We've reached the semifinals of Season 19 of Dancing with the Stars, and everyone has that Mirrorball trophy glint in their eyes as they tackle "plugged-in/unplugged night."
The question on everyone's minds: Will Alfonso Ribeiro be able to dance in spite of his back injury? (Which sounds awful, by the way. After hearing Alfonso talk about how much pain he was in when he was dancing regularly, I can't imagine how serious the new injury must have been for him to question whether he could dance on the show. Ouch.)
Let's find out!
Sadie and Mark (quickstep)
The dance: After Sadie's lucky perfect score last week (thanks to the judges not realizing that she forgot her steps towards the end of the routine), the semifinal jitters are getting to her. Does it show in the dance? Nah. Her kicks are a bit flat towards the end, but overall it's a good number that probably does wonders for her confidence. I couldn't help but wonder, however, what her dad was thinking of that spirited shimmy towards the beginning.
What the judges say: Len is disappointed — because he didn't find anything to criticize in the routine. (Oh, Len.) Julianne and her plunging neckline call the dance "brilliant." Bruno praises the amount of content and contemporary twists in the dance. Carrie Ann compliments Sadie's hold.
Score: 37 (out of 40)
Tommy and Peta (jazz)
The dance: Tommy's thrilled to have made it to the semifinals — which is good, because I really can't see him making it further. But what do I know? He says his confidence is "sky high," and it really shows. He looks more happy and relaxed out there during their "Tainted Love" jazz than he's ever been before, even when Peta nearly kicks his hat off. The dance, on a technical level? Eh. But the crowd eats it up.
What the judges say: "You are the wild card, and that was wild," Julianne says diplomatically. Bruno basically tells Tommy to enjoy the ride, and Carrie Ann notes that Peta is the season's MVP for bringing Tommy this far. Len says he couldn't have done what Tommy (six years his senior) has done week after week.
Bethany and Derek (samba)
The dance: Are we in trio week again? Props to Sasha Farber, whom Derek uses essentially as a prop in this dance. The samba is fine, but definitely not the strongest dance Bethany and Derek have done. I'm not sure if it's just me, but they actually don't seem totally in sync with each other for once. It seems like more of a Week 5 routine than a semifinal entry.
What the judges say: Bruno loves Bethany's playfulness and compliments Derek for taking the samba out of its comfort zone. Carrie Ann says it wasn't the best "vehicle" to show Bethany's progress. Len compares the dance to cotton candy (not in a good way). Julianne tells her brother to get out of his head and have a good time.
Janel and Val (paso doble)
The dance: Could Janel be a dark horse contender to walk away with a win this season? Their paso is astounding, and the best dance of the night so far — maybe thanks in part to Val getting a little help from Maks this week. It's dark and dramatic, and Janel looks so determined, both in her facial expressions and her movements, that she may very well be the one to beat next week. Even Tom Bergeron can't get enough of it.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann is angry that the dance is over. Len thought that Maks "interfering" would have set the dance back (ha!), but it didn't. Julianne says they danced as one unit and Janel is clearly "in it to win it." Bruno calls Janel "an untamed force of nature."
Alfonso and Witney (tango)
The dance: Can Alfonso power through? I feel awful for Witney too, who clearly feels bad for Alfonso but is also so close to winning she can taste it. There's no question that Alfonso looks much stiffer this week as they dance to the How to Get Away with Murder theme song — appropriate, since Alfonso probably feels like he's getting killed out there. Luckily they're doing the tango and not, say, the quickstep, so he can get away with it a little bit. Witney overcompensates though, and salvages the dance. Alfonso crying during the judges' feedback breaks my heart. I wonder if he will/can go all out for the second number.
What the judges say: They're all impressed with Alfonso's determination. Len encourages Alfonso to work through the pain. Julianne says she can tell, for the first time, that Alfonso's coping with an injury. Bruno says he can't (lies). Carrie Ann compliments Alfonso's posture and warns him to stay safe.
For Round 2, the pairs will be doing the same songs with a different arrangement. Somebody get Alfonso an epidural in the meantime. Here we go:
Sadie and Mark (tango)
The dance: I love this rendition of Ariana Grande's "Problem," and Sadie's dress is also to die for. I'm less thrilled with the guitar — which, while an inventive prop for Mark to use, is just distracting in my opinion. As far as the dance, it's emotionally resonant and completely graceful. I just really can't get past the guitar.
What the judges say: Len also gives a thumbs down to the guitar and says they belong in the final. Julianne liked the guitar and says it created a nice barrier so the dance didn't get too "passionate" for Sadie. Bruno says Sadie nailed the challenging routine that Mark created for her. Carrie Ann is proud of Sadie and loved the guitar.
Tommy and Peta (rumba)
The dance: Tommy's gone from goofball to gallant with this rumba. A little grin slips out when he realizes how much the crowd is loving this dance, but this is a nice, serious counterpart to their fun jazz routine earlier. I love Peta's snow globe shtick and two thumbs up for the twinkly, ballet version of "Tainted Love" as well.
What the judges say: Everyone is crying. (Well, Julianne, Peta and Carrie Ann are.) Bruno says it's their best routine to date. Len keeps it real and says that Tommy is no question America's favorite (even if he isn't always the judges'), and that probably no septuagenarian will get as far as he has again.
Derek and Bethany (contemporary)
The dance: Nice frame, Derek! (Sorry.) Derek ditches his shirt and goes for the skin vote with this one, although it appears that he's gotten over his choreographer's block. It's a very touching routine, one that highlights Bethany's smooth flexibility, and it definitely overshadows their fluffy samba.
What the judges say: Bruno compliments Derek's abs and says the dance was a "modern masterpiece." Carrie Ann says it was "breathtaking" and Len compares it to a Picasso. Julianne's wistful gaze at the end of the routine says it all.
Janel and Val (tango)
The dance: Janel and Val win the night, as far as I'm concerned. Their tango is lovely and infused with all kinds of passion, and the lifts are completely mesmerizing. I was a bit skeptical of Val playing the violin at the start of the routine (especially when he missed the last note), but it was thankfully brief enough to not be distracting — for either Val or the audience.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann says Janel is the "most dynamic" of the remaining females, but says her lifts were "ungraceful." Len agrees that they could have been sharper. Julianne has nothing bad to say, and Bruno loved the intimacy.
Alfonso and Witney (contemporary)
The dance: Yep, looks like Alfonso is leaving it all on the floor with this one. He's not holding back at all, and you really can't tell he's working through an injury. I can't tell if his grimaces are due to the tone of the dance, or his physical pain. Probably a bit of both, if we're being honest. The choreography is fine, if not stunning, but all the points to Alfonso for getting through two dances.
What the judges say: Len loves the passion and intensity. Julianne says she doesn't know how Alfonso did it and commends Witney for adhering to Alfonso's limits and still putting together great dances. Bruno can't get over their "sizzling chemistry," and Carrie Ann says it was unexpected, ridiculous and finals-worthy.
So, who's going to the finals?
Safe: Alfonso/Witney, Janel/Val, Bethany/Derek are all announced safe, so it's between Tommy and Peta and Sadie and Mark.
Unsurprisingly, it's Tommy and Peta going home. They had a good run, and there's no doubt in my mind that Peta's tears at the end of their second dance were because she knew it was going to be their last time on the dance floor this season.
"I just showed that old stoners can perform when they need to," Tommy says. And there you have it, folks.
What did you think? Are you disappointed Tommy and Peta won't be going to the finals? And who are you rooting for to win the whole shebang? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.