DwtS 3 Finals: Performance Show

After this week’s Performance Finale, Emmitt and Mario are in a dead heat. It’s up to the fans to decide who will win Dancing with the Stars 3.

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Tonight’s show brought all of the stars to the ballroom, including DwtS alums Joey McIntyre, George Hamilton, Stacy Keibler, Lisa Rinna, and Harry Hamlin. Friends of the celebrity finalists, like Tiffani Thiessen and Marcus Allen, were also in attendance. Someone even let Jose Canseco into the ballroom.

But, in honor of the special occasion, the families of the dancers got the best seats in the house. Emmitt’s wife and kids, Mario’s parents, and Cheryl’s mom, Sherri, all had front row seats to the final competitive performances of the season.

The show started with clips of Emmitt’s and Mario’s performances, week by week. The highlight of the reel was a montage of the many times that “good friends” Mario & Karina have been caught kissing on camera.

Round One – “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
In a DwtS first, both couples danced to the same song: Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.” Judge Len Goodman noted that Quickstep, Mambo, Samba, and Cha Cha Cha would all work to the song. Both couples elected to do the Samba. In a way, this was too bad. By ignoring the Quickstep option, there were no Ballroom routines included in tonight’s competition, only Latin and Freestyle.

Emmitt Smith & Cheryl Burke – Samba
The outfits for this routine were priceless. Cheryl’s dress looked like it was covered in peacock feathers, and Emmitt’s sleeveless shirt and shoes were in a matching peacock green. It was a solid, if not standout, routine that started slow and improved as it went on. Lisa Rinna — who usurped my old seat this week — danced wildly in her chair, and it was hard not to focus on her, since she was wearing a zebra-print dress.

Len said, “At my age, it takes a lot to get me excited. I’m like a dog with two tails. That did not disappoint me in any way.” Bruno said, “What a way to start this incredible final.” Carrie Ann told Emmitt, “What’s so great about you is… you’re the everyday man who became a dancer in front of our eyes.”

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Mario Lopez & Karina Smirnoff – Samba
Mario followed up Emmitt’s well-executed Samba to “Sir Duke” with his own well-executed Samba to “Sir Duke.” Who did a better job is a matter of personal preference. And, for this round, I preferred Mario & Karina’s dance. To me, it looked like the more sharply executed of the two routines.

Carrie Ann said, “For the first time, I really saw you actually enjoying yourself completely. You rose to a new level tonight.” Len said, “It was clean, it was precise, it had good rhythm. You messed up the running promenade. You got off on the wrong foot.” Bruno said, “That was scintillating. It was a very complicated technical routine, and you took a great chance coming into the finals and going for it with such a difficult routine.”

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 29/30

Round Two – Favorite Dances

Emmitt & Cheryl – Mambo (Week 7)
This Mambo earned them a 29 the first time they performed it. Emmitt’s kids flew out to L.A. to watch their dad perform. Offering encouragement, on of Emmitt’s daughters said, “You have a lot more fans than Mario. He might have dimples, but you’ve got style.”

Emmitt’s shimmy was out of control — in a good way. He and Cheryl had great execution and no mistakes, which is all they needed to do to earn perfect scores.

Bruno told Emmitt, “You must be driven and empowered by the muse of dance. The ease by which you come out here and charm everybody is astounding.” Carrie Ann said, “You mastered the technique, and you entertained the crowd.” In regard to Cheryl, Len said, “This girl should get an MVP: Most Valued Partner.”

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Mario & Karina – Paso Doble (Week 4)
Mario fell at the end of the dance the first time he and Karina did it, and it still earned 29 points. Mario’s mother said that, if her son doesn’t win Dancing with the Stars, “Mama will make him a trophy.”

Mario really looked like he was feeling the the dance. I don’t know if I appreciated how cool the routine was the first time I saw it. Mario didn’t fall at the end, and the effect was more dramatic than the original performance.

Len called the routine “so great. Full of fire. Full of passion.” Bruno called Mario, “The Latin Thunderball! Like a storm over the sun-baked Spanish plain.” Bruno gestured wildly, mimicking moves from the Paso. Eventually, Len had to restrain him. Carrie Ann said, “This dance embodies what you’re best at. Your lines were beyond perfection.”
Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Round Three – Freestyle

Emmitt & Cheryl
Cheryl believes that her Freestyle with Drew last season won them the competition. Drew and his wife, Leah, visited Emmitt & Cheryl during practice to offer encouragement. Emmitt & Cheryl’s Freestyle routine left Drew in stitches. “Why?” you ask. Because…

…Emmitt & Cheryl danced their Freestyle to “U Can’t Touch This,” by MC Hammer. They dressed in gear reminiscent of the original video — including long-rise Hammer pants for Emmitt — and they copied a lot of Hammer’s famous moves. To heighten the danger factor, they included four challenging lifts. The lifts weren’t perfect, but they looked tough.

What the routine may have lacked in technical excellence, it more than made up for in entertainment. This is the one dance in the entire competition where the sole goal is to please the audience, and Emmitt & Cheryl did just that. It was an inspired choice. And the singer who performed it did as credible a job as can be done with MC Hammer.

Carrie Ann told Emmitt, “You just put MC Hammer to shame. It was what you do best.” Len told Emmitt, “If there was a prize for my dancing hero, you’d win it. It was the cherry on the cake.” Bruno said, “That was the hammer, the chisel, and the shovel. I never thought I’d see the running man again. But you missed a little on the second lift.”

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…9 = 29/30

Mario & Karina
Mario & Karina were sad that their dancing partnership was coming to an end. But Mario was at least relaxed about the lifts in their routine. He dropped Karina on her head in practice a few weeks ago, so it would be hard to do much worse than that.

Mario & Karina danced to another hit of the late ’80’s: “It Takes Two,” by Rob Base. That meant that one of the singers had to spend the entire song yelling, “Yeah…woo!” repeatedly. Mario’s white pants and tank top were fine, but Karina’s hip-hop flapper look was odd.

While their dancing was executed well, Mario & Karina didn’t quite go “free” enough in their Freestyle. Mario did some breakdancing, but they only did a couple of lifts. And, at times, Karina almost seemed to defer to Mario, rather than dance with him. Overall, it seemed more a showcase for Mario alone. Granted, the couple had a very tough act to follow, but I expected something a little more exciting or daring from them.

Bruno called the performance “a hit parade on the dance floor.” Carrie Ann said, “That was it. That was the best dance that I have seen this season.” Len said, “If that dance was a film, you’d win an Oscar.”

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Both couples ended the evening tied with 89/90 points. That means that this season’s winner will be decided entirely by viewer votes.

My vote tonight went to Emmitt & Cheryl. In my opinion, Mario & Karina had a slightly better Samba. And the second round dances were pretty much a wash, though I still might give the edge to Mario.

But dancing to “U Can’t Touch This” was such a savvy choice by Emmitt & Cheryl — and the routine was so fun — they swayed my vote in their favor. It was a move designed to steal all of the attention away from the other couple, and it did just that. Emmitt & Cheryl get extra points just for knowing how to play the game better than anyone else.