Is Zendaya the one to beat on Dancing with the Stars? Not according to TVGuide.com voters — a whopping 59 percent of whom have pegged Kellie Pickler to take home the Mirrorball trophy. Zendaya received 27 percent, while Aly Raisman and Jacoby Jones earned 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
They will face off in the show's first four-couple final Monday and Tuesday with four routines: the judges' choice, the cha-cha relay and the super-sized freestyle on Monday, and the Instant Dance on Tuesday. But before they do, let's size them up.
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For him: Charm, personality and flair. The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver has charisma for days. He singlehandedly brought the laughs this season and is endlessly watchable.
Needs to work on: Technique. Jones is proudly pigeon-footed and has the least precise footwork out of the final four. (He also has the lowest season average of the finalists.) Though Karina Smirnoff has helped him improve in the back half of the season, if his technique were up to par with his persona, then he would be hard to beat.
Why he might win: Because it's not just a dance competition. Jones, who finally received his first 10s and a perfect score last week, is a crowd-pleaser. If he delivers an explosive freestyle, aka the make-it-or-break-it routine, and is consistent in his other dances, there's no reason not to think he could be the fourth football player to walk away with a Mirrorball trophy.
For her: Aw-shucks naivete (she pronounces it "Flaming Co."), technical precision and eye-popping flexibility. (As our Friend Phoebe Buffay would say, she's "very bendy.") Pickler has exceled at every single dance, and although Zendaya has earned more 30s, the American Idol alum has the highest season average. Not counting the first week when she got a 21, Pickler has not received lower than a 25 for an individual dance.
Needs to work on: Belief and her connection with Derek Hough. Though her footwork and shapes are nearly impeccable, Pickler tends to dance within herself. Not to mention she sometimes seems too hard on herself, and some of her serious dances lack emotional impact (see: her rumba), which then affects her technique.
Why she might win: She has the skills, the sweet personality and the show's only three-time pro champ as her partner. Hough is arguably the best and most creative choreographer on the series and, as any Dancing viewer knows, he loves to bend the rules. Sometimes it's too risky, sometimes it's not the judges' cup of tea (see: Len Goodman's outburst at his inspired parallel universes for their Viennese waltz and paso doble two weeks ago), but it's always original. And after 16 seasons of run-of-the-mill foxtrots and sambas, that's what sticks out in fans' minds.
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For her: Athleticism and fearlessness. The Shawn Johnson comparisons stop at Olympic gymnastics champ and Mark Ballas' partner. While the Season 8 winner took a while to get out of her shell, Raisman has been unafraid to dive into the characters of her dances, not to mention shimmy what her mama gave her.
Needs to work on: Refinement. A little polish can go a long way for Raisman. If she can finish her lines and extensions for the sharper dances, add fluidity to the softer ones, and point her toes, she'll be seeing a lot more 30s.
Why she might win: She's the underdog. Though Jones has the lowest average, he can compensate for that with his personality and fan base, and he had always been a favorite to make the final. Had the final featured three couples as usual, it's unclear if Raisman would've made the cut. Of the four, she also has the biggest improvement arc. And who doesn't like rooting for an underdog?
For her: Natural, effortless ability and electric enthusiasm. The Shake It Up star has been a favorite since she wowed us all on Week 1 and can handle whatever Val Chmerkovskiy throws at her, including that ill-advised racecar theme quickstep last week. There's a lovely ease and flow to Zendaya's performances that you almost forget that she's 16 years old.
Needs to work on: Control. Blame it on youthful energy, unbridled talent or whatnot, but Zendaya's form can get a little out of hand the deeper she gets into a dance, especially if it's a fast routine. Harness that energy and get tighter.
Why she might win: She's indisputably the best dancer of the four and has the fan support. Zendaya's young fans are devoted acolytes who saw to it that she won every single Twitter-voted gimmick this season. You might vote once or twice for your favorite dancer, but you know these tech-savvy lil' kiddies would stay up all night creating new email addresses to vote for their Queen Z.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
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