The 33-year-old actor earned a perfect score of 60 points from judges Monday for his two dances in the semifinal round.
Marini and his professional partner, Cheryl Burke, wowed judges with their waltz and salsa. Carrie Ann Inaba called the couple's waltz "sweet, subtle perfection." Head judge Len Goodman said their salsa left him "almost speechless."
"I wish I had an 11th paddle," he said, referring to the scoring paddles judges raise after each performance.
Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson came in second place with 56 points out of 60. She and her partner, Mark Ballas, earned a perfect score of 30 for their Argentine tango. Goodman said the 17-year-old gold medalist "danced with a maturity I didn't expect," adding that the performance was her best yet. Judges called the pair's jive "strong" and "wonderful," but gave it 26 points out of 30.
"The Bachelor" reject Melissa Rycroft, who fractured a rib during dance practice two weeks ago, earned a combined 55 points for her quickstep and chacha with partner Tony Dovolani. Judge Bruno Tonioli said the couple's quickstep "wasn't as exhilarating and crispy and zingy as it could have been." Goodman called their chacha "lackluster."
Rodeo champ Ty Murray, who narrowly escaped elimination last week, finished in last place Monday with 48 points out of 60. He and partner Chelsie Hightower performed the samba and the Viennese waltz. While neither earned a coveted "10" from judges, they praised his efforts throughout the ABC dance-off.
Goodman said, "No one has struggled more than you and no one, definitely, has tried more than you throughout this series to become a dancer," while Inaba named him "the most valuable player of season eight."
One celebrity contestant will be eliminated Tuesday when viewer votes are combined with judges' scores. A new "Dancing" champ will be crowned on ABC on May 19.
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Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.