09/06/2012 AT 9:00 AM ET
“You can breathe a sigh of relief and sit back and enjoy,” host Cat Deeley told the panel on Wednesday’s episode, which would determine, based on America’s vote from the previous week, the final four of season 9.
But there was no sighing for the panel of Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and guest judge Christina Applegate.
“It’s nice to save someone. It’s nice to have that feeling and be able to do that but it was America’s choice tonight,” Applegate told PEOPLE after Wednesday’s show.
Before the results of the vote were announced, the judges watched nine routines, including two that brought tears to their eyes and three that had them on their feet.
“We only stand up now when we really are shocked,” Lythgoe said. “Tonight it got very emotional and at other times the mathematics of the [technique] got us standing up. I’m thrilled that America is getting to see such diversity in the dancers this year.”
But not all the routines were well received. Witney Carson and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp’s cha cha received poor reviews.
“The Latin dances are taking Chehon down,” Murphy said of the performance that she says did not show off Carson’s ballroom skills. “He is a master of his body and I need him to master this Latin leg and hip action.”
In the end, America sent home Carson but saved Wespi-Tschopp. Martial arts fusion dancer Cole Horibe was eliminated instead.
“This was going off of what last week’s vote is. He’s got a pass now because there is no voting for tonight,” Murphy said of Wespi-Tschopp. “He had a tough night tonight but he also had one of the best dances of the night. It was 50-50.”
And so, the four contestants dancing in next Tuesday’s performance finale are Wespi-Tschopp, Cyrus Spencer, Tiffany Maher and Eliana Girard.
“I have no idea how the voting has been coming in,” Murphy said when asked who would be crowned the favorite male and favorite female dancers on Sept. 11. “But it is really cool that we have two ballet dancers [Chehon and Eliana], an animator [Cyrus] – which we’ve never had in the finale – and [contemporary dancer] Tiffany. I love them all.”