Bristol, Jennifer, and Kyle 'redeem' themselves in round 1, then dance the all-important freestyle in the season 11 performance finale

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 23, 2010 at 07:47 AM EST
Adam Larkey/ABC

Dancing With the Stars

S11 E19
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On the first night of Dancing With the Stars‘ season 11 finale, each of the three finalists — Jennifer Grey, Kyle Massey, and Bristol Palin — danced a “redemption dance” and the all-important freestyle in their ongoing quest for the COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY. Look at that image to your right. I did not commission it to look like that, but with Jennifer and Derek slightly out in front, doesn’t it sort of seem like a medal stand? This is probably the way the trio should finish — Jennifer with Mirror, Kyle with Silver, Bristol with Bronze. Will it happen? Who knows? I’m a Fringe Fairy, not your crystal ball, DANCMSTRs. Pay a visit to your psychic for that s—. (Hey, if Bruno can swear on the show, so can I! That makes no sense!)

Anyone else catch the DANCMSTR license plate backstage? Be still my sequining heart!

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann In-ahhh-ber!

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough: 30/30 + 30/30 = 60/60 Ms. In-ahhh-ber worked with Jen and Derek before their first-round paso doble (set to “Habanera” from Carmen), so that Jen could redeem herself from the rock-bottom depths of doom: Carrie Ann’s own comment that Jennifer’s week 6 paso was “way out of control.” Well, it worked! “This is the meaning of redemption! This is redemption!” cried Weepy. Dopey rambled on and on, something about an evening in sultry Seville. Pretty sure the flamenco dancer and the golden matador got it on.

But get this: Cranky a.k.a. Len a.k.a. “the middle guy” (quoth Tom) gave Jennifer a standing ovation! It was a lovely mix of expression and aggression, noted the DANCMSTR. Still, I spotted a few mini Derek solos in there, and when she was dancing I began to see what Carrie Ann had meant when she said Jennifer has a tendency to dance between two walls. My favorite moment of this dance was when Derek dipped her while she was spinning and when she suddenly stopped, his hand was clasping her neck at the oddest angle. Agggghhhh! Her neck!

Jen and Derek’s freestyle was set to “Do You Love Me” (not “Time of My Life,” because that song was really for Patrick Swayze and her) from Dirty Dancing. I’m sure some of you got annoyed by these farmers’ blatant milking of the Dirty Dancing cow for all it was worth, but whatever. I thought the idea was fun. Hello, Baby carried a watermelon! (Click that if you have no idea what that meant…or if you did. Nineteen seconds of your life; why not?)

Sure, he could have showcased her talents more, but I feel like Our Pros tend to make a specific decision on what to highlight in the freestyle and just go with that. In this season’s case: “sex” (Bristol), party (Kyle), and tricks (Jen). The freestyle, not to mention Jen’s two-piece pink costume, reminded me a lot of Derek’s freestyle with Brooke. Remember when Derek wore that sparkly pink bikini? It was wild! Anyway, both the full-throttle 180-degree sex dip and the full-body pat down were a bit tamer than their Dirty Dancing counterparts, but that’s okay. Jennifer couldn’t stop mouthing the lyrics, which was not really okay. Oh, well. 10! 10! 10!

NEXT: Len sacks Kyle with a first-round foxtrot, and Bristol packs her bag for a long jive.

Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer: 27/30 + 29/30 = 56/60 In an effort to redeem themselves from their week 5 “Charlie’s Angels” foxtrot, Kyle and Lacey kicked off the night with “Feelin’ Good.” I felt good about it, but I worry that no one will remember that Kyle even did a round 1 dance. Way to go, Len — sack the guy with the most personality with a tepid mid-tempo standard! I always enjoy the foxtrot — perhaps I’m an old soul, or just getting old, but I think it’s classic and if a contestant can make it seem charming without looking like a tool, I like that contestant. So I loved Kyle here.

Both Kyle and Lacey — who usually make goofy faces the whole time — were actually sultry and serious for a few seconds when Kyle was “swaying her from behind” (for lack of a better term, and because I like that one). The gold-flecked mirrorball designs on the big screens almost distracted from the fact that the entire Harold Wheeler Ensemble was a hidden gem, tucked away behind the rich red curtain! No way did this dance deserve the same score as Bristol’s first-round jive. As Len said, Kyle’s truly gone “from messy Massey to mah-velous.” Anyone else notice when the DANCMSTR threw down “gang signs” following his dramatic Lentrance into the rehearsal studio?

The bubbly-old-gangsta theme continued after Kyle and Lacey’s “Tootsie Roll” freestyle, which Len called “boogaloo” but Carrie Ann corrected as “old school hip-hop.” I was a little disappointed she called Kyle “the Fresh Prince of Dancing With the Stars” instead of the Fresh Prince of Ballroom Air, but I can’t stay mad at anyone after hearing Tom Bergeron follow that up by uttering — and I am not even kidding, this really happened — “Word to the mother.” That alone sort of makes this the best freestyle in history. That time I was kidding. But it was good! “Tootsie Roll” reminded me of the freestyle Lacey and Lance did in season 7, but instead of a classic red-and-black theme, they updated it for 2010 with purple socks and terrible yellow shoes.

On a brighter note, it did give the contestants a chance to wear a necklace and a visor with their names emblazoned onto them. (Finally!) And it was fun to watch Kyle almost topple onto Len while posturing atop the judges’ table. Now cartwheels! The Worm! Now dip, baby dip, come on, now…. Side note: If it’s wrong to think of “Whoomp (There It Is)” whenever I hear “Tootsie Roll” because it’s the next lyric in line in 1997’s Jock Jams Megamix, then I don’t want to be right!

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: 27/30 + 25/30 = 52/60 “There are lots of haters out there who are looking forward to seeing me fail,” Bristol announced. Well, let’s get to it, shall we? First, Bristol and Mark danced a redemption jive to “Move” from Dreamgirls. Did she move? Hard to say! I had trouble distinguishing any of her steps because her electric blue sneakers looked like slippers perhaps modeled after these Peeps. Bristol delivered a peep of pep this time, but just barely, and only while executing the best move in her arsenal: the shimmy. There definitely weren’t enough kicks, flicks, and tricks to warrant this dance straight 9s from the judges. “Last time a gorilla, and now a thrilla!” said Len, proud to have come up with a shaky rhyme. The gorilla mask had been in their prop suitcase because it was the baggage she’d been carrying around this whole time.

The best part of this segment was in the rehearsal studio — I loved the image of Bristol standing completely still while two crazy men in all black — Bruno and Mark — trapped her at their gyration station. Bruno begged her to give a damn, eventually swearing at Bristol to realize she was in the f—ing finals, not him! I watched very closely and it looked like Bristol never actually did anything while Bruno was visiting. Not one move! Very clever editing there. (Or not.)

NEXT: Mark imprisons Bristol in a moving anti-jail freestyle. OMG, this show is so political lately!

Mark decided to choreograph a sexy freestyle to “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, something his partner, who is uncomfortable with sexy dances, had never heard of let alone seen in any iteration. Seriously? Why couldn’t Mark just show her the movie? Who wouldn’t appreciate a popcorn break in the middle of cell-to-cell blocks of tough training? I started seriously pondering whether Bristol would have cared enough to just Google the darn thing…and then I ended up watching a few versions on YouTube…and now here I am, 20 minutes later, with nothing to show for my “work” but a halfhearted wish that Bristol would have performed some of the spoken-word component of the number. Pop, Six, Squish, Cicero! Uh uh…Johnston! You know, Levi, he liked to chew gum….the dirty bum, bum, bum… (Lame. Sorry.) Mark sure did have it comin’ — and only himself to blame for this POOR THEME CHOICE.

Anyway, Bristol’s performance was still very stoic and Mark’s choreography was almost too simple despite (or maybe due to) a seemingly promising tug-of-war with a red ribbon of fabric. Ugh, this dance would have been so much fun with literally any other contestant who could evoke any sort of attitude whatsoever. She didn’t even strike a pose or swing her weave at the end! Hmm, should I say something nice? The beginning of this dance did sort of work. I’m sorry, I can’t help it: because Bristol’s facial expressions and a large percentage of her body were shielded by a metal cage. Okay, wait, I have one: Bristol looks great in boots. I wonder if Mark chose “CBT” solely because he knows Bristol looks her best in boots!

Jennifer’s father Joel Grey, a Broadway vet who starred in the 1996 revival of Chicago, had to sit there with a straight face — but that’s fine, he’s an actor, it’s his job.

‘Til tomorrow, DANCMSTRs — who do you think will take home the trophy tonight? Discuss Monday’s performances in the comments, and nominate your Hidden Gems of the Week before 2 p.m. ET over at our PopWatch blog. (GEM SCOOP: Get ready for a special message from Tom!!!)

Oh and if anyone’s watching Skating With the Stars…I obviously couldn’t recap that one, too, but I interviewed the judges!

Update: Your Hidden Gems of Monday’s performance finale!

Well, what are you waiting for? Complete gem heap here.

Read more:

Photo gallery: Bristol, Kyle, and Jennifer’s Best/Worst Dances

“This is bulls—.” Maks calls in to the EW TV Insiders podcast!

Derek Hough mines for hidden gems in the ‘DWTS’ Hair Dept.!

All Hidden Gems of the Week

EW.com’s ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Central

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

Episode Recaps

MAKS: ‘SCREW CARRIE ANN!’ In this week’s TV Insiders podcast, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Michael Slezak discuss the shocking final three on Dancing With the Stars (and interview brutally candid eliminated pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy), dish the season’s best episode of Survivor (and interview master strategist Brenda Lowe), and sit down with EW’s resident Grey’s Anatomy recapper Jennifer Armstrong to discuss the medical drama’s creative resurgence. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

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