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.
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
The Final Three’s Favorite Dances
Nick and Sharna
Viennese Waltz | “Did I Make the Most of Loving You” by Mary-Jess (from Downton Abbey)
This Downton Abbey dance from TV week is a surprising choice for a repeat but a welcome one. The costumes and set are just as to-die-for as I remember, and Nick looks even more comfortable coming off his perfect night. Also, Nick and Sharna’s chemistry is off the charts. You can really see how far they’ve come as a couple throughout the season.
Alek and Lindsay
Jazz | “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
Although Alek and Lindsay only received a 23 when they originally performed this dance in Hometown Week, I remember it as the moment I realized just how strong Alek was and that he would be an admirably sturdy partner for Lindsay. The best part of Alek making it so far this season is that it’s allowed pro Lindsay time to really shine. Alek and Lindsay made a great team from week one.
Bindi and Derek
Viennese Waltz | “Roses and Violets” by Alexander Jean
Bindi is known for being sassy and full of life, and her more energetic dances are always crowd-pleasing, but I’ve really grown to enjoy Elegant Bindi, and this reprisal highlights that side of her. Made even more beautiful than last time with a live rendition of the song (oh, hey, Mark Ballas!). It’s a great repeat choice, and Bindi shines (of course).
After all the fun and games comes the last round of competition. It’s time to take care of some business and get the final scores for our three couples. As you may recall, after last night, Nick and Sharna were tied at the top of the leader board with Bindi and Derek with 60 points, and Lindsay and Alek were right behind them with 57. It could all change with this last round of dancing…but it probably won’t.
The Fusion Dance Round
Nick and Sharna
Salsa and Tango | “Turn Up the Music” by Chris Brown
Nick and Sharna hit the rehearsal studio for the last time, and it’s bittersweet. They’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season, but whichever way it was going, they did it as a team. You can tell these two are really fond of each other. Maybe I’m crying about it. But there’s no time to cry once they hit the floor with their Latin fusion. It’s fun, fast, and finishes with an insane final pose. Nick and Sharna leave everyone, including the judges, wanting more.
Judges’ Score: 30
Alek and Lindsay
Rumba and Tango | “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay
Lindsay is very emotional as she and Alek rehearse their final dance together. He may not be the best dancer, but they’ve accomplished a lot in their three months of partnership. Not the least of which is a new life motto Lindsay has blessed us all with: “Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle, cuddle — let’s freaking dance.” And freaking dance they do. It’s not the smoothest fusion, but the judges all agree that Alek’s rumba tonight beats his rumba from last night. Dude learned how to move his hips in 24 hours! It’s a Thanksgiving miracle.
Judges’ Score: 27
Bindi and Derek
Cha Cha and Argentine Tango | “All the Way” by Timeflies
Leave it to Bindi to give us all one last cry. It’s been obvious from day one that she’s the judges’ favorite, but you can’t hate her for it. She really is having the time of her life and truly looks like she’s enjoying herself every time she’s on the dancefloor. This final fusion is no different. It’s a fun, athletic dance to close out Bindi and Derek’s journey together. Julianne calls it sharp and energetic, and there’s no denying it: There is something about Bindi.
Judges’ Score: 30
Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Nick Carter serenades us with his new solo single “I Will Wait”. Oh, that’s not what we’ve been counting down the past two hours for? Who are you people even? Well, Nick sings, and we get to watch highlights from the season. Regardless of the outcome, we can all agree that season 21 delivered in the way only DWTS can: with shows week-after-week that celebrated life, sought only to bring joy, and perhaps inspired us to buy yet another Groupon for salsa lessons that we may never use.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alek and Lindsay land in third place, and we’re left with the showdown we’ve been anticipating all season long: Nick and Sharna versus Bindi and Derek.
After the long pause we’ve all come to know and love, your season 21 Dancing With the Stars champions are revealed: Congratulations, Bindi and Derek! Derek takes his sixth trophy, and Bindi takes the title that really was hers to lose all season. Nick has no regrets and is glad someone as deserving as Bindi won this whole shebang.
That’s all she wrote, folks. How do you feel about the way season 21 shook out? Will you be having a solo Backstreet Boys dance party in honor of our runner-up, like some recappers I know? Are you already counting down to season 22 and the return of Len Goodman?