‘DWTS’ Finale Recap: Which Stars Shined in the Freestyle?

Katherine and Mark (Photo: ABC)

Well, it’s finally here — the last “Dancing with the Stars” performance show of Season 14 and, as we’ve said for the last ten weeks, this has been the most competitive season ever!

So there was no reason to think the finale wouldn’t be the closest and most tautly exciting of all time (or at least ‘til the All-Stars edition next season). The Final Three competitors all have a legitimate shot at the mirror ball. Will it be the physically strong and determined-to-win football player Donald Driver; the beautiful but accident-prone (and previously unknown) Katherine Jenkins; or the just plain hunky telenovela star William Levy? I wouldn’t even begin to guess who’d take first place until I saw the freestyle performances. My “DWTS” rule has always been, the one who winneth the freestyle, winneth the season!

Moments before the show, the monitor backstage showed judge Carrie Ann Inaba getting her makeup finished and hair sprayed at the judges’ table and a wardrobe girl running a lint brush over Len Goodman’s black suit. “DWTS alum” Jane Seymour chatted with the judges before the show started, and there were sure to be a lot of other past contestants in the house.

The three final couples looked ready coming down the stairs, and I was right–there were past winners Donny Osmond and Emmitt Smith clapping away in the audience. Will those two be coming back for the All-Stars? It sure looked like it.

Monday night’s final dances would be a judges’ choice and the freestyle.

Watch a Quick Finale Performance Recap:

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William Levy and Cheryl Burke: Cha Cha
Bruno Tonioli joined Will and Cheryl in rehearsal and called the actor "sex on legs." He told William not to hunch over and asked for his phone number (no, that last part was just my joke). William and Cheryl started the dance by setting down cocktails at a bar and then went into an energetic cha cha, with Will in a purple shirt and strutting his upper body like a pigeon, as usual. The ABC cameraman got into the spirit and gave the couple a cool sideways shot. The two raised their hands to encourage the audience members to clap along. All of it was very smooth; William didn't miss a beat. But again, my small criticism of him held true, I thought - the degree of difficulty didn't look too high and there was room for more tricks. The actor ended things by holding out the cocktail glass in triumph as streamers shot out from the "bar" area. Len called it "loud and proud" and praised the cha cha as the best in 14 seasons. Bruno stood up and talked about how his hip action made him green with envy. Carrie Ann said the cha cha magic was there and said he had grown miles since he started the show. They came away with a perfect score of 30 (wow, I was surprised, there was no room to grow there) and William's son and baby mama were thrilled in the audience.
Score: 30

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Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: Paso Doble
The singer was talking about how the stakes are massive in the finale-no kidding! She had better not have any weird incidents tonight. She and Mark crapped out on their paso earlier this season so, of course, Len Goodman chose that dance for them. Still, they had never received a ten from the troublesome judge! Katherine and her partner looked absolutely in sync from the beginning of this dance and she swept her skirt to the sides like a true matador. The singer's posture looked great and Mark walked on his knees to his lady. Later he jumped over her and swept her under his legs. Mark looked fierce at the end and he knew they'd done a great job as he partially removed his bolero jacket in triumph. What a flourish! Bruno said her shapes extended beautifully and commented on the "technical brilliance." Carrie Ann called her the prima diva. Len said it was full of tasty tidbits: "Fabulous." Big surprise (not) - another perfect score. This contest will come down to viewer votes, I bet.
Score: 30

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Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: Argentine Tango
Carrie Ann was the mentor and told Donald he could try bigger movements, especially to impress Len, who had never given the couple a ten. Not the time to hold back! Donald started the dance crumpling up a letter-it looked like one of those sad Dear John (Donald) letters. Anyway, whatever it was seemed to distress the football star. And then he lifted Peta and spun her around. What followed was a lot of stylized and sexy leg moves together. He lifted her all the way overhead and they looked like a couple in love but with a very troubled relationship. It looked like a dramatic, intriguing soap opera. They ended the dance with Peta's legs around Donald in a lift and he gave her a wink when it was all over, seeming quite satisfied. Carrie Ann said there wasn't a lot of content but a new crispness in the performance. Len thought it was far better than usual and the lifts were great but it was "a tad careful." Uh oh. An 8 or 9 coming from Len? Bruno said he was very clever, going for a strong storyline tonight. I agreed! The past couple of weeks, Donald had really stepped it up. Yep - they were only marked down by Len!
Score: 29

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Freestyle Round:

William and Cheryl: The two-time winner told her charge that the show has been won or lost in the freestyle. Wonder if he understood? Anyway, he seemed to be working hard and taking it seriously in rehearsal. There they went in a Latin-inspired start of the dance with Cheryl on a chair and opening up Will’s shirt, of course. William threw his arm back and slipped Cheryl up on his back. They started grinding together on the floor and everyone in the press room laughed and gasped, “Oh!” It was one of those get-a-room moments, for sure. Cheryl gyrated in front of him and he lifted her high in the air and did a long spin — the press room erupted in applause when the sexy dance ended. The telenovela hunk was like, yeah!!! He liked his own performance. William even shook his fist at the audience, which was going nuts. But Len suddenly dissed him as the cheers were still going on — all you do is shake your butt, he said! Boos all around! Bruno said they were like two devils unleashed upon the earth in the dance. Carrie Ann was all smiles and said it was incredible but was cut off by Len, who began to argue with her. Not much time tonight with the one-hour show so Carrie Ann wasn’t allowed to continue. Anyway, we expected Len would mark Willie Boy down, defying his enraged fan posse. And that’s what happened.
Score: 29

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Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: Mark told her backstage she was the most versatile competitor there, so he planned to pull out a whole bag of tricks for their freestyle. What happened to last week’s back “injury”? It didn’t seem to be an issue in practice at all. Hmmm. Mark walked onto the dance floor with an umbrella, into a club where Kat was crooning the song “Sing Sing Sing,” the famous swing song. So this would be an Helio Castroneves-style number. I couldn’t tell, though, exactly what era Katherine and Mark were in from the costumes—‘20s? But her shoes didn’t look right for that. It was very fast and high-stepping, and Kat was wearing low-heeled saddle shoes, which made it easier for her to do the complicated choreography. There were a lot of smiles during the dance (mugging, in fact, like a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movie) and then Mark flipped her completely over at one point. He picked her up again and spun her around and ended it with a big dip. I wasn’t quite sure this was Katherine’s best dance. Difficult and high-energy and crowd-pleasing, for sure, but … I didn’t know. Something seemed missing, like it didn’t suit her elegant personality. Bruno called it fast and flamboyant and mentioned how much swing content it had. Carrie Ann praised her range of emotion and added, “That was the dance of a champion.” Len confirmed that statement, saying, “THIS is a freestyle.” No doubters here (except me), perfect score.
Score: 30

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Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: These two were dressed like cowboys which promised a fun dance to come. In practice, they revealed they would surprise everyone by dancing to country to reflect his Texas roots. Donald made her tooth bleed in rehearsal, though. Ouch. Okay, on to the final freestyle. Cowboy Troy was singing live to this dance, kind of weird. So, it was a funky line dance to start and the side-by-side moves were so cute. He jumped up on the cowboy ballroom wagon on the floor and then did a massive lift of Peta. Another time, he spun her around so fast I was worried he’d drop her and she’d fly up to the nearby Hollywood sign! Wow, the ending was so intense, with Donald flipping Peta violently around, that the entire press room erupted in applause. Carrie Ann said that was her favorite dance tonight. Mine, too! It was beyond dynamic, had heart, spirit, and unexpected style. Len said through his speech impediment that it was fantastic, while Bruno said it was a triumph. It was the best dance of the night, and in my mind, it meant Donald would be the third football player to win “DWTS.” Of course, he FINALLY got the elusive ten from Len, just at the right time!
Score: 30

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So viewer votes will make the difference, as we head into Tuesday’s Season 14 finale results show with the leaderboard totals neck-and-neck: Katherine and Mark: 60/60, Donald and Peta: 59/60, William and Cheryl: 59/60.

Tune in Tuesday night at 9/8c to see who will be crowned the Mirror Ball Trophy winner!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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