There’s just one night to go until Dancing with the Stars crowns its season 24 Mirrorball Trophy winner — and the race is tight.
On part one of the reality dancing competition series’ two-part finale on Monday evening, the three remaining contestants — David Ross, Normani Kordei and Rashad Jennings — each danced two dances (a redemption number first, followed by a freestyle), but one celebrity dominated the night with their scores and skills.
Ross, 40, kicked things off with pro partner Lindsay Arnold, first performing a Viennese Waltz. Despite receiving a standing ovation from the audience, the pair was only awarded a 33/40 for their first number.
But for their second dance of the night, Ross and Arnold hit a grand slam with a baseball-themed freestyle.
“Week one, I said, ‘David, not a home run but you got to first base.’ And every week after that I’ve been waiting for you to come out and knock it out of the park. The only thing missing was a beer and a hot dog. That was fantastic!” head judge Len Goodman complimented Ross after watching his second dance.
As for Kordei, the Fifth Harmony singer came out strong and earned a solid 78/80 for the entire night with pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy: 38/40 for her quickstep and a 40/40 for her freestyle.
“So inspirational, so achingly beautiful, but what it had above all I think it was honesty, purity of style and form. It just came out of you as if from your soul,” judge Bruno Tonioli said about Kordei’s freestyle. “It was like watching angels dancing. Divine.”
Carrie Ann Inaba echoed Tonioli’s comments: “You’re in a class of your own as far as I’m concerned in the way that you articulate yourself through the movement and through the dance. … I think it’s been beautiful for us to get to see you unwrap layer after layer and layer after layer to see what an incredibly dynamic, deep and beautiful soul that you are. It was all over that dance.”
“So emotional. So much beauty. It was just breathtaking,” Goodman complimented Kordei.
Although Ross and Kordei each earned a perfect score for one of their dances on Monday, it was NFL free agent Jennings who had the perfect night.
“Refined, polished, majestic, smooth as silk. But what you did, you put romance in there and you had just the right amount of sexual tonality,” Tonioli first complemented the running back on his Viennese Waltz with pro dancer Emma Slater. “Your footwork is unrecognizable. You really have become the polished diamond that everyone was expecting.”
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Inaba was also “blown away” by the football star’s first number. “Your tireless pursuit of absolute personal best perfection is so amazing … but what’s special is you have magic happening. The thing that we can’t put words to, it’s happening right now. And this is what make’s winners winners. It’s amazing!”
Jennings was awarded a 40/40 for his Viennese Waltz with Slater, but his high scores didn’t end there. After performing their freestyle dance, which Jennings helped choreograph, the rave reviews from the judges continued — and a second perfect score was awarded.
“I tell you, uptown, downtown, across America, everybody will never forget this one!” Tonioli told Jennings, 32, about the freestyle.
“You are naughty because you have been holding out on us. Tonight, that is how you turn this mother out!” Carrie Ann Inaba. “That was amazing!”
Goodman also extended his praises: “That was so good I could even put up with the music. … You have gone from strength to strength. You’re the one with the momentum going in tomorrow night. Well done.”
Added Julianne Hough: “Now that is a freestyle. There are so many iconic freestyles and that is going in the books as one of them.”
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Dancing with the Stars‘ season 24 finale airs Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.