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

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ABC/Eric McCandless

Dancing With the Stars

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

We made it to the Dancing With the Stars finals, team! Be proud. I mean, you lived through a sexy Go, Diego, Go! dance. You deserve to celebrate a little bit. But let’s not dwell on the past. Instead, let’s focus on the task at hand: The finals! As is DWTS tradition, the finals are all about that freestyle. They are also about relentlessly nagging the pros to find out just how stressed they are. The answer: very.

But before we get to the pressure-filled freestyle round, the judges will give each couple a dance style they’ve already performed but left much to be desired. It’s called the Redemption Round, so you know things are about to get serious. Let there be dance:


Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold

Viennese Waltz, “I Am Your Man” by Ryan Shaw

As you may recall, when this whole shebang started months ago, no one — his own family included — thought Calvin had a chance at becoming anything remotely resembling a dancer. Well, every single person was wrong and they can all suck it. Was that aggressive? GOOD. Just kidding, you guys. Calvin and Lindsay are much classier than that. They’re just happy to see improvement each week (Lindsay has the tape to prove it), and have enjoyed their time dancing together. Aww. I’m going to miss watching these two dance. There’s an ease about their movement together that makes every step fluid and smooth. Of course Carrie Ann has to ruin the fun by calling out a minor “lift,” which was not really a lift at all and could we just not with this tonight? Before my blood pressure goes up too high, Calvin gets surprised by his little son Caleb, who he hasn’t seen in weeks. Megatron cries tears of joy, and a nation cries with him.

Judges’ Score: 35/40

Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko

Tango, “Stay the Night” by Zedd

Jana and Gleb are pretty pumped to get a second chance at the tango. They tackled this style during week two when Jana was suffering from a rib injury. Now, Gleb only has a deadly flu virus, so no big deal. The two hotties with bodies have very little rehearsal time together since Gleb has been ordered to rest, and when they are able to practice in the same room, Gleb’s lips are covered up by a mask. This is a travesty for all of us. Their routine isn’t a total travesty though, but Julianne is right on the money when she says it’s missing the spark that their previous dances have contained. It’s an improvement for sure, but doesn’t garner the 10s they were hoping for. Also, Carrie Ann once again deducts a point for a foot just barely coming off the floor. Every Nationally Televised Dance Competition Finals has a pooper, that’s why we invited you.

Judges’ Score: 35/40

NEXT: Paso it to me, baby[pagebreak]

Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Paso Doble, “Wicked Ones” by Dorothy

If Dancing With the Stars could please stop showing the footage of Laurie breaking down after her tribute to her late grandma last week, that would be swell. Then maybe I could actually see what was happening on my TV screen, instead of guessing as my eyes are eyes overflowing with tears. Though, I guess one didn’t have to look very hard to see Laurie and Val perform a gorgeous, powerful, much improved paso. Their first paso was during week five, and it was that horrible time when Val broke our little gymnast. She was so angry! But they also claim it was that week that helped them breakthrough as a team. Their second run at the paso is precise, full of passion, and dripping in chemistry. It is everything the judges hoped for and it didn’t end in tears, so we can all breath easy… FOR NOW.

Judges’ Score: 38/40

James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess

Foxtrot, “It Had to be You” by Harry Connick Jr.

Queen Sharna has never felt so alive than she does during this season. Do not tell her other partners, okay guys? That’s a DWTS pact. You take those to grave. But she has good reason to be loving her spin on the dance floor with her season 23 partner: Um, James is amazing, duh. The judges ask the two to try out the foxtrot one more time. They performed this dance style during week one in gorgeous teal costumes that I’ll never be over. James gets a rehearsal room pep talk from the ballroom’s other IndyCar dance master, season 5’s Helio Castroneves, but it’s not like he needs it. James is the real deal. Aside from one minor stumble, his nerd-falls-for-a-librarian foxtrot is gorgeously smooth. It’s a cute concept executed beautifully. And three cheers for Bruno, who chooses to ignore that little stumble because James is the full package. Also, there haven’t been nearly enough 10s given out in this first round.

Judges’ Score: 37/40


Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko

Freestyle, “Unstoppable” by Sia

Jana knows that compared with her competitors, her strength is her ability to display emotion and vulnerability, so that’s exactly what she and Gleb decide to do for their freestyle dance. It’s a routine rooted in contemporary and has a whole ton of lifts — some more effective than others. In both life and the ballroom, it’s a risk to be literally tied to your partner with a long piece of fabric. It pays off mostly, but Gleb struggles to get under Jana during one lift. They both seem disappointed afterward, most especially Gleb, who is almost in tears. It was one tiny flaw in an otherwise passionate routine! No need to Eeyore about it, Gleb. The judges commend the risk and determination, and tell the pair to hold their very pretty heads high.

Judges’ Score: 36/40

NEXT: The treadmill’s never looked so inviting [pagebreak]

Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold

Freestyle, “Please Mr. Postman” and “I Want You Back” medley by The Marvelettes and Jackson 5

Calvin says the pair’s modus operandi for their freestyle is “go big or go home” which apparently means DANCE ON A TREADMILL. A treadmill, you guys! The entire routine plays like a cheery homage to Motown, which is where Calvin excels. Let’s also never forget how Lindsay’s dress was hiding within her tank top and shorts. Bless you, Lindsay, for that gift. And for the gift of this completely joyous freestyle dance. Bruno is right to call out Lindsay’s choreography. She really knows how to highlight Calvin’s strengths. The girl does right by her partner. Sure, neither can really play the trombone on the spot (you had to be there), but they sure can throw a party on the dance floor. Did I mention that they danced on a treadmill? It bears repeating.

Judges’ Score: 40/40

Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Freestyle, “Brand New” by Ben Rector

In not so shocking news, Val is very stressed out about this freestyle. He puts so much pressure on himself, that boy. He thinks that if Laurie doesn’t win this thing, it’s all on him. There’s stiff competition this season though! Just breathe. Val decides to choreograph a freestyle that captures the spirit of Laurie, so naturally, it is so completely full of joy that it reduces us all to tears (please tell me that wasn’t just me, guys). Val and Laurie dance through a ballroom playground and it is so bright and cheery, the only thing that would make it better would be if it played on a continuous loop. Julianne calls it crisp and youthful. Carrie Ann is inspired. Bruno wants to join in on the fun. Get in line, Bruno.

Judges’ Score: 40/40

James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess

Freestyle, “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets” by The Piano Guys

Not all freestyles need to be big parties full of lifts and tricks, and James and Sharna decide to buck the trend. Sharna wants to use the freestyle round to tell the story of James’ near death crash. It’s all very intense, but if Sharna is playing an angel in this scenario, it’s no doubt going to be amazing. The routine begins and ends with James’ own words about the crash, life and death are personified by dancers, and there’s fabric hanging from the ceiling. Fabric hanging from the ceiling is Dancing With the Stars 101 when looking to make an emotional impact. It works! But mainly, the piece — and Bruno is right, it’s “visual poetry” — works so well because, simply put, James is an excellent dancer. You guys, the finale is going to be such a ride.

Judges’ Score: 40/40

Feel free to debate me in the comments, but this is the most well-matched final four we’ve had on the show… ever. Still, Tom Bergeron says only three couples can compete for the trophy in the finale and his word is law. On that note, taking fourth place in season 23 are Jana and Gleb. This feels right. Hey, they’ll always have that Argentine tango shower.

On to the finale. Remember when this was a runaway for Laurie? I don’t think anyone has a lock on that Mirrorball trophy anymore. How fun and also terrifying!