This is it folks, the final showdown. Dancing with the Stars' Season 22 winner will be revealed Tuesday. It's a tight race, with Paige VanZant, Nyle DiMarco and Ginger Zee averaging 26.5, 26.4 and 26 for the season, respectively.
Their seasonal average matters little though; ABC says the winner will be determined by the highest combined viewer and judge scores from last Monday's show + Monday's viewer votes and judge scores + Tuesday night's judges' scores. Viewer votes are never public, and we of course can't know what'll happen, but we have some hunches, especially after hearing the expert opinions of pro Peta Murgatroyd, who is paired with DiMarco. "All three of the finalists are so ridiculously talented all in their own separate ways," she says, reinforcing how it really is anyone's Mirrorball to grab. Who'll win? Let's break it down.
Paige Vanzant: Total from Monday: 59/60 (trio dance with Alan Bersten: 30; Argentine tango, 29)
Paige brings an infectious, lovable energy, intense work ethic and, of course, fierce athleticism. She's said before that she attributes her success more to her attitude and experience being coached than she does to her childhood dance training. Still, she's proven to be a superb dancer: She's nimble, sensual and in control of her body, and she's really compelling to watch.
"I feel like Paige is a really great technician," Murgatroyd says. "She comes from an amazing dancing background. She's had training and she's cute as a button as well. She's everything a winner should be."
Ginger Zee: Total from Monday: 56/60 (trio dance with Artem Chigvintsev, 27; Argentine tango, 29)
She's the - sorry for this - perfect storm, as Ginger came in as a dark horse. She's a meteorologist! And a new (ostensibly exhausted) mom, commuting back and forth from New York! How could she possibly be a serious contender in this? As the weeks went on, of course, we saw Ginger unleash her full fury. Up until her routine to Janet Jackson's "Nasty" — the equivalent of a rainy afternoon - Ginger looked good. But even that lackluster moment worked in her favor; she came roaring back with routines that bordered on breathtaking. No doubt, she got her sexy back and flaunted sharpness, fluidity and an irresistibility that sometimes made it hard to remember she was a contestant, not a pro.
"Ginger is the lovable girl next door," says Murgatroyd. "She's grown so much to be a new mom and to be a sexy diva. She's amazing; she's brought new life to her incredible journey."
[Editor's Note: As we went to press, ABC News announced that Zee had injured her pelvis and could potentially have to withdraw from the competition. A final decision will be made on Monday afternoon.]
Nyle DiMarco: Total from Monday: 57/60 (trio dance with Jenna Johnson, 27; Argentine tango, 30.)
He's the people's favorite. He's a beautiful dancer and, of course, the level of difficulty in his stellar performances are intensified by the fact that he cannot hear any music. No one's given him a pass though; in fact, he's been dinged for uneven performances, typically due to overconfidence. His special circumstances have given him only two advantages: with fans, including a hearing impaired community who shows up both in the studio and when it's time to vote, and secondly, his impressive tricks, like silencing the music or, as they did last week, putting him in a blindfold.
"We have something so extraordinary," Murgatroyd says of their finale performance. "We're going to tell Nyle's life story though our dance and how much he loves being deaf. He doesn't want to hear. He wants to stay deaf. He's 100 percent confident in who he is. Hopefully people see him as a champion."
So who'll win? DiMarco. Fans have been mesmerized by him from the get-go; his story of resilience, believing in yourself and succeeding against all odds is the stuff good TV — and America — is made of.
And what about Murgatroyd? If DiMarco wins, it would be Murgatroyd's second win, after she helped Donald Driver take the top spot in Season 14. How would she celebrate? "A lot of bed rest, a lot of spa days and massages," she says. "Resting my body. We both have bruises all over... we've been rolling on the floor for four hours a day. It's killing us." Maybe it'll be worth it.
Who do you think will win?
Dancing with the Stars two-night season finale airs Monday at 8/7c on ABC and again on Tuesday at 9/8c.