Dancing with the Stars season 22 is down to the Final 3. Throughout the season, Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas, Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd and Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy have all proven why they deserve to win. But going into the finale, which one is the frontrunner?

They’ve all been at the top of the leaderboard multiple times and all received perfect scores. All three of the remaining pros have won the Mirror Ball Trophy in the past. And going into the finale, only three points separate first from last. But which one of them has the edge? Here’s a look at three key ingredients for success.

Who Has the Best Scores?

For the entire season, Paige has the best scores from the judges, but her combined total is just 1 point above Nyle and 8 points above Ginger. Paige and Ginger each have two perfect scores while Nyle only has one. In terms of total 10s from the judges, Paige has received 12 while Nyle and Ginger have both received 10.

Though Paige seems to have the lead when it comes to scoring, she’s actually last in terms of the number of times she’s been at the top of the leaderboard. She’s only had the best score of the night twice, in weeks 2 and 4. Ginger has been on top three times (weeks 1, 4 and 8) while Nyle has been in the lead four times (weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7).

When it comes to their scores, I have to give the slight edge to Paige simply because she has the best average from the judges, and the dancer with the best score has won 13 out of 21 times.

Who Has the Best Story?

Paige’s personal narrative has been largely about overcoming bullying, but we’ve seen that before and it didn’t help Bethany Mota win season 19. And while athletes have done quite well, winning eight times, the only female athletes who’ve won are Olympic champions.

Nyle’s disability has made him the inspirational choice, but that hasn’t panned out well either in recent years as Amy Purdy finished second while Noah Galloway and Alek Skarlatos both finished third.  He’s also the season’s resident male eye candy, a role that almost never wins.

That leaves Ginger, the recent mother and a beloved personality from another ABC series, Good Morning America. She has a built-in group of supporters who watch ABC courtesy of her day job. While it’s almost impossible to find a comparable past winner to Paige or Nyle, Ginger seems to fit the mold of past female TV personalities who won like Melissa Rycroft or Brooke Burke.

Who Has the Best Pro?

All three remaining pros have won the Mirror Ball before, but only one has done it recently. Val won in season 20, so picking up another win so soon would actually make sense. Of the five other pros who’ve won multiple Mirror Balls, all of them won their second time within three seasons of their first win.

The historical news is even worse for Mark and Peta. The longest any pro has ever gone in between wins is three losing seasons, which Derek Hough did twice. The statistics say that once you win, if you don’t win again within the next four seasons, you never will. That’s true of Cheryl Burke, who won in her first two seasons as a pro then lost 16 times in a row. It’s also true of Tony Dovolani and Karina Smirnoff, who’ve gone seven and eight seasons in a row without winning, respectively.

That’s horrible news for Paige’s partner Mark, who won in seasons 6 and 8, but has lost for his last 13 seasons. And it’s bad for Nyle’s partner Peta, who won in season 14 but has lost her last six times since then.

But it’s great news for Ginger since Val scored his first win in season 20. He’s still in that post-victory grace period where a second Mirror Ball is easily within reach.

Based solely on their pros, Ginger winning would make the most sense while a win for Paige or Nyle would be unprecedented.

Who Is the Frontrunner?

This season is rare as we legitimately have a three-way horse race. In recent seasons there’s usually no contest at all (Bindi Irwin, Alfonso Ribeiro, Meryl Davis) or it’s a close, two-person race (Rumer Willis vs. Riker Lynch, Amber Riley vs. Corbin Bleu). It’s rare to have three couples left, all of whom could easily win.

If it’s based on judges’ scores and technical dancing, Paige has the edge. If it’s based on emotion, Nyle will win. If it’s based on the pros and synergistic voting, Ginger has it. The truth is that all three, in their own ways, can be considered frontrunners.

And that’s for the best. It makes the finale much more dramatic. Last season we all knew Bindi was going to win (pretty much from week 1), so sitting through the two-hour finale was a moot point and a chore. Viewers want the unexpected and in a season where the eliminations have been easily predictable based on the leaderboard, an unexpected finale is just what we should want.

The Dancing with the Stars finale airs Monday at 8pm and Tuesday at 9pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.