Monday’s Dancing with the Stars semifinal didn’t exactly showcase the best dancing yet, but it was a night where the unexpected happened. Each of the remaining four couples performed two dances, with their two scores combined and added to the viewers’ votes. But only one couple delivered a one-two knockout performance and it wasn’t season seven’s front-runners Brooke Burke and her partner Derek Hough, who faltered badly in their first dance. Dark horses Lance Bass and Lacey Schwimmer emerged as the ones to watch going into next week’s final after last night’s show.
The night kicked off with Burke and Hough looking to coast right into the final by doing what they do best–wowing the judges. But their jive did anything but. Head judge Len Goodman said, “What a disaster… you messed up three or four times.” Bruno Tonioli was equally blunt, telling the usually on-target pair that their “technique went down the toilet.” And Carrie Ann Inaba, a stickler against lifts, told the pair she found it “disrespectful” they would do blatant lifts in their jive. The criticism amounted to the couple getting their lowest score of the season–a 21 out of 30. The night didn’t get better when Cody Linley and his partner Julianne Hough hit the dancefloor to perform a military-inspired paso doble. “I’m afraid you’re going to get your marching orders, i think,” said Goodman. “It was not good. It was just stiff and wooden.”
Luckily, Warren Sapp and his partner Kym Johnson managed to loosen up the judges and the audience, who gave the couple a standing ovation for their mambo. The dance was by no means perfect, with the judges criticizing the NFL star for being flat-footed and short on dance form. “You don’t mess about with technique and I understand that,” said Goodman, “but at least you come out and you come out and show us great personality.” Tonioli agreed, telling Sapp, “You have such a super-size sense of fun that you get away with murder.”
Turns out Sapp warmed up the crowd for the real show-stopper of the night: Bass and Schwimmer. The duo’s mambo hit the mark on difficulty, choreography and performance. It brought the crowd to its feet and the judges out of their dark mood. Goodman, who has been the pair’s toughest critic, graciously conceded, “In this competition it’s not where you start but where you finish, and that was the best dance so far.”
In round two, Burke and Hough redeemed themselves with a sizzling salsa full of lifts, shakes and even a dangerous death spiral spin. The judges rewarded Burke for bringing back her A game. “Welcome back into the competition,” said Tonioli, while Inaba told her, “No one wants to see someone fall from grace like you just did, but what a champion is someone who rises above it and comes right back.”
Linley and Hough also improved on their second dance, a salsa that showcased the Hannah Montana star’s ability to loosen up. It earned him the nickname “cheeky devil” from Tonioli. Meanwhle Sapp and Johnson continued to play up their strength, performing to the audience with a joyful jitterbug. It was still flat-footed, according to Tonioli, but the judges rewarded the big teddy bear for being just that–a big teddy bear.
Bass and Schwimmer closed out the night with a jitterbug dedicated to the former ‘N Syncer’s granddaddy, who was sitting in the audience along with Bass’s father. Despite losing a shoe during the dance, Bass kicked, twirled, jumped his way to another hearty round of applause from the audience and all three judges. “Once in a while magic happens on the dancefloor and that was magic,” said Inaba. And Goodman said, “I’m going to salute you. You came out tonight and danced two fabulous dances.”
Perhaps Bass’s granddaddy had something to do with his Dancing turnaround. At least he thought so. “Thank you granddaddy for being here,” he said, “I think you’re my good-luck charm.”
Here’s how the remaining four contestants stacked up after Monday’s dance: •Brooke & Derek: 21 out of 30 for their jive; 28 out of 30 for their salsa. Total: 49 out of 60 •Cody & Julianne: 22 out of 30 paso doble; 24 out of 30 for their salsa. Total: 46 out of 60 • Warren & Kym: 24 out of 30 for their mambo; 25 out of 30 for their jitterbug. Total: 49 out of 60 •Lance & Lacey: 28 out of 30 for their mambo; 29 out of 30 for their jitterbug. Total: 57 out of 60
Tell us: Who do you think is going home Tuesday night? With Brooke & Derek faltering, is the competition wide open?