Dancing With the Stars Season 18 Finals Recap: A Surprising Elimination Before the Finale

Dancing with the stars
Find out which couple was eliminated with just one episode to go in season 18 of Dancing With the Stars  ABC/Adam Taylor

And then there were three! With just hours to go until the season 18 finale of Dancing With the Stars, emotions were running high on Monday, May 19, when the remaining four couples took the stage to perform in the finals. Each couple did two dances—one judges' pick, and one freestyle — culminating in a heartbreaking elimination at the end of the night. Let's recap! (Spoilers, obviously.)

PHOTOS: All of the season 18 contestants

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James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd

"It really is awesome being in the finals. Peta and I have gotten really close throughout the competition," James said in his intro package. "I'm the last man standing. However, I want to be the last person standing."

Dance No. 1: Tango to "Adore You" by Miley Cyrus

James and Peta's first dance—during which they treated fans to a steamy kiss—was well received by the judges. Len Goodman praised it as "clean as a whistle," while Bruno Tonioli said it was "dominant, dangerous, passionate, focused." Only Carrie Ann Inaba had some criticism for the couple, telling James he seemed "just a little too rigid."

Score: 29 out of 30 (9 from Carrie Ann, 10 from Len and Bruno)

Prior to James and Peta's second dance, he shared a personal story about how his brother's motorcycle accident inspired him to pursue his dream of becoming a performer. Guest stars including Victoria Justice, Miranda Cosgrove, and his Big Time Rush bandmates praised his courage and drive—the perfect segue to his freestyle routine. 

Dance No. 2: Freestyle

James and Peta's second routine was an edgy, primal dance with lots of energy, acrobatic moves, and even props. "Well, we have a new post-apocalyptic action hero," Bruno raved of the star. Added Carrie Ann: "You're the most versatile…You killed it."

Score: 29 out of 30 (9 from Len, 10 from Carrie Ann and Bruno)

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Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy

"How can you enter a race without trying to win? God knows, I came back 13 times for this," Maks said in his intro package. "I wanna look back and say, 'I have nothing else to give.'"

Dance No. 1: Argentine Tango

The judges could not say enough good things about Meryl and Maks' first routine of the night. Bruno noted that watching their dances over the last several weeks was like watching the choreographed version of a concept album, while Carrie Ann praised the "incredible magic" between the partners. And Len called it "the dance of the night," despite having seen only one other routine. 

Score: 30 out of 30 (10 from everyone)

In the package before Meryl and Maks' second dance, her family and friends—including figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi and Evan Lysacek—talked about how she overcame dyslexia to achieve her goals. They also noted how her partnership with Maks had opened up a side of her never seen before.

Dance No. 2: Freestyle to "Disclosure" by Latch

Meryl and Maks' freestyle routine was a sexy, emotional dance that brought Carrie Ann to tears. "I think you guys should get married," she gushed when she pulled herself together enough to talk, praising their performance as "divinity in motion." Added Len: "There's good, there's great, and there's Meryl." 

Score: 30 out of 30 (10 from everyone, though both Len and Bruno wanted to give them 11s)

Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas

Candace and Mark had a dramatic week of rehearsals. First Candace broke down in tears when Mark got a little short with her during practice. Then Mark injured his shoulder during a lift and had to be taken to the hospital. Footage showed him writhing around on the ground, clutching his arm and calling for a medic. Fortunately for Candace, a doctor cleared him to perform in Monday's finals.

Dance No. 1: Quickstep to "Umbrella" by Rihanna

Candace's quickstep during the great partner switch-up earned just 28 out of 40—but her quickstep with Mark was a much greater success. "Tonight I'm surprised and totally impressed," Carrie Ann gushed, noting how "lighthearted" she seemed. Added Len: "You got the toughest dance. And considering…the pressure you've been under, you did good."

Score: 27 out of 30 (9 from everyone)

Candace's rise to fame, as most people know, began with Full House. In the package before her second routine with Mark, some of her former costars recalled her struggles with confidence and body image. Thanks to DWTS, she no longer has those struggles. "Dancing With the Stars has changed my life," she said. "I've never seen my body look like this."

Dance No. 2: Freestyle to "Canned Heat" to Jamiroquai

"You went for it!" Carrie Ann exclaimed of Mark and Candace's disco-inspired choreography. She noted, however, that she didn't think Candace quite connected with the music. Added Bruno: "I love a disco diva. And you went for it with gusto."

Score: 24 out of 30 (8 from everyone) 

PHOTOS: Before they were on DWTS

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Amy Purdy and Derek Hough

As it did a few weeks ago, Amy's back started spasming during rehearsals this week, leading to some tough days for the pair. "Amy has fought tooth and nail to get in these finals," Derek said in their intro package. "And I just feel like, this is another hurdle we have to overcome." 

Dance No. 1: Salsa

Amy and Derek's salsa was an energetic, fast-paced routine with lifts, stunts, and lots of sass. Bruno called it "splashy, exhilirating, and flamboyant," and Carrie Ann gushed that it blew her away.

Score: 30 out of 30 (10 from everyone)

Amy's second package of the night chronicled the loss of her legs because of bacterial meningitis. "I remember thinking, 'This is what it feels like to die,'" she recalled. Of course, as viewers have seen, she defied the odds and became a paralympic snowboarder—and an amazing dancer.

Dance No. 2: Freestyle to "Dare You" by Hardwell

Amy and Derek's freestyle routine was a showstopper, culminating in a Cirque du Soleil-worthy aerial stunt. Len said he could have done without the rope trick, but Bruno and Carrie Ann praised the choreography, as well as Amy's impassioned performance. "Thank you for being you," Carrie Ann told her.

Score: 29 out of 30 (9 from Len, 10 from Carrie Ann and Bruno)

In the end, one couple had to be eliminated from the race for the Mirrorball Trophy—and that couple was James and Peta. "It's all right. I've really had an amazing experience," James said, clearly disappointed. "I'm just grateful for the opportunity."

Tell Us: Which couple are you rooting for to win the Mirrorball Trophy tomorrow night?

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