As we are reminded, the finals begin next week — where, if Tammy Bruce's Operation Bristol is successful, Bristol will battle for the trophy — but this week was the semi-finals and there was still a brief, flickering glimmer of hope that the stars who deserved to be in the finals by virtue of their performances and dancing skills would make it there. But it was time to set that aside! It was time for the Staircase of Horror, which brought Kyle and his finger guns, Mark's pecs and guyliner, and Jennifer's shimmy and bounce. This week, they were asked to perform a Latin dance with a solo (not Bristol's strong suit, as the producers well knew) and a traditional ballroom dance they hadn't yet performed.

Brandy & Maks

Handed a Paso Doble and an Argentine Tango, Brandy first took a moment to tell Maks that she wants him on her side when someone else does her wrong, and Maks looked all contrite that he got up in Carrie Ann's business last week in a moment of protectiveness. Awww. Meanwhile, she was not sure she can compete with Kyle's personality, Bristol's Mama Grizzlies or the ruling that keeps Baby out of every corner.

Why the producers thought Katy Perry's "Firework" would make for a good Paso is beyond us, but there you have it. Interestingly, Maks all but choreographed their own story into the dance (very sneaky!) with him fake-berating her and making her feel vulnerable at the beginning, after which she chased him down and demanded he dance and then ended up alone and triumphant. It wasn't as aggressive as the standard Paso Doble, with both partners having their own moment of dominance, but it was fast, well-choreographed and worked really well with Brandy's lyrical arms and quick feet.

Len said she "came out 100 percent," love the aggression and attack. Bruno loved the anger and passion but noticed that she was a little unsteady and lost a bit of finesse. Carrie Ann loved how connected she was to the character, and loved how well she held her upper carriage.

Brandy dedicated their Paso to anyone who had ever been bullied. Then the judges awarded them unanimous nines, for a total of 27.

Jennifer & Derek


Jennifer was totally energized by her scores last week, as well as the fact that they would get to perform a Cha-Cha to Duffy's "Mercy," which was a song she told Derek earlier in the season she particularly liked. (We love that song, too, gotta say.)

"Mercy" was, admittedly, slower than the average Cha-Cha (were the producers helping her and her injuries out?) but the judges could hardly complain about a solo that started at the judges table, and ended with Jennifer picking Derek out of the audience. And those hips! It was a bit slower, but the band rocked the song, Jennifer & Derek rocked the hips and the whole thing looked pretty sleek (except for the feather fringe on her dress, which was, well, feather fringe).

Bruno was clearly a fan of "Mercy," too, and loved Jennifer's execution, full stop. Carrie Ann's only complaint was that Jennifer shimmied on Bruno instead of Len. Len loved the technique and the performance and the addition of fun.

The judges awarded them unanimous tens, for a total of 30.

Bristol & Mark


Bristol & Mark discussed the "rumors" that Bristol was still on the show because of her mother's popularity and a Tea Party movement, but Mark insisted he believed it was because America saw themselves in her. Bristol claimed it was because she was "relatable," and, she said, "No offense to anyone else, but I'm not fake. People do connect with me because they feel I'm real and I'm not typical Hollywood." Way to slag on Kyle, Brandy, and Jennifer, honey. Bristol, of course, had trouble with her solo, and didn't feel confident.

Then, it was time for the Paso Doble to — we were taken aback — Britney Spears' "Gimme More," which was the best Paso choice so far. Bristol's solo was pretty good (though not as technically advanced as her competitors) but, but the end of it, she had lost the rhythm. She finally kicked the habit of sticking out her tongue or counting the beats, which was great, but she basically had the same face this week as in her tango last week. There were still moments that Mark danced while she stood still, she missed a couple of small steps and despite the fact that she should have been the aggressor, Mark seemed more aggressive the entire time. Nonetheless, the lines were great, the footwork was mostly on and Kyle was backstage very, very worried.

Carrie Ann hugged her and called it a "breakthrough" and loved the beats in the dance. Len felt it was "all guns blazing tonight." And Bruno said, "The little lamb is turning into a tigress."

The judges awarded them unanimous nines, for a total of 27.

Kyle & Lacey


Kyle had to pull off both and Argentine Tango (lifts and all) and a Samba, which totally played to his strengths, though he knew it was gonna come down to him and Bristol (at least, it should).

First up: the samba, done to Tommy Sparks' "She's Got Me Dancing" and, ladies and gentleman, that was a Samba. We felt a little dirty enjoying a 19-year-old kid shimmying like that but, hey, what are you gonna do? His hands weren't too wild, the dance was a total crowd-pleaser, he's definitely got hip action Bristol hasn't yet dreamed of, and it was completely Samba-appropriate. We rewound and watched it twice just to make sure it was that fun to watch and, of course, it was. Even Jennifer's BFF Jamie Lee Curtis was loving it in the audience.

Len said "I think you have a bionic bum" and said, despite a couple of "quirky places" it was great (and he appreciated Kyle's lack of backstage drama, which we do too!). Bruno called him "a bouncing bundle of joy," and said he was "irresistible." Carrie Ann said she'd "never seen so much pelvic action," and loved his technique.

Bruno and Carrie Ann gave them 10s and Len gave them a 9 for a total of 29.

Brandy & Maks

To fill time in the semi-finals, the producers opted for the family-and-friends recollection montage, which featured Brandy's family (including bad-boy brother Ray J), Kelly Rowland, and Whitney Houston but no information you couldn't find on Wikipedia.

The dance, though, was among Brandy's best, and fit perfect with her dancing style and her chemistry with Maks. It was by far the most daring choreography of the evening (and it did reprise one of Maks' lifts from last season), but it was sharp, tight, sexy as all get out and very, very beautiful.

Len loved the lifts, the extension and the creation of atmosphere that Brandy pulled off. Bruno called it "lush, languid and voluptuous," and loved the extensions. Carrie Ann called it everything, including "ridiculous."

The judges awarded them unanimous 10s, for a total of 30. Their overall score was 57.

Jennifer & Derek

Jennifer's neck injury stemmed from a car accident in Ireland with Matthew Broderick that also resulted in fatalities just before Dirty Dancing opened, which got worse over time. She actually got the surgery for it because she couldn't do Dancing With the Stars without stabilizing it. They did not, however, mention her nose surgery. Her package featured her adorable husband Clark Gregg, the Dirty Dancing choreographer, her dad, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tracy Pollan.

Then it was time for their Waltz, to Carole King's "Way Over Yonder." What is there to say about Jennifer Grey and a waltz? It was beautiful, it was lyrical, it was emotional, it was choreographed with complex simplicity, it was near perfect. And they, and the audience, knew it: even her husband teared up in the audience.

Bruno called it "a gem of a Waltz," and called it stunning. Carrie Ann called it "one of the most beautiful things [she'd] ever seen," making Jennifer tear up. Len said, "Be still my beating heart," and called it "fabulous."

The judges awarded them unanimous 10s, for a total of 30. Their overall score was a 60.

Bristol & Mark

Bristol's package, of course, featured both her parents: Bristol said she had more-or-less perfect life until she started dating Levi (a nice thank-you for his support of her on Bill Maher's show). Sarah Palin said the "world stopped turning" when Bristol told them she was pregnant... and then she was tapped to be the Vice Presidential nominee. Bristol found it difficult to get through the national slut-shaming that came with her mother's rise to prominence (as anyone would) and said it was especially galling to be called a slut when she'd only ever slept with one person. Then it was time for Sarah Palin to repeat the line everyone's heard by now: "Doggone it, you might as well dance!" after which few of Palin's fans actually cared about the dancing.

If we hadn't heard that the music to their Waltz was from The Passion Of The Christ from Sarah Palin's tweets, we would have thought it more befitting of some goth cult film, as were their costumes. The first thing that struck us was that, unusually, Bristol's posture was way, way off. Her carriage was loose through the middle, and her facial expression fit a goth waltz but not a waltz-waltz. She missed a few steps and, coming in the wake of Jennifer's performance, it was not going to go over that well.

By their faces, she and Mark knew something went wrong. Carrie Ann said she felt like there was a little more space than she wanted between Mark and the emotions didn't register on her face. Len thought it was beautiful. Bruno like the "haunting" aspect of the performance and felt that she had "a journey."

Len and Bruno gave them 9s and Carrie Ann gave them an 8, for a total of 26. That gave them an overall score of 53.

Kyle & Lacey


Kyle originally grew up in Atlanta but, after getting some work there, his mom took a leave of absence and they went to L.A. to try their luck — where, eventually, Kyle got a job on That's So Raven. Everyone talked about his energy and charm. His package featured his mom, brother, Lou Gossett Jr and E! correspondent Kevin Frazier.

Given the Argentine Tango (and the correspondent lifts) to the Nicole Scherzinger version of "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire, we were initially skeptical. But Kyle pulled off lifts, pointed toes, emotional intensity, appropriate posture and (yes, still!) high entertainment value. Even Lacey seemed a little surprised.

Len called him "a star" and said he'd performed it amazing. Bruno called it "strong, sharp and masculine, and always a cheeky grin here and there." Carrie Ann said he reminded her of Emmett Smith, who "came out of nowhere."

Carrie Ann and Bruno gave them 10s and Len gave them a 9, for a total of 29 and an overall score of 58.