The show opens with the Dance of Contestants Past, culminating with our three finalist couples -- Alfonso Ribiero & Witney Carson, Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas and Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy -- front and center.
Each of the finalist couples were given a piece of music and two dance styles they're required to fuse together for a judged performance tonight.
In highlights from last night, we don't really see much of anything interesting. They do show Bethany Mota's slip up and judge Carrie Ann Inaba commenting on it. Bethany's already been eliminated, so this seems a bit mean-spirited. In a clip from last night of Derek Hough talking to Bethany backstage, a crew member is holding a tiny electric fan up to his face to dry some of the sweat. Secrets explained!
Apparently for a freestyle encore, we, as in Twitter, chose Bethany & Derek. Huh. Maybe the other finalists are privately relieved to not have to do another dance in addition to their competitive one tonight.
Wow, I'd forgotten how bad Lolo Jones was. I'm glad America didn't make me watch more than one week of that. It almost, but not quite, makes up for making me suffer so much Michael Waltrip.
Nick Jonas, looking snazzy in a suit that regrettably hides his recent bicep workout results, is here to sing "Jealous" at us. As he walks by some teenage girls at the side of the stage, one of them is too busy taking a selfie with her friends to realize right away that Nick is walking right beside her. As soon as she realizes how close he's walked to her, she completely loses her mind and starts screaming.
Back from commercial, Janel & Val reprise an abbreviated and stripped-down version of their jazz routine to "America" from "West Side Story."
Then Jonathan Bennett & Allison Holker are back for the "Men in Black" routine, but this time with a bonus -- Stephen "Twitch" Boss, who just happens to be Allison's husband. Sometimes nepotism is nice.
The montage of clips from dress rehearsals is reliably funny. Pottymouth hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews are fun to watch. It's also clear that as gorgeous as Erin is in her show clothes, she's just as attractive in her more casual clothes that seem more her natural style.
Betsey Johnson is back and, woof. She should've just left us with our memories. After the commercial break, Mark & Sadie are doing their Cha-cha and Sadie misses more than a few steps. I'm betting she's glad they're not being judged on that one.
Michael Waltrip is back in his DWTS racing suit. He's not improved any with his time off. In flashbacks to the partner switch-up week, we see Witney crying after getting 5s for her dance with Michael. Girl, I do not blame you.
They also give us another look at Tony Dovolani's audition tape from years ago, and it's still comedy gold. Also, remember that time Leah Remini beat Derek about the head and shoulders with her microphone? Still funny.
There's a cute remake of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song with new lyrics featuring the four (as of last night) finalist couples. This is nostalgia for my generation.
Jennifer Hudson is here to perform and to remind us what a real singer sounds like live. As in, freaking fantastic. She's bidding for Disco Diva status with this song. I support this career trajectory.
Alfonso & Witney are doing an exhibition reprise of their jazz routine to "It's Not Unusual" and they make sure to get "The Carlton" in. Lea Thompson then comes back to do her "Maneater" routine again. I really hate she didn't connect with the audience any more, because she's got the dance skills. Thinking back on her career in Hollywood, though, she's always been kind of a private person and that may have been what held her back from making that kind of connection with the audience.
The female pros are all back together for their Beyonce routine and I notice that as much as Peta Murgatroyd may try to wear as little fabric as possible, Emma Slater is usually pretty modest. I mean, she's in essentially a leotard, but it's very low cut across the legs, almost like an Esther Williams swimsuit. And remember the week that Michael danced to "Girls in Bikinis?" Emma was the only female dancer in the routine wearing a one-piece.
Tommy Chong & Peta are back to reprise their first-week routine, with the giant car with hydraulics on stage. This time Cheech Marin is joined in the car by head judge Len Goodman. In a track suit! With gold chains! My brain doesn't know what to make of this.
For what it's worth, Erin looks stunning tonight, but then again, a tall blond in a slinky red dress is kind of a no-brainer.
In an "I'm thankful for" segment, we find out that Janel's sister is active military, Peta and fellow pro Sharna Burgess are BFFs and Emma's a twin!
It's Bruno Tonioli's birthday; Julianne Hough and Carrie Ann bring out a prop cake. Bruno seems genuinely touched and pleased. Awwww. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Bruno is turning 59 today.
Bethany and Derek are going to reprise their freaky paso doble with the hoods and drums and swaths of red cloth. It's impressive how, with both this routine and the freestyle last night, sweet, sunny Bethany was able to pull off such drama.
Remember the Halloween episode? When they scared the crap out of Cheryl Burke on live TV? And Mark turned into a pissy zombie? And then dynamic duos week when Sadie became Eve and Alfonso was Batman? Good times.
Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas, Samba/Quickstep fusion
In rehearsal footage, Mark points out that Sadie is the only finalist with zero dance training. It definitely is impressive how quickly she's taken to it.
I swear, is Sadie still growing? Last night I thought she looked taller than Mark, but I figured it was hair and crown. But tonight, I think it again. Maybe she's getting used to dancing in higher heels? Or she could still be growing. I like the quickstep bits of this better than the samba bits. Sadie doing samba looks an awful lot like the chicken dance in parts.
The judges say more about Sadie as a person than the dance she just danced. I wonder if tradition will hold and all the scores tonights will be perfect scores so as not to really affect the outcome.
Perfect score from the judges. Mark is acting like he's seeing the birth of his first child. Chill, Mark.
The show will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this spring. Have I really been watching this show for that long? My marriage only lasted half that long. Such is my life, apparently.
Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy, Foxtrot/Paso Doble fusion
The song is a weird one without melody for the first half, so it seems rather arbitrary which dance style you put with it. A little over halfway through, the beat kicks in and it picks up.
Julianne says the fusion of the two styles was seamless. Len tells us that Janel & Val have had more 10s from him than any other couple.
Another perfect score from the judges.
Alfonso Ribiero & Witney Carson, Cha-cha/Argentine Tango fusion
Alfonso maybe should lay off on telling us how he's wanted to be on this show for 10 years. That just lets us know that the show passed him over 18 times before saying yes now.
These are two very weird styles to mix together. Oh no! There's a point where Witney, even though she's supposed to be on the ground looks, like she fell there instead of setting herself there. Aw, man. If the judges don't give this a perfect score, I can't really blame them. Let's hear what they have to say.
Bruno calls Alfonso "a legend." Carrie Ann gives Witney props for keeping it together because she "was on the edge there." Len says Alfonso's dancing has a naturalness to it.
In the end, the judges give them a perfect score as well.
If third place goes to anyone other than Janel & Val I'll faint dead away ... and I'm still upright, because they are the third place couple.
Suspense, suspense, suspense. The winners are Alfonso & Witney! I'm a happy person, and what a thrill for Witney in only her second year as a pro. Alfonso is crying. He says they're tears of joy.
Sadie is gracious in defeat, saying Alfonso deserves the win.
As soon as Tom hands Alfonso the trophy, Keo Metsope and Tony are there to hoist him up in the air. Then, Derek puts Witney on his shoulders so they can both be up in the air.
Good season — competitive, exciting and fun. See y'all in the spring.