Dancing With the Stars Recap: Who Deserves a Spot in the Season 13 Finale? [Updated]

Dancing With the Stars‘ Season 13 semifinal performance night didn’t lack for drama — and every one of the eight people who took to the ballroom floor did their part to heighten the intensity of the mood:

Maksim Chmerkovskiy wore a sheer shirt and planted a smooch on Brooke Burke’s robot cheek. Hope Solo hurled some sass into Carrie Ann Inaba’s visibly outraged face. J.R. Martinez grappled with an injury that turned his always reliable smile into a grimace of pure pain — and had him drop an inaudible F-bomb. Karina Smirnoff whirled and writhed across the floor with athleticism and sex appeal that were positively beastly. Ricki Lake scored a perfect ’30’ for her samba — and was almost convincing feigning surprise at the judges’ adulation. Derek Hough wound up with part of his partner’s dress stuck to his carefully coiffed ‘do. And Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke rode an absurd parade float and wound up underneath an exploding rainbow. (Yes, that last example actually happened.)

The judges did their part to pump up the fireworks, too, forcing Hope to dance with 40 lb. weights strapped to each of her limbs, and threatening to force a rare and beautiful butterfly through a paper shredder each time a viewer vote went to a contestant other than Rob. Okay, fine, that didn’t actually happen, but it was pretty clear the primary goal of the two-hour telecast was to secure a Ricki-JR-Rob Final 3.

Let’s review how the telecast played out:

Dance of the Night: Ricki Lake and Derek Hough (Argentine Tango)
I know, I know, it was Ricki and Derek’s Samba that got the perfect ’30’ from the judges, but I found their Argentine Tango far more 10-worthy. That move where Derek lowered Ricki to the floor in an arched position was one giant leap for human flexibility, and every single move — from the lifts to the leg flicks to the transitions — snapped, crackled, and popped with tension and sexuality. As for the daring hemline of the star’s leg-baring red dress: Go, Ricki, indeed!

Runner-Up: J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff (Paso Doble)
Posture, shmosture! Len complained that JR’s technique was “more zero than Zorro” — despite the fact that he was performing on a badly twisted ankle — but who cares? The duo’s dance had everything I look for in a DWTS routine: Electrifying chemistry, synchronized cape twirling, and a death-defying aerial from Karina (who just gets more fabulous every week, no?). Plus, the costumes were joyously ridiculous: JR in a sheer-and-velvet patterned black shirt and black pants with sparkly seams and cummerbund, and Karina in a white corset and frontier-woman underskirt that solidified her position as the ballroom’s sexiest combatant. Let’s all raise our collective paddles and shout what the judges refused to concede: “TEN!”

(As for JR’s higher-scoring Argentine Tango, can I just say it kind of broke my heart to see our upbeat war hero/soap star grimacing in pain and letting out what looked to be an f-bomb after messing up the final sequence of the routine? Also: Why did JR have to contend with the trickier “Bust Your Windows” — a song that contains the unfortunate line “I’ll probably always have these ugly scars” — when Rob and Ricki both got more traditional music? Conspiracy theorists discuss!)

Should/Will Go Home and Yet Also Most Underscored: Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
First, let me say I’m kind of shocked the DWTS powers-that-be bothered to air footage of Hope discussing her rarely mentioned shoulder injury or getting said injury injected with a shot she’d been “saving for the Olympics.” (Talk about a commitment to the cause!) And yet while her “Can’t Be Tamed” Paso Doble was the night’s weakest routine — the couple resorted back to their old habit of having Maks yank and whirl a befuddled Hope around the floor, while too much time was wasted on the Hope-writhing-in-chains intro and a section where all she did was sit on the floor and watch Maks dance it out — I was shocked they got such tepid feedback on an Argentine Tango that contained seemingly death-defying degrees of difficulty. The judges had to know they were going to use the cha-cha relay to bang the final nail into Hope’s DWTS coffin, so why not reward her with a few 9s, rather than gripe about her technique coming into and out of lifts? I’ve never been completely enamored of Hope’s dancing, and her remark that “from Day 1 they wanted me off this show” failed to acknowledge her underwehlming Season 13 arc, but I wholeheartedly supported her name-checking Carrie Ann for complaining about Maks smiling during their critique. “Maks was smiling because we should be smiling,” an incredulous Hope told the BrookeBot 2011, as Carrie Ann visibly seethed at the judges’ table. To which I say, you’re judging a reality show, sister, not teaching second-grade art: Sometimes you’re going to have to deal with a little bit of backtalk, and it’s better to handle it with grace and good humor than an indignant scowl.

Most Overscored: Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke (Samba/Argentine Tango)
How Carrie Ann assigned a perfect 10 to a routine with some of the stiffest samba rolls in DWTS history is beyond comprehension — unless, of course, you buy into the idea that the judges would do anything to complete Rob’s boy-to-man transformation by all but guaranteeing his presence in the finale. Granted, the guy looked like he was having a blast with the ridiculous DWTS “party float” — complete with balloons, giant parrot sculpture, and overgrown ficus — but to my eyes, Rob still looks like he’s muddling through a series of steps he crash-memorized, rather than engaging in a fully realized dance. As for Rob’s Argentine Tango, I didn’t think it had nearly the speed or crispness of JR’s, and yet it still got the same exact score — three 9s — from those agenda-wielding experts.

Even Lady Robot got in on the action backstage, cooing to Rob that “you may have danced your way to the finals!” Honestly, do the DWTS on-air personalities get $10K bonuses every time they reference Rob’s in-it-to-win-it-ness? Next week I’m half expecting Ricki to wear a “Vote Rob” t-shirt in exchange for a new addition to her summer home.

Most Overscored (Runner-Up): Ricki and Derek (Samba)
I saw a lot of of open-mouthed sexyfaces, but not a single samba roll, in this good-but-not-extraordinary routine, and yet it got 10s across the board. Granted, Ricki’s gams looked gorgeous in her Sesame Street by Big Bird couture feather dress, but I felt like this was more a case of the judges needing to hype something/anything heading into the final week rather than a genuine display of the double-digit paddles.

Most Egregiously Designed to Allow the Judges to Get Their Dream Final 3 — Viewer Votes Be Damned (Cha Cha Cha Relay)
Everyone raise your hand if you knew before even a single step was danced that Rob was getting the 10, Ricki was getting the 8, JR was getting the 6, and Hope was getting the 4. And now outraged/concerned viewers will power-vote for JR (due to his precarious spot on the leaderboard), forget to throw any love to Hope/Maks, and do their part in securing the judges’ dream finale.

Brooke-isms of the Night
“I think you found your way into Bruno’s world!” –Brooke discussing Rob winding up beneath an exploding rainbow at the end of his samba.

Brooke struggling with higher math and repeatedly referring to “all kinds of judges’ totals!” for the contestants. Um, hon, it was just the total of two sets of scores for the opening two dances, added to a 10, 8, 6, or 4 for the cha-cha relay. More egregious was the way she got flustered and declared a 67-67 tie atop the leaderboard for Ricki and Rob, right as the screen showed Rob scoring a grand total of 65.

Tom Bergeron’s Best Lines of the Night
“Bruno’s World: Sounds like a good midseason show.” –Tom responding to Brooke’s rainbow comment. (I might actually watch that show.)

“Kids, it’s bedtime!” –Tom responding to Len’s notation that the Argentine tango is the kind of dance where the man plays the husband, and the woman plays the “girlfriend”

Judges’ Leaderboard (Carrie Ann, Len, Bruno: Total for Dance #1 + Total for Dance #2 + Cha Cha Relay Score = Total)
Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: 10, 10, 10: 30 + 9, 10, 10: 29 + 8 = 67
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: 10, 9, 9: 28 + 9, 9, 9: 27 + 10 = 65
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: 8, 7, 8: 23 + 9, 9, 9: 27 + 6 = 56
Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 7, 7, 7: 21 + 8, 8, 8: 24 + 4 = 49

What did you think of the DWTS semifinals? Sound off in the comments, and take our poll below! And for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!