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Kellie Pickler’s Freestyle Leaves One ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Judge in Tears

Some are calling Kellie Pickler‘s freestyle during Monday night’s performance finale on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ the best dance of the ABC show’s 16 seasons. It was a spellbinding performance capable of leaving the toughest hearts shattered to pieces.

Her perfect score of 30 was something of an afterthought, as anything less would have stirred the biggest controversy of the season. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba barely held herself together afterward, finally praising Pickler for sharing her soul on the dance floor. Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman were equally effusive.

“Good dancing engages the brain, great dancing engages the heart,” Goodman said before giving a personal standing ovation.

“What art does it speaks to you, it touches everybody and I’m sure you reached the nation tonight with that performance,” Tonioli added before host Tom Bergeron quipped, “If he gives you a seven tonight, I’ll kill him myself.”

Pickler’s partner Derek Hough struggled with a direction to take the dance, ultimately deciding to ditch the theatrics in favor of challenging physical moves. There were at least two moments during the dance that left one wondering if Pickler was secretly being supported by guide wires or cables. Of course she wasn’t — the lingering lean toward the end and a spin that began a 12-second stretch where her feet never touched the floor were examples of the couple’s physical strength and talent. She held the difficult pose as quietly as a morning pond, despite leaning past 45 degrees.

Pickler and Hough never broke character during the two-minute routine. Their moves were fluid and graceful, while their facial expressions told a story of heartbreak. In the end, both broke into tears — perhaps aware that they’d just delivered the dance of their lives.

Of the four finalists, Pickler and Hough placed second, one point behind Zendaya and Val Chmerkovskiy, who gained an edge in the relay dance. Pickler’s quickstep also earned a perfect score, and her total for the night was 64. Alexandra Raisman and Mark Ballas finished in third with Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff in a distant fourth.

Disney teen sensation Zendaya seems to be Pickler’s only true competition going into Tuesday’s results show. She’s matched Pickler move for move, and her fans have proven to be just as dedicated as Pickler’s. While the actress was splendid on Monday, her finest moments where nowhere near as memorable as Pickler’s perfect freestyle.

Next: See 5 Reasons Kellie Pickler Will Win 'DWTS'

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