Welcome, gem hunters, to the season 19 semifinals of Dancing With the Stars: Man Thongs!
Last week, despite a thrillingly meaty threesome featuring pec-flexing Troupe member extraordinaire Henry Byalikov, Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev were eliminated. We may forget Lea's dances, but we shall never forget those costumes.
For the semis tonight, DWTS is going with that tried-and-true "Plugged/Unplugged" theme, so the five remaining couples will dance twice to different versions of the same song. Check it out:
Tommy Chong & Peta Murgatroyd: “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell and “unplugged” version by Hannah Peel
Bethany Mota & Derek Hough: “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and “unplugged” version by The Civil Wars
Janel Parrish & Valentin Chmerkovskiy: “Blame” by Calvin Harris, featuring a guest “unplugged” performance by Time For Three
Alfonso Ribeiro & Witney Carson: “Love Runs Out” by One Republic, featuring a guest “unplugged” performance by Christina Grimmie
Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas: “Problem” by Ariana Grande, featuring guest “unplugged” performance by Noah Guthrie
Those are a lot of names I should probably know, but whatever -- time to go listen to the Moody Blues on the beach and really think about stuff before the show starts.
If you can't watch liiiive on TV tonight, try the DWTS All-Access live streams to see the dances and hear from the couples throughout the show.
Discuss it here! I'll try to float back in with comments overnight.
It's time to get high if you're not already: Tommy Chong and his partner Peta's Thong are officially up in smoke after tonight's semifinals. The lovable stoner/musician and former orphanage comedian (you do what you have to do to survive -- now there's a compelling anti-bullying story) did all that he could on the dance floor -- which was sometimes not all that much! But it worked for him. Over the weeks, Chong has become synonymous with Dancing With the Stars. Thinking back to how much of my life I've spent gazing bleary-eyed at the purple kaleidoscopic background of the original opening titles... it's almost like he was the ultimate DWTS mascot the whole time; we just didn't realize it until this fall. THINK ABOUT IT. Not too hard! Don't hurt yourself.
"I was just here to prove that old stoners can perform when they need to," said Chong as Peta endearingly sobbed her way through the goodbyes. We will love them forever. #SPARKLEBARF
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Janel Parrish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 40 paso doble + 38 Argentine tango = 78/80 "Give the people what they want," said reigning MIRRORBALL TROPHY winner Maks -- and when you're a sizzling hot Chmerkovskiy, what the people want is you making sharp, passionate, and oiled-up work of the paso doble and Argentine tango.
I was with Tom and Carrie Ann: I wanted much more of Val and Janel's round 1 paso! It's probably best that it cut off when it did, because Janel was still gasping for air even after they received their four 10s. But that's what we love! Girl is going for it. I suspect she's not tops in viewer votes, so I don't think it'll happen. But I think it should. And let's not forget: Val's never won before. He blinked, seven years passed, and suddenly he was one of our oldest pros. "I don't wanna blow the chance to win it," he emo-stressed as they slumped against the rehearsal wall.
Maks finally dropped by Val's rehearsal -- they're roommates, but he never sees him anymore!
I volunteer to help produce The Brothers Chmerkovskiy, ASAP. Anyone interested?
Later on, Val sort of bungled the notes on his little violin solo pre-Argentine tango... but then he admitted it! I loved that. I was as shocked as Len to agree with Carrie Ann that the ins and outs to Janel's lifts were too clunky for the rest of the pitch-perfect A.T., but that's actually a perfect criticism, because it's something they can totally work on and freakin' master by next week's finals.
Meanwhile, Len or Len's speechwriters hit an all-time I-just-don't-give-a-f*** with his comment that Janel "put the 'oo' in 'mood'". That's like me saying I put the tens in all my sentences, except Len's makes no sense. (Upon further review, I've determined that my version makes LOTS of sense!)
Quick Tom Bergeron butt squeeze in honor of Teddy Bearkovskiy, and... we're clear.
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 36 samba + 40 for contemporary = 76/80 Uh oh. Derek's hit the imaginary wall, even though -- you know my fave Derek quote is coming -- last season he pontificated that "Pressure doesn't exist; we create it in our minds." (Whoa, thought Chong.) Poor blondie's just not in the zone, man. Normally ideas pour out of him, but this week? Just air bubbles and spray tan molecules. It's not looking good. Maybe Mark can help? He's wearing his Woody Allen glasses. Nope, guess not.
Derek ended up concocting a "samba in Central Park" experience that incorporated Sasha and a bench. Hey, no fair -- that's a quad! I had a hard time with this one -- maybe it was just me, but I kept wondering if the beat of the song was wildly out of sync with the vocals. I have no idea if this is really true, but it's all I could focus on. I didn't really notice Bethany at all; too much going on. Oh well. Straight 9s and Len was reminded of cotton candy -- "light and fluffy, but a little sticky here and there... a little less on the bench, maybe." Ewww, Len.
Their contemporary relied on another prop -- a giant picture frame. It was a cool idea, but was it semifinals-worthy? Just a few seconds in, I desperately wanted them to break free of the clunky National Geographic logo they were dancing with... and of course I knew they would not. Trio week was last week, guys. But the judges loved it! To them, this contemporary piece was "a Picasso of a dance" (Len) that "should be on permanent display in an art gallery" (Bruno), possibly alongside one of the indisputable masterpieces of the 21st century: Bethany Mota's YouTube channel.
Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 36 for Argentine tango + 39 for contemporary = 75/80 Of course you threw your back out, Fons -- you'd just finished shouting with glee that your body no longer hurts! Classic rookie mistake in the gilded ballroom. Their opening Argentine tango looked pretty painful, but maybe that's because we'd just learned all about his injury. Wait. Nope -- Alfonso's smile was of the "I'm hurting" variety, as confirmed by Tom's gentle prompting post-dance. But those aren't pain tears, right? They're partly clouded by happiness? No? Argh. Well, okay then. They made it through one.
I'm not sure if it was the laser light show, the powerful pedestal vocals from Christina Grimmie, or a shot of something almost lethal into Alfonso's back for their second dance, but the pair sailed through a lively contemporary as if Fons was in no pain at all. Perhaps he'd been infused the natural way, via the good vibes of everyone except Will Smith (and Uncle Phil, R.I.P) from Fresh Prince who'd popped up in the This Is Your Life-esque package before the dance. Perhaps Tommy Chong had taken Fons aside and cast a spell of magical herbs on the guy. No matter the cause, the effect on the ballroom floor was almost as great a reward as Geoffrey the Butler vouching for Fons alongside Dan Quayle. (???!)
Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 37 for quickstep + 37 for Argentine tango = 74/80 Poor Sadie had her confidence shaken by last week's forgotten steps. We could tell her mid-rehearsal freakout was genuine. But she had nothing to worry about in the quickstep. It wasn't her best dance, but it did prove how plainly she deserves to be in the finals.
This paragraph is not likely worth your time, so don't say I didn't warn you: Did anyone else become really enthusiastic about Sadie's sparkly silver gown (with random pink/orange/yellow tufts sprouting near the floor) only after they zoomed in and revealed the slight blousiness of the material and the nearly invisible belt? I found myself thinking, "I would wear that." And that's how I can tell I've entered the DANGER ZONE, because I would never wear that and could never pull that off. But oh, during the halcyon haze of 8-9 p.m. on Monday nights -- yes! I can do anything!
Okay, let's get back down to earth: Sadie has loved God her whole life, y'all. He's the most important thing in her heart. I'm suddenly picturing a Renaissance-style oil painting of a struggle between the contents of Sadie and Mark's hearts, entitled The Descent from the Cross Into Spats.) Accordingly -- or accordionly, if you were listening closely to Tom -- Mark left a little room for the Holy Spirit in his Argentine tango with Sadie. And in conjunction with Mark's worldview, the Holy Spirit = a guitar. Hey, it was an interesting workaround, at least. Carrie Ann appreciated the challenge.
Big congrats to Chong. "No one as old as you will ever get this far on Dancing With the Stars," said Len. CHALLENGE EXTENDED.
I'm rooting for Janel and Val to win next week -- what about you?
And remember: If you merely love tacos, eat them all the time, and consider them your life, but don't bother to press the little button on your computer that records video of you saying this and then somehow makes you millions of dollars in sponsorships -- you could be doing it wrong.
But screw that. Tacos or bust. Time to go eat.