DWTS 5th Judge Semifinals: Double Elimination, Pregnancy Announcement, One Judge Leaving

What a whirlwind of emotion on the “Dancing with the Stars” semifinals, and we’re not even talking about the performances. Don’t get us wrong, our remaining six couples left it all on the dance floor creating some genuinely beautiful dances that moved us to tears, but there was even more emotional twists and turns outside of those dances. For one, after a stunning performance, fans learned that one of those people who’d just made that amazing moment was pregnant! Then, after the first round of competition, Len Goodman announced his retirement at the end of this season. He’s been with the show since its inception in 2005 and it’s hard to imagine it without its resident grump (even if we did get a sneak peek of what that might look like during Covid when he stayed in the UK). With Cheryl Burke hinting that her own retirement might be coming, could it be that she’s poised to join Derek Hough on the panel as a former Mirrroball winner and legendary professional dancer on this show? She would create gender parity and certainly bring a lot of wisdom and humanity to the panel. It would especially be fun if the show announces Len’s replacement in next week’s grand finale, but it could be that they decide to keep the focus on the finalists and save that announcement for sometime between seasons. We have to assume it’s done well enough on Disney+ to warrant another season (maybe we’ll get that news, too). Of course, the big question is who is going to be there. So far, there’s been a four-way race to the top of the leaderboard that’s emerged this season. Charli D’Amelio, Gabby Windey and Wayne Brady have been jockeying all season long for that top spot, with Shangela more recently surging into the conversation. That leaves sentimental favorites Daniel Durant and Trevor Donovan on the outside looking in. With tonight’s double elimination, it could well be their last chance to kick down the door and join the conversation to make things very interesting. Did they do just that? Audience votes have been hugely influential this season (Vinny Guadagnino says hey!), so things are never as clean as they look on judges’ scores alone. Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I've spent the last twenty years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this. Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. (Paso Doble - “Beggin’,” The Four Seasons [as performed by Måneskin]) It’s rare for a paso doble to really connect on a deeply emotional level, but the performance quality from both Witney and Wayne had this piece doing just that. It did help we knew it was connected to Wayne’s actual story of when he did what the title said to try and get back in his ex-wife’s good graces before their marriage. On the technical side, this was equally commanding with Witney, in particular, painting some stunning musical pictures with her body. She really is a painter up there at times, and this choreography was a beautiful showcase of her own ability. As expected, Witney was the feature, but Wayne’s presence was definitely there for her. His frame was a little stiff at times, and there were a couple places he seemed to lose the confidence of his footwork, but he held his own and stepped up with all the gravitas and drama demanded of him. Then, after stunning us with a gorgeous and challenging dance, Witney proved that mama’s can do anything by announcing that she’s currently expecting her second child! If she and Wayne were to go on and win the whole show, would she be the first pregnant professional to win “DWTS”? Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 My Score: 9 (Viennese Waltz- “Surprise Yourself,” Jack Garratt) We’d have liked some fuller movements and complete lines from Daniel throughout this piece. He felt a little small at times in his frame, while at others he was fully present. The gliding across the floor was gorgeous, but some of the other steps felt a bit staccato. There was tremendous musicality and a gentle peacefulness that permeated the entire dance, as well as an infectious melancholic joy. Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9, 9 My Score: 8 (Paso Doble - “Edge of Glory,” Lady Gaga) That solo segment was fantastic, so commanding and powerful. Unfortunately, Shangela w

DWTS 5th Judge Semifinals: Double Elimination, Pregnancy Announcement, One Judge Leaving

It was a whirlwind night of emotions as the remaining six couples performed twice each -- but which four did enough to make next week's finale?

What a whirlwind of emotion on the “Dancing with the Stars” semifinals, and we’re not even talking about the performances.

Don’t get us wrong, our remaining six couples left it all on the dance floor creating some genuinely beautiful dances that moved us to tears, but there was even more emotional twists and turns outside of those dances.

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For one, after a stunning performance, fans learned that one of those people who’d just made that amazing moment was pregnant! Then, after the first round of competition, Len Goodman announced his retirement at the end of this season.

He’s been with the show since its inception in 2005 and it’s hard to imagine it without its resident grump (even if we did get a sneak peek of what that might look like during Covid when he stayed in the UK).

With Cheryl Burke hinting that her own retirement might be coming, could it be that she’s poised to join Derek Hough on the panel as a former Mirrroball winner and legendary professional dancer on this show? She would create gender parity and certainly bring a lot of wisdom and humanity to the panel.

It would especially be fun if the show announces Len’s replacement in next week’s grand finale, but it could be that they decide to keep the focus on the finalists and save that announcement for sometime between seasons. We have to assume it’s done well enough on Disney+ to warrant another season (maybe we’ll get that news, too).

Of course, the big question is who is going to be there. So far, there’s been a four-way race to the top of the leaderboard that’s emerged this season. Charli D’Amelio, Gabby Windey and Wayne Brady have been jockeying all season long for that top spot, with Shangela more recently surging into the conversation.

That leaves sentimental favorites Daniel Durant and Trevor Donovan on the outside looking in. With tonight’s double elimination, it could well be their last chance to kick down the door and join the conversation to make things very interesting.

Did they do just that? Audience votes have been hugely influential this season (Vinny Guadagnino says hey!), so things are never as clean as they look on judges’ scores alone.

Who do I think I am? you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer. From a young boy learning a shuffle-ball-change to performing with the St. Louis Ballet Company, I experienced the ups and downs of one of the most difficult physically demanding sports on the planet. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I've spent the last twenty years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I've got this.

Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

ROUND 1

Wayne Brady & Witney Carson

(Paso Doble - “Beggin’,” The Four Seasons [as performed by Måneskin]) It’s rare for a paso doble to really connect on a deeply emotional level, but the performance quality from both Witney and Wayne had this piece doing just that. It did help we knew it was connected to Wayne’s actual story of when he did what the title said to try and get back in his ex-wife’s good graces before their marriage.

On the technical side, this was equally commanding with Witney, in particular, painting some stunning musical pictures with her body. She really is a painter up there at times, and this choreography was a beautiful showcase of her own ability. As expected, Witney was the feature, but Wayne’s presence was definitely there for her. His frame was a little stiff at times, and there were a couple places he seemed to lose the confidence of his footwork, but he held his own and stepped up with all the gravitas and drama demanded of him.

Then, after stunning us with a gorgeous and challenging dance, Witney proved that mama’s can do anything by announcing that she’s currently expecting her second child! If she and Wayne were to go on and win the whole show, would she be the first pregnant professional to win “DWTS”?

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9

My Score: 9

Daniel Durant & Britt Stewart

(Viennese Waltz- “Surprise Yourself,” Jack Garratt) We’d have liked some fuller movements and complete lines from Daniel throughout this piece. He felt a little small at times in his frame, while at others he was fully present. The gliding across the floor was gorgeous, but some of the other steps felt a bit staccato. There was tremendous musicality and a gentle peacefulness that permeated the entire dance, as well as an infectious melancholic joy.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9, 9

My Score: 8

Shangela & Gleb Savchenko

(Paso Doble - “Edge of Glory,” Lady Gaga) That solo segment was fantastic, so commanding and powerful. Unfortunately, Shangela wavered in the rest of the dance from that strong commanding presence to someone who seemed to be rushing at times, or even uncertain. We could see her thinking about the steps, which rips you right out of the performance. It wasn’t all the way, but it was there, and it impacted the ferocity of her hits, and even the actual steps at one point.

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9

My Score: 8

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Charli D’Amelio & Mark Ballas

(Viennese Waltz - “Glimpse of Us,” Joji) Another stunningly gorgeous piece by Mark Ballas, taking full advantage of Charli’s natural ability to move with such grace and precision. The ribbons in her costuming for her arms was an inspired addition as it added yet another element of flowing movement throughout the piece, but it was her impeccable frame and the precision with which they hit their turns that had us mesmerized. In particular, the solo turning segment right into hold and turn with Mark was inspired, as was the side-by-side glide across the floor. This was a choreography masterpiece executed flawlessly.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

Trevor Donovan & Emma Slater

(Cha-Cha-Cha - “Satisfied,” Galantis f. MAX) No pressure, but we were cracking up when Emma shared with Trevor that for the last three seasons, she’d been eliminated immediately following a cha-cha routine. His goal was to change that, but we’re not sure this was enough. Actually, it feels like it’s his time.

That said, he’s come such a long way on this journey and really did hold his own out there. Emma made it a little easy on him, but we appreciated the quality of movement he was given in most of the moments he did start showing some cha-cha steps. His hips could move a bit more, and his footwork was at times fantastic and at other times a little hesitant. He’s still thinking about the steps, which showed at one point when he forgot entirely about his arm for a few measures before plopping it back on his hip.

Judges Scores: 8, 8, 8, 8

My Score: 7

Gabby Windey & Val Chmerkovskiy

(Waltz - “I’m Kissing You,” Des’ree) Gabby and Val were so connected through this piece it was as if they were one performing with two bodies. The musicality was stunning, with the rapid turns coming with the piano segment so iconic from “Romeo + Juliet,” but it was everything that kept this one riding high emotionally. The heart on display was genuine, but it was the effort quality of technique that made it look like a dream. It takes a lot of hard work to make something look this easy.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

ROUND 2

Wayne Brady & Witney Carson

(Viennese Waltz - “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” James Brown) This piece was performed in honor of his grandmother, who recently passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. The woman who raised him, Wayne said that he owes everything he is to her and the women in his life, which is why he chose this song to perform. He even sang the opening bars himself to set the stage and recorded the vocals himself.

In the dance itself, Wayne continued to seem a bit off his game tonight, coming at this elegant and graceful style with a wildness that took away some of that smoothness, leaving him looking a tad hoppy in places. It could be that he was overtaken by emotion. On top of that, the dance itself seemed a bit short as if building toward something that never came.

Judges Scores: 10, 9, 9, 9

My Score: 8

Daniel Durant & Britt Stewart

(Samba- “Light It Up (Remix),” Major Lazer f. Nyla & Fuse ODG) They stumbled a bit on the final hold, but Daniel’s ability to master all of the choreography remains impressive as he doesn’t have musical marks to carry him through -- and this one even comes with tempo changes to make that task seem almost impossible. He’s got the steps, so now he needs to work on injecting them with the character and flavor of each style. It was here in pieces with moments of beautiful technique, but not consistently throughout the whole dance. He had a great energy and presence in the piece, though, attacking it fearlessly, if not flawlessly.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9, 8

My Score: 9

Shangela & Gleb Savchenko

(Viennese Waltz - “I Have Nothing,” Whitney Houston) Gleb went all out with a beautifully choreographed piece and Shangela showed fantastic grace and fluidity of movement across the floor. In fact, the only two times we saw her a bit out of sorts was in the final moment of the combination trick where she didn’t quite leap all the way into Gleb’s arms, and another stunt later. In other words, the basic dance technique looked great on her. She used the ribbons like Charli did to extend the lines of her arms, which revealed that she still occasionally doesn’t follow through that movement fully before gliding into the next step. But this was gorgeously subdued in presentation, so graceful and so elegant.

Judges Scores: 10, 9, 9, 9

My Score: 9

Charli D’Amelio & Mark Ballas

(Paso Doble - “España cañí,” Pascual Marquina) With lots of Latin flair, Charli really came out strong. Mark smartly gave her a solo segment right at the top to get her in the right head space to nail the passionate hard-hitting tone needed for this style, and she had it pretty consistently throughout. Her lines and the marks she can hit remain absolutely mindblowing, not to mention how she can bend her body. We felt her posture wasn’t quite as dramatically back as needed all the time, but for something entirely out of her element she danced it like she’d been working on the technique for months.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

Trevor Donovan & Emma Slater

(Viennese Waltz - “Count on Me,” Bruno Mars) In a very sweet gesture, Trevor dedicated this performance to Emma, who turned him from someone with a very real anxiety and fear about dancing into someone who’s made it this far. As there’s a solid chance it would be their last dance together, it’s a beautiful way to send off this relationship that’s impacted both of them.

It was a beautifully conceived piece with some genuine moments of lovely Viennese Waltz technique. He was a little hoppy at times and at times his arms lacked finesse, but it’s still remarkable how far he’s come from where he was when it started. There was grace and beautiful partnership on display, with some beautiful pictures painted.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 8, 8

My Score: 8

Gabby Windey & Val Chmerkovskiy

(Paso Doble - “Malagueña,” Brian Setzer) Can goofball Gabby get serious enough to pull off the intensity of the paso doble? As far as approach and attitude, she absolutely nailed it. There was a lot of ferocity in how she attacked the piece, and all of its myriad moments. Val did not let up with the choreography, giving her a lot of moments. She did wobble at one point early on, but recovered perfectly. And we kind of laughed when a roll to the floor wound up with her “cape” covering her face. We saw her almost move it, but she stayed in the moment, which was the right move.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

RESULTS

With tonight’s performances, it became a two-way race for the Mirrorball Trophy if overall performance has anything to do with it. Wayne Brady has slid into that second tier with Shangela. She’s been rising to the occasion, where he’s been faltering a bit.

Meanwhile, Charli D’Amelio and Gabby Windey seem to just keep getting stronger and stronger. They’re such different personalities and different performers, but they both bring incredible presence to the stage and kill every single performance.

That means, the logical conclusion to tonight’s proceedings would be a farewell to Trevor Donovan -- probably without judge’s intervention -- followed by Daniel Durant. What will be interesting will be to see who lands in the Bottom 3 as that will indicate what the judges think about the Top 4 finalists who will compete in next week’s Finale.

That is, if our predictions about who goes home even proved true. Maybe we’re getting overconfident after Vinny Guadagnino finally got eliminated last week. Maybe Daniel’s inspiration would carry him through, or Trevor’s growth and persistence.

Regardless, tonight’s cast was cut in half. Three advanced automatically and three were in danger of going home. A few weeks ago, we’d have thought Wayne would be a lock for one of those safe spots, but we actually thought Shangela had a chance this week to beat him out (albeit a slim one).

The first star to move into next week was Gabby, followed by Charli (so no surprises there). The big question was which of the remaining four locked in that slot? It was Wayne, which is well-earned for his season-long journey, even if it’s had its ups and downs.

Unless there was a major upset and somehow Shangela had the least amount of votes of all three of these people (we’ve seen crazier things), our prediction was on track to come true from here. And then it started to, with Trevor Donavan & Emma Slater the first couple eliminated.

From there, it was up to the judges between Shangela and Daniel, and we just couldn’t see them not saving the drag superstar. And they didn’t. It was a unanimous vote that sent Daniel Durant & Britt Stewart home in fifth place.

Of course, that was the easy part. Next week will be the big one. Can Shangela or Wayne step up and compete with the two leading ladies of this season? If not, will Charli’s technical expertise carry her to the win, or will Gabby’s winning personality and drive mark the difference?

“Dancing with the Stars” returns with its grand finale next Monday at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+. Who will win it all?