May 22, 2012 at 1:53 PM ET
The current season of “Dancing With the Stars” is in the final stretch. On Monday night opera singer Katherine Jenkins, model-turned-actor William Levy and football player Donald Driver competed in one of the closest finals ever.
On Tuesday night, the finalists will perform one last dance. The scores from those routines will be added to the points they earned the previous night (with the viewer votes factored in). Whichever duo earns the most will be presented with what host Tom Bergeron endearingly calls “the coveted" mirror ball trophy.
Jenkins and partner Mark Ballas, after coming in fourth in the semi-finals in terms of the judges’ scores, earned perfect marks after performing their paso doble and their freestyle dance. Meanwhile Levy and pro Cheryl Burke and Driver and pro Peta Murgatroyd were right behind them with 59 points each.
While each duo’s freestyle was highly entertaining, Driver and Murgatroyd’s country-themed routine was a clear highlight. It called to mind another country freestyle dance by season two winners Burke and Drew Lachey.
"I take it as a compliment,” Burke told TODAY.com, knowing that her routine inspired Driver’s.
However, Burke doesn't worry too much about the competition. “I focus on my dance partner,” she said. “If you think too much about the other people it can mess with your head.”
Win or lose, Levy is now poised to be a sought-after TV star beyond his current telenovela fame. (Burke’s previous partner, Gilles Marini, picked up a nice role on “Brothers & Sisters” after his "DWTS" run.)
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” a modest Levy said.
While some "Dancing" enthusiasts feel that the star who gives the best freestyle is bound to be the winner, Ballas noted that other dances and scores from the judges also play a factor.
“Every dance is important,” he explained. “We took the paso doble that we did just as seriously as we did our freestyle.”
Judge Len Goodman’s never been a fan of extra bits being added to dances, but Ballas decided to have Jenkins sing briefly at the top of their freestyle.
“The freestyle means no rules,” Ballas pointed out.
“Singing in the beginning for a bit helped me because I was in my comfort zone,” added Jenkins.
Murgatroyd thought to add football field yard indicators to the floor for Driver’s routine as a nod to his day job. Fellow dancer Karina Smirnoff, last season’s winner, recommended their song -- “I Play Chicken with the Train.”
“It felt great,” Driver told TODAY.com. “At the end of the song the lyrics say, ‘get you some of that,’ and at the end I started screaming, ‘get me the mirror ball.’ I knew it would take something like our freestyle to get the ‘10 from Len.’”
While all three couples performed outstanding freestyle dances, the fact that she and her partner got to go last (and therefore may remain freshest in voters’ minds) isn’t lost on Murgatroyd.
“It’s a great position to be in,” she said with a smile.
“If, I mean, when we win the mirror ball trophy, Peta will deserve it more than anyone else in the show,” Driver explained. “Week in and week out, she has challenged me. If we don’t get it, Peta is still the best dancer on the show!”
Michael Maloney is the author of "The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell, creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful."
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