The opening sequence featuring clips of the semifinalists is trying to be all tense and dramatic and uber-competitive. Then the show starts, and the troupe and pros are doing a goofy jive with a bowling theme. Tonal whiplash. Also, since Mark Ballas was eliminated a few weeks ago he's apparently used the time to make his hair look even more ridiculous.

Erin Andrews is wearing a prom dress last seen on an extra in Back to the Future. It's pretty but so different from sleeker dresses she's been wearing all season. Tom Bergeron tells us that at one point or another in the season each of the final four dancers has been in first place after the combined scores of the judges and the viewer votes. Whoa, y'all. That means Noah Galloway is RAKING in the votes. He's never been THAT close to the top of the leaderboard.


Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy

Viennese Waltz

Rumer was actually born in Paducah, Ky. Huh. She claims this makes her a Southerner. I might quibble with that. She talks about how much she moved around because of her parents' careers and how that makes her sisters her closest friends. She goes on to discuss the impact of her parents' much-publicized divorce and then later the ugly comments made by the press regarding her looks. Sometimes people suck. Apparently, Dancing on the Stars has done wonders for her self-esteem. Good for her. I mean that sincerely.

She and Val proceed to do a smoldering Viennese Waltz to a song from the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack. There's no such thing as the "family hour" on TV anymore, is there?

Len Goodman says it was great but lost some of the Viennese Waltz character to the dance. Bruno Tonioli never thought a Viennese Waltz could be so steamy. He calls it sensual and romantic and praises Rumer for nailing her character in the dance.

Rumer's mom Demi Moore is backstage with Erin to be interviewed with Rumer and Val after the dance. Rumer and her mom are clearly very close and it's sweet to see.

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

Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess

Viennese Waltz

Noah grew up in Midfield, Ala., just outside of Birmingham. They show Noah's prom picture and he's got some regrettable bangs. He decided to join the military, like so many men and women did, after witnessing the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The attack that took his left arm and leg occurred in 2005, and he went through several years of depression during his recovery. Later he turned his life around and became a fitness model and motivational speaker.

This is the first week I've really felt like Sharna's choreographed them a "Noah stand still while I dance around you" routine. I get that Noah can't do the bounce required of ballroom dancing, and especially not at the speed required by the Viennese waltz, but it's still disappointing. It's also awkward watching him stick out the fake leg.

Julianne Hough says there was an "ease" about the performance and praises their attention to detail and the amount of content in the routine. So clearly I don't know anything. Carrie Ann praises his expressiveness. Len calls it his best dance so far.

Erin's got Noah's girlfriend Jamie backstage, and she's gushing at Noah about how good he is on the show.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 9, Len: 9, Julianne: 9, Bruno: 9


Noah tells Jamie how amazing it was when she surprised him on Week 2 of the show. And then he drops to one knee and proposes. She says yes because she's not a monster. The ballroom erupts with whoops and applause. Even Tom is tearing up.

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker


Riker's been a ham all his life and is the oldest of five siblings. Apparently goofy hair runs in the family. A friend of mine just named his son Riker after the character on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'd love to know if that was his parents' inspiration, too. Michael Vartan pops up in an interview and is identified as a "family friend." DO WHAT? That's a random connection.

It's contemporary, so there's running and leaping and lifting, all done shoeless.

Bruno says it was right on target with a "gutsy physicality." He praises the difficulty of the routine saying it would be a challenge for a pro. Carrie Ann gets super excited and starts flailing her arms around. Len complains about her hitting him and she says she didn't. He insists she touched him twice. As soon as Len starts giving his critique, Carrie Ann pulls the classic "I'm not touching you" hand/finger move that any of us with siblings knows. It amuses me greatly.

Backstage, Erin asks for no more surprises. Well, Erin, given that you're standing with his sister, I don't think there's going to be a marriage proposal. Riker confesses that he was scared of the contemporary dance. Allison says how proud she is of him for conquering his fear.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10, Len: 10, Julianne: 10, Bruno: 10

Nastia Liukin & Sasha Ferber


Nastia was born in Moscow. And I don't mean Idaho. Her parents weren't super happy about her going into gymnastics because they, being Olympic gymnasts themselves, know how hard that path is.

They show her trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and a moment where she misses the upper bar in the uneven bars and literally falls flat on her face. She says, "I knew right in that moment my gymnastic career was over." Wow. I can't even imagine suffering that kind of moment.

Her routine starts with about a twenty second solo. It kind of bugs me that the graphic on the screen still says "Nastia & Derek" when she's dancing with Sasha. It's probably in Derek's contract or something. HOLY SMOKES. She and Sasha do a cartwheel in sync while holding hands. Unbelievable. I'm going to watch that again right now before listening to the judges. It's even more impressive on a second viewing. This may be one of my favorite quicksteps I've seen on the show.

Carrie Ann calls it a showstopper and specifically compliments the solo at the beginning. Len says the secret to the quickstep is to go quick but not hurry. Julianne praises the connection between Nastia and Sasha this week. She does have better chemistry with Sasha than Derek.

Nastia's backstage visitor(s) are her parents. Mom speaks for both of them to say how proud they are of Nastia.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10, Len: 10, Julianne: 10, Bruno: 10

Judges' Choice Round

So in this round, each judge is working with one couple. It's more than the mentoring in the past - they're getting to pick the costumes, the lighting, the concept. It sounds like they're doing everything except the actual nitty gritty of the choreography. To keep things fair, the judges won't judge the couple they worked with.

Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy



They're working with Bruno and he starts by showing up with champagne. I love Bruno. He's wanting them to do something with "Swan Lake." Bruno also says he wants to put Val in white tights and have him dance shirtless. I love Bruno even more than I did three sentences ago. He tells them, "If you don't get everybody in tears, I'm going to kill you." No pressure, then.

Val is in very tight white pants but he is, alas, wearing a shirt. I'm not sure it's exactly contemporary - it reminds me more of a professional ballroom "show dance" where they blend together several styles in one dance. It's interesting but I have no idea what to make of it.

Bruno is up in the skybox taking his bows and generally being a total goofball and ham. Len praises Bruno's concept and Val's choreography. Julianne stands up and does a cheesy and spirited Bruno impersonation. Carrie Ann calls Bruno a "mad genius." She then praises Rumer's dancing, including the crazy hard lift they did near the end. It was like the Dirty Dancing lift on steroids.

Bruno is relieved and says he can breathe now. He adds that he wanted to push Rumer & Val and especially wanted to exploit their ability to inhabit characters. Val seems quite sincere when he thanks Bruno for his involvement in the routine.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10, Len: 10; Julianne: 10

Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess

Paso Doble

Carrie Ann wants Noah to channel his inner warrior into a paso doble. Then there's lots of metaphorical mumbo jumbo about how the dance represents Noah's life and "journey."

I feel like Carrie Ann has been going to the Mark Ballas school of dance concepts. The backup dancers are wearing Maleficent horns and at the beginning of the routine are attached to giant silk streamers. I don't like it nearly as much as I do the Bruno routine.

Julianne is effusive to the point of speechlessness in her praise. Bruno is up out of his seat and loving it.

Scores: Len: 10 Julianne: 10, Bruno: 10

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker

Argentine Tango

I love this choice of dance for these two with their long, long legs. Riker suggests Julianne dance with them in the routine and she accepts.

They're dancing to some sort of techno remix of Beethoven. Hmph. There's also a lot of passing back and forth of a fedora at the beginning but they quickly toss that aside. Not long after Julianne exits the routine as well. And then it's just Riker and Alison. They don't really move across the floor much so it's all intricate footwork and sensual poses and controlled movements.

Bruno says it's no doubt that Riker is a "leading man." He calls the two girls hellcats and Riker a lion tamer. Carrie Ann says, "Not only can you handle a champion, you dance like a champion." Len says Riker is now a triple threat - he has musicality, great technique and flair.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10

Nastia Liukin & Sasha Farber

Viennese Waltz

Len says sometimes he gets the feeling "Sometime I wish I could still dance like that" and that's what this routine is - reliving his glory days. Derek talks about knowing Len since he was 12 years old and how it makes him sad that Len can't dance anymore. Aw, now I'm crying. Then Derek says that Len called and wants to dance the end of the routine with Nastia. I may not make it through that without bawling.

As far as the routine goes it looks very much like something Len would design - clean, classic, elegant. Len does come out for a couple of turns with Nastia, ending in a dip. And i'm losing it. Losing it.

Carrie Ann tells Tom she can't swallow from being so emotional. I feel you, Carrie Ann. She talks about how emotional the dance was. Julianne is on the edge of bawling, too. We're all losing it here together. Bruno says it had sublime refinement and skill and glowed with a nostalgic warmth and love. Bruno turns to the skybox to address Len and even he seems like he's going to cry. He tells Len from the bottom of his heart that he's humbled and honored to have worked with him all these years on both the US and UK versions of the show.

Erin says she feels bad for ever calling Len "grouchy."

Scores: Carrie Ann: 10, Julianne: 10, Bruno: 10

So the Judges' Round ended up not making a bit of difference. But I'm so glad they did it - it resulted in three really great dances and one of the most emotional moments I've ever seen on this show.


Riker & Allison: 40 + 30 = 70

Nastia & Sasha/Derek: 40 + 30 = 70

Rumer & Val: 38 + 30 = 68

Noah & Sharna: 36 + 30 = 66


Too close for me to call, especially with Tom's tidbit about how each of these couples has "won" at least one week this season. Personally, I want to see both Rumer and Riker make the finals and I don't care, really, if it's Noah or Nastia taking the third spot. Nastia's the best dancer, Noah's the best story, but Rumer and Riker are the best performers of the season.