DwtS 4 Finale: Performance Show

A finale featuring the most evenly matched trio in the show’s history was fun, though it lacked some of the spark of previous seasons. That spark: Cheryl Burke.

The first round of dances consisted of styles chosen specifically for each couple by the judges. The chosen dances were styles that the couples struggled with the first time around, giving them a second chance to perfect them.

JUDGES’ CHOICE ROUND

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Paso Doble
Song: Erich Kunzal, "Espana Cani"

During rehearsal, Laila expressed relief that her size presented some challenges: "I’m not that fond of being lifted up and thrown around, anyway." As for the judges’ choice of the Paso Doble: "I’m glad they picked that dance for us, because, you know what — I’m gonna bring it."

This Paso Doble was much better than their first time around, as was evident in Laila’s emotional intensity during the performance. She looked much more comfortable in character — especially when she was able to duck a punch from Maks (a reference to her day job).

Beaming, Len called the performance "fantastic," though he also thought Laila didn’t point her feet in a few spots. Bruno told Laila, "This was like a tidal wave of passion and drama. Your best performance to date as an actress." Carrie Ann said, "I’m so glad you finally pulled the punches because I’ve been waiting for you to throw that punch in there."

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

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Rumba
Song: Gladys Night & The Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"

In preparation for their freestyle, Julianne brought in a breakdancing coach to help Apolo. But he seemed more concerned about the "advanced" moves Julianne had introduced into their Rumba.

Their slightly-speedy Rumba featured a lot of cool poses that were certainly more advanced than what they did in their original Rumba. But the poses interrupted the flow of the dance at times and distracted from the romance. Still, the improvement in Apolo’s skills is undeniable.

Bruno was enthusiastic: "You have such chemistry, you two together." Carrie Ann told Apolo, "I thought you over-performed it just a hair. It wasn’t your best." When Len said, "It lacked any romance," Bruno shouted, "They made love on the dance floor!" Len called Bruno a "big gob," but Bruno wouldn’t stop talking, at which point Tom Bergeron had to tell Bruno to let Len talk.

Len finished by offering a few examples of what he didn’t like, as well as the pseudo-compliment, "I didn’t dislike it…intensely."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 28/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In The Heart"

By this point in the season, Joey is exhausted — and the effects started to show themselves in rehearsal. As they trained for their freestyle, Kym said, "Sometimes when we’re doing my lifts, I fear for my safety…just a bit." And, like Apolo, Joey was surprised at the difficulty of relearning a dance style he’d already performed.

Their Cha Cha started with a nod to the ‘N Sync video for "Bye Bye Bye," in which the band pretended to be marionettes. This time, Joey pulled imaginary strings to control Kym — who made a fine puppet. Their routine was entertaining and full of plenty of tricks, but it almost felt more like a freestyle routine than a ballroom dance.

The judges all felt that the performance had problems. Carrie Ann said, "For a Cha Cha, it wasn’t quite right. There wasn’t enough content to it." Len agreed:"It was far too theatrical. The more tricks you do, the further you go away from the roots of a dance." Bruno added, "It was an odd Cha Cha — and not that ‘Cha,’ you know what I mean?"

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

FREESTYLE ROUND

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Song: Michael Jackson, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)"

Even before the music began, the routine had a problem — Laila’s outfit. It was supposed to be, I believe, the ballroom version of boxing ring attire, but Laila looked like she’d been attacked by a Bedazzler during cheerleading practice. Her glittery silver sneakers may have been comfortable, but they weren’t aesthetically pleasing.

The dance itself was very energetic and full of Laila’s favorite hip-hop-slash-wedding-reception moves — complete with the running man. Since they executed only one lift, Laila & Maks included a couple of other tricks. But more than anything, they made a point of dancing together — a nice statement about their partnership.

And then Laila ripped open Maks’ shirt.

Carrie Ann said, "I love the fly girl moves, girl. I think I would’ve really liked to see it a little more sophisticated." Len agreed: "Your strength is elegance and sophistication — what those other two (meaning Joey and Apolo) can’t do." Bruno agreed with both Carrie Ann and Len.

Laila good-naturedly protested to the judges, "I thought you wanted to see something different." She didn’t get an answer, and their appraisals of her competitors that would follow probably only increased her confusion as to what they really expect from the celebrities.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
Song: Young MC, "Bust a Move"

Apolo & Julianne went for a straight breakdancing routine, vaguely reminiscent of Mario Lopez’s Season 3 Freestyle. The dance was full of tricks, including Apolo flipping Julianne with his feet. If a studio ever decides to film Breakin’ 3, Apolo should audition.

Len said, "It was up-to-date. It was everything I’d like freestyle to be." Bruno enthused, "This was so original! It was a surprise." Carrie Ann simply hugged Apolo & Julianne.

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

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Song: Donna Summer, "Last Dance"

In keeping with their song, the performance started with some slow and romantic spins. But the tempo of the music changed, Joey & Kym quickly doffed their classy duds in favor of something a little flashier, and it was time to hustle.

There were a number of spins and lifts that required a great degree of strength, balance, and flexibility from both of them, in particular a lift in which Kym actually jumped onto Joey’s shoulders. Throughout, they incorporated some partner dancing in hold, which Joey later said was their way to show off what he’s learned over the course of the season. For that reason alone, it was the smartest choreography of the round, and the couple performed it well.

Bruno called the routine "a hit parade of dance." Carrie Ann said, "I just love that you brought all that you’ve learned throughout the ten weeks of this competition into that dance, and you still had a great time." Len told Joey, "You flew off that stage like Harry Potter on a Nimbus 2000. I wish we had more than a 10 to give."

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

Leaderboard:
58 — Apolo & Julianne
56 — Joey & Kym
55 — Laila & Maksim

All of tonight’s Freestyle routines were entertaining, but none was as memorable as either of Cheryl Burke’s winning routines from Seasons 2 and 3. While Ian might not have been as strong a dancer as Joey, Apolo, or Laila, I sure would have liked to see what he and Cheryl could do with the Freestyle.

Tomorrow night, the final three couples will dance one last time, and that performance will be scored by the judges, as well. Their final totals will be out of 90 possible points, and those totals will be combined with the audience votes to determine the winner.

I split my votes between my favorite performance from each round. Laila & Maks’ Paso Doble was my favorite from the Judges’ Choice Round, and Joey & Kym gave a great Freestyle performance.

Since each phone line and email address is allowed five votes this week, I cast my tie-breaker for Joey & Kym. They’ve given great performances all season, and they never copped an attitude with the judges. And maybe, if I’m really nice to Joey, he’ll take me for a ride in KITT.

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