‘Dancing with the Stars’ season 18, week 9 recap: Semifinals

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3:45 pm EDT, May 14, 2014

by Irvin K

You get a ten! You get a ten! Everybody gets tens! It’s the semifinals!

The semifinals were obnoxious. Once it was announced that our three Olympians were in jeopardy, both the judges and the hosts were insufferable for the remainder of the night. They were shocked! They were appalled! They were heartbroken! They were unfortunately not speechless! The judges kept telling each of the Olympians that they deserve to be in the finals. People, we get it, you think Candace should be eliminated. Message received loud and clear – no one’s arguing. During one of these spiels about how the Olympians don’t deserve jeopardy, the camera panned to Candace who was not quick enough to hitch a smile on over her scowl. I don’t blame her – if everyone on the show kept implying I didn’t deserve to be there, I’d be pissed too.

Proving that the DWTS producers are really running out of ideas, the semifinals were “American Icons Night.” Um, if you say so. All this seemed to include was a bunch of guest stars in rehearsal packages and really terrible music selection. Oh, and Derek’s final Macy’s Stars of Dance of the season – a pretty cool number that was all about film sets and props. The guest judge was Kenny Ortega, and my inner fourteen-year-old squeed while listening to the director of High School Musical. He was a fine guest judge, better than most of the guest judges this season.

Numbers fun: this week marked Derek’s record-setting eleventh appearance in a semifinal (breaking the record he’d previously shared with Cheryl); he’s only missed the semifinals twice in the seasons he participated in. Mark and Maks are both on their seventh semifinal, Peta is on her second, and this was Sharna’s first semifinal.

After two hours of interminable reminders about their jeopardy, the couple heading home is… Charlie and Sharna! Yes, Charlie faced the cruelest cut of all, almost making the finals but not quite. Fifth place is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not what an Olympic champion is used to. This is Sharna’s best finish yet. Honestly, Charlie had really grown on me, and I’m kind of sad to see him go. In fact, both Olympians really stepped up their game this week, finally delivering performances of the caliber I expected all season. It only serves to emphasize how much Candace does not belong here.

Not to toot my own horn, but I did pretty good with my early finalist predictions. I called correctly that it would be James, Amy, and one of the figure skaters. (I was mistaken in thinking Danica would make it over Candace.) It will be an interesting final next week.

Charlie started off his last night with a bang, delivering a fantastic foxtrot to “New York, New York.” He received another perfect score, and seemed like he was on top of the world. Then it all came crashing down. Charlie attempted a samba to a song by some notorious B.I.G. (I think that’s what Tom said – why is this guy notorious anyway?) This is pretty much the worst song to samba to that I’ve ever seen on the show, and Charlie and Sharna made a brave attempt. The judges had a medley of critiques to level at Charlie, and gave their nines with stern disapproval. But Carrie Ann and Erin both want to live in Charlie’s world full of smiles – we even got to see Charlie having a chat with his mirror self to get pumped up in rehearsal. Upon his elimination, Charlie was a class act, repeatedly trying to give Sharna the big bow at the end.

Now, let’s welcome our finalists!

First Place, 80 points: Meryl and Maks (Jive, 40 + Viennese Waltz, 40). M&M had a very good week for the semifinals. Kristi Yamaguchi dropped by rehearsal to chat with Meryl, but the focal point was Maks’s creative block regarding the choreography. Meryl actually showed a bit of personality trying to cheer him up – well done to her! They did a jive to “Hound Dog,” which was a damn sight better than the Michael Bolton doghouse fiasco. Considering jive is all about being larger than life, I thought Meryl did very well; her technique was obviously flawless. Maks was feeling warm and fuzzy and started kissing everyone in the ballroom – both Carrie Ann and Bruno looked like all their dreams had come true.

Their Viennese waltz is their best dance by miles. Meryl was so incredibly expressive, bringing the performance alive like she hasn’t all season. It was a superb waltz, filled with drama and passion. Perfect score well-deserved on that one. I’m curious as to where Meryl will end up – Maks is notoriously terrible at finals, but Meryl now has the entirety of her and Charlie’s fanbase united behind her. Just think, this fanbase when divided got two stars to the semifinals; when they all rally behind Meryl she might be unstoppable.

Second Place, 78 points: Amy and Derek (Quickstep, 39 + Jazz, 39). For the Quickstep, Amy put on her bouncy feet! I think it’s kind of awesome that she just puts on the appropriate feet for each dance. Whether it was the feet or a call from Oprah that put a bounce in Amy’s step, her Quickstep was great. Len was a grump and gave them a nine. I disagreed with that nine, but I also disagreed with the raves Amy got for her jazz number.

For once, I was not as enamored of Amy and Derek’s dance as the judges. The judges all treated this number as the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I was not particularly impressed by Amy sitting on a table for 80% of her routine, especially the week after her stool-focused Argentine tango. Yes, her sliding down the table was impressive; the rest not so much – it seemed a tad lazy, to be honest. And I, too, saw the slip-up that Carrie Ann mentioned – they lost sync once early on. Best part however, was Kenny’s improv: “From Len, the ten!” “From Ken, the ten!” Bravo, Mr. Ortega, bravo. Kenny Ortega also said to Derek, “You have reinvented choreography for this generation.” No arguments there – I cannot wait for next week’s freestyle!

Third Place, 76 points: James and Peta (Cha-Cha, 40 + Rhumba, 36). There was “a bit of ‘Bad’” in Bruno’s crotch, but everything else about their cha-cha was good. I’m kind of over the Michael Jackson tributes on this show, but I thought James and Peta did a spectacular job doing a proper cha-cha as a Michael Jackson homage. The rehearsal package was about some music producer visiting James – not nearly as compelling as usual, but everyone’s allowed an off week.

Considering James and Peta’s samba (“the party dance”) was the sexiest thing in DWTS history, I had to wonder what they’d do with a rhumba (“the dance of love”). They took everyone by surprise by doing a sweet and romantic rhumba, not a particularly raunchy one. I suppose that anything racier than their samba would belong on Game of Thrones. The judges came down hard on his arms and hands – I didn’t really notice that, but I did notice him sticking out his butt at some points, which was a critique some weeks ago. Carrie Ann said James is the smartest contestant, and I agree – he’s done a perfect job this season. And with Charlie gone, I think James stands a pretty good chance of winning.

Last Place, 72 points: Candace and Mark (Viennese Waltz, 34 + Jazz, 38). Candace is dancing for God. She loves the word of God. She really wants us to know about her relationship with God. By the time her rehearsal package was over, I didn’t care what her dancing was like, just as long as she shut up. Her Viennese waltz was okay, but it garnered the only eights of the night. In round two, Candace performed a very impressive jazz number, perfectly in sync with Mark. I enjoyed it so much more without a rehearsal package about her faith preempting it.

She also wore a leotard that she probably would have severely objected to two months ago – yay for growth! Bruno manically beckoned her to the Dark Side, but more importantly, Candace got her first tens of the season! And from Len and Kenny, no less! It is glaringly obvious that she does not belong in the finals, but hopefully she’ll be sent packing next Monday and can trade in her dance shoes for a Bible.

Will you miss Charlie and his world of smiles? Which of the four finalists do you want to see take home the Mirrorball Trophy? Who would you rather have seen in the finals instead (coughDanicacough)?

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