We catch up with Phillip, Hollie, Joshua and Jessica between rehearsals
By Minh Nguyen
Special to MSN TV
MSN TV had the chance to speak to the final four "American Idol" contestants during rehearsals earlier this week. While we wish no one had to go home, we know that someone will be heading home on Thursday as we near the finale.
This week's theme is around songs from California singers and bands and songs the contestants wished they'd written.
MSN TV: How does the song selection process work?
Hollie Cavanaugh: If it's a category, we get a list and we pick off that list. If it's a song that we think about that we like that's not on the list, we can ask to get it cleared. If we go in the mentor sessions and they give us a song that we don't know, we have to learn it there and then. You can pick whatever song you want at the end but we usually go with what the mentors advise.
Joshua Ledet: We normally pick our songs before the show ends out this week for next week. Wednesday, I would have my songs. They give us a short amount of time, and we have to be on our "A" game, be up to par and studying a lot of songs to know what you want to do.
Phillip Phillips: I go through a bunch of songs. Sometimes I get my brother-in law to help me out. I'll say, "Can you send me some songs to make me sound good?" while I'm searching for songs, too. It's a long process, and I have to keep on narrowing them down. It's pretty tough.
What's your favorite song you've performed?
Hollie: I really loved last week when I did "River Deep, Mountain High." It was a calm song. Also "Rolling in the Deep" and "Son of a Preacher Man." I loved "Bleeding Love." That wasn't my favorite song, but it's becoming one of my favorites
Joshua: Mariah Carey's "Without You."
Phillip: Probably "Superstition" or "Movin' Out." "The Letter" was really fun.
Jessica Sanchez: "Stuttering" by Jazmine Sullivan was my all-time favorite song. I feel like that was my stand-out performance even though, that week, I was about to go home. That song I poured out my gut. I have a story behind it, too. I am a girl, and I do have crushes. I really related to it. I am so happy people know the song and the artist now.
Who would you root for if you were eliminated?
Hollie: If it was Phillip, I'd love to have Phillip win. If it was Jessica, I'd love to see Jessica win. If it was Josh, I'd love to see Josh win. Everyone deserves it at this point.
Joshua: I don't think I would root for a particular person. Everybody's like family here. They're all so amazing so it'd have to be everyone here.
Phillip: I would root for myself or Jennifer Lopez. Probably Steven, he's done all he can. He's already awesome.
Jessica: I love everybody here but Joshua doesn't get enough credits from the fans. He's been in the bottom already, and that should never have happened. He's so crazy good, humble and sweet.
Who would you have saved if you could?
Hollie: I wish I could have saved all of top 10 or all of top 24. It was crazy because, when the saved did get used, there's nothing to save anyone so you have to bring it all week.
Joshua: If not Jessica, I would save Erica Van Pelt or Deandre Brackensickbecause they were amazing. I didn't think they deserved to go home. I don't think anyone deserved to go home. The save with Jessica they did the right thing because she did not deserve to go home.
Phillip: I honestly think Jessica deserved the save. She's an amazing singer. She's sweet, one of the best singers in my opinion to come through in a long time.
Jessica: I definitely felt guilty after taking the save. When Colton got eliminated, I felt tragic because I don't feel like he should have gone home, especially after me. He is an amazing artist, and I felt he knows what to do for his career. I feel like he should be in this competition.
What do you like to do during time off?
Hollie: At this point, most of us like to sleep, as soon as we get home. We almost never see Phillip because he's in his room sleeping but then he has been feeling under the weather. All of us don't have that excuse but we just fall asleep.
Joshua: I like to eat, Twitter and Facebook -- a lot of things -- have a normal life, go shopping and hang out.
Phillip: I like to rest, eat and sleep. There's a good place called Tart that has good southern cooking. I miss Southern cooking so much, but that's the closest I've come to it.
Jessica: I love to shop.
Are you able to go to the Grove or a mall and not be recognized?
Joshua: No. Sometimes I walk around with my head down so no one knows it's me but if I look up the Paparazzi come and it's tough.
Jessica: In certain places, it does get crazy. People do come up to you and ask for pictures. I don't mind it at all. It's so different than when I was back at home. I'd be comfortable singing softly inside a store. Nobody would care.
Who do you think is your biggest competition?
Hollie: To me, your biggest competition is yourself. I can't worry what the others are doing and (need to) stay focused on me.
Phillip: They're all my biggest competition at this point. They're a lot better singer than I am. I just have to bring what I can to the table.
Jessica: Phillip has this laid back, raspy kind of genre. Hollie is a big belter. Josh is just an alien. All of them are my competition. It's hard to compete with each other because we're all different genres. We all have to sing for our lives.
Any bits of advice along your "Idol" journey that stuck out?
Hollie: The best advice would be when people tell me not to worry about what people are thinking. Just get onstage and perform as if nobody's watching because if you think there are 23 million people watching it'll just mess with your head.
Joshua: They told me to stay true to myself from the beginning and I've stuck to that.
Phillip Phillips: Randy Johnson told me off camera, "Man, I like what you're doing. Don't try to feel like you've got to fit into something. Keep doing what you do 'cause it's working and I respect you. It's awesome 'cause a lot of people aren't like that." I really take that to heart.
Jessica Sanchez: "Don't ever expect the applause" is what Jimmy Iovine said one time.
Josh, how does it feel to be praised non-stop by the judges?
Joshua: I don't think I can describe how I feel about that besides the standing ovation they give me is amazing. It's the best ever.
Jessica, we haven't spoken to you since your surprise elimination. What did you learn from that day to take into your future performances?
Jessica: From that day a lot went through my mind. I felt I needed to push harder and I needed to get my heart out there. I felt that helped me but also hurt me a little bit because I was focusing more but trying too hard. This week I'm trying to take myself out of the competition mode and think this doesn't matter. I should just sing for America and my fans. I did my best.
Jessica, how are you handling schoolwork and "Idol"?
Jessica: My teacher is cool. We talk in there and she gives me advice. We're friends. I love being in there even though I have to do my homework. It keeps me grounded.
"American Idol" airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.
Could Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet be headed for a finale showdown?
By Carla Patton
I'm still upset about Skylar Laine. My colleague, John Kubicek, covered "American Idol" last week so that I could cry privately and curl up next to a bottle of wine after the results show. Eventually the wine and tears tasted the same. This is my shocking result/devastation for the season. I understand that only one can win, but I thought it would be more of an interesting race to the finish. Phillip Phillips is practically lapping three equally deserving contestants in the votes now, and these last three weeks are just a courtesy. I guess I'm rooting for the Joshua upset now? Or have I just been brainwashed by the standing ovations? Skylaaaaaarrrrrr.
"Who do you love?" Ryan Seacrest asks the audience. They scream uncontrollably, creating sounds that pervade this life and channel the dead. California songs are up first! Let's learn more about the top 4's journeys.
Phillip Phillips is but a lowly pawn shop worker! Apparently, his brother told him that "Time of the Season" was "pretty rough." I'm glad someone is being real with him. And gosh darn it, it makes me really like Phillip Phillips the person again. He's singing "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, sans guitar, plus Saxophone Lady. He seems more relaxed, less constipated/sickly/out of breath this week. And hey, there's the melody! It's sort of the same old thing from Phillip -- not particularly thrilling. But he's just such a dude hanging out. Too much gravelly sliding for my taste, but not for America's!
The crowd goes absolutely ape. Jennifer Lopez cut Steven off at the pass and said he added a nice, new "Joe Cocker" quality to the song. Randy said Phillip's smile made the song work. The coveted "YO" pin is back, affixed to the lapel of Randy's red plaid jacket.
Hollie's in the dreaded second spot, which has sent its contestant home three weeks in a row now. Her journey to this almost forced elimination has been a rocky one. She made it much farther this time than last year. And look where she is now! She chose "Faithfully" by Journey, which was a great choice, I think. It starts out rocky, maybe a little low for her. A little pitchy, dawg! But they gave her the benefit of the wind machine, and she pulled it together with her signature clarity for the big moment at the end. I don't know, though. Not my favorite performance from Hollie. It seemed kind of crusty.
Randy takes this as yet another opportunity to mention that he worked with Journey. Hollie is "peaking at just the right time," in Randy's estimation. Jennifer called it "all of it." And Steven is wearing his hair back but still letting the layers fall forward for facial framing. Hollie confessed to Ryan that she didn't really know what the song meant. Just listen to the words next time!
Oh, Jason Derulo and his bejeweled neck brace! I cannot take him seriously. I seriously hope that 75% or more of the submitted lyrics for this bogus song are about being "undefeated" by a neck brace.
Joshua Ledet sings next, and he's taking on Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." Big song! Joshua also came back after rejection last season. He didn't even make it past the audition. I like Joshua -- as a singer and a person. This song works for him because it is already very churchy. It will surely raise the judges up for his 16th standing ovation. It started out well, and it ended spectacularly. I mean: Joshua, a churchy song, the choir -- it's a recipe for success! The judges loved it, of course. They love everyone and everything. Randy thought it was a surprising combination, but that is silly.
As a side note, to those of you who complain about Joshua Ledet sounding too similar every week, I think we would have the same complaint about any successful popular artist today if we had to listen to them for 12 weeks in a row. I mean, can you imagine having to hear Katy Perry sing someone else's music every week for eight to 10 consecutive weeks? So yeah, I like Joshua, and I'd love to see him win for the sake of something different.
Jessica Sanchez is singing an Etta James song. I mean, what is that about? We cannot reconcile her voice with her age, and the wardrobe department is struggling to bridge the gap for us -- struggling and failing. Instead of dressing a performing artist or a 16-year-old, they are dressing an alien from space, who went to Space Kohl's with 100 U.S. dollars in hand/flipper.
The song is short, torchy, jazzy and really just OK. I think this California theme was sort of a throwaway, with the real competition coming at us from "Songs You Wish You'd Written." That being said, Jessica is amazing and could absolutely perform at Divas Live! The judges loved it, and Randy loves the mashup of a 16-year-old girl singing this song about heartache and pain and all sorts of incomprehensible pains for a 16-year-old. Haha, it's funny!
Oh, gosh, no. Another Phillip and Joshua duet! Last week's was so awkward. They're taking on a dueling-piano bar version of Maroon 5's "This Love." May I just say, in the words of Kevin regarding Buzz's girlfriend, "Woof." Ever since Elise left, there hasn't been an appropriate vocal pairing for Phillip Phillips. As expected, Joshua was comfortable slaying the song to bits, and Phillip sounded out of breath and just under each note. Was it worse than last week's comedic rendition of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"? Survey says, "Yes." Oh, but the judges just loved it. You know what I don't understand? The pairing of a man's cowl-neck shirt with a jacket. It's all kinds of Space Kohl's.
Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh sing "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles next. They're in strange rope/silk swings that must be difficult to sing in, let alone to synchronize. They didn't seem like they cared about it very much, just sort of swinging then sauntering around with the microphones wherever they felt like holding them. The harmony worked most of the time. So, good for them. I hope this duet doesn't make a comeback for finale night. Hilariously, Joshua and Phillip steal the show by swinging on the swings behind Hollie and Jessica during the crit -- right when Randy was saying he didn't like it and thought it was weird! This competition is about a whole lot more than singing, and Phillip Phillips is nailing the personality angle.
Thank God Adam Shankman stopped by to promote "Rock of Ages"! It was so important that it couldn't even wait for the results show. Julianne Hough has kind of a plastic-surgery face on this night, no? Or is that just the face that all those older women ask for when they go in? Adam Shankman made Phillip kiss a framed poster of Jennifer Lopez, then showed them a preview of "Rock of Ages." Lucky them. I'm not sure why Adam Shankman keeps putting Phillip in all of these uncomfortable situations, pimping him out to female celebrities. Then, cruelly, Ryan Seacrest pretended to propose to Julianne (she wasn't buying it) and ended with a lame joke. Hilarious, Ryan. Women love that! What is going on in this episode?
In this "Rock of Ages" promotional medley from the top 4, which also should have been reserved for results night, one thing is clear: The ladies love Phillip Phillips. They just scream their lungs inside out whenever he sings a note. It's just as well: It will cover up how he can't hit the same notes as his competitors. I'm only being mean to him on this night because I know he will win, and I don't want it to be so easy.
It's finally time for "songs whey wish they'd written." But first, how is Phillip Phillips feeling? We will never actually know. But thankfully, Jimmy Iovine is back in play for these clip packages. Phillip is singing "Volcano" by Damien Rice. Mmm, nice. Good artist choice for him. Jimmy says we'll finally hear the real Phillip on this night. Oh, yes, and it is working. The audience just exploded with female desire, I'm sure, because this song is all kinds of sexy. I really liked it, even right after I had resolved to be harder on Phillip. This musical performance is his best so far, and I say that without wanting to kiss him on the mouth. The staging really helped it, too -- not a lot of extras, just ambience and a sexy co-star. Great job, very sincere. The judges loved it, naturally, and in a very cool way.
Hollie Cavanagh chose "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. Really? Is this one you like but don't actually relate to, too? Maybe it's how she feels about the voters, though. Jimmy tells her not to give into temptation to oversing it. She's still the dark horse, though! She pronounced "patronize" differently than Bonnie Raitt does in the song, which bothered me for some reason. I also think she oversang it a bit, despite Jimmy's warning. It seemed like she was acting the emotion of the song but not really feeling it, because she was leading up to the build they'd added into the song for her. This song, like her last one, seemed a bit too low for her. The judges agreed that the song didn't really fit her and that it was too heavy and emotional. I don't like Jennifer's hair on this night. Randy said there were no moments in it. I think she's dead in the water now.
I kind of like that Joshua Ledet still seems nervous, after all this, just waving at the camera before a commercial break. It's endearing how shy he is. He's playing a different personality game than Phillip, a more nuanced one. I really hate Jennifer Lopez's hair on this night. Anyway, Joshua Ledet is going to slay "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" by James Brown, and it will be absolutely spectacular. We all know that. Jimmy Iovine told Joshua to give him a call, and Joshua laughed and said, "I ain't got your phone number!" Oh, my goodness. It was so cute.
Oh my goodness. It is so perfect. It gave me goose bumps. You can tell he is really feeling the song to the core and thinking about what it means to sing everything. I love that about him. He is so nuanced. He had just the right amount of manic depression in him to make this song work to its fullest. This is the closest I have ever come to buying an "American Idol" contestant recording. But the performance was such a huge part of what made it great. Standing ovation from the judges, of course. But well deserved this time. Joshua is so full of passion and musical artistry, and he's so unassuming!
I just don't know how Jessica Sanchez can top that, even with "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from "Dreamgirls." She's singing it about the Save, but at least she's singing it about something. Jimmy said he has seen a lot of great things in his life but he will remember this moment (the rehearsal). Jessica isn't winning the personality contest, but Jimmy doesn't give two whits about that. This dress, really quickly, isn't helping. It looks like a crazy mish-mash of fabrics and like the wardrobe department just threw their hands up and said, "Well, if we can't please anyone, we might as well just make her look clinically insane." The billowy-ness of those sleeves! But on to the performance.
It's good. It's freaky good. This song is so delightful, so powerful, and Jessica is really feeling it and letting her emotion give her power. She would not make a very good Effie. Not at all. But that does not matter. It was amazing and kind of satisfyingly angry. She really got it. So yeah, she smashed it, and the judges rose to their feet. But I feel like this song is an easy win for a great vocalist like Jessica. And lots of children sing it. I like that she didn't move all over during the performance. The judges were rendered nearly speechless. Randy dropped his jaw in addition to a few names.
That California theme was just stupid, wasn't it? I always feel like they're holding out on us until we get to the second set of solos. Who won the night? Who is going home? Does personality play a bigger part than vocal ability at this point?
What do you think of Wednesday night's performances? Who's in trouble?
"American Idol" airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.
Report: Mario Lopez could lead pack of returning runners-up
Lopez appeared to spill the beans while co-hosting "Live! With Kelly" in April.
"You know what, Kelly? They're doing 'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars' next season," he said. "They called me to do it."
Neither Lopez, nor ABC, is saying anything further.
All the names mentioned are runners-up, which the TV Guide report notes is intentional.
"It's better if the winners don't come back," an unnamed insider told the magazine, "because then, we have a cast of people who have another shot at the title."
New York's Jermaine Paul takes the Season 2 crown
It began with Jermaine assembling the motley crew of James Massone, Pip, and Jamar Rogers for the Jackson 5 hit "I Want You Back." It was fun and all, and certainly trumped what followed -- the FloRida/Juliet Simms duet and the downright horrible "Chris Mann Trio" (Lindsay Pavao and Katrina Parker in tow) -- but that ain't sayin' much.
After what some producer decided was a blooper reel but really wasn't aired I began watching the clock.
9:43 p.m.: Was that Hall & Oates doing "Rich Girl" with Jermaine, Chris Mann, and Tony Lucca handling background vocals? Why on earth?
9:51 p.m.: Four female cast-offs butcher Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," which has been happening on "Idol" for years.
9:59 p.m.: An admittedly funny but oddly out of place "Parks & Recreation" sketch, features Amy Poehler. Couldn't they have just announced the winner at the outset of this week's episode of that underrated NBC comedy?
10:01 p.m.: Juliet, RaeLynn (yay!), Jamar, and Erin Willett plod through "With a Little Help From My Friends." I begin to worry about Juliet.
10:04 p.m.: Balloons descend from the rafters, a faux finale!
10:09 p.m.: A tribute to Purrfect, Cee Lo's cat. Not kidding. Though I wish I were.
10:21 p.m.: Tony Lucca brings Jordis Unga back and they roar through Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." I ponder if Lucca pulled this whole thing off after all.
10:30 p.m.: Lethargic "SNL" sketch about Cee Lo. Then Carson plugs this week's "SNL," with Will Ferrell as host. He'd be a sight for sore eyes right about now.
Then there was Justin Bieber, and his performance of new song "Boyfriend" was a nice injection of energy and slickly produced/choreographed. He's merged Usher and Justin Timberlake nicely, and built a sweet bridge with this tune from 8th graders to ... well ... high schoolers.
Off to the Sprint lounge where the pleasant Christina Milian (who'd be a nice replacement for Aguilera, BTW) has gathered the "final four." The tension and anticipation is palpable.
Carson announces 4th place, Chris Mann, and I was actually surprised it wasn't Jermaine, thinking Mann would be 3rd. But, wait, Tony Lucca is ... Stunned! Still, I think, it's obviously Juliet Simms. But, no, Jermaine Paul took the title.
Unexpected. Unbelievable. Hey, America made the calls ... I bet they won't buy his CD, though.
What did you think of the results? Tell us on Facebook
Melissa Gilbert and Roshon Fegan are both sent packing
As promised, we said goodbye to two stars this week. Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower were the first couple eliminated – it was tough to watch, since they finished near the top of the leaderboard in this round. Never forget that life is a popularity contest, kids. Roshon said he was happy to be able to add ballroom dancing to his skill set, and Chelsie praised Roshon's upbeat attitude throughout the competition.
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were the second couple to head home – and it was poor Melissa's birthday. She called Maks "an incredible teacher and an incredible friend." Maks said he was proud of Melissa, and referred to her as "the comeback kid."
As tough as it was to say goodbye to two worthy contenders, the show must go on. Here's a quick look at how the semifinalists did in the last round:
Donald had his best week ever! His large-and-in-charge tango was a hit with the crowd and his "trio" jive was the judges' pick for the encore dance. I can't wait to see what Donald does in the semifinals next week.
William's foxtrot had a perfect balance of sexiness and dueling tension and earned him his first perfect 30 of the season. Bruno called him a heartbreaker and praised him as a debonair, suave dancer. The paso doble William danced with Cheryl and Tony was flawless, aside from some timing errors. After two great performances he finished the week at the top of the judges' leaderboard.
Maria's Viennese waltz was simply gorgeous. Bruno praised her seamless transitions and emotional involvement and Carrie Ann commented on the (always on!) connection between Maria and Derek. Maria's eye-popping harem-themed samba with Derek and Henry Byalikov from the "DWTS" troupe split the judges' votes. Len gave the routine a 7 due to lack of samba content and Maria's score took a nosedive. Good thing her fans voted her through to the semifinals!
Katherine's lyrical Viennese waltz never let up on thrilling choreography – lots of spins, including one that almost left her on the floor. Bruno called Katherine's technique superb but wanted to see more focus in this particular routine. Katherine's Victor/Victoria cha-cha showed us her fun side. The routine was classy and comical – like when she got her discarded slacks stuck to her stiletto pump and just kept dancing. Katherine is a beautiful dancer, but so are her competitors. This is anyone's game.
Who won the week: William
Who needs to step it up: Maria
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
The show's most successful team ever on how they won the prize, even with all the fighting
Special to MSN TV
Rachel and Dave Brown, a combat pilot and Army wife, destroyed the competition on this season's "Amazing Race, " ultimately winning a record-setting eight legs as well as a million-dollar prize. They were, in fact, so dominant that not even skipping a task -- and having to backtrack to finish it in an "Amazing Race" finale first -- kept them from the prize.
We spoke to them about bickering their way through the race (they say it just motivates them to be better), Rachel's domination on the sled challenge, and picking up clues just like Katniss.
When did you first realize that something was wrong when you hit the mat the first time last night?
Rachel: We had no clue [something was wrong] until Phil said, "However … "
Dave: The other racers were just as astonished as we were. But then there was the "However," and Phil's eyebrow raised.
What went through your mind when you heard that?
Rachel: My first thought was, "He's just kidding."
Dave: I was absolutely baffled. I had no idea what had happened. Phil alluded to the fact that Roadblock had not been completed, so we left the mat and just thought about it briefly. Strangely enough, we're on the main thoroughfare and there's a woman having a cigarette, and we asked her if she recognized [the place in the clue] and she said, "Yeah, it's about a quarter mile down the road." We ran the whole way, and then saw a mud road with a small "Amazing Race" banner. Then we followed it and I spotted fresh footprints.
That was kind of an amazing moment when you knew you were on the right path because of the print. It was like something out of "The Hunger Games."
Dave: We just knew there had been teams running around with their crews.
When you got to the sled challenge, what place did you think you were in?
Rachel: We thought [Rachel and Brendon] were definitely ahead of us. They had been right behind us at ice shaving.
Dave: I was talking to J.J., and he mentioned that Big Brother hadn't arrived yet, and that's when I realized we were contending for first place again. When we left, though, I noticed that there were ATV tracks, and I thought maybe J.J. threw us off. Your mind is just completely racing at this point. That's why, when we were crossing the pond again, I was, like, "I'm proud of you either way" because we really didn't know.
Every team comes off the "Race" saying that communication is the most important element. But it seemed like you guys actually didn't communicate very well. What were you doing right that we couldn't see from at home?
Rachel: We can have little spats, but we let them go. It's not something that holds us back.
Dave: Believe me, they incorporated every argument Rachel and I had. We are both very competitive people and very controlling. Rachel pushes my buttons, and that motivates me. And I push her buttons, and that motivates her. I think what most people would perceive as bickering or arguing, we used it to motivate each other. But ultimately, above and beyond [what we did right was] our attention to detail, and our detailed analysis of the Detours and Roadblocks. We really took time to assess which would be better for us.
Rachel: I think it's something you saw in the last episode, with the sumo wrestlers or the sushi. We said, sushi sounds like it's something out of our control, and we don't want things to be left to chance. We'd rather be able to drive our own success.
Dave, what do you think was Rachel's best moment on the race?
Dave: The sled. Art and J.J. are both very competitive, and they were attempting it like 50 times. She was actually able to complete it within two attempts.
How'd you do it, Rachel?
Rachel: It was a complete balance thing. I just squeezed my core and tried to stay on for my life. The first time I went down, it felt like I had rug burn all over my body. The second time, I was just not going to have to do it again.
What will you guys use the money for?
Dave: Rachel and I are both very sensible, frugal people, and we're going to use this money to pay off our mortgage and provide financial stability, and we'll invest quite a bit of it.
Rachel: And I think I'm just going to really splurge and buy something [small] in one of those Skymall magazines we saw all the time.
Trio round leaves William Levy and Roshon Fegan ahead of the pack
One round to go until the semifinals, and that means our stars are now dancing two full routines. This week saw the debut of the Trio Round, where they were paired with an additional professional dancer for the Latin dances. This was ... about as weird as Classical Week for me, but it produced some pretty amazing dances as well as a leaderboard upset.
Maria, Derek and Henry Byalikov from the "DWTS" troupe really got creative and it cost them big time when the scores came out. Roshon, on the other hand, absolutely nailed the Trio Round and is second on the leaderboard just a week after he was almost sent home. Oh, how the new rules have messed with the scoring this season. There will be two eliminations this week, so it's really anyone's guess to whom we'll be saying goodbye.
Here's a quick look at how the stars did this week:
Donald's aggressive tango was a hit with the crowd – the whole audience seemed to be clapping along to the music. He and Peta moved beautifully together both in and out of hold, and Donald really had fun with the dance. Len called the routine a "knockout" and Carrie Ann praised his focus and dynamic shapes, though wished Donald would bring more drama along with his intensity.
Donald's jive with Peta and Karina was a lot of fun, but there was a definite creep factor in seeing a dude flanked by two ladies in short skirts. Donald quickly evened the score by ripping off his jacket to reveal his arms? The lighthearted, fast-moving dance highlighted his perfect timing, and a literal leap over the ladies at the end was nothing short of amazing. Len called it "fun, fun, fun," and Bruno praised him for keeping up with his partners.
Maria's Viennese waltz was simply gorgeous. She and Derek had amazing body contact in hold – that sounds so dirty, but this was a chaste waltz, believe me – and Maria pulled off some breathtaking turns and spins. Bruno praised her seamless transitions and emotional involvement, and Carrie Ann commented on the connection between Maria and Derek. Len thought the choreography of the routine didn't allow for enough time in hold, which immediately set the other judges off. He grouched and then he stood in the way of another perfect score.
Maria's harem-themed samba with Derek and Henry Byalikov from the "DWTS" troupe really seemed to poke fun at the "dance trio" concept. Kudos to Derek for thinking outside the box, because this thing was really different, but a ton of fun. His choreography really took advantage of an extra set of hands and Maria did all sorts of inventive spins and falls. Bruno was a fan, but Len felt the routine lacked samba content. When he gave the routine a 7 there was an actual gasp ... both in the studio and in my living room.
Viennese waltz: 28/30
I had high hopes for Melissa in this round if only because the foxtrot and samba are slower dances and the judges were so critical of the frenetic pace of last week's Argentine tango. Unfortunately, this foxtrot started out choppy – the ending was better, but we're approaching the semifinals and there's no room for error. Carrie Ann called this Melissa's best dance ever, mistakes aside. Bruno thought her lines were better and her presentation downright excellent, again allowing for the fact that the first 30 seconds of the dance were chaotic. Not a great dance for Melissa overall.
I can't even bring myself to narrow it down to just one Chmerkovskiy brothers sandwich joke, so we'll skip it. Melissa was right at her limit, but not frenzied. Len and Carrie Ann both agreed that it was Melissa's best dance and Bruno compared her to Rita Hayworth! I guess it takes three to make a thing go right?
Katherine's Viennese waltz was sweet and lyrical. The routine never let up on thrilling choreography – lots of spins. One at the end went a little out-of-bounds however. Len liked the content of the routine but thought the ill-fated twirl 'n spin at the end was unnecessary. Bruno called Katherine's technique superb but wanted to see more focus in this particular routine. Carrie Ann pointed out that Katherine lost her footing, only to rouse both Len and Bruno's ire. A difficult routine for Katherine.
Katherine's Victor/Victoria cha-cha showed us her fun side. The routine was classy and comical – like when Katherine got her discarded slacks stuck to her stiletto pump. Her timing was excellent, her lines were gorgeous and she really sold the routine. Len called the routine "clean and clear," and he really summed it up. A gorgeous performance from Katherine, Derek and Tristan.
Viennese waltz: 26/30
Roshon's happy-go-lucky foxtrot really showed off his personality and great sense of rhythm. He and Chelsie moved well together in hold and Roshon's footwork was top-notch. His knees were still a tiny bit wobbly, but Bruno raved about the improvement to his lines.
His futuristic paso doble was intense. As usual, Roshon's rhythm was excellent, and he, Sasha and Chelsie moved well together. Roshon was as good as he's ever been in this routine, and Bruno praised his artistry and lines. He did point out that Roshon and Sasha weren't in sync a few times, and Carrie Ann agreed that there were problems. Len ... praised Roshon's buttocks and said the routine was "two skinny fries chasing the ketchup." Yes, that happened.
Paso doble: 27/30
William's foxtrot had true 1940s glamor. He and Cheryl were stunning together – the routine had a perfect balance of sexiness and dueling. The applause didn't stop until halfway through Carrie Ann's critique. All I could hear above the din was "hot" and "sexy." Len praised William's technique and the flair in his movement. Bruno called him a heartbreaker, and praised him as a debonair, suave dancer. The perfect score was no surprise at all.
The paso doble William danced with Cheryl and Tony absolutely sizzled. He was commanding, both in hold and when dancing with Tony, and the choreography really made good use of a third dancer. This routine was flawless aside from some timing errors. Carrie Ann called William's lines incredible, but pointed out that he fell out of sync once. Len thought the routine held together perfectly and Bruno said he "couldn't ask for more" in terms of performance value.
Paso doble: 27/30
Who won over the judges: William and Roshon
Who won over the crowd: William and Maria
Who needs to step it up: Melissa and Maria
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
The final four sing their last solos and America will now decide on the winner
I wrote in one of my earliest recaps that it would be Juliet vs. Tony in the end. For me (and I sincerely believe most of America), it is.
During a two-hour second-to-last episode that was as all over the place as it was in your face, the episode went from rockin' to schmaltz to camp and back again, and threw some real discomfort in, too.
And could that discomfort sway America, making the outcome more a product of outrage? That's my question.
Here's how it went:
Jermaine Paul: His song choice was R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," which didn't exactly open the show raucously. His runs at the end reeked of desperation and his behavior afterwards, in the Sprint lounge with Christina Milian, bordered on unwatchable. His duet with Shelton, "Soul Man," hit the camp mark, and most interesting of all, his finest moment Monday night came when he sang a Shelton ditty, "God Gave Me You." Yep, country fit him best.
Juliet Simms: Her first number was Cee Lo's "Crazy." She had fun with it, but didn't seem all that invested. Her duet with Cee Lo, "Born to Be Wild," was more camp. But none of it mattered. While I wish she'd ditch the witch hats, her song choice, "Free Bird," was nothing short of a checkmate. It had to take place during the last five minutes of the episode, folks -- otherwise once it was over we'd have all changed the channel.
Chris Mann: More opera ("Prayer," alongside Xtina). With a coach who called another competitor "one-dimensional," Mann hasn't exactly strayed from his roots, like, ever. Then came his "thank-you" to Aguilera (remember I mentioned schmaltz?), and finally a note-for-note "You Raise Me Up," which was far from unpredictable considering he emulates Josh Groban.
Tony Lucca: Lucca's "99 Problems" was the second most exhilarating performance of the night (his Maroon 5 cover "Harder to Breathe" sizzled, although the Beatles duet with Adam was a letdown). To go into Aguilera's utterly bizarre behavior towards this guy she worked with as a teenager is actually difficult for me. Did she pass him a note in "The Club" and he didn't write back? She acknowledges his wife and child in the crowd, deems the Jay-Z hit he covered derogatory, and after Mann performs declares him a "real man who respects women"... in front of the wife and child she acknowledged less than five minutes earlier?? Kinda hoping this is all stuff the producers asked them to run with; otherwise, Xtina's mean-spiritedness is disconcerting to say the least. If anything, her haters are just going to vote for Tony now.
Juliet won this handily, but Christina's cattiness could cause an upset ... in Lucca's favor.
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"The Voice" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.