With a close competition after seven weeks of dancing, who will be dancing in the finals of Dancing with the Stars?

To those who’ve been keeping up with DWTS this season, it is an uncommonly good and uncommonly male-centric season — there were no male celebrities eliminated until the quarterfinals! But we now have six couples left, four of whom will advance to the finals, and only one of whom will hoist the glittering mirrorball in two weeks’ time.

Refreshingly, no one arrived on Week 1 as an anointed champion (not that we’re bitter about Jordan Fisher or anything). But through the season, we’ve seen some frontrunners emerge, and now we’ll handicap the couples’ chances going forward.

Note that we could have some first-time finalists among the pros, so it’s much harder to predict who’ll do well in the final versus who’ll make it to the final. This is the first time since season 9 (not counting that DWTS Athletes nonsense in the spring) that there was no Val, Derek, or Mark in the finals. And that will be the stage where the newer pros prove themselves.

Juan Pablo and Cheryl are the couple to beat; barring a very unexpected turn of events, they’ll be in the finals, and will potentially be the season 27 champions. Juan Pablo is among the best male dancers the show has ever seen: he is the first celebrity EVER to receive a perfect score on Week 3 that included Len Goodman on the judges’ panel. Cheryl, meanwhile, has been on more seasons of DWTS than anyone and knows all the stops one needs to pull out for victory — and she is absolutely on fire this season. We can expect great things from them.

Milo and Witney were deemed by Carrie Ann Inaba as the ones to beat, which means as little as everything else Carrie Ann says. Among the celebrities left, Milo is definitely one of the better dancers. However, there are two things working against him here. The first is that he has a small fanbase as a relatively new Disney Channel star; no celeb from the Disney Channel has ever won. The second is that there’s no really compelling storyline surrounding Milo: he’s young and energetic, and he dances well. And we know folks watch DWTS for “the journey.” So we expect Milo to advance to the finals, but would not be shocked if he is sent home next week, especially in the unlikely event Joe’s Bachelor fans manage to vote him through yet again. If Milo is in the finals, expect Witney to mess it up for him during the Freestyle round (coughFrankieMunizcough) and have him land in second or third place.

Alexis and Alan are clinging to their place in the competition with everything they’ve got. Alexis may be an Instagram influencer (or whatever the hell her official job description is), but she remains the most unknown to the typical DWTS viewer demographic. In desperation, they have boldly gone where no couple has gone before, and committed whole-heartedly to a showmance. Their kiss last week was unprecedented: all romances on DWTS, whether real or fake, always emphasized the will-they-won’t-they to keep viewers interested. But after weeks in jeopardy, it looks like Alan made the gambit to commit to the bit in the hopes that their lurve will keep people voting. Whether it works is an open question, but our money is on them being eliminated in the semifinals.

Evanna and Keo are doing surprisingly well, all things considered, and appear to be a surprise contender for the finals. They have two big advantages: the might of the Harry Potter fandom mobilizing for Evanna, and the blatant overscoring that’s been happening the last few weeks. After many seasons of Keo being straddled with awful partners, he doesn’t really know what to do with a capable one, as evidenced by the uninspired choreography they’ve delivered week after week. But there’s a lot of sympathy for Keo since he’s been paying his dues, and Evanna is certainly a good dancer. If we had to guess, either Evanna or Alexis will be sent packing in the semifinals, and we’d put our money on the latter.

Bobby and Sharna are the dark horse contenders this season. No one will argue that Bobby is the best dancer, but he is endearing enough to win people’s votes, and entertaining enough that we want to keep him around. The sentimental favorite rarely goes on to win the season, but often makes the finals: the Osbourne siblings, David Ross, Alek Skarlatos, etc. And while the country music fandom is quite foreign to this writer, it can be supposed that fandom is passionate about Bobby and overlaps a good bit with DWTS viewers. In fact, Bobby being eliminated next week would be the most surprising result after Juan Pablo. He just seems tailor-made for sappy retrospectives on his journey in the finale.

Grocery Store Joe and Jenna need to be put out of their misery, but it appears the Bachelor fans just won’t let go. Bachelor Nation has always been a mighty voting bloc in DWTS, but with the exception of Melissa Rycroft, is usually defeated before the finals by a consolidation of support behind other celebrities. Joe is more unhappy to be on DWTS than any contestant since Hope Solo, so one really wonders why Bachelor Nation keeps voting for him. Either way, we’re reasonably certain he’ll finally be eliminated in the semifinals; if not, look for outraged DWTS viewers to send him packing in fourth place during the finale.

So to recap, expect Joe and one of the girls to be sent home in the semifinals (probably Alexis), with a chance that Milo is surprisingly eliminated. It’s worth noting that the semifinals are usually the night where perfect scores fly fast and furiously, so the elimination will be entirely decided by viewer votes. Since the producers will therefore know who is being sent home, there are three things to watch out for as we go through the semifinals, to get an idea of how things play out:

If Bobby gets a 10, be VERY worried about him: it means he’s likely being eliminated on a high note that very night. Hope for nines across the board for him.

If the phrase “shocking elimination” is uttered more than once, it means Joe is finally going to be eliminated. DWTS has never, in its entire history, advertised a shocking elimination as such.

If there is a single mention of how unusually well the men have been doing this season, it means both Evanna and Alexis are advancing to the finals, since they would otherwise save that type of filler for the always-bloated finale.

Who are you rooting for this season on DWTS? And who do you think will fall short of the finals in the cruelest elimination of all next week?

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