Season 20’s coveted mirrorball trophy is still up for grabs — in theory, anyway. Despite some hardcore Jack Sparrow vamping from Riker Lynch and a heroic turnaround from Noah Galloway during Monday’s finals, I find it difficult to imagine any other outcome than a golden moment for Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy on Tuesday’s Dancing With the Stars finale.
No matter what happens, the winning pro will be a first-time champion. So that’s something! (Go Val.)
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhh-ber!
Riker Lynch and Allison Holker: 40 + 40 = 80/80 Instead of choosing a first-round dance through which they could demonstrate their improvement, this pair chose their favorite major production that previously earned them two 10s: the Pirates of the Caribbean paso doble. They both sort of turned me off during the rehearsal package, in which Riker named only Rumer as his competition and Allison vigorously insisted that Riker “became a man on that dance floor” during their initial attempt at the paso (not liiiiiiiive sex) on Week 5. I’d love to have seen Johnny Depp’s reaction to this well-danced but overblown number, but I’m pretty sure he would have been hiding under a pile of scarves.
“You really are a barn-storming dirt devil!” cried Bruno — surely one of his many euphemisms for a boy transforming into a man right before our eyes.
Riker and Allison’s Fred Astaire-inspired freestyle was… busy. Too busy? I appreciated the few slowed-down sequences but tensed back up as the dance retained the pair’s usual pace: frenetic. Still, they somehow pulled it off. Riker miraculously possesses enough body control to handle every last twist of the insane choreography that’s been thrown his way. “I have given him some of the toughest routines I have ever seen on the show,” said Allison before proceeding to literally walk all over people during their Super Troupe-sized number. There was so much going on atop the silver-flittered deathtraps on wheels at the end that Tom had to race over and retrieve the misbehaving sparklebots.
Our Host absolutely gets a 10 for this spirited dash. Julianne barely had time to sputter “Honestly, I gotta be honest,” and then poof: It was all over. Perfect scores.
Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 40 + 40 = 80/80 You can’t help but root for this pair of glistening motion-poets who have long been overshadowed by more famous family members. Without kowtowing to the judges or the viewers, Rumer and Val have become a double-edged sword of technical wizardry and FEEEEEEEELINGS, neither of which would be that compelling without the other but together, they are magic. They chose to repeat their foxtrot all the way back from Week 1, when Rumer was a mere semi-confident flicker as opposed to the fierce chandelier she is today.
Bruno called their now-perfect-40 routine “no-nonsense, absolutely pure ballroom bliss,” and as the judges all stressed Rumer’s marked improvement in danceability, nearly everyone in the audience became tearfully overpowered by the original intention of the show. Even Rumer’s dad Bruce Willis was suitably shaken and stirred.
It had to happen eventually! He’s such a cry hard.
For their freestyle, Val played his sweet-voiced partner like a violin.
Plus: the actual violin! The pair split up musical responsibilities, just like they do in their dance partnership, to provide a sultry and somewhat spooky cover of Britney Spears’s “Toxic.” Huge, guns-blazing mega-productions have never worked for Val, so he wisely choreographed a standard ballroom showcase for what he and Rumer do best: strip it down and feel it out.
Perhaps this can be the duo’s album cover for a collection of ballroom beats called Strings Attached. “Toxic” was pretty good, but I think Team Valenrue’s first single should probably be an original tune, such as “Raw, Dynamic, Real” or possibly “Shirtless With Suspenders,” a paso doble-inspired instrumental. But enough of my flights of future fancy. We’ve got a real-time hero to discuss.
Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess: 32 + 40 = 72/80 Sadly, our two-limbed vet got lost in his head during the pair’s first dance, the Argentine tango. After the opening few seconds (during which I felt his slicked back hair was really working it), nearly every step was out of sync. Three of the judges pontificated on Noah’s season-long journey and tremendous improvement, while Carrie Ann of all people kept it real: “Arrrgggghh! That was hard for me to watch.” Of course this was devastating for Noah, but it did set up a prime opportunity for a do-or-die emotional explosion (aka #sparklebarf) later on.
You might think the key to Noah’s sporadic success on the dance floor is dedication and complete focus, but now it’s a pseudoscientific fact that he just needs to go without a shirt. (Any viewer could have told him this, but the beauty of DWTS is that contestants must figure out the keys to life all on their own.) “I pull it together when I take it off,” the motivational speaker humbly realized after he and Sharna finally earned their first perfect 40 for a contemporary freestyle that left me weeping uncontrollably and vowing to do so much more with my life.
Noah’s final gaze out of the darkness and into the light was profound, but as a true fan of both dancing and smoke machines, I preferred this tremendous moment featuring lift-assisters Artem Chigvintsev and Mark Ballas scampering away like fairy dust mites. Powerful stuff.
Everlasting Grab of Strength (Noah) and Sadness (no more Len):
So moody tonight! ’Til tomorrow, DANCMSTRs. I’ll have a full recap of Tuesday’s finale come Wednesday morning. Get ready to feel it in your gemstones!