by Irvin K

The freestyles have been danced, the votes are being cast, and tonight one of the three stars left standing will be crowned Champion of Dancing with the Stars.

After a catatonic semifinal last week that was as much a chore to watch as it was to dance in, we were treated to an exciting finale that showed off how great a season it’s been, and how good the remaining couples are.

Each star’s “redemption dance” showed how far they’ve come over the season, which was followed by a batch of freestyles as varied as the contestants. At the end of the night, Drew Scott and reigning champ Emma Slater were sent home, since his dancing was not up to par with the others.

That left three stars: Jordan Fisher, Lindsey Sterling, and Frankie Muniz. Jordan and Lindsey both had a perfect night with eighty out of eighty; Frankie was close behind at 76. So it’ll all be up to the viewers. And to be honest, the vote could go any of three ways.

If we’re talking pure dance ability, one cannot deny Jordan Fisher. His freestyle looked like it was a professional number; Lindsay Arnold has excelled with her choreography and crafted a “showstopper” for him. Lindsay provides Jordan with another edge: she’s the only pro yet to win a Mirrorball, and viewers want her to win.

However, Jordan’s dance experience is the albatross around his neck. Even Alfonso Ribeiro called him out on it during the video package of “what it takes to win.” Alfonso said that Jordan needs some humble pie – he can get perfect tens from judges, but needs to get tens from America. Alfonso is absolutely right.

It all comes too easy to Jordan. Talk of how the show has made him “a better artist” doesn’t quite cut it; it’s supposed to make you a dancer. Essentially, tonight’s result will be America’s referendum on DWTS ringers.

If we’re talking freestyles, which historically have decided the competition, there can be no champion but Lindsey Sterling. Mark Ballas proved why he is one of DWTS’s golden boys – he crafted a freestyle full of incredible dancing, with a gimmick that perfectly tied into who Lindsey was, and a style that was all their own.

It was a freestyle for the ages, worthy of the coveted final spot in the running order. Lindsey played a violin while dancing! It’s the kind of unforgettable “something more” that sets great freestyles apart from passable ones.

In general, Mark seems to have been reinvigorated creatively by his time away, and this was the culmination of an entire season of great choreography. Lindsey was savvy enough to talk about how Mark only has two Mirrorballs after nineteen seasons, and how she wants to get him a third.

It was a convincing sell, especially since no professional has more than that except Derek Hough. Before tonight, it seemed Lindsey was the middle ground between Jordan and Frankie – kind of a ringer, kind of a fan-favorite, perhaps not enough of either to win. But the freestyle may have cinched it for her.

If the freestyle won it for Lindsey, it lost the trophy for Frankie. Witney royally screwed up, further proving that she’s one of the weaker pros choreography-wise, even if there were some gems this season. She wanted a dark and dramatic dance for Frankie “to show how serious he is” or some such nonsense.

A producer cautioned her against it, advising Witney to do something light and fun. Consequently, we got a storyline of the inspired artist struggling to follow her heart in defiance of big bad corporate suits. So naturally, all the judges praised Witney and the routine to the heavens.

But… the dark and dramatic freestyle was unexceptional. Sure, it was good. But “good” doesn’t win Dancing with the Stars on a season as competitive as this one. The dance was essentially another dramatic tango/paso type dance, highlighting Frankie’s not-so-great posture. Nothing about it seemed special compared to anything else Frankie’s done, and it did not capture his effervescent spirit.

Had we not had a full season to fall in love with Frankie, this writer would be voting for Lindsey tonight. As things stand, Frankie still has a chance of winning, if enough voters fell in love with him over the season and want to repudiate the winners. But it’s a very rare winner who triumphs after a lackluster freestyle.

It’ll be an exciting finale to watch, and we really have no idea who’s going to win! Who do you think will be hoisting the Mirrorball tonight?

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