Though Sam was eliminated on the same night he delivered this routine, his final performance was by far his most heartfelt. By tapping into the memory of coming out to his father (and, subsequently, breaking contact with the man), Sam spoke on behalf of the audience when he said, “I’ve got so much emotion right now, it’s unbelievable.”
9. Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson: Waltz (Week 4)
Similarly, the Shark Tank star had us reaching for the Kleenex after dancing a waltz dedicated to his late mother (an avid DWTS fan). Although Herjavec fell short of the Mirrorball trophy, he left his mark on Season 20 with this graceful, evocative routine.
Rather than let the pros lead the way on this fast-paced jazz routine, Lynch took center stage and nailed the tricky choreography without ever seeming afraid to own the spotlight. In fact, the R5 singer has kept up with his partner(s) so well in Season 20, we’ve nearly forgotten that he’s not a professional himself.
7. Willow Shields & Mark Ballas: Contemporary (Week 4)
Despite being the youngest DWTS competitor ever (at just 14 years old, Tom Bergeron will gladly remind you), Shields’ emotional intensity brought us right back to Panem in this Hunger Games-inspired routine.
6. Team Trouble: Freestyle (Week 6)
Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy’s team may have scored the same number as Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough’s Team YOLO… but there was a clear winner in terms of concept and choreography. Set in a classroom, with the stylish Patti LaBelle teaching, Team Trouble’s routine passed with flying colors.
Liukin’s pre-performance video package — in which she talked back to a producer for asking her how the dance was coming along — wasn’t exactly her finest moment. Fortunately, she made up for her gaffe immediately, mastering the speedy jive moves in what was arguably the most creative dance of the season.
Season 20 brought quite a few memorable paso dobles to the dance floor, but Lynch and Holker’s was among the best. Lynch set aside his typically goofy demeanor for the routine, committing 100 percent to the fierce Jack Sparrow alter ego (and nailing the accent, to boot).
All season long, Burgess had the challenge of choreographing for a partner who couldn’t pull off the same stunts as his competitors. In their final dance of the season, however, Burgess packed the freestyle with challenging content, all of which Galloway perfected. And, after weeks of struggling to connect with his dances emotionally, Galloway had no trouble channeling the inner turmoil of being a war veteran, leading to a well-earned perfect score.
Even though the semifinals results were not in her favor, Liukin went out on a high note, celebrating Goodman’s dance career with an elegant, feel-good waltz. Goodman may be the resident naysayer on the judges’ panel, but his few moments on the ballroom floor with Liukin were some of the season’s most genuine.
1. Rumer Willis & Val Chmerkovskiy: Freestyle (Week 10)
Willis and Chmerkovskiy’s freestyle merely capped off a season full of captivating, sexy and near-flawless routines. Instead of bringing in props, set pieces or members of the dance troupe, the pair relied only on their skill and red-hot chemistry — and we couldn’t look away.