7:45 pm EDT, May 14, 2013

‘Dancing with the Stars’ season 16, week 9 recap: Semifinals full of perfect scores and personal stories

The semifinals were full of perfect scores, personal stories, and new dances that neither the pros nor the judges knew anything about! Let’s discuss these things first, and then get to the individual couples.

Editor’s note: This article is by our Dancing with the Stars recap-er Irvin K.

Just as I predicted last week, now that we’ve broken the perfect score ceiling, the thirties flew thick and fast this night. As a matter of fact, this semifinal saw more perfect scores (four) than any since season 5, when both Helio and Mel B got a perfect 60 for two dances and Jennie Garth got a perfect 30 for her second dance. (The record remains with season 4, where the entire night only saw three nines and nothing lower.) There was some absurd score inflation going on – the judges left all their 1 through 7 paddles at home, it seemed.

In terms of personal stories, they were not nearly as heart-wrenching as the usual ones are. I suppose part of that is because two of our semi-finalists are teenagers and don’t have much to work with. Zendaya’s was about being shy and then not. Aly’s was about how much it sucks to come in fourth place, and how she then triumphed at the Olympics. Ingo, it seems, has led a very happy life thus far – moving from Germany to Hawaii, seducing his wife while in a Speedo, and working on General Hospital while smiling the entire time. Jacoby’s was about not giving up and playing college football, and recovered from some kind of big mistake early in his career (my knowledge of football is nonexistent, so I didn’t follow what had happened).

The winner of the sympathy vote is Kellie – mother abandoned her, father was an incarcerated alcoholic, she was an average girl with self-esteem issues before American Idol. This is incredibly important, because these personal stories often make it or break it for a contestant’s aspirations towards the finals when the scores are so close as to be negligible. The perfect example is Season 9, when Joanna Krupa was a frontrunner only to have a personal story that included Hugh Hefner talking about how beautiful she is. No sympathy for that became no votes for her, and she was eliminated. Kellie, meanwhile, should be perfectly safe tonight.

And that brings us to the second round of dances. The pros didn’t know what they were doing – Val had to be taught hip-hop by Zendaya’s former teacher, Derek researched flamenco, and Mark seemingly did what he thought was fun for Afro Jazz. The judges clearly didn’t know what they were supposed to be scoring either, mostly commenting on how energetic the performance was and giving everyone nines and tens. I certainly know nothing about any of these dances, so I’ll just say that they all looked good and were fun to watch, and we can move on. Let’s welcome our stars!

First Place (tie), 59 points: Aly and Mark (Rhumba, 30 + Afro Jazz, 29). I don’t know if the judges watched the same dance I did, because Aly’s Rhumba was not particularly good. The judges all raved about her performance and sensuality, but I thought scores should reflect technique, and Aly’s footwork was dreadful. Her feet were not pointed half the time, turned in occasionally… it was just bad. Half the fault does lie with Aly’s shoes, though – wearing heels automatically fixes the problem because in heels feet already look pointed. Whose brilliant idea was it to have Aly wear flats for this? In general, the standards for Rhumbas on DwtS have plummeted lately – there were only two perfect Rhumbas in the first 10 seasons, and this is the fifth one in the last six seasons. Their Afro Jazz number was probably the most fun one of the second round, so that’s good, and Aly should make the finals without issue. Odds of being eliminated: 1 in 25.

First Place (tie), 59 points: Jacoby and Karina (Argentine Tango, 30 + Lindy Hop, 29). I could barely see anything of their Argentine Tango, because of the pitch-black lighting and black stage and black costumes. What I saw looked good – Jacoby was not exactly overtaxing himself, with Karina doing most of the work in the dance. Did this deserve a perfect 30? Of course not, but if everyone else has one, I guess the judges thought, “Might as well.” I am seeing some backlash for Jacoby on other websites, with viewers whole-heartedly fed up with his obnoxious mother and his being overscored constantly (neither of which is his fault, but still). Odds of being eliminated: 1 in 5.

Second Place, 58 points: Kellie and Derek (Argentine Tango, 30 + Flamenco, 28). Kellie’s Argentine Tango was so ridiculously good, there are simply no words. The judges could only utter variations on “that was perfection!” It began with Kellie and Derek dancing in silhouette, which included her body bending at nearly impossible angles. The lifts and tricks were astounding (when Kellie is being held up in a split and spinning like a top – wow!). There was also a good amount of steps, of flicks and kicks. In short, this was the best routine of the season thus far. Between this, a good flamenco, and Kellie’s touching backstory, I think Kellie is all but assured a place in the final. I think she has a good chance to take it all. Odds of being eliminated: 1 in 100.

Third Place, 55 points: Zendaya and Val (Quickstep, 25 + Hip-Hop, 30). Ouch! Zendaya chose a BAD time to slip up! The 25 she received was her lowest score since week 3, and this is the first time in the competition that Zendaya did not rank in the top three for the night! She was so excited for her hip-hop routine that the Quickstep almost seemed an afterthought, and it showed. While the dance was passable, it was nowhere near her usual standard. This will only be made worse by the fact that she got a hip-hop routine to do, which is her career! There is always backlash for dancers appearing on this show (that’s why Mel B and Mya were runners up), but nothing like this. Zendaya had to teach Val instead of the other way around! That is not how the show works, that is supremely unfair, and Zendaya has reason to be worried tonight. Odds of elimination: 1 in 4.

Last Place, 51 points: Ingo and Kym (Samba, 24 + Charleston, 27). Ingo is the only one to not receive a perfect thirty last night, and got the lowest score in both rounds. His Charleston was good (and finally got him nines), although I thought he lost sync once or twice. But his Samba was just bad. It’s a supremely difficult dance, and Ingo had no bounce, no musicality, no arm movement. I’ve enjoyed Ingo this season – he’s fun and always has a smile – but I’m pretty sure his time is up and he’ll be heading home tonight. Odds of being eliminated: 1 in 2.

So who do you think will head home tonight? My money is on Ingo, though either Zendaya or Jacoby also might. Who did you vote for? And are you any clearer on what the heck Afro Jazz is?

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