"Dancing with the Stars" crowned its new champion. It's the moment we've been waiting for (and I'm not just referring to my last DWTS article).
The two-hour finale promised lots of familiar faces, singing and dancing performances, and a stiff competition.
The three remaining couples performed two dances Monday night, and they would have one more Tuesday before the winner was named. The final dance would be a 24-Hour Challenge, in which the couples learned Monday night the song they would dance to Tuesday night.
Judge Len Goodman kicked off the night, asking for the encore dance from Green Bay Packer Donald Driver and Peta. Is this a sign of things to come? They did provide the best (read: only) freestyle Monday night. Did viewers feel the way Len did and put their votes behind the athlete?
After that, the show kicked into its tournament of eliminated stars. We got TV host Sherri Shepherd doing a shimmy to "It's Raining Men" where Maks and Tony were actually lowered to the dance floor, literally raining down on Sherri.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova and Tony then did a very graceful foxtrot. Actor Jack Wagner and Anna hit the floor for a fun salsa.
Deep breath. Singer Gavin DeGraw and Karina brought their jumbled samba back to life to the tune of "I Love Juanita." For starters, the camera angles are bad – thank God – so we can't see Gavin's terrible dancing. I recall he wasn't great, but was he always this abysmal? A lazy memory does wonders.
Singing legend Gladys Knight made her first comeback of the evening, doing an enjoyable cha cha with Tristan.
Actor Jaleel White made his return. If you thought exploitation b-movies from the 1970s looked hokey, they were classics compared to the poorly acted 1970s-inspired pre-recorded segment, where Jaleel said he wanted to do a flashy tribute to "Shaft." If you can dig it.
Who's the cat who had a good idea but didn't execute it well? J. White? You're right.
The "Shaft" routine had appeal but it was not as amusingly tongue-in-cheek as the taped piece. Oh, and Jaleel almost dropped Kym at the end. Jive turkey.
Bring on the rest. Actress Melissa Gilbert revived her trio challenge samba, with brothers Maks and Val thrusting about her. They even flashed us her can at the end. Let that sink in.
One of the best surprises of the night was the return of Disney star Roshon Fegan and Chelsie. They did not revamp a previous dance. Instead, they crafted a fresh freestyle. And what a freestyle. They looked like two kids at a club. It was a great routine and how Roshon should be on this show, unbridled and allowed to be himself. Chelsie even stepped out of the spotlight so Roshon could deliver a great solo.
Roshon tweeted, "What a show what a show! So great to see everybody again had a lot of fun dancing and hanging out gonna miss it #dwts was good to me."
Time for the guest performances. Kelly Clarkson hit the stage, singing "Stronger." She looked about as good as she ever has, too.
Back to the stars. TV host Maria Menounos and Derek did their Argentine tango again. It looked better than the first time around, and would probably be a perfect 30, if scored.
Enough with the time-filler. Let's get to the competition.
First up, actor William Levy and Cheryl with a salsa. He simply did a lot of hip shaking. I honestly could not pick this dance out from any of his other Latin dances. There was some fun, but not a lot of challenging content, besides one trick. Len said it was well done. Judge Bruno Tonioli said nobody does salsa better than William. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba properly identified William has true star quality. Of course – people vote for him because his charm outweighs his dance talent. The judges gave him a perfect 30, 89 overall. I don't want to take away from a happy moment, but I honestly couldn't see that dance doing better than a 24 at this stage of the competition.
After that, the show treated us to a montage of well wishes from his family. Aww.
Next up, classical singer Katherine Jenkins and Mark with a jive. It was high energy and fun, a crowd pleaser for entertainment value alone, but it's simply impossible for anyone, Katherine included, to keep up with Mark's high speed footwork. Bruno called Katherine one of the most wonderful competitors they've had on the show. Carrie Ann said they set the bar high for this season. Len called her the complete package. They got a 30 – an actual perfect 90 for the finals.
Her montage included some familiar faces, like previous competitors Jane Seymour and Donny Osmond, not to mention a surprising Benedict "Sherlock" Cumberbatch.
Last, Donald and Peta hit the floor for a cha cha. It was crisp, refined but powerful with bursts of energy. His footwork looked sharper than William or Katherie's
did. Carrie Ann called him the one to beat. Len said Donald may be the best football competitor of the whole series. Bruno said Donald improved week after week and peaked at the right time. Another perfect 30, 89 overall.
He got well wishes from family and fellow Green Bay Packers.
To bring home the emotion, Gladys returned for a soulful and emotional rendition of "The Way We Were." Katherine was about to lose it and Mark's eyes looked misty.
Time to eliminate the star in third place. The three remaining couples stood lined up on stage, looking tense. Not surprising; this was the most competitive season ever. Then again, it was a tough one to call as the judges simply handed out undeserved perfect scores like Halloween candy.
Host Tom Bergeron announced that William and Cheryl were out. William said the show was an amazing experience.
The camera cut to William's young son crying in his mother's bosom. After the show, William tweeted, "My son was crying for like an hour ;-((( ... I was happy in a way because that means he is a competitive and has a big hart."
Time to announce the winner – and it was Donald and Peta. He jumped around and she looked delirious.
Donald tweeted, "America thank you all for the love and support. Without America we could not have won… Love you all."
Katherine did do an excellent job this season, but she may have hit her stride too early on. Ever classy, she tweeted, "Being runner up on DWTS feels pretty amazing...Thanku to all who voted to put us 2nd! I never would have thought this possible at the start!"
But Donald simply got better and better, and knocked it out of the park with the best freestyle. And what a redemption for Peta, who was the first professional dancer out last season, her first season.
Peta tweeted, "@Donald_Driver80 You have been the BEST partner a pro could ask for! You're a champion and I'm so grateful to share this experience with u!"
As for us "Dancing with the Stars" fans, we can look forward to the unannounced all-star lineup next season, but we can pick the people we want to see return, go to: