DWTS Season 23

Dancing With the Stars Recap: Which Couple Fell Short of the Finale?

It’s that time of year, Dancing With the Stars fans.

Gone are the days of anti-Ryan Lochte audience members rushing the stage, or Marilu Henner tearfully telling partner Derek Hough that he makes her nervous, or Babyface stumbling his way through a painful tango.

Instead, as Dancing prepares to wrap its 23rd season, the ABC competition series is once again nothing but emotional performances, perfect scores and contestants thanking their partners for “going on this journey with me.”

Before the three finalists were revealed on Monday, the broadcast delivered another batch of top-notch routines, featuring some of the season’s most complicated choreography and innovative concepts. Below, let’s revisit the evening’s three strongest numbers:

3. Laurie Hernandez and pro Val Chmerkovskiy (Freestyle) — Has any other Dancing routine so perfectly encapsulated a contestant’s spirit? This freestyle — which was conceptualized as a fun afternoon on the “playground” — was a physical manifestation of everything Laurie has been during both the Olympics and DWTS: colorful, lively and a joy to watch. Judges’ Score: 40/40

2. Calvin Johnson and pro Lindsay Arnold (Freestyle) — Full disclosure: I don’t expect that Calvin and Lindsay will be hoisting that Mirrorball in the air on Tuesday night — and despite his infectious smile and can-do attitude, Calvin’s Dancing journey hasn’t been quite as captivating as James’ or Laurie’s or Jana’s. But Lindsay threw down the gauntlet with a freestyle that was fast-paced, intricate and wildly creative, and never once did Calvin look overwhelmed by the treadmill-ography or the expectedly insane lifts that Lindsay added to the routine. While most of Dancing‘s memorable routines are quiet and poignant, the duo proved on Monday that a fun, lighthearted spectacle can be equally as unforgettable. Judges’ Score: 40/40

1. James Hinchcliffe and pro Sharna Burgess (Freestyle) — Even when she was done giving her critiques, Carrie Ann Inaba could be seen mouthing “Wow!” long after James and Sharna’s performance — and, really, that reaction seems like the only appropriate one. The freestyle, which told the story of James’ life-threatening car crash and the guardian angel (played by Sharna) that saved his life, was so appropriately theatrical and well-staged that it actually felt more like the finale of a ballet. Creatively choreographed and beautifully danced, James and Sharna’s performance was the perfect cap to the season’s last full night of competition. Judges’ Score: 40/40

And here are the scores for the evening’s five other performances:

* Calvin and Lindsay (Redemption Dance — Viennese Waltz): 35/40
* Jana and Gleb (Redemption Dance — Tango): 35/40
* Laurie and Val (Redemption Dance — Paso Doble): 38/40
* James and Sharna (Redemption Dance — Foxtrot): 37/40
* Jana and Gleb (Freestyle): 36/40

And, last but not least, the results:

ADVANCING TO THE FINALE (in the order they were announced)
Laurie Hernandez and pro Val Chmerkovskiy
Calvin Johnson and pro Lindsay Arnold
James Hinchcliffe and pro Sharna Burgess

ELIMINATED
Jana Kramer and pro Gleb Savchenko (Editor’s note: What?!)

With that, I hand it over to you. Who do you think will win Dancing‘s 23rd season — and who do you think should win? Cast your votes in the polls below, then hit the comments and back up your choices!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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36 Comments
  1. Al says:

    I think James 100% deserves to win it

    It will be very close but his freestyle was better than Laurie

  2. Mika02 says:

    I’m so torn I have loved Calvin all season including tonight but James’ freestyle was amazing. I wished Val has done something different for Laurie.

  3. Angela says:

    Calvin’s freestyle was FUN. I loved that. And James’ was so powerful.
    .
    I think it came down to the right final three tonight, though I do feel for Jena. She put a lot of effort in this season and had some great dances, too. I agree we’ll likely be seeing it come down to Laurie versus James tomorrow night, but really, all three are awesome and I’ll be fine with whomever dukes it out and ultimately wins.
    .
    (Also, Calvin’s son is freaking adorable :D.)

  4. Anita says:

    I think Laurie deserves this 100%. Her freestyle was the best. But I come in second literally every season on dwts so I know Laurie is gonna lose. Still hoping she will win though

  5. DW says:

    I figure Laurie will win, and I’m good with that. But I’ve always pulled for “Hinch” because he’s what everyone always says they’re looking for, -the guy with no Dance experience who grows into an excellent dancer. And I’d love for Sharna to finally get a Mirrorball.

  6. GraceM says:

    Everyone thinks Laurie and Val will win, according to both polls. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    • GraceM says:

      What about Val? This would be his first too. Then he could rub it in big brother’s face.

      • Alyse says:

        Val won the mirror ball before, when he was partner with Rumor Willis

      • Logan says:

        Uh… 1. Polls are simply an indicator, but prone to flooding and dependant on the audience surveyed. 2. Did you not see season 20. The winners were Rumer and…. VAL. 3. Rub it in how? Maks won season 18 with Meryl, who is by far one one the best dancers this show has ever seen. Laurie pales in comparison. Just look at cumulative scores of you need proof of that though.

  7. Lee Smith says:

    They got the right top three. A great season.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Sorry but Val blew it with that freestyle. Sharna choreographed such a powerful routine. I really think that James won the mirrorball with that freestyle.

  9. Logan says:

    James should win after his freestyle. Laurie’s was, frankly, juvenile. For a round that really matters, Val missed the mark by a lot with this dance. Laurie went into the finale with everyone predicting she would win, now it is a tight horse race between Hinch and Laurie. The thing about Laurie winning would be that everyone predicted it from the very beginning. That is very boring to me and imo hurts the show. It should not be blatantly predictable before the season even starts. I really hope that James wins.

    • Mandy says:

      I respect you opinion but I kike Laurie’s freestyle. I represented her and was fun and lively. This is the second time that I felt that Val chorographic a freestyle that represented his partner. Laurie is young and that shouldn’t be hidden just to be considered a good dance. I like James but it felt like a repeat of other numbers done by other dancers. It doesn’t hurt the show if Laurie wins because she has been consistent. James has had ups and downs. What I have found that hurts the show is when good dancer lose because of popularity.

    • Michael says:

      If she does win she deserved it, I loved her freestyle the most and thought it captured Laurie perfectly. Dwts has always been predictable from the very beginning, the underdog rarely wins but the one people thought would win from the beginning has won this show majority of the time. It hasn’t hurt the show. Ratings are still really good considering ratings in everything else are dramatically falling. I hope Laurie Wins honestly…but I got a feeling this will be another Melissa v. Shawn season with Melissa being James and Shawn being Laurie

  10. Margaret says:

    I’m fully on Team Hinch (what a FABULOUS freestyle), but I’ve gotta give Lindsay props – she’s been in the finals 2 of the past 3 years with very different partners, and she created clever, original, memorable freestyles for both Alek & Calvin.

    • DW says:

      Lindsay’s first attempt at Pro a few years back was kind of lackluster, and it seemed like they pushed her back in favor of Whitney. However, she got a second chance and the last few seasons she’s been terrific, and I hope one day she’ll win, -just not this season.

  11. Penny says:

    HINCH for the win!! Best freestyle of the night! He was such a surprise from the start and truly hope he wins tomorrow! But if I’m being honest, any of the 3 could win and it would be deserved :)

  12. Dave says:

    Similar to last seasons freestyle by Nyle, I think James sealed the deal by mixing dancing with a powerful emotional routine. I knew after Nyle did his that he had it and I think James does too.

  13. DavidSask says:

    Jana was robbed, Calvin should have been booted! My ginger canuck best win over what’s left!!!

  14. Bobby morgan says:

    Voters have gotten off track with dwts. They are tendone to vote for their crush on pro and not the quality or lack of in the dance. Why do you think derrick has gone so long with questionable part ers

  15. Bobby morgan says:

    Voters have gotten off track with dwts. They are tending to vote for their crush on pro and not the quality or lack of in the dance. Why do you think derrick has gone so long with questionable partners

  16. Laura W Tobin says:

    Laurie and Val are Superlative but also James and Sharna they are great……it’s a hard decision but this is my vote!

  17. James Smith says:

    I think Laurie has exhibited greatness from the very beginning.

  18. Dan says:

    Tough to see underdog Jana go home one night shy of the finals.

    I’d prefer to see James win, but I believe Laurie will win (and have since the cast was announced). Tough to not see the winning combination in “America’s sweetheart” / Olympic gymnast / popular pro.

    But like many others, I acknowledge that the “pro” gets a huge majority of the vote in these instances. I’d love to see a season where the celebrities get a new partner every week, where there’s no guaranteed pro appearance any given show.

    • SoFla says:

      Doesn’t help that the very first episode this season, I forget if it was Carrie Ann or Julianne, but one of them had Laurie say she was going to Disney World … umm, bias shown from day one it seemed.

  19. Kim R says:

    First off, I was so glad Len talked about what he felt constituted a “lift”. It should be an intentional lift, not that your foot accidentally comes off the floor. That said, I would have let Calvin go last night but they are all fantastic. I’m thinking it is between James and Laurie. Looking forward for tonight. 😊

  20. Jen says:

    James is what DWTS is all about…someone who has no dance training or anything close to it whatsoever that grows through the season to become an amazing dancer. Not to mention that Sharna is way overdue for a win and she and James have had the best partners this season. I know it’s been a foregone conclusion from day one that Laurie would win but I’m hoping James pulls off the upset!

  21. Jack says:

    Laurie has great showmanship and physical gifts. definitely helped by her gymnastics training and experience. Calvin shows great strength, joy and enthusiasm.James is a great combination of the two. Three worthy competitors for the BALL. Gratifying that the “should” and the “will” finished in the same order.

  22. SoFla says:

    James deserves it and has earned it. He has been through it and back and is not a dancer, yet put on a fabulous dance, each and every week – improving his performance constantly. Laurie, while adorable and perky and a great dancer, is a medal winning gymnast and gymnasts have an edge due to their training/background and she has been consistent. The winner is not supposed to be the consistent one, but the one who has earned it and is an excellent dancer at the end.

  23. Laurie’s performance was a joy to watch. It was perfect for her. She has been a bundle of energy, joy and pure happiness. That freestyle was everything that she is – pure elation. I LOVED it! Freestyle should be about a person… and that is why the top three freestyles worked so well… Yes, I loved Sharna’s choreography and the story, and we saw that same dance story in the “most memorable year” dance where they did a contemporary as well. My vote is with Laurie & Val!

  24. Rafael says:

    I thinkl Calvin should win because 1.) He shows a good attitude to dance reality series than Laurie and Val, 2.) He obeys his partner well and correctly 3.) His attitude is maturing along the way 4.) He and his partner do not have injuries, illness and substitutions throughout this season, unlike James and Sharna, and 5.) His Motown dance attract lots of publicities, not only in this reality series, but also in both Detroit and the rest of this country, no offense, IMO.

  25. Rafael says:

    I think Calvin and his pro partner should win because, not only he shows a good attitude than Laurie and Val, he 1.) obeys his partner throughout this season without forced urgent changes, so far, unlike James and Sharna and 2.) His Motown freestyle attracted all publicities, not only in DWTs, but also in both Detroit and the rest of this country. Laurie may have exposed too much of her strong grief about her deceased grandmother to entire public and James’ partner had a bad injury and it doesn’t count to win when your partner gets injured and tghen substituted. Look what happened to Derek Hough when he danced with his guest partner Shannon Elizabeth back in Season 6 , no offense, IMO.

  26. Leesa says:

    I thought the freestyles last night were boring compared to some of the freestyles of seasons past… Calvin’s freestyle was the best and then James had the second best… I think Laurie was the best dancer from the beginning of the season so it wasn’t that fair to the other contestants , so I would like to see James win the mirror ball trophy… However I will be happy for the winner tonight….

  27. Alice says:

    This is the first year that I did not enjoy dancing with the Stars and I was very disappointed that Laurie and Val won. I thought Calvin & Lacey I’m very good and the race car driver. the show should come up with some kind of reward for who come in second place and third. I did not enjoy the show as much as I have in the past, I want to say that Derek adds a real spark to show. I think Val is a cry baby and I’m getting tired of his behavior. This is professional dancing.