‘Dancing with the Stars’ recap: Who survived the ‘Semi-Finals’ and advanced to the season finale? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

The “Dancing with the StarsSemi-Finals decided who advanced to the finale for a chance at the Mirror Ball Trophy, but they were also an opportunity for redemption as the remaining celebs tackled dances that tripped them up earlier this season. So who rose to the top? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

The first round of the Semi-Finals was the redemption round, during which the celebs took another crack at a previous dance style with additional tutelage from the judges: paso doble for Lauren Alaina, Viennese waltz for Ally Brooke, rumba for Hannah Brown, tango for Kel Mitchell and cha cha for James Van Der Beek.

In the second round the contestants performed brand new routines in previously unlearned dance styles, and it was the last time this season for the contestants the learn new routines (not counting next week’s freestyle numbers). Alaina got a Viennese waltz, Brooke performed a Charleston, Van Der Beek danced a foxtrot, and Brown and Mitchell both lucked out with contemporary routines for the first time this season — their ticket to perfect 10s?

But just how many celebs made it to the finals? This week’s “DWTS” press release indicated another single elimination, in which case four couples would go to the season finale, but the show has dropped last-minute surprises on us before, so we couldn’t rule out the possibility of a double elimination. What did you think of the Semi-Finals performances and the couples that made it to next week’s season finale? Follow along below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern).


Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko (Paso Doble with mentor Len)

Daniel Montgomery, 8:03pm — Lauren’s redemption dance is first, and she’s being mentored by Len for this routine. It’ll be a paso doble to “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Len wanted to see much stronger shaping and more recognizable paso steps last time, and I’m really eager to seeing how Lauren has grown.

DM, 8:07pmGood start from Lauren. I think she was terrific in hold with Gleb especially.

Jeffrey Kare, 8:07pm — Lauren and Gleb’s first dance of the night I thought was very dynamic.

JUDGES — Len Goodman thought it has “a lovely mix of aggression and expression.” He wanted to see even more paso choreography, but it was a “terrific routine,” “so much improved.” Bruno Tonioli thought “she could handle it” with all the male pros on the dance floor. It was “more centered” and “the shapes were better,” and she only went wrong a little bit once. Carrie Ann Inaba thinks she has “come so far,” but she’s locking her knees a little bit.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len 9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

DM, 8:11pm — Good start to the night, and I thought those scores were pretty fair.

JK, 8:!2pm — I agree.

Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson (Tango with mentor Bruno)

DM, 8:15pm — Kel got his first perfect score last week, helped a little bit, I think, by the judges wanting to keep him safe from Sean Spicer (no complaints here). Bruno is assigning Kel with a redemption tango. It’s the dance he performed in week one, and he need to work on not being hoppy like a kangaroo this time. He has improved tremendously this season, so I have high hopes.

DM, 8:18pm — Great tango from Kel. I could still see him thinking through it at times, but I thought he nailed the steps and the rhythm.

JK, 8:18pm — That routine started a little slow, but I thought their footwork was great.

JUDGES — Bruno is “so proud” of Kel, who was “the perfect student” and delivered a proper tango, but there was just one mistake where he went on the wrong foot. Carrie Ann says, “You have become so refined … You, to me, have come the furthest … I thought it was fantastic.” Len liked the “intensity” and he “attacked the dance,” but he was missing a few heel leads.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len 9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

DM, 8::21pm — More 9s. I think these were the right scores too. I’m glad the judges are holding back on their 10s at this point in the night. Strong routines so far, but I think there’s room for bigger showstoppers, including from Lauren and Kel’s next dances.

Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber (Vienesse Waltz with mentor Len)

DM, 8:26pm — Ally got two perfect scores last week. Like with Kel, I think the judges were padding those a bit to get rid of Sean Spicer (again, not complaining), but she’s got the skills, so I’m looking forward to her working with strict Len on her re-do of the Viennese waltz, which she last performed in week two. After she nailed the paso doble last week, I think the waltz should be a cinch for her … I hope.

DM, 8:29pm — My favorite dance of the night so far from Ally: flowing and elegant from the tips of her fingers to the ends of her toes, and you could sense that she was really emotionally committed to it.

JK, 8:30pm — Indeed. I thought that was breathtaking!

JUDGES — Len thought it had a “lovely gentleness” and “the technique was far better,” but it “lost a little bit of fluidity” at times. Bruno thought it had great “flow.” It was “touching and pretty” and “a joy to watch.” Carrie Ann says her phrasing is “beyond” and she thanks Ally for pouring herself into the dance.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len 9), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 29 out of 30

JK, 8:32pm — So close to getting that perfect score.

DM, 8:32pm — So close, but I think she could get that last 10 in the next round.

Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten (Rumba with mentor Carrie Ann)

DM, 8:36pm — Hannah acknowledges that Carrie Ann pushes her. “She has not been my source of confidence,” Hannah admits. Carrie Ann thought there wasn’t enough hip action last time she performed the rumba. That’s when she told Hannah it was more like a cheerleading dance. Hannah has difficulty taking guidance from Carrie Ann because she shuts down when she’s feeling attacked. Carrie Ann apologizes for making her feel that way in what I hope helps Hannah get out of her own head.

DM, 8:40pm — Wow, even more than the dance steps, I was impressed that Hannah really seemed like she really captured the mood of the dance. She was still smiling, but it didn’t feel like a shield. It was sensual, flirty, fun, and I think I saw plenty of hip action there.

JK, 8:41pm — Yeah, I thought that was pretty great.

JUDGES — Hannah apologizes to Carrie Ann if it seemed like she was dismissing Carrie Ann’s guidance, and Carrie Ann gave her another hug. And for what it’s worth, Carrie Ann thinks Hannah improved “a heck of a lot.” Len thought she married the movements of her hips and the arms “beautifully.” Bruno was impressed by how Hannah placed her feet and pushed them through her hips.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

JK, 8:44pm — Back to three 9s.

DM, 8:45pm — I’m a little surprised that she didn’t get at least one 10 for that, but I still think that was fair.

James Van Der Beek and Emma Slater (Cha Cha with mentor Len)

DM, 8:48pm — James is redoing his week-two cha cha with help from Len. I’m surprised with five contestants that they’ve got Len mentoring three of them, while Carrie Ann and Bruno only had one celeb each. I think Len was overly tough on James the first time. Len wants to see hip action, and that’s something James has never had a problem with. I think this has the potential to be the night’s first perfect score.

JK, 8:53pm — Surprising absolutely no one, James & Emma were incredible!

DM, 8:53pm — I think James bobbled a move there early on, and it seems like more disco than cha cha at times, but otherwise a good performance.

JUDGES — Len asked them to cut out the gimmicks last time they performed the cha cha, and this time he still wanted more cha cha. There was “too much messing about” with all that disco. But Bruno thought it was “a disco cha cha extravaganza,” but he was off his timing multiple times, which surprised him. Carrie Ann thought it was “really entertaining,” but his posture was “broken” and he needs to watch those small details.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (8), Bruno (8) — TOTAL: 24 out of 30

DM, 8:56pm — I didn’t notice the timing problem like Bruno seemed to, but I think Len was right about all that disco, and Carrie Ann might have had a point about his posture. It wasn’t his strongest routine, and definitely not the perfect-scoring routine I thought it had the potential to be. I never would have guessed he’d be on the bottom of the leaderboard after the first round, though. Hopefully he can rebound.


Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko (Viennese Waltz)

DM, 9:00pm — They’re dancing a Viennes waltz to “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw. That sounds like a great fit for the country star, but Ally’s Viennese waltz earlier tonight was nearly perfect, so she’s got a tough act to follow.

DM, 9:03pm — Couldn’t have been easy having to follow Ally’s waltz, but I think Lauren’s dance was right up there with her. Elegant, graceful, lovely flow across the dance floor.

JK, 9:03pm — Yeah, it was stunning!

JUDGES — Len liked the elements of slow waltz along with the Viennese waltz. It was a “lovely” dance. Bruno thought it was “so sophisticated, so classy,” but what really impressed him was their chemistry. They were like a “dream couple.” Carrie Ann thinks they have “become one … You’ve truly blossomed.” And Lauren thanks Carrie Ann for teaching her to breathe through her movements.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

DM, 9:06pm — Their total for the night is 54 out of 60. But I thought Lauren deserves a 10 or two for that routine. I thought that was just as good as Ally’s dance.

Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson (Contemporary)

DM, 9:10pm — Kel is dancing to Whitney Houston‘s “I Will Always Love You,” which was part of a play he performed about gang violence when he was a kid. Gang violence has affected his life — his friend died at age 16 — so this will be an especially emotional routine for him. It’s hard for me to picture Kel doing a contemporary routine, but this style is built to get 10s, so all he needs to do is sell the emotion.

DM, 9:15pm — A lovely dance, not my favorite contemporary of the season, and Kel looked a teensy bit stiff on a couple of those movements, but I thought he pulled it off, especially those tough lifts.

JK, 9:15pm — That was a very emotional routine!

JUDGES — Bruno loved the “fluidity” and “ease of movement,” plus the “sincerity and honesty” of the performance. Carrie Ann is in tears over how Kel shared his truth: “I am so grateful. Thank you for that.” And Kel even gets a standing ovation from Len, which prompts a standing ovationf rom the entire judges table and the audience. Yep, I think that’s getting 10s.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

JK, 9:17pm — The first perfect score of the night!

DM, 9:17pm — Kel’s total for the night is 57 out of 60. The contemporary bump continues. I do wish the judges would evaluate contemporary dances a little more critically, but it’s hard for me to begrudge Kel given the sincerity he brought to that performance and the difficult personal story behind it.

Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber (Charleston)

DM, 9:22pm — I’m thrilled to see a Charleston this season, and it’ll be a nice change of pace sandwiched between two contemporary numbers. Ally is thrilled for the chance to do lifts and tricks to a great big bang number, but she acknowledges this could be her last dance ever on the show since she’s been in the bottom two twice before. And there’s so much more than can go wrong in a Charleston compared to contemporary.

JK, 9:26pm — Ally and Sasha’s second routine tonight I thought was very energetic and full of enthusiasm.

DM, 9:26pm — I don’t know if Ally was 100% perfect, but I think it was by far the most ambitious dance of the night so far, so kudos to her for that. She really brought the attack and spirit to that routine.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann thought it was a “showstopper” that proved she deserves to be in the finale. Len thought it was a “joyful” performance with lots of Charleston references. Bruno thought it was “sparkling, exuberant, barnstorming fun.” And he liked the swing and Lindy hop references in there too.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

JK, 9:28pm — Another perfect score!

DM, 9:28pm — And it gives her a total of 59 out of 60 for the night, which means that Ally is guaranteed to be on top of the judges’ leaderboard. No one else can catch her even if they’re perfect. I’m so impressed by Ally even attempting that kind of high-risk choreography on such a consequential night.

James Van Der Beek and Emma Slater (Foxtrot)

DM, 9:32pm — James and his wife announced they were expecting another baby earlier in the season, and sadly this week his wife miscarried — even more tragic since James had told us they’d experienced miscarriages before. “I really didn’t think I’d be dancing tonight,” James says, but his wife insisted that he continue with the show. He’s performing to “Take My to Church” to Hozier tonight.

JK, 9:35pm — Astonishing!

DM, 9:35pm — Finding out about James and his wife’s loss really puts his night into perspective. He wasn’t perfect tonight, but he’s a champ just for getting out there tonight and performing as well as he has. Two new dances after all that — what a champ.

JUDGES — Len credits him with dancing “with so much feeling and emotion” after such a difficult week. Bruno says, “We were with you all the way through” with “great turns and beautiful lines.” Carrie Ann says, “I don’t know how you got through that just now.” And in the midst of all his tragedy, she felt silly talking about posture, but she loved his posture. She thought his performance was “poetry in motion.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

DM, 9:39pm — His total tonight is 51 out of 60. He’s likely to end up on the bottom of the leaderboard, so James says he’s going to need a lot of votes tonight. I’m pretty sure he won’t have to worry about that.

Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten (Contemporary)

DM, 9:44pm — A contemporary to Selena Gomez’s new song “Lose You to Love Me,” which reminds her of her “Bachelorette” experience of picking a guy turned out to have been lying to her. Alan wants this to be their most “meaningful” dance. “The disappointment and the heartbreak is what has made me strong,” says Hannah. Man, this has been a rough week for everybody. I hope they take some time off from training to have a much-needed drink going into next week’s finale.

JK, 9:47pm — Hannah and Alan – TERRIFIC!

DM, 9:47pm — Great choreography from Alan, clear storytelling and beautiful positions from Hannah. Now that’s a contemporary.

JUDGES — Bruno thought she did “pretty well” for a first-timer, with a “great dynamic” in the lifts and drops. Carrie Ann says, “You move beautifully,” and she put lots of trust into Alan on those lifts. Len isn’t normally a fan of contemporary, but he “thought the emotion came out” and it was “a true couple dance.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

DM, 9:50pm — Total for the night is 54 out of 60, and even her rival Emma comes over to say that she was surprised Hannah only got 9s. I’m surprised too. I thought her contemporary was better than Kel’s and he got perfect 10s. She was definitely under-scored for this routine.


1. Ally Brooke — 29 + 30 = 59
2. Kel Mitchel — 27 + 30 = 57
3. Lauren Alaina — 27 + 27 = 54
3. Hannah Brown — 27 + 27 = 54
5. James Van Der Beek — 24 + 27 = 51


JK, 9:55pm — Here we go …

DM, 9:56pm — Okay, moment of truth.

DM, 9:56pm — Safe from elimination are Kel Mitchell (wow, he seemed like he might have been at risk), Hannah Brown (no surprise there) and … Lauren Alaina (whoa!). Okay, I’m not too surprised Ally Brooke is in the bottom, two, but I’m really surprised she’s down there with James Van Der Beek.

DM, 9:57pm — Carrie Ann votes to save Ally. Bruno votes to save Ally. Wow, that means James Van Der Beek is officially out. Len says he agrees with his colleagues. Everyone is shocked, even Ally, who even asks if she can give it to James. I really didn’t see this coming.

JK, 9:59pm — Now, the presumed front-runner all season long has been eliminated just the week before the finale.

DM, 10:00pm — Even Ally wishes she could give it to James, basically offering to self-eliminate to save him. What a sweet gesture, and what a tough result. I really thought James would get the audience votes to save him.

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