OK, that just had to be the fastest two hours of television ever! Dance after dance, surprise after surprise, and capped with a stunning elimination. Week 9 of "Dancing With the Stars" was "American Icon" week, and the celebs and pros took their routines to a new level.

Smack dab right in the middle of the whole thing was an incredible "Macy's Stars of Dance" that was a salute to classic Hollywood with a brilliant mixture of fun and footwork, thanks to the guidance of Derek Hough.

Enough of the weird dance features like the "duels" and "switch ups," and questionable guest judges -- that was you, Abby Lee Miller! Tonight was the semifinals and it was all dancing, all the time. The guest judge was Kenny Ortega, Emmy-winning choreographer and producer known for "High School Musical" and his work with Michael Jackson. The couples took on two dances each to determine who would be in the Final Four and who would shuffle off the dance floor tonight.

For me, one of the biggest stunners was after Candace Cameron-Bure and Mark Ballas did a Viennese waltz that came apart in a couple places for Candace when her nerves got the best of her. Head judge Len Goodman pointed out the few mistakes, judge Bruno Tonioli told Candace that when she makes a mistake, to "cover up and carry on." Judge Carrie Ann Inaba urged her to come back in her second dance. Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 9; Kenny Ortega, 9; Bruno, 8 for a total of 34 out of 40.


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I should have known that something was up when host Tom Bergeron kept the pair on the dance floor. Following the judges' critical comments and scores, there it was -- Candace and Mark were declared safe to dance in the final. Incredible! How did that happen? Usually in the lower part of the leaderboard during the season, it sounds like Candace's fan base finally woke up, or maybe the fans of Danica McKeller, who was eliminated last week, shifted their votes to the other former sit-com star, Candace.

I thought for sure that Candace would be out tonight, but that wasn't the end of the shocking surprises. There stood Amy Purdy and Derek Hough next to Charlie White and Sharna Burgess while Tom read the next set of results. Both couples were in jeopardy! What! Charlie and Sharna had a perfect score last week for their quickstep, for Pete's sake! And Amy and Derek had the same super score for last week's Argentine tango. Are viewers thinking that some celebs are locks to make the finals so they are not voting??

There were more 10s scattered around the ballroom than I have ever seen before. Perfect score followed perfect score as each pair raised the bar just a bit for the next couple. Charlie and Sharna performed a foxtrot that was elegant and seemed easy. Kenny Ortega shouted, "Bring out the champagne!" Bruno said Charlie "started as Astaire and finished as Baryshnikov" and Len came out with "Just right tonight, Charlie White." Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 = 40

For their second dance in the last half of the show, Charlie and Sharna came up with a samba that wasn't going to match those 10s. Kenny said it was "clean, committed but lacking a little funk." And that was the opinion of the rest -- not enough attitude and a bit flat-footed. But Len said clearly, "You deserve to be in the final." Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 = 36 + 40 for a total of 76

The next surprise was when James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd were declared safe and would dance in the final, while Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy were in jeopardy! This was ridiculous -- did their low-ish score last week doom them to miss the final??

I could go on about all of the other dances, but I won't keep you in suspense. As Amy and Derek, Meryl and Maks, and Charlie and Sharna stood waiting to find out who was out, Tom told Amy and Derek that they were safe. And then as the dum-dum-dum-dum music ticked away, the couple going home was -- Charlie and Sharna. Well, someone had to go, but the power of the viewers is obvious when dancers who get perfect scores go home, and those who get 8s and 9s stay on the show.

Tom described the scene as it feeling "like it should be the finals." After telling Charlie and Sharna that they were out, the other dancers crowded around them and wouldn't let them leave the stage. Co-host Erin Andrews finally had to go after them and shoo the pair to the side of the dance floor. Then as Charlie answered her questions, the audience started clapping for the pair and wouldn't stop.

"All of these people are so deserving," said Charlie, taking the news well. "Now I can be 100 percent cheerleader for Team Meryl -- love you." I guess that the Olympic competition toughens someone to the possibility of losing, even when it comes to Mirror Ball Trophies.

Back to the dances -- I must say that Candace, wearing a black wig, took her nerves and locked them away because she and Mark did a jazz routine that seemed like Bob Fosse had a hand in it. Bruno said she was "mixing Janet Jackson and Liza Minnelli," but Carrie Ann wanted more attitude. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 9 = 38 + 34 for a total of 72 (the lowest on the leaderboard again).

Amy and Derek were in peak form tonight, breaking out the running blades instead of other prosthetics so she could get the bounce needed for quickstep. Boy, did it work! She and Derek ran from one end of the dance floor to the other, but always graceful. Bruno said his jaw was dropping on the desk and Len told Amy that "you inspire me to do something ... I don't know what." Scores: 10, 9, 10, 10 = 39. When Len held up the 9 paddle, the booing started, and Tom leaned over to him, "That booing is for you, Lenny."

And their second dance, a jazz routine, brought out another prop. Like last week's stool in their Argentine tango, Derek put a table through its paces as Amy spun and slid along it. It was outstanding and very creative, and Kenny had the perfect comment for Derek. "You redefine choreography for this generation. That piece was extraordinary." And he was right. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 = 39 + 39 for a total of 78.

I said that there were shocks and surprises and one of the biggest, at least for me, was how well James danced tonight and how well Peta choreographed the routines. The first dance was a cha cha cha to the music of Michael Jackson, and the pair referenced Jackson throughout the routine. "It's hard to pull off Michael Jackson well," said Carrie Ann, "and did it spectacularly." What was no surprise was the score: four 10s for a perfect 40.

Their second dance was a rumba with a cowboy theme, and although it was sexy and sensuous, the judges all commented that James lacked connection between his arms and hands, with Len even demonstrating how hands should be. Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 = 36 + 40 for a total of 76.

For an incredible moment, I thought the unthinkable: that Meryl and Maks would be eliminated. But they were saved to bring their awesome chemistry to the famed freestyle next Monday night. Their first dance was a jive that brought out the best of rock and roll. Len said, as only he can, "No peril, Meryl. That was fantastic!" And Ken said their kicks and flicks made sparks all over the floor. And yes, with that kind of adoration, only a perfect 40 could follow.

Their second dance was another storyline dance routine. Bruno compared their Viennese waltz to Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson in "Giant," and it was brilliant. Three of the judges gave them a standing ovation, and Len, the only one sitting, said he loved the routine, that they "took it right on the edge, and went for it 100 percent." And the scores, yep, it was another set of perfect 10s for a night's total of 80 out of 80. That's a big difference from last week when they were on the bottom. Maybe a little scare made Maks did a little deeper to come up with the choreography.

So it's down to the Final Four: Meryl and Maks with 80; Amy and Derek with 78; James and Peta with 76; and Candace and Mark with 72. It will be interesting to see if Candace can keep her nerves under control, if James can be more expressive with his hands, if Amy can continue to amaze with her determination; and if Meryl can keep up her flow of perfection.

The Monday night show will be devoted to the freestyle dances and probably a judges' choice. Tuesday night will start with a special, "The Road to the Finals," at 8 p.m. and the grand finale of Season 18 at 9 p.m. Don't miss it. With all of the surprises tonight, there are bound to be more next week. See you Monday night -- keep dancing.