The first night of Dancing With the Stars' season 19 finals began Monday night, and the competition was the toughest it has ever been. With four couples who all know their way around a dance floor like nobody's business, it was clear from the first moment that no matter who went home, it was going to be disappointing.
The stars got the chance to show off their skills with two different dances. The first was a routine that they performed earlier in the season, but didn't necessarily get perfect. Each star also had one of the four judges to advise them on how to improve their routine. It was really a night of dancing redemption.
The second dance would be a freestyle, which allowed the couples to choreograph any type of dance they wanted, and each of the stars brought their very best to raise the bar with every routine.
It's seasons like this that are really tough for the fans, because it's hard to root for any star over another as they all have the drive, passion and talent to win the mirror ball trophy. There are no Bill Engvalls or Bristol Palins this time around. Each person seems to have an equal and reasonable chance to win -- and huge fan bases to boot.
However, this equal level of skill and talent means that there weren't too many terrible or weird moments. Everyone was on point in a masterful way. Because of that, we're going to switch it up this week and count down the seven best dances (and moments) of the evening.
Janel and Val's Adorable Relationship- Before their incredible Samba (which was their first dance of the evening) DWTS played their traditional pre-recorded package of the dynamic dancing duo getting ready and rehearsing. In the video, Janel suffered a rib injury and was forced to see a doctor. While laid up on an exam room table, Val and Janel had one of the sweetest moments of the season as Val held her hand and reassured her that she was the best dancer, no matter what happened on the show. It was more genuine than most rom-coms.
Alfonso and Witney are Good as Gold- Alfonso and Witney worked with Carrie-Ann Inaba to recreate their amazing, glittery jive and it was one of the highlights of the evening. Despite a major back injury – which Alfonso gracefully danced through the pain of last week – the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star and his pro partner managed to rock this jive even better than the first time, and the proof was in their scores. When Witfonso (which should totally be their nickname) performed this jive earlier in the competition, they got an admirable 36 points. This time, they snagged a perfect 40!
Bethan and Derek make Black Leather Look Even Cooler- Every week, Bethany comes out and gives one of the most elegant and sexiest dances of the night, and she rarely needs to show much skin to do so. This week, she and Derek rocked the house with an insanely intricate and gorgeous dance with one of the greatest ending poses that has ever been pulled off on DWTS.
Sadie and Mark's Mario Bros. Freestyle- Popping up out of green pipes, Sadie and Mark delivered one of the most imaginative and hilarious dances in DWTS history. Sadie dressed like Princess Peach while Mark rocked out in a glittery Mario outfit and they hit every single note that a Mario Bros. fan would love, including Sadie thrown up in the air to hit a coin block. It was just spectacular, and one of those freestyles that people will remember and talk about for seasons to come.
Janel and Val's Love Letter to Each Other- So, apparently all the freestyles are just amazing. Why isn't the show just nothing but freestyles? Janel and Val's number was beautiful and seemed to be a pure expression of their love for each other. We're all done pretending that they aren't totally and impossibly in love with each other, right? It seemed like they thought this might be their last chance to dance together and they made the most of it. Also, during their interviews with co-host Erin Andrews, Janel straight-up said that she loved him – so that’s probably a good clue. Then Val cried. It was… touching.
Janel and Val's Freestyle Song- This deserves its own "Best" entry. Janel and Val's intimately passionate freestyle dance was set to a slow, melodic, intensely romantic cover of The Proclaimer's "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" and it was just perfect.
Alfonso and Witney's Kinetic Freestyle- This was one number that really embraced the idea of freestyle dancing. Starting with an old-school swing intro set to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" and then quickly transitioning into a modern routine set to Sugarhill Gang's "Apache (Jump On It)," it then became a showcase for Alfonso's tap-dancing solo. Witney soon joined in, and then they all swung back into the swing dancing that started the routine. It was like a choreography roller-coaster.
Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson – 80 (40/40)
Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas – 78 (38/40)
Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy – 77 (37/40)
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough – 76 (36/40)
ELIMINATION (*WARNING: SPOILERS*)
No one was going to be happy with the results this evening, as the fans, the DWTS audience and even the four judges loved all the couples quite a bit.
Sadie and Mark, Janel and Val and Alfonso and Witney will be hitting the dance floor again Tuesday night for the DWTS championship, where only one can dance away with the win.
You can follow Zach Seemayer on Twitter @ZachSeemayer