After 10 weeks, 11 eliminations, and too many sequins to count, the judges’ scores and viewer votes have been tallied, and we have a “Dancing With the Stars” winner!
Season 18’s champs are … Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy!
And props to fellow finalists Amy Purdy and Derek Hough and Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas for fighting the good fight, but this was the right choice. Meryl not only performed at a stratospheric level from the get-go, but the Olympic ice dancer kept on growing, and she and Maks, the pro dancer she tamed, showed the world and each other not just about the true beauty of artistic expression, but about being a partner both on and off the dance floor.
Meryl continues to cap off a great year by adding a Mirrorball to her gold medal from the Sochi Winter Olympics.
And after 14 seasons and four trips to the Finals and coming up short, the very brawny, often bronzed, often bristly Maks finally has his coveted Mirrorball trophy. “There’s a reason it didn’t happen before,” he said. “It was meant to happen with this one.”
Even before the coveted Mirrorball trophy was awarded, Carrie Ann Inaba said Meryl and Maks – who performed the last of the 24-hour fusion challenge dances – were the best part of the season. Host Tom Bergeron said the couple took the competition to the next level. “Watching you two is when you rediscover your passion and excitement of your first love: dance,” Bruno Tonioli said.
The winner was announced after the three finalists’ danced their last routines, a 24-hour challenge dance fusion that was put together after Monday’s program ended. Amy and Derek went first with their Argentine tango-cha cha, which Derek, of course, beautifully fused into a seamless blend of fancy and fringe and earned them a perfect 30 score. Candace looked the most relaxed she’d ever looked during her and Mark’s 27-scoring quickstep-samba. Meryl and Maks continued their perfect run with a perfect 30 fox trot-cha cha for a perfect total of 90.
Head judge Len Goodman called Season 18 like a novel – “full of twists and turns … and we’re still not sure how the story will end” before wrapping it up on a bittersweet note. “This may be my last season,” the head judge revealed, “and I couldn’t wish for a better dance.”
It’s a bittersweet ending to a stellar season for many reasons -- not just because the idea of not seeing Dancemaster Len at the judges’ table mucking about is like a Mirrorball without its sparkle. Season 18 also marks the last season for executive producer Conrad Green, who was arguably the mastermind that’s made “DWTS” the glittery treat it is today. And to paraphrase what Maks said on Monday, 10 weeks is a long time, but I could go 100 more with him and Meryl. Here’s hoping Meryl and Maks continue their special relationship long after this season, whether it be with children Oleg and Bruno and collectively nicknamed “Bear,” or just as best friends forever.
Not that Amy and Derek weren’t remarkable in their own right. It’s unfortunate that “DWTS” ran out of time and the Paralympian bronze medalist and her five-time “DWTS” winning pro partner didn’t have a chance to say their final words, but they capped off an amazing season by defying expectations and showing that anything was possible. “Your unbreakable spirit has been a lesson in life,” Bruno said. “It’s sad, but it’s also amazing the amount of memories we made here,” Amy said before their final dance.
Third place (finally) went to Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas, who couldn’t have been more thrilled. “I feel like I already won,” Candace said. “This is a huge accomplishment.” “We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve made it through,” Mark said.
The crowning of the Season 18 champs came at the tail end of a celebratory two-hour extravaganza. All the past contestants were trotted out. (Diana Nyad and Sean Avery, we hardly knew ye. And because Sean considered pets like relationships and doesn’t like talking about them, we know the former New York Ranger even less.)
The freestyle encore voted upon by Twitter users went to Monday night’s eliminated couple, James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd, by a landslide vote. James and Peta returned later in the program to perform a smooth criminal edition of their “Love Never Felt So Good” dance from Michael Jackson’s upcoming “Escape.”
Iggy Azalea performed a prom-themed “Fancy” featuring Charli XCX, Val Chmerkovskiy and Artem Chigvintsev and a technical difficulty featuring her right ear. Season 17 champ Amber Riley sang “Colorblind” while Tony Dovolani and Karina Smirnoff made pretty dancing pictures on the ballroom floor, and the “Glee” actress returned later with a signature headdress and showed off her golden fringe dress, her dance moves with Val, and her golden pipes in a sparkling Jazz Age “Do Your Thang” performance. Apparently it was the culmination of a “Dance Happy Be Healthy” campaign sponsored by Walgreens. Can’t wait for next season’s Fancy Feast freestyle.
Returning to the “DWTS” stage was a grown-up Ariana Grande, showing off her midriff and belting out her “Problem.” Christina Perri also returned and sang “Human” at a white piano and surrounded by a sea of fog, while the finalists stood up on stage and footage of their seasons played in the background. Candace wiped a tear. Amy also got teary. Meryl looked fidgety.
Drew Carey put on a tie with a bedazzled collar with Cheryl Burke and jived ’50s doo-wop style with the guys. Erin Andrew's favorite, NeNe Leakes, put on her Glamazon outfit and fringe shoes and Afro-jazzed it out with the ladies. “That woman can move her real estate,” Tom quipped.
Danica McKellar and Val reprised their super fun “Beauty and the Beast” quickstep that brought back all the routine’s familiar players, including Lumiere, that big bottle of champagne, and the chandelier, and the “Wonder Years” star looked just as polished as those dancing plates.
Crowd favorite and adolescent swoon inducer Cody Simpson eschewed the ballroom dance at the start of his hit single “Surfboard,” and then Witney Carson slinked by to whisk him off for a dance interlude before draping herself suggestively while he finished out his song.
Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White danced together! “We took away their ice and gave them some minor smoke inhalation,” Tom observed. Why in the name of all things glittery and good did we only get a small slice of this marvel? I would much rather have seen the whole routine than, say, the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” team dance.
Charlie came back with pro partner Sharna Burgess to reprise their slap-happy “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” routine. And the routine was a hoot and a half, even though Meryl’s ice dancing partner laid waste to Sharna’s umbrella, prompting Tom to call him the “cane killer.”
But props to Charlie for holding on to his cane and performing like the champ that he is. And props to all for a season well done.
What do you think, ballroom fans? Did the right couple win? Why couldn’t we see Charlie and Meryl’s full dance? Don’t you wish we could see a dress rehearsal for once? Tom Bergeron on a [expletive] tear! Who can we talk to about making “The Blushin’ Russian” TV series happen?Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times