Two dances down, two to go before a new “Dancing” champ is crowned.
Now the only question left to be answered after Tuesday night’s conclusion is — who will take home the coveted mirrorball trophy?
Tuesday will feature each team performing two more dances — each “Star” will get to choose their personal favorite routine from the season and give it another go, as well as an “Instant Dance,” in which they will have to master the Cha Cha Cha to music they’ve been given for the first time after the show’s broadcast has begun.
The final two dances will close out the judges’ scores, with viewer votes based on Monday’s performances accounting for half of each team’s final total.
Jennifer Grey — who is off to an early lead thanks to the judges’ scores — has been a fixture at the top of the “Dancing” leaderboard throughout the season, consistently pulling in high scores with partner Derek Hough. In fact, based on the judges’ scores, the pair held (or was tied) for the top spot seven out of the show’s 10 weeks, including Monday night.
Despite that season-long success, Grey said she doesn’t think she’ll be coasting to the title by any means.
“I actually have never felt like the front-runner and I certainly don’t feel like the front-runner now. I just feel like I’m doing my thing with my partner and trying our best to give another good couple of dances for the last push,” Grey told Access Hollywood during one of her rehearsal sessions leading up to Monday’s finale.
As far as Kyle Massey and partner Lacey Schwimmer are concerned, who many consider the wild card in the race for the title, just making it to the finals could itself be considered a victory, since neither one thought they’d get this far.
“We never thought in a million years we’d be here!” Schwimmer told Access Hollywood. “I don’t think anybody thought that we would’ve come this far after Week 1. I think everybody’s expectations for us were very low and it just made us want to try harder and get better. It’s been a blast.”
“If I win, everyone gets free pizza!” Massey jokingly interjected.
As for Bristol Palin, it’s been her fan base — not the judges’ scores — which have kept her in the race. While Grey and Hough have gotten used to life atop the standings, it’s been the opposite end of the leaderboard spectrum for Palin and partner Mark Ballas, who have had the dubious distinction of being the low-scoring pair in six of the show’s 10 weeks, including Monday night’s finale.
Yet, they still have a shot to win it all.
When asked what role her fan base has played in her success, Palin was well aware of how they’ve carried her this far.
“If I didn’t [have a fan base], I wouldn’t be here,” she told Access following last week’s semi-finals.
It’s a fact not lost on other “Dancing with the Stars” alumni, both celebrity and pros alike.
“I think anything is possible,” Brandy told Access when asked if Palin could wind up being the champ.
“It’s definitely something that can happen because I think she’s got the public vote and that’s been proven week after week,” pro dancer Cheryl Burke — who was partnered with NBA star Rick Fox this season — told Access in the run-up to the finale. “I think people really relate to Bristol — she may not be the best dancer, but I think Middle America and America just love her because she’s someone who’s never had any experience in the entertainment industry and she’s coming out here and she’s really improving and it’s endearing to watch.”
Kym Johnson, who teamed with David Hasselhoff for this year’s competition, agreed with her fellow pro’s assessment, adding that fan base or not, Bristol has earned her place in the final three.
“Bristol is deserving of being there in my eyes because she’s completely grown throughout the competition,” Johnson told Access. “I guess people can relate to her.”
So, who does Johnson think will be hoisting the trophy when it’s all said and done?
“I tell you what, it’s gonna be a tricky one because I love Jennifer. She’s such a lovely woman and she’s just amazing on the dance floor. Kyle, as well, is so lovable and really exciting to watch and I love Bristol’s story and the way she’s really developed through the competition, so I don’t know. It’s gonna be a really tricky one,” Johnson admitted. “It’s going to come down to what America really thinks and who they want to be the winner — everyone has to make sure they vote.”
AccessHollywood.com’s TV expert Laura “Dish of Salt” Saltman also weighed in on the finale, predicting that talent will prevail over perseverance.
“ 'Dancing with the Stars’ Season 11 will come down to Bristol haters versus Bristol supporters. Ultimately, the show is about finding the best dancer, not the most determined dancer — Jennifer Grey wins that hands down,” The Dish suggested.
Even past contestants are getting in on the predictions.
“I’ve seen everyone and who deserves [it] because she was the best dancer? I think Jennifer Grey has it all,” Season 8 runner-up Gilles Marini recently told Billy Bush and Kit Hoover on Access Hollywood Live, noting that it will ultimately be the final dances which will decide the outcome.
“I [had a] perfect score on the semifinal, it doesn’t mean anything,” Marini added. “In the end, your last dance — it’s more important than everything else you’ve done before, because it doesn’t accumulate the scores for the season. It’s like, ‘You messed up that last dance?’ It’s done.”
While Grey, Massey and Palin await their “Dancing” fate, there is also one other notable feat up for grabs: If Jennifer or Bristol win, it would make their pro partners — Derek and Mark, respectively — the first three-time “DWTS” champs. Cheryl Burke was also in the running prior to her elimination with Rick Fox.
But should the elusive third mirrorball trophy escape Ballas, he’s said he’s still proud of what he and his partner have accomplished this season.
“[Bristol] is the first person in 11 seasons that is 100 percent normal and doesn’t have any sort of career in entertainment… or not an athlete — and that’s what the show is about: someone who can’t dance and turning them into a dancer,” Ballas told Access. “To take her this far is one of my proudest moments.”