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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: An emotional semifinal elimination for Victoria Arlen

For The Baltimore Sun

Round 1 of “Dancing With the Stars” this week has the pros picking songs that reflect their stars. Round 2 has each couple re-creating a dance from a previous season of the show. These are "iconic" dances that received perfect scores in their original performance. Ugh. I don't love it when shows start to eat themselves.

Drew Scott and Emma Slater

Tango

Emma’s chosen this song to represent Drew’s Scottish roots. This explains why Emma is dressed in miles of plaid tonight. Drew comes out in a tux and I'm disappointed we're not seeing his kilt, but then he rips off the pants to reveal the kilt. Yeah! Long-legged man in a miniskirt! I very much approve. They're even brave enough to have a kickline at one point, but thankfully this is live TV in the family hour so we're spared more than a flash of pale thigh.

Len Goodman says the performance was so full-on that Drew lost his posture and technique. Len thought it was entertaining but lacked technique. Bruno Tonioli calls it a tango like no other, saying they lost some of the style of the dance with the Highland theme. Carrie Ann Inaba says it lost some of the artistry — it didn't remind her of a tango.

Up in the skybox, someone brings out a set of bagpipes for Drew to attempt. He played when he was younger, but appears to have lost his touch. As he describes it, "dying cat."

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 8

Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy

Contemporary

They revisit the spasm Victoria had during last week's dress rehearsal. She seems to be recovered now. This week, Val is telling the story of Victoria's parents and when they brought her home from the hospital because the doctors said she wasn't going to survive.

One of the troupe dancers is playing Victoria's mom and Val has the part of her dad. As soon as she finishes the dance, she goes into the audience to hug both her parents and there are tears all around.

Ok, judges. How do you judge that? Bruno calls it touching and poignant. When he compliments Val on the choreography, he shares the credit with Jenna, who helped choreograph it as well as danced in it. Len loved the little bit when she was walking through the air.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 9

Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold

Argentine tango

Tom says something about a "frightening" moment during rehearsal and since Lindsay's wearing a giant knee brace, I think I may have an idea what happens. Lindsay has picked a song to make a routine about Jordan's role as an older brother to his younger siblings. The clip package ends with the explanation that during rehearsal of the pro number, Lindsay's knee just gave out during a routine step. She's dancing tonight, though.

It's kind of weird to have an Argentine tango that isn't about power or sex or something like that. It's not necessarily the style I'd pick to represent siblings. Unless we're talking those incestuous Lannister siblings from “Game of Thrones.”

Carrie Ann says it wasn't his best performance, that there was a bit of a disconnect. Len shares my concerns, talking about how the tango is what you dance with your wife, the Argentine tango is what you dance with your mistress. Bruno disagrees with the previous judges, thinking it was Jordan's most mature dance yet.

Tom comments to Jordan and Lindsay that he hopes Erin Andrews asks about the "other" injury. Apparently during rehearsal earlier today, Lindsay's fingernail grazed Jordan's eye and scratched his cornea. Yeesh.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 10

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas

Contemporary

When Mark gets to pick a song, he picks one from the band he's in with his wife. Excuse me while I roll my eyes. The dance is all about persevering and succeeding despite people telling you you won't be successful.

Near the end of the routine, a wind machine is blowing "litter" at them. Blurgh. Glitter, not litter is how I want my ballroom.

Len thinks Lindsey is a very talented dancer, with wonderful extensions throughout. Bruno calls it dynamic, eclectic and surprising. Carrie Ann thinks Lindsey has evolved in her dancing from the beginning of the season. She says that Lindsey started out all sky and light and now she's showing an earthy side.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 9; Bruno: 10

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson

Salsa

Witney's picked a song and routine that's going to require a lot of confidence from Frankie. I like that she's daring him, basically. It's also a fun way for them to tackle the salsa, because we're never going to believe Frankie as a Latin lover.

I'm afraid, though, that Witney's decision to have a lot of male backup dancers may have worked against them, because it's easy to see when Frankie's not as good.

Bruno loved the originality and spirit but points out a missed arm pass. Witney takes the blame, saying she's the one that got tangled up. Carrie Ann says Frankie gave it his all. Her advice to him is to stay in the beat, not ahead of the beat. Len says it was too much hip-hop and not enough hip action. The audience boos, Len reacts to the audience booing him, blah blah.

Witney apparently "tore" her leg a little bit rehearsing a split but I couldn't tell she was injured at all. Dancers are tough, y'all.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 9

The pros and troupe do a big group number to promote the upcoming tour. Is Keo involved? That might get me there.

Drew Scott and Emma Slater

Jazz, originally performed by Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff

It sounds like the couples have to do the same style and use the same song, but they don't have to do the exact choreography? That's probably smart. There's a risky move Emma wants to put in with her ankles held under Drew's armpits as he swings and swirls and dips her around. I mean, he's tall and all, but her head is coming way too close to the floor for my comfort.

Drew's face just isn't in this routine — he looks either tired, confused, or concerned throughout most of it. I'm also realizing how much of this original routine relied on Corbin's tap dancing skills. They do leave in the big, dangerous move — Emma looks great, Drew looks terrified that he's going to drop her.

Tom tells Emma he's never been so nervous about a move in 25 seasons. Me either, Tom.

Len says it was fun but wants Drew to work on his finesse. Bruno says timing and sharpness aren't Drew's strengths, but it was entertaining. Carrie Ann says they went in a very different direction than Corbin, which was smart because Drew is a different dancer. She also adds that the big lift was a little sloppy and implores Emma to never do that lift again.

Erin pulls in a reference to “The Cutting Edge” with the Pamchenko twist. Thanks, Erin! I was thinking the same thing.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 8; Bruno: 8

Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy

Charleston, originally performed by Amber Riley and Derek Hough

When Victoria and Val are watching the video of the original dance, Val points out to Victoria how much of the dance is in Amber's face. Then they talk about the criticism from the judges last week about Victoria dropping her eyes too much during the dance.

It's a cute routine but is somehow lacking all the energy I want it to have.

Bruno says it's incredible how on the money Victoria's acting was tonight. He says her timing was spot-on. Carrie Ann says she forgot about Amber and Derek during the routine. Len calls it full of energy and razamatazz.

Hmm, I wonder why I was only whelmed and not overwhelmed by that performance.

Tom shares with us that during rehearsal earlier in the day, Victoria's left leg spasmed and then turned at an angle that had all of them very concerned. Eesh. Who isn't injured at this point?

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold

Jive, originally done by Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas

Watching the video, Jordan remarks how quick Paige and Mark's jive was. There's one big move called a “double cartwheel” from the original routine that Lindsay really wants to include.

Wow. Jordan is closer to dancing like a pro than Paige ever was, so this is almost like watching two pros dance together. Jordan at one point does an aerial cartwheel while holding Lindsay's hand. It's slick and looks amazing. They get the double cartwheel in at the end and it looks great, too. If this isn't a perfect jive, I don't know what is. It's a dance I want to watch again right away.

Carrie Ann is screaming because she's lost her mind. Then she stands and claps. She points out they did the double cartwheel with straight legs and calls out the aerial for praise too. I'm glad to know that was as impressive as I thought it was. Len says it's the yardstick for all future jives. Bruno pronounces it a triumph. He says the remake was better than the original. Then he tells Jordan he combined the best of both Mark Ballas and Derek Hough. See? He's as good as TWO pros.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10; Len: 10; Bruno: 10

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas

Tango, originally done by Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Something Mark points out about the Meryl/Maks partnership is how much chemistry they had, almost romantic and sexual in nature. Lindsey and Mark don't have that same kind of chemistry, but he wants them to emulate it for this number. Come to think of it, has there ever been a partner for Mark that he had that kind of chemistry with? I mean, he's gotten along really well with some of his partners, but I can't ever remember him being like that with a partner.

Len says Lindsey’s promenade was sharp and clear, but she was sometimes loose in hold. He praises it as a proper tango. Bruno liked her attention to detail. He says every change of direction was absolutely on the money. Carrie Ann says some of the turns disrupted the flow a little bit.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 10

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson

Paso Doble, originally done by Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough

Witney wants to recreate the choreography of the original. Frankie says the knee walks are really hard, especially because he tore his meniscus a month before the show started. Witney highlights an amazing split slide that Julianne did. They also are having trouble with the cape, first yanking it off and then putting it back on. Frankie laughs at himself about how much difficulty he's having just putting two bits of Velcro together.

Frankie's "tough Paso face" definitely owes something to the Joey Tribbiani "smell the fart" school of acting. He just doesn't have the same presence as Apolo did. Witney nails the split slide even though I think that's what she injured herself doing earlier in the day.

Bruno has notes for Frankie about his shoulders and chest during the paso. Carrie Ann says the big things were great but some of the things in between needed more precision. She wants him to remember to breathe during the routines, so that he can expand his movements more. Len talks about needing to get your "buttocks" tucked under during paso doble. He likes the word "buttocks" so much, he stops to note that he loves that word and says it again.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 8; Bruno: 9

Elimination

Lindsey and Mark are the first called safe. Drew and Emma are then called safe and Emma loses it, she's so deliriously happy. Jordan and Lindsay are safe. So it's down to Frankie and Witney or Victoria and Val.

Frankie and Witney get to stay and Victoria and Val are eliminated. Victoria has no game face and starts crying immediately. She walks over to Tom and then walks away to collect herself. Val grabs her and tells her how great she was and that she doesn't need to be upset.

Tom reassures her that she's been amazing and an inspiration. Then he brings her parents onto the floor to hug her. Awww. It's sad when the contestants take it this hard. Most of them are such hardened showbiz types they're disappointed but not this upset when they lose.

Scoreboard

Jordan & Lindsay: 28 + 30 = 58

Lindsey & Mark: 26 + 28 = 57

Frankie & Witney: 25 + 26 = 51

Drew & Emma: 24 + 24 = 48

Predictions

Either way, I think a woman named Linds(a/e)y is going to have her paws on a Mirrorball next week. Personally, I'm hoping it's the one dancing with Jordan because she's had such dud partners over the years and Jordan is so, so good. But he does have a whiff of "ringer" about him because of his Broadway experience, so Lindsey might get the audience vote. We'll find out next Tuesday.

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