YouTube star Bethany Mota was sent home tonight on the first night of the season 19 finale of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” leaving three other finalists in the running for the championship.
The four finalists danced two routines tonight, including the all-important freestyle.
After a closely contested night, actor Alfonso Ribeiro -- who has been a fan favorite this season -- leads the pack with a perfect score of 80 for his two dances tonight, followed by reality TV star Sadie Robertson, with 78 points and actress Janel Parrish with 77 points. Mota had 76 points.
There were boos when Mota’s fate was announced, but she and her pro partner, five-time champion Derek Hough, said they were proud.
“I’ve discovered things about myself that, things I never thought I could do," Mota, 19, said. “I was just hoping to make it past week two so to be in the finals was the best thing ever.”
Hough, the brother of “Dancing” judge Julianne Hough, said he was proud of his partner and of the show.
“This has been an incredible season,” he said.
The competition started 11 weeks ago with 13 competitors -- including actor Antonio Sabato Jr., actress Lea Thompson, talk show host Tavis Smiley and NASCAR legend Michael Waltrip.
For their first routine, the stars had to redo the routine they did in their first week, under the tutelage of a member of the judges’ panel. The second routine, the freestyle, has generally had tremendous significance in determining the overall winner of the competition.
The winner of the mirror ball trophy will be announced during the final night of the finale tomorrow.
The First Routine
Bethany Mota: The YouTube star reprised her jive, but a problem with a late-moving prop and a later fumble meant judges’ reactions were tempered. “I’m sad because I saw tremendous improvement from week one … but we have the mistakes so I hope that you will bring it back for the next round,” Carrie Ann Inaba said. Bruno Tonioli, who gave Mota pointers during her rehearsal for this routine, told her she was “the ideal student” and said she did incredibly well. Head judge Len Goodman and judge Julianne Hough both agreed that Mota had improved tremendously since her debut on the show. Mota earned four 9s for a total of 36 out of a possible 40 points.
Sadie Robertson: The “Duck Dynasty” star re-did her week one samba with some pointers beforehand from Goodman and with cameos from her famous family. The routine made her father tear up, and judges were full of praise. Hough said she loved it more than she did the first time, and Tonioli pointed out slight flaws in the timing even though he, too, said Robertson had soared to “unexpected heights” on the show. Inaba acknowledged that she didn’t expect to see Robertson in the finals, but added that the performance proved why she made it so far. Goodman said he liked that the routine had lots of basic samba steps paired with interesting choreography. He did point out that the Robertson and her partner lost sync for a short while. Robertson earned two 10s and two 9s for a total of 38 points.
Janel Parrish: The actress’ samba earned her 33 points in the first week of the competition, but tonight she scored higher. Although she was dancing with a side injury that caused her to miss several days of rehearsal, Parrish's samba – with rehearsal tips from Julianne Hough – earned her a standing ovation from the ballroom audience. Judges, though, saw that her injury appeared to have some effect on her performance. Tonioli told Parrish that she “lost balance a little bit on the turn, and I know it’s probably because of your injury and it’s such a shame because it was a wonderful, wonderful dance.”
Inaba told Parrish that she was a “warrior dancer.” Goodman said he didn’t notice any mistakes on the turns. “What I did see what great, rhythmic dancing with a clarity and sharpness to it,” he said. Hough said Parrish should work with her partner through the adversity. “You got this, girl!” Hough said. Parrish, who teared up after her performance, earned a 10 and three 9s for a total of 37 points.
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Antonio Ribeiro: Inaba assigned Ribeiro the jive, and the actor, dancing with a back injury, earned a sustained standing ovation from the ballroom audience and a perfect score from the judges. “It was amazing!” Inaba said. “I don’t know how it was so much better than the first time.” Goodman told Ribeiro: “You dance like Frank Sinatra sings. He’s easy on the ear. You are easy on the eyes.” Hough told Ribeiro that there “was not one thing” that he missed in the routine, and an enthusiastic Tonioli cheered “Hooray for you!” Ribeiro earned four 10s, for 40 points.
Bethany Mota: The YouTube star’s powerful, dramatic freestyle earned her a standing ovation and high praise from the judges. Inaba said the performance was spectacular, and Hough said Mota “couldn’t have done a better job.” Tonioli told Mota that she had the makings of a leader, and Goodman added: “I got just what I expected. Great lifts. Drama. This is a five-star freestyle!” Mota earned four 10s, for 40 points.
Sadie Robertson: In her freestyle, Robertson’s and her partner played iconic video game characters in a unique routine that had judges raving. “Game over!” Hough said, adding: “That was the cutest thing I have ever seen.” Tonioli called the routine “refreshing,” telling Robertson’s pro partner, Mark Ballas, that the routine was “totally inspired,” and adding: “Watching this, I felt like a child again. I was hit by wave upon wave of absolute joy. Thank you.” Inaba said the routine was “the most memorable freestyle we’ve seen in ages,” while Goodman said he would never forget the routine. Robertson earned four 10s for a total of 40 points.
Janel Parrish: The actress’ contemporary routine earned her glowing reviews from the judges. Tonioli called it “the visualization of a love poem, so moving and deeply felt … hypnotically beautiful.” Inaba said the routine “changed us for a minute,” adding, “to me, that is what being an artist is about.” Goodman said the routine combined athleticism with artistry, calling it “fantastic.” Hough said the routine was “absolutely breathtaking.” Parrish earned four 10s, for a total of 40 points.
Alfonso Ribeiro: The actor’s freestyle combined snippets from all his prior performances, and incorporated a tap dance solo. The routine brought the house down, and judges were equally appreciative. “And that’s how you tap your way to the top. I’m telling you, this really was (an) in-your-face, undeniable show stopper in the great American way,” Tonioli said. Goodman called the performance “an all-you-can-eat buffet of great dancing fun,” and Inaba said it was “the ultimate in freestyle.” Ribeiro earned four 10s for 40 points.
Tonight’s Scores (First routine, freestyle. Grand total)
Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 40; 40. Total: 80
Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 38; 40. Total: 78
Janel Parrish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 37; 40. Total: 77
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 36; 40. Total: 76