Jul 30, 2017
Dancing with the Stars FINALE RECAP: The Misery – er, the Wait – Is Over (S19:W11)
It’s Finale Week on Dancing With the Stars! Five hours of broadcast time instead of two! You know what that means?
Lots and lots of rerun footage, and enough filler to stuff this turkey until it bursts. We’ve got a recap episode called “The Road to the Finals,” half a million guest performers, and ten thousand opportunities for the finalists to say “This is it! This is the biggest night of competition! It’s all on the line!” until I want all four of them struck mute.
And somewhere in there we should get about, oh, fifteen or twenty minutes of actual competition.
I only watched about five minutes of The Road to the Finals. It took me that long to ascertain, for certain, that all they were going to do was show us a bunch of interviews and dance clips from Alfonso Ribiero, Sadie Robertson, Janel Parrish and Bethany Mota that I’d already seen and snarked about. No need to relive that misery. I am going to guess that this episode was really meant for people who only wanted to watch the show once the painfully incompetent (I’m looking at YOU, Michael Waltrip) were finally weeded out and they could actually watch semi-famous people do some interesting dances. They are the wise ones. Of course, they also missed the Tommy Chong Experience, which is kind of a shame.
So, onward to the actual finale. After snoozing off through the filler opening dances and chatter, we learn something marginally interesting. The first night of the finale features two dances: the second is the Freestyle, which is the only thing even fans of the show like me actually want to see. The first is Judge’s Pick—a rerun. Because this week, reruns and filler are what it’s all about. The judges pretend they are asking the contestants to repeat one of their previous dances so that they can gauge improvement. They will gush with praise no matter what happens. I think, considering that all eight competitors (including the pros) are now limping around and holding their sides in agony, that they may be trying to make it marginally easier by saying these kids don’t have to learn or choreograph anything new for that round. Just work on that Freestyle, folks.
Judge Bruno Tonioli has asked YouTube guru Bethany Mota and her pro Derek to repeat their first round Jive. #Hesaysmytransitionsweresloppy! So Bruno arrives and flames around a little bit while coaching them on those transitions. Bethany assumes the competitive aura dictated by her teleprompter. #I’moutforblood! No, you aren’t, you sweet little marshmallow.
When they actually start dancing, I groan in real pain. I had almost wiped the horror from my mind, but now it’s here afresh. That first Jive still features a lighting design that looked like somebody ate a box of crayons and then vomited on the floor. The horror! The horror! Their dancing may be fabulous, but the background makes me dizzy. Unfortunately, it made the guys hired to move the huge bedroom backdrop dizzy, too; they moved it late and distracted Bethany for a moment while they were fixing it. No, Bethany. You are not out for blood. The judges are. Kinda. Well, they have to pick on SOMEBODY!
Len: This is a great improvement! But I have to take a point off because your set didn’t move on time.
Julianne: You are so comfortable now, I don’t even see Derek. (Thanksgiving must have been interesting in the Hough household this year considering Julianne and Derek are siblings.) Shame about that mistake when every point counts!
Bruno: You’ve been the ideal student. But that scenery got in your way? Every point counts!
Carrie Ann: I’m sad because I actually saw tremendous improvement! But you let a scenery mistake rattle you, and now we have to nail your ass to the floor! (Never mind that Sadie actually forgot her routine completely two or three weeks ago and ended up with a perfect 40.)
Derek attempts to butter Carrie Ann up by praising her dress.
Judges’ score: 36. All nines in a week when they will be giving out tens like candy on Halloween.
And now we enter Too Much Information territory. Sadie Robertson was so overwhelmed by her scores last week that she barfed in a trashcan (held by her partner Mark) offstage. Mark, you deserve battle pay for working with this kid and her demanding parents week after week. Len has asked them to repeat the “Hunter” Samba because it featured a Duck Dynasty theme and Len was off in England hiding under the bed when they did it the first time. Len seems to get that he scares little Sadie to death. He has brought in a member of One Direction so that Sadie will stop seeing him as Mean Old Gruff Judge and start seeing him as Kindly Grandpa Judge. (Or to plug One Direction. There’s a lot of that crap going on this week.)
So One Direction is in the Quack Pack (Sadie couldn’t be more thrilled), and the entire Duck Dynasty clan is back on that stage, blowing their little duck calls (now available at a Black Friday sale near you) while Mark hunts little Duck Sadie down one more time. That will whip the Duck Dynasty fans into a frenzy! Papa Robertson gets a bit teary. Mark splits his pants to end the number. And shows us. Way, way too much information.
Julianne: I liked it the first time. I gave you guys a ten. But this time (dramatic pause) I LIKED IT EVEN BETTER!
Bruno: The Quack Pack is celebrating! (Bruno also notices that she was behind on the timing. He is bitterly booed for noticing the mistake.)
Carrie Ann: I didn’t expect to see you in the finals. But after seeing that—this is WHY you are in the finals!
Len: It was a Quack Attack! (He agrees with Bruno, however, that there was a timing error. People don’t boo him. Oops, maybe Bruno was right.)
Judges’ score: 38. The men gave them a nine because they actually caught the error. So did I. It was longer and much more noticeable than Bethany’s, and there was no scenery error to blame.
Janel Parrish has a scheduling problem this week. She’s a rare thing on Dancing With the Stars—a person who still has valid current career commitments. She’s got to shot Pretty Little Liars this week, and they’ve lost three rehearsal days. So that’s one thing for them to freak out about. Julianne has asked them to repeat a Samba that didn’t score all that well (for them) because people didn’t feel enough passion. Nope, they didn’t convince anybody that they were about to tear each other’s clothes off that week. Do it again! Let us see coitus this time, you Official Showmancers, you! Oh, wait—they’ve tried so hard to up the Passion Overload, Val almost cracked one of Janel’s ribs! So she can join the Alfonso Ribiero Dancing In Agony Club! There’s another thing to freak out about!
Because Janel’s dress for this number is so skimpy, you can see her bandage pretty clearly on her left side. Watch her pro Val try desperately to do all those close Samba moves without grabbing her there! (He did not quite succeed.) Not as easy as it sounds. They flow well, though, and I don’t see any mistakes. Wait—there’s still no coitus! What do you mean, this is a family show? You assholes made this girl do a stripper dance one week!
Bruno: Sexy SOB! Are you feeling hot at all?
Carrie Ann: You kicked that Samba’s aaaa-booty!
Len: Great rhythmic dancing mixed with a clarity and a sharpness.
Julianne: You got this, girl. You got it.
Judges’ score: 37
Alfonso Ribiero—you know, the guy with the Carlton Dance—is hurt. He’s dancing in pain. His body is breaking down. Carrie Ann feels terrible that’s she’s forcing him to repeat his Jive, because he’s so badly injured. She gives him a back massage to relieve the overwhelming agony. He’s broken! But he’s still fighting on! See his dedication, everybody? See how tough and brave he is? This is now his new campaign for votes, because every possible plea for sympathy or support counts. He’s been waiting for this for ten years!
He doesn’t look like he’s hurting while he’s dancing. He’s got an army of doctors who have probably put him on amazing stuff to make Tommy Chong envious. This is the only Round One dance with no obvious mistakes.
Carrie Ann: You set the bar week one with that dance, and tonight, you slapped us all in the face with it!
Len: You dance like Frank Sinatra sings.
Julianne: Everything connected.
Bruno: You have propelled that Jive into interstellar space!
Alfonso begs Will Smith’s fans and Twitter followers to vote for him. Because he can smell that trophy, and he no longer has any shame. He’s been waiting for this for ten years!
Judges’ score: 40
Let’s have a little filler! They recently revived Annie on Broadway with a cute little black Annie. Now it’s a movie! Let’s watch a bunch of orphans sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” while sleeping on their bedroom floor! Aren’t you just dying to see this now? They are singing and dancing and grinning ear to ear, making me wonder how hard-knock their lives can possibly be, and then they end with a pillow fight that sends bright red feathers all over their newly swept floor. Miss Hannigan is going to lock them all in the cellar for a week.
The Freestyle is supposed to reflect the contestant’s persona and dancing strengths. So of course, Bethany’s Freestyle is really designed to reflect Derek’s choreographic ambitions. The stark, black costumes and gritty, dark, dynamic lighting and moves don’t give off any vibe I’ve ever gotten from meek little Bethany Mota. #IjustdowhatI’mtold. Derek’s calling it the revolution she’s made in her career and life. In other words, it’s as opposite from her real self as it can possibly be. She’s game, though. #Derekalwayswins! Derek also seems to be a huge fan of strobe lighting designed to give the audience vertigo; this is the second time tonight his lighting scheme has made me queasy. There are some spectacular lifts in this dance, though—they end it with Bethany fiercely stiff, upside down and at a steep angle in Derek’s arms, head centimeters from the floor.
Len: That is a five-star Freestyle!
Julianne: You couldn’t have done a better job!
Bruno: Bethany was like a commander on a revolution of Network 7!
Carrie Ann: You were the center of that incredible performance!
Judges’ score: 40
Pro dancer Mark Ballas is a video game fan. I don’t know when he would get the time to play, but he’s got a really crazy idea for his—uh, Sadie’s—Freestyle. He’s going to be Mario, and Sadie gets to be that helpless little princess on top of Donkey Kong! What does this have to do with Sadie? Uh… it couldn’t possibly be any more G-rated or family-friendly? But as hard as I’ve been on this team, because Sadie Robertson bugs the be-jeebers out of me, I am going to give them this.
This crazy, weird, hokey idea leads to one of the most interesting, fun, entertaining Freestyles I’ve seen in a very long time. There is one particular move where Sadie rolls under three other dancers that is just spectacular. Truly one for the record books. It is, by itself, the primary reason why I am not pissed off with her final rank, because the Mario Brothers Freestyle really is that amazing. You gain a lot of goodwill with a genuinely original and astounding Freestyle.
Julianne: GAME OVER! I just gave you all of my gold coins!
Bruno: That was refreshing! Original! Mark, totally inspired! (It was.)
Carrie Ann: Welcome to the Hall of Fame! That was the most memorable Freestyle we’ve seen in ages!
Len: This, I promise you, I will never forget. That was fantastic!
Judges’ score: 40
Janel and Val have to use what has become their trademark to get further in the competition. Of course, their trademark is that they are pretending to be in love with each other, so that’s what we get—a gentle, lyrical, almost balletic routine that shows us, if not actual coitus, definite foreplay, including a little bit of making out. See how passionate we are at this particular moment? How can you folks at home not vote for Twu Luv? Join us in our bedroom, and vote now!
Bruno: This was the visualization of a love poem.
Carrie Ann: Your (freestyle) went inside all of us. (Must – resist – obscene – jokes.)
Len: It combined athleticism with artistry.
Julianne: What you two have is so real and so authentic. And scripted.
Judges’ score: 40
Pro dancer Witney Carson is very, very young and pretty new at this Dancing With the Stars strategic game. She’s never been to the finals before, so she’s still under the impression that she’s supposed to showcase her partner’s dance strengths. Alfonso’s Freestyle isn’t an ego trip for his choreographer or an opportunity to pound home any particular manufactured drama storyline that ran all season. It’s just a fantastic dance routine, showing off everything Alfonso does brilliantly, including some tap dancing we don’t get from anybody else. They mesh a whole lot of different styles together in a way that works really well, and Alfonso nails every move. Ah, that’s how you get it done, folks. He’s been waiting ten years for this!
Carrie Ann: That was the ultimate in Freestyle!
Len: I hope they (the audience) do the right thing and go for the best dancer. (Tipping his hat to whom he thinks that is. I agree.)
Julianne: It took ten years, but it was worth the wait!
Bruno: That’s the way you tap your way to the top!
Judges’ score: 40
Everybody got tens from everybody this round. That’s pretty much how the Freestyle works. Unless there’s a really obvious error, or somebody like Bill Engvall makes the finals, the judges just gush and praise and let the audience be in charge of the final result. Which is why the number one comment after every final is “It’s just a popularity contest!” Um, yeah. Did you not know this going in?
At the end of the night, Bethany and Derek get sent home. This makes me unusually sad for poor little Bethany. All snark aside, her package showed that she was feeling the pressure of Derek’s constant success. I’ll even dump the hashtags gimmick for this revelation from her: “I don’t want to be that one partner he’s not successful with.” Oh, honey. It wasn’t your fault. Really. You just weren’t well known enough to the old fogies who make up this show’s core audience, and your own core audience has the attention span of gnats. Go get yourself a real career, because this was a hell of an audition.
Now, here’s what you’ve got to understand about the Finale Results Show. For this extravaganza, you get five minutes of interesting new information, twenty minutes of commercials, and one hour of filler. So if you couldn’t be bothered to watch it—and I can’t blame you—I can save you a lot of time right here.
First, everybody dances in. That’s three minutes of filler. Then host Tom Bergeron tells us that there will be one more make-or-break round of competition. That is about thirty seconds worth of lies, because this round is also filler. All three couples will get exactly the same scores so the people behind the scenes don’t suddenly have to change the name that’s already been engraved on the tiny little souvenir trophy given to the winner. And then the glittery buffet of fattening, empty-calorie stuffing begins in earnest.
We get an extensive recap of each week’s lowlights, with a reminder of each person who went home. There’s another chance for us to see just how stiff, grim and ungracious Lolo Jones really was.
Most—not all—of the eliminated contestants reprise whatever dance the producers seem to think best represented their time on the show. Note that I did not say they repeat their best dance. Betsey Johnson gets to repeat “Material Girl” wearing a ghastly silver tutu while shoving that damned feather boa in Tony’s face. Michael Waltrip actually drops his pro Emma on the floor during their reprise of “Born to be Wild.” On a slightly brighter note, Len Goodman—hilariously adorned with cap and gold chains—chills out in the car with Cheech while Tommy Chong and Peta reprise their “Drop It Like It’s Hot” number from the first week. Lolo Jones and Tavis Smiley, the first two contestants eliminated, are not invited to dance; we only want good memories here.
We have Nick Jonas filler.
We have Jennifer Hudson filler.
We have Meghan Trainor filler.
We have the Final Four rapping about their Dancing With the Stars experience to an old Will Smith tune. (Got a clue as to the winner yet?) Alfonso’s rapping is pretty fair. He’s been waiting ten years for this! Bethany and Janel almost manage not to embarrass themselves. Sadie’s rapping is… as bad as Lolo’s attitude and Betsey’s feather boa.
We are forced to remember that Pit Bull was a “guest judge” on the show one week.
The eliminated contestants get to wax nostalgic about their time on the show. Tommy Chong almost saves this saccharine garbage by staunchly declaring that he has absolutely no advice for anybody.
The female pros have a spotlight dance for no particular reason at all.
The Final Three remember that it’s Thanksgiving week and feed us the obligatory spiel about everything they are thankful for. “I’m thankful for my agent, who got me on this show! I’m thankful for all the people who might hire me for a commercial or something after finding out that I am still alive! I’m thankful for my lawyers, who helped me with that unpleasantness earlier this year!”
We have The Final Three Praise Each Other And Then Talk Scripted Trash filler. Oh, by the way—Alfonso’s been waiting ten years for this!
Finally, one soporific hour later, Tom Bergeron suggests that these three contestants might actually want to pretend to compete one final time. This is the Dance Fusion round. Each of these three remaining pros—Mark, Witney and Val—have been given 24 hours to take two wildly dissimilar dance styles and smash them together ino a routine that doesn’t look like it was choreographed by a drunk they just brought in off the street. We get three virtually identical behind-the-scenes packages, where everybody sniffles because it’s almost over, and three identical scores. It’s like what might happen if Oprah Winfrey was a guest judge one week (and she could not be any worse than Pit Bull). YOU get a 40! And YOU get a 40! Everybody gets a 40! Happy Thanksgiving! Please note: the judges do not really critique the dances. They just drool over the Final Three and tell them how wonderful they are.
Sadie and Mark dance a mashup of the Samba and the Quickstep.
Len: Yours is a Cinderella story.
Julianne: You’ve come so far.
Bruno: Your personality is so bubbly, so vivacious.
Carrie Ann: You stuck to your game. You are an excellent role model. (Bet Papa Robertson was weepy again about that.)
Janel and Val squish together a Paso Double and a Foxtrot.
Julianne: You are so great together.
Bruno: These two know how to build up drama.
Carrie Ann: I’m so glad this was your last dance. (It’s snarkier and less maudlin out of context.)
Len: You combined the “how” of technique and the “wow” of performance.
And then… get this. Tom Bergeron warns everybody that they have to hurry through the rest of the show because they are running out of time. The fluff has officially crowded out what little “substance” they are pretending to provide!
Alfonso and Witney dance an Argentine Tango/Cha Cha puree.
Bruno: You’re a legend!
Carrie Ann: You are MY glitterball!
Len: There’s a naturalness about your dance.
Julianne: Super tight, super clean.
Alfonso: Come see me on the Dancing With the Stars Tour! I’ll be headlining every night, despite my injuries, because hell, I haven’t worked in five years! Gee, wouldn’t it be even cooler if I headlined as the champion? I’ve been waiting ten years for this!
Well, yeah, Alfonso. That would probably be a good marketing strategy. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
Tom Bergeron: And the winner is…
Alfonso: I’ve been waiting ten years for this!
And with that, Tom Bergeron stuffs the gaudy mirror ball down Alfonso’s throat, because he is indeed the winner.
I understand that somewhere in the dressing rooms, Janel threw a tantrum and some other stuff, because she had the most perfect 10s and thought she was a shoo-in. But that information may be coming from the same people who were hell-bent on proving that she and Val were sleeping together.
Have a nice tour, folks. No, I won’t be going. Why pay money for a show I can see again next spring for free?