DWTS Semi-Finals 5th Judge: Final Four Revealed After Shocking Double Elimination

The strongest semi-finals lineup in show history picks up an incredible eight perfect scores — and we can’t stop crying!

Just one week before the season finale — that went fast, didn’t it? — “Dancing with the Stars” offered up two rounds of competition before booting two stars from the competition.

But before we could cry about who was leaving the competition, these finalists had us crying all night long. We teared up during at least half of these stunning performances as the most impressive Top 6 ever on this show really delivered.

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Even Nelly, who has advanced despite consistently low scores these past two weeks, had a real turning point moment for him, growing tremendously week to week.

Kailtyn Bristowe opened up about the tragic loss of her childhood best friend when they were teenagers, dedicating her final dance of these semi-finals to her. Justina Machado danced for her partner on this journey, Sasha, while Nev Schulman connected with all of American in these trying times.

Honestly, there was so much beautiful emotional connection throughout the night, it was a combination of the stars knowing that this was a make-or-break night, but also that this experience — during such an unpredictable and strange period in our history — is coming to an end.

All of those feelings elevated the emotional connections they had with one another, themselves, the audience and these dances. This was not only the strongest episode of the season but one of the best of the show’s entire run.

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 eighteen 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, Derek Hough, and Bruno Tonioli. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

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ROUND 1: REDEMPTION

Skai Jackson & Alan Bersten

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(Cha Cha) Skai was an absolute disaster her first time out in this style, completely forgetting what she was supposed to be doing, so it’s no surprise Bruno asked them to give it another shot. He then helped Skai better understand how to use her feet to push her hips and whatever he did it helped her tremendously. She looked absolutely right moving through the steps, aside from when she led with the wrong foot early on.

After that bump, though, Skai rebounded incredibly, with wonderful leg and hip action throughout the remainder of the dance. On top of that, she was more in synch with Alan than we’ve seen almost ever, matching him step for step and showing complete confidence in their sweet partnership and herself.

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9

My Score: 9

Justina Machado & Sasha Farber

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(Tango) A little too bouncy/”hoppy” on her first time through the tango, Derek offered Justina a second shot to glide and sashay with intention across the floor. While that portion was better, she actually stalked and stomped at one point during a corner reset, stutter-stepping into position with awkwardly bent knees. It wasn’t a great look. And she seemed to lack her signature fierceness on the performance side, even as her body was moving much better. It might be the first time she looked a little unsure of herself.

Judges Scores: 9, 10, 9

My Score: 8

Johnny Weir & Britt Stewart

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(Salsa) It’s no surprise that Carrie Ann brought the salsa back for Johnny to try and prove he could be stronger and sharper, with no noodly arms. And for the most part, he was better, but still not quite there. His elbows weren’t as precisely placed, and they lacked general sharpness and intention of movement, along with the rest of his body. It wasn’t hugely off, but enough that he stood in contrast to Britt’s stronger precision and more aggressive pivots.

The lift was well executed going into it and the twisting maneuver at the end slowed down just a hair so as to not get completely tangled together, but not enough to throw them off the timing too bad. Johnny was consistent throughout and did a great job of showcasing Britt throughout the piece. Everything was where it was supposed to be, just not quite as sharp as it could have been.

Can we just say we’re still cracking up when Tyra started talking to Johnny about the advice Carrie gave him about his “chicken wing,” referring to the placement of the back shoulder muscle and, trying to crack a joke, Tyra said instead of a “chicken wing,” she had a “breast” — Uh, yeah? She figured out what she’d said immediately, but there are no backsies on live TV!

Judges Scores: 9, 9, 9

My Score: 7

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Nelly & Daniella Karagach

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(Paso Doble) Stiff and robotic their first time on this, Nelly was immediately improved just raising his arms above his head in the opening moment after some great advice from Bruno. Just that much improved the look of the piece so much, even as he still lacked some of the tension in those holds to really sell that bridled power ready to be unleashed.

His footwork was still a little stiff, and on a turn move with Daniella he actually lost balance momentarily because he was not willing to lean back into her and share balance. He’s a little too reserved and withdrawn overall, which has held him back week after week, and the final pose was another case of balance and positioning being just enough off to throw the whole thing off.

This isn’t to take away from the overall improvement, as Bruno’s guidance helped Nelly achieve what was probably his strongest performance yet on this dance floor. It’s where he should have been maybe three weeks ago, but at least he’s now making a case for still being here.

Judges Scores: 9, 8, 9

My Score: 6

Nev Schulman & Jenna Johnson

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(Foxtrot) Nev has been so strong, Derek had to reach back to Week 1 to find his weakest dance, and even then it was just an issue of posture and carriage. Both of those things were improved tremendously, but also much stronger was his overall lyricism and musicality.

There was a stunning grace in how he moved across the floor coming from proper usage of every part of his body. His wrists and hands were placed and extended so lovingly, and even that seemingly small detail adds so much to the emotion of the piece. Dance is a whole body experience, and the more of that body used properly, the more powerful it can be. This was very powerful indeed.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

Kaitlyn Bristowe & Artem Chigvintsev

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(Paso Doble) Carrie Ann was right in that Kaitlyn has a very fluid, soft and graceful style, but none of that helps on the paso. It held her back before, and while improved, it was holding her back again. Interestingly, she was much hitting much sharper in those little staccato holds before moving in the side-by-side than she was while partnering.

Part of her issue was that in moves when she lifted her arms above her head, as an example, they never stopped moving. She didn’t shoot them up, hit her mark and hold, if even for a second. Those little frozen pictures change the whole dynamic of the piece, infusing it with passion and that contained energy that defines the style. So while this marked an improvement, it was still lacking somewhat in power.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 7

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ROUND 2

Justina Machado & Sasha Farber

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(Contemporary) The beauty in how Justina moves is that every limb begins and ends its movement from her core. That grace permeates from her center and extends all the way out, and it is consistent throughout every style and has carried her this far. Her partnership with Sasha is one of trust and it’s beautiful.

This piece perfectly told that story in everything from the lifts to the tiniest moments, like when he brought back in her extended reach. He has been her rock in this competition, and through him she truly has soared and she did it again tonight. It was just beautiful.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

Skai Jackson & Alan Bersten

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(Viennese Waltz) This was the most mature Skai has ever looked as a dancer, with a perfect combination of graceful beauty and pained strength. You could feel the “Lonely” message of the dance both in their beautiful waltz passages and in those transitional moments when they just shared the stage and one another.

Beautifully choreographed to both fit the style and tell the story of the piece, Skai stepped up in every way she needed to from the technicality and intention of her movements to the emotional resonance of her performance throughout. This was a breakthrough moment for her.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

Johnny Weir & Britt Stewart

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(Jazz) Another powerful piece about Johnny’s journey to this point and the drive the show has reinvigorated in him. You could see that passion and intention through every movement. There were a few moments where he and Britt were ever so slightly off from one another, but more often than that they danced as one.

It was a strong and beautifully choreographed piece with some beautiful pictures painted throughout. Johnny has transitioned beautifully from skating to dancing, and in some ways never looked more powerful this season as a partner than he did in this dance.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 9

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Nev Schulman & Jenna Johnson

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(Contemporary) Another tearjerker, this was a stunningly beautiful piece that speaks directly to the 2020 experience. Jenna absolutely knocked it out of the park with the choreography and — no knock to Nev — it was hard to tear your eyes away from her in this dance. She expressed everything so gorgeously.

The lifts were creative and flawless and everything had a beauty and grace to it that made it absolutely mesmerizing. We’re honestly not sure if we breathed at all through that; it deserved that much of our respect. We’re typing this while standing because that was ovation-worthy! Nev has been the front-runner since Week 1 and he continues to cement that standing..

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

Nelly & Daniella Karagach

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(Jive) The show went with an interesting pre-dance package, showcasing Nelly’s frustration and snapping at Daniella, who stays calm and collected with him. To be real, it’s a moment that happens in almost every partnership at one time or another (or more), it was just unexpected to spotlight his frustrations and lack of faith in himself for the last package of his semi-finals journey.

He definitely came out stronger than expected, with some great bounce and pep in his step. HIs footwork was a bit timid, lacking complete lift, and it seemed like his energy started to fade as the dance progressed, but Nelly really looked comfortable in this style in a way we’ve rarely seen from him this season. It’s still not up to the caliber of his competition, but he continues to improve and had his best dance yet..

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 7

Kaitlyn Bristowe & Artem Chigvintsev

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(Contemporary) This piece was in honor of Kaitlyn’s childhood best friend who passed away in a car accident when Kaitlyn was only 18 years old. This song was played by her friend’s request at her funeral, adding another layer of emotion to the piece for Kaitlyn. Adding to the challenge, she’s avoided the song because of the connection.

The power of that emotion could either break her or channel into something truly special in the performance. While she did great in the piece, we found ourselves a little disconnected from the intended emotion of it, which we have to chalk up to the choreography. It felt more like a lyrical freestyle than true contemporary, and seemed to have an emotional disconnect even between Kaitlyn and Artem.

We’re not going to knock Kaitlyn at all, though, as she danced everything she was given beautifully. But dance can tell a story, and Artem didn’t really do that here. He just showcased strong movements that lacked emotional resonance. It was an odd viewing experience.

Judges Scores: 10, 10, 10

My Score: 10

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RESULTS & PREDICTIONS

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The judges have been getting it pretty spot-on all season long with their scores, though they were a little more generous with some of the scores tonight — Nelly did not earn a perfect score with that jive!

Thus, we’re pretty much aligned with them and the leaderboard this week. Nev and Kaitlyn have emerged as the strongest dancers in this competition and should absolutely finish in the top two spots on the whole season (we’d give it to Nev).

Justina has been a consistent revelation and a light on the dance floor. She’s largely flown just under the leaders, so she’d have to step it up to try and take this whole thing. But she’s one of those silent missiles who could strike at any time.

At the bottom, we’re still ready for Nelly to go, but with scores as tight as they were tonight, we weren’t super confident that would happen. Right above him, Skai and Johnny haven’t been as consistent this season.

We’d give the edge to Skai to stick around because her growth has been so inspiring to watch these past couple of weeks. But there was every chance Nelly’s fanbase could knock both Skai and Johnny out. They’d saved him the past two weeks.

Last week, Johnny dropped into the Bottom 2 after that perfect score and tonight, two stars would be eliminated after getting perfect scores — because everyone got a perfect score in the second round.

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Because there are two eliminations, we were targeting a Bottom 3. It should have been Skai, Johnny and Nelly. But even Tyra was surprised when Nelly was the first marked safe, proving his fan support is just huge on this show.

Appropriately, Kaitlyn and Nev rounded out the safe half on the night, leaving Justina to spar against Skai and Johnny in the Bottom 2. Honestly, all three were solid, but only one could continue. And we kind of had a feeling Justina’s under-the-radar excellence could hurt her here.

That’s because America eliminated the first couple, leaving the other two to face the judges. And America declared they’d had enough of Johnny Weir & Britt Robertson. After his Bottom 2 placement last week, it’s not a huge surprise.

Down to Skai and Justina, we were starting to sweat bullets for Skai, as the judges have really connected with her story and journey this season. In the end, though, they rewarded Justina’s consistency, sending Skai Jackson & Alan Bersten home.

Now, it’s down to the Final 4. Can Nelly pull a Bobby Bones and win based on star power alone, or will Nev emerge triumphant, as he deserves? We’ll all find out next week.

“Dancing With the Stars” is almost over, wrapping up next Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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