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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: A surprise as the final dancers are picked

It's the semifinals! The winner of the coveted mirror ball trophy will be declared next week. Remaining in the competition are, in descending order on the scoreboard, Bindi Irwin, Nick Carter, Carlos PenaVega, and Alek Skarlatos.

Val Chmerkovskiy is dancing alone in the opening number, and Tom Bergeron teases us about why Tamar Braxton is gone, but it's been in the news: she's withdrawn because what she thought was pneumonia was a more serious condition of blood clots in the lungs.

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Bindi is first to dance, after a bio reel of her life in the zoo. She and her brother, Robert, live in the zoo, go to school in the zoo, work in the zoo. They may actually be one of the exhibits.

Her mother says "DWTS" has turned Bindi from a caterpillar into a butterfly but does not say if the zoo has an insect house.

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Bindi and Derek Hough salsa to Sia's Latin-beaten "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," from the soundtrack of the Golden Raspberry-winning 2014 remake of "Annie." They are wearing hot pink and sparkles. It's happy. There's confetti.

Judge Julianne Hough wishes for more down and dirty, possibly forgetting that Bindi is 17, but says the number was clean and clear and fit the music. Bruno Tonoli feels like the celebration has started already but says her hips lacked salsa action. Carrie Ann Inaba says it was a great way to start the semifinals but wants to see something more edgy. Derek promises they're working on it for the samba.

Bindi's mother and Robert join them in the skybox. Erin Andrews asks Robert if he really wants to see Bindi doing more hip moves but the kid sidesteps that like he's been in front of cameras his whole life.

Scores: Carrie: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9.

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Alek joined the National Guard when he was a year out of high school. He and Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler have been best friends since grade school, brought together by the alphabetical order of their last names. There's a quick shot of Alek and Noah Galloway; Noah tells Alek that he, Noah, is the one with the better abs.

Alek and Lindsay waltz to "America the Beautiful." Like "Amazing Grace," that Carlos PenaVega danced to in an earlier episode, this seems like a song that should be kept for better things than a silly dancing show.

Tom puts thoughts and prayers with the people of Paris and Alek sends his heart to everyone in France. Bruno calls Alek a gliding eagle and praises Lindsay for polishing his footwork. Carrie Ann says Alek's at his best when he's being steadfast and noble and says this was his best performance ever. Julianne says he seemed more comfortable and was glad he had a ballroom number.

Alek's mom is in the skybox. She says she asked Alek, "Now that you can dance, what more can you do?" and Alek answered lots of things, but Alek laughs and says he didn't say that, so Alek's full skill set remains a mystery.

Scores: Carrie: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10. Alek outscores Bindi! It's a semifinals miracle.

Last week America sent home the less annoying PenaVega, so we still have Carlos in the competition. He says that now his wife, Alexa, is out of the competition he has no more reservations ... so he's been holding back this whole time? He's not that good.

Carlos and Whitney are dancing to One Direction's "Drag Me Down," which sums up how I feel about Carlos and his man bun. It's contemporary, so their feet are bare, and so is Carlos's chest, and so is Whitney, with nothing but some modesty sparkles on her bodystocking.

They dance with a rope. There's swinging.

Carrie Ann has mixed feelings and says Carlos overdanced it with his face. Julianne says when Carlos danced he danced well but thinks he and Whitney are losing their connection. Bruno says it was all straight dancing and goes on a bit about Tarzan and Cirque du Soleil.

Alexa is in the skybox. Carlos says the rope in the dance was like God to him.

Scores: Carrie: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 10, with a shout of defiance.

Nick joined the Backstreet Boys at 13. He drank and did drugs; his wake up call was the death of his sister from an overdose. He and Sharna are doing the tango to "Scars" by Alesso. There's an awkward pause in the middle where it looks like they take a second to get back on the music, but it's nice to see grownups on the dance floor.

Julianne commiserates over the footwork issues and tells him to come back strong. Bruno says the chemistry with Sharna sizzles and come back better. Carrie Ann says she's not worried about the next two dances, and that he'll come back strong.

Scores: Carrie: 8; Julianne: 8; Bruno: 8.

Jenna and Val dance us in from commercial; Tom uses it to tease the "DWTS" tour but it looks like a number Val might have choreographed for Tamar. Because of her withdrawal a dance off was added to the show, Bindi vs. Nick and Carlos vs. Alek. The winner gets three points added to their score.

Alek and Lindsay start with the cha-cha; Alek ends with a knee-slide and flash of the chest all the pretty dancing girls waxed last week. Carlos is also hoping for a bare chest score bump. Tom says no buttons are safe. Julianne says Carlos was clearly better, and Bruno calls it a chest-off and asks for more wiggly bum. Carrie Ann says Alek and Carlos were equal in skill and choosing one over the other would be a matter of taste. Carlos and Whitney get the three points.

Bindi and Derek start with the samba; Bindi may be too bubbly to be sultry. Nick is not too bubbly to be sultry. He is in fact quite sultry indeed. Bruno compliments both couples on the amount of content in the dance and gives Bindi a wow. Carrie Ann says Nick came back strong but Bindi came back with grit. Julianne compliments Bindi but says Nick brought it too. Bindi and Derek sweep the judges.

At the halfway point, Carlos and Whitney lead with 31 and Nick and Sharna are at the bottom with 24. Bindi and Derek start the trio round with Mark as their third dancer. Bindi says she has to close her eyes and hope for the best.

They're barefoot, so contemporary, and there's a metal box and a lightbulb on a rope, so clearly it must have deep meaning ... deep, deep meaning.

Julianne calls Bindi a ninja warrior princess. The slow-mo replay shows Bindi whacking herself in the face with the lightbulb on a rope. Bruno says it was a totally compelling and intriguing work of genius. Carrie Ann illustrates her feelings with howls and gestures. In the skybox, Erin says the dance makes her want to go to Restoration Hardware immediately.

Scores: Carrie: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10. Perhaps Bindi could win without her secret phonebank of voting koalas.

In the training footage, Alek says whenever Emma's within a hundred feet of him it's hard to concentrate, and she tells him he can't be wet lettuce. Their Argentine tango is heavy on footwork and shows Alek's growth as a dancer.

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Bruno says it takes three to tango and complements Lindsay and Emma on showing Alek's strength. Carrie Ann says Alek was as dynamic as the women but thinks they lost a bit of steam at the end. Julianne asks what's been happening between Alek and Emma and in the skybox Erin says they have to tell her after the show.

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Scores: Carrie: 9; Julianne: 9; Bruno: 9.

Carlos and Whitney are dancing the samba with Karina Smirnoff. None of them have done the Charleston before but Whitney says they'll watch a lot of YouTube videos. When you say Charleston you think of a dance like this, with lots of saxophone and Gene Kellyish steps. Carrie Ann says it was a lot of fun and Julianne and Bruno both say Carlos stole the show from the girls.

Scores: Carrie: 9; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10. Tom halts the cut to commercial to ask Carrie Ann about the 9. She says the trio was slightly out of sync in spots.

Peta Murgatroyd is back from an injury to dance with Nick and Sharna. Nick says "Aussie sandwich!" and Peta admits she had a poster of him on her wall. Dreams come true.

This is a manly salsa that would have made Alek or Carlos look ridiculous. Julianne says all the Nick they've seen since day one was in that dance. Bruno says everything was thrown in but it remained a salsa. Carrie Ann says he upped his game then makes strange sounds.

Scores: Carrie: 10; Julianne: 10; Bruno: 10.

It's time for the scary music and the results from last week. Alek and Lindsay are the first couple to go to the finals! Carlos and Whitney are the second couple to be dancing in the finals!

Nick and Sharna and Bindi and Derek are both in jeopardy ... seriously? ... but since Tamar had to withdraw they're both coming back for the final. So did this night mean anything at all?

Bindi and Derek and Carlos and Whitney are tied with 60 points each, and Nick and Sharna are at the bottom of the leaderboard with 54 (even though bad math is guaranteed to draw comments to these pages I won't try to guess Alek and Lindsay's score).

Your regular recapper, Amy Watts, with be back next week for the two-night finale spectacular: nothing says Thanksgiving Week like spray tans and glitter.

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