The final four pairs are facing off on Night 1 of Dancing with the Stars' Season 19 finale. And, as we did last season, we're bringing you a TVGuide.com group-effort recap. Tonight my esteemed colleagues Joyce Eng (former DWTS recapper) and Robyn Ross (who has admitted to imitating DWTS routines alone in her apartment) will also be offering their thoughts on tonight's routines.
Let's get to it!
Bethany and Derek (jive)
Joyce's take: I trust Swiftie Liz is doing her best Elaine dance right now (Liz's note: I was, from my couch). I don't really remember Bethany's OG jive, but I imagine this is better, even though she's not totally shaking it off. That set malfunction derailed Bethany's pace unfortunately (and scores), and I'm sure conspiracy theorists will think TPTB planned that.
Liz's take: The routine's fun and has plenty of pizzazz, but is a little too fluffy for my liking. And it doesn't help that the set fell apart either. I much prefer Bethany and Derek when they're doing the more serious, darker numbers.
Robyn's take: Immediate points for my current favorite song — though I'm not sure it could beat this "Shake It Off" dance. (I know, I'm biased.) Bethany seems to start a little off due to the set malfunction and doesn't fully get back into the groove until the chorus. Overall, it's fun and much improved from Week 1. Also, was bright and sunny Derek just totally made for the jive?
What the judges say: Len says it's a great improvement from their Week 1 jive. Julianne is so transfixed by Bethany that she says she doesn't even see Derek out there (lies). Bruno notes a major misstep with their timing. Carrie Ann also thinks the mistakes were too distracting.
Sadie and Mark (samba)
Joyce's take: Oh. This again. What have we done to deserve this? Sadie's got leg for days, but there's some pep missing from the first go-around, not to mention synchronicity and rolls. Or maybe I just zoned out. Sorry, I only care about one duck dynasty.
Liz's take: Is it nerves getting to the performers, or am I just in a bad mood tonight? I loved Sadie and Mark's Duck Dynasty routine the first time around, but tonight's performance is just okay. The element of surprise probably worked in their favor a few weeks ago, but they also fall out of sync a couple of times tonight.
Robyn's take: With the Duck Dynasty fans and now One Direction fans, Sadie's got this locked up, right? I could watch Sadie's legs in action all day long and although she's a tad stiff at first, she shines during this routine. (Though this was not a 10.) And Mark totally "quacks" me up throughout the whole thing.
What the judges say: Julianne likes it even better than their original samba. Bruno notes that they were behind the timing a couple of times. Carrie Ann says the dance proves that Sadie deserves to be in the finals. Len praises Mark's beard (and choreography), but also noticed them falling out of sync.
Janel and Val (samba)
Joyce's take: Look. Janel's stealing Alfonso's sympathy card! I kid, I kid. (Maybe.) But this is what a proper samba looks like without a quack attack obfuscating it. Janel's transitions are lacking though and she gives off a Rachel Berry vibe. Side note: Janel, Lea and Danica have all suffered rib injuries working with Val. Just sayin'...
Liz's take: This is the first dance of the night that I find myself completely engaged in. It's a marked improvement from their previous samba, and Janel heeds Carrie Ann's advice to be sensual, but not rely too much on her sexuality. But, did we see her wince from that rib injury at one point? That might not bode well for Dance No. 2.
Robyn's take: Janel is a performer, there's no question, but this dance just doesn't do it for me, her costume colors are as blinding as "The Jenna Thing" and I didn't see the passion between the two that the judges were hoping for. Janel is clearly in pain when the routine ends so I hope she pulls it together because she's proven herself worthy of Final 2 for sure.
What the judges say: Bruno thinks the dance was hot, but both he and Carrie Ann note that Janel lost her balance at one point. Len, on the other hand, didn't notice anything amiss. Julianne reminds everyone that she helped them rehearse.
Alfonso and Witney (jive)
Joyce's take: Carrie Ann giving Alfonso a rubdown goes against dancer/judge privileges, no? But what do I know? She used to date Artem after all. Clearly, Carrie Ann's Magic Hands did the trick. Da Fonz is back (no pun intended)! What I love most about Alfonso is that for a slight guy, he makes great use of space and dances BIG. He is the show and you have to watch.
Liz's take: I love this dance from start to finish — starting with Alfonso's smirk as he's gliding down the stairs, to his beam at the end. I can easily ignore a couple of missed grips and my nervousness that Alfonso's back is going to give out at any minute.
Robyn's take: I'll be honest, Alfonso became my favorite awhile back and I think Whitney is just adorable so I'm pulling for these two (despite the ugly brown costume). There's something about the way Alfonso moves that's so effortless and this routine is no different. My only complaint is that I selfishly wish the judges chose either his "Jiggy" or "Carlton" dance.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann can barely contain herself and gives them a standing ovation. Len says Alfonso is undoubtedly the frontrunner at this point and compares him to Frank Sinatra. Julianne basically calls the routine flawless, and Bruno says Alfonso knocked it so far out of the park it's in outer space.
Next it's on to the freestyles. But first, we get a taste of the upcoming Annie, which I think Bethany and Derek can safely blame for their malfunctioning set piece earlier. Anyway.
Bethany and Derek
Joyce's take: Bethany's 50 Shades of Pleather is the only way to show that's she's a badass, obviously. Derek didn't repeat himself, though I wouldn't rank this as a Top 3 freestyle for him. It's appropriate for Bethany and her "journey," but it's not an instant showstopper. Honestly, I know I shouldn't compare, but think Derek peaked with his freestyle with Kellie and he hasn't exceeded it yet.
Liz's take: It's Dancing with the Hunger Games! Derek brings his choreography A game with this dramatic number, expertly surrounding Bethany with other dancers and still making her stand out. If I were the other pairs I'd be pretty intimidated.
Robyn's take: Derek picks a dance to showcase Bethany's "revolution" and we get it already, girl has broken down walls and gained confidence. This routine started off eh for me, but by the end it was definitely bold and that one toss was pretty bada-- — Bethany seems to excels at hip-hop. I'd also like to steal her jacket.
What the judges say: "A five-star freestyle," according to Len. Julianne loves the story the dance told. Bruno's with me on the Hunger Gamesfront, and calls Bethany a "dancing Katniss." Carrie Ann — after a brief intermission for coverage of the Ferguson verdict — says Bethany "killed it" among the show's top dancers.
Sadie and Mark
Joyce's take: MARK IS SUPER MARIO. SADIE IS PRINCESS PEACH. THEY COME OUT OF THE WARP PIPE. I HAVE NO WORDS. This is so Mark. His stuff can go oh-so wrong (see: the gorillas), but when they're right, I cannot stop laughing. In a good way. (Also, this totally makes Len Bowser, right?
Liz's take: This is amazing. As someone who grew up playing Super Mario Bros. for hours on end, I'm so biased in favor of this routine that it's not even funny. The dancing's great, and Sadie looks adorable in her princess costume, but the brilliant set is really what makes this routine.
Robyn's take: Nothing Mark does shocks me, but channeling a video game is certainly out of the box. I can't tell if Sadie is into this or is thinking, "What did I sign up for?" Also, I can't stop laughing at the guy with a sparkly mushroom on his head. (Editor's Note: Toad!)
What the judges say: "Game over," gushes Julianne. Bruno says it was "refreshing, original, inspired." According to Carrie Ann, it's the most memorable freestyle the show has ever seen. Len agrees.
Janel and Val
Joyce's take: How cute. Val is trying to be like big bro and parlay a showmance into a Mirrorball trophy. Too bad Janel is half the dancer Meryl is and they have a quarter of M&M's chemistry. I guess it's smart of Val to do a contemporary so he can drag, lift (that overhead one was gorgeous though) and swing his banged-up partner whichever way he wants.
Liz's take: I have two problems with this routine. First, while gorgeous, it's kind of a snoozy buzzkill on the heels of Mark and Sadie's ebullient routine. Second, I'm over the Janel and Val showmance. Cynical gripes aside, their movements are flawless and the way they move together is like music in itself.
Robyn's take: These two are going for the final #showmance vote by playing up whatever may be going on between them. A slow version of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" is an interesting song choice yet it works. Their lifts are pretty impressive. And I think they kissed twice, right?
What the judges say: Bruno fell for it, and calls the dance "hypnotically beautiful." Carrie Ann says they're "immaculate" as a team and that the routine changed everyone in the ballroom. Len appreciated the simplicity, and Julianne loves the honesty and purity of the dance.
Alfonso and Witney
Joyce's take: Now it's actually game over. They're already scoring Alfonso's package with swoon-y, triumphant winner music. This is a formality. He's got this. This is like Donny's Broadway freestyle: fun, lively, theatrical and versatile. His tap solo is just adding insult to injury for the other three. Pre-emptive congrats, Alfonso. It's time for another male celeb to win. Donald was the last, which was Peta's second season. And this is Witney's second season. It's meant to be!
Liz's take: Alfonso's back has to be begging for mercy after this routine. I love that they broke it up into several components, like a three-act play. I think he falls just short of the ladies as far as the freestyle is concerned, but by a margin of 39.99999 versus 40s.
Robyn's take: Yes, just yes. While at first the dance didn't stand out as freestyle, my goodness did these two bring it. The mix of music and styles showed how vast Alfonso's range is, culminating in a solo tap and an outstanding rendition of "Jump on It." And considering Whitney is a relatively new pro she proved she can play with the veteran boys.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann says the dance combines all the essential elements of Dancing with the Stars. Len calls it an "all you can eat buffet" and says the Mirrorball trophy is anyone's to lose. Julianne is glad she doesn't have to vote. Bruno doesn't know where Alfonso pulled the hip action from.
And now for the elimination. This is bound to be a heartbreaker, no matter who's going home.
But ... we don't get to see it. ABC cuts to President Obama's address about the Ferguson verdict, and by the time it returns, Castle has already started.
So, without much fanfare, the result (per Twitter) is that Bethany and Derek were eliminated. I, for one, did not see that coming.
What did you think of Monday's show? Are you surprised Bethany and Derek were eliminated (and East Coast fans, were you disappointed the elimination wasn't shown)? And who will you be rooting for on Tuesday's finale? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars' Season 19 finale airs Tuesday on ABC.