“This is the spray tan traffic zone, right here.” — host
We’ve reached the “
Zendaya and Valentin Chmerkovskiy came out of the first night of the finals as the couple to beat. And sure, Zendaya's always shown great dancing chops, but they did suffer some blows: Last week's misguided quickstep earned them some of their lowest scores and put them in jeopardy. And then Val was literally knocked down by his one-named wunderkind's elbow earlier in the day during rehearsals, which turned his face into a bloody Quentin Tarantino movie. Val's brow still had a Rocky-like cauliflower look going into the judges' pick samba. Carrie Ann visited the duo during rehearsals to remind Zendaya not to be so loosey goosey in her core and to have a "perfect balance of technique, content and doing Zendaya's thing." And all that came to the forefront in their first dance, which felt very grounded and real despite Zendaya's fringe and sparkly pink leggings. "That's what I'm talking about," praised Carrie Ann. "You lost nothing in that." Len called the dance "eye-popping, show-stopping, jaw-dropping. That's the samba!" "You're just incredibly fierce, child," Bruno said admiringly. "You have a natural flamboyance that's so easy … and incredible technique." Score: 30. And Zendaya also had the uncanny ability to turn into a cha cha, which helped her and Val win the cha-cha relay and gain another full five points.
Zendaya and Val achieved the perfection hat trick with their super-size freestyle routine. Everyone (myself included) figured the last dance would be purely hip-hop, but Zendaya and Val gussied up their routine with some cha-cha and contemporary to make it more of a ballroom dancing event. And they added kids! Loved seeing Zendaya interact with the lil' ones and give them hugs after the performance. And what the super-size freestyle lacked in emotional depth it made up in technique and fun. Plus, I always get a kick out of seeing Val get down with hip-hop. "There were so many parts to that number but it all came together," Len said. "Kids in America rejoice: Zendaya the teen idol is here," Bruno proclaimed. "So unique and always you … simply irresistible." "Way to take us home," Carrie Ann commended. "You showcase why you're an incredible role model." Total: 65 out of 65.
Nipping right at their heels were Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough. The judges chose the quickstep for the country singer and her similarly coiffed pro partner. The last time they danced this dance, Carrie Ann pointed out the space in the hold, and she who jars the pickles was determined to stick close to Derek. "We're gonna duct tape ourselves if I have to," she said. But when Len came to help out during rehearsals, he painted a more vivid picture. "Your nobbily bits should be just on this side of his nobbily bits," the head judge said. And their quickstep was great from start to finish, beginning in black and white and with a volley of dialogue and a split leap, and ending in vibrant Technicolor with a crazy twist between the legs. "I was palpitated, perspirated, I was so excited I nearly flatuated," Len rhymed. Bruno called Kellie "the Southern Belle of the ball.… Technically it was really a tour de force." "The one thing I was looking for was an improvement in your body contact," Carrie Ann said. "And I saw it!" Score: 30. Kellie and Derek got second place and four extra points for their cha-cha relay.
Some people chose to fill their freestyles up with people and props. After toying with the idea of hammocks and silks, Kellie and Derek decided to pare down their super-size freestyle routine, stripping down the production element but making the dance more difficult. And the risk paid off: This contemporary routine, set to the lovely "Beneath Your Beautiful" by Labrinth featuring "DWTS" performer Emeli Sandé, had so much more of a lasting impact than some of the other big-budget numbers. Her light leaps were anchored with an emotional weight, and that pose where she leaned forward at a 30-degree angle to the floor was achingly beautiful. "It's about trust and letting those walls down," Kellie explained. And you could tell both Kellie and Derek poured both their hearts into it, with Derek wiping away tears in the end. Carrie Ann was awash with emotion. "Kellie, you just bared your soul on the dance floor and it was one of the most beautiful things," she said. Len stood up and applauded. "You did a dance of spellbinding beauty," Bruno commended. "That really was a contemporary work of art. It sticks to you. It touches everybody." Of course, they were awarded another perfect 30, though Len and Bruno both agreed they would give it 11s if they could. Total: 64.
Alexandra Raisman has come a long way. Under the tutelage of
For their freestyle, Mark said he wanted to use everything Aly's learned over the season. So he made sure they got their faces painted and had Aly working an elevated stripper pole, which served to "highlight Aly's strengths" and is "typically something you see just professionals doing." Can't imagine what Aly's dad in the audience thought of the splits-heavy performance, but it soon became clear that the pole work was kept to just a compartmentalized part of this Afro jazzical contempo freestyle routine. The judges, however, really liked the originality. Bruno called it "futuristic with a touch of exotic." Carrie Ann revealed she also "worked a pole" during a Madonna tour. Len dubbed Aly "Alexandra the Great." Score: 30. Total: 61.
What’s it going to take for the last man standing to beat these leading ladies? Said Jacoby Jones himself: “The grace of God.” Love this NFL player and how he brings out the goofy, fun-loving side of this goofy, fun-loving reality show — and his partner,
For their freestyle, Jacoby and Karina opted for a blend of New Orleans steppers and a second line with some Baltimore flavor, because the Big Easy likes to have fun and dance, and Baltimore wins trophies. “Like a big ol’party on the dance floor,” Jacoby described. And I loved the steppers (particularly seeing that Tony Dovolani joined the party) at the beginning and the mini Jacoby and mini Karina tap dancers at the end. “You got the freestyle party started,” declared Len. “Like a 180-yard touchdown.” Bruno said he “loved the sense of celebration” and said it was “like watching a
Which sounds about right going into Tuesday night's ultimate results show. I'd say Kellie and Zendaya are neck and neck to win the coveted Mirrorball trophy, and Aly and Jacoby are in a run-off for third place. Of course, all that could go away after the Insta-Dance.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Who do you think will walk away with the ultimate "DWTS" prize?