‘Dancing with the Stars’ finals recap: Will Rashad Jennings upset frontrunner Normani Kordei?

Night one of the “Dancing with the Stars” two-night finale is finished. The remaining three competitors — singer Normani Kordei, football player Rashad Jennings and baseball player David Ross — performed two dances each. The first was a redemption dance in the hopes of improving on a dance style that the stars performed previously. The second was an anything-goes freestyle with no rules or limitations, so curmudgeonly Len Goodman couldn’t complain about any hip-hop moves and Carrie Ann Inaba couldn’t deduct points for unauthorized lifts. But the results were surprising.

Specifically, we were taken by surprise by the night’s highest score. Kordei had taken the top spot on the judges’ leaderboard five times already this season, and in terms of pure technical ability her strongest challengers, Simone Biles and Heather Morris, were eliminated earlier, so she seemed like a lock to get the best score according to the predictions of Gold Derby’s users. In fact, Kordei got leading odds of 1/5, which translated to a whopping 81% chance of getting the high score.

However, Kordei was docked a point each by Goodman and Julianne Hough for a lack of body contact in their quickstep. She scored 38 out of 40 for that redemption dance, and then received a perfect 40 for her elegant freestyle to “What the World Needs Now is Love,” but that wasn’t enough to overtake Jennings, who performed a redemptive Viennese waltz and then a “Drumline”-inspired freestyle that earned him two perfect scores for a total of 80 out of 80 for the night. We had given him odds of 6/1, or a 16% chance of getting the high score, so that result was definitely unexpected.

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The rest of the night went as we predicted. We correctly predicted that Ross would get the lowest score (1/20 odds, 94% chance). Like Jennings he performed a Viennese waltz as his redemption dance, but it wasn’t quite as redemptive. It was only good enough for three 8s and a 9 from the judges for a total of 33 out of 40. His infectious baseball-themed freestyle was also rough around the edges, but it so charmed the judging panel that he received a perfect 40 for it. Still, that wasn’t enough to come close to the perfection of Jennings and the near-perfection of Kordei.

We were also correct that the judges would give out 10 or more perfect 10s (8/13 odds, 62% chance). By this point in the competition the scoring is so generous that you would have to commit a hate crime on the dance floor to receive less than 8s or 9s. Indeed, the judges ended up giving out a total of 18 perfect 10s.

This is normally the point where I announced the results of our weekly predictions contest, but the contest isn’t over yet. Tomorrow night, after the judges’ scores are combined with viewer votes, a Mirror Ball champion will be crowned, so our predictions center is back open for you to enter or edit your picks until tomorrow night’s finale episode. After getting the high score, is Jennings about to pull off a major upset against frontrunner Kordei? Jennings has an infectious personality, and he closed the show with a freestyle that was arguably the night’s most memorable dance. But don’t underestimate Kordei’s fan base. She’s a member of Fifth Harmony, whose fans are so rabid that they have dominated fan-voted music awards like the MTV Video Music Awards (three wins out of four nominations) and the American Music Awards (one win on their only nomination). If those fans vote with as much ferocity for “DWTS,” she may yet win the Mirror Ball Trophy.

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Before you make your predictions, make sure to consult the judges’ scores from tonight’s episode, which along with viewer votes will determine the winner:

Rashad Jennings – 40 + 40 = 80
Normani Kordei – 38 + 40 = 78
David Ross – 33 += 40 = 73

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts throughout the week, just click “Save” when you’ve settled on your choices. You’ll compete to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate, bragging rights and a place of honor on our leaderboard. Our racetrack odds change as you make your predictions, just as they do when you bet on the Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes and more. Be sure to read our contest rules and sound off on the season of “Dancing with the Stars” in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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