'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Finals frenzy
We’re at the tail end of another cycle of “Dancing With the Stars” and oh so close to crowning our Season 14 champion in a sea of confetti and glitter. It’s a big event, ballroom fans. The studio audience was lined with “DWTS” contestants of seasons past and present, like Jane Seymour, Emmit Smith, Donny Osmond and Maria Menounous, all present to see the remaining three couples strut their stuff in two routines: the judges’ choice and the much-anticipated make-it or break-it freestyle.
After tonight, each couple will receive the music to their final routine, to be performed on Tuesday’s finale. Though if the close judges’ scores are any indicator, whoever walks off with the Mirrorball trophy on Tuesday will do so with the slightest of margins. These contestants are just too close to call: William Levy’s got his Latin beat and wildly popular sex appeal, Katherine Jenkins is the picture of technical mastery, and Donald Driver is a show-stopper in the end zone. Lucky for us, we were treated to six terrific dances.
William Levy and Cheryl Burke were first up with their do-over cha cha. And of course Bruno was the judge that offered the one-on-one tutorial during rehearsals ("ta-da!"), proffering William with helpful advice like “every detail has to be perfect” and confirming that “your hip action is just sex on legs.” William wanted to improve on the three 8s he received for his cha cha with Cheryl his first time out. And this time around he looked so much more at ease than he did in his Week 1 performance. Of course, ease equals confident and sexy in the ballroom world. So let's all raise a glass to his toast-worthy performance, shall we? “That was as good as I’ve ever seen in 14 seasons,” proclaimed Len. Bruno called William “an intoxicating Cuban cocktail of natural fluid moves... Your hip action leaves me green with envy.” Carrie Ann said the magic was still there from Week 1, but what she sees now is “sophistication … you have grown miles.” Look at his son, so cute in his red bow tie!
William likened making it this far without winning the MIrrorball to getting on the boat from Cuba and not making it to the United States. Cheryl knew exactly what William should do for his freestyle – “I have it pictured in my head, and it looks beautiful.” And this two-time champion really knows how to cater to an audience. Start William out clothed and in a hat, and little by little take all those layers off so that he’s left with his shirt open, chest bared, grinding and shaking his rear end and eliciting squeals of delight from the audience. And perhaps it was a wicked case of “bum envy” rearing its ugly head, but Len has had enough of being left behind. “It was too predictable,” he pooh-poohed. “All you do is shake your butt and get the women screaming.” Bruno, of course, could not get enough rump shaking. “You were like two devils unleashed upon the earth into a Latin-inspired extravaganza,” he crowed. “Sinful, but ever so good.” Just the thought of the routine sent Carrie Ann into robot moves and giggles. “That was just exactly what a freestyle should be,” she sighed happily. William and Cheryl received a perfect 30 for their do-over cha cha, and a 29 for their freestyle. Total: 59 out of 60.
Katherine Jenkins & Mark “a man who can wear a hat” Ballas had a lot to prove after last week’s back-tweaking slip up. The judges wanted them to re-perform their paso doble, which didn’t go over quite as well as they had hoped during Rock Week. And there was no pleather or pyrotechnics or over-aggression to be found this time around. Len said there had to be "big, strong shapes" with more finesse. It was a more traditional dance with great sweeping skirt action and packed to the hilt with drama. “Technical brilliance!” Bruno bellowed. Carrie Ann likened it to “watching a prima ballerina – every move is perfectly executed.” Hungry Len called it a “bullfight of Spanish tapas, full of tasty tidbits to tickle your tastebuds” and awarded them their first-ever 10 from Len! Olé!
The 10s didn’t stop there. Mark believed Katherine to be the season’s most versatile performer, so he wanted to construct a freestyle routine to show her proficiency in many different styles. And this melting pot of a lindy hop swing dance was chocked full of content that started fast and didn’t stop once to catch its breath. And lest we forget what she does for her day job, Katherine started the routine singing at the mic. Go Welsh Wiggler! Her flat shoes didn’t quite go with her fringe and sparkle dress, but guess you can’t move that fast with heels. “That was a fast and flamboyant tour de force through all the ages of swing,” said Bruno. “I’ve never seen so much content, so fast, so well executed.” Carrie Ann called it “the dance of a champion.” “If I’m asleep and dreaming, don’t wake me up,” declared Len. “This is a freestyle.” Perfect 30. Total: 60 out of 60.
Donald Driver is still looking for that 10 from Len. Carrie Ann came by rehearsals to get him to show more content and dynamism to his do-over Argentine tango performance. And I thought their routine, set to Jem’s “They” was quite effective, with an economy of movement and an economy of dress on Peta’s part (seriously, she must be saving the wardrobe department so much money with the scant amounts of fabric she has on each dress). “I loved it the first time, but I loved it again,” said Carrie Ann. “I wouldn’t say I saw more content ... but there was a lot of light and shade to your performance.” Len, however, saw far more content. “I liked the set up and the intensity of the dance,” the head judge started out encouragingly. But “for me, it was a tad careful.” “You went for the subtle and intimate,” said Bruno. “I could read everything in the story and it was very very effective.” Len could not deign to give Donald a 10 for this dance, so he and Peta were left with a 29 (“He’s really beginning to annoy me,” responded Tom in kind).
Donald was still itching to get that 10 from Len. "I promise on this next one, you will give me a 10," the Super Bowl winner declared. He knew that William was going to go for the salsa moves with his freestyle, and pegged Katherine to go toward more of a quickstep, ballroom-type direction. Donald wanted to go his own way. The avid “DWTS” fan thought a country-style routine along the lines of Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke’s Mirrorball-winning Season 2 freestyle was just the thing to set the Texas native apart from the rest. And for the love of bucking broncos, it was. While the football field that was projected onto the floor was neat, if a bit of a stretch for a country-style routine, I appreciated the Green Bay colors on Donald and Peta’s outfits and the singing presence of Cowboy Troy. And I loved how this routine had more honkin tonkin twists and turns than a Texas rodeo. Those split leaps! That swagger! The way he whipped her around like a lasso in those lifts! The (sparkly) cheeseheads loved it. So did Carrie Ann, who got up on the table to whoop her utter delight. “This is by far my favorite finals, and that is by far my favorite dance tonight!” she exclaimed. Len made a football metaphor. “In football, catches win matches, and chances win dances. ... Fantastic!” Bruno found this “ride in the wild wild west” irresistible. And after 10 weeks and umpteen dances, Donald finally got what he was looking for: A 10 from Len, and a perfect score of 30. Totally worth a bloody lip, if you ask me. Total: 59 out of 60.
Which makes it such a close call going into Tuesday’s final results. Of course, each couple has one more dance to perform before the coveted Mirrorball trophy is issued – a routine prepared in just 24 hours. A day-old dance.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Who deserves to win the Mirrorball trophy? Did William Levy get a bum deal from Len? Will Katherine the Welsh Wiggler become the Welsh Winner? Does Donald get to put a Mirrorball next to his Super Bowl trophy? Or are we all winners for getting to watch all three of these entertainers dance?
Photo of Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC
Photo of Mark Ballas and Katherine Jenkins. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC