Welcome to the semifinal round of Dancing With the Stars. In the penultimate episode, the herd of ersatz “celebrities” you need to Google to know their claim to fame has been winnowed down to four real-life no-Google-necessary bona fide dancing stars all willing to do what it takes to bring home that Mirror Ball trophy.
To kick off the festivities, Tom Bergeron points out that each of the semifinalists — Hollywood scion Rumer Willis, Hough cousin Riker Lynch, Olympian Nastia Liukin and veteran Noah Galloway — has been in the lead at least once over the course of the season. That means the competition is almost as tight as the spandex worn by the contestants. Tonight’s semifinal round will be divided into two parts, the first is just a classic Dancing With the Stars performance followed by a judge’s-choice round.
Here’s what happened in the semifinals of Dancing With the Stars:
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy: When Rumer was born, she looked like a “magical elf” according to her mother Demi Moore, while her father Bruce Willis simply reported the rather ho-hum fact that she is the oldest of his five daughters. Rumer’s sisters and family friends like Glenn Close (the once and future Marquise de Merteuil) all joined in the chorus of voices exclaiming the positive effects of Dancing With the Stars on Rumer’s mental health. To eke out every last possible vote, Rumer and Val’s semifinal dance was a 50 Shades of Grey–themed Viennese waltz complete with a controlling older man (way to push your boundaries, Val!) and a doe-eyed brunette. Julianne thought Rumer was “a perfect Anastasia,” but it’s TBD whether or not that’s a compliment. Bruno Tonioli almost fainted because he forgot to inhale while stretching out the word “steammmmyyyy” to its furthest possible point. At the end of the routine, Demi came backstage to talk to Erin Andrews about how proud she is of her daughter. 38/40
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess: Turns out Noah joined the military in response to the attacks on Sept. 11. He loved his time in the military, finding a home there, until, of course, he lost his arm and leg in the line of duty. But he’s a warrior, through and through, according to the friends and family and William Shatner (?) gathered together for the clip reel. For his Viennese Waltz, Noah and Sharna perform on a fog-filled stage to David Cook’s “Time of My Life” (R.I.P. American Idol.) Julianne cries while she talks about his rotation, while Carrie Ann coos over the fact that he actually looked like he was having fun while he was dancing, for once. For Len, though, he thought it was Noah’s best dance yet. Good timing, Noah! Speaking of timing, Noah thought it would be a good time to propose to his girlfriend. Nothing says vote for me like putting a ring on it. The judges liked that performance even more. But not as much as Demi who cried her eyes out in the audience or Sharna who had no idea what to do with her arms, so just stuck them straight up in the air. 36/40
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker: Riker attempts to curry favor and/or pity by explaining how he and his entire family had to leave his dad so they could move to Los Angeles and pursue their dreams, which sounds like a choice, not a tragedy. But who has time to parse it when Riker’s family friend Michael Vartan is pulled out of the cryogenic tank where he presumably stored (how else does he not age??) to talk about Riker’s ambition. In addition to the inevitable Vartan Vote Boost, Riker has an advantage in tonight’s semifinals because he is assigned a contemporary routine, which is where Allison and all her So You Think You Can Dance experience really shines. She’s probably the only one on the show who can rival Derek Hough in choreography skills. The judges pretty much die after the performance. Bruno rises to his feet to praise Riker’s range, talent and physicality, and he doesn’t even bother with any innuendo. Len thought it was a great performance, which is his highest compliment. Julianne tried not to diss Allison when she said, “I didn’t know who was the pro in that!” 40/40
Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough: Has Nastia mentioned the fact that she won the gold medal in the Olympics yet? If not, she’ll mention it a few more times in case you missed it. That said, earning a gold medal earns you a lot of bragging rights. And letting the world see you fall flat on your face in the uneven bars, on repeat, is brave. Nastia claims that falling taught her a lot about life outside the Olympic arena, lessons she now applies inside the ballroom. For her quickstep, she teams up with Sasha Farber as Derek continues to recover and it was a perfectly executed routine. Carrie Ann called it a “show stopper.” Len revealed that the secret to quickstep is “move fast, but don’t hurry,” which they nailed. 40/40
Interlude: To announce the Perfect Ten Tour, former Dancing With the Stars champion and The Bachelor cast member Melissa Rycroft helped the pros unveil the opening number of the nationwide Dancing With the Stars tour. It was a fast-paced and fun routine made even more so by shirtless Val, Artem, Keo and Sasha shaking it to Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” Perfect Ten is right.
Round Two, Judge’s Choice:
Rumer and Val and Bruno: Bruno wanted to do a Swan Lake–themed contemporary fusion routine. No one but Bruno seems to have any clue what that is, but Val and Rumer give the ballet-inspired performance their best shot. The end result was Val in white tights and Rumer in a black sparkly ensemble fake-balleting through Swan Lake while ballerinas in toe shoes pirouette behind them. Julianne did her best Bruno impression to call them ugly duckling becoming swans, Carrie Ann dubbed it genius, and Len put them at the front of his personal leaderboard, all while Bruno bowed and preened from the balcony. 30/30 (The choreographing judge can’t score the routine.)
Noah and Sharna and Carrie Ann: Carrie Ann chose a paso doble as a metaphor for Noah’s life. If his life had backup dancers and a matador theme. Carrie Ann only cried a little in her excitement about having a tiny part in Noah’s story. The result was a very dramatic routine as if Wagner had choreographed a paso. Noah’s newly minted fiancée clapped proudly from the front row as Noah got a standing ovation. Julianne got “chills from head to toe.” Bruno called him “the top bull,” which in Bruno speak is a very high compliment. Even Len was almost at a loss for words. 30/30
Riker and Allison and Julianne: Julianne’s concept for the dance is to insert herself into the routine, because she’s a judge and it’s judge’s choice, so she chooses to get up on stage and dance. The routine pit Riker against both the women, but unlike the trio dances, Riker eventually kicks Julianne off the stage leaving just Allison, which is when the routine turns into a more traditional Argentine tango. It’s a beautiful routine, and the judges love it. 30/30
Nastia and Derek and Len: Derek is making his routine to the ballroom for a Viennese waltz choreographed by Len. Fun fact, Derek has known Len since he was 12 years old. Len is using the routine as a way to look back at his life with Derek standing in for him until the last minute when Len replaces Derek on the dance floor, entering the ballroom for the first time in all his time on Dancing with the Stars. It’s a beautiful Viennese waltz set to a live performance of “Fall For You” by Leela James. Obviously Carrie Ann can barely talk through her tears. Julianne called it “the most special dance she has ever seen” and then she one-upped her brother by reminding Len that’s known him since she was 9. Bruno can’t contain himself and the judges are all holding hands and bawling at each other by the end of the segment. Len stiff upper-lipped it, simply saying that he thought it was “lovely.” 30/30
Best Reason to Come Back Tomorrow: One of these semifinalists is heading home, cutting their quest for sparkles short just as the Mirror Ball is within their reach.