'Dancing with the Stars' Live Recap: Final Performances, Part I
'Dancing with the Stars' Live Recap: Final Performances, Part I
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
This is it, Dancing fans! Tonight, our three season 10 finalists -- Evan Lysacek, Nicole Scherzinger and Erin Andrews -- will perform their final routines to earn your votes. Each couple will perform two routines tonight: an original "redemption dance" in a style selected by the judges, and a dance in the always-entertaining "freestyle" category. For their redemption dances, the judges have selected the samba for Erin and Maks, the Viennese waltz for Evan and Anna, and the rumba for Nicole and Derek.

Notably, the judges didn't select the samba for Evan, the dance that dropped him to the bottom of the leader board for the first and only time. Instead, he'll dance the style he earned 8's with in Week 1. Nicole's "worst" still earned her 8's and 9's in Week 3, and Erin's samba was so spectacular in Week 6 that she hit #1 in my performance rankings and made Carrie Ann scream, "You nailed it!"

All I can say is: "Huh?"

More from the Dancing with the Stars Season 10 Finale:
Schedule and Special Guests for the Dancing with the Stars Two-Night Finale Event
Craziest Costumes of DWTS Season 10
21 Best Dances of DWTS Season 10
The Dancing with the Stars Final 3: Let's Predict the Winner!

In any case, we're in for an evening of high-caliber performances by three highly competitive stars. Who will win the night? Let's find out ... "Liiiiiiiive!" In the live recap:

It's the finals! Did you know it's the finals? In case you didn't, here's a little visual hint:

dwtsfinalsfloor.jpgRedemption Dance Round:

erin-maks-finalsamba.jpgErin & Maks
Dancing: Samba

Bruno comes to visit Erin and Maks during their samba rehearsal, and advises her to loosen up her hips. The sign she's improving: Bruno screams "Look at your ASS!" In a good way.

The dance is a sort of meta-contest for Maks and Erin to show off their shimmy power. The carnival background on stage is all too fitting for this fun, flirty routine. It's a fun way to kick off the evening, even though the acting parts distracted me quite a bit.

Judges Say: "I was really studying. The improvement from the last time you danced the samba is fantastic." - Len
"You are hotter than noon in the tropics! We wanted fun, we got it." - Bruno
"You moved yourself up three notches. It was fantastic." - Carrie Ann

Scores: 10+10+9=29

evananna-vwaltzfinale.jpgEvan & Anna
Dancing: Viennese Waltz
Song: "Piano Man"

Len joins Evan and Anna in the studio to help him improve his chemistry in this romantic, powerful dance. Between Billy Joel's iconic lyrics, Anna's piano-key dress and Evan's lyricism, which was beautiful to begin with and has only improved over the season, this was an enrapturing routine that flowed magnificently before our eyes.

Judges Say: "Fluidity and lyricism as good as always. I liked to see the connection between you two. I could feel the spark." - Bruno
"It was a beautiful, emotional, enchanting dream. I loved it." - Carrie Ann
"Overall you did a wonderful job." - Len

Scores: 10+9+9=28

dereknicole-rumbafinale.jpgNicole & Derek
Dancing: Rumba
Song: "Lady in Red"

Carrie Ann advises Nicole to appear more vulnerable and emotional this time around in the rumba. She's telling her to do what we've been hoping for all season: to let go of perfection and "live the dance." Does her goal play out despite Nicole's natural perfectionism?

Uhhhh, YEAH. Nicole literally and figuratively let her hair down with this one, and the result was a dance that felt more sensual and intimate than many we've seen from her before. This last lift (at right) was pretty awesome, but its Matrix-like angles kind of took me out of the moment.

Judges Say: "All those edges softened. It was mesmerizing. But I saw the lifts at the ends." - Carrie Ann
"I loved the subtlety of the choreography. Occassionally I again felt there was a little lack of confidence. " - Len
"Sensuality, romance, seamlessly woven into something of surpreme beauty. This was superlative." - Bruno

Scores: 9+9+10=28

Erin just outscored Evan and Nicole--for the first time ever? I think so, but don't quote me. Anyway, the symbolism is significant: it really is anyone's game, and the Freestyle Round will really show what they're made of.

Freestyle Round:

erinmaks-freestyle.jpgErin & Maks
Song: "How Do I Get You Alone?"

They're going for a "contemporary, modern" freestyle, and they've brought in Mandy Moore (So You Think You Can Dance) to help choreograph this bedroom drama.

And they weren't kidding. Most of this dance is spent writhing (rhythmically) on top of a bed. Very intimate ... a little too intimate? When Maks is involved, NEVER! (Okay, now I think all of us are over-sharing.)

Judges Say: "You took an enormous risk. It was a mix of emotion and commotion. I liked it, but I didn't love it." - Len
"You put your heart and soul into it. Some steps you pulled off were quite incredible." - Bruno
"I loved the choice. So risky. Maks, you're risking. You just had one stumble. Other than that... " - Carrie Ann

Scores: 9+8+9=26

evananna-freestyle.jpgEvan & Anna
Song: "Footloose"

Evan and Anna had their first tense moment when planning this freestyle, because to Evan it seems like nothing they do will live up to the pressure, and they couldn't agree on how to pull it off. To resolve it, they bring in Bobby Newbury for a fresh perspective to "mesh their styles." The result? A jumpy, high-energy, high-excitement Footloose, cut-loose and at times, too loose, freestyle. It had great moments, but seemed to lack unity, just like Evan and Anna did when they were choreographing it. 

Judges Say: "You were demented! I don't know if I was watching Footloose or Screw loose! What you lose is the precision. You went for it, though." - Bruno
"That was ... odd. Great energy, though." - Carrie Ann
"I think you took the path of least resistance. It certainly wasn't what I wanted to see." - Len

Scores: 8+8+8=24

nicole-derekfreestyle.jpgNicole & Derek
Song: "A Little Less Conversation"

Derek wants "non-stop, high-octane" excitement from start to finish. Nicole's so talented that Derek is even pushing himself to do lifts he's never done before.

Did he do it? Of course he did it! Except for a slight slip when Derek lifted Nicole above his head at the very end, this was a lindy-hop-inspired routine that zoned in on their true partnership and high skill level, but didn't exploit stunts or Nicole's hip-hop background. You can tell they worked hard and truly wanted to entertain us, and they succeeded. Elvis would be proud!

Judges Say: "That's the freestyle we've all be waiting for. You were like a high-octane octopus. You slipped on that last lift, and it killed me." - Carrie Ann
"I saw fun, I saw entertainment. A fantastic freestyle." - Len
"Dazzling creativity! You have pushed the bar so high it's incredible. What you're trying to do has never been done. Ah-MAZ-ing." - Bruno

Scores: 9+9+9=27

That's it, folks. It's your last chance to vote for your would-be champion, so do what's in your heart. Here's where the judges stand on tonight's performances:

The Leaderboard:

Nicole and Derek: 27+28=55
Erin and Maksim: 29+26=55
Evan and Anna: 28+24=52

Who earned your votes? Who do you think -- and hope -- will take home the Mirrorball Trophy tomorrow night?

Join me tomorrow night for an array of more incredible routines, visits from all the stars who competed this season, and the deciding moment when we find out who will win Dancing with the Stars season 10!

(Images courtesy of ABC)