November 19, 2012 10:34pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Dancing With the Stars': Final 5 Struggle and Strip Through the Semifinals
When Dancing With the Stars hands you lemons, choreograph lemonade.
And the show, nearing the end of its All-Stars season, has been unrelenting of late in its odd challenges for the remaining contestants. Tackling two dances apiece on Monday's episode, the five remaining couples had to start their night with such one-of-a-kind interpretive numbers as "Caveman Hustle" and "Espionage Lindy Hop" that combined random nouns and descriptors with obscure styles of dance.
The results ranged from the highly successful ("Knight Rider Bhangra") to the pitifully bizarre ("Big Top Jazz"), leaving some with a far greater advantage going into Tuesday's double elimination that decides the finals.
PHOTOS: The Cast of 'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars'
"This has been the week from hell for the entire cast," Shawn Johnson said backstage after the show. "It's a semifinal, and you really want to be able to show the world what you're capable of, but when you're given a 'Knight Rider Bhangra,' that kind of limits your abilities. Mentally, it just shuts you down."
For Johnson and partner Derek Hough, it came together in the end. Their Bhangra brought in one of the night's three perfect scores. After combining that with their second dance (an Argentine tango), they topped the night's leaderboard with a cumulative 59 points.
Other dance concoctions didn't move the judges to dole out such high scores. Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy, who easily earned the night's most memorable moment when they stripped down to speedo bottoms and writhed in a pool of water, were tied at the bottom of the pack with Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke. Both couples finished the night with 54 points.
The much easier task of dancing to a Michael Jackson song (conveniently timed to ABC's Thursday special about the 25th anniversary of Bad) brought up most of the contestants' scores. It was particularly helpful for the pairs that pulled the night's other perfect scores: Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani and Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff.
"I love being able to say 'no regrets,' " Rycroft said after the show, admitting that she wouldn't have done anything different during the night's dances. "We're at peace with what's happened. We've made it so flippin' far."
Far, but not all the way. As it was pointed out several times during the broadcast, Rycroft is the only All-Star competitor left who's never won the title.
"With this audience, they like who they like," she admitted. "I don't necessarily want people to vote for us just because we're the only ones who've never won. If we make it to the finals, I want it to be because we've proven what we can do."
The scores, at least, are in their favor. Rycroft and Dovolani ended the semifinals in second place with 57.5 points, just ahead of Ohno and Smirnoff's 57.
Dancing With the Stars hands out the coveted three spots for next week's finale on Tuesday night.