Was there a goat hiding somewhere in the studio?
For retired Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross, his quest for another championship trophy came to an end Tuesday when he failed to become the season 24 champ of “Dancing with the Stars.” One of three finalists on the hit ABC reality series, Ross and his partner Lindsay Arnold finished second behind the winning duo of NFL running back Rashad Jennings and his partner Emma Slater. Finishing in third place were Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy.
In a hail of confetti, a thunderous standing ovation from the ballroom crowd and warm embraces from the show’s cast and his fellow finalists, Jennings was all smiles as he accepted the glittery globe trophy.
The final competitive performances fell into the category of a 24-hour Fusion Challenge. Each pair had 24 hours (from Monday night’s round) to learn an entirely new routine combining two disparate dance styles, which they had previously danced this season.
Heading into Tuesday night, Ross was solidly third behind second-place Kordei and first-place Jennings in the judges’ scoring.
But in terms of fan votes (ABC does not reveal official total votes cast) Ross benefited throughout the season from diehard Cubs fans who continuously voted their World Series champ into another week of competition. It was not enough to put him over the top Tuesday.
In the competitive round, Ross and Arnold were tasked with dancing a foxtrot/salsa fusion. The stylized routine brought praises from the judges’ panel, with head judge Len Goodman remarking, “Dancing is a joyful thing and watching you dance has brought me joy.” Judge Bruno Tonioli said: “Whatever happens tonight, to me you are already the people’s champion.” Ross’ final score: 36 out of 40.
Kordei and partner Chmerkovskiy performed an Argentine tango/foxtrot fusion for their final dance. The powerful performance earned praise from Hough who called the fusion “seamless,” and Goodman called the dance “clean and precise.” Kordei’s final score: 40 out of 40.
Jennings and Slater came out swinging with their tango/salsa fusion, which earned high praised from three of the four judges. Judge Goodman criticized the lack of hold in the foxtrot portion of the routine, which in the end cost Jennings a critical perfect score. Jennings’ final score: 39 out of 40
It was a 10-week journey for all three finalists. For Ross, it began March 20 with his baseball-inspired Cha-Cha, which earned him a debut score of 27 out of 40. It was an uphill battle from there as the MLB catcher would find himself in the middle of the pack or toward the lower end of the leader board each week, as he and Arnold navigated the foxtrot, tango, jive, Argentine tango, paso doble and Viennese waltz, among others.
At the start of the show, host Tom Bergeron spoke to Ross about experience on “DWTS.”
“This show is harder than I ever imagined. … I’ve grown as a dancer, I’ve grown as a person. I’m having the best experience,” Ross said.
Turning to Arnold, Ross said, ” This relationship is special, and you’re a great person and you know I’m gonna miss the heck out of you.” As his eyes noticeably welled up with tears, Ross said, “Sorry America, more tears.” Turning to Arnold, he said, “You know I love ya.”
In a look back at his season, Jennings said, “Coming into the season, it was my first time on the dance floor. But when the music came on it was tick, tick, tick, it’s showtime! Dancing for one-minute and 13 seconds on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ you get more recognition that I did in eight years in football,” he said laughing. Highlighting Jennings’ quest for perfection in every dance he did, co-host Erin Andrews revealed the football player put in and amazing 362 rehearsal hours this season, 100 hours more than either of the other two finalists.
Taking a look back at her season, Kordei thanked everyone in the show for their support each week, and turning to Chmerkovskiy, she said, “I could not have done this by myself. I have the best partner in the world.”
Over at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs were playing the San Francisco Giants, pitchers John Lackey, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, outfielder Kyle Schwarber and catcher Miguel Montero were among a group who hung out in the clubhouse to watch their former teammate compete one last time. “I’m actually surprised he’s made it this far,” Lester remarked. “I told him to take a fall in the first couple [rounds] and pull a hammy and just go home. He’s been doing real well obviously. It’s good to see. I’m sure that’s obviously very uncomfortable to get up there and do that in front of millions of people. I can only imagine. But good for him. We’re all competitors and we all want to win everything we do. And hopefully he wins.”
The two-and-a-half-hour telecast was filled with a host of musical guests and dance production numbers featuring an avalanche of pros and celebrities. Hailee Steinfeld performed her new single “Most Girls,” OneRepublic performed their latest single, “No Vacancy,” while Lady Antebellum performed their hit “You Look Good” and TLC performed their hit single “Waterfalls.”
The show also featured a sneak peek at the upcoming live musical telecast production of “Dirty Dancing,” airing May 24 on ABC.
Contributing: Staff reporter Gordon Wittenmyer