With the semifinals kicking off next week, no one was safe from elimination on Monday's "Dancing With the Stars." While some competitors shined on the ballroom floor, others stumbled under the intense pressure to impress the judges and break away from the rest of the competition.
Once again, the stars were given a week to master two routines. Unlike the previous challenge, which came in the form of a relay, competitors had to perform against one another in a high-octane dance-off for two extra bonus points.
Despite winning their respective dance-off and earning those needed points, AJ McLean failed to make the semifinals and was forced to hang up his dancing shoes.
"I learned really quickly within the first few weeks that, yes, it's a dance competition, but there's way more to it than that," McLean said while reflecting on his experience to "Good Morning America."
"Those that are gone and those that are still here moving forward, I wish everybody the best of luck. Still, it's a close race -- may the best man or woman win that Mirror Ball and then ship it to me and Cheryl's house," he joked.
— Dancing with the Stars #DWTS (@DancingABC) November 10, 2020
His journey was cut short due to a disastrous Viennese waltz to Queen's "Somebody to Love," which started out strong but was derailed by a misstep. The 43-year-old was unable to recover and scored straight sevens. Despite bouncing back against Johnny Weir in their jive dance off, the two bonus points did nothing to spare him from being sent home.
The Backstreet Boy was in the bottom two alongside Weir, who achieved his second perfect score of the season. All three judges expressed dismay over how the audience voted, but ultimately decided that the figure skater accomplished more progress and, thus, opted to save him once again from being sent home.
As for competitors that rose above the added curveball of having to dance against another contestant, one example was "One Day at a Time" star Justina Machado. Her first dance, a rumba to "Crazy for You" that doubled as a tribute to Madonna, showcased a softer side to her normally bold and brazen dancing style.
However, Machado brought the spice back ten-fold when dancing the cha-cha against Kaitlyn Bristowe. The actress clinched those two extra bonus points, which allowed her to finish the night with a 26 out of 30.
A post shared by Dancing With The Stars #DWTS (@dancingabc) on Nov 9, 2020 at 6:26pm PST
Also winning her respective dance-off was Disney Channel star Skai Jackson, who went toe-to-toe against Nelly.
Her clean and precise salsa outshined the "Hot In Herre" rapper, earning her two extra bonus points that pushed her to second place with a score of 29 out of 30.
A post shared by Dancing With The Stars #DWTS (@dancingabc) on Nov 9, 2020 at 6:38pm PST
Weir and Bristowe tied at the top of the leader board on Monday night as both earned straight 10s for their respective routines.
Bristowe dazzled with her "Toxic" Argentine tango that honored Britney Spears while Weir embraced Amy Winehouse's unique flair for his quickstep to "Valerie."
A post shared by Dancing With The Stars #DWTS (@dancingabc) on Nov 9, 2020 at 5:48pm PST
Lastly, while Nev Schulman was given immunity from participating in the night's dance-off because he had the season's highest cumulative score, that didn't stop him from baring his all on the ballroom floor.
The "Catfish" host tied with Jackson with a 29 out of 30 thanks to his joyful and stylized jive to Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)."
A post shared by Dancing With The Stars #DWTS (@dancingabc) on Nov 9, 2020 at 6:19pm PST
With a narrowed competition paired with a volatile audience vote, even the judges don't know who win this season's Mirror Ball Trophy.
Find out who survives the semifinals when "Dancing With the Stars" returns next Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Here are the current standings:
Kaitlyn Bristowe, former star of "The Bachelorette," with Artem Chigvintsev — 30/30
Johnny Weir, Olympic figure skater, with Britt Stewart — 30/30
Nev Schulman, host of "Catfish," with Jenna Johnson — 29/30
Skai Jackson, Disney Channel star, with Alan Bersten — 27/30
Justina Machado, "One Day at a Time" star, with Sasha Farber — 26/30
Nelly, Grammy Award-winning rapper, with Daniella Karagach — 24/30