Rashad & Emma win the first round with its only perfect score; all three couples get perfect scores in the freestyle.
The final week, at last. It’s been a season of pretty good dancing and pretty disappointing voting results. After the second egregiously stupid loss last week, it’s almost a relief the first night of the finals is only an hour long.
Nonetheless, the three teams that made it here will be forming two dances each. First round it the redemption dance, a new take on a rhythm they did already and want to improve on.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Viennese Waltz; “Let’s Hurt Tonight” OneRepublic
David did this dance back in week four, and Lindsay emphasizes how he’s the most improved of all the finalists. There’s some adorableness over the phone with his family too. There’s the similar sweetness of him in this dance. And it’s not like he’s a bad dancer. But his footwork is awkward and scrambling at times. And even when it’s clean, it’s just Not. At. Finals. Level. Meanwhile, the judges are split as to whether or not this particular dance showed the improvement they’re all quick to note he’s shown in general. Len thinks it didn’t, and he should’ve kept the lemon from last week. But Julianne insists there was lots, and gives him a Nine. The others give him Eights, and he totals 37, which combined with last week’s scores means 109.
Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Quickstep; “Check it Out” Oh the Larceny
They did this one in the first week. They’re looking for room for improvement, talking about increasing speed and such. Then she twists her ankle. Worst time it could’ve happened, Val says. This has been the subject of all the headlines, and we’re all anxious as she starts. But despite one terrifying moment where it looks like it’s all going to be derailed, she more or less gets the ankle and most of the rest of her exactly where it needs to be. That includes her attitude and expression, of course. Except then Len and Julianne both say she and Val didn’t have enough body contact, and Len thinks they had too much speed! So they only give Nines. Bruno and Carrie Anne rave their heads off and break out the Tens for 38, they go up to 114.
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater: Viennese Waltz; “Dark Times” The Weeknd feat. Ed Sheeran
They describe this as a continuation of the Viennese Waltz they did in week two. Rashad also talks about how he’s never actually won anything. If that unfortunate streak continues, though, it won’t be because of this. It’s much like that already good week 2 dance, expect better. It’s absolutely flawless technically, with more smoothness and fluidity than last time. But the emotion is also stronger, a little more nuanced, and also from Rashad feels a lot more real. Bruno calls it “just perfectly pitched,” and the other judges all pretty much say the same. By the time they’re read to raise the paddles, the straight Tens are only to be expected. Combined with last week’s scores and they increase their lead with 117.
The second round, of course, is the freestyle:
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold: Freestyle; “It Takes Two” Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock
They describe this freestyle as “their journey,” and they go with the obvious here. They both don the baseball uniforms (and the peanut-seller outfits), and get a bunch of baseball teammates to act as background dancers. They sample “Take Me Out the Ball Game,” and use baseball bats, including to perform multiple impressive baseball tricks. The choreography is generally just fun and celebratory. Also, the kind of stuff that David now has the ability to absolutely nail. This isn’t the world’s hardest freestyle, but it’s perfect for David and it’s a thing of joy. Carrie Ann calls it his personal best, and Len and Julianne agree that all it needed was hot dogs and beer! They get straight Tens to go up to 149.
Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy: Freestyle; “What the World Needs Now in Love” Felicia Barton performing live
They too describe the freestyle as the story of Normani’s journey. But they mean the message of the song, and want to inspire the next generation, so they bring a pair of children to dance a little with them. But their appearance on the floor is the routine’s only frill. Otherwise it’s just Normani, Val, their feelings, Felicia barely being noticed, and a lot of technically difficult dancing. They know they don’t need any more than that. That’s enough to both impress and move everyone, and make for a moment of deepness, a piece of poeticism that maybe we didn’t quite expect from these two. Len and Julianne both call it breathtaking, and all four judges break out the Tens again. These two now have a two-week total of 154.
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater: Freestyle; “Uptown Funk” Bruno Mars, “Let’s Go,” Trick Daddy feat. Deuce Poppi, Tre + 6 & Unda Presha
This freestyle is actually Rashad’s baby. Inspired by matching bands he sneaked out of his room to watch, he convinces Emma to go with his ideas and even let him contribute choreography. He describes the routine as a “half time Super Bowl Party.” It turns out to be one of the best of them. This allows all the dancers on the floor, Rashad included both to have fun and to do some challenging stuff technically. He’d got no problem nailing his own choreography, and the fun-filled atmosphere of a good half-time show was never going to be a problem for him. By the end not only is the audience standing, but so are three of the judges. Len raves about it too, until Tom openly calls the raising of the paddles a formality. Of course they’ve got their perfect 80 tonight, for a 157 total.
The show does very briefly take a somber note, as Tom acknowledges what happened in Manchester just before it aired. What happened tonight in the ballroom certainly is nothing compared to the lives that have just been lost.
Nonetheless, the show must go on, at least until the season concludes tomorrow night.