroom floor so she can soar, chiffon wisps and all, in time for the finals?
Mya and Dmitry continued to build on last week’s near-perfect scores in this semifinal round. Their first dance, the waltz, set to “Amore e Musica” had Mya glittering and floating and lilting like a shimmering star. Len liked the romance and elegance and Bruno called the dance “love set to music…[with] a touch of exotic” (wha? Is this because she’s half black?). Carrie Ann, however, was a little persnickety about them not being connected on hold.
The judges took it all back with Mya and Dmitry’s perfect-30 salsa, though, which smartly showed off fun yellow fringe and sexy moves for her, and a bare chest for him. Dmitry did a nice move where he caught her neck with his leg when she leaned back, and Mya really let loose with her awesome solo, which was far and away the smoothest and most technically accomplished of the night. Plus, I liked how Dmitry stayed in character while she did her 15-second performance, sitting on the steps of the stage and nodding to the beat like an admirer. The call-and-answer version of Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” was a little odd, but that’s small potatoes, as there was nothing else that was wrong with this dance. Bruno called it “sensational,” Carrie Ann called the solo “slamming” and Len even pulled out the colorful language and laid bare his feelings in rhyme. “Tutti fruity, what a booty! I was mesmerized by your buttocks.”
Carrie Ann came back with the quibbles for their knockout dance, in which each team got to choose their own dance to their own music. Originally it was supposed to be in preparation for their dance-off, but since none of the remaining four teams were ever put in the bottom three during that time, perhaps the producers thought it would be a way to show off yet another routine. For me, Mya and Dmitry’s cha-cha, set to Sean Kingston’s “Fire Burning,” smoked the other knockout dances (somebody call 911! Mya’s cha-cha is burning on the dance floor!). It was surprise upon surprise as Dmitry took off Mya’s white skirt, revealing the fringey Astroturf shorts underneath while managing to open up his sparkly shirt — at the same time! Len did another fake-out and said he was disappointed … because he wanted the routine to go on a little bit longer (you and me both, Len!). Bruno said the brief routine was “fantastic…. This was like an action-packed trailer for a blockbuster, and I tell you, I want to be first in line to see the whole feature!” Only Carrie Ann held back, saying there was “something about the beginning just wasn’t speaking to me.” (To which Bruno brayed, “You’re dead!”) Mya showed she was very much on fiya with all three dances: She and Dmitry earned a 28 for her waltz, a perfect 30 for the samba and a 29 for their cha-cha. Total score: 87 out of 90. Extra points to Dmitry for managing to bare his chest for two out of three dances – an impressive 67% of the competition — and for his very detailed performance backstage, where he mimed opening up a cellphone, pushed the buttons and mouthed the words to simulate a vote, and then closed the imaginary cellphone again. (So that’s how it’s done!)
Coming in second place were Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough. The swimsuit model has really grown on me throughout this competition, and her awesome futuristic paso doble from the week before really cemented her in the running in my book. This week’s dances should keep her in the competition: Her first dance, the waltz, set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” was lovely and wispy, even though, as Bruno pointed out, she seemed a little bit skittish at times. “This waltz had the grace of angels in heaven,” said Bruno, but “there was the slightest hesitation that somehow didn’t quite let me get it up to paradise.” Carrie Ann told her to be mindful of her arm movements: “You have to understand why you’re reaching.”
Certainly, Joanna has shown considerable improvement over the course of these nine weeks. And her back story was also considerable: Born in Communist Poland, moved to the States at age 5, her mother had to work 12-hour days to keep her and her sister afloat. She had to quit ballet at 9 because they couldn’t afford it. Joanna has shown time and time again that she’s got the determination and the drive to make it to the top. So why does Derek insist on keeping her down with that inappropriate crotch-dipping move? Was it to get back at her and Season 7 champ Brooke Burke for making fun of him during rehearsals? The dip was prominent in both the cha cha and the salsa, which all but made me wonder what the heck Derek – who also couldn’t stop mugging for the camera during this episode -- was thinking. Also in the “what-were-you-thinking?” category: Samantha Harris, who unsuccessfully tried to poke fun at Derek by saying, “Then again, what don’t you like doing with Joanna? On the dance floor, that is,” only to have it thud resoundingly throughout the red room and onto the dance room floor. The aftermath also marked one of the few times in the show’s history where there was no sound in the Rectagon whatsoever. Sigh.
Their cha-cha, set to Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” was fun and fringey – and by that, I mean the Elmo-colored pipe-cleaner pants that Joanna sported. While Len said the dance “was clean, it was crisp, had great rhythm throughout,” the head judge said he thought the routine “could have been a little more cheeky.” Luckily, Bruno was cheeky enough for everyone, and then some. “Oh, I can’t get you out of my bed!” exclaimed the judge. “You are just natural sex. It just oozes from everywhere.” Okaaayyy.
The sexy theme continued in Joanna and Derek’s knockout salsa, where Derek doffed his bright pink shirt to reveal a Johnny Castle-type black tank top and pants, and Joanna performed her shoulder shimmies in a pink fringe number. And there was that crotch-dipping move again! (“You brought back your signature move again,” nodded Carrie Ann slyly to the crotch bounce.) “They’re like little hors d’oeurves, these routines,” commented Len, “and that one was hot, tasty and full of spice.” Bruno called the dance “delicious and flirtatious.” Joanna and Derek were dressed to the nines, and they got all nines as well, earning 27s for each dance and a total of 81.
In third place were Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel. And as these weeks have slowly proved, nobody puts Kelly in the corner. We learned that her family’s previous dalliance in reality TV had turned the daughter of Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne upside down and into drugs. “It was kind of an experiment that went crazy,” explained Ozzy. But leave it to another reality TV show to exorcise her of her demons and allow her to blossom, even in the face of adversity (RIP, cute little puppy!). Kelly and Louis’ rumba, set to Robbie Williams’ “Angels” (an ode to overcoming adversity if there ever was one), was a perfect showcase of her newfound confidence, and ended with a great pose of her outstretched and triumphant. “You have a magical quality,” said Carrie Ann. “You reach right into my heart.” Len didn’t feel quite as “airy fairy” as Carrie Ann, however: He said it wasn’t her best dance, but it wasn’t her worst. Bruno said he was left a little cold by the lack of eroticism. “Maybe you don’t know it,” he suggested. “How do you know, Bruno?” Kelly shot back. They received a total of 24.
Their second dance, the quickstep, was an exercise in fun (despite her hideous floral skirt and his matching tie), set to “99 Red Balloons (or luft balloons)” that ran all over the Rectagon and back again. Len said it was “totally beyond my expectations,” Carrie Ann said Kelly “nailed it” and Bruno said she was “like a Speedy Gonzales: Light, fast-footed, just lost one step there.” Their cha-cha was also fun, as we finally discovered that the pink tutu and sparkly jacket was in honor of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Kelly blessedly lost that Minnie Mouse bow. “It might have been a quickie, but it worked for me,” lauded Bruno. “You finished your lines!” praised Carrie Ann. Kelly and Louis received a 27 for their quickstep and a 27 for their cha-cha, which added to their rumba scores for a total of 78.
Rounding out the competition for their second week in a row were Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson. Alas, this wasn’t the best week for Donny. He started out with the best intentions to enter into this penultimate week of competition with guns a-blazing, and after a visit from smoldering Frenchie and Season 8 finalist Gilles Marini, the Utah entertainer vowed to “make everyone uncomfortable.” And to be fair, he did – though maybe not for the reasons that he might have wanted. Kym’s tripped-up wardrobe malfunction and their subsequent missteps all but wrenched their tango out of commission. And Donny's disappointment was palpable as he screamed out in frustration and sat himself sullenly on the Rectagon floor. “We have another Osmond down!” exclaimed Tom Bergeron. And while the judges couldn’t say anything that was any worse than the flagellating that Donny was inflicting upon himself (“It’s all broken, it’s all broken,” he moaned. "Donny's already paddled himself," remarked Tom), the blame he put on sister Marie, while a fun distraction at first, became a little much after the fourth mention, no?
At least Donny was able to get his groove back for his next two dances. And he got the coolest person to comment on his biography segment (Stevie Wonder -- at Disneyland!). Kym hiked up her skirt line and wore next to nothing for their samba, which kept her from tripping over any hems. Donny sported a sparkle vest with a purple shirt and performed a butt wiggle and a fun little solo, even ending with a winning half-split on the floor. Bruno called the dance “effortless, carefree, fun: That’s what a samba should be.” Carrie Ann, however, felt “it was a little sloppy,” she said. “I thought you were dancing a little bit small.”
Carrie Ann liked their knockout jitterbug much better. “You got your mojo back!” she exclaimed. And finally, the mystery of the green sequin jacket was revealed! Initially, the color made me think of leprechauns (Bruno even called it “a party on St. Patrick’s Day”). But upon further study, Donny and Kym looked more like hopping watermelon Jolly Ranchers as they moved through their high-energy romp, set to Barry Manilow’s “Jump Shout Boogie.” Donny and Kym got a 21 for their tango, a 26 for their samba, and a 27 for their jitterbug, for a total of 74 points.
Which makes them prime candidates for elimination. Though honestly, I’m not sure who will be the next to go. Donny and Kelly have the lowest judges’ points, but they are also the resounding fan favorites. Will their fan base vote them out of their precarious position and into the finals, leaving Joanna as the odd woman out? Is there anything that can stop Mya and Dmitry at this point? Who are your picks to make it into the finals?
Photo: Kym Johnson and Donny Osmond; Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin