ABC/Eric McCandless(LOS ANGELES) — Country singer and actress Jana Kramer was eliminated from Dancing with the Stars Monday night, failing to qualify to dance one more time in Tuesday night’s season 23 finale.
While Kramer scored perfect tens several times during the season, her performances Monday night suffered, partially due to the fact that her partner, Gleb Savchenko, had the flu and couldn’t rehearse with her as much as he’d wanted.
“I’ve learned so much about myself and how strong I can really be,” said Kramer during her exit interview. Backstage, she told ABC Radio her time on the show was “a positive force in my life,” and credited Gleb for helping her push her limits “when I didn’t want to be pushed.”
That leaves Indy Car driver James Hinchcliffe, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and former NFL player Calvin Johnson Jr. to battle it out for the coveted Mirrorball Trophy Tuesday night.
Before Kramer’s fate was announced, the four couples performed two routines each: one was a judge-chosen “Redemption Dance,” which saw them re-doing a dance style earlier in the season that fell flat, and the much-anticipated freestyle, where anything goes. They were judged by the returning Len Goodman, as well as by Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Julianne Hough.
Calvin, Laurie and James all received perfect scores for their freestyles, which were vastly different. Calvin and pro partner Lindsay Arnold danced to two Motown classics — “I Want You Back” and “Please Mr. Postman” — in a New York subway setting that incorporated treadmills and plenty of lifts and flips. Len called it “brilliant,” adding, “If I was a postman, I’d send you a love letter.”
The judges were equally enthusiastic about Laurie and Val Chmerkovskiy’s joyous romp to Ben Rector’s “Brand New,” which featured playground equipment and a theme of youthful energy. Bruno said the gymnast showed “so much energy, you can send a rocket to the moon.” Referring to the playground setting, Julianne Hough chimed in, “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of AWESOME!”
James and Sharna Burgess knocked the judges out with their powerful and touching modern dance number that told the story of James’ near-fatal car crash and his subsequent recovery. Carrie Ann Inaba called him “the Miracle Man of season 23,” and raved, “I have never seen such an intelligent, passionate, artistic, creative, well-danced freestyle.” Julianne said it was one of the best freestyles she’d ever seen.
Jana and Gleb’s modern dance number, which featured them tied together by a long piece of fabric, was marred by a slip by Gleb, but the judges praised it as “beautiful,” “stunning” and an “emotional roller-coaster.” Still, they failed to gain a perfect score.
The show also featured the band Train performing their new single “Play that Song,” and a Mandy Moore-choreographed number inspired by the upcoming movie musical La La Land. Calvin’s two-year-old son, Caleb, surprised him with a visit, and season-five winner Helio Castroneves lent fellow race car driver James some inspiration.
We’ll find out who takes home the Mirrorball trophy Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy
Redemption Dance (Paso Doble) — 38/40
Freestyle — 40/40
Total for the night: 78/80
James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess
Redemption Dance (Foxtrot) — 37/40
Freestyle — 40/40
Total for the night: 77/80
Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold
Redemption Dance (Viennese Waltz) — 35/40
Freestyle — 40/40
Total for the Night: 75/80
Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko
Redemption Dance (Tango) — 35/40
Freestyle — 36/40
Total for the night: 71/80
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