Guess who had a front row seat at "the most closely matched semifinals" ever? Okay, fine, it was Elisabeth Shue, but I, your loyal EW.com fringe fairy, was hovering two rows above her -- between the judges' table and the technicolor staircase -- in the liiiiiiiiiiiiiive audience for Monday's 90-minute showdown.
My perspective always changes when I'm in the ballroom -- instead of a TV show that happens to be live, Dancing With the Stars is this wonderfully messy live event that somehow, miraculously, becomes a TV show. There are so many things you miss in the audience in favor of zoning out and watching the dancers prepare for their routines or gem-hunting for celebs (like Donald Driver's son) in the front row.
You also don't hear a lot of the details that make the TV show so charming -- like when Tom said "Bruno's always happier for himself than the star he gave the 10 to" after William and Cheryl's tango. But you do get to marvel at what a well-oiled, rhinestone-encrusted machine this show is, production-wise. I couldn't wait to get home and compare my live impressions to the telecast. Nerd alert: I couldn't wait to do my job.
Another live show element I always forget: We never see Brooke! She waddled down at the end of the show in her incredible skintight metallic dress (that I believe was fashioned out of the wrappers from every flavor of Hershey's Kiss) and I had to do a double-take to remind myself that this luscious drop of chocolate was the show's co-host. We could sort of hear her interviews, but I missed staring at her. On the other hand, I had an excellent view of Bruno's gyrating ass. I guess it's a tradeoff.
We're down to the final four -- William Levy, Katherine Jenkins, Donald Driver, and Maria Menounos. Who's it gonna be? We have William Levy picturing himself "winning this trophy ball" and Donald Driver's mother claiming "Donald wants to get that miracle ball to come home with." I don't know what either of those comments has to do with THE COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY, but I am loving the verbal variation on the ultimate DWTS prize.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhhh-ber!
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 30 Argentine tango + 29 jive = 59 out of possible 60 I liked their first-round tango better in person than on TV, and I think it had everything to do with vibe -- the red velvet curtain provided instant intrigue, the instrumental music was powerful and different from what we'd heard, and the Argentine tango has this very compelling feeling of constant controlled momentum. I love it. The floating, leg-twisty lifts were what made Maria and Derek's routine so impressive to watch first-hand, and once I watched it back on TV I found myself wishing the whole dance had been a lift. Any time Maria's legs had to account for themselves without Derek's help, they lost some of the dance's magic. How did she get three 10s with bent knees where there were supposed to be straight lines?
The couple, who had "three doctors on set today" due to Derek's thrown-out back and Maria's 30 broken bones and sprained fingernail, suffered a rough week of training. At one point Derek got so stressed out that he started hurling water bottles at the floor and had to escape into an alternate dimension via a secret exit in the rehearsal studio's wall of mirrors. I like to think he entered the video for A-ha's "Take on Me." Do you think his budding facial hair would have any chance of showing up in a pencil drawing?
NEXT: 'I swear you are a winner tonight.'