'Dancing with the Stars' Recap: Semi-Final Dances
'Dancing with the Stars' Recap: Semi-Final Dances
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
This is the week when it all gets serious, folks. Granted, it's probably been serious all along for the contestants on Dancing with the Stars season 13, but now it's serious for everyone. With only four couples left in the DWTS semi-finals, every step and every vote could make the difference between the finals and elimination.

Who will rise to the challenge? Who will crumple under the weight of three dances? Keep reading for our full recap of the Dancing with the Stars season 13 semi-final dances.

In case you don't believe me when I say that every little thing counts, let me remind you of how close the race is, going into week 9 of competition:

1. J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: 261 points overall
2. Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: 257 points overall
3. (tie) Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 234 points overall
3. (tie) Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: 234 points overall

While there are obviously a pair of front-runners on this list (Seriously, what force on earth could keep J.R. out of the finals at this point?), it's still anybody's Mirror Ball to win. It looks like Dancing with the Stars season 13 has that rarest of reality-show commodities: A semi-final competition in which all competitors deserve to be there.

Which dancers deserve it the most? Let's find out!

Interesting costumes tonight. Including Zorro, by J.R...

Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Dancing the paso doble

My Comments: Ugh, why do TV shows think that it's OK to show shots on television. Getting over a case of the willies now... So Hope is in chains. That's likely to make the dancing tough. Oh, she's free now. She and Maks seem to be doing their fighting thing, only in dance form. At least it's believable between these two. This is a very dramatic dance. The moves seem good, but Hope is still missing a little musicality and flow between her individual movements. Overall, it's very entertaining and fun to watch. It just doesn't have the spark that would make it amazing.

Judges' Comments
Len: "You had attitude, you had aggression... Because you had so much attack, you lost control and finesse."
Bruno: "You have to combine the energy with the artistry." "Control is as important as energy."
Carrie Ann: "I think you nailed the character of the dance." "In the hold, you sort of lost a little bit of your shaping."

Scores: 7+7+7 = 21

Not the greatest scores. Now, was Maks' response sincere or sarcastic? I'm not exactly sure...

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff
Dancing the paso doble

My Comments: J.R. is dressed like Zorro. This cannot be bad. Hey, they both have capes! This is excellent music for a Spanish dance, by the way. I have no idea if it's the music or the costumes or the dancing itself, but this performance is totally working for me. There are a few moments in the faster bits when it's possible that J.R. wasn't perfect. But they passed quickly and were totally overshadowed by the rest of the really good dancing. And J.R. re-twisted his ankle... Uh oh.

Judges' Comments
Len: "Certain dances suit you, certain dances don't. And for me, this dance didn't suit you at all." "It was more zero than Zorro."
Bruno: "I could feel the thrill and excitement of the chase... Dressed up, ready to kill." "Paso doble is all about the posture, and it wasn't there all the way through."
Carrie Ann: "I do believe it affected your posture a great deal... There were a few moments of uncertain pauses."

Scores: 8+7+8 = 23

The judges are super-cranky tonight, aren't they?

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke
Dancing the samba

My Comments: Good lord, what's happening on the stage right now? It's like a cartoon has just come to life out there. Which is followed by an impressively-fast start for Rob and Cheryl. Rob doesn't look quite professional out there, but this is easily as close to professional as he has ever looked. The goofy, smiling guy works great in the samba. Plus, you've got to be impressed by those super-fast steps. And it ends with streamers! I love things that end with streamers. But I bet the DWTS janitors won't like that so much.

Judges' Comments
Len: "Once you got on that floor, I was saying 'Oh yes!'"
Bruno: "That's how you turn a handicap into an asset. Once you start the shaking, there's no stopping you!"
Carrie Ann: "Who are you?! What was that?!" "Holy cow, it's a bootybootybootybootybooty..."

Scores: 10+9+9 = 28

Apparently, the judges just needed some rainbow colors, maracas and booty-shaking to feel happy?

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough
Dancing the samba

My Comments: Should yellow that bright be legal? Being slower than the samba we just saw, this dance seems less exciting than Rob's. It's also possible that Ricki isn't quite keeping up with Derek in the very fast steps. That said, this is still a very polished and lovely dance. While Ricki does not seem to be enjoying herself at every moment, the technical dancing is very good. The previous samba was definitely more fun, but this was good too.

Judges' Comments
Len: "Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. You've just taken a giant step into the finals."
Bruno: "Sizzling hot, bright and brilliant from the beginning to the end!"
Carrie Ann: "I saw you working out your shoulders so hard..."

Scores: 10+10+10 = 30

Len then expounded on what judges want to see in an Argentine tango. He used many words that I did not know. He also advocated adultery as a dance style.

Len's words were followed by an actual tango by professional dancers. This is possibly not the best idea ever conceived on by Dancing with the Stars. After all, how could a bunch of celebrities ever hope to compete in comparison to this?

Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Dancing the Argentine tango

My Comments: I've been to Richland, Washington! Honestly, it's not very exciting. To the dancing now -- Hope had better get off that table at some point. And she did. Hope and Maks look very good together in this dance. Although it doesn't totally look like they're "together," if that makes any sense. Hope's leg movements seem a bit off at times, but otherwise, she's definitely got the dance down. Overall, this was fairly good -- better than the paso doble anyway.

Judges' Comments
Len: "I thought it was far, far better than the paso doble. The lifts were clean, it had a lot of content."
Bruno: "Much better. Full-on display of athleticism... You did look like you were going to kill him all the time."
Carrie Ann: "I thought that you guys were working together in movements." "I give you points for being so ambitious with it."

Scores: 8+8+8 = 24

Is it just me, or did the judges seem straight-up angry when they gave their scores? Are they mad at Hope's comments?

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff
Dancing the Argentine tango

My Comments: J.R. has the best story of anybody on this show, ever. Even if we've already heard most of it. As for the dance, what is it about streetlamps that screams "tango" at the DWTS designers? J.R. seems to be doing a lot better with this tango than he did before. I'm not sure if it's angry enough, but there is definite passion. Also some seriously scary steps throughout.

Judges' Comments
Len: "It had mood, it had intensity. I was transported to the backstreets of Buenos Aires."
Bruno: "You were in Latin-lover mode! Strong, fearless!" "The sexual interplay with the two of you was absolutely incredible to watch."
Carrie Ann: "What is fabulous is the way you were able to negotiate the mounts and dismounts of those lifts."

Scores: 9+9+9 = 27

Considering J.R.'s face throughout that effusive praise, I'm guessing that his ankle is really, really hurting right about now.

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke
Dancing the Argentine tango

My Comments: Rob isn't that much younger than J.R. or Hope, is he? It's not like you're done at 30... It had better not be over then, since I'm in a whole lot of trouble. Anyway, dancing. The performance begins with a lot of dancing from Cheryl and notably less from Rob. Pretty standard for these dances, and Rob looks good while Cheryl dances around him. But still. Overall, Rob looks good, but he's just not doing as much as he has in other dances. 

Judges' Comments
Len: "You're finishing strong."
Bruno: "You started out as a goofy outsider, now you look like a leading man."
Carrie Ann: "There was no faking involved, there was good, strong dancing."

Scores: 9+9+9 = 27

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough
Dancing the Argentine tango

My Comments: I'm not sure that Ricki's wearing a good kind of dress to spread her legs like that. Although I'm sure there are many undergarments involved. This dance seems very fast and professional. Also kind of weird in its choreography. Four dances into the Argentine tango section, weird is good. Ricki is spinning and stepping quickly, keeping up with whatever weirdness Derek throws at her. That was both interesting (a nice change) and great.

Judges' Comments
Len: "Lovely contrast of movement from fast into slow." "Ricki, I don't think you know how good that was."
Bruno: "Totally transported into the underworld of Buenos Aires!" "Mood, spot-on. Dancing, peerless."
Carrie Ann: "What I see in you is the core-strength developing." "You've always have the passion, but now you have the pop to go with it."

Scores: 9+10+10 = 29

Now it's time for the cha-cha relay. This means an extra 10 points for the dancers judged the best, followed by 8 points to second place, 6 points to third place and 4 points to fourth place.

Cha-Cha Relay

Ricki is up first. Her cha cha, like everything else she does, looks quick and polished and generally lovely. The one criticism I could have is that they didn't connect to the music.

Hope is next. She and Maks go the athletic route, although Hope seems to be having some trouble keeping up with Maks at times, and there may have been a stumble.

J.R. is third. He's keeping up better than Hope, although this is not the fast and over-the-top performance we'd probably get if he wasn't hurt.

Rob is last. The theme of Fun Rob is continuing here. This is probably the fastest dance since Ricki and Derek at the beginning, and Rob is doing a great job of keeping up with Cheryl. Not as polished as Ricki, but otherwise good.

While the judges will have their own comments and scores, my ranking of the dances is as follows:

1. Ricki Lake and Derek Hough
2. Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke
3. J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff
4. Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

And the judges' choices...

4th Place: Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (4 points)
3rd Place: J.R. Martinez and Cheryl Burke (6 points)
2nd Place: Ricki Lake and Derek Hough (8 points)
1st Place: Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke (10 points)

I think it's safe to say that Rob is having a good night.

In case you don't want to do the addition, the final, cumulative scores for the night are:

Ricki and Derek: 67 points
Rob and Cheryl: 65 points
J.R. and Karina: 56 points
Hope and Maks: 49 points

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What did you think of the dancing in the semi-finals? Which couple was the best? Which couple was the worst? Who is in danger, and who is going to the finals? Leave your comments and get ready for the Muppets tomorrow night!!!

(Images courtesy of ABC)