Photo Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor
"It's the semifinals, the last hurdle," declared Corbin Bleu near the start of Dancing with the Stars, Week 10. "And you don't want to trip over that last hurdle!" Sadly, poor Leah Remini proceeded to do just that, stumbling over the hem of her dress during her paso doble.
In this second-to-last week of competition, when the judges are focusing more closely on technical details like form and timing, the contestants who are trained dancers tend to surge ahead of the rest. And the two with dance backgrounds -- High School Musical's Bleu and Glee's Amber Riley -- did deliver performances at a higher level than the rest. But nothing, it seems, can dislodge the obviously worn-out Bill Engvall from this competition, regardless of skill level. By the end of the evening, Teflon Bill was still standing.
An even bigger surprise: Guess who turned out to be a softie at the judges' table? The notoriously irascible former pro dancer, Maks Chmerkovskiy, took a seat amidst the very judges he used to antagonize as a dancer. But smiling brightly above his bow tie, Maks behaved himself, even when Bruno Tonioli repeatedly invaded his personal space. His comments to the dancers were universally encouraging. "I personally don't believe in talent," he told Engvall -- a guy Bruno politely described as "obviously not Baryshnikov." "I believe in hard work. A lot of people are looking up to you for even attempting this." Who knew Maks could be so sweet?
Here are some highlights from the episode.
Best dance moment: Riley and Derek Hough pulled off a fast-paced jazz number so beautiful and intricate, it left Len Goodman practically speechless. "Do it again" was all he said. Carrie Ann Inaba declared that "if Einstein could dance, that's how he would dance." In other words, brilliantly.
Most emotional moment: After weeks without experiencing symptoms of MS, Jack Osbourne revealed in the rehearsal footage that he was dealing with the return of vision problems and pain. "I've just got to hold out for two more weeks," he told his partner, Cheryl Burke, who fought tears. Their jazz routine earned a so-so score (33 out of 40), but the sight of a sobbing Sharon Osbourne reminded viewers of her son's strength and poise. Later, he nailed the Argentine tango, scoring a 38.
Sweetest judge comment: "You have a huge advantage in this competition," Chmerkovskiy told Bleu, after his perfect-scoring rhumba. The fact that Bleu's a dancer trained by Debbie Allen is, of course, his most obvious advantage. But Maks had something else in mind: "You have what I consider to be one of the top five best female dancers of all time as your partner." Karina Smirnoff, who is Chmerkovskiy's former fiancee, was overcome by his words, and ran over to kiss her old flame.
Who went home: Remini was sent on her way, even though she wasn't at the bottom of the leader board. (Of course not, because that's Engvall's spot!) "I've been on this show for 16 seasons now, and you think it might get stale," said her partner, Tony Dovolani. "I have to tell you, I've never looked so forward to practices every single day." Of course, Remini wouldn't stand a chance against Riley or Bleu in the finals, anyway. But it was still hard to see her little girl wiping away tears for her mommy!
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.