What were my hopes for the “Dancing with the Stars” semifinals this week? That we had one upset this season. The past few weeks had been way too predictable, and a Len Goodman meltdown just wasn’t going to cut it on the drama front. So, I hoped that Ingo Rademacher fulfilled my underdog dream and made it into the finale. I realize I ripped him often this season for being average, but, as a 42-year-old man who had made it to the final five, the soap hunk was impressive.
So, with that on my mind, here was what happened on the Week 9 performance show:
Ingo was mugging aplenty with partner Kym Johnson as the parade of celebrities began down the stairs. Yeah, he knew he was the underdog! And Karina Smirnoff looked absolutely fine after it had been announced she had suffered an injury on Sunday. As usual, the show would go on!
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough: Argentine Tango
This was the couple that caused Len to go all mental last week. This time, Derek was determined to please the cranky judge with a lot of tango content this week. The dance started in front of a red screen with Kellie and Derek as dark figures and then they finally hit the floor and we could really see them. Kellie looked like a little wind up doll in the traditional stiff tango moves and she and Derek seemed utterly connected throughout the whole thing. Loved the big lift and twirl of Kellie at the end. So glamorous, so precise! Reporters clapped backstage. Len said what happened in the past was of no consequence and “that was fanastic!” He stood up and even shook Derek’s hand. Bruno Tonioli stood up to mock Len a little bit and called it perfection and Carrie Ann Inaba also used the P word. A 30! Why didn’t they just give Kellie the mirror ball now?
Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson: Samba
The General Hospital, yes, underdog was trying desperately not to be cannon fodder and Kym was against a brick wall (literally) and telling him not to count them out. They were getting along better in practice this week and putting in extra hours. Oh, please, let this pay off! Ingo was sexy all in black, loved his toned arms, and it was immediately clear he was no Kellie but he led Kym pretty well and tried his best in the hip movements but samba really wasn’t his best dance. Those hip thrusts, oh, dear. But there was his adorable son Peanut waving in the audience, bonus points for that. Bruno admired his effort, which was the kiss of death. Then he talked about the low points, which were many. Carrie Ann said he was the underdog and he was sloppy in a lot of places. But Len was kind, saying he did a good job with a difficult dance. Thanks, Len! I thought the score was absolutely right.
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas: Rumba
To me, this couple has improved every week and I liked Aly’s hat number last Monday the best of any of her dances. For this dance, though, Aly was going to have to be graceful and have smoother lines so we would see. This started with Aly apparently playing an angry girlfriend who ran away from Mark but then went back to him to dance the rumba. I would have rather seen Aly wearing high heels instead of the ballet style slippers she had on and the routine was really slow and looked more like a contemporary routine instead of a rumba. No mistakes, but it did nothing for me emotionally. I expected more excitement for the semifinals. But the judges were hooting and hollering, did they all really like it that much? Carrie Ann was blathering about the beauty of Aly. “It had a lovely story. You have grown,” Len added. Grown? She was still five feet tall. Ha. Bruno said, “you had us all enchanted.” Not me, sadly. I had wanted much more from a gymnast. I guarantee you this dance won’t be remembered after tonight, judges. A perfect score. Wow. I just didn’t see it at all.
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff: Argentine Tango
It was time for a rehearsal package that would show how Karina broke her jaw. She looked great in a black onesie in practice but the football star was frustrated. On Sunday, while flying over Jacoby during a dress rehearsal, she landed on her jaw and had to be taken to the hospital. They started their dance under what looked like the LACMA street lights on a black platform and I loved the music in this one, so evocative of the tango. Jacoby did one great lift that made the whole dance and when Jacoby spun her around, I wasn’t looking at his bad feet even though his shoes were white. This dance had a mystique to it, creating a real tango-tastic feel! Len hailed the mood and intensity and Bruno said it was his best performance ever on DWTS. Jacoby gave Carrie Ann a kiss and instead of delivering any critique, the lone female judge went into sexy gyrations. Ma was crying and fanning herself in the audience. So predictable—after injury, Jacoby and Karina finally got their ten from Len. In fact, tens from everyone!
Zendaya Coleman and Val Chmerkovskiy: Quickstep
If this Disney kid got a thirty, I was going to figure they were determined to show Ingo the door. Someone came in to teach Val hip hop. But first, they would have to do quickstep which was a bit confusing. Zendaya was wearing what looked like a Helio Castroneves racing costume for this Indy car inspired number and she was a vision in a bright yellow jumpsuit, so cute. However, I didn’t think this was her best number. Perhaps this was a bit too frenetic even for a 16-year-old. They never stopped racing—and even race car drivers need pit stops, after all. Bruno loved the concept which was pushed to the limit but pointed out she lost the frame. Carrie Ann called it “kind of a mess” and said Zendaya was out of sync. And Len? He thought it had way too much speed and attack. So the judges agreed with me this time. Ha. They barely beat Ingo with the score and Val looked worried for the first time this season. A humbling moment.
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough: Flamenco
We were in North Carolina learning Kellie’s sad life story—she was abandoned by her mom and her dad was often in prison. I didn’t realize it was hometown visit week, this was so American Idol. Oh, yeah, that’s right, she WAS on Idol! Kellie’s former convict dad was crying as he talked about her; guess he has turned his life around now? Carrie Underwood was there giving her a testimonial, too. Again, as the dance started, Kellie and Derek were bathed in red light—what was up with the red theme for the couple on Monday? It looked like flamenco was tango plus a lot of tap dancing mixed in. Whatever, I thought it was really good and they did a lot of clapping in the dance and gave each other intense glances. Derek spun Kellie in a 360 to end the flamenco and everyone backstage went WOW! Len commented “your talent is huge” and she would make the finale. According to Bruno, there were a couple of moments when she tightened up, which was a weird quibble. But Carrie Ann agreed with Bruno, saying she lost steam towards the end of the dance. Then more bizarro as Bruno raised his 10 paddle but said “9″ instead. But they worked it out—Bruno meant “9.”
Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson: Charleston
Ingo talked about how he grew up in Germany before he moved to Australia to live on a farm. This looked like a really cute hippie family for Ingo and they apparently lived off the land. He played Jax for 18 years on “GH” but didn’t go Hollywood—no, he moved to Hawaii and met his wife on the beach and there they stayed, raising the aforementioned Peanut and another cute little son. A charming family! The Charleston began like a silent movie in black and white with Kym on top of a piano as Ingo played it and then the dance switched to color and a lot of cutesy choreography followed with Ingo honestly looking a bit stiff but trying his best, as usual. The movement just wasn’t there, too bad. A lot of open-mouthed acting and I did like the way Ingo wielded the prop champagne bottle at the end. Bruno said it was fun, fun, fun! Carrie Ann said he hit a grand slam with that one, but fudged it by saying “it kind of worked.” Len said it was his best dance on the show. 27—would it give Ingo false hope of making it to the finals?
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas: Afro Jazz
Aly grew up in Massachusetts, which we knew already, and there was a lot of footage of her in the gymnastics gym, naturally. This up close and personal story also detailed how Aly came back from injury and finally achieved her Olympic dream. Fellow gymnasts resurfaced to give Aly more testimonials. So, on to Afro Jazz at last! Aly and Mark pounded sticks on the platform then jumped onto the ballroom floor and hey, didn’t Shawn Johnson and Derek and Mark do a similar number to this one last season? We grumbled about this in the press room—too much repetition. The costumes were really cool, though, they looked like African shamans. It had a lot of energy and Aly used all the skills she had as a gymnast to pull it off. Carrie Ann said it was ridiculous—and difficult–and they were in perfect sync. Len loved the musical interpretation but he would have liked to see more connection between Aly and Mark during the dance. Bruno called her a warrior princess who had exceeded all expectation.
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff: Lindy Hop
Jacoby’s ma, Emily, talked about how he had always wanted to be a football player but everyone thought he was too small. But he never gave up and grew up to be 6’4″ and became the Super Bowl star we know and love. Jacoby and Karina started this lindy hop playing instruments in the band but then were kicked out and did their lindy hop which was really athletic naturally but I couldn’t avoid looking at his pigeon toes this time. Still, if you enjoyed the total trajectory of the dance, this was one of the best of the night and they ended it by jumping up on the judges’ table. Even Jacoby was tired after this one! “High energy, action packed,” Len raved. “Full on and fabulous.” According to Bruno, it was great and Carrie Ann called him the number one entertainer of season 16 and Ma went nuts. “I’m half dead,” Jacoby admitted backstage. “I should have done Afro Jazz!” I finally understood him and that was pretty funny.
Zendaya Coleman and Val Chmerkovskiy: Hip Hop
In 1996, Zendaya was born. Everyone in the press room groaned so that shows you how much older we all are. Her mom talked about how Zendaya was fascinated by Shakespeare as a kid (well, she’s still a kid actually). Zendaya and her dad moved to L.A. so she could pursue showbiz and land on the show Shake it Up. None other than Kobe Bryant was on hand to give props to Zendaya; guess he had time since he’s not playing basketball right now. This one started and I thought it should be a slam dunk (sorry, Kobe) for the girl who after all, admitted she already knew how to dance hip hop. I didn’t even know how to judge this one but it looked fine to me and I thought Val did particularly well given that he was a more classically trained dancer. “So cool it gave me chills,” Bruno gushed. Carrie Ann said she was ready for Zendaya’s album (yes, she already has a record deal). Len said it was fantastic. A perfect score so we had quite a battle tonight! ‘Til Tuesday….