Kardashian Conspiracy Theorists, unite! The Dancing With the Stars Season 13 performance finale gave us a glimpse of Cheryl Burke in a Len Goodman mask, holding up an “11” paddle for her partner, who just so happens to be the younger brother of Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe (AKA The One With the Baby, The One With the Sex Tape Who Is Now Inexplicably on the Cover of Everything, and The One Who Is Occasionally Pretty Funny).
And sure enough, there was a brief moment at the end of the telecast where I wondered if Carrie Ann, Len, and Bruno had been kidnapped and hogtied backstage, only to be replaced by members of the vast Kardashian plot to overtake all of pop culture.
On second thought, though, matters might not be quite so grave. All the judges did, in the end, was put Rob Kardashian and Cheryl atop the leaderboard — they did dance pretty well, I’ll admit — with season-long favorites Ricki Lake/Derek Hough and J.R. Martinez/Karina “OMG HER BODY” Smirnoff tied for second.
In other news, I may have teared up when Len noted that the DWTS finale often comes down to who wants it most, then pointed out to J.R. that Karina is the only one of the DWTS pros in the finale without a mirrorball trophy. (Aww.) But enough of my ridiculous, shiraz-soaked sentimentality!
Let’s talk about why J.R. and Karina deserve to win, why the judges painted themselves into those 10s for Rob, and which of Derek’s go-to moves needs to be taken down to the river with the brick and the brown burlap sack.
Dance of the Night: J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff (Freestyle)
Is there any adjective that can accurately convey the wow factor of that lift where J.R. flipped a springboarding Karina over his head, Karina wound up “seated” in the crook of J.R.’s back, and then got flipped back over his head — legs first — into a standing dismount? What’s more, there was also some dazzling bump-and-grind action, those squatting-stalking crawls, and that additional lift with J.R. flipping Karina through her own legs (which reminded me of that myth about defeating hiccups by drinking water upside down). Sure, the ending devolved into some crazy “helicopter-bird wings” on a platform, but I just interpreted it as the duo celebrating the fact that they’d risked death – or at least partial paralysis – with their routine, and lived to receive their perfect 10s.
Secret Weapon of the Night: Karina Smirnoff’s Glistening Rhinestone of a Physique
Look, I’m a gay man, but after J.R. yanked off Karina’s pink tulle tutu and left her sexing up the stage in pair of sparkly hotpants and bedazzled bikini top (with matching pink hood), it was really hard to focus on anything other than how the heck she’s managed to sculpt her human form into chiseled, glistening stone. As Len noted, the routine revealed J.R.’s talent and Karina’s body. “TEN!”
Probably Perfect and Yet Undoubtedly Underwhelming Award: Ricki Lake and Derek Hough (Cha Cha Cha and Freestyle)
Admittedly, I’ve been #TeamJR for weeks now, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought Ricki has been performing neck-and-neck with my favorite all season. Which is why it surprised me that her finale dances lacked their usual impact. For her Cha Cha Cha rehearsal, she had to deal with Carrie Ann offering advice on pointing with purpose (also good intel for hunting dogs and eyewitnesses viewing police lineups), and while Ricki’s gams looked incredible in her little red dress, and her feet were swift and precise, the end result was like a lovely grocery-store birthday cake: Looks and tastes good, but lacking something when it comes to heart. (Side note: Anyone else notice Derek’s little black jacket went from half-zipped as he and Ricki came down the stairs at the start of the show to fully unzipped by the time the DWTS singers performed their patented “ba-ba-dah-dah-ba-ba-dah” jingle?)
Likewise, Ricki’s freestyle – which began with her bursting through an image of her heavier, pre-season self – had speed and lifts for days, but it somehow didn’t seem to capture any of her personality. Maybe it’s because Derek couldn’t resist throwing in that hideous “arched-lady head-bob” maneuver – you know, the one where he gets his female partner’s back parallel to the floor, thrusts her face toward his crotch, pumps his fist, and makes a disgusting/triumphant facial expression? No wonder the talk-show hostess “accidentally” elbowed her partner in the chin!
Most Egregious Use of the “10” Paddle: Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke (Freestyle)
Here’s the thing: After Ricki got 9s across the board for her decent but hardly memorable freestyle, and then Rob outhoofed her with a kicky little old-timey number to “Minnie the Moocher,” the judges didn’t have anywhere to go but the “10” paddle if they wanted to do what was fair and place him above her. The problem, of course, was that after J.R. outhoofed Rob with his freestyle, the judges didn’t have “11” paddles to continue the fair scoring trend. (Not that they’ve ever really concerned themselves with fair.) Which leaves us having to hope the voting audience made up the difference. I do have to give credit to Cheryl for concocting the evening’s most complete freestyle dance – it had a beginning, middle, and end, and a definite artistic flow – that allowed Rob to shake his semi-famous derriere (look for it to get a three-episode spinoff series on E!) without having to perform anything as death-defying as what Karina choreographed for J.R.
Paddle That Has Me Wondering if the Judges Will Throw J.R. Under the Bus During the Final Tuesday Dance and Complete Rob’s Ridiculous “Boy to Man”/“This Is All About Growth” Story Arc
Okay, JR and Karina’s cha cha cha never quite took flight – the chemistry was there, but even J.R. admitted he’d gotten ahead of the beat and it threw off the timing of the entire routine – but really, a 7 from Len? Even Bruno mouthed a “wow” when that brutally low paddle made an appearance. Is Grumpy Old Man trying to beat Carrie Ann for Season 13’s “Least Popular Judge” trophy? Discuss!
Reason Len Should Never Let Unemployed Comedy Writers Pre-Script His Critiques
“It had more rise and fall than Pam Anderson jogging,” Len declared at the end of Rob’s competent but slightly leaden waltz. (Where was the TV-WP label, warning me of Woeful Punchlines?) Speaking of that dance, by the way, did anyone feel like it was unusually brief? I didn’t break out my stopwatch and compare it to J.R. or Ricki’s cha cha chas, but it seemed like Rob and Cheryl had barely made a sweep of the ballroom before Carrie Ann started yapping about the Kardashian kid being the “male version of Cinderella.” (Which would make who, exactly, the Wicked Stepmother?)
Tom Bergeron’s Best Lines of the Night
“Red and short is your color!” –complimenting Ricki at the end of her cha cha cha
“I’m not quite comfortable turning my back to Kirstie Alley.”
And with that, here’s how the three remaining pairs scored with the three judges (Nitpicky, Crotchety, and Freaky):
Judges’ Leaderboard (Carrie Ann, Len, Bruno: Total for Dance #1 + Total for Dance #2 = Total for the Night)
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: 9, 9, 9: 27 + 10, 10, 10: 30 = 57
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: 8, 7, 9: 24 + 10, 10, 10: 30 = 54
Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: 9, 9, 9: 27 + 9, 9, 9: 27 = 54
What did you think of the DWTS semifinals? Sound off in the comments, and take our poll below! And for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!