‘DWTS’ Finale: And the Winner Is….



Dancing with the Stars” began its 13th season finale on Tuesday night with this writer sure that war hero and soap actor J.R. Martinez had done more than enough to take home the mirror ball trophy. J.R. and his partner Karina Smirnoff ended the Monday night show with a flashy hip hop freestyle routine that blew away fellow competitors Rob Kardashian and especially, Ricki Lake. While some backstage reporters thought dark horse Rob, who had received the highest cumulative Monday score of 57, would win, I felt J.R. had kept the emotional momentum all season with his heart-rending life story. And although J.R.’s freestyle wasn’t my favorite dance he had done, it was the most exciting and seemed to put the two other finalists in the shade.

There was so much to see in the two-hour season finale! Here was what went down on Tuesday night:

The show started with a setup of how the three contestants got there, in a strange cinema verite style—did they hire a USC film student? “Only one will be crowned champion,” host Tom Bergeron said in a disembodied voiceover. Then we’re treated to one of the show-opening pro dances. There was Anna and Peta and Tony and Lacey and I don’t know who else but the producers have really pulled out all the stops. Then they started the parade of ALL the season 13 contestants in the order in which they were eliminated—remember Meta World Peace, aka Ron Artest? Finally, we saw our three favorite finalists at the end of this parade of nations.

Then they cut to footage from last night with Ricki and Derek Hough. She was saying sorry to Derek after the first dance and vowed to have the best time of her life during the second. Backstage, Ricki and Derek said I love you to each other. Cut to another final couple–Cheryl Burke said something to her partner Rob, who just walked away from her (I sensed a producer’s unseen hand in this telling Rob to do something funny). “You’re going to lift my ass in the air and spin like nobody’s business,” she reminded Rob before their freestyle, which DID end with the mentioned ass spinning! Backstage, we saw a very funny moment with Derek saying in astonishment to Ricki about Rob, “HE could win this thing.” It was time to catch up with our third couple–backstage, J.R. said he was going to get Karina the trophy but the judges dissed their first dance and the judges were saying off-camera that it was a mess and Carrie Ann Inaba said she felt so bad for J.R. Karina, staying focused, (she really wanted this thing!) told her star to concentrate on the next number. “I will always step up for you,” a thrilled JR told Karina after ending their hip hop routine, which got that perfect 30 last night.

Here came the time-wasting musical interlude, Lady Antebellum singing their new single, “Dancing Away with My Heart.” The pros danced like angels in front of them with the guys showing their pecs. The Lady Antebellum band members seemed to enjoy the show!

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Ricki and Derek (tango)

Back from commercials with a new dance round which would determine which two couples would face off in this finale. Ricki and Derek must pick their fave dance of the season to perform again. They chose the Psycho tango (going out on a limb!). Up close and personal, Derek recalled she wore the same rehearsal hat the very first time he met her. Ricki said it was time for their hard work to pay off. So, they started their tango, the very best dance of this entire season, in this journalist’s opinion. Wow, the Bernard Herrmann music carried me along that Alfred Hitchcock highway again with the doomed Marion Crane…and Ricki and Derk showed as much flair as when they got a 29 for this dance the last time. Good work, ‘DWTS’ production team—we could see all those creepy shadows on the dance floor and it ended, again, with Derek stabbing Ricki behind the shadow screen. I’m a film noir fan and could watch this dance again 30 more times! One of the most dramatic, best dances of any season, judge Len Goodman opined. “It was a grand cinematic extravaganza,” Bruno Tonioli gushed. Carrie Ann Inaba said it was passionate and beyond perfection this second time.

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: Foxtrot

Time for this couple to pick their favorite dance–Cheryl loved their “Addams Family” tango but Rob pulled for the foxtrot. Cheryl caved in because that was the dance Rob had dedicated to his late dad, the lawyer Robert Kardashian. “I’m so proud of you,” Cheryl said as she hugged Rob, who really looked like he had become her younger brother. “I’m the final winner,” Rob predicted in rehearsal—whoa! A lot of Kardashian Konfidence! The couple did their “Fly Me to the Moon” foxtrot and Rob looked smooth and cute but the footwork wasn’t as complicated as Ricki and Derek’s and it was frankly a little lame after Psycho. Traditional or tepid? You be the judge on this one. Rob also had a flub during the dance, not too polished on the final week. Kardashians were clapping in the audience again and mamma Kris was crying—it was the same all season so why even show this anymore? Bruno said he had improved beyond everyone’s expectations. Carrie Ann was glad Rob had picked this number and pointed out he slipped in the dance. Len commented that the little slip didn’t mean anything and the other two judges shouldn’t have mentioned it (hey, Len, it IS the finale. We wanted to see some polish from our terrific three!).

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: jive

JR’s favorite dance of the season was their jive but they would have to take things out due to judges’ criticism the first time they had done it. JR wanted to make sure he got a better score this time and he couldn’t believe it was their last rehearsal. Emotional moment for JR and Karina, as it also had been for the other two pairs. Okay, on to their newsies-style jive—it started with that cool black and white footage to start and then went into JR’s jump off the stage, where he landed with a painful thump, in my opinion. He has said his ankle is fine but the war veteran still looked hobbled to me. Still, he seemed joyful, constantly smiling and he ended the dance by delivering the newspaper to Bruno. Carrie Ann said he had a rough time throughout the dance but he was a catalyst for joy. And she missed the lift. Len gave credit to the DWTS band and singers and said JR had a sparkling personality. (Does this mean JR’s dance was a flop? That was how it came out). Bruno called it energetic, fast-paced fun!

Then judges decided on the round three dance scores–Rob got 26 which was only good for third place, JR and Karina got 28 for second place and the winners were Ricki and Derek with 30 points for their Psycho tango, natch.

Time for a little segment making fun of the judges with what looked like outtakes from the entire season. “I should have given them an 8!” Carrie Ann shouted. Len teased her and she hit him with a paddle. Len told Tom Bergeron to get out of his shot. There should have been more to show that was candid; this was time-wasting with a capital T.

Warning… Spoilers!!

Now the final three stood waiting for judgment day. We would found out who was going to finish in third place. Red lights everywhere and—Ricki and Derek were in third! Ricki said she’d loved every minute of it and she was a middle-aged mom who hoped she’d made everyone proud. Everyone in the ballroom gave her a standing O—and I was thinking, how could she go home after that incredible tango? Then Ricki viewed her “DWTS” journey, all the highs and lows, including the moment when she had said she wanted to quit, memba that? After all the teary eyes and tributes and reminiscences, Derek spun Ricki around the dance floor on her back so they wouldn’t have to clean the ballroom at the end of the night, I guess.

Back to the show after commercials and Rob and J.R. were going to go head-to-head now in an all-male final battle. They stand dramatically on white platforms like gladiators. “Ten weeks of blood, sweat, and tears,” Len said. Bruno said J.R. was the fighter. Carrie Ann said he had tons of charm (and a busted ankle she didn’t mention). Bruno said Rob put a smile on everyone’s face and they exploited his shaking butt again. We needed more clichés! Brooke Burke-Charvet said Shake Your Bon Bon [spell check?] by Ricki Martin would be the song both couples would dance to. They would perform instant sambas and it was determined that Rob would dance second after they drew numbers out of a faux mirror ball.

Cut to—another retrospective of the season, this time showing Chaz Bono whining to his partner during rehearsal and then, Meta World Peace being eliminated first. Thanks for the memories but I would rather see fresh material with all the DWTS rejects in the house! My prayers were answered when the ex-contestants hit the floor. Meta and partner Peta proved viewers were right to send them packing asap as Meta again looked like a basketball player and not a dancer. George Clooney’s ex-galpal Elisabetta Canalis also did her awkward, stiff best – with her partner and Maks Chmerkovskiy’s brother, Val, trying to manage her cockeyed arm movements.

On week three, Kristin Cavalleri and Mark Ballas bit the dust and they came out tonight and did a fab swing dance that showed what COULD have been for the reality show beauty. She was a really skilled dancer—wha happened? We next were asked to re-live Chynna Phillips’ painful brain freeze during her “Mission Impossible” dance with pro Tony Dovolani. Now it was time for redemption—Chynna was going to try to get through the dance on the finale. No pressure or anything! Chynna came out in her sexy red dress and like Kristin, seemed like she could have been a serious contender. That prop gun on her very skinny thigh made me nervous, though. Triumph for Chynna as she did the dance flawlessly and had really created a fun, sexy secret agent character.

There was a preview going into commercial that—look who was back! Yep, season 13 favorite Carson Kressley, who never really left, was going to dance! Can’t wait for that one.

The final two were preparing for their instant samba and both looked sweaty and sounded breathless. Back to the floor and Carson and partner Anna were doing a gay-themed Madonna Vogue video parody with Val as his partner. Sorry, Ricki, I must take back my earlier rave—THIS is the best dance of the season! Yes, Carson did all the famous Vogue Madonna hand movements and he kept falling into Val’s arms in a mock swoon. The press room exploded in laughter; it was one of the biggest reactions to anything all season. Note to producers—can Carson just get his own ABC show? How about a brand new reality show with Carson doing whatever it is he wants to do? This guy is comic gold and more than ready for the move from cable to network.

Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus then re-did their fun “Spamalot” dance. Hard to follow Carson’s crazy magic but the reporters had a lot of affection for Nancy all season and she performed it well.

Backstage with Brooke interviewing Cheryl and Rob and I looked at my watch—woman, just leave them alone so they can practice their instant dance!

Then to the floor again with Chaz and Lacey Schwimmer and her dance pro father, Buddy, doing a number. Buddy, whom we saw coaching Chaz earlier this season, did a side-by-side boogie with the transgender star. It was cute and Bruno didn’t even have the chance to call him an Ewok. Tom mentioned Chaz has been at “DWTS” ever since he was eliminated to support everyone else, which was true as all the reporters have commented on Chaz haunting the place.

David Arquette and Kym Johnson were next to make their comeback and the actor was happy to be back in rehearsal. He will be dancing to have fun with his partner and the Troupe “DWTS” kids. And it was that bouncy ‘50s Grease number we all enjoyed before—yay. It created a lot of warm feelings in the press room. And David was shown stealing the mirror ball trophy in the dark of the ballroom floor but don’t worry, the prankster put it back.

Lady Antebellum time-filled the stage again, performing their hit “Need You Now” and my friend in the press room thought it was high time for a cigarette break.

Another segment started called Story of the Season which was just a way of packaging more clips from the past ten weeks. What’s new here?

Uh oh, they were back—the troublesome couple Hope and Maks, who did their “Singin’ in the Rain” dance, which in my opinion had been their best. Hope hit a floor light with her foot, which looked dangerous but she completed the number well and the judges stood up and graciously applauded for them (even though the couple had rejected their sensible critiques all season).

Finally, the last two couples would be dancing their instant sambas and J.R. looked strong and his body was lean and toned in the fitted shirt, pants, and suspenders—this really was a sexy look for him. He didn’t do anything too difficult, though. Then Rob and Cheryl took over and they did a great job, too, with Cheryl showing a lot of sass in a hip swiveling moment in front of her partner. These dances were short and back to the judges again with Len saying the samba was hard and he rose to clap for them. Bruno said JR looked like he was at a party in his dance and Rob had really learned how to use his bon bon (he couldn’t resist). Carrie Ann said both of them were winners…but now, they’re not. I was more than ready to see who was going to stroke the mirror ball. But Tom went into the audience instead where that Carson again was sitting next to Chynna and hamming it up.

Double Warning… Spoilers!!!

The judges gave J.R. a perfect 30 for his last dance while Rob came away with 30 as well. Gee, couldn’t they make up their minds between these two?

So now it was finally TIME for the winner to be announced! My heart was pounding. Tom announced the champion was JR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The press room erupted in cheers and my “DWTS” prediction HAD come true for first, second and first for Xfinitytv.! Woo hoo! JR thanked everyone who voted for them for ten weeks and he hugged Karina.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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