9:16pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Dancing With the Stars' Finalists Enter Night Two in a Dead Heat
"Anybody's game," a frequently inaccurate cliché, may actually apply to season 13 of Dancing With the Stars.
Midway through the two-night finale, the scores are closely matched and the viewer favor remains something of a mystery. Ricki Lake, J.R. Martinez and Rob Kardashian put it all on the line with two dances Monday, including the vital freestyle, with Rob coming out on top after a combined score of 57.
His competitors follow closely, tied at 54, but as THR saw backstage after the show, nobody seems to have a clear idea what will happen on Tuesday.
The two-hour broadcast finds all three taking on their favorite dance of the season, before the first elimination narrows it down to two who will "Instant Samba" for the crown.
That means more rehearsal. So before they were taken off to practice more moves, the trio (along with partners Derek Hough, Karina Smirnoff and Cheryl Burke) chatted with press about their odds at making it to the confetti-covered end of the broadcast.
Ricki, thrilled with both of her performances, doesn't seem to think she has a chance of winning -- despite having earned the most points of any dancer this season. "I don't think it's going to be me," she said, smiling, adding that it was probably a gentleman's game at this point.
Another less-than-confident competitor is J.R. After the previous week's debacle with his ankle and kicking off Monday with a low-scoring Cha Cha Cha, he had a huge rebound with his freestyle. The perfect 30 helped compensate for his unfortunate 24, and carries him into Tuesday with the most favored routine of the week.
Karina on his arm, he said he still think Rob has the advantage, but he does want to win it for his partner, who's made it through ten seasons without a single mirrorball trophy.
"But he's my mirrorball," Karina insisted, tearing up.
And then there's Rob. The late bloomer probably surprised a lot of people ending the night with the highest score. Still, he says he's still shocked that he's made it this far.
Not that he doesn't want to win. Of all the couples, Rob and Cheryl seem to go into the final stretch with the most competitive spirit. The duo told THR they'd be rehearsing at least another three hours on Monday night, and a few times Rob spoke hypothetically about his possible win.
The judges seem to be fond of each pair in a different way. Ricki has been consistent throughout the season, and J.R., faltering recently, still seems to have their hearts. They want him to come out on top, but they're making him work for it. And Rob's steady improvement is just the kind of thing the show likes to boast during a finale.
Either way, there's a lot riding on that next dance.