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'Dancing With the Stars': The finalists perform

November 24, 2008 | 10:24 pm

Dwts_7_10_1_p1 Tonight, our “Dancing With the Stars” finalists -– Lance Bass, Brooke Burke and Warren Sapp –- participated in a “samba smackdown,” and we also got to see the much-anticipated freestyle round. We also got some early bonus filler, but don’t worry -– we’ll still have nearly two hours’ worth on Tuesday.  Based on the judges’ scores tonight, Brooke regained her position in the lead, with Lance and Warren tied for second.  But now’s the time when the votes really count, fans, so Brooke is hardly guaranteed to capture the “most reflective trophy in television,” as co-host Tom Bergeron described it. As an important aside, I should note that after recovering last week, whoever is styling co-host Samantha Harris’s hair went off his/her medication this week.  Or perhaps he/she time-traveled back to the 1980s in New Jersey and couldn’t shake the experience when returning to the present. 

Let’s start with the filler, which was actually somewhat illuminating. To remind us why we love them -– and should therefore vote on their behalf –- each couple got to talk about their best ballroom and Latin dances. First we heard from Brooke and Derek, who thought their best ballroom dance of the season was the quickstep, which they performed early on. Watching it, I realized that Brooke, who was already in good shape, has slimmed down even more over the course of the season. I guess dancing eight hours a day will make anyone more lithe. And they thought the paso doble was their best Latin dance of the season. I will agree that it was very intense, aided in part by the diamond-commercial music that accompanied it. Derek pointed out that Brooke has been the most consistent performer all season, with an average score of more than 26/30. 

Lance and Lacey were up next, and they thought their best ballroom dance was their goth tango, which they felt was the first dance in which their risk-taking really paid off. It was definitely one of my favorite dances all season. For the Latin dance, they thought their mambo from last week was tops.  You’ll remember this one by the zany tail on Lacey’s dress. Seeing Lance and Lacey right after Brooke and Derek, it struck me that Lacey’s choreography is generally more engaging than Derek’s. Lacey lobbied for votes for Lance because he’s the most improved.  His average score this season was a little over 24/30.

Warren and Kym cited their Viennese waltz as their best ballroom performance, when Warren showed he could slow it down and glide. And their best Latin dance was the paso doble, which they performed in futuristic pleather garb. It did work for them. Also, Warren appeared to be wearing eyeliner. And why should Warren win?  Kym said he captures the essence of what the show is, that he lights up the dance floor and rivets the audience. His average score was 24/30. After watching them right after Lance and Lacey and Brooke and Derek, I would say that Warren is, from a technical perspective, clearly in third place. But since audience reaction is a component of this competition, it depends on how much weight you give it. Maybe this is a philosophical issue to be addressed tomorrow, since it always comes up in the comments. What matters most? Technical skill? Improvement? Degree of difficulty? Engaging the crowd? Do you have a scoring algorithm that perfectly encapsulates the goals of “DWTS”? If so, discuss.

The new Ballroom Kids champions, revealed with very little fanfare, were Craig and Samantha, siblings of one of last year’s runners-up. They danced a jive that was, as you would expect from the Ballroom Kids, cute. They received the junior-sized glitter-ball trophy, which they will clearly lord over their sister Cara, who didn't bring the goods home last season. 

For the samba smackdown, Brooke drew first position, and Derek’s strategy was to load it up with tough moves, though Brooke wasn’t doing a great job remembering what those moves were.  During group rehearsal, Lance and Lacey held off showing all of their moves, which made the others nervous that they didn’t know what they were up against. Trash-talking ensued. “Samba la vista, baby,” said Warren. 

Brooke and Derek’s part seemed to start with difficult moves –- for Derek.  But the dance got harder for Brooke, and it did include some of those always tricky samba rolls. Lance and Lacey’s part looked fun, but Lance was a bit pigeon-toed. Warren and Kym came out full of enthusiasm, and the tail on Kym’s dress really put all the other bird-tailed outfits all season to shame. The dance ended in a circle, where all three women were lofted into the air, which was pretty nifty.

Len complimented the band first, then said that all of the contestants did better than they had in their original sambas. He thought Warren’s samba contained much more content. He loved Lance’s energy but thought he needed to work on the finesse. He lauded Brooke but still thought she should straighten her legs. Bruno admired Brooke for being "sizzling" and sexy. Lance was so “tight and so clean,” and has come a long way in his confidence. And Warren, of course, remains very fun. Carrie Ann said Lance has the momentum, but that Warren is the most improved. She thought Brooke brought the most technical nuance, but she might have been a bit overly ambitious in the samba tonight. 

The scores?  For Brooke and Derek: 28/30.  For Lance and Lacey: 26/30.  For Warren and Kym: 25/30. 

Next up was the always heavily anticipated freestyle round. In the rehearsal clip scenes, we saw Derek give Brooke a pep talk. Since Lance and Warren would obviously be such strong competitors in the freestyle, they decided to pull out all the stops. And because Derek was having some back problems, they practiced in the pool with Brooke’s kids. Performing to the song “The One That I Want” from "Grease," Brooke and Derek danced a high-energy number that included lots of lifts, spins, acrobatics and disrobing. Bruno said that Brooke is the one that “we all want,” and that Brooke ended up in positions he’s only seen in the Kama Sutra. Moreover, he said, it was the best freestyle he’s seen.  Carrie Ann said they totally "brought it." Len got all hot under the collar and agreed it was the best freestyle he’s ever seen. Score: 30/30. Like you couldn’t see that coming after the comments. Total for the night: 58/60.

In Lance and Lacey’s rehearsals, they took their momentum and newfound confidence and applied it to a hip-hop routine. And in keeping with hip-hop, there would be no lifts. Their dance, which started at the judges’ table, was very energetic, crisp and well synchronized. It also really played to Lacey’s dancing strengths, I thought, and ended with Lance’s cleverly throwing one shoe in the air. Carrie Ann loved the beginning and the end, but the middle -– which contained a little bit of cha-cha -- didn’t resonate with her. Len, somewhat surprisingly, liked the song (“It’s Tricky” by Run-DMC) and the cha-cha bit. Bruno thought the creativity and wit were noteworthy.  Score: 27/30, for a total of 53/60.

Last up were Warren and Kym. In rehearsals, Kym focused on injecting more content into Warren’s choreography, including lots of lifts. Their dance started out slowly, to “Rolling on the River,” then they stripped off their outer outfits and danced really, really fast to a speeded-up version of the song. Len applauded Warren’s ability to entertain. Bruno said that, with Warren, “all resistance is futile.” Carrie Ann said it was her favorite routine, but she saw a mistake that Warren again gave away with his facial expression. Score: 28/30, including a 10 from Len “for entertainment.” Total: 53/60.

So two couples will get another dance in tomorrow; who will they be? And who will be the ultimate winner? Check in tomorrow for some thoughts on the best and worst moments of the season so far, and feel free to weigh in with your own now.

-- Sarah Rogers

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