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American Ninja Warrior season 13 recap: Night one of Semifinals

The next round of competition ups the ante.

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Elizabeth Morris/NBC

And just like that, we’ve arrived at the season 13 Semifinals! The pace only picks up from here. Now, we’re on the extended 10-obstacle course. Split Decision has moved to the ninth position with a harrowing choice between an upper body or a balance obstacle. Only the top 15 and top three women will advance from each Semifinals round.

Each Semifinals night will end with a heart-pounding race on the Power Tower for the Safety Pass (which allows a do-over if needed on Stage One or Two of the National Finals).

The move from the Qualifiers to the Semifinals brings many questions with it. How will the teens fair on a much longer course? Who will go for a top time in an effort to reach the Power Tower?

During the first Semifinals night, many of those questions were addressed. There’s too much to talk about, so start reading!

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Lunatic Ledges
  • Tilt-A-Whirl
  • Spinning Bridge
  • Wall to Wall
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Corkscrew
  • Split Decision
  1. Inverter
  2. Tuning Forks
  • Spider Climb

Christian Youst: The first run of the Semifinals went to a 16-year-old athlete. Christian had a strong start and even impressed Matt and Akbar by starting his Warped Wall run-up using only half of the space allotted. Christian reminded us of the brutality of Corkscrew’s twists before bringing us to the new Split Decision. Balance or upper body? Christian ignored his dad’s balance suggestion and opted for Inverter, which is something like a rotating Cliff Hanger/Wave Runner hybrid creation. Christian survived the first board but hit the water when transitioning to the second.
Result: Out on Inverter

Christie Brophy: The former Air Force Officer and mom of four lost momentum on Lunatic Ledges and floundered there.

Sam Sann: Unfortunately, Sam wouldn’t make it back to the National Finals after his fall on the Spinning Bridge.

Karman Selby: The stay-at-home-dad survived a close call on Tilt-A-Whirl, but was out on Wall to Wall.

Isaiah Wakeham: Isaiah, 20, is the artist behind many of the Ninjas’ competition shirt designs. He wore a creation of his own as he headed down the course. Isaiah was steady in the first half. His younger sister, Isabella, also made the Semifinals and if they both qualify for Vegas, mom has to get a tattoo. At Split Decision, Isaiah picked the Inverter. He let out, “Bad idea,” just a moment before he fell into the water.
Result: Out on Inverter

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Perry Madison: Perry brought the LGBTQ flag with him to the start line and his grandmother, civil rights advocate Mildred Madison, watched on the sidelines. However, the actor was out on Tilt-A-Whirl.
Result: Out on Tilt-A-Whirl

Caleb Benson: Only a few years ago, Caleb had a pulmonary embolism. In the Semifinals, his run ended on Wall to Wall.

Tiana Webberley: The beloved Ninja veteran and stunt professional was back and shared some of her work performing motion capture stunts for video games. Tiana had to take a little flop on the Spinning Bridge and then lost her footing on Wall to Wall for a scary moment. But she recovered to clear the Warped Wall and take a big bite of the back half. After smiling and yipping on Corkscrew, Tiana decided balance was her best bet. However, she didn’t make it across the Tuning Forks.
Result: Out on Tuning Forks

Wei Wei Qin: He was out on Lunatic Ledge.

Wade Lopp: Wade fell on the Spinning Bridge.

Adam Naids: The NASA engineer was also out on Lunatic Ledges.

Jade Buford: Jade is the first NASCAR driver to make it to the Semifinals. His season ended on Tilt-A-Whirl.

Max Feinberg: A self-declared “proud band geek,” Max is also a 16-year-old Ninja phenom. After initially struggling on Tilt-A-Whirl, he was then confident on Wall to Wall. He kicked his heels up as he trotted into the back half of the course. Wearing a shirt that reminded us his mother is going through breast cancer, Max popped up the Salmon Ladder and daringly picked the Inverter. He became the first to complete it, with a totally calm attitude to boot. After some steady work on the Spider Trap, Max became the first teen to complete a Semifinals course!
Result: Complete

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Christian Washington, Sophie Shaft, and Caleb Dowden all fell on Lunatic Ledges.

Zhanique Lovett: It’s very clear that Zhanique Lovett wants. The. Warped. Wall. She’s ready for it in every way if she can just get there. Zhanique was strong on Lunatic Ledges. It looked like she was going to clear Tilt-A-Whirl until the bar popped off the cradle of the final triangle as Zhanique built momentum for her dismount.
Result: Out on Tilt-A-Whirl

Lance Pekus: The Cowboy Ninja made it to Split Decision. There, he picked the Inverter, but he did not make it out.

Brian Burkhardt: Brian, who is an attorney, probably had the wackiest, funniest intro video we’ve seen in a long time. And then he laid down the law on the course. Brian managed to hit his head on Wall to Wall and worked his way through the obstacles while bleeding. We can’t imagine that Corkscrew was fun right after taking a blow to the face. Knowing his strength was ebbing, Brian went for the Hail Mary of the Tuning Forks and it paid off! That saved him enough time to slowly climb the Spider Trap and overtake Max’s time by less than a second.
Result: Complete

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

KC Boutiette: The Olympic speed skater had fellow Olympian Scott Hamilton on his sideline. His run ended on Wall to Wall.

Jonathan Horton: Jonathan is an Olympic Silver Medal gymnast and a seven-time Ninja Warrior veteran who’s never made the National Finals. That trend continued when he fell on Lunatic Ledges.
Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges

Isabella Wakeham: Remember, mom has to get a tattoo if siblings Isabella and Isaiah both make the National Finals. And mom better start checking out designs because Isabella killed it. She had a lizard-like grip on Wall to Wall and reached the back half of the course at just 17-years-old. With no issues on the Salmon Ladder or Corkscrew, Isabella faced the ninth obstacle. Like her brother, she picked Inverter. She fell there, but, as Zuri shared with her, that run meant she was going to Vegas.
Result: Out on Inverter

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Chynna Hart: Chynna fell on Lunatic Ledges.

Cory Torkelson: He ended his run on the Spinning Bridge.

Michael Larlee: Michael was out on Wall to Wall.

Owen Dyer: Owen set the flamingo hat to the side for his run to Split Decision. He picked the forks and the Tuning Forks picked the water for the 16-year-old.

Abel Gonzalez: Abel bested the Corkscrew that ended his year in season 12. He selected the Tuning Forks and survived. Abel had an emotional moment at the buzzer.
Result: Complete

Elijah Browning: We joined 16-year-old Elijah on the Spinning Bridge. He had a little tussle with the dismount barrier on Wall to Wall but then joined the rest of the teens who’d made it to the back half of the course. Corkscrew sent his hat flying and his hair flowing. Zuri tossed her hat to him and Elijah gave the Inverter a try. But his grip finally gave out.
Result: Out on Inverter

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Deren Perez: Deren is very proud of his home, Guam. He’ll get to keep sharing that love with the audience. Deren put up a quick run to Corkscrew, which locked in his trip to Las Vegas. Tuning Forks left him wet, but Deren was thrilled to learn his year wasn’t over.
Result: Out on Tuning Forks

Anthony Porter: Anthony hit the buzzer in the Qualifiers. He was close to getting a second buzzer as he made it all the way to the Inverter before falling on the second board.

Isaiah Thomas: The 15-year-old had the fastest time during his night of the Qualifiers. Isaiah planked on the edge of the Warped Wall before his run came to a close on the Tuning Forks. He will still be packing his bags for the National Finals.
Result: Out on Tuning Forks

Jody Avila: Jody shared his Dominican heritage with us before diving into the course. He was a little sloppy on the Spinning Bridge, but it all worked out. Jody is very tall, and it looked challenging to cramp his frame onto Wall to Wall. But being able to span the distance between the walls wasn’t a bummer. However, he did fall on that obstacle when the final dropping panel peeled him off into the water.
Result: Out on Wall to Wall

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Daniel Gil: After his fall in the Qualifiers, Daniel wanted a big redemption. He wanted the Power Tower. He slipped through the obstacles like a fish through water. His time to Wall to Wall put him in the National Finals and ended Jody Avila’s season. Daniel gave a trademark yawn as he approached the back half. It would all come down to Split Decision, especially if Daniel was thinking about time. He opted to save seconds with the Tuning Forks and... It paid off in a huge way. With plenty of time to spare, Daniel zipped up the Spider Trap to lock in his trip to the Power Tower.
Result: Complete

Power Tower:

  • Daniel Gil vs Brian Burkhardt

The Power Tower underwent a redesign for the season. The competitors first had to climb rails to a 20-foot rope climb. Then they used a ring to slide to an angled Salmon Ladder, leading to the Dropping Shelves and then the buzzer.

We have to admit, we thought Daniel would be on the Power Tower. Brian was a surprise to us. Daniel became the season 12 winner due to his Power Tower runs. Brian had never been on the tower before.

But when the starting bell rang, past experience didn’t matter. After a tight start, Daniel struggled to lock the ring that would allow him to start the Salmon Ladder. Brian was just GONE. He took that advantage and ran with it all the way to the buzzer. Daniel did manage to get a few more sections accomplished, but Brian won this in a landslide of surprise.

Safety Pass winner: Brian Burkhardt