With James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd eliminated from Dancing with the Stars on Monday night, we're down to three contestant teams. One of them features an inspiring Paralympian and a 5-time Mirrorball winner; another an injured yet relentless pro and his partner, DJ Tanner.
But we haven't written essays about those couples. We haven't compiled GIF-filled photo galleries. And we sure as hell haven't written ill-advised fan fiction chronicling their love. Whether on Bustle specifically or anywhere women and gay men (and me!) gather to discuss reality television, Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy have been THE story of this DWTS season. There's no point now pretending like we care about anyone or anything else. If they don't take home a victory tonight? It will be a travesty, and I'll never write about this show again*.
*until next season.
One assumed that their road to (hypothetical) victory had been made a lot simpler even before last night, when Candace Bure's partner Mark Ballas was rushed to the hospital following a rehearsal accident. Like Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics, though, Ballas fought through the pain — and he and Candace were rewarded with a spot in Tuesday's finals. James and Peta, who had moments of greatness throughout the season (even when certain bloggers, jealous of James' abs and easygoing confidence, wouldn't have said as much), just couldn't put it together in this last stretch. Or their voter goodwill finally ran out. It's hard to say, since no one quite knows how these eliminations quite pan out. But they're gone. Goodbye.
None of which is meant to suggest that M&M coasted to their top three perch! Following last week's perfect 40, they seemed doubly energized to hit those marks again. And in both of Monday's routines — first an Argentine tango set to "Montserrat" and later a freestyle to "Latch," by Disclosure, they demonstrated the same tenacity and effortless chemistry that have colored their performances all season.
That's the thing about DWTS, isn't it? Week to week, you get to watch these teams coalesce, learn from their mistakes and improve. And week to week, the team that's eliminated is almost always the one you think will go home, and arguably should go home. This is not a surprising program; rarely does anything happen that makes you stand up in your seat and exclaim "I did NOT see that coming!" Everything that happens we've seen coming from a mile away.
I'm not going to say that Meryl & Maks will definitely win the Mirrorball tomorrow night. I hope they do, as I imagine most of you do, and I'm pretty confident that this will be the outcome. But just as satisfying as whatever end we get has been the steady, consistent growth of their story — on stage, off, and in our creepy fictional fantasies — that, for me, is what truly makes DWTS a worthwhile program. Dancing, sure. Judging, ehh (mindfulness meditation, Bruno. Try it). Costumes, definitely. But the human element trumps all, always, and we've gotten that in spades with Meryl and Maks.