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TODAY contributor
updated 5/23/2011 11:02:45 PM ET 2011-05-24T03:02:45

If putting on an unexpected and unforgettable performance was all it took to earn a perfect score on “Dancing With the Stars,” Kirstie Alley would have been rolling in 10s after Monday night’s finals round.

Of course, that’s not all it takes. Earning those digits requires flawless footwork or dancing artistry or being a judges’ favorite. (More on the latter later.)

Still, with the season-long quest for the mirror ball trophy almost over, Alley certainly put everything she had on the floor in her last chance dances. First she showed her smooth moves in a hip-shaking samba, and then she came back to wow the crowd with her anything-goes-and-then-some freestyle.

Watch and compare: 'DWTS' finale freestyles

No matter what viewers think of Alley at this late stage of the game, fan or critic, they’d have to admit that 10 weeks ago few would have expected her to make the finals, and no one would have imagined that the recently slimmed-down 60-year-old would mark the occasion with big jumps, bigger lifts and even a cartwheel. Barefooted. In a catsuit.

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But she did.

The rumba and cha-cha infused routine earned a standing ovation from the in-house audience. The judges, however, were not quite as generous.

Carrie Ann Inaba, who on the upside called Alley a “poster child for how life should be lived at 60,” giggled as she nitpicked the “alley-oop” feeling of the lifts. Bruno Tonioli and head judge Len Goodman seemed to agree. They handed out a matching set of 9s for the routine, as they had with the samba. The total of 54 out of 60 points made Alley the evening’s low-scorer.

For that, the audience booed the panel, but the crowd shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the night stacked up much as the entire season had.

As such, Hines Ward was tied for the top spot on the leaderboard.

Story: You be the judge! Rate the 'Dancing' contestants

Ward went big on splash and pizzazz in his first performance, a bouncing quickstep. The fluid moves were some of the best the Steelers wide receiver has delivered on the dance floor and earned him 10s and a 9, as well as some interesting comments.

Both Inaba and Tonioli told Ward that he had a way about him on the stage that made them simply watch him and forget that they’re supposed to judge him. That may explain a few things — such as why Ward seems to be the judges’ favorite this season, and why they so often ignore problems in his performances.

Story: Alley has lost 38 inches since 'Dancing' debut

Case in point? Routine No. 2.

For Ward’s freestyle, the gridiron guy channeled his inner marching-band member and delivered an awkward dance. Sure, there were some truly lovely lifts and it was full of pep, but no amount of team spirit could cover up the stiff frame and heel-toe troubles.

That was worth 10s all around.

Note to the panel: Don’t forget to judge!

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Landing alongside Ward score-wise was Chelsea Kane, who started the night on the right foot with a sexy and decidedly un-Disney-like samba.

Story: Chat with Ree and Anna about 'Dancing'

The routine inspired Tonioli to get out of his seat and writhe, though in fairness, many things on the show get that reaction. It also earned Kane 29 points.

All eyes were on Kane for her freestyle follow-up. With a tradition-eschewing pro partner like Mark Ballas, the dance offered a chance for both of them to shine. That’s just what the judges must have thought had happened, because Kane raked in all 10s for it.

Which begs the question: What routine were the judges watching? Sure, the dance was better than Wards’ so-called perfect number, but that oddly flow-free dance, complete with a lights-out flashing shoe and glove show, wasn’t close to Kane’s best — or Ballas’.

Now that the judges have had their say, it’s up to the public to decide who goes on to tomorrow night’s last ballroom battle. The top two vote-getters land one more chance to face-off for the shiny trophy. With the current standings so close, it’s still anyone’s game.

What did you think of the first part of the “Dancing” finals? Join Ree Hines and Anna Chan for their last “Dancing” live chat of the season on Tuesday at 3:30 ET and sound off.

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Photos: Season 16

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  1. Call the fashion police!

    "Dancing With the Stars" is known for its lively judges, sexy dancers, and of course, its sometimes questionable costumes. Check out some of our favorite odd outfits from the season, and why they may have been better off left in the dressing rooms. -- Anna Chan

    On March 25, Wynonna Judd and pro partner Tony Dovolani donned cop costumes for a sad quickstep that was slower than molasses. Oddly enough, judge Bruno Tonioli "loved the bonkers cop idea." We're not so sure "Fashion Police" boss Joan Rivers would agree. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Throw them a life saver!

    "Bachelor" Sean Lowe and pro Peta Murgatroyd offered up a sloppy jive that left the judges wanting on March 25. But their matchy-matchy yellow outfits only sank them further. Granted, Peta can pull off pretty much any atrocity, but Sean? What's up with those lemon yellow pajama bottoms? Don't lifeguards wear swim trunks? (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Stayin' alive

    Head judge Len Goodman got into the theme on April 1 when "DWTS" went back to the prom. Ruffled shirts were never hot, so why not make them hot pink? (Hey, we all know the costume department doesn't always choose the best colors.) (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Pretty in pink

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  5. Going to the Y

    While the rest of the "DWTS" cast went to the prom on April 1, Peta and Sean somehow missed the memo and went to the YMCA instead as the Village People. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Prom? So what?

    Every prom has them: the anti-prom kids who are too cool for school. For the "DWTS" bash, that was Wynonna and Tony, who got all rockered out. Normally, we wouldn't take issue with this, but Tony! The mullet! Really?!?!? It's almost as bad as Maksim Chmerkovskiy's Mick Jagger wig from last season! (Nice boots, though.) (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. She's golden

    As gorgeous as Peta is, even she couldn't quite pull off those questionable gold bell bottoms and giant hair when she and Sean danced a highly praised quickstep on April 15. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Let's boogie!

    On April 22, Team Samba (or as Andy Dick preferred to call it, Team Pickler Dick) took the the ballroom bash with a '70s-themed dance complete with the decade's questionable fashions. Among the low lights? The guys' creepy mustaches. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Not so easy on the eyes

    On Latin Night April 29, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and pro partner Mark Ballas took on a salsa that had the judges raving. What the panel didn't rave about were the seasick green/blue getups both wore. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A little young?

    On May 6, Aly and pro partner Mark were joined by Henry Byalikov for a trio jive full of shimmies and shakes for the 18-year-old gymnast -- and also a saucy red garter. Not that we're prudes, but did we mention yet that Aly's only 18? (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Above: Slideshow (10) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 16
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (14) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - All-Stars
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (17) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 14
  4. Image: Cheryl Burke, Rob Kardashian
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (16) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 13
  5. Image: Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas
    Adam Taylor / ABC
    Slideshow (14) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 12
    Adam Larkey / ABC
    Slideshow (13) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 11
    Adam Larkey / ABC
    Slideshow (19) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 10
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    Slideshow (27) Worst season 12 'Dancing' costumes - Season 9
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    Slideshow (28) Alley oop!

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