‘Dancing with the Stars’ finale recap: Who won the Mirror Ball Trophy for season 29? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

The season 29 finale of “Dancing with the Stars” was Monday night, November 23, and it all came down to four celebs: “Bachelorette” star Kaitlyn Bristowe, actress Justina Machado, rapper Nelly and “Catfish” host Nev Schulman. So which of them earned the judges’ scores and viewer votes they needed to become the next Mirror Ball champion? Scroll down for our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments and our running commentary throughout the night.

There were two rounds of dances tonight to decide the ultimate victor. In the first round the celebs reprised their favorite dance from the season, but with new creative elements: Bristowe’s Argentine tango to Britney Spears‘s “Toxic,” Machado’s cha cha to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, Nelly’s samba to “Rhythm of the Night” be DeBarge, and Schulman’s paso doble to “Black Swan.”

Then came the most anticipated dances of the season: the freestyles. There were no rules for these dances, so there was nothing holding back the celebs and their pro partners’ imaginations. Bristowe danced hers to “Sparkling Diamonds” from “Moulin Rouge.” Machado performed to “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez and “Bamboleo” by The Gypsy Kings. Nelly stayed true to his hip-hop background with “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion and “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G. And Schulman celebrated his final dance by “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Those weren’t the only performances on finale night. Nelly also performed a medley of his hits: “Ride Wit Me,” “Lil Bit” and “Hot in Herre.” And former pro dancer-turned-judge Derek Hough performance a solo dance to Finneas‘s “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night.” As always, the judges scored each of the routines, and fans voted for their favorites live throughout the show. So what did you think of the results when all of said and done. Follow along with us below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

Cordell Martin, 8:00pm — Hoping for a Justina upset.

Jeffrey Kare, 8:02pm — Tyra’s dresses have certainly gotten heavier week by week.

Cordell, 8:03pm — Oh Tyra lol

Daniel Montgomery, 8:04pm — Tyra coming out in an entire house’s worth of insulation.

Cordell, 8:04pm — Let’s see whose going first …

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev (Argentine Tango)

Daniel, 8:05pm — Kaitlyn reminisces about her journey this season, including her rough patch with Carrie Ann Inaba, but let’s talk about Artem’s journey for a minute. This is his first time in the finals since joining the US “Dancing with the Stars,” so tonight will be his first freestyle. But first up is their repeat dance: their “Toxic” tango, which was such a great routine for someone with her level of technique.

Daniel, 8:09pm — Good start to the night, pristine footwork and control, beautiful lines, probably her best dance style.

Jeffrey, 8:10pm — Now that’s how you get this party started!

JUDGES — Derek Hough thought it was a “perfect” dance to show why she belonged in the finals. Bruno is “panting” because “you took my breath away,” and her details were “even better” this time around. Carrie Ann Inaba is glad she picked this dance style to repeat, and it’s now one of her top three favorite dances of all time.

Cordell, 8:12pm — It was great but not sure if it was top three of all time.

Daniel, 8:12pm — Yeah, Carrie Ann’s memory must only go back about two or three weeks lol

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Jeffrey, 8:15pm — Surprising absolutely no one, we already have our first perfect score of the night.

Nelly and Daniella Karagach (Samba)

Daniel, 8:16pm — Nelly’s journey has had a lot of “ups and downs,” according to Daniella, but she thinks there have been more ups. And here’s another pro who deserves major appreciation. It’s her first season as a pro, in a pandemic season, and she made it to the finals. I’m proud to see her here even though I didn’t really think Nelly should’ve made it to the finals over Skai Jackson or Johnny Weir. It’ll be interesting to see what the judges do with his scores. He’s the only one I can imagine getting less than 10s given how scores have inflated over the last two weeks. But he got a perfect 30 during the Semi-Finals, so who knows?

Daniel, 8:20pm — Mostly solid, fun, rhythmic routine from Nelly, but if that gets a 30, there’s literally nothing that won’t get a 30 tonight.

Cordell, 8:20pm — Three 9s

Jeffrey, 8:21pm — Solid for what it was.

JUDGES — Bruno thinks Nelly is “natural” and “spontaneous,” but with “a couple of technical issues.” Carrie Ann thinks Nelly’s journey has been the “most fascinating,” and he shows that dance is about more than “technique,” it’s also about joy. Derek thinks dancing is about “moments” and not just technique.

Daniel, 8:21pm — I love how the judges’ “praise” is about how dance isn’t just about technique lol

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Derek (9), Bruno (9) = 27 out of 30

Daniel, 8:22pm — 9s, the gentleman’s C of the “DWTS” finale.

Cordell, 8:23pm — Nev is next, so yesm Justina is last!

Daniel, 8:24pm — Thrilled that Justina gets the last slot. Also, it looks like Nev has advanced from manscaping to full wax .

Cordell, 8:24pm — Watch Nev or Kaitlyn get the last slot for the freestyle round.

Daniel, 8:24pm — Yeah, I have a feeling they’ll switch up the order in the next round.

Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson (Paso Doble)

Daniel, 8:26pm — Nev’s “Black Swan” paso doble was one of the top breakthrough moments of the season, which means he has kind of an advantage in this round, but it also means he has a lot to live up to following his last performance of this routine. Before the clip package, though, we got to see Jeannie Mai and find out that her surgery went well. Good to see her again! Okay, back to Nev, who I think is the front-runner tonight and deservedly so (though I’m still in the tank for Justina). He’s probably the best technical dancer of the season, and he marries that with showmanship and personality.

Cordell, 8:31pm — I’m surprised he never got the samba.

Daniel, 8:32pm — Just like the first time he performed this, I felt like the first half lacked a little energy in the choreography, and then it just explodes in the second half, great build and finish.

Cordell, 8:32pm — I agree.

Jeffrey, 8:32pm — Very dynamic!

JUDGES — Carrie Ann thought it was “perfection” the first time, and “perfection” again this time. She trusts him to be technically and artistically amazing every time. Derek loved the change at the start of the routine, and it was a “beautiful” performance. Bruno thought they “created even more dramatic structure” in the routine the second time around.

Daniel, 8:34pm — Nev tells all about the chest hair (or the lack thereof). He promised Jenna that if they made the finale he would shave all his body hair. I guess not a full wax, though <camera closeup gets all up in his business>

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Justina Machado and Sasha Farber (Cha Cha)

Daniel, 8:39pm — It’s no easy task following Nev’s “Black Swan” performance, but I’m glad the show is giving Justina a chance to make the last impression for this round. “I’m incredibly proud of how I’ve represented myself as a Latina woman.” In one generation her family went from the mountains of Puerto Rico to “DWTS.” Hmmm, I wonder what mountains they’re from. My family is from Aguas Buenas — let’s hang out (after the pandemic)!

Jeffrey, 8:43pm — That’s how you pull off a grand finale to round one!

Cordell, 8:44pm — Love her! 10s

Daniel, 8:44pm — God I adore that woman. Not the most technically perfect of the round one routines, but so rhythmic and energetic and full of personality, and she’s by far the most infectious to watch.

JUDGES — Derek thought she was “exploding” with passion and excitement. Bruno says she “knows how to shake those tail feathers,” “almost too hot to trot tonight.” Carrie Ann thinks she lights the floor on fire every time she gets on the stage.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Daniel, 8:46pm — Damn straight, judges!

Jeffrey, 8:47pm — Indeed!

Derek Hough performance

Daniel, 8:54pm — We interrupt your regularly scheduled competition for Derek Hough’s Best Choreography Emmy reel for 2021 … not complaining, especially when he’s dancing to “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” by Finneas.

Cordell, 8:56pm — I want derek back as a pro

Jeffrey, 8:57pm — Maybe next season when (hopefully) everything returns to normal and Len came come back to judge.

Daniel, 8:57pm — I love that Derek keeps pushing himself creatively. Lots of tough prop work, tap dancing which I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do. Sometimes I forget how good a dancer he is.

Nelly and Daniella Karagach (Freestyle)

Daniel, 9:00pm — It’ll be interesting to see what Daniella choreographs for Nelly. Freestyle might be his strong suit because he has great rhythm, musicality, and personality, and now he doesn’t have to worry about the technique of any particular dance style. And he’s dancing to a couple of hip-hop songs, which obviously is in his wheelhouse.

Daniel, 9:04pm — That was an amazing Daniella freestyle and a pretty good Nelly freestyle.

Jeffrey, 9:04pm — Better than his previous routine, but I still wouldn’t call it a home run.

Cordell, 9:05pm — That was fun. He’s getting all 10s.

JUDGES — Bruno thought the opening tableau put them in the presence of “hip-hop royalty,” which was pitched “just right” for Nelly. Carrie Ann loves the partnership between Nelly and Daniella, and she loved the choreography that combined hip-hop with Latin and ballroom. Derek loved the closing lift where he was “wearing her as headphones” without holding on to her at all.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev (Freestyle)

Daniel, 9:13pm — “You have pushed me more than anyone has in the best way possible. You have always believed in me,” Kaitlyn tells Artem. She appreciated their “open, honest conversations,” and he has shown her what it takes to be a dancer. “She’s a person who does not give up easily.” Now they’re doing a “Sparkling Diamonds” freestyle, and a “Moulin Rouge”-style routine sounds like Artem is going super-big on his first “DWTS” freestyle, and I’m here for it!

Jeffrey, 9:16pm — Very energetic work from Kaitlyn and Artem.

Cordell, 9:17pm — Ehh it was alright. She’ll get a 30.

Daniel, 9:17pm — Kudos to Kaitlyn. Artem choreographed a really grand, theatrical routine to show off her personality when she’s had trouble showing her personality in the past.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann said Kaitlyn met her high expectations since “Moulin Rouge” is her favorite movie. Derek Hough thought it was “well done.” And Bruno thought she captured the spirit of Baz Luhrmann while packing it full of choreographic content.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Cordell, 9:19pm — I still think she’ll land in third or fourth.

Daniel, 9:20pm — It’s like she was just a season late. If she had competed last year she might’ve won the Mirror Ball easy.

Cordell, 9:22pm — Out the four I would be the most shocked to see her win.

Daniel, 9:23pm — I wouldn’t be too surprised if Kaitlyn wins. It’s just that she doesn’t have a strong narrative the way the other three do.

Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson (Freestyle)

Daniel, 9:23pm — I’m really excited for Nev’s “Singin’ in the Rain” freestyle, but I’m even more excited that Nev going next means the show is letting Justina close out the whole season. Either way, though, the last two performances of the season will be the two best contestants of the season as far as I’m concerned. I’m also excited for Jenna, who won the Mirror Ball with Adam Rippon, but that was the weird, shortened four-week season. This is her first full season to potentially win.

Jeffrey, 9:26pm — I think Nev is more than ready to start tackling Broadway (by the time it eventually reopens).

Daniel, 9:26pm — Cool hip-hop breakdown in the middle of that “Singin’ in the Rain” routine. That portion could have hit a little harder on the beat, but a lovely freestyle routine overall.

Cordell, 9:27pm — Very creative. The ending was good

JUDGES — Derek thinks it takes a true leading man to sell “Singin’ in the Rain” and Nev succeeded. Bruno agrees that the routine aimed very high, but succeeded. It was “showstopping” and “inspired.” Carrie Ann thought it was a few routines in one, and Nev is an “incredible performer” with a “magical” partnership with Jenna.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

Daniel, 9:30pm — I love how at this point the scores are basically irrelevant. I’m barely even noticing them anymore. They’re just 30s by default lol.

Cordell, 9:31pm — Pretty much. It’s definitely going to be a close one.

Jeffrey, 9:31pm — I agree.

Justina Machado and Sasha Farber (Freestyle)

Daniel, 9:35pm — Good freestyles so far, but I think the door is open for a no-holds-barred showstopper. “I can’t imagine being in the finale with anyone else,” says Justina about teaming up with Sasha this season. “We’re family now. Familia para siempre!” Sasha wants the freestyle to be a “celebration” for her. And Justina thinks it’s going to be “epic” and “scary.” Honestly, no matter what happens, I’m just happy to get to see Justina make it all the way to the end of the finals!

Jeffrey, 9:39pm — Win or lose, Justina & Sasha were both still able to end this competition with a bang!

Cordell, 9:40pm — That was great!!!!!!! Let’s go Justina!!!!!!

Daniel, 9:41pm — Hot damn, props to Sasha for choreographing such a dynamite freestyle for his partner. Perfect for her personality with an amazing opening. Best freestyle of the night I think … Okay, a little tangled at the end there lol

Cordell, 9:41pm — I hope this gave her the edge.

Jeffrey, 9:41pm — Me too.

JUDGES — Bruno thought it was “a tonic for your soul.” Carrie Ann loved the dance and the message of it celebrating her and her culture. Derek “couldn’t think of a better freestyle” to finish off the season.

Daniel, 9:43pm — I’m not sure if it’ll be enough for Justina to win outright, but I think Kaitlyn and Nev didn’t seal the deal with their routines. They left the door a little bit open, and just the opening of that Justina dance could put her over.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Derek (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30


1. Kaitlyn Bristowe — 30 + 30 = 60
1. Justina Machado — 30 + 30 = 60
1. Nev Schulman — 30 + 30 = 60
4. Nelly — 27+ 30 = 57


Daniel, 9:54pm — Moment of truth! We’re about to find out this season’s final results. But first a really lovely clip package of friends and family congratulating the finalists. This is genuinely lovely. I’m a sucker for these feels.

Daniel, 9:57pm — Here goes … The celeb in fourth place is Justina Machado (I’m kinda mad at that, but not too surprised, kudos to Justina). In third place is Nelly (I actually thought he might end up higher)

Daniel, 9:58pm — And the winner is … Kaitlyn Bristowe! Wow, the power of “Bachelor” nation, the second consecutive “Bachelorette” winner in a row, but actually better than Hannah Brown was last year. And I’m really excited to see Artem win his first Mirror Ball Trophy in the US (he previously won “Strictly Come Dancing” in the UK)! That means Nev Schulman finished second.

Cordell, 10:00pm — I’m annoyed, the one person I didn’t want to win won lol

Daniel, 10:01pm — I don’t mind Kaitlyn’s win. I’m happy for Artem to finally get a trophy. It just all came down to fan bases, 100%, and Kaitlyn had “Bachelor” nation.

Cordell, 10:02pm — Yeah it’s time to retire the bachelor contestants for a minute.

Jeffrey, 10:03pm — I agree with Cordell. Maybe they should just save “Bachelor” contestants for a reality TV themed season.


WINNER: Kaitlyn Bristowe

2nd Place: Nev Schulman

3rd Place: Nelly

4th Place: Justina Machado

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