The stage is set for the finale of "Dancing with the Stars" after the latest elimination gives us the final four.
CLEVELAND - After tonight, the four final couples head to the finals on season 16 of "Dancing with the Stars." And frontrunner Zendaya was bumped way down the score list, too.
The opening video montage makes it look like everyone got injured this week. People smacking into each other and painful groans. Cut to the live show and they're all walking down the stairs, smiling. False alarm, folks. Nice try, DWTS.
The couples have two dances this week, and country singer Kellie Pickler and Derek are up first with an Argentine tango. It opens with them dancing silhouette against a red backdrop. Their footwork is sharp and controlled; their kicks and flicks are great. It's a slinky, seductive number and they sustain that mood the whole time. She bends almost all the way back. Does Kellie have bones? With that brunette Cleopatra wig on, it's easy to forget it's Kellie.
Judge Len Goodman says, "Close the door, call me Mary, that was fantastic!" Judge Bruno Tonioli calls it pure perfection and compares Kellie to dance legend Chita Rivera. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba says it's absurd Kellie obtained that level of perfection. Score: perfect 30 – Kellie's first.
Kellie tweeted, "Yee-haw! Derek & I got three 10's for our Tango!! I hope y'all liked our dances tonight! #DWTS ."
Soap star Ingo Rademacher and Kym are up with a samba. After watching last week's recap, I can't help but wonder if the judges were extra generous with his scores to make sure "Bachelor" Sean Lowe got bumped out. As for the week, Ingo owns this dance and hits the steps hard. It's active and entertaining, but there are a couple lulls in his choreography where he could have added extra movement or content. Bruno loves his determination, but says Ingo lost lightness with all the attack. Carrie Ann says he's now the underdog who has to do a little better. Len liked it. Score: 24.
Olympian Aly Raisman and Mark have a rumba. It comes off a little contemporary, but that's Mark for you. They make this dance looK fueled with tortured emotion. Aly stays in character and her lines are great. Carrie Ann says Aly was all woman and commends her maturity. Len says Aly has grown. Bruno calls it a performance level they haven't seen from her. Score: perfect 30 – Aly's first.
Random alert! Andy Dick is in the audience, applauding. He's not wearing pants. And his daughter is sitting next to him.
NFL star Jacoby Jones and Karina have an Argentine tango. She whacked her jaw on him during rehearsal, but is okay. In their dance, this seems like a new Jacoby. He's never been this focused and controlled. For having such long limbs, he does a great job with the fast kicks required for this dance. Their movements are beautiful and he really stepped up his game. Len says it was right on the money. Bruno calls it Jacoby's best performance. Jacoby kisses Carrie Ann on the cheek and for her critique, all she can do is writhe around and rub her hands on herself. Score: perfect 30 – his first. Even Mama Jones holds up a 10 paddle.
Zendaya and Val are up with a quickstep. What a wild ballroom dance! It's fast and freewheeling, great fun to watch, but slightly messy. Bruno loved the concept, but says they lost frame and footing a couple times. Carrie Ann also loved the concept, but says it was a mess. Len notes the good parts, but says their speed and attack were too much. Score: 25. After Zendaya and Val nailing dances week after week, I did not see this miscalculation in their choreography coming.
Time for the second round of dances, which are the styles that fans voted for on Twitter last week.
Since it's the semIfinals, the show breaks out the tearjerker segments. We learn how Kellie came from a broken home. Her mother left her and her father was in prison, then she got her big break on "American Idol."
For her second dance, fans gave Kellie and Derek the flamenco. It's unlike anything I've seen on this show, and I'm not just talking about Derek's weird outfit. Their mood and performance must be seen. Their control and movements are fascinating. The lines they create together and the attention to hand detail are crisp. There's so much content, the dance shifts every five seconds. It's full of attack, but completely controlled. Kellie breaks character briefly and smiles, enjoying herself too much. It ends with a wild spin, and she nails it. As far as Len is concerned, Kellie booked her place in the finals. Bruno loves it, but notes Kellie tightened up and lost the flow.
Paddlegate! Bruno accidentally holds up a 10 paddle, but he entered a 9. He clarifies it was a mistake and says he did score a 9. Score: 28, 58 overall.
Ingo and Kym are back with a Charleston. We learned he's lived a pretty fun life, with idealistic parents who moved from Germany to live off the land in Australia, before he moved to L.A. and simply became a soap star and now kicks back in Hawaii. What a tragedy. Not. Anyway, their dance theme is Old Hollywood, and the Charleston suits his personality perfectly because it's
wacky fun. His moves don't look too sharp, but they're probably not supposed to in this goofy number. Bruno says Ingo captured the spirit of the roaring 20s. Carrie Ann calls it a grand slam and notes his minor mistakes worked overall. Len calls it Ingo's best dance to date. Score: 27, 51 overall.
Aly and Mark return with Afro-jazz. We see how hard she's pushed herself in gymnastics growing up, making her the competitor she is today. Anyway, they are wearing the wildest costumes ever – it's like they raided Brooke Burke's closet. With the tribal getup, they look like extras from "Coming to America." I can't really judge their technique on this type of dance, but they get a lot in there, from feet pounding, jumps and rolls to acrobatics – and they stay in synch. Carrie Ann says they had perfect synch in a hard dance. Len says they captured the feeling of the dance, but wanted more connection. Bruno says they exceeded all expectation. Score: perfect 30, 59 overall.
Jacoby and Karina return with a Lindy hop. We learn he was a small kid who dreamed of playing football, almost blew his first big opportunity, only to get a second chance and eventually win a Super Bowl. This dance is obviously a homerun. It's like his preening demeanor and goofy attitude were made for it. Some of his moves are just sick. It's pure entertainment. Len says it was high energy and action packed, but Jacoby had the wrong foot at one point. Bruno says they nailed it. Carrie Ann calls Jacoby the number one entertainer of season 16. Sorry, Zendaya. Score: 29, 59 overall.
Zendaya and Val are back with hip hop, a style he never danced before. We learn how Zendaya overcame her shyness as a child and her parents backed her 100% to be a performer. As for the dance, without directly referencing him, it feels like they could have been in a Michael Jackson music video from the 80s. They keep popping and locking around the floor and Zendaya looks in her element. The routine is unique and cool. For being hip hop, they look so smooth, it's like poetry in motion. Bruno says it was so cool it gave him chills. Carrie Ann loved it. Len says it was cheeky, fantastic fun. Score: perfect 30, 55 overall.
That means Aly and Jacoby are tied for the top with 59. Kellie is right behind with 58. Zendaya is perplexingly in fourth with 55. Ingo is last with 51.
The big question is who goes home Tuesday night. It's probably Ingo, but with typical frontrunner Zendaya's quickstep miscalculation bumping her score down, that could shake things up in unexpected ways. Either way, expect the show to exploit that and make us think she's in jeopardy. Trust me, she'll be in the finals; she has more Twitter followers than any of her competition.
Zendaya tweeted, "I'm really gonna need ur help tonight twitterverse!! I can't go home :))))."
The stage will be set for the finals when a couple is eliminated Tuesday night, the show's 300th episode. I mistakenly identified last week as being the 300th episode. Sorry, folks; it's about as involving to track the dates, stats and scores of this show as it is professional sports sometimes.
The elimination takes place Tuesday night at 9 on ABC, with Avril Lavigne and The Wanted performing. For the finals, we'll get performances from Pitbull, Psy, and former contestant Wynonna Judd.
More information can be found at: http://abc.go.com/primetime/dancingwiththestars/index .
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