LOS ANGELES - Season 24's final four dance up a storm during the semifinal round of "Dancing with the Stars."
Each couple was tasked with learning two complete routines. The first was a style of dance they had not yet performed and the second was assigned by one of the judges.
And in the end: a shocking elimination. No, that is not a cliché. It really is! Read on.
Here's a rundown of the semifinal round, from highest score to lowest:
Simone Biles: 1st dance: 40 out of 40; 2nd dance: 40 out of 40. Total: 80 out of 80
Well this judge's challenge could have been awkward! Last week, Simone showed a little sass after a comment she didn't appreciate from Carrie Ann Inaba. So naturally, they send Carrie Ann into Simone and Sasha's rehearsal! This gives Carrie Ann the opportunity to explain what she means when she's been telling Simone she needs to tap into a more vulnerable, honest part of herself. And they just plain get goofy and dance like no one's watching. It works. Simone's jive is fast and fun, with head judge Len Goodman calling it sharp and filled with personality; Carrie Ann said her heart was warmed by this breakthrough; and Julianne Hough asked Simone to "name" the character she channeled in the dance. Simone said "Zoey." Zoey achieved perfection!
So she channeled someone named "Sophia" for her rumba and this little trick that Julianne taught her is paying off big time. We see Simone's back story of being adopted, and choosing gymnastics over being a regular teen; but that's all quickly forgotten when she and Sasha perform a flawless rumba. Carrie Ann felt like Simone danced with her soul; and Len said there was nothing about the dance that he didn't like.
Rashad Jennings: 1st dance: 38 out of 40; 2nd dance: 39 out of 40. Total: 77 out of 80
Bruno Tonioli gets to have his way with Rashad in the rehearsal room. Rashad and Emma must do the sensuous, fluid rumba and Bruno wants to help Rashad with his "extremities"; specifically his giant man hands and size 14 feet. Bruno says the football great is a little rough around the edges but he knows he has what it takes. After the performance, Bruno told the couple they had exceeded his expectations. He also praised Rashad's quiet confidence and the duo's fearless partnering. Carrie Ann appreciated that the dance was passionate and artistic without being sexual; and Julianne complimented both Rashad and Emma on the trust they show one another as partners, which translates into great dancing for us.
Rashad's life started as the much younger little brother to two outgoing and successful big brothers. His life took a turn for the worse when everyone realized he had a learning disability in junior high and for a time, he just gave up. His parents and those big brothers rallied behind him, motivated him, got him in a good school, and the rest is history. Rashad wants to inspire any kid who is told he can't do something that, simply, "yes you can!" As for the dance, Carrie Anne responded with a very loud "yes you DID!"
Normani Kordei: 1st dance: 36 out of 40; 2nd dance: 40 out of 40. Total: 76 out of 80
Normani and Val are treated to a dance lesson from the dance master, Len. He challenges them to do a "proper" Viennese waltz. You know Len doesn't like to see any messing about! He takes Normani in his arms to show her the correct hold, and lets her know this is a very specific dance. The trick is to make it look easy! After the routine, Len said she made him proud and did exactly what he asked; the other judges were equally pleased but one very small stumble (Julianne admitted since it's the semifinals they are nitpicking now) had each judge knock off a point and give them straight 9s.
Her second dance is a jazz routine. But in learning a little more about Normani, we see what a tough life she had as a youngster. When she was just five her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then a few years later, the New Orleans family had to suffer through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Apparently the adversity only made her stronger and more determined. She adorably brought her beloved Grandma into the giant costume shop of DWTS and Gram was like a kid in a candy store. The Big Easy/Bourbon Street-themed jazz dance is fast, fun, sharp and sheer perfection.
David Ross: 1st dance: 34 out of 40; 2nd dance: 36 out of 40. Total: 70 out of 80
David has proved to be a good sport over and over again this season. That was especially true this week when Julianne showed up at rehearsals and had a unique "dancer's trick" for getting him to tuck in his bum. It involved a lemon. Use your imagination. Julianne clearly had fun with David and Lindsay, and the judge thinks he's the epitome of what this show is all about - finding joy in the journey. Julianne was thrilled with their foxtrot and, more importantly, with David's butt. Bruno finds David very entertaining and said while he's no Gene Kelly, he's still very watchable.
For his second dance, the tango, David just decided to go for it. Maybe he felt his days were numbered, but there was no fear and plenty of determination. That's we learned about him in the video segment; from an early age he just knew he would be a baseball player. He also let us know he learned the meaning of humility while playing baseball but that made him into a better man. Julianne told him he was simply meant to be on the show and appreciates all his hard work; and Carrie Ann thought this was his best dance yet.
The shocking elimination
You know this was absolutely going to be the toughest elimination of the season. And yes it was. Even though she earned a perfect score for both of her dances, Simone Biles was voted out of the ballroom.
Next week: the finals! It's a two-parter. Monday at 8 p.m. we'll see the always fun freestyle. And Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., everyone from the season returns to the ballroom and we'll learn just who is taking home the mirror ball.