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‘Dancing With the Stars’ Finale Part 1 Recap: Laurie Hernandez Leads the Final Three as Jana Kramer Goes Home

So near — and yet so far! On part 1 of Dancing With the Stars’ season 23 finale, the four remaining couples each performed two routines — and then one couple’s hopes of nabbing the mirrorball trophy were cut short. Watch the highlights in the video above!

The first dance styles were chosen by the judges and essentially acted as a “redo” for something they thought the couple struggled with the first time around. The second was the infamous freestyle routine, which has been known to make or break a star’s chances for the top prize. Here’s how each couple fared on this (nearly!) final night of the season on Monday, November 21.

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Calvin and Lindsay Strut Their Stuff

For Calvin Johnson and Lindsay Arnold, the judges selected a Viennese waltz. They first performed this back in week three, and while they topped the leaderboard with it, everyone was sure that the former NFL player could do even better. The routine was classic and beautiful and earned rave reviews from the judges. Len Goodman (who was back, again!) even called him the most improved dancer still in the running. Because it was the finale, Calvin’s adorable 2-year-old son made a surprise visit and pretty much stole the show. Carrie Ann Inaba thought she saw Lindsay’s foot leave the floor at one point, however, so she deducted some points, and they ended up with a 35.

Related: PHOTOS: Dancing With the Stars Winners Through the Years: Mirrorball Champs From 2005 to Now

Later, Calvin and Lindsay performed a charming, upbeat number that included jazz, jive and some awesome lifts. It was fun and innovative, and the judges went gaga over it and gave them a perfect 40.

Jana and Gleb End Up in Tears

Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko didn’t quite land either of their routines tonight. First, they performed a tango, which had a few rough spots. Bruno Tonioli thought they were “hotter than hell,” and Carrie Ann said she could see how far Jana had come, but Julianne Hough didn’t feel the spark she was hoping for, and the couple ended up with a 35.

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Later, their freestyle captured pure, raw emotion, but suffered a few pretty obvious stumbles (one out of a lift, so that was extra hard to cover). As soon as the music ended, Jana was in tears, and as they waited for their scores, Gleb began to cry too. Julianne tried to make them feel better by saying they “took a risk” and “should be very happy tonight,” but Len admitted “something happened when you were flying across the floor,” and they nabbed a 36. (That might sound pretty high, but all of the other couples received perfect 40s on theirs.)

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Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy Dominate the Dance Floor

Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy began the evening with a paso doble that really captured Laurie’s fighting spirit and showed off her pure athletic talents. Carrie Ann dubbed Laurie “the most determined soul I have ever met,” while Len simply said, “There was nothing in that dance I didn’t like.” While chatting with Erin after performing, Laurie said she was just as nervous for this as she was when she competed in the Olympics. Though that might be hard to believe, she seemed genuine. They received the highest score of the night for the judges’ choice dance, clocking in with 38 points.

It’s probably not surprising to hear that their freestyle was off the charts. They did a cheerful routine, with Laurie donning a bright yellow dress. That happened to be Julianne’s favorite color, though the judge was more focused on the “fresh” and “crisp” aspects of the performance than the outfit. (That said, she commented on the outfit too.) As previously stated, they too earned a perfect 40 for this one.

Carrie Ann Really, Really Likes James

The judges had James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess take another stab at a fox-trot, which they absolutely nailed. Carrie Ann continued to sweat over James, explaining, “You are sexy because you just do it so right.” Julianne called him “the perfect package,” and Bruno was “totally engrossed” in the routine. They ended up with a 37 for that one.

Laurie, James, Jana and Calvin

Their freestyle was the final dance of the night, and they brought the whole show home. The inspiration for the routine was James’ brush with death after his racing accident. Sharna played a guardian angel who kept him alive. “In 23 seasons, I have never seen a more intelligent, artistic, passionate, creative and well-danced freestyle,” Carrie Ann gushed. Bruno called it “visual poetry.” It’s hard to get better than that, and they earned a 40 as well.

Jana and Gleb Go Home

In an announcement that surprised no one, Jana and Gleb were the couple to go home at the end of this evening. Though they clearly put their hearts and souls into it, it was more obvious than ever that Jana just wasn’t on par with the remaining three other stars.

“This has been amazing,” Jana said, though she was choking back tears. “Those people up there so deserve to be there. It was our time. He’s the most incredible partner. I’ve learned so much about myself and how incredibly strong I can be.”

Tell Us: Who do you think should win the mirrorball trophy this season?

Dancing With the Stars‘ season 23 finale part 2 airs on ABC Tuesday, November 22, at 9 p.m. ET. 

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