We have a final three in ABC’s athletes-only season of “Dancing with the Stars,” and it’s packed with a national icon, a local hero and controversial sometimes-villain out for redemption.
To no one’s surprise, Olympic figure skater and America’s sweetheart Adam Rippon is the favorite for the Mirror Ball Trophy, but Redskins cornerback Josh Norman sneaked into next week’s final with a solid contemporary performance.
Tonya Harding, whom judges have loved and American voters have embraced, made the final as well after an emotional rumba.
Judges have allowed creativity and entertainment value to reign this season, the show’s 27th, rather than the technical aspects of each dance. If the latter was the case, Norman’s Pasodoble would have done him in last week. Harding would not have gotten away with dancing with a stuffed bear.
But Week 3 saw male contestants dance shirtless with abandon, lavish set design and a whole lot of thank-yous for moms. Judges and viewers, who voted on ABC’s website, ate the whole thing up. This solid group of six was entertaining and full of potential.
And then ABC whacked half the group to make way for next week’s finale. Here are some very informal power rankings heading into that event.
Couples this week were scored out of 42 points, with retired Chicago Cubs catcher and past DWTS runner-up David Ross joining as a guest judge. Teams could also earn an extra two points for winning a “dance-off,” (watch here, here and here) in which they danced side-by-side with another pair to the same discipline.
6. Jennie Finch Daigle, retired Olympic softball player
Dancing the Viennese waltz, score: 29
I love watching Jennie Finch Daigle on this show for the same reason judge Carrie Ann Inaba loves watching Jennie Finch Daigle.
“You really do embody what this show is about,” Inaba said, which is learning how to dance, and enjoying the process. “Unfortunately, that’s only part of it.”
Yeah. It’s time for a classy farewell after a Viennese waltz in which Daigle was behind and got a little stuck between grace and athleticism. With what the other athletes can throw down, it’s time Daigle to go, but certainly without any shame.
5. Chris Mazdzer, Olympic luger
Dancing the fox trot, score: 33
I’ve become such a fan of Mazdzer. He’s so committed each week. He’s adaptable. He’s entertaining. And he’s really good looking.
But things didn’t quite pan out this week. He danced a fox trot that was more like a quickstep but not quite a freestyle and, well, it was problematic. Beginning the number dancing solo, he was stiff and offbeat. When partner Witney Carson showed up, he finally relaxed, but the damage was done. Judge Len Goodman called the routine “a little bit wooden,” and I’d have to agree. Mazdzer struggled with fan votes last week. This certainly didn’t do him any favors.
4. Mirai Nagasu, Olympic figure skater
Dancing quickstep, score: 35
For the third week, Mirai Nagasu danced very well. I kept watching her flit around the dance floor and was looking for something to compare her to.
“It was like watching a firefly in full flight,” judge Bruno Tonioli said. Yes! That’s it.
She’s sprightly and energetic and fun. And somehow eliminated? America cast more votes for Tonya Harding than Nagasu, another case in which perhaps voters chose a controversial candidate over one more qualified.
ADVANCE TO THE FINALS
3. Tonya Harding, retired Olympic figure skater
Dancing the rumba, score: 33 + 2 for the “dance-off” win
My wish each week is that we’d let Tonya Harding’s dancing stand on its own instead of hinting at every turn at the saga that defines her legacy. Harding danced the rumba this week in memory of her father, who left her family when she was a young girl. But Harding insists she talked to her father every day and the two had a close relationship until his recent death. She said he was “in my corner” his whole life. Her routine was elegant and emotional. She was in tears on the dance floor before even beginning the choreography and still put forth a solid performance.
During judging, Inaba said, “I think we’re all in your corner now,” which is some kind of a loaded statement to make toward someone who admitted to having prior knowledge of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. Harding is a wonderful dancer, and good for her. But that doesn’t necessarily mean “we’re all” in her corner.
2. Josh Norman, Redskins cornerback
Dancing contemporary, score: 36 + 2 for the “dance-off” win
If this season of “DWTS” was a few weeks longer, I’d really like Josh Norman’s chances. He’s clearly the strongest male contestant in the field. It makes his lifts fantastic. He’s so grounded and powerful, which makes his routines smooth and elegant. With that extra time, I’d bet he could make significant improvement and challenge for a title. But Monday he went right after Adam Rippon, and, well, there was no contest. Rippon wiped the floor with him, even as Norman only scored three points behind.
1. Adam Rippon, Olympic figure skater
Dancing I’m not exactly sure, but it was cool, score: 39 + 2 for the “dance-off” win
I volunteered to write these posts, so I’m not allowed to be speechless in this space, though I wish I could. Rippon continues to amaze from the ice in PyeongChang, South Korea, to ballrooms in Hollywood. Dancing a contemporary piece to the song he skates to (“O,” by Coldplay), he was magnificent. The routine told the story of his coming out and the support his mother offered through the process. It was emotional, charming, inventive and somehow funny all in a two-minute routine.
“It’s impossible to tell who is the professional,” Tonioli said.
Like his Olympic performance, it was one of those artistic displays that you’d rather not discuss afterward. You just let it be, and allow it to marinate in your brain and through your subconscious. Network television doesn’t often give us the opportunity.
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