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Dancing With the Stars finale recap: Finale Part 2

A finale full of the holiday spirit gives way to the new ‘DWTS’ champ.

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Adam Taylor/ABC

Dancing With the Stars

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Tom Bergeron, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman, Erin Andrews, Julianne Hough
Current Status:
In Season

Do you feel that excitement in the air, ballroom babes? After 11 weeks of unpredictable dancing competition (okay, sometimes predictable — Val taking off his shirt was always a given), we have reached the season 21 finale! But which celeb will inherit the DWTS title from Rumer Willis and take home that coveted Mirrorball Trophy? Will it be Nick Carter, the Backstreet Boy with insecurities who left it all on the dance floor in the finals (please!)? Or will it be Bindi Irwin, the little ray of sunshine who’s been wowing the judges since week one (probably)? Or could Alek Skarlatos, the Everyman hero, shock us all and beat out the long-time frontrunners (No comment)? 

Standing between our dancers and that glorious trophy of sparkles is one last round of competition the 24-hour fusion dance, in which the couples must perform one routine that incorporates two styles of dance — that they were handed yesterday. Sure, this last round mainly serves as a way to pile on some more perfect scores and bide time, but I’ll never turn it down. The winter is long and hard enough as it is. I’ll survive by clinging on to the memory of one final routine choreographed by Queen Sharna Burgess (okay, Derek and Lindsay are pretty great, too).

But the finale is, first and foremost, a celebration of the season that was. So before we get to the final competitive round and the BIG announcement, let’s highlight some of the best moments from the rest of the show. Some call it filler, I call it “That Person Was On This Season?” but we all call it fun.

Dancing With Old Friends

Well, it only took about 60 seconds before Mandy Moore’s holiday-themed opening number had me tearing up. It’s an emotional one-two punch of the holiday spirit and seeing the whole crew dance together again. Also, Hayes is there, and I really missed me some Hayes and Emma. 

Kim and Tony keep the reminiscing going, as she takes the floor to perform the I Dream of Jeannie routine she missed when she had to withdraw from the competition. (Speaking of withdrawing, Tamar sadly isn’t able to attend the festivities this evening.) Verdict: We didn’t miss much (except Tony!). 

Paula and Louis take the floor again to reprise their Gilligan’s Island-themed dance, but really, can anyone remember anything that came before or after Carlos and the DWTS men dancing to “Pony” while wearing Santa hats? It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Victor and Karina and Gary and Anna also bring back some old routines, and it is a stark reminder of how far we’ve come this season — just kidding, it’s fun!

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Thankfully, two of my favorite routines from the season get much-needed repeats. Alexa and Mark perform their stunning Breaking Bad routine, and Hayes and Emma perform their contemporary to “Stitches.” It’s so short that it only leaves me wanting more. Luckily, Santa is on hand to grant my wish: Hayes is going on tour with DWTS! And after the little taste we had of the tour from the pros tonight, it looks like it’ll be a stunner.

The Musical Acts

Chaka Khan kicks off the evening’s musical acts with a rendition of her most famous song, “I’m Every Woman.” But all this performance does is remind me of how much I wish she had brought it on the dancefloor with Keo, because Keo is glorious. Can we get him a contender next season, maybe?

Andy Grammer also returns to sing. He was a delight in the ballroom and is a delight on stage, too. Debate: Are the male pros even hotter wearing their little red suit jackets in this number than they were in the “Pony” routine? Possibly. Just kidding! NEVER. 

Elle King performs her jam of a song “Ex’s & Oh’s”  and although she wasn’t a contestant, she still understands the importance of glitter in the ballroom. Side note: Is Jenna the MVP of the night? She’s in almost every routine, and girl can give face like no other. 

The real showstopper, however, is the holiday medley, complete with Andy Grammer and Chaka Khan joining forces for a “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” duet. It’s the pairing I never knew I needed, and now never want to live without. It’s topped off with our lovely pros all gussied up in suits and gorgeous green gowns. If you’re not feeling the holiday spirit by this point, you’re dead inside, and I’m sorry.

The Montages

If there’s one thing I learned during this finale, it’s that I’ll never not love a Tom Bergeron montage. He’s the papa of this ship, and he’s even hilarious when remixed “The Safety Dance.” There is also a surprise video visit from another DWTS paternal figure: LEN FREAKING GOODMAN. As if we all aren’t overheated enough from the “Pony” striptease, Len announces that he’s returning as a judge next season. BE STILL MY HEART.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mentioned that insane “‘Twas the Night Before the Finals” video. Gary Busey as Santa Claus, Paula Deen as Mrs. Claus, and Victor Espinoza as an elf are things you just can’t unsee. As ridiculous as those three are, let’s get back to the three real stars of the evening: Nick, Alek, and Bindi.

NEXT: One last dance before a new champ is crowned