'Dancing With the Stars' week 9 recap: A tearful goodbye just shy of the finals

Victoria Leigh Miller

Warning: This recap of Week 9 of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.

It’s one week until Dancing With the Stars crowns its 25th mirrorball champion, so that means it’s time to up the ante with an impossible task list. This week, the DWTS pro dancers personally chose a song they felt suited the personality of their celebrity partner. Easier said than done, as a few of the couples found out. And for dance No. 2, the stars went back in time to pay homage to iconic dances from past seasons, attempting to recreate previously perfect-scoring routines originally performed by DWTS A-listers like Meryl Davis and Apolo Ohno. No pressure there, right?

Semi-finals week also meant just about every couple had at least one injured party (a problem considering it was a double dance week), but nothing compared to the pain of a gut-wrenching elimination on a night that was already tough.

In a true DWTS shocker, Victoria Arlen and Val Chmerkovskiy were sent packing after performing one of the most emotional dances of the season. Val teamed up with real-life girlfriend Jenna Johnson to choreograph a beautiful waltz as a tribute to Victoria’s parents, who never gave up on their ailing daughter even when doctors did. “So touching and poignant,” Bruno Tonioli said of the routine. Carrie Ann Inaba was also in awe. “I saw your breath change,” she told Victoria. “You inspire me.”

But less than two hours later, the elimination announcement had Victoria in tears as her pro partner tried to console her. Val thanked the producers of Dancing With the Stars for trusting him with this amazing young woman who was unable to walk just 18 months ago. “The future is bright for you,” he told her. “It’s just the beginning.”

Tom Bergeron told the Paralympian she was one of the most inspiring people he’s met in 25 seasons, reminding her that her fearless appearance on the show was a victory. “More than a mirrorball, think about what you’ve given to thousands of people who might have given up hope,” he said. “That’s a greater gift than anything we could give you.”

Here’s the rundown of the four couples who made it to the Dancing With the Stars finals.

Jordan Fisher and  Lindsay Arnold: 28/30 + 30/30 = 58 total

Dancer’s Pick: “Brother” by NeedToBreathe: Lindsay Arnold wanted to pay homage to the wonderful brother Jordan Fisher has been to his younger siblings, but a couple of rehearsal mishaps (a knee injury for her and a scratched cornea for him) almost put their Argentine tango in jeopardy. They pulled through, although Carrie Ann felt there was a “disconnect” in the dance. Len Goodman dinged the couple for being too concerned with the story — “Work on the dance,” he said. But Bruno must have been watching a different dance because all he saw was perfection. “I saw your most mature performance yet,” he told the Broadway star. “Absolutely fabulous.”

Iconic Dance Remake: Jive, “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner (Season 22, Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas): The crowd went crazy for this recreation, but the judges went crazier. Jordan and Lindsay pulled off Mark Ballas and Paige VanZant’s iconic Season 22 jive, including that complicated double cartwheel. Bruno described the dance as “a triumph.” “Very rarely does a remake top an original. This one did,” he said. Len went one better: “Over the years there’ve been good jives, there’ve been great jives, and now we have Jordan’s jive.”

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas:  29/30 + 28/30 = 57 total

Dancer’s Pick: “Head High” by Alexander Jean: Mark picked one of his band’s own songs because… well, why not? Actually, it was to showcase Lindsey’s joy and “don’t care” attitude. The duo’s windblown contemporary got rave reviews from the judges and an almost perfect score. Carrie Ann noted how the violinist’s quality of movement has changed over the course of the season, saying Lindsey went from lights and pastels to “dark blood red, Earth Mama” tones. “There was so much primal, beautiful energy in that dance,” she said.

Iconic Dance Remake: Tango, “Feel So Close” by Calvin Harris (Season 18, Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy): They may not have the “sexual chemistry” that Maks and Meryl had back in Season 18, but they have the tango steps down. Len praised Lindsey and Mark’s interpretation of this memorable dance, while Bruno told Lindsey, “You raised your game tonight.” Maks made a cameo to remind everyone not to compare art to art.

Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson: 25/30 + 26/30 = 51 total

Dancer’s Pick: “Shake” by Yin Yang Twins & Pitbull: Frankie Muniz has been a bundle of nerves all season, so Witney chose a song to give him some confidence — enough confidence to take his shirt off at the end. The dance wasn’t exactly a slam dunk, although the former Malcolm in the Middle star did dunk a basketball midway through it. But Carrie Ann thought the dance didn’t match Frankie, while Len said, “It was too much hip-hop and not enough hip action.”

Iconic Dance Remake: Paso Doblé, “Carnival De Paris” by Dario G (Season 4, Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough): Frankie was full of attitude as his confidence soared for his second dance, but the judges weren’t sold on it. Bruno warned him about positioning his shoulders, and Carrie Ann told him he needs to “expand always.” Len said that while there wasn’t enough “shaping” in the dance, no one can beat Frankie’s spirit.

Drew Scott and Emma Slater:  24/30 + 24/30 = 48 total

Dancer’s Pick: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers: Emma chose the 1988 Proclaimers song as a tribute to Drew’s perseverance and Scottish roots, and the Property Brothers star definitely persevered — in a kilt! The couple’s “steppy” tango even ended with a flash to the band as the kilted male troupe members showed their stuff. (Bandleader Ray Chew had quite the view.) While Len praised Drew for being full of determination, he noted that he lost posture and technique during the dance. “You gotta work on technique!” Len told the star. Carrie Ann thought the dance lacked artistry and she thought the kilt was “a little revealing.”

Iconic Dance Remake: Jazz, “Yeah!” by Usher (Season 17, Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff): Gold lamé was everywhere in this recreation, which fell a little short of the Karina Smirnoff-Corbin Bleu original and featured a lift that had Emma’s head in jeopardy for what seemed to be an eternity of terrifying spins. “It was more croquet than Rockette,” Bruno said of the routine, while Len told Drew he needs more “finesse” in his dances.

Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC. 

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