Dancing With the Stars Season 14 Finals Recap: Who Should Win the Mirrorball Trophy?

With the Mirror Ball trophy so tantalizingly, realistically within the grasp of any of our final three couples, this week’s dances — one redux chosen by the judges, along with the all-important Freestyle — showcased just how far William Levy, Katherine Jenkins and Donald Driver have come during Dancing With the Stars‘ 14th season.

Better still, with ABC allotting just an hour for the six dances, the focus stayed squarely on fancy footwork at hand, and not so much on weepy backstories and backstage drama. Predicting the outcome of one of the finest ever DWTS seasons would be folly, and any one of our finalists could hoist that trophy without the slightest shock, but I’m nevertheless going out on a limb with my personal picks:

Time To Dust Off of the Mantle? | The sheer drama of Katherine’s opening Paso Doble, contrasted against her shocking stumble last week, had me riveted from the opening note: the artistry, elegance and lushness of her performance put the “Prime Diva of Dancing With the Stars” — Carrie Ann’s description — firmly back in the hunt, and moved the judges to paddling perfection. 30! But Katherine’s freestyle may just turn out to be this season’s game changer. First, a stroke of genius: If you’re one of the world’s powerhouse singers, why not open your freestyle by showing off your incredible pipes? From her sexy “hit it boys” intro, Katherine’s exuberant, joyful 1920s-style “Welsh Wiggler” dance was an eye-popping “tour de force” (Bruno’s words), which when combined with the duo’s gracious, post-dance demeanor, make ’em my pick to snatch the Mirrorball Trophy. Oh, and did I mention, a sextet of perfect 10s from the judges tonight? As Carrie Ann said of Katherine’s freestyle, “That was the dance of a champion.”

A Possible Runner-Up? | If the Mirrorball Trophy is the main goal in Donald Driver’s sights, a “10 from Len” has always been a close second. That said, was it just me, or did the pressure to achieve perfection show on Donald’s face in his opening Argentine Tango? As Len noted, “It was a tad careful,” and for once, I can’t argue. But hold on, partners. In the pre-dance clips, Donald predicted his competition would play it safe in the freestyle, and his wholly unexpected, country-themed closer — full of eye-popping lifts, spins and athleticism — generated roars from the crowd. Carrie Ann had to stand up to call it “by far my favorite dance tonight,” and Len reminded us all that “chances win dances.” Either way, if Donald winds up in second, that 10 for his freestyle from the demanding head judge has to be a nice consolation prize.

Shake, Rattle and Roll…into Third? | William brought out the big guns — in this case, his beloved pecs — for his show-opening cha cha cha, which so dazzled the judges (Len called it the best cha cha cha in 14 seasons of DWTS) the 10 paddles came right out and set the tone for the high-scoring night. But will William’s all-too-predictable freestyle — shake the booty, bare the abs, amp up the passion — do him in? As Len almost angrily summed up (can I be agreeing with him again?), “It was too predicable. All you do is shake your butt and get the women screaming… I’m fed up with it!” Carrie Ann immediately (and energetically) protested (“It’s a freestyle!”), but I was left to quietly wonder — noting the disappointment on William’s face — has the Levy spell broken? Then again, Len’s surprisingly high “9” flew in the face of his harsh comments, keeping William firmly in the Mirror Ball hunt, especially as his booty-lovin fan base is sure to chime in with their support.

Quote of the Night | “Len, I don’t know what I need to do baby, but I promise on this next one, you will give me a 10.” — Donald to Len, after getting a “9” on his opening Argentine Tango. (Note: This man delivers on his promises!)

Judges’ Leaderboard (Carrie Ann, Len, Bruno: Total)
Round One (Judges’ Pick):
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 10, 10, 10: 30
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 10, 10, 10: 30
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 10, 9, 10: 29

Freestyle Dance:
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 10, 10, 10: 30
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 10, 10, 10: 30
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 10, 9, 10: 29

Now it’s your turn. Were all those 10s justified, or teetering on overkill? Did Len over-score William’s freestyle, given his none-too-pleased post-dance comments? Despite her picture-perfect scores, is Katherine’s fan base strong enough to take her over the finish line? And what was up with Brooke’s unfortunate, inexplicable coif tonight? Leave your comments!–Mitch Rustad