It’s the semi-finals! And here come the couples, Brandy and Maks, Bristol and Mark, Kyle and Lacey and Jennifer and Derek, walking down the lovely "Dancing with the Stars" staircase—of doom. How has no one ever tumbled down to the dance floor?
Whoa, Mark Ballas, what’s with the eyeliner?
Tom Bergeron, host of the century, and Brooke Burke explain that the show will be 90 minutes, the couples will each dance...blah, blah, Charlie Brown teacher’s voice. I’m totally entranced by Brooke’s shiny dress.
Brandy and Maks: Paso Doble Thoughts: There’s a weird sort of pedestrian opening, with Brandy being pushed around by Maks. Oh, I get it: It's about bullying. She’s taking control, she’s wearing pants. Honestly, Brandy’s snarly face frightens me. Bruno (sort of) agrees saying Brandy “released all of the aggression” and “danced like a fury.” Score: 27
Before a commercial break, we see Jennifer, Bristol and Kyle in the “celebraquarium.” Why is Jennifer petting Bristol’s hair? This is a strange show.
Jennifer and Derek: Cha Cha Thoughts: Dang, Jennifer! You got some legs! The couple dances to “Mercy” by Duffy, a song that got Jennifer groovin’ on the first day of rehearsals. Tonight, the song does the trick again. Jennifer moves with clean, crisp footwork and makes dancing look easy and fun. Or, as Bruno says, “luminous, vibrant and sexy.” Score: 30
Bristol and Mark: Paso Doble Thoughts: In the pre-performance footage, Mark says he doesn’t think people are voting for Bristol because they support her mom’s politics, he thinks it’s because people can relate to her. She says, without any guile, “I’m not fake...I’m not typical Hollywood.” And honestly, for once, I kind of get it. Despite her obvious inadequacies, Bristol always seems to try hard. And her dancing has improved because of her work ethic. But goodness, a standing ovation? Score: 27
Kyle and Lacey: Samba Thoughts: Kyle has a real grace to his movement—even when he’s shaking his booty, of which he did plenty in this routine. Lacey, please, less thrusting in the choreography. When your moves prompt Len to note that Kyle has “more bounce to the ounce than anyone this season,” and Bruno to say he’s a “bouncing bundle of joy” and Carrie Ann to remark that she’s “never seen so much pelvic action,” it means there’s too much. Score: 29
Now we hear about the dramatic events that helped ignite the competitive fire in each star. Wait, you mean it’s the semi-finals and you’re just now telling us what makes these people “stars”? I give this part of the show my best disgruntled and disappointed Len expression.
Brandy and Maks: Argentine Tango Thoughts: There’s some very impressive slinky stair choreography and Brandy seems more controlled—in a good way—in this routine. But every so often she juts her chin forward in an awkward chicken-pecking-like move, breaking the illusion that she’s at ease on the dance floor. Bruno says it was “lush, languid, luscious and full of flavor.” And then Tom Bergeron responds: “Bruno’s book of effusive adjectives will be available for holiday gift-giving.” Tommy B., you’re my hero. Score: 30
Jennifer and Derek: Waltz Thoughts: Dang, Jennifer! Look at that extension! The couple gave a perfectly serene performance and I’m going to say right now that if Jennifer doesn’t win, I’m going to spend my entire Thanksgiving holiday watching Dirty Dancing on an endless loop. (Okay, I might do that anyway.) Score: 30
Bristol and Mark: Waltz Thoughts: It was sort of unfair to have Bristol do the same style right after Jennifer. I’ll leave it at that. Score: 26
Kyle and Lacey: Argentine Tango Thoughts: I absolutely adore Kyle, but this was not his best routine. He maintained his performance quality, but his footwork—and this style demands crisp precision—was a little sluggish. And then there was the ending: Kyle knelt on the floor and Lacey threw her leg over his shoulder and he sort of grabbed and sniffed it. It was very odd. Score: 29