It all came down to Monday night as the final three “Dancing with the Stars” competitors Donald Driver, Katherine Jenkins, and William Levy vied for the coveted mirror ball trophy. And afterward, football star Donald came out with both guns blazing, declaring that his cowboy-inspired freestyle had won the night – and the season.
Donald said howdy, partner, to Peta Murgatroyd in a country/hip hop freestyle that featured line dancing moves blended with incredible lifts and spins and brought the ballroom house down; it earned a perfect score of 30. He also received a 29 for their Argentine tango for a total score of 59. Although Katherine and partner Mark Ballas were on the top of the leader board with perfect scores for both their dances, Donald and Peta’s freestyle ended the show with a bang — and got the biggest reaction of the night.
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The football player was confident he’d done enough to win. At the end of the dance, he later told reporters, “I started screaming, ‘give us the ball!’ Give us the mirror ball. It’s over.
“Millions of fans at home was watching that going, they’ve got to be the craziest couple in the world but they nailed the freestyle. If the freestyle wins it, it should be our mirror ball.”
Donald said of Peta, “When we win the mirror ball, she deserves the mirror ball more than anybody else on the show because week in and week out, she’s challenged me. I think I’ve reached everyone’s expectations but I couldn’t do it without Peta.
“She’s beyond crazy. She told me, this week, she was going to throw everything at me and we was going to nail it but she had some lifts in there that I was like, shaking my head, like, maybe not, maybe so. But at the end of the day, we had to leave it all out there on the floor and tonight, we did. Once the energy level is there, you just block it out and have fun. It was amazing.”
Peta revealed that her friend (and last season’s DWTS champ) Karina Smirnoff found the song “I Play Chicken with a Train” for the country number, which was sung live by Cowboy Troy. “She was like, this would be perfect and we listened to it. I knew I wanted to do something country but with a bit of hip hop and she found it so I was like, oh my God.”
Donald finally received a score of 10 from Judge Len Goodman, who had kept the magic paddle mark from him all season. “Len finally gave me the 10 but I knew it was going to take something like this to get it. He may critique me on the football field now. I’m okay with it!”
The couple seemed to benefit by performing last, and Peta smiled, “it’s a great position to be in. I think they strategically put us there because they knew it was going to be a hit and I think we came out and were on another level.” The pro admitted she was “infuriated” when Len marked down their first dance, the tango. “I came out and I was like, ‘this is it, buddy. Pull it together now.’ ”
Meanwhile, Katherine, who in the past two weeks has survived a wardrobe malfunction and a back spasm injury, had no ballroom bobbles on Monday. She and devoted partner Mark garnered perfect scores for both their judges’ choice Paso Doble and their freestyle, for 60 out of 60 points.
About their 1920s-inspired swing freestyle, Katherine said, “obviously it’s the dance that everybody looks forward to so you do feel the pressure with that.”
However, Mark revealed they’d worked 12 to 13 hour days on both the dances this week. She said, “He pushed me to the absolute limit. There was definitely moments where I thought, I’m not sure that I can do this. But all the hard work paid off.”
Katherine, who is a classical singer, began their freestyle by crooning “Sing, Sing, Sing” but said “it wasn’t my choice. He chose.” Mark explained, “I wanted to tell the story of an authentic 1920s/30s jazz club. I was like, what if she’s the singer in the band and I’m just a regular dude coming to check out the club and then I think she’s cute and she thinks I’m cute and we start dancing this awesome Charleston lindy hop and that’s what went down! She was flawless tonight.”
According to Katherine, her biggest problem was dancing in the white saddle shoes. “I’m a girl that loves the heels. When I saw them I was like,” she scrunched up her nose. “[But] for that kind of thing, you absolutely have to have a flat shoe.”
Katherine said her back spasm, suffered at the end of her dance last week, wasn’t a factor. “It was fine. I saw the doctor. It was a spasm and it went. We didn’t have time to think about it this week. It was just moving on. His back is bothering him more now from lifting me up all week.”
Two-time mirror ball champ Mark said he took a Zen approach to the day, doing visualizations of the ocean in his head. And his dad, Corky, who has competed with Cloris Leachman and Florence Henderson, brought him his favorite Subway M & M cookie.
William, whose fierce fan posse hasn’t failed him all season, brought sexy back to the ballroom and scored a cumulative 59 with partner Cheryl Burke. Judges rewarded their first dance, the cha cha, with a 30, but Len Goodman marked them down one point for excessive butt shaking in their Latin-style freestyle for a 29. Backstage, William sputtered at the criticism, “It’s a freestyle. We were supposed to do something free! It was not supposed to be something that Len was looking for.” The telenovela hunk philosophized to reporters that it was about “leaving all we had on the dance floor and I think we did that.”
Cheryl, a two-time DWTS winner, said, “it’s so close and the three finalists are really, truly amazing. Everyone brings something different. Any other season, one of these finalists would have been winners easily.”
The longtime dancer, who won with Drew Lachey in Season 2 with a country-themed freestyle, was asked if Donald’s dance might be an homage. “I take it as a compliment,” she smiled.
William told xfinityTV the final dances took their toll. “Everything hurts. I’m feeling my age right now,” the 31-year-old said. But during the performances, “I wasn’t thinking about anything. I was just in the moment, enjoying the moment.”
The stars must perform once more tomorrow in the traditional third dance on mirror ball night. The night will be full of fun as all the original competitors will be back to see who gets crowned season 14 champion. Tune in tonight at 9/8c on ABC!