Warning: This Dancing With the Stars recap contains spoilers.
On tonight’s two-hour DWTS finale, the glittery atmosphere of Planet Mirrorballus will descend upon the fancy mall next door and SOMEONE will win Val’s trophy! Train attack hero Alek Skarlatos, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, and overflowing glass of bubbly Bindi Irwin are all still in the running to become America’s Next Top Frameholder.
Despite putting up two perfect scores in Monday’s finals, Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson have been eliminated on Week 11. But it’s okay. I suspect Carlos had already made peace with the fact that he wasn’t going to win. Why else would he have delivered a firm “nuh-uh, no thanks” to the coveted mirrorball trophy with a blur of his hand while incorporating Paula Deen into a hip hop freestyle?
The evidence couldn’t be more obvious!
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 30 jive + 30 freestyle = 60 out of 60 Julianne dropped in on their jive rehearsal to give Nick some pointers for Round 1, the Judges’ Choice. His kicks and flicks should be lightning-fast, as if he were dancing on lava. “Like, ooh! I don’t wanna touch it!” Judge Juli demonstrated.
Sharna nodded patiently. She’d always known about the lava. And surely the couple put that tip to good use, but I gotta give mad props to Carrie Ann Inaba for celebrating “Sharna for the goddess she really is” after that red-hot, content-packed jive. Our Pro was on fire!
I liked how they made sure to kick off the jive with one of Nick’s signature moves: firmly gripping Sharna while really feelin’ himself.
For Round 2, the freestyle, all our favorite pros plus a hot new bald one I didn’t recognize joined the couple for a “Larger Than Life” ballroom/hip hop extravaganza. I’m always down for a Backstreet Boys concert with better dancing, especially on a Monday. But this freestyle felt a heck of a lot like Nick and Sharna’s Week 4 jazz, so fans hoping to see a new side of Nick might have been up in arms.
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 30 quickstep + 30 freestyle = 60/60 Technical difficulties and a sore foot had plagued Bindi the first time they did the quickstep, and she faced even more distractions the second time around. I’m not sure which background noise was more threatening: Carrie Ann’s warning sirens to not break hold or the unpredictable maelstrom of Derek’s bronchitis.
Undeterred, Bindi conducted the orchestra herself at the beginning of their shiny, Troupe-assisted Judges’ Choice routine. If anyone was gonna be louder than that dress, it was her.
“That was a gem of a quickstep. Every facet was gleaming like a brilliant-cut diamond!” raved Bruno Tonioli, jewels wedged into his eyes like Dopey from Snow White. “When I watch you dance, I feel like I’m a better person,” said the better person formerly known as Carrie Ann. It’s cheesy, but it’s true: That’s the magic Bindi brings to the ballroom. “She’s made it extraordinary for me,” Derek wheezed post-dance, reminding us of what’s really important here.
Later, Derek sold his partner on a stripped-down, no-frills freestyle — partly to save face against the inherent production value of a Backstreet Boy in the finals, but mostly because the wonder of Bindi’s dancing needed no pomp and just one surprise circumstance: A photo of her and her late father appearing at the end of their graceful romp through the sands of time.
There, there, pet. You’re still at the zoo. Have some more bronchitis.
Bindi cried. The judges cried. Little brother Robert snuggled against their crying mom and we all cried some more, because we loved Steve Irwin back then and we love Bindi now and what a beautiful family. But the truth is that dance could have stood on its own without the emotional dollop on top. Much like Nick’s freestyle, Bindi’s was something we’d seen from her before. But she performed it with skill and sunshine to its fullest potential.
Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 27 rumba + 30 freestyle = 57/60 “You’re in the finals! THIS IS SERIOUS! WE WANT YOU TO DO THE RUMBA,” Carrie Ann barked at the guy who once helped thwart a terror attack. Alek just wasn’t comfortable getting into “sexy dance mode” with his original partner. His temporary escape to Emma Slaterville during The Switch Up had messed with his head something fierce. Not to worry, thought the costume department. We shall dress him in grey silk pajamas!
It worked, for the most part. Alek does best when either Lindsay’s hairography clouds his lack of emotional connection or a loving zoom-in portrays him as a hero saving her from a fire, and this dance fulfilled both of those requirements. But the judges saw no hip action, so they whammied Mr. Jammies with the only non-30 of the night.
Alek’s second dance, an army-based obstacle course through the typical hazards of Planet Mirrorballus — spray tan molecules, stray hats, random pros, Carrie Ann — was much more his speed. Lindsay deserves hero worship for aiming so high with the choreography (that wall was 8 feet tall, plus lifts) for her first-ever freestyle on the show.
The judges went crazy for Alek’s performance, but host with the most Tom Bergeron summed it up best: “So many things could’ve gone wrong, and you danced by all of them.”
Who’s about to win this thing: Nick, Bindi, or Alek? See you back here tomorrow morning for my last recap of the season!
Until then, check the rearview:
Your Shirtless Destiny in the mirror could be closer than he appears.
The Dancing With the Stars finale airs tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC.