By People Staff
Updated November 19, 2008 12:00 AM
Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC (2)

The One-Shoe Jackpot: With a semifinal “show-stopping” mambo, followed by a “shoe-tossing” jitterbug, Lance Bass went from dark horse to Dancing‘s surprise front-runner and judges’ favorite. “Getting a nine and then a 10 from Len–that’s a feat in itself!” Bass exclaimed. “Going into the finals, we suddenly have Len on our side, it’s so odd, but so perfect! Len didn’t like my dances when I was wearing both shoes, didn’t like my dance when I wore no shoes, but he loved the dance that I did with one shoe!”

Bass’s partner Lacey Schwimmer did her best to temper her partner’s enthusiasm going into the finals, saying diplomatically, “All three of the celebrities have what it takes to win, so it’s anybody’s ball game from here on out. Lance and I are going to pull out all the stops so that we can to win this thing!” With the audience and the judges (finally) backing them up, the one-time “outcasts” have the mirror-ball trophy in their sights. “Our confidence is definitely high,” Bass said, “We’ve tried taking chances all season long, just to see what works. Now we know what works, we’re going to use it to our advantage.” Play Misty for Cody: Cody Linley may have lost his shot at the mirror-ball trophy, but he certainly danced his way into the hearts of his pro partner, and his fellow contestants. “Cody has grown so much,” Julianne Hough said. “He has become a man on this show, and you can see it in the way that he acts, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.” “You get closer and closer to the that are left,” a misty-eyed Lance Bass said after the show, “and Cody was definitely someone that we got really close to. He was like a brother to us, and we watched him grow from a boy to a man.”

Hough Stumping for Hough: With two-time DWTS champ Julianne Hough out of the competition, she wasn’t shy about which remaining couple she was backing. “Brooke and Derek, all the way!” Julianne yelled along the press line, adding, “Everyone that voted for us, please vote for them!” Though Derek and his partner Brooke Burke have made the finals, the “other Hough” told PEOPLE “There’s just a lot to do.” “I felt that Brooke deserved to be in the finals, but as far as feeling ‘safe’? That’s a different story. You never feel safe on this show.”

False Sense of Security: Though Burke claims she did feel safe on Tuesday’s results show. “He was holding me up the entire time, hugging me so tightly, I felt very safe and cozy up there,” said Burke. “Actually, If we had been eliminated, I was going to snap her neck to save her the pain of being eliminated,” quipped Derek, who then amended his comment after finding out Brooke’s fianc David Charvet was nearby. “I was putting her in a sleeper-hold, trying to rock her to sleep so that she would get light-headed and pass out before they announced the fact that we didn’t make the finals.”

Family First, Finals Second: One-time quarterback-killing machine, Warren Sapp once boasted that surviving past the first week of DWTS would be a victory in itself. So how did the NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle celebrate making it to the ballroom finals? By skipping press and taking his daughter, Mercedes, out for a birthday dinner.

“He’s a family man first, a working father second and a dancing man third!” partner Kym Johnson explained. “He’s taking his daughter out for her birthday tonight, and that’s all he has his sights set on.” Johnson, who last made the finals of DWTS with Joey Fatone only to finish second, promised to crack the whip on Sapp’s return. “When he gets back to Los Angeles, he’s all mine!” she said. “My focus is on the mirror-ball trophy, so I’ll practice wherever we can. I’ll grab Warren on a bus stop, and I’ll start teaching him dance steps there if I have to.” –Reagan Alexander

Kelsey McNeal/ABC (2)