Woo-hoo! Last night was the "Dancing with the Stars" finals! What a big night. Almost as big as that giant, teased out hairdo on co-host Brooke Burke. Seriously, Brooke—lay off the Aqua Net.
Alright, so on to the main event. After whittling down the field from 11 couples (remember Shannen Doherty?) to three, the remaining pairs are ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy; Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya; and Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. For the finals, each couple danced two numbers, a redemption dance—a style the star didn't master the first time around, selected by the judges—and a freestyle dance, for which the traditional ballroom rules didn't apply (lifts! breaking holds! other rules we can't remember!)
Erin and Maks were up first with a samba. Bruno visited the couple during the rehearsal period and tried to get Erin to loosen up her hips. In her performance, Erin seemed to be more relaxed. And while she certainly tried to move her hips, she ended up swiveling her entire body back and forth. But the judges all agreed that the performance was "Fun!," and rewarded Erin for her efforts: She and Maks earned 29 points in this round.
Evan and Anna were assigned the Viennese waltz and Len gave Evan some pointers in the studio, showing him how to find the moments in between steps when he could make eye contact and connect with Anna. In other words, this is not an ice skating solo, Evan! Pay attention to that lovely lady across from you! The performance was dynamic and lilting, and Evan seemed to have taken Len's advice to heart. And although Carrie Ann said the dance was a "beautiful, emotional, endless, enchanting dream," the couple scored lower than Erin and Maks, earning 28 points. (Len, did you seriously think Erin deserved a 10 and Evan a 9? Are we watching the same show?)
Last up was golden couple Nicole and Derek doing a rumba. The first time they performed this style, Nicole let her nerves get the best of her. This time around, she didn't show the slightest hint of insecurity (even though Len claimed to have seen some). While Nicole was captivating and sultry dancing to "The Lady in Red," it's hard to think of all-American boy Derek as smoldering or sexy. Sorry, Derek! At the end of the dance, Nicole wrapped one leg around Derek's and lifted the other off the floor....NOOOO LIFTS! Carrie Ann had a hissy fit about it, but the couple still got 28 points.
Yes, you are reading this correctly: After the first round of dances, Erin and Maks were in the lead. True story.
Then it was time for the freestyle routines. Erin and Maks decided to take a big risk and incorporate contemporary dance, a challenging and technically demanding style, into their choreography. Because Maks is a strictly ballroom-trained dancer, the couple brought in a pro to help with their choreography: Mandy Moore! Yay! And while we are huge fans of Moore's choreography on "So You Think You Can Dance" (which premieres this Thursday, btw—we'll be blogging that, too), Erin and Maks' routine was a little, uh, weird. There was a mattress, and lots of hairography from Erin, and yeah, it was weird. Also, there was an awkward swinging lift in which Maks held Erin by one arm and bounced her off the mattress. It clearly didn't go as smoothly as planned. Maks' excuse? "It wasn't the bed we rehearsed on." A line to outdo double entendre king, Tom Bergeron. Erin and Maks earned 26 points for their freestyle.
Evan and Anna clashed over the direction of their freestyle choreography. Anna seemed to want a more cheeky, Broadway-style routine, while Evan wanted something more daring. It was very dramatic—so dramatic, in fact, that when the show went to commercial break we were left with a "To be continued..." Yes, it will be continued. After the commercial. That's how TV works. Duh. Anyway, they worked it out (with some help from choreographer Bobby Newberry) and performed a rowdy routine to "Footloose." The judges hated it. I really enjoyed it! Sure, it was a little rough around the edges, but Evan really let go and seemed to enjoy himself. It was like that moment when Pinocchio goes from wooden puppet to flesh and blood human. "I'm a real boy!" Apparently, the judges prefer puppets. The gave the couple only 24 points.
And last but not least were Nicole and Evan. Their routine to the Elvis Presley remix, "A Little Less Conversation," started off really strong. Props to Derek for inventive and exciting choreography that combined elements of many ballroom styles (even my untrained eye noticed bits of the jive and lindy hop). But as the routine progressed, Nicole lost her spark and seemed to be focusing too intently on the steps. They flubbed their final lift, but that's not such a big deal. The judges loved the routine and gave them a 27, the highest freestyle score.
So, at the end of the night, the combined scores were:
Erin and Maks: 55
Evan and Anna: 52
Nicole and Derek: 55
We're pretty sure Nicole's a shoe-in, but 50 percent of the final score comes from audience votes, so anything can happen! Who do you think is going home with the Mirrorball Trophy? And don't forget to check back tomorrow for our final wrap-up.
Until then, we leave you with the Tom Bergeron vocabulary word of the evening: Celebraquarium. Definition: That glass box the couples retreat to after dancing where they try to catch their breath and answer questions from a co-host with a bouffant.