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October 18, 2017

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‘DWTS’ preview: Amy Purdy’s last-minute drama; Mark Ballas seriously injured


Adam Taylor / ABC

Tom Bergeron, Amy Purdy of Las Vegas and Derek Hough on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, May 12, 2014.

Las Vegas’ Amy Purdy on ‘DWTS’

Tom Bergeron, Amy Purdy of Las Vegas and Derek Hough on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, May 19, 2014. Launch slideshow »
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Tom Bergeron, Amy Purdy and Derek Hough on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, May 5, 2014.

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Mark Ballas and Amy Purdy compete on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, April 7, 2014.

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Candace Cameron Bure, Mark Ballas, Amy Purdy, Derek Hough, Diana Nyad and Henry Byalikov compete on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, March 24, 2014.

Against all conceivable odds, hometown hero Amy Purdy has made it to the final two nights of ABC’s hit series “Dancing With the Stars,” but last-minute challenges and surprises will be thrown at her in the toughest 48 hours of her life.

It’s taken nine weeks of passion — and pain — for our Paralympic champion to get to this moment. Her determination, dedication and discipline could pay off Tuesday or go up in smoke tonight.

The four remaining couples are Amy with Derek Hough, Olympic champion Meryl Davis with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, actress Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas and actor, dancer and Big Time Rush singer James Maslow with Peta Murgatroyd. Only one will be crowned ballroom champion and win the coveted mirrored disco ball.

(And as if there weren’t enough drama, it was reported Sunday night that Mark had seriously injured himself in a fall during rehearsal Sunday afternoon, and it was unknown whether he would be able to dance tonight.)

Tonight, one couple will be eliminated, and the final three will dance Tuesday. It’s a total of eight hours of grueling, nonstop dance-floor action over two nights of taped dress rehearsals and live broadcasts.

Several of the stars from Sunday’s 2014 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena will be appearing in the finals: Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande and Ricky Martin for a “Vida/One Heart” reprise in which Amy will dance. (Previously video footage of her taped dance rehearsal was shown because she was taken to a hospital for injuries.)

America has marveled at Amy’s courage, bravery and resilience. It’s an amazing story of how on her 19th birthday she suffered the loss of her legs below her knees from viral meningitis and was saved from near death by her father’s gift of one of his kidneys.

Incredibly, the teenager who graduated from Cimarron-Memorial High School here and had just started work as a massage therapist at Canyon Ranch Spa at the Venetian was determined not to let the loss of her limbs deter her from following her dreams of becoming a professional snowboarder.

Amy was fitted with prosthetics and went on to win gold and bronze medals in the Paralympics in New Zealand and the most recent Sochi, Russia, Winter Games.

Since February, she has wowed America dancing the cha cha, foxtrot, Viennese waltz and more, but it was three weeks ago when TV viewers collectively stopped breathing when she was rushed to a hospital. Amy had injured her ribs and shoulder and was in such pain that she was unable to continue dancing in the telecast.

Amy was judged on the rehearsal tape, and for the finale, she will have to make up for it: Producers have decided that she will do that dance live. All four remaining couples get one last opportunity to impress judges and home viewers.

Johnny Avello, director of Race and Sports Operations at the Wynn and who has an uncanny knack and successful track record of picking reality TV show winners, has set his odds for the “DWTS” finale: Amy and Derek, 7 to 1; Meryl and Maksim, 5 to 1; James and Peta, 11 to 1; Candace and Mark, 9 to 2.

Since I know TV production but don’t have a clue about dancing, I asked an ABC exec to explain the intricacies of the final two episodes: “They will compete in two rounds of dance. In the first round, each couple will take on the ‘Judges Pick’ and repeat the same dance style they did the week of the ‘Switch Up.’

“In the second round, one of the biggest competitive dances of the season, the couples take on a supersized freestyle featuring special effects, additional dancers and unexpected surprises.

“At the end of the first night, one couple will be eliminated based on the previous week’s viewer votes combined with the judges’ scores from last Monday night.

“In the two-hour season finale Tuesday, the show will begin with a high-energy performance featuring a reunion of all 12 of this season’s couples, as well as the guest judges. Then, as decided on by a Twitter vote, one of the three remaining couples will perform their freestyle dance as an encore.

“The finale also will feature a performance to ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ by Team Loca, giving viewers at home a chance to watch the routine live with Amy Purdy, as she was unable to dance during the original Team Night due to an injury.

“Viewers also will be treated to encore performances by Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke to ‘You Can’t Sit Down,’ NeNe Leakes to ‘Grown Woman’ featuring six pro dancers, Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy to ‘Be Our Guest’ and Charlie White and Sharna Burgess to ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’

“Olympic gold medalist partners Charlie and Meryl will dance together for the first time. In the last element of competition, the couples will perform a new routine as part of a ‘24 Hour Fusion Challenge.’ The remaining couples will fuse two contrasting dance styles that they’ve performed this season, and they’ll have less than 24 hours to prepare that dance for judges’ points.

“Last season’s mirror-ball trophy winner, Amber Riley, will return as a part of Walgreens’ ‘Dance Happy, Be Healthy’ performance of ‘Do Your Thing,’ plus her first single ‘Colorblind.’ The finale also will feature music performances by Christina Perri singing her ballad ‘Human,’ Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX and their hit ‘Fancy,’ Season 18 contestant Cody Simpson with ‘Surfboard’ and Ariana Grande with ‘Problem’ featuring Iggy.

“At the end of the night, the public vote from Monday night will be combined with the judges’ scores from both nights to crown the Season 18 champion. For this final week, on Monday online voting will open for 15 hours beginning from the start of the episode.”

Spoiler alert: Later tonight, we’ll tweet @robin_leach the name of the eliminated couple, leaving the three celebrity finalists for Tuesday’s championship culmination.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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