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
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!