Dancing With the Stars Recap: Who Is Heading to the Season 21 Finale?

Dancing with the stars
 Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Steps away from the Mirrorball! On Monday, Nov. 16, the Dancing With the Stars' semifinals arrived, but with a twist. After Tamar Braxton dropped out of the competition due to health concerns last week, only four couples remained.

Early into the evening, host Tom Bergeron gave an update on Braxton, which included a timeline of her illness, multiple trips to the hospital, and the diagnosis with blood clots in her lungs. "I think that's when things got more real for her," her disappointed but understanding partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, said, noting that flying on airplanes so frequently could have been the cause of her decline in health.

But the evening's focus stayed on the remaining competitors. The pairs were originally supposed to each dance twice, but because of The Real host's exit, the final four each performed a dance-off routine as well, which brought their total dance count to three. (The winning couple from each dance-off added three extra points to their score.)

Not surprisingly, some stars thrived, while others faltered, but the good news was that because they were already missing one competitor, nobody went home. Here's how it all went down:

It was a big night for international hero Alek Skarlatos, who came from the back of the pack to deliver a flawless waltz with partner Lindsay Arnold. Judge Bruno Tonioli called him a "gliding eagle," while Julianne Hough praised how "comfortable" he seemed on the dance floor. "For me, this is where you shine your brightest, when you're being steadfast and noble," Carrie Ann Inaba mused before adding that she thought it was his best performance ever. But Alek's mind wasn't solely on his dance moves. He also expressed his sadness over the recent tragedy in Paris saying, "My heart just goes out to everybody in France."

Reviews were mixed for Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson's contemporary routine, which featured a shirtless Carlos swinging around on a giant rope. (What's not to love?) Plus, Witney rocked a sheer, bejeweled bodysuit a la Britney Spears, so the actor and singer wasn't the only one showing some skin. Carrie Ann wanted more "straight dancing," and Julianne said she felt the Big Time rush alum and his partner were "losing [their] connection a little bit." Bruno loved it, though, and said it was like watching Tarzan doing Cirque du Soleil mixed with the male strip revue Thunder From Down Under.

In a rare moment, frontrunner Bindi Irwin fell short of perfection when opening the show with a spunky salsa. The judges liked the attempt, but didn't gush about her performance with pro Derek Hough the way they normally do. Bottom line was that they all wanted to the wildlife conservationist to bring more sex appeal.

Nick Carter missed a few tango steps right out of the gate, which seemed to get in his head a bit. Thankfully, partner Sharna Burgess gave the former Backstreet Boy a pep talk midway through their routine, telling him, "I got you."

Next it was time for the dance-offs. First up were Carlos and Witney vs. Alek and Lindsay doing the cha-cha — predictably, Carlos and Witney won that one. Then came Bindi and Derek vs. Nick and Sharna doing the samba. Nick recovered from his earlier stumble with a perfect routine, but Bindi's turnt up sex appeal sealed the deal for the extra points.

Rounding out the night were the trio dances. Mark Ballas joined Bindi and Derek for an edgy jazz routine that the judges went gaga over and rewarded with perfect scores. "That was like a professional contemporary dance company," Carrie Ann declared as Bindi jumped for joy.

Nick and Sharna also received perfect scores for their sexy salsa with Peta Murgatroyd. Nick seemed bolstered by the rave reviews, but, ultimately, it still wasn't enough to move him out of last place.

Karina Smirnoff returned to the ballroom to join Carlos and Witney for a quirky Charleston. Despite the fact that not one of them had ever performed that dance while competing for the Mirrorball, they impressed the judges and missed a perfect 30 by only a single point.

Alek was unable to duplicate his earlier magic when he and Lindsay were accompanied by his crush Emma Slater for an Argentine tango that got lukewarm reviews. Overall, the judges thought it started out strong, but lost steam at the end and gave him nines across the board. Still, his strong opening routine kept him out of the bottom.

Here are the complete rankings for the semifinal:

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 57

Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 60

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 54

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 60

Tell Us: Who are you most excited to see in the finals?

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