Dancing With the Stars, Season 18, Week 9, Semi-Finals/American Icons Night

So the night begins with the awful possibility that the best couple might get knocked out tonight, but this week, they decline to begin the show with any information.  Meanwhile, American Icons Night starts with an opening number to “Land of a Thousand Dances,” our introduction to guest judge Kenny Ortega, a legendary director & choreographer, and the announcement that along with rehearsals the fluff clips will also show stars conversing with their own favorite icons.  In fact, while everyone’s doing two individual dances tonight, for all the couples this week there’s only one fluff piece before their first dance, covering their learning both their dances.

Candace Cameron Bure & Mark Ballas: Viennese Waltz to “If I Knew” by Bruno Mars(when did he achieve icon status?).  Her icon is Angela Thomas, a big Christian writer & Bible expert, who tells her a dancer’s main audience is God.  Dancewise the fluff pays more attention to her second dance, which suffice to say is a little out of her comfort zone, but more on that later.  For now, she comes out with a dance that suits her, especially with her technique now improved, and she starts very sweetly and elegantly-and then she makes a couple of mistakes and lets it get to her a bit.  Bruno chides her for that, reminding her to cover up mistakes, and he and Carrie-Ann only gives her 8s, though Len and Kenny are nicer with 9s, giving her 34.

Not the highest score, especially at this stage of the competition, but she won’t have to worry about that until next week; Tom announces she and Mark are safe.  Then Amy & Derek and Charlie & Sharna are lined up next to each other, and surprisingly, it turns out both couples are in jeopardy!

Charlie White & Sharna Burgess:  Foxtrot to “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra.  Like with Candace, his first dance is more along his line than his second.  His icon is 1984 Olympic Men’s champion Scott Hamilton, who reminds him to be entertaining.  So for the foxtrot as well as soloing at both the beginning and the end he brings out the cane, and this time he doesn’t drop it, meaning there’s nothing to disrupt the pure magic this routine is.  Up above Meryl calls it his best yet, and the judges are equally impressed; Led sums is up: “Just right, tonight, Charlie White.  End of story.”  Out come the straight 10s for the first perfect score of the night.

Amy Purdy & Derek Hough: Quickstep to “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes.  This is another one that’s hard for her to do, because she really has to move about the floor for it, so she breaks out her running legs, like we see on Paralympic runners, which allow for proper quickstep bounciness.  Her icon is Oprah, who it seems can’t make it to the studio, but she calls in and tells Amy she’s been watching and will take her and Derek out to dinner “when” they win.  Certainly their routine tonight seems to be yet another case her defying the odds; she dashes about the floor as if it’s no problem at all, and three of the judges have nothing but praise.  But Len has a couple of small quibbles, and it keeps his score down to 9, so they only get 39.

The last two couples line up, and it comes out that James & Peta are safe, and Meryl & Maks are in jeopardy, which means not only did they already have the lowest score from last week, but given the second and third lowest(not counting Danica & Val) have both been called safe, it’s looking terribly likely the couple that really should win this season might indeed not even make it to the Finale.  Also that we will have lost both Chmerkovskiy brothers to the two couples who tonight really should’ve produced the eliminee from between them; that we now must lose one of the other three couples is a huge outrage, quite frankly.  Really America, what were you thinking?!

James Maslow & Peta Murgatroyd: Cha cha cha to “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson.  Jackson’s his icon, who he feels pressure to live up to, but since he’s dead he instead meets with music producer L.A. Reid, who is largely responsible for the new album the song is from.  Reid tells him how hard Jackson works and tells him he’s “one of those winners.”    And Maslow does indeed give his all and successfully channel Jackson in a high-energy routine in which he really does appear worthy of a DWTS final.  All the judges rave, praising him for cha cha cha content as well as Michael Jackson content, and break out the straight 10s again.

Meryl Davis & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Jive to “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley.  After she talks with her icon, 1992 Olympic Ladies champion(and DWTS season 6 champion) Kristi Yamaguchi, they get stressed over preparing dances while in their precarious position scorewise while Maks now really fears failing her.  The routine starts one of the pit singers doing an act that would’ve stolen the routine from a lesser couple with some screen tricks making them silhouettes, which is impressive enough, but once they really get dancing it’s even better.  No foots or anything else wrong tonight.  The judges praise them so much Maks ends up kissing all of them before the straight 10s come out for the third time.

Before the second round there’s an interlude for one last Macy’s Stars of Dance performance, and this one’s a doozy.  It’s a tribute to “Classic Hollywood,” telling the story of a fan who gets to dance with a movie star out from her dressing room and through multiple movie sets.  It’s large scale, with 26 dancers, and with Derek the main creative force behind it it’s a great treat to watch, with the good dancing as always at the forefront.  Kind of sad we’re not getting another one of these in the Finale.  Then on we go to the second round:

Candace Cameron Bure & Mark Ballas: Jazz to “Nasty” like Janet Jackson.  As noted earlier, this combination of dance and song requires Candace to get a bit sexier then she usually cares to be.  But Mark actually brings in another American icon by making the routine a Bob Fosse-style one.  It’s a genius movie; he mixes two seemingly disparate styles as if they belong together and Candace nails it and goes up to a level she’s never danced at before.  Though Carrie-Ann thinks she still could’ve hit it even harder, and she and Bruno only give them 9s; with 10s from the other two they combined 34 and 38 for a total of 72.

Charlie White & Sharna Burgess: Samba to “Mo Money Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G.  Charlie too may be dancing to the kind of song that requires him to stretch a little, but he starts on slightly more familiar ground by dancing out to the floor with the crowd helping, and on the floor and in the audience both he brings it hard dancewise and joywise, though maybe not so much pimpwise.  It’s so much fun Carrie-Ann says she wants to live in his world, but all four judges have criticisms to make, mostly thinking he didn’t quite nail the character of the song, and they give him straight 9s, leaving him with a total of 76.

Amy Purdy & Derek Hough: Jazz to “Too Darn Hot” by Ella Fitzgerald.  She, on the other hand, is back on familiar ground, with them making use of a table rather than a stool this time.  Also Derek’s usual choreographic genius, and the result is something to watch, especially when she seems to nail it, with three of the judges thinking so, Bruno even calling her “too darn good,” while Len and Kenny both gave special praise to Derek.  Except Carrie-Ann thinks they had a split second out of sync, and she only gives them a 9, while 10s from the other judges leave them with a 78 total.

James Maslow & Peta Murgtroyd: Rumba to “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton.  As Carrie-Ann notes, this one has been much anticipated, both for James being sexy and being good at connecting with Peta, and certainly their chemistry contributes to this rumba, as does his hips working like a dream.  The problem area is between the hips and the head, more specifically, his arms and hands; all the judges criticize the latter especially.  That keeps their scores down to 9s, and both men in the competition have gotten identical scores for their 76 total.

Meryl Davis & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Viennese Waltz to “Just a Fool” by Christina Aguilera & Blake Shelton(does that quite fit the week’s theme either?).  By now I think we’re all hoping Meryl & Maks get another perfect 40, just to make a statement about the absurdity of their being thrown out if it does indeed happen.  And they proceed to do just that, pouring the emotion into a routine with a sad story, and combined with their usual perfect technique and execution, there’s that feeling of magic and specialness in the air by the end, even when the number’s notably lacking in the flashiness.  Carrie-Ann even says Meryl had better not go home.  But of course there’s nothing more they can do to stop that; they can only ensure that if they do go home, they will do so not only as the best couple of the competition but also the only one to get a perfect 80 so far.

Since they had the highest score last week, it’s not too surprising when Derek and Amy are the next couple called safe, leaving the two ice dancers standing to see which of them didn’t make the final.  There were eight points between them last week, and with that kind of gap it would seem unlikely that this isn’t going exactly the way we were dreading.  Except…Charlie draws his votes from the same fanbase as her.  And last week all of us figure skating fans(myself included), were frantically throwing all the votes as Meryl in our desperation to save her.  Could it be that in our panic, we accidentally left Charlie out in the cold?

Well, looks like we must have, because he & Sharna are the ones out!  This is only slightly less outrageous than Meryl & Maks being out, but he talks about how great the others are and now he can cheer on Meryl.  And indeed, despite the scare tonight, these past two eliminations have worked out well for Meryl & Maks; now they’ll probably not only get all the votes that would’ve otherwise gone to Charlie & Sharna, but probably a few of the ones that would’ve gone to Danica & Val too, had they made the final.  It’s them versus Derek & Amy, probably.  But this final could’ve been so much more stacked.  That’s going to remain sad.

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