Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY
Two more couples must get the ax," said host Brooke Burke-Charvet, putting it bluntly at the start of Tuesday's Dancing With the All-Stars semifinals results show.
After nine weeks of ambulance runs, sweat, missteps and lots of tears, three celebs would land a spot in the finals, and two would be sent packing.
But before any results were announced, judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli asked for an encore of Apolo Anton Ohno's sultry Monday night rumba with partner Karina Smirnoff to Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror.
It was beautiful but kind of had the feeling of a farewell dance. Hmmm. Would he be going home?
Host Tom Bergeron said "millions" of fans voted.
Here's how it all unfolded:
First result: Shawn Johnson and her pro partner Derek Hough were deemed safe. They're in next week's finals. No surprise there. She was at the top of the leaderboard after Monday's show and she deserves to go.
Next, Parris Goebel, 21, was spotlighted. She's a self-taught dancer and choreographer who has developed a new hip-hop style called "polyswagg." She works with Jennifer Lopez, Missy Elliott and other stars. After she took the stage, The Wanted sang a medley of their songs I Found You and Glad You Came.
While waiting to learn his fate, Apolo chatted with Burke-Charvet, saying the season has been about "so much more" than winning the mirror ball trophy. "It's a life-changing experience," he said. Melissa Rycroft told Brooke she's "confident" she and partner Tony Dovolani have done "everything that we can do."
Melissa and Apolo and their partners were brought on stage. One team was advancing, the other going home.
The couple going home is ... Apolo and Karina.
"This competition was hard from the beginning," said the Olympic speed skater in his farewell speech, "and Karina's a champion. I learned so much about her. She's taught me so much about myself. This show is amazing for far beyond what the mirror ball trophy has in store for people. Every single person who does this show is a champion. It forces you to become a champion in your own right. It forces you to become stronger. You become more confident. It's a blessing."
Apolo's exit meant Melissa and partner Tony Dovolani are moving on to the finals. "Gosh, I'm so excited," gushed Melissa, adding, "We really, really want it."
Paula Abdul performed a medley of four of her greatest hits in a dream segment routine that combined virtual effects into her live dance number. And Derek Hough also performed an avant-garde number. He was shirtless with four dancers in a special routine that incorporated dancing in water and slow-motion camerawork.
And finally, it came down to NFL star Emmitt Smith and soap star Kelly Monaco.
Leaving is ... Emmitt and his partner Cheryl Burke. Which means Kelly and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy are advancing.
They all hugged it out.
"It's been a tremendous experience. Cheryl's been a great partner. She has pushed me to another level. Season 3 was something else," said Emmitt in his farewell remarks, "but this right here takes it to the top."