It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but Dancing with the Stars is already in the Christmas spirit, judging by this opener. My favorite part is how Gary Busey and Paula Deen are blatantly shoved to the background, with Paula literally commandeering a ship on her own away from the rest of the group. Oh well.
An intro this extravagant can only mean one thing: it's the season finale! Who will go home with the Mirrorball? It's down to Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess, Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold, and Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough.
As the finale gets underway, Nick and Bindi are tied on the leaderboard with perfect 60s from Monday night, while Alek is bringing up the rear with a 57. Each pair will be scored on one additional dance tonight - a fusion that they've had 24 hours to put together (though they'll also each revisit a former performance as well).
But before that, we get to hop on the Season 21 nostalgia train and get performances from some of the previous contestants. Highlights include Chaka Khan singing "I'm Every Woman," Andy Grammer performing his single "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)," and Carlos PenaVega revisiting his "Pony" striptease with most of the male pros (outside!).
Also back in the ballroom is Kim Zolciak, who was forced to leavethe competition due to a health condition in Week 3, but finally gets to perform her "I Dream of Jeannie"-inspired samba with partner Tony Dovolani. (She also shimmies right up on a very uncomfortable-looking Tom Bergeron. Ah, the joys of live television.) The season's other dropout, Tamar Braxton, is unfortunately unable to join in the festivities due to her ongoing health issues.
And we get a surprise appearance from erstwhile judge Len Goodman, who delivers a special holiday message and a pep talk for the finalists - in addition to confirmation that he's returning for Season 22 in the spring.
Now it's finally time for the meat of the night, aka the fusion dances. Here we go:
Nick and Sharna (salsa/tango)
The dance: The flame that Sharna and Nick ignited last night is still burning bright. When they're dancing separately, it's obvious that Nick is not quite up to par with Sharna, but when they're dancing together these guys are on fire. The dance is a sexy, energetic curtain call, and the last lift is a jaw-dropping way to end their season. Remember when Nick told us at the beginning of the season that he couldn't dance very well? Ha.
What the judges say: Julianne says (correctly) they "left it all on the dance floor." Bruno looks like he's having an out-of-body experience and thanks them for once again spicing up the night. Carrie Ann takes the opposite route and says she's sad that we won't be seeing them dance again.
Alek and Lindsay (rumba/tango)
The dance: Alek finally got his lines down! He's still the weakest of the three finalists, but he's come a long way over the past two months. The best part about this dance is their obvious emotional connection - it evokes the sense of the last prom dance between two people who are heading off to different colleges.
What the judges say: Bruno points out that Alek messed up the footwork a bit, but has done a great job overall throughout the competition. Carrie Ann gushes about his integrity. And Julianne says they did a better rumba tonight than on Monday.
Derek and Bindi (cha cha/Argentine tango)
The dance: After so many emotionally heavy performances, it's great to see Bindi go out on an exuberant high note. There's nothing else to be said about her dancing, which is flawless as always - but they finally got a song and a stage setup that matches her firecracker of a personality. At the end of this dance, I don't think there's any doubt about who should go home with the Mirrorball trophy. Sorry, Nick. But we'll see how everything shakes out.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann tells Bindi that she's responsible for making Season 21 her favorite ever. Julianne says the dance is "everything a fusion should be." Bruno calls her "a sensation."
And now, the moment we've all been waiting for. It's ... Nick Carter performing his new single "I Will Wait," from an album that comes out Wednesday. Huh. The song is a bit of a snooze, but when you have two hours to kill I guess you have to fill it with something (and maybe this is Nick's consolation prize for when the Mirrorball will inevitably go to Bindi). I'm just saying!
Anyway, now it really is the moment we've all been waiting for - who's the Season 21 winner?
Third place: Alek and Lindsay
Runner-up: Nick and Sharna
Winner: Bindi and Derek
For those keeping track at home, that makes Derek a six-time champ.
What did you think, Dancing with the Stars fans? Are you happy Bindi and Derek won the whole thing? Which past competitors had you completely forgotten about until tonight? And how does Season 21 stack up to past iterations? Sound off in the comments, and see you back here in March!