We've made it: We're at the semifinals of Season 20 of Dancing with the Stars. Hard to believe we only have one more week left of this crazy carousel.
Special thanks to my colleague (and Dancing devotee) Robyn Ross for handling recap duties for me last week when I was on vacation. Maybe it's because I've had a week off, but this episode's bowling alley-themed opening number seemed like the most fun and energetic group dance that the show has pulled off in a while, no?
Once again, our final four couples are Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy, Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess, Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough (who still uses his stand-in, Sasha Farber, for their first dance), and Riker Lynch and Allison Holker. Each will perform two dances tonight (including one as part of an unprecedented Judges' Choice round), and it's anyone's game!
The focus wasn't entirely on the competition though. In a Dancing with the Stars first, after his first dance with Sharna, Noah proposed to his girlfriend Jamie right in the middle of his interview with Erin Andrews! Anything can happen on this show. (She said yes, obviously.)
So, how did everyone do this week? And which couple(s) got a perfect score? Read on to find out!
Rumer and Val
Dance 1: Viennese waltz
The dance: I have to admit, the Fifty Shades of Grey reenactment at the beginning of the dance made me a little uncomfortable, mainly because I was picturing Bruce Willis' reaction and also because I was concerned Rumer would fall out of her dress as the dance wore on. But no matter. Rumer is practically a pro at this point, and their waltz is sensual, seductive and a little dangerous.
What the judges say: Len says the dance was great but "lost a little Viennese waltz character." Julianne also felt uncomfortable with the dance, but in a good way. Bruno didn't realize a Viennese waltz could be so steamy. And Carrie Ann loves how connected Rumer is to the dance.
Score: 38 (out of 40)
Judges' Choice dance: "Contemporary fusion"
The dance: Look out, Natalie Portman! I love the Swan Lake concept Bruno comes up with for Rumer and Val (even if Val ultimately decides to ignore Bruno's suggestion to go shirtless). This is less a dance than a performance, and it's passionate and dark, a perfect counterpoint to their earlier waltz. It's incredible that Rumer had no dancing experience prior to this show.
What the (other) judges say: Len says they're his favorite couple on the show, and compliments Bruno's concept. Julianne channels her inner Bruno as she gushes about the dance. Carrie Ann calls it "genius," and can't believe Rumer pulled off the drama (not to mention that lift).
Score: 30 (out of 30)
Noah and Sharna
Dance 1: Viennese waltz
The dance: As compelling as Noah's story is, he's clearly the weakest link out of the four semifinalists, and I'd be surprised if he wasn't sent home tomorrow. His and Sharna's waltz is incredibly stiff - and it's definitely not just due to Noah's physical limitations. Even with his good arm, the movements and timing are a little off, and especially compared to the connection we just saw between Rumer and Val, there's just a lack of emotion here.
What the judges say: Julianne says there was an "ease" to the performance, and compliments the pair's attention to detail. Bruno lies to Noah's face and say he's a natural. Carrie Ann says Noah is thrilling to watch, and Len says the dance was Noah's best so far. But the judges' comments are soon forgotten as Noah gets down on one knee and puts a ring on it. Romance!
Judges' Choice: Paso doble
The dance: Carrie Ann choreographs an epic dance for Noah and Sharna, with plenty of backup dancers flanking Noah (to distract people from how not-great he is?). My cynicism aside, the bullfighting theme is pretty great, and the exaggerated slow-motion movements definitely play to Noah's strengths. It's epic indeed, and definitely a joy to watch. Their best dance of the competition?
What the judges say: Julianne has chills after the dance. Bruno calls the execution "masterful," and Len says Noah has made the run for the finals a true battle.
Riker and Allison
Dance 1: Contemporary
The dance: Everything about this dance is fantastic, from the music to the choreography to, oh yeah, the dancing itself. Is it Riker or Nastia who's the professional gymnast? I can't tell after these lifts. The routine is emotional and eye-catching. Assuming that it's going to be either Riker or Noah sent home tomorrow, I really hope that Riker gets a spot in the finals. He's earned it.
What the judges say: Bruno marvels at the "gutsy physicality." Carrie Ann screams about how raw the dance was. Len calls it a "great performance," and Julianne says she couldn't tell who was the pro.
Judges' Choice: Argentine tango
The dance: Julianne chooses Riker and Allison so that they can have an all-blonde trio. Just kidding. The production team pulls out all the stops for this one, and while it's not as incredible as their first dance, it's still really good - although I'm not sure how I feel about Julianne actually being in the dance itself, as opposed to letting Riker and Allison have the full spotlight. Regardless, it's clear that Derek isn't the only Hough sibling who knows how to get creative when it comes to choreography and concept.
What the judges say: Bruno compares Riker to a lion tamer, and Carrie Ann says he dances like a champion. Len says Riker is a huge threat in the competition because of his "flair" and "musicality."
Score: 30 (are we sensing a trend?)
Nastia and Derek/Sasha
Dance 1: Quickstep
The dance: Maybe Nastia's third career can be a lounge singer? She looks pretty comfortable behind that microphone. Sasha once again proves to be a worthy substitute for Derek. There are a couple of missteps and timing errors on Nastia's part towards the beginning - but this dance is pretty close to perfect, and the simultaneous one-handed cartwheels sold me.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann says the dance was "a showstopper." Len praises them for not sacrificing control in favor of speed. Julianne loves how Nastia has "opened up," and Bruno compares her to a bolt of lightning and calls the dance a "technical tour de force."
Judges' Choice: Viennese waltz
The dance: Derek's big comeback comes in a dance that is basically Len reflecting on his glory days (and even cutting in at the end!). I have to admit that Len's mentoring of Derek is really touching, and their waltz is graceful, gorgeous and sad at the same time. Len wanted emotion, and he certainly got it. Sniffle.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann, openly crying, says the routine was incredible. Julianne is also pretty choked up and says it was the "most special dance" she's ever seen, noting that it felt like a private number. And Bruno loved the nostalgia and says it showed "sublime refinement and skill."
And that's a wrap! I'll turn it over to you, Dancing fans. What was your favorite dance of the night? What did you think of the Judges' Choice round? And which couples do you think will make it to the finals after tomorrow's show? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.
VIDEO: How well do Derek Hough and Nastia Liukin know each other?