CLEVELAND - Another season of "Dancing with the Stars" is about to come to a close. But this was no ordinary season. The show won't miss an opportunity to remind us this is the most competitive finals ever.
(Did I mention it's the most competitive finals ever? No? That's fine, cause the show just did – again.)
The remaining three couples have three remaining dances to perform this week. They did two Monday night and they have one more Tuesday night.
First up, they had to perform a dance from earlier this season that the judges felt they needed to improve upon.
Actor William Levy and Cheryl were up with a cha cha, which was his first dance of the season. It's not too hard to improve over your first dance, and the Latin dances tend to be William's specialty. Judge Bruno Tonioli coached William in rehearsals and showed him how to move.
In the dance, William and Cheryl's steps, extensions, and hip movements were great, but not every transition was completely fluid. It actually looked more like a freestyle. The routine had lots of sections, but there was not really a lot of challenging content. Nevertheless, it was a crowd pleaser. Judge Len Goodman called it as good as he's ever seen in 14 seasons of cha cha. Maybe Len's mind is going. Bruno loved the moves, and judge Carrie Ann Inaba said William was clean, sharp and defined. They got a perfect 30.
Next up, classical singer Katherine Jenkins and Mark tackled a paso doble, which they first tried in rock week in week 4. Len stopped by rehearsals to coach them. The routine had nice footwork, graceful and fluid motion, and looked like a professional dancer routine with lots of content. Bruno called it technical brilliance. Carrie Ann said every movement was executed perfectly. Len said it was full of tasty tidbits – and we know how Len loves his tasty tidbits. Another perfect 30.
Then Green Bay Packer Donald Driver and Peta hit the floor for an Argentine tango, which they first did in week 5. Their moves were smooth, it had passion and sensuality. It was more of a performance than a dance, and it was a good one to watch. On top of that, Peta's blue sequined sheer "dress" had to be seen to be believed. Len said they did a good job, but he thought Donald was too careful. Sorry, Donald, no ten from Len. They got a 29 out of 30.
Onto the next round: the freestyle, which has proven to be the fan favorite every season. Or so the show tells us. And this is the most competitive finals ever.
William and Cheryl were up first and she choreographed a smoldering dance to suit William. His lifts were great, but his footwork – which lasted five seconds – looked clumsy. The rest of the routine was gyrating and thrusting. The audience was full of women shrieking. Len called the dance predictable, saying, "All you do is shake your butt and get the women screaming." I think Len caught onto William's secret for surviving to the finals. Ever the William fan, Bruno said it was good. Carrie Ann tried to explain why she liked the dance, but nothing she said made sense. She clearly just liked it. They got a 29, 59 overall.
Time for Katherine and Mark. Katherine said the freestyle was a chance to show everything she's learned. What a great attitude. She even opened the number by singing "Sing, Sing, Sing With a Swing." They do some sort of flapper lindy hop that was hot and awesome, then they did a quickstep, and here came a Charleston. Throw in some flips and spins, and it's like the history of dance. Their smiles were infectious and Katherine looked like she had genuine fun. The only drawback: next to Mark her footwork was not as sharp. Bruno called it a fast and flamboyant tour de force through the ages of swing, saying he's never seen so much content so well-executed. Carrie Ann said Katherine could do anything and called it the dance of a champion. Len said, "This is a freestyle." They got another perfect 30, 60 overall.
Last, Donald and Peta's freestyle. Would Donald get that elusive ten from Len? Donald decided to surprise the show with a country routine to a live performance from Cowboy Troy. It was a pleasant surprise. Donald nailed the energy, his footwork was sharp, and he looked great next to Peta. Donald did more spins with Peta than a pizza dough on a record player in a tornado. Fun freestyle accomplished. Finally. Carrie Ann called it her favorite dance of the night out of her favorite finals. Len said Donald took chances and it was fabulous. Bruno called it a triumph. Perfect 30, 59 overall.
Oh, but the competition isn't over. The three couples have to perform the "24 Hour Challenge," in which they learned Monday night the song they have to perform Tuesday night.
The three hour (yep, three hours – what else would you expect for the most competitive season ever?) finale begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday night on ABC. Kelly Clarkson and former contestant Gladys Knight perform.
More information can be found at: abc.go.com/primetime/dancingwiththestars/index .