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We didn't see this coming!
Here we are: Bindi Irwin and the boys have made it all the way to Part 1 of the Dancing with the Stars Season 21 finale - and so have we. Each pair will compete with two routines tonight, including a judges' pick and a freestyle.
First, the finale gets underway with an enthusiastic performance by Meghan Trainor (sans her AMAs lip-lock buddy Charlie Puth). And on to the dances!
Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson
Dance 1: Bruno's pick for Witney and Carlos is a repeat of their Week 2 foxtrot. The judges have been telling Carlos to go big with his lines all season, and he's clearly making an effort to do that here. At times, though, he looks a bit disconnected from the dance. (He later admits to Erin Andrewsthat his nerves were "up to here" after a dress rehearsal that didn't go so well.) It's actually Witney who messes up a slide towards the end of the dance - and skins her knee in the process. Also, her costume is stunning.
What the judges say: Julianne calls it the sexiest foxtrot she's ever seen and says Carlos' lines are "a huge improvement." Bruno thanks Carlos for taking his advice regarding footwork. Carrie Ann tells Carlos it was his most "dynamic and exciting" performance to date.
Score: 30 (out of 30)
Dance 2: Carlos and Witney's hip hop-tinged freestyle includes cameos from former contestants Paula Deen, Hayes Grier and Alexa PenaVega. This should be interesting! It's odd that Carlos' top priority seems to be dancing with his wife and not going for the gold. I'm not sure this is the best choice to set him up for a Mirrorball victory. The dance is entertaining, for sure, but the two halves (before and after the guest dancers) feel a bit disjointed, and Carlos and Witney fall out of sync at points in the first part of the dance.
What the judges say: Julianne says she liked it, but is more enthused about the cameos than the dance itself. Bruno also appreciated the dance and praises Carlos for his generosity in sharing the stage. Carrie Ann says it's the "freshest, flyest freestyle" she's ever seen.
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Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold
Dance 1: Carrie Ann assigns the rumba to Lindsay and Alek, who freely admits that he's going to have a tough time getting into a sexy mindset with Lindsay, as opposed to his switch-up partner Emma Slater. (Poor Lindsay.) But he manages to do a convincing job and really throws himself into the number. His movements are still a little clunky, but this is definitely one of their stronger dances overall.
What the judges say: Bruno praises Alek's "commitment," but says his hip action was too "stop-and-start." Carrie Ann agrees about his hip action, but loved seeing their chemistry together. Julianne says (in a nice way) that she's surprised Alek has made it this far.
Dance 2: Alek and Lindsay's freestyle includes the insane addition of an 8-foot wall that they're going to scale and use as part of their choreography (to represent of Alek's Army obstacle course). Even I'm a little nervous when they approach the wall, so I can only imagine how they're feeling - but they pull it off with ease. This dance is incredible and does a wonderful job of playing to Alek's strengths (power and, well, strength), while still making him look like a great dancer. Every aspect, from the soaring music to the inspiring content and the amazing props, is perfect.
What the judges say: Bruno marvels at Lindsay's choreography, which he says turned Alek into a real-life action hero. Carrie Ann says this is a freestyle that will be remembered for years to come. And Julianne says she felt like she was in a Tough Mudder race while watching it.
Dancing with the Stars: The sexiest costumes from Season 21
Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess
Dance 1: Nick and Sharna get another shot at their jive, thanks to Julianne. The good news for Nick is that all eyes are probably on Sharna, thanks to a jaw-dropping red costume that perfectly matches her hair. This is a pretty sexually-charged jive, and Nick is (somewhat literally) leaps and bounds ahead of where he was the first time they performed it. Nick's energy throughout the whole number is insane, and this dance is on fire.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann says it's one of the most content-heavy jives she's ever seen and is Nick's best performance of the competition. (She also calls Sharna a "goddess.") Julianne is speechless about how well they did. Bruno says he kept waiting for Nick to mess up and he didn't.
Dance 2: Is Nick at an unfair advantage because he's dancing to the BSB classic "Larger Than Life" for his freestyle? Debatable. There's no doubt this is the best freestyle in terms of showmanship, but unfortunately it doesn't hold a candle to Alek or Bindi's in terms of emotional resonance. It's difficult to compare them; there's nothing to criticize about Nick's performance, but the others were just too good.
What the judges say: Julianne praises Nick for going above and beyond anyone's expectations, and says he matched the professional dancers step for step. Bruno says he wanted to join in. Carrie Ann thanks Nick for taking all the judges' notes throughout the season and says he "killed it."
Dancing's Derek Hough: I'd love to see Bindi go all the way
Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough
Dance 1: Carrie Ann tasks Bindi and Derek with a redo of their quickstep. Derek sounds like he's hacking up a lung in rehearsal, but doesn't miss a beat during the performance (or break any rules, as he did in the Season 15 finals, whoops). Bindi introducing the DWTS orchestra is kind of an odd way to start the dance, but it's a bundle of energy from there. Bindi and Derek have never looked more connected, and Bindi's footwork is flawless.
What the judges say: Julianne calls Bindi the Energizer Bunny and compliments her brother for not breaking hold. Bruno says it was "a gem of a quickstep." Carrie Ann tells Bindi she's in a class of her own.
Dance 2: Derek and Bindi's freestyle rivals their waltz a few weeks ago, both in content (a tribute to her late father Steve Irwin) and in the emotional impact. Derek's choreography is predictably affecting, and the shadow effect at the beginning and end of the dance is also a nice touch - not to mention the picture of Steve and Baby Bindi at the end, which is a surprise to everyone including Bindi. This dance is the polar opposite of Alek's freestyle, which it directly follows, but it's equally moving in a completely different way.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann calls it the freestyle of a true dancer, and thanks Bindi's parents for creating her. Julianne is crying and says this is the best finale the show has ever put on. And Bruno thanks Bindi for showing the entire audience the power of dance.
It's a heartbreaker to see anyone sent home after those performances, but alas, tonight's elimination is upon us.
Safe: Alek and Lindsay, Bindi and Derek, Nick and Sharna
Eliminated: Carlos and Witney
What did you think, Dancing fans? Were you disappointed to see Carlos and Witney go home? Which was your favorite dance of the night? And who are you rooting for in Tuesday's finale? Sound off in the comments and vote in our poll!