The two-night finale of Dancing with the Stars got off to a subdued start – where was the show-stopping opening number? I guess they pulled out all the stops to welcome back Pitbull and Fifth Harmony, who delivered a sizzling performance of “Por Favor”. It was good to see Julianne Hough return to the ballroom as a guest judge and performer, dancing to Alexander Jean’s “Wouldn’t Change Anything” in a very special dance choreographed by someone battling seven fatal autoimmune diseases and brave enough to translate that struggle into art. Julianne is such a beautiful dancer and that story was so emotionally powerful that the tears flowed freely down this critic’s cheeks. It was also good to see Lionel Ritchie there to promote the return of American Idol, which is coming to ABC in March. But what had me most excited was the revelation that for the first time ever, America gets a “Last Chance Vote” tomorrow night live during the finale. Will those votes really matter? Hmm. This season’s competition feels tighter than most seasons past!
Julianne Hough and Alexander Jean Performance – Finals
Each remaining finalist was given a chance to redeem a dance from the season during the Redemption Round, followed by the fan-favorite Freestyle Round where anything goes. Let’s see how your remaining favorites did on this final week of competition:
Drew Scott and Emma Slater, Paso Doble
Bruno makes a sexy construction worker! He was on hand to challenge Drew and Emma to redeem their Paso Doble from Week Six. Setting it this time to “Get Ready” by Rayelle, you could definitely see just how much Drew has improved throughout the course of this competition. Bruno said he was proud of Drew’s makeover, admiring his poise and artistry. Carrie Ann was heartbroken because she said it had poetry and it was his best dance. Len felt it had finesse and control, saying it had the polish and determination required of this dance. Julianne said she’s been watching all season and commended Drew for being “Most Improved.” This competition is about so much more than just being the best dancer – it’s also about the journey and entertainment value. Many people forget that. I’ve enjoyed watching Drew grow this season! It was all 9’s from the judges, and I couldn’t complain.
Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson, Foxtrot
Carrie Ann challenged Frankie and Witney to redeem their Foxtrot. She told Frankie he had to do a solo and he needed to convey more confidence. I couldn’t think of a more perfect song choice than “I Won’t Dance” by Frank Sinatra. Frankie looked like an adorable, bona fide leading man! Carrie Ann called it a joy watching Frankie’s full transformation and freedom, while Len said it was polished and accomplished. Julianne felt like she was transported back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, admiring his boyish quality and charm, and finally seeing him become a man on the dance floor. Bruno loved the flair and confidence, saying you can never go wrong by channeling Fred and Ginger’s impeccable style. Frankie received a pair of 9’s and a pair of 10’s from the judges.
Jordan Fisher and Lindsay Arnold, Charleston
It’s hard to perfect something that’s already perfection, but Len wanted Jordan and Lindsay to redeem their Charleston from Week Three. Len told them he wanted to see three specific Charleston moves in their routine. Set to “Bad Man” by Pitbull featuring Robin Thicke, Joe Perry and Travis Barker, it was so much fun! This kid really does deserve a trophy for making it seem so effortless and entertaining every week. Len loved the energy and elements of Charleston mixed with Lindy Hop. Julianne was in shock but finally told them she couldn’t judge them because they were so in sync and their chemistry is so natural that it felt like they were in a night club and not part of a choreographed routine. Bruno called it another triumph with content that was sharper than a samurai sword, saying they dance like two musical instruments in tune. Carrie Ann said it was amazing that he continues to push himself beyond his own boundaries week to week. Naturally, it was another perfect score from the judges.
Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas, Quickstep
Julianne challenged Lindsey and Mark to redeem their Quickstep from Week Two with more technique (saying creativity was never a problem with these two). Set to “Barflies at the Beach” by Royal Crown Revue, it had a lot of pizzazz! Julianne told them they nailed the posture and commended them for maintaining the hold through such a long routine. Bruno called them scoundrels, saying it was the “Bonnie and Clyde of Quicksteps” with a smooth, elegant finesse. Carrie Ann thought it vastly improved, admiring the power of the dance. Len said there was no fiddling about – it was full of flair and control. And then he bestowed upon them an American word I don’t think he’s ever uttered: he said it was awesome. It was another perfect score from the judges!
And then it was time for the much-anticipated Freestyle Round, America. I could hardly contain my excitement for this season’s Freestyles, as I love all four remaining couples so much. And they did not disappoint!
Drew Scott & Emma Slater, Freestyle
“The Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-Car Line” by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies was such an awesome song choice for a Freestyle! It didn’t matter how many dance pros they packed onto that dance floor – Drew was the main focal point at all times and I couldn’t have been prouder of his performance. Len said he finally became a hot property, while Julianne called it a marathon Freestyle with legs, kicks and tricks capturing the true essence of Drew. Bruno said he exceeded all expectations – it was full joy and he could only see him (not Maks or Val next to him, which was no easy feat). Carrie Ann admitted it was a fabulous crowd-pleaser, but she called him out for not being in sync with everybody else at all times. Needless to say, it was only Carrie Ann who didn’t give him a well-deserved 10. ‘Atta boy, Drew!
Frankie Muniz & Witney Carson, Freestyle
I’ve never seen so much turmoil when it comes to deciding upon a Freestyle! Witney wanted to make Frankie shine with an emotionally charged routine, while the show’s producers wanted her to capture his fun side that America’s fallen in love with throughout the competition. Ultimately, Frankie backed Witney’s decision and they went for a charged performance set to “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid. It was an inspired choice, but if I’m being 100% honest, it won’t go down in my all-time favorite Freestyles. Julianne loved watching Frankie trust Witney and seeing him decide to take a risk and do something outside the box. Bruno called him the “Prince of Darkness,” saying he was pleased with the Janet Jackson “Rhythm Nation” feel. Carrie Ann was happy they were able to capture his scary, emotional journey, but she thought they lost a little steam in the middle. Len admired that he was out of his comfort zone and that he gave it his all. It was 2 10’s and 2 9’s from the mixed-up judges.
Jordan Fisher & Lindsay Arnold, Freestyle
When I found out Jordan and Lindsay’s Freestyle was being set to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (2017 Jazzy Radio Mix by Taco featuring tomX), I knew it would be as dazzling as a Broadway number. The trick with the spotlights was fun! Bruno gave them a standing ovation, praising his dancing DNA and limitless star power for a new generation. Carrie Ann told him his star shone so brightly that she’s sad she only gets to watch him dance twice more on this program. Len called it a brilliant “Ritz crackerjack of a number,” while Julianne said it was “everything but the kitchen sink.” Jordan always delivers.
Lindsey Stirling & Mark Ballas, Freestyle
Out of all four Freestyles, I felt Lindsey and Mark’s was the most representative of their partnership and personalities. Set to “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor featuring Styles of Beyond/”Palladio” by Escala (medley), I loved the concept of them as conductors of the dance. Not many people can rock a violin or a dance, but this girl was rocking both simultaneously in something I’ve never seen done in 25 seasons. Now that was the Freestyle of a champion! Carrie Ann commended her for being the last woman standing in the competition and said that definitely showcased her. Len said it’s becoming the “war on the floor” and he’s not sure who will win, while Julianne called it a quirky Tim Burton masterpiece. Bruno rather breathlessly said it was a modern classic extravaganza full of exciting imagination.
So, which couple was cut loose one night shy of the finale? To the surprise of no one, it came down to Drew & Emma vs. Frankie & Witney competing for that coveted third spot. Ultimately, Drew & Emma’s journey came to an end – but what an incredible journey these two had this season! Who do you think will take home the Mirror Ball Trophy tomorrow? For the first time in a while, I truly think all three of them are worthy of the title and they’re all winners in my eyes no matter what happens. I can’t wait to exercise that Last Minute Vote for whomever sways me tomorrow!
Did the right star fall short of the last dance? Who are you rooting for to win? Tell us in the comments below!