On the very quick-paced performance finale of Dancing With the Stars, Erin, Evan, and Nicole performed a ''redemption dance'' and tackled the simultaneously dreaded and revered freestyle round. Some light foreplay calmed Erin's nerves, and Derek worked it out as usual, but poor Evan and Anna couldn't agree on a freestyle in time and ended up with a routine neither of them seemed to believe in. Anna was crying. The horror!
The way each couple appeared at the end when Tom and Brooke were babbling pretty much said it all: Evan and Anna stood in place with pretty but strained smiles (they're usually more relaxed), Nicole and Derek were flailing around in loose full-body sways (they're typically hyper-aware of the camera), and Maks had Erin wrapped in a forward-facing beefy arm hug (same as usual, though they seemed more comfortable than ever to exist like that in the moment). We have a markedly different vibe going into tonight's finale. I hope that for stress-relief purposes, Evan has a real piano, or an app for that on his iPhone, to tickle as a substitute for Anna's dress.
A few notes: Brooke Burke certainly doesn't shop at EW.com's HIdden Gems Emporium for her huge jewels, and her Bumpit-infused hair was a good 1.5 times wider than her tiny waist; Maks' facial hair rate of growth is out of control in a great way; and I cried a single tear after that exquisite High Mass-style opening tribute to the mirrorball trophy. Just kidding — I'd merely placed a tear-shaped rhinestone on my face, contestant-style. You gotta be festive for finals week! Meanwhile, last night's band-pan included an ample shot of Princess Sparkle but zero zoom-in love for Enthusiastic Chimes Lady. What gives? I can only assume ECL will get her own brief filler segment tonight. They can wedge her personality ''package'' between the Vienna-se nightmare and the seventh teaser of Kate Gosselin explaining for the billionth time how much people think she sucks. Make it happen, powers that bedazzle!
Without further ado, and for the last time....Will the judges please reveal their scores? LiftPolice Chief Carrie Ann Inaba!
Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 29 + 26 = 55 out of possible 60 Well, this is a surprise! Erin's at the top of the judges' leader board, if only alphabetically. She and Nicole tied; Evan was three points behind. Bruno helped Erin with her ''redemption dance,'' the samba, by providing excellent advice to keep her steps closer together and screaming at her to look at her own ass. I was too busy gaping at her incredible upper thigh bruise to really notice her ass, which in the samba was shrouded by long strands of curlicued wrapping ribbon instead of the original purple feather-duster costume. Unlike the judges, I didn't think this samba was that much improved from Erin's first. But I was extremely intrigued by the multicolored triangular flags imported directly from an outdoor swim meet to the stage, as well as the animated circles on the big screens that reminded me of Brach's Starlight Mints. I have no idea why the judges didn't mention that. Len: ''I always wanted to be kissed by a man with a beard.'' Dream bigger, DANCMSTR.
NEXT: Erin's bedroom dance, Nicole's rumba