It’s down to just four couples competing on “Dancing with the Stars,” and the battle for the coveted disco ball may be one of the closest ones in recent memory.
“At the end of the day, it’s about getting that mirror ball trophy,” declared finalist Jacoby Jones at the top the show.
Last week, Zendaya Coleman and partner Val Chmerkovskiy slipped dangerously down to 4th place–just one rung above now-departed soap star Ingo Rademacher–but rebounded in spectacular style Monday night.
The 16-year-old Disney star and the Ukranian-born pro served up a trio of energetic and perfectly scored dances–despite a rather nasty-looking gash above Chmerkovskiy’s right eye (Coleman had accidentally clocked her partner with a rhinestone-encrusted elbow during rehearsals).
Blood-soaked bandages notwithstanding, the pair earned the top score of night, starting with a perfect score of 30 for their judge-appointed dance, the Samba, 5 points for landing in 1st place during the Cha Cha relay, and another perfect score of 30 for their “super-sized” freestyle dance for a total of 65 points.
Coleman and Chmerkovskiy defied the judges’ expectations by incorporating the Cha Cha and modern dance moves into Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat,” supported by a gaggle of enthusiastic young dancers.
“You sealed the deal,” praised judge Carrie Ann Inaba. “You showcased why you are such an incredible role model. You’re classy, you’re sassy, you’re fun–you’re just divine, my dear. I love seeing you out there–fantastic.”
While Coleman may have earned the top score of the night, Kellie Pickler’s “super-sized” freestyle dance with partner Derek Hough was the judges’ clear favorite. Curmudgeonly judge Len Goodman even gave the pair a standing ovation.
“Good dancing engages the brain, great dancing engages the heart,” raved Goodman. “You were totally immersed in the dance, in each other, you drew everyone into that performance.”
The lead judge was not alone in his praise. Many in the audience leapt to their feet to applaud the performance, while Inaba became very emotional.
“Kellie, you just bared your soul on the dance floor and it was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen,” said Inaba, fighting back tears.
Judge Bruno Tonioli called the “American Idol” star’s performance “a dance of spellbinding beauty” and “a contemporary work of art.”
Despite the raves for their freestyle routine, and a perfect score of 30 for their judge-appointed Samba, the pair landed in 2nd place for the night with a total of 64 points due to their 2nd place finish during the Cha Cha relay, which earned them 4 points.
Aly Raisman and partner Mark Ballas landed in 3rd place for the night. The pair also nabbed a perfect score of 30 for their athletic freestyle, which involved synchronized pole dancing and a series of lifts, leaps and twirls.
“That was futuristic with a touch of exotic,” marveled Tonioli. “You took an incredible risk with this–it could have gone totally wrong. To sync (the pole) section up there is nearly impossible–and you did it!”
Unfortunately for the Olympic gymnast, her Samba earned 28 out of 30 points from the judges, while her 3rd place finish during the Cha Cha relay added an additional 3 points to her score for an overall total of 61.
Bringing up the rear was Jones and Karina Smirnoff, who was well behind the pack with a total score of 56. Nevertheless, Jones was cheered on by his ever-present mother, Emily, who was unwavering in her support.
The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver earned 28 points from the judges for his Jive, despite having some hands-on coaching from Goodman, who instructed the NFL star to pretend he was kicking peanuts instead of a football on the dance floor.
“I wanted to show Len that I could crack peanuts, lead Karina, and do it with swag,” Jones explained during rehearsals.
For Jones’ “super-sized” freestyle dance, he performed a tribute to the boisterous parades of his hometown of New Orleans, which also earned him 28 points. Unfortunately, Jones came in dead last during the Cha Cha relay, and as a result, had only 2 additional points added to his final score.
But Jones’ may still have a chance to win the mirror ball trophy–if someone besides his mom votes.
Fans may vote for their favorites via toll-free phone calls, text and Facebook. Due to “technical difficulties,” voting on ABC.com was suspended on Monday night.
After the all the votes are tallied, the top three couples will perform a new routine in an “Instant Dance” to help decide who will win the mirror ball trophy on Tuesday night.
Up Next: The entire celebrity cast returns to “DWTS” for the finale as Pitbull, Wynonna Judd, PSY and Jessica Sanchez perform.