After weeks of leaderboard upsets and ties for the top spot, Jennifer Grey and partner Derek Hough returned to peak form, slaying their competition on Monday night’s semi-final round of “Dancing with the Stars.”
The “Dirty Dancing” beauty, who at 50 is the oldest celebrity left standing in the ballroom, brought tears to the eyes of her cheering squad – husband (and fellow actor) Clark Gregg and famous pal Jamie Lee Curtis — and rapturous applause from the studio audience, thanks to two flawless dances with Derek.
The pair’s first number — a cha cha to “Mercy” by British soul singer Duffy – raised the spirits in the ballroom as the sexy mom took to the floor with Derek, shaking her hips and matching every one of the blond pro dancer’s steps.
“Luminous! Vibrant! Sexy!” judge Bruno Tonioli raved as the pair netted the first perfect score of the night – a full 30 out of 30 from the panel.
The judges were also won over by Jennifer and Derek’s second number – an emotional waltz, inspired by her lengthy journey to the dance floor that included a long recovery following her 1980s car crash in Ireland with then-boyfriend Matthew Broderick and years of severe neck problems.
“If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up because that was fabulous,” judge Len Goodman enthused after the pair finished their enchanting waltz, a number full of grace and emotion.
“I’m very gratified. It means a lot,” Jennifer said backstage after receiving the judges’ comments, a perfect score (for a total of 60 for the night) and a standing ovation from the studio audience.
While Jennifer and Derek gave themselves a head start into next week’s finals (provided the viewers agree with the judges), it was the season’s wildcard pair – Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer – not Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who nipped at the frontrunners’ heels.
Kyle and Lacey scored a total of 58 points, just two marks below Jennifer and Derek’s perfect semi-final score. The delightful duo made their mark with a strong samba that netted 29 points, followed up by an Argentine tango that impressed the panel.
“You are a star,” a thoroughly won-over Len told Kyle. “In 11 seasons, I don’t think anyone has ever come out and performed with some much attack, so much enthusiasm as you do.”
Brandy and Maks fell to third for the night, thanks to a little stumble in their first dance, a paso doble, which Len said “got a little bit quiet” at times.
Misfiring on intensity cost the pair three points – for a first round score of just 27 out of 30.
Their second number, which came after an emotional clip reel of Brandy’s journey to “Dancing,” featuring praise from Whitney Houston and an admission that “The Boy Is Mine” singer spent three months not leaving her home following a car accident which claimed another woman’s life a few years ago, was a strong one.
Bruno said their Argentine tango had “great emotional depth,” while judge Carrie Ann Inaba said that Brandy proved her dark times are in the past.
“The trouble is gone my dear. That was gorgeous,” Carrie Ann raved, as the couple earned a perfect score.
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas once again took the bottom spot on the leaderboard, but they gave two of their strongest performances of the season, as the 20-year-old’s mom, Sarah Palin, cheered the pair on proudly from the audience.
“I’m so thankful just to be here and I’m just out there havin’ fun and this has just been an awesome experience,” Bristol said backstage after earning a 27 for her first round paso doble with Mark.
Bristol also took to the dance floor for her final number following an emotional look at her “Dancing” journey, where she revealed the moment in her life where things really changed.
“Growing up I was like the golden child and I never had any problems or challenges until I started dating Levi [Johnston],” she said, before revealing how she went from teen mom to inspirational public speaker.
Her final number – a waltz – was praised by Len, who called it “beautiful,” but criticized by Carrie Ann.
“There were moments… where I felt you drifted out,” the judge said, leaving Bristol and Mark with 26 points for an overall total of 53.