Dancing with the Stars, Season 24, Week 9, SemiFinals/Judge’s Challenge

Simone & Sasha get two perfect scores, everyone else does better in the second round than the first, then comes the elimination…

It’s the semi-finals of Dancing with the Stars, and they won’t let us forget it. There’s an inscription in fire-like lighting on the ballroom floor! Then more fire effects and firey lighting, maybe because the opening song mentions fire, as the four couples come out for it.

This week is also the Judge’s Challenge, where the judges choose the dances, and each judge visits a team and makes a request. It’s not like last time, though; the pros remain in charge, and they don’t abstain from judging the routines they were involved in.  Also, it’s the first round:

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Viennese Waltz; “Desperado” Rihanna

They get Len, who has spent multiple weeks objecting to their choreography. So now, all he wants is for them to do twelve bars of the Viennese Waltz in proper hold. Take him back to Vienna, he tells them. Val does choreograph what technically is very much a traditional Viennese Waltz. But instead of Vienna they got to the world of film noir, complete with lighting effects. It’s a brilliant work of art, though, and Normani embraces this character as much as she has everything else; making this one an instant classic-except that she had a tiny stumble. The judges all rave and lament, with Len being very pleased they did what he wanted choreographywise. This would have absolutely been straight Tens, but the stumble makes it straight Nines for 36.

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Foxtrot; “You Make Me Feel So Young” Michael Bublé

Julianne comes in and gives David his marching orders: stop sticking his butt out during dances. To help him with that, she brought lemons. After the fluff lingers way too long over just where David is obliged to hold them, his starting the routine holding one in his hand is less than called for. But it works; he keeps the butt under his torso. The choreography is excellent, David is adequate technically, and he’s also very dapper and pleasing. “The citrus hit the spot!” Bruno exclaimed, and the judges are more nice than not in their comments. But Len, though he expresses his appreciation for David, nonetheless apologetically says he can’t consider it to be a great dance. The two men only give it Eights; with Nines from the ladies it totals 34.

We’re getting some filler numbers tonight. First up is British singer Scott Calum singing his hit, “Dancing on My Own,” with Witney Carson and a shirtless Artem Chingvintsev providing dancing accompaniment.

Singer, piano, and dancers are placed close together on the floor, which allows Witney & Artem to be on camera for most of the number, and the dance they do is emotional and hypnotizing.

Simone Biles & Sasha Farber: Jive; “Faith” Stevie Wonder feat. Ariana Grande

After criticizing her lack of “authenticity,” Carrie Ann shows up in the studio to guide Simone towards being herself more on the floor. Towards that end, she requests Simone do a solo. Which she does, to open a delightful routine set at the arcade. It’s more fun than jive, but it gets an obviously real grin onto her face which stays on it for the rest of the routine. Noone can say her expression doesn’t feel real now. And as usual, she absolutely nails it technically, and they even include a spectacular flip. The judges praise their heads off, and Julianne even has a little fun with Simone, declaring she has become the character of Zoe; which Erin promptly calls her all through the interview.  An even bigger award: straight Tens.

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater: Rumba; “Say You Won’t Let Go”

The rumba isn’t an easy dance to do for Rashad, and Bruno comes in with a football and an aim to fix Rashad’s hand positions and footwork. He even agrees to do football drills if Rashad can impress him. Unfortunately, the flashing lights during this routine makes it hard to tell what the dancers are doing through much of it. When it’s visible, Rashad’s dancing deems to be pretty good, and he and Emma manage to generate some heat too. But while he’s improved considerably in it, Len finds his footwork to still be a little flawed, and he and Carrie Ann only give them Nines. But Bruno declares his expectations exceeded, and he and Julianne break out the Tens, even if that means he’s definitely going to the football field, while they get 38.

Next comes what’s actually been the most hyped part of the night: the return of Cheryl Burke to the dance floor. She’s been off doing her tour Love on the Floor in Japan, and now she’s doing a preview of it as she brings it to America.

The segment she does is perhaps a little overdone and strange, but she still dances like a dream.

For the second round, the dances are preceded by biographical segments:

Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Jazz; “What a Wonderful World” Ray Chew performing live

The biographical segment tells us more of some of the hard ordeals Normani’s had, including her mother going through breast cancer, and her family getting uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. In contrast, this dance is an exercise in joy. Normani & Val go from film noir to the street group number of a Hollywood musical, as Chew’s version of the song starts slow, but speeds up fast. Normani is the center of the number, often without Val, and as she already has this season, she absolutely nails it both physically and emotionally. No tiny stumbles this time. Bruno calls her the queen of New Orleans. Len just stands and claps. This time, they get straight Tens, and with the forty total 76 for the night.

David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Tango; “Castle on the Hill” Ed Sheeran

His fluff focuses mostly on his baseball career. His tango is then a relatively simple number, but it ends with a photo of his family. By then, he’s actually danced pretty well, having no problem getting into the character and performing with intensity. If technically he’s still not the best on the floor, it still is probably his best yet. Bruno even declares he “went for it like a torpedo in a tuxedo.” Carrie Ann raves so much we start to think she’s definitely giving a Ten-until she reveals she saw his foot leave the ground, which means as lift police she’ll be docking a point. That results in the scores being straight Nines; David & Lindsay finish the night with a total of 70.

Simone Biles & Sasha Farber: Rumba; “Skyscraper” Demi Lovato

Sasha now has a shirt with Simone’s line from last week “Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals.” He takes it off during the fluff, but that leaves his chest bare with an open white shirt, so that’s pretty much fine. Simone, in an slightly ballroomized gymnastics leotard, starts by a balance beam, where she once showed some emotion after messing up at the Olympics and losing a gold.  But then she leaves it and it’s just her, Sasha, their technical perfection, and Simone going for more mature feelings than in her last dance. And this time, she finds it in spades; this routine is full to the brim with it, and no one can dispute that. The judges don’t, and she ends the night with a perfect 80.

Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater: Quickstep; “Yes I Can” Superhumans

After the fluff showing his teenage struggles and defying the odds to make it in football, he starts in an office, where a man ready to sign him asks if he’s up to it. The song’s his answer, and he breaks out into the blue suit and dances out into a jazz club for it. The girls with the cards that say “Yes I Can” on them are kind of silly, but Rashad dances as if he’s made of sunlight. Everyone’s got a grin on their face by the end. But after Carrie Ann calls it a match made in heaven,” Len criticizes the long open and his frame, to everyone’s disapproval. He did like it enough to give it a Nine, then the indignant other three judges all shove their Ten paddles in front of his paddle to block it out! With the 39, Rashad & Emma go up to 77.

The four couples line up to see who got into the final. Normani & Val are announced as in, as are Rashad & Emma. David & Lindsay are left to stand next to Simone & Sasha. There is absolutely no dispute which of these two couples should be in the final. And Simone had seven points on David, which you would think would be enough. Things have been a bit haywire this season, but can we at least get a proper final?

Nope. Outrage strikes again as Simone & Sasha are eliminated. Things are summed up pretty well by the reactions of the judges, especially Len’s head being in his hands. If he decided to retire over this alone, no one would blame him.

Will this madness end in the final? Who knows.

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