‘DWTS’: Who Dazzled During the Semifinals?

J.R. Martinez’s two perfect scores on last week’s “Dancing With the Stars” made him the clear favorite going into Monday night’s semifinals. But backstagers wondered if the war veteran would falter on the ballroom battlefield, leaving the door open for the other remaining celebrities—soccer player Hope Solo, reality TV brother Rob Kardashian, and the woman who has been J.R.’s chief competition all season, former TV talk show hostess Ricki Lake.

On Monday night, the four last couples were to perform the paso doble or the samba (whichever they hadn’t yet danced) first, then the Argentine tango for their second. Lastly, all the pairs would dance to the same song in the cha cha relay, which wouldn’t be scored but rather ranked in order of preference by the judges. As you’ll see below, the night wound up including some incredible props and one devastating injury in the most colorful DWTS yet.

With three dances, the pressure couldn’t have been more intense for our remaining stars. Here was what happened in semi-final action:

Before the show started, Kourtney Kardashian was shown bouncing her son Mason in her arms in her audience seat. Kris and Bruce Jenner sat next to her with the Kardashian mother hen appearing to be texting someone—was she trying to line up the vote for son Rob already?

The remaining stars trooped down the stairs to begin the show. OMG, J.R. is dressed as Zoro and Ricki looks like Big Bird in a yellow feathery number.

Catch Up On Last Week’s Episode Of “DWTS”:

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Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (paso doble)
Hope said they need to come out “with fire” this week (we’ll see why this made sense later). Hope said because of previous shoulder trouble, she was in pain constantly on the dance floor. The soccer star’s doctor showed up in rehearsal to give her a shot in the troublesome shoulder—something Hope said she’d hoped to save for the Olympics. Olympics be damned, this is DWTS! Maks jokingly said he needed some Novocaine after laughing about the big needle. Going into the dance, she said she thrives in tough situations. The dance began with the two seeming to walk through patches of fire on the floor and Maks shoving Hope’s face angrily. They grapple as they dance (creepily replicating their real life partnership? Ha). She wound up on the floor at one point before Maks took her back into intense hold. The cameraman gave them an overhead shot as they spun around. Hope sure had fire in her eyes during this one! They ended the dance with Hope pushing Maks onto the floor. It was good but not great, a little unruly. Judge Len Goodman said to all of the finalists that it’s amazing to have to dance three times (duh). Now to the critique: “Attitude and aggression, it lost control and finesse,” Len said. Bruno agreed, saying they needed to combine artistry and control. Carrie Ann Inaba said they nailed the character of the paso but her hold was worrisome. “I admire you for coming this far,” Carrie Ann said (uh oh. That sounded like a kiss of death comment if I ever heard it). Backstage, Hope said she was supposed to be intense. She didn’t seem bugged by the judges’ critique. After the judging, Maks, with a wink at his recent troubles on DWTS, proclaimed, “Thank you everybody for everything you ever said or did!” and host Tom Bergeron named him “stepford Maks!”

Score: 21

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: paso doble
In rehearsal, the two realized because of last week’s high scores, they’ve set the bar high. It was nerve-wracking watching Karina first falling all over the floor. They will be doing a Mask of Zorro themed dance, channeling Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Then our hearts went into our throats as the front runner J.R. twisted his ankle badly in the rehearsal studio–but the determined warrior still wanted to continue. When he limped, Karina ordered him to stop practicing! In the dance itself, J.R. twirled his cape romantically and stirred Karina around the dance floor like a true matador. He looked a little bit hobbled compared to last week, however, and his turns seemed a little slower than they should have been. They were muted instead of majestic. The end of the dance had J.R landing, hard, on his feet. Tom asked him if he’d twisted it again and J.R. said yet, grimacing. The crowd roared its appreciation, including actress Eliza Dushku and her boyfriend Rick Fox, who was on DWTS a few seasons ago. Bruno said the role play was great but J.R.’s posture wasn’t quite there. Carrie Ann said he attacked the routine despite the ankle but her job was to look for a top-notch performance. She noted, “a few moments of uncertain pauses.” Len told a disappointed looking J.R. that this dance “didn’t suit you at all” to the boos of the audience. “It was more zero than Zorro.” That was pretty mean of Len, given the situation. J.R. admitted in front of the judges and Tom that the ankle had impacted his dance. Backstage, J.R. said he needed to step up despite injury. This guy’s attitude can’t be beat! Would anyone else beat his performance?

Score: 23

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: samba
Last week, Rob had his best dance yet and this week he wanted to do even better. This couple has always been nice to each other and drama-free and he said he wanted to make Cheryl proud. Aw, it was like a little boy so desperately trying to impress his teacher. Rob said his butt will be the secret weapon in the samba and maybe he can peak this week. As the dance began, they were riding a big float with a bunch of Mardi Gras-style props on board. Rob and Cheryl attacked the dance like they were truly in Rio. These two looked like a couple of cute kids having fun! The music was loud and vibrant and Rob leaned Cheryl into a sexy body-hugging back bend, and yes, shook his butt like there was no tomorrow. He ended the dance in full Kardashian booty shake. Streamers came down from the ceiling and the Kardashian clan gave him a big standing K! Even some reporters backstage clapped. “Yeah, Rob! Who are you?” Carrie Ann said, and mentioned his butt, his butt, it was all about his butt. “You didn’t miss anything, fluid and fantastic.” Len didn’t like the float but said “yes” to the dance. Bruno said he exceeded all expectations and there was no stopping Rob now! Backstage, Rob gave all the credit to Cheryl. Rob got his first ten—from Carrie Ann! And mommy Kris was shown sobbing in the audience– in genuine joy or in a savvy move to get votes?

Score: 28

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: samba
Ricki recalled last week’s disappointment in the jive and in rehearsal, she was still dwelling on the past and yammering about the problems. She said she’d do her best to put it behind her, though (yes, please, girl!). The talk show hostess had a weight problem (operative word is had) and thought Derek would have trouble lifting her. Derek was like, for crying out loud, she wasn’t 250 pounds! Good point from young D. Their samba then commenced in her outlandish yellow dress and Derek’s yellow ‘70s style polyester disco shirt–their hold was strong right away and she was hitting all the marks in the complicated footwork. My gosh, it was high energy and yet Ricki seemed in control, not unfocused like Hope had been earlier. Ricki was in excellent time time to the music, too, never putting a foot wrong. There were no flaws I could see. It wasn’t particularly sexy, but they ended the routine with Ricki nailed to Derek’s lap and she looked like a total professional. Ricki was cringing at the end of the dance, however, what was up with that? She always thinks it’s a flop. However, then the smash notices came in–Len called it fabulous and said she was bound for the finals. Bruno called it sizzling hot. Carrie Ann was thrilled, noticing how perfectionist Ricki had struggled to make her shoulders just right. The judges’ scores replicated the comments as it was a perfect 30. Hey, Ricki, you might not believe it but they liked you. They REALLY liked you!

Score: 30

Then there was a musical interlude focusing on the Argentine tango. The pros, including Tony Dovolani (I miss him and Chynna Phillips. They left too soon), illustrated beautifully how this dance should be done and the music was cool too, having a Weimar era cabaret German vibe (although it was supposed to be Argentina. But a lot of Germans ended up in South America, right? Oh, never mind). After the commercial break, the couples would have to follow that number which was choreographed by world tango masters Sandor and Parissa. Would there own tangos live up to the standard of this difficult dance?

Hope Solo and Maks Chmerkovskiy (Argentine tango)
It was up close and personal time as we cut to a profile of Hope’s life. Family members recalled how competitive Hope was and they called her another Pele because of her soccer prowess at an early age. Her parents divorced, but she loved her Vietnam vet daddy. She recalled he didn’t have the capacity to be a husband and father. But then, yikes, her father kidnapped Hope and her brother. They watched her dad get caught for the crime of taking them from their mom and be put in a cop car. Wow. High drama. Determination evolved after her family problems and her father went to jail. He became homeless but later watched her soccer games before passing away. Before a key game as starting goalie, Hope’s coach took her out of the game. She was kicked off the team for dissing her coach, but later got back into soccer.

She began the dance lying on the judge’s table and then went into the intricate moves with Maks turning her almost upside down at one point. She put her head on his shoulder like a woman pleading to be forgiven by her lover. Maks picked her up off the floor by her long legs. At the end, he dragged her across the floor to rather tepid applause from the audience. Len thought it was better than their paso and said it had a lot of content. “Well done,” he added. Bruno said Hope looked sexy and there was rapport between her and Maks. Carrie Ann said the grace wasn’t there and reprimanded Maks for smiling (she thought he was criticizing the judges again by smirking, apparently and Maks was like, who, me?). Brooke Burke-Charvet asked Hope a boring question backstage, and then the judges gave them three 8s. “I’ll take anything I can get at this point,” Maks said. “I’ve been here before.” This will be known as the season in which Maks never stopped talking.

Score: 24

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: Argentine tango
Story time on J.R.’s life: J.R. was raised by a single mom and he grew up impoverished but with a lot of love and happiness. Hoping to improve his life, he joined the army in 2002 at 19. But then, catastrophe in a story we’ve learned already—J.R.’s Humvee hit a land mine in Iraq and he wound up badly burned in the hospital. His mom answered the phone to hear that her son had had a bad accident. J.R. thought he would scare everyone with his melted face. J.R.’s mom reminded me a little of his partner Karina—she was sweet and pretty. Getting the role in “All My Children” gave him a new career and co-star Susan Lucci sang his praises. Cameron Mathison said he was uninhibited and his galpal Diana was shown clapping in the audience. The tango started with JR holding Karina in a lift. Karina looked sexy in those black fishnets but JR was still moving slowly. Luckily, it was a slower dance this time. His high leg kciks looked okay but he did look like he was stuggling to hold her at one point. They ended in an awkward embrace and J.R. was shown yelling f— after the dance in great pain (and frustration?). J.R. seemed to feel he didn’t do that well in the dance but Bruno called him strong and fearless and saw great chemistry. Carrie Ann said there was a true fire burning and said the mounts and dismounts were difficult. Len said it had mood and intensity. I thought the judges were being kind; it was nowhere near as accomplished as Ricki’s dance, which was the top of the night so far.

Score: 27

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: Aregentine tango
Perhaps sensing he was a poor little rich boy and his “story” might not be as sad as those of the others, Rob lamented how he hasn’t experienced life like everyone else on the show. They put up Rob’s baby video and ubiquitous Kris Jenner was talking about him again, saying how much her then-husband Robert wanted a son after three girls (the ones we know too well). Rob had to find his own voice, she said. Khloe K helpfully said they used to dress Rob up in women’s clothing and they showed a picture of the boy wearing a black dress, hat, and pearl necklace. Rob recalled how his world came apart when he lost his legal eagle dad, the famed OJ attorney Robert Kardashian. The reality show brother then made it his life to honor his dad by graduating from USC (yes, USC got a free plug again). Rob was still figuring out what he wanted to do when DWTS came calling and he decided he had nothing to lose by doing the hit ABC reality show. Bruce Jenner commented it’s the best thing Rob has ever done (hey, college didn’t count?). Kris said he’d become a man by dancing. My gosh, she has said that every week—time for someone to write her fresh material. Okay, on to Rob’s dance. They descended the stairs like they meant business and Rob did an accomplished lift of Cheryl and the cameraman rewarded the couple with an overhead shot. I liked the way he held Cheryl’s waist in the dance, workmanlike instead of sleazy. And their ending spin with Cheryl’s legs around his body? Magic! He never hesitated in that long spin. Rob gave his C a big high five. Carrie Ann said you couldn’t fake dancing and it was very strong. Len affirmed Rob was finishing strong. Bruno said he looked like a leading man, handsome and in control. As much as I hate to admit it, not being a fan of the Keeping up with the Kardashian juggernaut, they were right. Rob deserved to be voted into the finals.

Score: 27

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough (Argentine tango)
Ricki grew up in New York and has a vivid memory of seeing the musical Annie on stage. But her own life had a sad secret—Ricki revealed she was molested in her own home and it made her turn to food as a little girl. She could switch off the bad feelings only by performing. Cult director John Waters talked about how she was cast in Hairspray as Tracy Turnblad. At one point, she weighed 260 pounds and hit rock bottom, but by the time she got her own talk show, Ricki had lost 100 pounds. Then she had a bad divorce and started a new life in Los Angeles. That was a lot of both poignant and positive information—now what would happen in her tango? Ricki began the dance sitting in a chair (big prop night, people). Derek, in a black hat and suit with Ricki in the obligatory tango dress, took her out of her seat (in the dark smoky restaurant?) and into the tango. Their moves were precise and don’t worry, Ricki, he lifted you very nicely. Derek brought her back to the prop table and spun her around there, too. They end in hold, with Derek holding Ricki’s arm way up triumphantly in the air. Derek seemed happy with it and even Ricki didn’t grimace this time. Len said the lifts swept in and swept out and Ricki didn’t know how good it was (yeah, this time she maybe did, I think). Bruno loved the handsome stranger trapped by the femme fatale theme and Carrie Ann gushed that she had a lot of core strength. “You have the pop!” Carrie Ann said. With two tens, I couldn’t see a way Ricki wouldn’t make the final.

Score: 29

Then it was time for the climactic cha cha relay, as they couples were vying for coveted bonus points from the judges. The pairs drew out numbers from a faux disco ball to determine their order of dance. They would all be boogieing to Enrique Iglesias. Maks was really worried about cha cha in rehearsal because Hope didn’t remember this dance from earlier. Ricki felt her cha cha was going okay, in a rare bit of confidence for her. Cheryl said the last place couple will only get four points and prodded Rob about it.

So, they hit the cha cha–Ricki and Derek again looked like professionals in their cha cha with the star reading Derek’s every helpful direction. Hope and Maks seemed much slower by comparison and she’s wearing those sparkly tassled glitter pants which are always so distracting, going this way and that. I watched the pants instead of Hope! JR and Karina —-uh, oh, he was still hobbling and looking disheveled while Karina danced energetically around him. Rob and Cheryl completed their portion of the dance with great flair, seeming to be totally in tune with the cha cha (Rob was the shocker of the night!).

At the end of the night, the judges gave their cha cha verdict:

Hope and Maks: 4th place, 4 points
Rob and Cheryl: 1st place, 10 points
Ricki and Derek: 2nd place, 8 points
J.R. and Karina: 3rd place, 6 points
Hot damn! Rob won that cha cha. That was keeping up with “Dancing With the Stars!”

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