While some people consider it incredibly sad to be cut so close to taking home the mirror ball, but I'd argue that this isn't so bad. Given that you get paid for each week you make it, the person who comes in fourth has made a decent amount of money, gotten in a lot of dancing classes, and really, it's so much better than going home early, isn't it? Don't cry for whoever gets the boot tonight. Oh, unless it's Meryl, because Maks has never won a mirror ball and it's time. Now that Meryl has tamed him sufficiently, he deserves a reward, don't you think?

First up, there will be re-dancing of past styles. What happened to swapping partners? We could do that again, don't you think? Or was that too confusing for people? 

James and Peta
The Background: He thinks they need to have a real kiss. Okay. Are they dating yet? They're dancing the tango, which is not his most comfortable dance, really. 
The Dance: There is a kiss, but his feet are very heavy. Not a lot of kicks and flicks for a tango.
The Judges: Len thinks he gave it his all. He did? Bruno thought he was a guided laser and extremely focused. Carrie Ann was glad his butt was under, but she thinks he was too uptight and rigid. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 10 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: It's a shame he got stuck with the tango, because it isn't his strongest dance.  

Maks & Meryl
The Background: She wants Maks to win. She is so incredibly sweet, isn't she? I guess a mirror ball also kinda sucks compared to a gold medal. 
The Dance: The Argentine tango. My goodness, she's just so good. Meryl for the win!
The Judges: Bruno thought it was sumptuously seductive. He thinks she's been doing the dance version of a concept album. Carrie Ann thought there was magic she can't put into words. Len thinks this is the dance of the night. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 10 Len - 10 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: She's going to win. Period.

Candace & Mark
The Background: They don't usually fight… except when she bursts into tears and he tells her she's being "so dramatic." And he has a strained rotator cuff, which lands him in the hospital but… he's okay to dance? Yikes!
The Dance: It's a quickstep that isn't all that quick. Did she blow some steps? The camera cut away in the middle of something that looked like a mistake, so hard to know. 
The Judges: Carrie Ann thinks it was her most lighthearted performance. Her shoulders were up, but it was otherwise well done. Len tells her she's done "good" despite the pressure. Bruno thought it was a much better quickstep this time. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 9 Len - 9 Bruno - 9 
The Verdict: She's a lock for third place, which is not bad at all given how many times she's been in the bottom. 

Amy & Derek
The Background: Amy's back keeps going out. She will not give up. I swear she's super human. 
The Dance: I'm just amazed by her salsa. Kudos to Derek, too, for giving her choreography that's challenging and doesn't look like it's adapted to her physical challenges in any way. 
The Judges: Len thought it was bright, colorful and fabulous. Bruno thought she was on fire. Carrie Ann thinks she's grown and improved. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 10 Len - 10 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: In a different season, she would be a lock to win. And if she does win? I wouldn't be mad. 

Now we move on to the freestyle, with some heartwarming backstory as vote bait. 
James & Peta
The Background: His brother was in a motorcycle accident. He was in a coma, but he pulled through. James realized life is short, so he decided to be an actor. 
The Dance: Loved this! Wow, it was a night and day difference from his tango. So athletic and fun and in touch with the music. 
The Judges: Len liked the energy. He liked it! Bruno thought it was hot, and he was as good as the pro dancers. Carrie Ann thought he killed it.
The Scores: 10 9 10
The Verdict: This deserved a 30! This is my favorite dance of his, period. 

Meryl & Maks
The Background: She started skating at 3-years-old. And she's dyslexic. As a friend says, spending time with a big sexy Russian has helped her blossom.
The Dance: So, this was a love letter to Meryl, wasn't it? I swoon. So heartfelt and honest and sweet. Almost a kiss! They need to be a couple, don't they? I know she has a committed relationship, but man, she and Maks are meant for one another. 
The Judges: Carrie Ann is sobbing. She wants them to get married. It was a soulful expression of truth. Bruno thinks it was as close as it gets to a flawless work of art. Len thinks there's good, there's great and then there's Meryl. 
The Scores: 10 10 10 (+1, according to Bruno)
The Verdict: Maks would do another hundred weeks with Meryl. I would watch it. 

Candace & Mark
The Background: She grew up on television, but being chubby was hard on her. She went from TV to being a wife and a mom almost immediately, so divorce. Her faith has helped her through.
The Dance: So, disco. Would not want to follow after Meryl & Maks with this routine. 
The Judges: Carrie Ann thinks she went for it, but she didn't connect to the music. Len admires her tenacity. Bruno loves a disco diva, but she wasn't on the beat.
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 8 Len - 8 Bruno - 8
The Verdict: Erin is worried. I would think so. Candace's kids look shocked by the scores. But really, she's not on par with the top two, people. 

Amy & Derek
The Background: She had the world by the tail at 19, then meningitis nearly killed her and took her feet. Dancing was not easy. I'm still amazed she can dance at all. 
The Dance: Another nightgown dance. Derek is wearing a shirt, though. And she's doing some Cirque de Soleil stuff that would be a gimmick for anyone else, but what this says for someone who dances without feet is absolutely uplifting and symbolic and awesome.
The Judges: Len didn't think the rope was necessary, but he loved the emotion and the lifts. Bruno thinks she's in orbit and it was a beautiful conversation with Derek. Carrie Ann didn't understand why there were so many lifts, but when the chorus kicked in she was dancing with her soul. 
The Scores: Carrie Ann - 10 Len - 9 Bruno - 10
The Verdict: Derek felt the song embodied what Amy's done all season -- she's dared to try. I'm pretty disappointed that Len gave this a nine. Amy is spectacular. 

Who will go home? Don't be sad! The first couple through to tomorrow night is… Meryl & Maks. Duh. The next couple through is… Amy & Derek. The final couple through is…Candace & Mark. So, James is going home.

Hey, is this the first time no male celebs have made it to the finale? Well, now James and Peta can date, so that's good. And this is going to be interesting, isn't it?

Are you rooting for anyone in particular? Were you surprised we have an all-female celeb finale? Which freestyle did you like the best?


Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for EW.com. Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.