Oh, how far we’ve come, Dancing With the Stars fans.
Just a few weeks ago, Monday nights on ABC consisted of Victor Espinoza twirling a sombrero with his crotch, Kim Zolciak-Biermann essentially getting dragged across the dance floor and Paula Deen forcing every male partner to motorboat her.
But in Monday’s finals, those cringe-inducing gimmicks and subpar routines were replaced with some of the season’s best moments, from the intricate set pieces (the obstacle course!) to super-challenging choreography (that Nick/Sharna jive!)
Before we tell you which three couples have advanced to Tuesday’s finale, a quick rundown of the evening’s performances:
8. Alek Skarlatos and pro Lindsay Arnold (Judges’ Pick: Rumba) — Now that he’s in the Final Four, Alek can’t expect something like sloppy hip action to get past the judges (or the voters). But even though his rumba may have been the night’s weakest performance, there was a time when asking Alek to (a) wear a satin shirt or (b) not shy away from eye contact with his partner — or, worse yet, both! — would have been too much for the national hero. The kid has no doubt come very far, even if he doesn’t get to hold that trophy above his head on Tuesday night. Judges’ Score: 27/30
7. Nick Carter and pro Sharna Burgess (Judges’ Pick: Jive) — Nick’s footwork has certainly improved since his last jive, and I applaud him for keeping up with the lightning-fast pace of Monday’s go-round. But to this recapper, Nick still seemed uncomfortable in his own skin during the performance, making me wonder if Sharna would have to swoop in with another mid-performance pep talk. Judges’ Score: 30/30
6. Bindi Irwin and pro Derek Hough (Judges’ Pick: Quickstep) — If ever there were a quickstep that lived up to its name, it was this one. From the moment Bindi met Derek at the bottom of the staircase, they didn’t let up, gliding across the ballroom floor in an energetic yet supremely graceful number. Judges’ Score: 30/30
5. Carlos PenaVega and pro Witney Carson (Freestyle) — During the couple’s freestyle routine, I couldn’t help but hear Len Goodman in my head, as he would have bemoaned the haphazard concept and overall raunchiness of Carlos and Witney’s performance. Don’t get me wrong: The routine was fun, fast and Carlos didn’t miss a beat. But in comparison to some of the evening’s more refined numbers, Carlos and Witney’s freestyle failed to rise above the rest. (Also: Paula Deen was part of it.) Judges’ Score: 30/30
4. Carlos PenaVega and pro Witney Carson (Judges’ Pick: Foxtrot) — On the other hand, Carlos and Witney’s first dance of the night was one of their best of the season. Though the choreography was complex, the pair made the foxtrot look effortless — and effortlessly sexy, at that. Judges’ Score: 30/30
3. Alek Skarlatos and pro Lindsay Arnold (Freestyle) — Unlike Carlos and Witney’s freestyle, which was a bit chaotic, Alek and Lindsay’s had an exciting, clear concept and remarkably tough choreography. I don’t blame the pair for collapsing backwards onto a giant cushion as soon as the exhausting routine was over. Judges’ Score: 30/30
2. Nick Carter and pro Sharna Burgess (Freestyle) — Nick once again brushed off Ol’ Reliable — aka a Backstreet Boys song — for his final dance of the night, but it was one of his strongest. Maybe it has something to do with hearing his own circa-1997 voice over the speakers, but Monday’s freestyle found Nick not just taking center stage, but owning it. Judges’ Score: 30/30
1. Bindi Irwin and pro Derek Hough (Freestyle) — Not only was Bindi’s freestyle one of her most elegant and technically flawless of the season, but the several-minutes-long tribute to her dad — including an adorable father/daughter photo at the end — all but guaranteed Bindi’s spot in the finale. Judges’ Score: 30/30
And now, your results:
THREE COUPLES ADVANCING TO FINALE
Alek Skarlatos and pro Lindsay Arnold
Bindi Irwin and pro Derek Hough
Nick Carter and pro Sharna Burgess
Carlos PenaVega and pro Witney Carson
OK, your turn. Which couple deserves the win? Cast your vote in our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice!