Dancing With the Stars Week 9 Performance Recap: Semis? Sweet!

Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen eight charming couples lose their grips on the coveted Mirrorball Trophy — I can still see the tracks of Sherri Shepherd’s tears in my mind — but with the Season 14 semifinals upon us — and one couple about to fall short of the finale (and the freestyle round) — the potential for even greater heartbreak was downright palpable.

For my money, any of the four remaining celebs could easily land in the confetti-covered winner’s circle next week. Yet one teeny-tiny misstep, wardrobe malfunction or semi-bungled lift (or even a cranky judge) could erase an entire season’s worth of heroics and a coveted spot in the Finals. Here’s everything you need to know about the ninth week of DWTS:

A Perfect Final Four? | Was the the strongest semifinal lineup in DWTS history? Like millions of other rabid ballroom watchers, I find it hard to imagine the finals without the manly charms of William Levy and Donald Driver, or the elegant beauty of Katherine Jenkins and Maria Menounos. But one of them has to go, right? The 10 paddles were put to work right from the get-go, and justifiably so! For me, the chills-o-meter registered loudest during Maria’s eye-popping tango and William’s sexy, celebratory samba. But Carrie Ann seemed determined to be the tough cookie, throwing verbal cold water on William’s opening Tango (but then giving him a 9) and Donald’s waltz, until she changed course and ran out of breathless adjectives for Maria’s sizzling Argentine tango.

Live and Unedited | I haven’t seen this many tearful, heart-tugging anecdotes and candid confessions since the last time I watched a Barbara Walters special. I know the DWTS producers had 90 long minutes to fill — and only eight dances to showcase — but a few of the pre-performance packages straddled the border of genuinely moving and surprisingly irksome. After all, carefully edited clips will never have the drama or impact of a live, unplanned moment like Katherine’s shocking stumble, and the gallantry and grace of her recovery. Stay strong, Ms. Jenkins!

Quotes of the Night | “I’ve not been this excited since my mother put me in long trousers.” –Len, anticipating the semifinals

“That might have been the best dance I’ve ever seen on Dancing With the Stars.” –Carrie Ann, on Katherine’s opening Quick Step.

“You’re like a big rough tough cream puff.” –Len to Donald, after his emotional waltz

“From Len, a 10!” –Len after Maria’s exquisite Argentine tango

“I’ve never looked at a man’s bum for so long in my life. Talk about the hunk with the junk in his trunk!” –Len to William, after his bootylicious Samba

“I’m gonna die with bum envy.” –Bruno after William’s samba

“I got you. I got you. I got you.” –Mark to a distraught Katherine, after she lost her balance at the end of an otherwise stunning salsa

“I’m so sorry if I’ve let you down, Mark.” –a devastated Katherine

Judges’ Leaderboard (Carrie Ann, Len, Bruno: Total)
Round One Dance:
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 10, 10, 10: 30
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 10, 9, 10: 29
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 9, 9, 10: 28
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 9, 9, 10: 28

Round Two Dance:
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 10, 10, 10: 30
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 10, 9, 10: 29
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 10, 9, 10: 29
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 9, 9, 9: 27

Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 59
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 58
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 57
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 56

Now it’s your turn. Will Katherine’s shocking stumble cost her a shot at the finals? Were the judges actually overscoring the dances tonight, or were those endless streams of 10s totally justified? Beyond her nearly-perfect scores, will Maria’s endearing, clearly authentic layers of raw emotion — both live and in the rehearsal footage — nudge her closer to not just the Finals, but to the Mirrorball Trophy? Leave your comments below! —Mitch Rustad