It all came down to connection – the one that Nastia Liukin didn’t have with the voting fans of “Dancing With the Stars,” and the one that Noah Galloway quite clearly did.
The audience simply loves this man and wants to see more of him. As I’ve already said, I think the loyalists will get their wish well beyond next week’s “DWTS” finale. There’s plenty more media exposure in store for Noah, already a model, product endorser and motivational speaker, if he chooses it.
In the near future, though, it will be Noah joining Riker Lynch and Rumer Willis competing for that coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on next week’s season ender. It’s 10th-anniversary “gold” this time!
And that’s not to take anything away from Nastia’s ability to glide across that floor. She did so, over and over, in near flawless fashion, though it might already have been expected of her since she’s an Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast. She came into the contest armed with abundant rhythm and grace. She was well versed in things like body awareness, control and position. She should’ve been fabulous, and she was, without a doubt.
Yet she just wasn’t as captivating as Noah, a wounded Army veteran and double amputee who, as if everyone wasn’t crazy enough about him, dropped to a knee and put a ring on it Monday night. You’re a lucky gal, Jamie Boyd.
“DWTS” fans have a history of rewarding celebrities who vastly improve over time -- stars who start undeniably skilled and become noticeably more so -- and personalities who make good house guests week after week.
Noah, who enlisted in the military after 9/11, beat Nastia 2-to-1 on those criteria. Nastia, obviously the superior dancer, also might’ve seemed less approachable and less relatable in comparison. (Her prickly video snippets really didn’t help matters at all).
So that’s my two cents, and it seemed a better use of time and space to parse this issue than to worry about how irritable Len Goodman would get watching all those fusion dance numbers that populated Tuesday’s results hour.
I could’ve done without the faux-hoedown-with-break-dancing at the beginning myself. But the all-female special-effects-dotted routine choreographed by “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Mandy Moore was pretty hot, Len, so unbunch those skivvies.
And speaking of filler, the hour was packed with replays and performance highlights -- “time capsules,” co-host Tom Bergeron called some of them -- particularly from the memorable Monday night semifinals.
Clips showed contestants saying wonderful, glowing things about each other and their experiences on the program. Would anyone trash the popular competition at this point? The stars were giddy with nerves and exhaustion in this home stretch. And, come on, they’ve perfected the art of the gushing sound bite by now.
Flo Rida landed in the studio and rapped his new tune, “GDFR,” with pro and troupe dancers doing their best booty shakes and hair flips around him. Did they “get down for real?” Yes, by ABC prime-time “family hour” standards, they did.
Not sure how the hip-hop performance sat in the producers’ minds alongside the lip-synched song-and-dance number from Riker’s little brother and the cast of “Teen Beach 2.” (premiering June 26 on the Disney Channel!) But there it was in all its gosh-golly glory.
A quick observation on Derek Hough. Had anyone else noticed the protective – um, territorial – way that he hovered over Nastia late this season? No? I sure did.
Not only did he carve out a part for himself in every dance routine, even when he couldn’t walk, for crying out loud, he stood guard beside her at all the pivotal times (judges’ critiques, skybox, not to mention rehearsals). Poor Sasha Farber, who filled in beautifully, nearly got shoved out of the picture. Not fair!
What was actually happening there? Was that my imagination? Discuss!
Maybe Derek knew a potential winner when he saw one and wanted to hold tightly, literally. (His fingers seemed glued to Nastia's arm). But then he hasn’t taken home the mirror ball five times for not recognizing and nurturing talent, after all. He just seemed a little unnecessarily clingy. I don’t think I’ll miss that.
Nastia, for her part, left classy. Her stoic goodbye, likely honed from years of grueling international meets, just proved the point I was making earlier about her distance from viewers. It was magical, she said somewhat convincingly, and she loved dancing with Derek, and the Len cameo on Monday night “really meant a lot.” And then she was done, with little in the way of overt emotion. Nastia out!
Here’s the lineup for the finale: Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy, Riker Lynch and Allison Holker, and Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess.