The host was new, the judges’ dais was very long, and the studio audience was, well, nonexistent. But for all of its casting changes and COVID-related tweaks, Season 29 of Dancing With the Stars had the same ending as all of its predecessors: One couple finally got to hoist that shiny Mirrorball trophy.
In a recent poll, 43 percent of TVLine readers predicted Catfish host Nev Schulman would win during Monday’s season finale (narrowly edging out former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, who earned 40 percent of the vote), while 51 percent of readers similarly said Nev should win the Mirrorball.
But before we could find out how accurate those predictions were, another two hours of dancing awaited us, including each finalist’s freestyle and their encore of a favorite performance from earlier in the season. Here’s how the season’s final routines shook out:
Kaitlyn Bristowe and pro Artem Chigvintsev
First up, Kaitlyn and Artem reprised their electric Argentine tango from Icons Night — and even though ABC teased “some new creative elements” in all of these encores, the only noticeable tweak I saw for this routine was… strobe lights? Regardless, the duo was just as marvelous the second time around, with Kaitlyn’s foot somehow even more surely planted during that 360-degree spin. Their Moulin Rouge-themed freestyle did have one teeeeny tiny misstep when Kaitlyn stepped on a different foot than Artem did, but it was otherwise stuffed with content — the Charleston! The jive! — and very well-executed. Judges’ Scores: 30/30 and 30/30
Nelly and pro Daniella Karagach
Nelly and Daniella opted to repeat their ’80s Night samba, with the judges focusing on how much joy Nelly delivers with his performances, rather than his technical skill. “It’s not all about the technique, it’s not all about the steps,” Derek Hough said, though I’d argue that… it kinda is? At least a little bit? Similarly, their freestyle — though fun and sassy all around! — mostly consisted of Nelly hoisting Daniella through a series of sexy lifts. Judges’ Scores: 27/30 and 30/30
Nev Schulman and pro Jenna Johnson
Surprising absolutely no one, Nev and Jenna reprised their Villains Night paso doble — hey, it’s an easy 30 points! — and it was just as glorious as the first time they performed it. The first half of their freestyle admittedly left me a bit cold (and Nev’s timing got a little wonky as they were transitioning between sections), but that water section was exceptional — not just because of the water gimmick itself, but because of Nev’s ability to do the exact same steps Jenna was doing. The side-by-side combinations might have looked easy, but that was some extremely advanced choreography, and Nev didn’t miss a step. (That said, if we want to talk about a truly killer freestyle involving water, Milo Manheim and Witney Carson’s Season 27 freestyle is waiting for you.) Judges’ Scores: 30/30 and 30/30
Justina Machado and pro Sasha Farber
In the first round, Justina and Sasha performed an encore of their Week 1 cha-cha; it was entertaining, to be sure, but I was hoping they’d reprise something a bit meatier, like their contemporary from last week. Their freestyle, on the other hand, was so full of content, and Sasha was smart to showcase Justina’s Latin ballroom skills, as those have been her most impressive styles all season long. Judges’ Scores: 30/30 and 30/30
Then, after Derek Hough danced with a hat rack and Nelly performed a medley of his greatest hits (accompanied by Daniella Karagach and Pasha Pashkov dancing the hottest choreography of the season), it was time for the results. The Season 29 Mirrorball winners are… Kaitlyn and Artem! Nev and Jenna scored second place, while Nelly and Daniella got third and Justina and Sasha came in fourth.
That’s a wrap, Dancing fans! How do you feel about Kaitlyn’s win? Cast your vote in our poll, then drop a comment with your reactions to the finale!