Normani & Val come within a point of a perfect 80 to win a night with judge-assigned trio rounds.
While commenting on the night’s first dance, Carrie Ann will get confused about what week it is, and indeed, it’s hard to believe the semi-finals are next week!
The opening number is even a promotion for Dancing with the Stars’ upcoming Hot Summer Nights tour. They do it on a reduced stage, just large enough for the five remaining couples to line up, as Tom tells us the pros have picked the first round songs they think best reflect their partners.
The reduced stage also remains in place for the first of these:
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater: Jive – “Shake a Tail Feather” The Blues Brothers
Emma picks this song because she sees Rashad Jennings as this happy person who makes other people happy and “ultimate teammate.” She gets rather sentimental in this fluff. She’s made perfect choices for the dance, though. It’s all happy and bouncy with Rashad getting to have lots of fun. And have fun he does, being a ray of sunshine on this small floor, which really isn’t big enough to contain him. But his footwork isn’t quite up to standard. The judges are forced to point that out, even as they heap praise on him for everything else. That results in straight Nines for 36.
Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary – “Freedom” Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton
Val chooses the song and choreographs the dance to tell the story of Normani fighting her way past atrocious online harassment. We hear the story, and bring in the background dancers to surround and trap Normani as with Val’s help she fights to break free of them. It’s good choreography, and who knows how much pain Normani has to feel again for this, but she’s perfect in it, effortlessly pulling off multiple solo moments while she’s at it. The audience is on its feet at the end. So is Julianne, and she even remains standing as she gives her rave. Three more raves follow, and then four Tens.
Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess: Argentine Tango – “Believer” Imagine Dragons
This, of course, is another reflection on his coming back from his accident. Which he’s already done some reliving of in the ballroom, and poor Bonner is getting kind of sick of it. Rehearsals get tense, and he even walks out! He does sort of dig out the emotions once again for the dance, and he does the moves, but it doesn’t feel like a tango, or even quite a full whole. The judges are varying levels of nice, but Len says what we’re all thinking: he shouldn’t still be here. The audience boos, but given who’s not here, you can’t help but feel he’s right. The ladies give him Eights and the men Sevens, so he takes 30.
Simone Biles & Sasha Farber: Foxtrot – “What Makes You Beautiful” One Direction
Simone is not at all impressed with Sasha’s choice of song, even as he insists it sums her up. But he fumbles the setup of this dance worse. It’s mostly bare bones, except for the lights projecting weird and distracting black and white stripes. In theory, that should be good, because technically Simone’s foxtrotting is absolutely flawless. But while she’s got a good smile and energy, she can’t quite connect to this dance right, and it just doesn’t feel real. The judges criticize it as not living up to their expectations and Simone for not being “authentic” enough; Julianne calls it too safe. They give her straight Nines for 36.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Waltz – “Humble and Kind” Tim McGraw
In contrast to Simone, David is so happy Lindsay thought this song appropriate for him he tears up in the interview! It’s a song sung by a father, and Lindsay calls him a “second dad” to her. Her setup is simple, but her choreography is unmistakably a father and daughter dance, with her even balancing on his feet. He does the moves more or less okay. He may not be the most technically brilliant dancer on the floor, but the emotion of this dance is very deep and very warming. The judges praise him for his improvement, with Len calling it his best dance yet, and Julianne calling him the “heart of this competition,” and give him straight Nines.
The pros might have gotten to choose a song this week, but there’s one thing that for the first time they didn’t get to choose: the second pro to join them in the trio round. Instead, the judges choose who joins them, and they heavily favor the dance troupe:
Rashad Jennings, Emma Slater, & Witney Carson: Argentine Tango – “Dreams” Bastille feat. Gabrielle Alpin
Emma is very happy the judges let her have her best buddy, even if Witney doesn’t even know who Fleetwood Mac are! (This is a dark cover of their song). They come up with a story of Witney being a temptress trying to steal Rashad’s men. In the fluff, Rashad feels more like a gymnastics pole, but by tonight, they have a routine where he has tangoing segments with each of them. Those are hot and intense enough, but then all three of them come together, and it’s just spellbinding. Perfectly done, three of the judges agree, and they break out the Tens. But Len still doesn’t like Rashad’s footwork, and so only gives them a Nine, so they take 39 and go up to 75.
Normani Kordei, Val Chmerkovskiy, & Alan Bersten: Jive – “Feeling Alive” Earl St. Clair
Since Heather & Maks outrageously didn’t make it this far, younger brother Val gets Alan instead, to the delight of all three. They do a “southern” country jive, though Normani says she thinks the perfect “southern gentleman” is Bonner. There’s a vague plot involving a broken-down car, but really, the whole thing is just as excuse for the three of them to be dancing their sexy butts off all over the floor and on the judges stand and into everyone’s hearts-until in the end Bonner comes in and Normani ditches them both for him! Once again three judges absolutely love it and give it Tens, but Len objects to the whole part on the stand and still only coughs up a Nine, so they finish the night with 79.
Bonner Bolton, Sharna Burgess, & Brittany Stewart: Jazz – “That’s What I Like” Bruno Mars
The three of them come up with a routine with Bonner as an oil magnate and Sharna and Brittany as his sexy secretaries vying for his favor. There’s indications they have trouble pulling things together, though it’s only after they dance we learn Brittany had a real injury scare in the dress rehearsal. Tonight, though, the two ladies nail it. Bonner also pulls off the moves, and makes more of a whole and character of them than in his last dance. But ultimately, he really can’t keep up with these two. Bruno makes a humorous possible Freudian slip about giving the girls a “rise,” while the other three find it too raunchy. They get straight Sevens for 28, and go up to 58.
Simone Biles, Sasha Farber, & Brittany Cherry: Paso Doble – “Don’t Let Me Down” The Chainsmokers feat. Daya
Julianne says during her comments that they chose to make Simone dance with a female pro, even though that remains uncommon, to challenge her to match her. The fact that she really has to worries Sasha, but Simone likes having Brittany in the studio with them. Once again the routine is bare bones except for the fancy lighting effects, but this time it works better. So does the way Simone nails the routine, to some extent, and as Carrie Ann says afterwards, her expression feels a lot more full and real. But they really are demanding of her: now they find she was too precise, at the expensive of expressing the dance. So she still only gets Nines, and ends up with 72.
David Ross, Lindsay Arnold, & Hayley Erbert: Paso Doble – “Gangsta’s Paradise” 2WEI
When they hear what song this was originally, they warn David he has to be more “manly” than he’s perhaps up to. But ultimately, that proves the least of his problems. This instrumental cover of Coolio is absolutely gorgeous, to the point Julianne comments on it. But everything else is lacking. It’s supposed to be a story about David as a gladiator fighting the two of them, but the choreography does not convey that. He maybe gets a little bit of the character, but technically it’s bad even for him. Len absolutely blasts it, and the other judges can only say so much. Julianne is lenient with an Eight, but Sevens from the others leave him with 29, to total 65.
The five couples line up, and everyone is relieved when the two ladies, Normani and Simone, who absolutely should be in the semi-finals, are. Then David & Lindsay, whose going that far remains debatable…have nonetheless done so. So now Rashad & Emma are left standing there next to Bonner & Sharna. There were eight points between them after last week, but we’ve seen how crazy this season has gotten. And really, would they have put Rashad next to Bonner, instead of David, if it was the latter who was going home?
Well, maybe they just wanted to give us a scare. It actually is Bonner & Sharna who are out. Everyone stands for him, as is appropriate enough, considering what he’s been through. He’s just stunned he made it as far as he did.
So the semi-final lineup isn’t as good as it could’ve been, but at least three of the four celebrities in it are good. They really had better be the ones who make the final…