Part one of “Dancing with the Stars” season finale on ABC presented its long-anticipated freestyles Monday night that certainly didn’t disappoint. Meghan Trainor opened the finals with “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” complete with the pro dancers and dance troupe. The first round began with the judge’s choice for each of the four couples. More performances were had with Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, and a new singer-songwriter on the scene, Who Is Fancy (real name Jake Hagood) at the top of the hour. The last hour was devoted to freestyles and someone was eliminated at the end.
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson had Bruno select for them to re-do the foxtrot from Week 2. It was clearly an improvement and a lot of fun to watch. Carlos had yet to receive a perfect score with Witney. Mission accomplished when they got a 30 from the judges. Carrie Ann Inaba stopped by the rehearsal studio to give some stern advice to Alek Skarlatos for the rumba. It may have seemed a sacrilege for him to do this dance again after his steamy partnership from Switch-Up Week. Casting aside any sister-like feelings for his partner Lindsay Arnold, their rumba was clearly in a league of its own. To say he improved would be an understatement.
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess had coaching from Julianne for their jive. This was the dance Nick had in Week 2 where he slipped and fell down. Last night he completely redeemed himself earning a perfect score. Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough closed out the first round with their quickstep given to them by Carrie Ann. This was the only dance featuring a full-on production number. Their quickstep from TV Night earlier in the season was finally eclipsed and eradicated by this one during the finals to perfection.
Meghan, Ariana, and Who Is Fancy performed his latest single “Boys Like You” to start off the freestyle round. This is the dance that literally makes or breaks a contender for the Mirror Ball Trophy. It is the ultimate goal for any contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” to do a freestyle dance in the finals. All of the dances were like their own mini Broadway production telling their own compelling story. Carlos and Witney’s hip hop number included something never done before on the show. They invited past Season 21 contestants to join in for brief cameo appearances. Of course this included Carlos’ wife Alexa whom he finally danced with for a very short time. His journey was all about family, having his wife there, and making close friends who’ve now become like a second family to Carlos.
Talk about doing something that’s never been done on “Dancing with the Stars,” Alek and Lindsay literally raised that bar on that one. Their freestyle was quite literally about Alek’s obstacles, complete with a military-style obstacle course climbing wall that represented his overnight fame and learning how to dance in front of millions of people. It was powerful, emotional, and exhilarating, especially with them going on the wall a couple of times. Here viewers got a good look at Alek dancing side by side with Lindsay and front in center with the troupe behind him. The ending was the most challenging where they had to climb the wall very quickly and in time with the music to make their monumental ending, which they nailed perfectly. It was another prefect storm performance for Alek and Lindsay receiving yet another perfect score from the judges.
In an odd rotation switch Nick and Sharna were supposed to go next. Instead it was Bindi and Derek with a beautiful and tearful contemporary. Derek is the master when it comes to subtle contemporary freestyle dances. This one was no exception. It was just the two of them. In this freestyle Derek takes Bindi on a journey with some extraordinary lifts that she executes brilliantly. The ending took her by complete surprise when a photo of her father, the late Steve Irwin, showed up on the big screen. It was a significant moment to bring her time on “Dancing with the Stars” to a loving close.
Nick and Sharna closed out the freestyle with yet another Backstreet Boy inspired mini concert routine. It was extremely similar to their Most Memorable Year jazz dance, except with more dazzle. In all honesty Nick’s jive from the first round was a far better dance. Inevitably someone had to be eliminated. The first to go on to Tuesday night’s grand finale were Alek and Lindsay followed by Bindi and Derek. The two remaining couples were in jeopardy. Sadly it was Carlos who was eliminated just shy of the finale.