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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: 'The Finale Part 1'

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Adam Taylor/ABC

Dancing With the Stars

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

A UFC fighter, a model, and a meteorologist walk into a ballroom…and all of America ends up crying like babies. Tears shed for the powerful routines, for just how wonderful our pro dancers are, for remembering that this incredible season is almost over. What am I supposed to do if I’m not being moved by dance on a weekly basis? Live a real life? Please don’t make me.

As much as we may try to fight it, the finals are here. Though the lack of Wanyá Morris was surely felt, our season 22 finalists came to win. Things were brought, if you know what I mean. Before they head into tomorrow’s two-hour finale, Nyle, Ginger, and Paige had two rounds of dances to prove themselves most deserving of that elusive mirror ball trophy. First up, a redemption round. Each of the couples get to choose one style of dance they’ve already performed and use new choreography and music to improve it. The second round of the evening is the infamous freestyle dance. In that round, anything goes — but always remember that you’re forever being compared to Drew and Cheryl’s “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” routine.

America’s Dad Tom Bergeron informs us up front that the margin of votes separating these three finalists is the closest they’ve had in a long time. It’s anyone’s competition to win, so these next two rounds of dancing are going to be good, you guys. Remind me, why does this season have to end?


Ginger Zee and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Contemporary | “Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay

As you may have heard, Ginger injured her back in rehearsals, big time. She’s in serious pain, but knows she needs to pull through and get her rehearsal time in. In their week three contemporary, Ginger and Val really wanted to tell a story, but it mostly fell flat for the judges. This time around, the pair is telling the story of their season. They’ll be incorporating elements from some of their best dances this season. Remember that bench? They sat on that bench! Remember that fountain? They stood on that fountain! Okay, okay. They incorporate some dance moves as well. It’s mostly good. The lifts, as Len points out, are so effortless and organic. All three judges saw improvement from their last contemporary, Bruno compliments Ginger’s lines, and Carrie Ann finds the whole routine to be very refined. They also are quick to call out Val on his clever strategy and ability to play to Ginger’s strengths. That’s how you win mirror balls, you guys!

Judges’ Score: 28/30

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Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd

Quickstep | “S.O.B.” by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Nyle and Peta are leading the competition based on judges points, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a bone to pick with the judges. For their redemption dance, they are tackling the quickstep. You remember their last one, right? Hectic, messy, Nyle was covering his beautiful face with a green mask. I don’t care what the theme is, you never cover up a face like that. Their second run at this style is country-themed and packed with much more content then the first. Serious question: What’s up with all the country-western routines this season? Not that I’m ever against cowboys dancing, but there should be a one-per-season allowance. But a country-western quickstep it is. The judges praise his exuberance, but I still don’t buy him in such an upbeat number – I like my Nyle brooding. Len again criticizes how hectic the routine is and all three of the judges catch a little misstep, but Nyle and Peta are all smiles anyway.

Judges’ Score: 27/30

NEXT: The Ballas redeems himself


Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas

Salsa | “Fireball” by Pitbull

Forget Paige, this round is a redemption dance for the Ballas. I’ve tried to block out that horrible week in which Mark was not able to take the dance floor, but it happened, people. Mark injured himself while rehearsing their last salsa routine, and the two feel like they missed out on something not being able to do it together. So, salsa it is! Mark is even keeping in the move that caused his injury. He really takes this redemption thing seriously. And thank goodness for that — this dance was top-notch. Fast, fun, and there was even a costume change in the middle of it. What more do you want? How about some dizzying armography? Good, because you got that, too. Len says something ridiculous about there not being enough hip action, but Carrie Ann and Bruno overrule him. Who even remembers what the judges said though because following her critique, Paige gets a video message from Jean-Claude Van Damme. This show has peaked. Tom refers to him as Jean-Claude Van Dance, and now I’ll never rest until I see that man doing samba rolls in a red-sequined shirt.

Judges’ Score: 29/30


Ginger Zee and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Freestyle | “Orange Colored Sky” by Nat King Cole

For their freestyle, Val and Ginger are delivering an homage to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Get it? Her name is Ginger, too! Actually, it’s an adorable take on this round usually known for insane lifts and big theatrics. Fred and Ginger deserve an homage, ya heard? Plus, there’s Val in a full suit. Was this a gift to me, personally? We’ll never know for sure, but probably yes. There’s a lot of pressure on Ginger and Val to perform to perfection this round, out of all three couples, they’re the lowest scored. They need to step it up in order to have any shot to win this thing. The routine is cute — but, it was lacking just a little something. Imagine if they had actually tapped! The judges love it though. Len commends Ginger’s versatility, and Carrie Ann thinks this is where Ginger shines brightest: in a routine that’s mainly in hold and shows off what a classy lady she is. Looks like those back spasms had nothing on Ginger Zee.

Judges’ Score: 30/30

Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd

Freestyle | “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed

Oh Nyle and Peta, what hath thou wrought? You’ve opened some floodgates that I fear can never be closed. THAT DANCE THOUGH. Forget Jean-Claude Van Damme; this is where DWTS peaks. (Just kidding, I’m still holding out for the Van Dance) Peta was worried it would be risky to bring in Talia Favia to choreograph their contemporary freestyle, but girl, I still have actual chills from that dance. They won’t go away! Nyle and Peta tell an incredible story about speaking up for and listening to the Deaf community and it is remarkable. From that beginning pose, to Nyle’s stilted fall to the floor, to the PIANO ON FIRE, it was powerful and profound. In my notes I wrote, “dance of the season,” but Carrie Ann one-ups me and calls it the best dance she’s seen as a judge in 22 seasons. It’s a reminder that, yes, DWTS is a cheesy masterpiece, but it can also tell important stories and help forge genuine human connection. Enough sincerity, can someone find me a blazer, no shirt ensemble to ogle at?

Judges’ Score: 30/30

Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas

Freestyle | “Over the Rainbow” performed by BC Jean

After Paige opened up about the extreme bullying she faced in her hometown, Mark was inspired to share more of her story through their freestyle round. It’s hard to follow Nyle’s mind-blowing dance, but Paige tries her hardest. It’s a moving piece about escape and finding happiness and really it highlights just how wonderful a partner Mark Ballas is. Seriously, can he help me escape something, anything? This point is only proved further when after their routine, the guy just about breaks down in tears. He’s so proud of Paige. He’s so sincerely moved, it’s waterworks city all over again. Even Bruno is a mess! The judges give Paige a little love, too: Her lines and quality of movement are incredible, according to Carrie Ann (and anyone who watched that routine with their eyes open). And Bruno once again praises the couple’s creativity. You guys, seriously: How are we supposed to pick one winner after tonight?

Judges’ Score: 30/30

Is everyone done weeping now? We still have a mirror ball trophy to give away! If this thing doesn’t end in a Nyle vs. Paige showdown, we have failed as a nation. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night to see who lands where, the 24-hour fusion dance round, and all those smiling faces from season 22. And maybe Mischa Barton.