Our final four stars — William Levy, Maria Menounos, Donald Driver and Katherine Jenkins — each tackled two numbers on Monday's Dancing With the Stars semifinal show and shared their life stories.
Judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli nitpicked more than usual, but they also managed to pull out their 10 paddles for just about every performance. "This is probably the strongest group of semifinalists we've ever seen on the show," said co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet.
Tweeted Dancing alum Kirstie Alley about halfway through:
"thank God these people weren't in DWTS in MY season!!!! I think I would have come in a Close 9th...LMFAO ...amazing!!"
Here's how it all went down:
Latin hunk William Levy grew up in Cuba in a poor family. His stepfather was a political prisoner who was given asylum, so his family was able to move to Miami. As a teen, he began modeling. Now, he's the "biggest star you can be in Latin America," said his manager, Gladys Gonzales. That poor upbringing "makes me work hard," William said.
Sporting a black sparkly suit and tie, he tackled a tango with pro partner Cheryl Burke that split the judges. Len wanted a "slightly tighter hold" and said William was slightly flat-footed at times. Bruno raved, calling him "the dictator of the tango." Carrie Ann nitpicked a little, prompting boos from the audience. Scores: 9, 9, 10 = 28
For his second dance, he did a smoking hot samba that prompted a standing ovation from Christie Brinkley, among others. Said Bruno, "I'm going to die with bum envy!" Carrie Ann said it was "freaking amazing!" Added Len: "Talk about the hunk with the junk in his trunks!" Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30 Total: 58
Maria Menounos was raised in Medford, Mass., and her Greek immigrant parents worked as janitors in a nightclub. "We worked very hard," said her father, Costas, with tears in his eyes. "I'm not ashamed." She worked hard, too, getting into journalism. Her boyfriend, Keven Undergaro, even noted how hard she worked.
Maria's first dance was an Argentine tango. Her pro partner, Derek Hough, worried in rehearsal that the choreography wasn't right. She cried because she "didn't want to disappoint." Both have injuires too numerous to go into, but Maria said "three doctors" visited them today. Bruno thought her dance was "titillating ... beyond my wildest dreams." Carrie Ann raved about it, too. Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30
Her second dance, a jive, also earned raves. Bruno liked the "quirky, unexpected details" and said it was "brilliant." Carrie Ann: "That was another stunner. You are a winner tonight." Len said it wasn't traditional, but it didn't matter. He also said she had a stumble, and Maria said, "No, I didn't!" Maria then jumped on host Tom Bergeron because she couldn't jump on Derek, whose back was hurting. "I wouldn't ever get 10s without Derek Hough, so I love you!" Scores: 10, 9, 10 = 29 Total: 59
Donald Driver grew up in Houston. When he was born, his dad was in prison. Donald and the four kids were homeless. He and his brother, Marvin, were sent to live with their grandparents, but the neighborhood was tough. Sports was his way out. "I was a great athlete but a troubled kid." The turning point, he said, was meeting his wife, Betina, who said it was either going to be "the drugs or me." So he focused on football and was drafted into the NFL in 1999 to go on and become a star with the Green Bay Packers.
Donald waltzed his way to good scores, too. For his first dance, dressed all in white, he and pro partner Peta Murgatroyd swirled around the floor, as if in a heavenly wedding. "So dreamy," said Carrie Ann, but she noted some missteps. Len said it was "absolutely charming." Bruno said he showed a "caring, gentle, soft quality." Scores: 9, 9, 10 = 28
The second dance was a smooth and sexy samba but had a bit of a fumble. Said Len: "Bottom line, I liked it." Bruno and Carrie Ann loved it, too. Scores: 10, 9, 10 = 29 Total: 57
Katherine Jenkins grew up in Neath, Wales, a small town. She always loved music and sang for the first time in public at age 4. When she was 17, she went to the Royal Academy of Music and, soon after, landed a record deal. Noted Piers Morgan: She had "an angelic voice and looked like Marilyn Monroe!" Jenkins was engaged to TV personality Gethin Jones, but it ended in December, a moment she called "devastating."
She said she wanted to show off both "classy and sassy" sides of herself. She danced a Bonnie-and-Clyde quickstep with USA TODAY blogger mark Mark Ballas. Bruno shrieked: "Outstanding!" Carrie Ann called it the "best dance ever!" Len noted a "foot fault" thing but called it a "fabulous number." Scores: 10, 9, 10 = 29
In the second dance, she and Mark performed a belly-dance-themed salsa that required a lot of shaking and jiggling, and ended with some kind of misstep that nearly made her faint. She broke down completely into Mark's arms, saying, "I'm sorry!" Out of breath, she said, "I'm OK." Carrie Ann said it was "like you hung out with Beyonce over the weekend ... I'm so bummed about the end." Len called her "Wonder Woman." Bruno said it was "wonderful, darling." After the judging, Katherine, who was able to walk and appeared to be OK, told Brooke, "I felt my back go." A the end of the show, Jenkins was rubbing her lower back, and Tom said she would be getting some "medical attention." Scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27 Total: 56