Fans of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” are wondering who will win the coveted mirror ball trophy Tuesday in the finals of the show’s season 13. Ricki Lake and J.R. Martinez have been the frontrunners, but Rob Kardashian has made a surprising come from behind and he could snatch the win.
No one is certain of the outcome — not even the judges.
In fact, head judge Len Goodman never figured these three finalists would have made it this far in the competition.
“Good Morning America”‘s Cameron Mathison caught up with the judges after the semifinals were over. Goodman shared his earlier impressions of the top three.
“First week, the Viennese waltz, Rob Kar-Krashian! And here he is. In the final!” he said of Kardashian.
He also had his doubts about Lake, the former TV talk show host.
“Ricki Lake, I thought: ‘well, you know, is it going to work?’ She’s in her 40's, you know, maybe a little overweight,” he said.
And then there was Martinez, the actor who was severely injured while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
“The soldier. You know, no real dance background. You know, he’s just come out of a war zone. And then he’s on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’” Goodman added.
The competitors are going into their last dances under tremendous pressure. Martinez has the added worry of a twisted ankle that clearly affected his performance and scores this week.
“That is a major handicap,” judge Bruno Tonioli said. “So, hopefully, he’ll be able to do his best, you know. I don’t know.”
Tonioli’s personal favorite dance of the season has been Ricki Lake’s thrilling tango to the theme from the movie “Psycho.”
For Goodman, the favorite was Martinez’s instant jive. That performance was judge Carrie Ann Inaba’s favorite, too, although she was impressed by Kardashian’s Argentine tango.
The winner will be determined by a combination of judges’ scores and viewers’ votes.
Asked about the impact of social media on the judges, Inaba said she felt as though Facebook and Twitter allowed certain ideas to bloom – whether those ideas made sense or not.
“Sometimes I go to bed very sad about what I’m seeing people saying,” she said. “But they have a right to their opinion. That is … the beauty of our show. We judge what we think.”
Judging has become a sore point this season. Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the dancing pro who partnered World Cup soccer star Hope Solo, made headlines when, in defending Solo from a harsh judges’ review, suggested that Goodman “get out” of the industry.
He later explained that he was frustrated over the perceived inconsistency in judges’ scoring, saying others were being scored more easily — based mainly on effort — while other contenders were being judged too rigidly on the technical requirements.
Inaba reprimanded Chmerkovskiy for his comments, which came on the dance floor earlier in the season, but during Monday’s performance she also appeared to take another verbal swipe at him.
Backstage, he told reporters that he believed Inaba “had an issue.”
Fans seem to be split on the dance floor drama. Some are outraged at what they view as Chmerkovskiy’s arrogance, but others believe he was right and that the judges have shown favoritism.
The final opportunity to judge comes on Monday, when contestants get to show off the all-important freestyle. That’s the routine they get to choose, and it’s critical.
“If they get that wrong, they’re not going to win, that’s for sure,” Tonioli said.
Kardashian said he thinks his pro partner, two-time “Dancing” winner Cheryl Burke, will choreograph something for him that suits his sensibilities.
“I’m an old soul, so I feel like she’ll kind of choreograph something – our music genre will be something kind of, you know, old soul,” he said Tuesday night after the elimination show.
Lake says the choice of music for her freestyle will be upbeat. “But I couldn’t even tell you what style of dance it is because I’m not a dancer,” she added.
She is partnered with three-time “Dancing” champion, Derek Hough.
Martinez, who is partnered with Karina Smirnoff, promises a no-holds-barred performance.
“I’m going to be, you know, fearless,” he said. “I’m going to be a risk-taker. Because I want the ballroom judges to be like, ‘wow!’ “