— For Monday night’s “Dancing With the Stars” semifinals, the four remaining hoofer hopefuls took the stage three separate times to prove their mirror ball-worth. Unfortunately for this season’s dance-floor favorite, J.R. Martinez, that turned out to be three chances to show why he may not be destined for a big ballroom win after all.
Last week, the war-hero-turned-actor stole the show with back to back (near-) perfect performances, but that turned out to be a feat he couldn’t repeat — or even come close to — this time.
Of course, it’s not as if the man who’s been wowing the crowd all season suddenly forgot all of his major moves. It’s just that an ankle injury Martinez sustained during rehearsals meant that his body wouldn’t cooperate with all of the rigorous routines.
The first letdown for Martinez took place during his Zorro-themed paso doble. After a strong start with bold lines and intricate holds and changes, the performance seemed to fizzle out. The more he moved, the less passion he put into the paso and the more flaws he introduced into his footwork. Then, on his final, somewhat out-of-sync leap, things went from bad to worse.
Martinez re-injured the sprained ankle that was already holding him back, setting him up for a couple of dismal follow-up dances.
In the Argentine tango, he successfully pulled off a number of tricky lifts — which were allowed for that particular number — but failed to connect them with much fluidity. He was clearly in pain throughout the dance, and if his disappointed appearance was anything to go by, he was a harsher critic than the judges, who gave him his highest score of the night with a generous set of 9s for the routine.
By the time Martinez hit the floor for his portion of the evening’s cha-cha relay dance, he winced each time his injured ankle had to support his weight. That, along with some of his worse moves since starting the competition, was tough to watch.
But maybe not quite as tough for the judges. Despite the fact that Martinez’s cha-cha was easily the worst of the night, head judge Len Goodman and the rest of the panel dubbed it a third-place, rather than fourth-place, effort.
With that, the former leaderboard topper took third-place for the entire night, just one spot above Hope Solo.
Falling to the back of the pack isn’t new for Solo, but in the case of the aforementioned cha-cha, it was a shame. For once, and only once, she out-danced Martinez but didn’t get the score to show for it.
The less said about her earlier routines the better, which seemed to be the unofficial motto of her pro partner, Maksim Chermerkovskiy. No matter what the judges said about the sloppy moves, he simply smiled and nodded and didn’t dare let his “Mad Maks” side show.
“I’m very happy,” he told “Dancing” co-host Brooke Burke Charvet in a not-so-sincere tone. “Thank you, everybody, for everything you ever said and did.”
From the sincerely happy side of the dance floor, the night’s second place dancer was Rob Kardashian, who impressed the judges (especially a 10-paddle-flashing Carrie Ann Inaba) with his (ample) booty-shaking samba. He followed that up with a precision Argentine tango and a top ranked cha-cha.
That put him just behind this season’s “Dancing” queen, Ricki Lake.
Lake swept the samba with a perfect set of 10s, somehow scored slightly less for her slightly better tango, and put on an impressive entry for the cha-cha relay.
Now it all comes down to Tuesday night’s elimination. It’s the last one before next week’s finals and the most important of the season so far. And barring any surprising shakeups, it will be the one where Solo says so long.
After all, it’s not like one bad night is going to suddenly send a sentimental favorite such as Martinez out of the competition.