Warning: This recap of the Nov. 21 episode of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.
Lift up your sparkly face masks to wipe away the tears and/or snot: country singer and actress Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko were eliminated after Our Pro literally stressed himself sick about not letting his partner down in the finals. “My body’s giving up, but my mind is fighting,” Gleb promised. He submitted to bed rest mid-week, but not even a terrible flu could keep him from Monday’s laser-infused “redemption tango,” an unintentional nod to Gleb’s own Kubrick-esque bloodshot eyes.
Later on, feverish and sweaty during Round 2, Gleb melted down even further, blaming himself for the stumble in their freestyle.
Had Jana been able to grip him any more tightly (strength was never her forte), Gleb might have stayed in this blissfully vulnerable position forever. Just a statue of pure emotion. A Gleb-glob. We’ll never know. “When these two dance, you can give night sweats to a saint!” Bruno had insisted — but this random act of nonsense was too little, too late. Jana and Gleb knew they were doomed as soon as they fell under the red light of Jeopardy with James and Sharna.
Three finalists remain to dance it out for Tuesday’s coveted mirrorball trophy: basket of sunshine Laurie Hernandez, miracle man James Hinchcliffe, and happy trombonist Calvin Johnson Jr. It’s still anyone’s game — provided he/she is a professional athlete.
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!
Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 38 + 40 = 78 total The judges had wanted more chemistry in the pair’s paso doble way back in Week 5 — that infamous, one might say “Most Memorable” Week when Laurie pointed her toe, put her foot down, and kindly asked Val to CALM DOWN. How far they’ve come: Mere weeks later, after enduring the loss of Laurie’s grandma together, these two are practically stitched together at the heart. “You let me feel the way I was feeling instead of having me focus on something else,” Laurie gushed. The elite gymnast had officially gone emo: That’s the power of Dancing With the Stars.
And what better setup for Round 1’s “redemption dance,” in which the finalists sought to improve on (let’s be honest here) near-perfection the first time around. Monday’s paso brought out Laurie’s best alter-ego to date: the sophisticated dominatrix who’s seen some things. She’s the one who defies her partner at every turn in attitude while remaining perfectly loyal to him in technique. I’ve dubbed her the Queen of No.
“It should have been shirtless with suspenders, not a stupid sheer shirt!” (Example No.)
But the Queen of No took a backseat — somewhere far, far behind the merry-go-round — during Laurie and Val’s positively joyous playground romp of a freestyle, in which the 16-year-old got to be a rambunctious, tumbling teenager again. The use of a seesaw as a balance beam stand-in was particularly inspired.
At first glance, “making their way through the chaos of autumn” hardly seemed like a challenge. But Val did incorporate tons of different ballroom styles into a deceptively simple dance, and it really spotlighted the essence of Laurie: a bouncy ball of giggles who can do anything she wants.
“So much energy, you can send a rocket into the moon!” cried Bruno. “The embodiment of spirit and youth!” Carrie Ann, of course, was moved to tears. “I didn’t expect you to be so uplifting,” said the Lift Police in somewhat ironic approval.
Surely Len, who’d been transported back to being 12 years old, wished he had his hypothetical 11 paddle for the pair’s impromptu snow angels at the end.
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess: 37 + 40 = 77 Every judge but Bruno noticed the misstep during their redemption foxtrot, but the dance — showcasing James’ “dorky swag,” according to Julianne — was perfect otherwise. I must admit that the fact that Sharna didn’t enter the finals swathed in a jewel tone, ready to shed it for another jewel tone of equal or greater value in Round 2, was a little startling. But she fully embraced that sexy librarian persona, pretending in vain to refuse the urgent advances of Professor Hinch.
Excuse me, miss? We all caught a peek of the sparkly leotard under your sensible, billowing skirt. Everyone knows you’re down for a frisky foxtrot.
Later on, still committed as hell to the couple’s “hardcore literary” theme, James explained just how much their freestyle — which attempted to fill in what went through his mind when he was flatlining after last year’s Indy car accident — meant to him. “In the middle of the book” of his life, he told the master choreographer, “there was a blank page. You just wrote the page.”
The sexy librarian bit her lip at the ultimate turn-on: a fellow book lover speaking in tongues. That’s it! she decided. She would transform at once into his Sharnian angel!
Thanks to the power of his own spoken-word narration, it was almost like James conjured up his dance partner/saving grace himself. But nope. Angel. Together they twirled on the edge of the abyss between life (giant “bandage” panels hanging down from the ceiling) and death (certain troupe members dressed in black). And just like he has all season, James kept emerging in the forefront to take charge of his own destiny and never wear a shirt again.
As Julianne said, outdoing yourself week after week is what this competition is all about. “Whatever happens Tuesday night,” Sharna promised James, “This has been the season of my life.”
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold: 35 + 40 = 75 “Redemption dance” was a bit of a stretch, considering this couple’s biggest obstacles have been Calvin’s relative shyness and that one guy on the internet who predicted he’d do poorly. If their Round 1 effort proved anything, it’s that these two had enough charisma to rock not only the not-so-exciting Viennese waltz, but also the most paradoxical costuming trend ever: sequined neutrals. Quite a feat!
Len wanted to see better footwork, but still called Calvin “without a doubt, the most improved dancer in this final”. Unfortunately, Carrie Ann saw a foot come off the ground for a split second and freaked out as usual. Don’t worry, she was devastated.
Over in the Red Room, once Megatron was sufficiently shrouded in hand towels due to his very sexy sweating problem, he got a surprise visit from perhaps his best asset of all: Minitron!
He then sweetly sashayed away from all the hullabaloo so that his mini-me wouldn’t get too scared. It was practically a second waltz. Unfair? Eh, we’ll let it slide. But not everyone could. “Carrie Ann was very moved when she saw Caleb’s dad, but she took off a point for Calvin’s lift,” Tom quipped — the greatest response to her persistent ridiculata EVER.
Lindsay’s freestyle philosophy has always been “go big or go home” — remember Season 21’s army obstacle course with Alek? This week, she upped her game even further, incorporating a moving walkway into a wildly uplifting tribute to Motown.
It was good to see Calvin express more desire to actually win this thing now that the competition has narrowed. “There was never a question about whether you can entertain, and tonight you proved you can dance,” Len approved.
This NFL star and his snug khakis are 100 percent going for it, y’all!
Tonight, DWTS invades shopping fantasyland The Grove to kick off the holidays — “which, according to Carrie ann, also constitutes a lift,” joked Tom. See you back here Wednesday morning for the Season 23 finale recap!
The Fringe Fairy
The Dancing With the Stars finale airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of DWTS on Yahoo View.