We’ll start with the dancing! It’s finale night on Dancing With the Stars and given the final four, it’s bound to be one of the most entertaining in recent memory.
Each of the four pairs will dance three times. First is the Judge’s Pick, then the Cha Cha Relay (I have no idea, either) and finally, the always entertaining Freestyle Round!
Karina & Jacoby are first with a Jive. As much as Len has grated this season with his less-than-constructively delivered, often mean spirited criticisms, I must admit that his time coaching Jacoby was both fun to watch and hilarious. I think Jacoby was as inspired and surprised as I was! And something worked, because I thought that was by far the best he’s done! He’s always energetic and a great showman, but there was more refinement to his moves. Thoroughly enjoyed this routine – great way to kick off the night and get the dance party started! Judges: I was surprised that all of them were critical of his timing as I guess I didn’t notice it a bit. But they delivered in the scoring, so my annoyance is somewhat abated. Scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27
Aly & Mark w/Samba: Again, it’s clear how much she’s grown and I’m happy to see her become a more confident young woman as the season as progressed. But, overall, there’s a lack of honest connection with me, the viewer, as it still all comes off as a sort of dance version of a gymnastic routine. I’m guessing after a literal lifetime spent doing the latter, it’s almost impossible not to be that way, so I get it, and I admire her…but I don’t connect with her. And I don’t see chemistry with Mark the way I need to, to help me get over that hump. They have a great bro-sis vibe, but whereas Zendaya and Val have found a way to have that same relationship strike sparks of honest chemistry all over the place, I don’t get that from these two. Sorry, Aly! Judges: of course, they gush and gush, as they have all season. Scores: 9, 9, 10 = 28 (three guesses who was their mentor….)
Kellie & Derek/Quickstep: I’m usually not a fan of Derek always getting the celeb with dance potential and I can’t say I’m happy about him scoring yet another mirror ball trophy, but it’s impossible for me not to adore Kellie. And I do. I love her spirit, her work ethic and her absolutely charming relationship with Derek. And though I still think it would make for a wonderful storyline, to see what Derek could do with his incredible talent when faced with a more challenged partner, I am rooting for these two for the win. Kellie has earned it. Judges: also gushy gushy, and I’m glad to hear it! Len was a fun mentor to this pair as well, and Kellie’s response to him was hilarious. Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30. And they earned every last point.
Zendaya & Val/Samba: Another impressive pair, both in skill set and chemistry. Val has totally blossomed over just two seasons. He’s been both lothario and big brother and I’ve really enjoyed seeing those dimensions brought out in his personality. He has a dedicated worker in Zendaya and I think her work ethic is impressive for someone her age. I know she’s danced hip hop in her career, but I don’t care who you are, at 16, growing like a weed, with legs all long and awkward and a body you’re still figuring out, this young woman has absolutely poured herself into this whole ordeal and has come out shining. I am rooting for her and Val as much as I do Kellie and Derek and would be happy with a win for either of them. I think she’s had more wobbles and that might cost her the final number one spot, but given her age, she’s been nothing short of spectacular. And this samba was them at the very, very top of their game. Way to bring it when you have to! It could make for a very exciting finish! Judges: give well earned praise. And score accordingly: 10, 10, 10 = 30.
After Round 1, Kellie & Zendaya are tied in the lead, with Aly two points behind and Jacoby 3 points behind. Overall, I think I’d have place Jacoby higher than Aly. Maybe she’s more technically proficient, but he’s a far, far better entertainer, and at some point, that has to count for more. I think the finals is that point.
Round 2: Cha Cha Relay
So, here’s how it works. I think. Each pair comes out and dances about 40 seconds of Cha Cha, then the next couple takes over, and so forth, until all four pairs have danced. Then the judges rank them. First place team gets a 5 point bump in their total, second place gets 4, down to fourth place which gets 2. So a definite advantage for the winners, especially if they end up in the same pecking order as the end of Round 1 results. I’m hoping Jacoby jumps a bit in this one, but I think it’s Zendaya’s and Kellie’s to lose at this point.
Here we go! Kellie & Derek lead off and they’re sharp as always, though they seem to very much stay in the same spot, then Jacoby comes in as he does, all flash and fire. Their routine seemed shorter and over before it began and suddenly it’s Aly and Mark who are a bit more earthy, and Aly really is way more relaxed now than when she began this journey, but Mark has to go all showboat in the final seconds and ruins it for me. Then it’s Val & Zendaya to close it out and just wow. Where Kellie is all sharp precision, Zendaya moves and flows in a way that is just ridiculously natural. To me, they owned this dance. I’d rank them first, Kellie a close second, and then it’s a toss up for me. I liked Jacoby more, but Aly’s routine had more content. Judges give them all equal and well deserved praise. They really are all wonderful. Scores: Whoa, what do you know? I nailed it!!
After Round 2: Zendaya has 35, Kellie with 34, Aly with 31 and Jacoby with 29. I’m glad my fave two pairs are sitting at the top, but the point spread is tight.
Karina & Jacoby: They go full tilt New Orleans and I really loved how they incorporated the street dancing and music that is so much a part of that culture. (Full disclosure: my grandmother was born in New Orleans, so I’m possibly a wee bit biased here.) I loved the kids, the energy, all of it. I will say that although Karina played to his size versus hers with a lot of tossing her around in the air, I wish he’d had more dance content. He came out almost a little flat and listless, like he’d peaked just a little too soon. He does work his way into it and hits his stride about 2/3 the way through, but my guess is this will be a fourth place finish for him. Still, given the competition, that is nothing to sneeze at, and we’ve gotten to enjoy his brand of enthusiastic entertainment for a full season’s worth. Win-win in my book! Judges: a little too critical (since, other than the last second dance tomorrow night they aren’t dancing again, there’s no point really in pointing out where they could have improved, just say the nice things and score them however you feel they deserved, you know? Scores: 9, 9, 9 = 27 And I do think that’s accurate. Just wish they’d left the feel good vibe in the room to go with it!
Aly & Mark: They go futuristic and Mark goes yet again in a direction that doesn’t do much for me. Your mileage may vary. He plays to Aly’s strengths, and the routine, which is very athletic, does this times a hundred, but that doesn’t automatically make it entertaining or fun. I liked the opening light effect, but then it stayed really dark, making it hard to see and appreciate the dance moves. The moves themselves were kind of basic and Aly wobbled a bit in the beginning. Then we’re up on stage doing some ridiculously high pole dance routine and…I’m sorry, but the techno-pop music didn’t engage me at all, so the pole “dance” routine didn’t either. I use dance loosely because it was all very gymnastic with a spin in between poles, but not really dancey. You know? I mean, if the music had been a bit grindier or something really grooving, thumping, it might have grabbed me more. (So You Think You Can Dance has had a few amazing, riveting pole routines.) But this was just…odd. Really hard, for sure, but…so what? I don’t think all the impressive physical effort in mastering all that pole climbing paid off in a routine that was exciting to watch. And the deep space blue funk lighting left me feeling a bit cold and on the outside. I think this keeps her in third place, or possibly even gives Jacoby a bit of a lift. His was, by leaps and bounds (heh, I’m punny) more entertaining and crowd pumping than this was. Judges: Aaaand, of course, the judges have nothing but gushy praise for her. Sigh. Sorry, Jacoby. Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30 Deeper sigh.
Derek & Kellie: now I’m really hoping these last two routines are killer and Derek brings every last bit of his creativity to the front here. He decides to strip it down and let the dance speak for itself and I’m all for that. And? It’s absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful lines, exquisite control, stunning emotional content. Nothing flashy, no big stage production, it’s essentially the acoustic version of a freestyle. And I loved it. That is celebrating dancing. Wow. (And I love, love, love her husband fighting tears watching his wife dance so beautifully. How adorable is he?? Very, I say.) Judges: Carrie Ann is a hot mess of tears, which says it all. Len completely got it. ”Good dancing engages the brain. Great dancing engages the heart.” Followed by a standing O. Earned. Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30. Only because there weren’t any 11 or 12 paddles.
Zendaya & Val close the show and after that eloquent dance, I’m hoping for something fun and playful to close the night out. And they don’t disappoint! I like that they bring in ballroom to go with her core madd hip hop skillz. It showcases both where she’s gone this season and where Val has, as well. It’s happy, upbeat and you can’t help but tap your toes along with them. I love that it’s meant to inspire kids and that, at the end, after they’ve showcased their own skills, they bring the kids in to dance with them. It’s heartwarming and a great way to end the night with big smiles. They definitely got them from me! I wanted the kids to keep dancing, they were so cute! Judges: They all have wonderful things to say, as they should (and they did for all three couples except Jacoby, which makes me that much more annoyed about that) but I’m glad they gave this pair their due. Well earned! I didn’t realize it was her parents voices at the beginning of her dance – cool! And I love that no matter how mature she is on the dance floor, so far beyond her years, backstage she’s all adorkable teenager. Scores: 10, 10, 10 = 30
Final Scores: 65: Zendaya, 64: Kellie, 61: Aly, 56: Jacoby
And there you have it dance fans! Who wins? I think Kellie takes it, but Zendaya came on strong tonight and tops the leader board, so it could go either way for me. I wish Jacoby had been rewarded a bit more and Aly gushed about a bit less, but I don’t think either of them can rock the top two.
Okay, before we dish all the dance, it’s time to announce the winners of last week’s Giveaway! Thanks to all who entered. Winners get any book from my website bookshelf. And? Congratulations to Kathy Gianone, who picked BAD BOYS IN KILTS for her winning book!
And a high five to Erika Lang who will find THE GREAT KISSER in her mailbox! (And shouldn’t we all want that?? I hope you both enjoy the books!
Join me next week when I partner again with USA Today and head back to the bachelor pad…well, the bachelorette pad this time around! Yep, after blogging 25 women for them during The Bachelor’s last season, I think it’s only fair they give me a crack at dishing on 25 guys this go around! So grab those fruity umbrella drinks and join me, won’t you, in the shallow end of the pool? We’re going to have ourselves a good time as The Bachelorette premieres Monday, May 27th and my dish on the night’s festivities goes live Tuesday morning. Also? Of course we’re giving away free stuff, so don’t miss out on all the fun!
But right this very second, let’s dish about the dancing!! Who is going to win this thing? Who is your favorite? Which freestyle did you like best last night? DISH!!