Dancing with the Stars Recap: The Finals Are Here

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Conspiracy theories aside, who do you think will win?

Unlike a lot of other folks, I actually called it that Brandy would exit last week. And unlike a lot of other folks, I don't think it's some huge tea party conspiracy. I think it's a continuation of a fine, but frustrating Dancing with the Stars tradition: An overwhelming urge to root for the underdog. And to take a "ringer" down a peg or two.

And let's not forget two other Dancing with the Stars occurrences that are far from uncommon:

1. The viewers' love-hate relationship with Maks settling on the hate side of the line because he takes his bad-boy image just one step too far into outright belligerent rudeness.

2. Badly timed TMI clips about the celebrities that reminds us of something we'd rather forget about them...like the fact that Brandy has actually been behind the wheel of a car that killed someone, her fault or not.

I think the confluence of all three of these things created the circumstances in which Brandy found herself last week...booted despite her obvious confidence that she was finals-bound.

That being said, and from a pure dance perspective, there's no way Bristol should still be in the finals instead of Brandy, but I also don't think it's a vast right-wing conspiracy!

There. I said it.

Now, getting back to the matter at hand: Each of the three remaining couples did two dances last night -- one dramatically called the "Redemption Dance" (in other words, a dance they sucked at earlier in the season), and the other the Freestyle, where theoretically, anything goes.

How did they do?

1. Kyle and Lacey

Their Redemption Dance was a Foxtrot

I've made no secret that I'm not on the Kyle train. I think they waited too long to describe his as something other than the "teen sensation from the Disney Channel," which made me feel a little skeeved out every time he did some sexy move or Lacey rubbed up on him. [And in case you were wondering: Since I never bought the "Bristol as born-again virgin" meme, I wasn't bothered in the same way by her sexy moves, such as they were.] Of course eventually they revealed he was really 19, but by then I was already thinking he was a hyper-sexualized 15-year-old destined to head down the Briney/Paris path of grown-up-too-fast destruction. Or. Maybe I'm overthinking, and I just don't like his posture, nor the way his "showmanship" is sometimes just inappropriate for the spirit of the particular dance style. Like with the Foxtrot. Similar to his Samba, he brought an Argentine Tango level of intensity to the Foxtrot. I think of the Foxtrot as lighter than air, frothy, fun, fizzy. He made it seems serious. It was a very good, sharp performance, and while I caught a few toe-leads, he mostly got the hang of the heel-leads required. He needs to pull his chin back and head up, but other than that he had nice carriage. He definitely improved on his last Foxtrot with a more traditional and enjoyable take on it. But he didn't make me think of Fred Astaire.

Their Freestyle was primarily old school Hip-Hop

As former Flygirl Carrie Ann pointed out to Len: There was lots of running about. There was a ton of energy. But, fuddy-duddy though I may be, I did think the booty shaking got old. Mostly because we've seen that in Freestyles a lot. It's fun, absolutely. There were even parts of it that exhibited fancy and fast footwork to be admired. But a lot of booty isn't the most challenging dance step to throw in...and a little booty goes a long way.

Bottom line: Call me a killjoy (or maybe a Kylejoy), but while I might be on the Kyle scooter, I'm definitely not on the Kyle train.

2. Bristol and Mark

Their Redemption Dance was a Jive

Who can forget the disastrous Jive in a gorilla suit that was Bristol's first attempt at this high-energy and fast-moving dance? I really did not think she could survive that week. She stopped dancing. On more than one occasion. Pretty much gave up. And yet she was saved. A few weeks can make a tremendous difference, and she was indeed a different dancer last night. That doesn't mean she was the best dancer. It doesn't even mean that I think she deserved the same scores Kyle got, whether I'm on his train or not. But she did make a huge improvement. Huge, visible, worked-hard-for-it improvement. America loves that, people. While her jive flicks were not nearly high enough or sharp enough -- barely leaving the floor sometimes -- she did show more energy and more precision than usual. Again: evolution, progression. America loves it.

Their Freestyle was primarily a Fosse-style Broadway routine

I give Mark credit for choreographing something actually interesting, intricate and different for their Freestyle. I also give Bristol credit for how she went for it. I couldn't imagine the Bristol of the first few weeks hitting some of those poses and doing some of those moves. Could she acquit herself respectably now in a high school or community theatre production of Chicago or Cabaret? I totally think she could. I still don't think that should make her the winner of Dancing with the Stars, but I actually agree with the mantra of the judges: I give her a lot of credit.

Bottom line: Could she win? Maybe, anything is possible. Would it be the wrong choice. Sure. Is it worth shooting a TV over? Obviously: NO.

3. Jennifer and Derek

Their Redemption Dance was a Paso Doble

Jennifer's worst dance of the season was like most people's best dance. But who's counting, you know? I don't think Jennifer was at her 100% best last night, actually. She did a few really impressive moves, impressive to the point that they almost were taken for granted. This Paso was good, but didn't blow me away. She has quite a contained intensity, vs. the overintensity of, say, a Mel B. And Derek was so busy whirling around like a dervish, it distracted from the quality of what Jennifer was doing. It reminded me that I didn't actually like Derek in his first couple of seasons. I thought he was way more concerned about looking awesome himself, instead of matching his partner. I actually wouldn't have given this a perfect 30 score, but considering they gave Kyle and Bristol straight 9s across the board, they didn't have much choice.

Their Freestyle was primarily, well, Dirty Dancing

Count me among the folks who was fervently hoping they'd recreate the final dance from Dirty Dancing. Who doesn't want to see that again? But they slyly referenced a much earlier scene in the movie, when Jennifer's character Baby first sees all the resort employees dirty dancing out in their off-limits part of the grounds. The routine started with her in a prim dress holding a watermelon in homage to her character Baby, but then that dress came off, and she was *one* of the dirty dancers, shimmying, shaking, grinding and the like. There were some great moments in the number, but I did think at times it felt a little out of control. Again, would I have given this a 30? Only in a competition where the other competitors had already been scored so high that there was nowhere to go but perfect.

Bottom line: Jennifer should win. It's clear. And I think she actually sealed her winning fate with one post-routine comment. When Brooke asked her why they *didn't* do the final routine from the movie (since clearly I was not the only one hoping for it), Jennifer answered that that dance was for her and Patrick, and she felt it should stay that way. Hear a million sighed "awwwww"s collectively uttered, and cell phones picked up. For all Bristol's comment about how Hollywood everyone else is and that's why people may be voting for her, Jennifer has reminded everyone why she was the girl next door we loved 25 years ago. With all the heart and sincerity that implies.

Bottom line for the mirror ball trophy:

It should and will be Jennifer. I just can't see it really, in the end, going another way.

Can you?

PS: So. How many of you watched Skating with the Stars right after Dancing with the Stars?

I watched. I was suitably impressed. I thought Bethenny got weirdly underscored. I worried about Dick Button.

What about you: Loved? Hated? And most importantly: Do we want recaps?

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