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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Donald Driver wins the Mirror Ball

May 22, 2012 | 11:12 pm

"Dancing With the Stars"
Talk about peaking at the right moment. After 10 weeks, 16 dances and “countless sore muscles,” “Dancing With the Stars” Season 14 came down to three finalists. Who would walk off with the coveted Mirror Ball trophy and a lifetime's worth of sparkle? Would it be swagger-ready sports hero Donald Driver? Classical singer and technical marvel Katherine Jenkins? Or heartthrob with magical buttocks William Levy? Any one of these finalists had the ability and the popularity to walk away with the title.

After three final dances, including one prepared just 24 hours before, were added to the judges’ scores and viewer votes, the winners and new champions of DWTS were:

Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd!

It couldn’t have happened to a more worthy competitor. While fellow finalists Jenkins and Mark Ballas set the bar for the season, Donald fought against rampant underscoring and some weeks in jeopardy and steadily made his way up the ranks. Donald, as we all know, has been a “DWTS” fan from the Evander Holyfield days all the way back in Season 1. He has watched every show, analyzed footage and maintained the heart of a champ. Now he has the Mirror Ball to prove it. And by the way he screamed with delight and rolled around on the floor, you could tell how much he’d wanted this ultimate prize. And now he has it all: The Super Bowl trophy. The Mirror Ball. Kids that are as cute as buttons. And that amazingly supportive and loving wife.

And congratulations to first-time champ Peta. Remember last season, when she and Metta World Peace were the first to be eliminated? Maybe now she can afford some more fabric for her outfits! “A blooming good journey” indeed.

"Dancing With the Stars"It was a fantastic end to a fantastic season. Len likened this “Battle for the Ball” to other epic battles throughout history: Gettysburg. Bunker Hill. The Alamo. There was one final dance for the judges to score during this results program, but it was more like a goodbye salute to three worthy opponents. And they all received perfect 30s, so it didn’t affect the standings too much.

Third-place finishers William Levy and Cheryl Burke went up first, and their training session was bittersweet (or as William said, “sweet and sour.”) Season 3 champ Emmitt Smith offered them words of support, as did William’s adorable son. And Cheryl made sure to bring William’s entire arsenal to his final salsa performance. White pants? Check. Bare chest? Check. Moving booty? Check. It was like he and Cheryl were having a celebratory party in canary yellow, and man, it was a hoot to watch. “If salsa and rhythm were in the Olympics, you’d get a gold medal,” said Len. “When it comes down to hot, saucy, sexy, spicy salsa, hips don’t lie!” Bruno said. “You have true star quality,” said Carrie Ann admiringly.

Katherine also got emotional during rehearsals. “It’s just been brilliant,” she said of her “DWTS” stint. “Jiving makes me really happy.” Watching Katherine jive makes me really happy. “Splish, Splash,” look at those great clean kicks and flicks. She looked so calm and collected. Brit Jane Seymour is on her side. So are Sherlock/Star Trekker Benedict Cumberbatch and Season 9 winner Donny Osmond. Bruno called Katherine “one of the most wonderful competitors. A truly, truly, stunning stunning dancer.” Carrie Ann thanked Katherine and Mark for setting the bar so high for the season. “That was a dazzler,” she said. Len called Katherine “the complete package.”

It was so sweet to see Donald take one last look at the rehearsal room before shutting its door forever. And I loved the personality he and Peta infused into their cha cha, taking off his shirt like a champ and proffering it to Carrie Ann oh so tenderly. “You are such a fierce competitor,” Carrie Ann said. “I can see your love of the show, and you are determined to win.... I think you are the one to beat.” Len thought Donald was, of all the footballers to pass through the “DWTS” universe, “the best we’ve had.” Bruno called this routine “another massive hit for Donald the Magnificent.... You peaked at the right time.” “Bring that Mirror Ball trophy back to Titletown, U.S.A.!” demanded fellow Green Bay Packer Clay Matthew. And so he did.

We should have known Donald and Peta were in a good position to win when their “rootin tootin Fig Newton” freestyle was chosen as the encore performance. This time, the ballroom featured great big graphics of cheese wedges with cowboy hats flanking Cowboy Troy as he sang on about trains and chickens. “Gets better with age,” Tom remarked. Kind of like sparkly cheese hats.

And as is “DWTS” tradition, all the other Season 14 contestants were trotted out for one last go in the ballroom.

"Dancing With the Stars"Sherri Shepherd returned to her “little glittery heaven” surrounded by the Chmerkovskiys, Tony and the male members of the Troupe for a showstopping cha cha to “It’s Raining Men.” And she looked like a kid in a candy store in this “all-you-can-eat-men” fest. She looked the happiest, however, when she was being carried like a martyr by the guys and light drops of rain were projected onto the floor. And then she ended the routine cuddling Tony and Val on each breast.

Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani and Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya came back on the show to perform new routines. Martina was sweet, and that slinky black dress helped erase that awful tennis netting she was eliminated in all those weeks earlier. Jack Wagner came on stage with guns and chest ablazing and danced as if he had never been eliminated. 

Gavin DeGraw, however, lazed through his island-themed samba (“shamba”) routine with Karina Smirnoff, despite the enhanced presence of Troupe members Sharna, Emma, Oksana and what Tom called “my attorney” (a blow-up shark). Not only did the singer/songwriter sport a fair amount of castaway scruff under his Panama hat, but he moved as if he had drunk one too many mai tais and was one stumble away from passing out on a hammock. 

Jaleel White used the finale to fulfill his wish of performing the paso doble to the theme song from “Shaft.” And “the Richard Roundtree of ballroom” started the routine off in a steel cage of emotion, while pro partner Kym Johnson was being tossed around by members of the Troupe on the stage. Kym clearly lost the coin toss as to who got to wear all the fabric in their routine: Jaleel was fully clothed in a turtleneck and floor-length leather duster, whereas Kym wore next to nothing except what was absolutely essential to pass for a family show. And then they botched a lift.

Melissa Gilbert and the dancing Chmerkovskiys sandwich made a return appearance for Half-Pint’s “Hard to Handle” trio dance, easily her best routine. Though the Chmerkovskiys gave her the bum end of the deal this time around and manhandled her. Maria Menounos and Derek Hough came back to perform their perfect scoring tango from Week 9.

National treasure and FODWTS Kelly Clarkson made a return appearance to sing a medley of her new single “Dark Side,” which segued into her hit “Stronger.” Tristan and Anna and Tony and Kym came out to perform during “Dark Side,” and the Troupe joined them for an all-out “Stronger” party. Love Kelly, and how she gamely did a chest pump dance move going into commercial break, mouthed “Oh. My. God. Gladys Knight!” while standing next to the Empress of Soul, and seemed genuinely enthralled by the quality of dancers before her. And she wore a “DWTS”-appropriate sparkly dress to boot.

Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower performed the freestyle that they never got to when they were eliminated in the quarterfinals -- one that Chelsie called a little hip hop, a little cha cha and a lot of fun. And lo and behold, it was. Full of energy and high tops and MJ moves and all the promise of youth.

"Dancing With the Stars"Hello again to Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus, who brought the “Best of My Love” to the floor with the shoulder shimmies and the hip shakes. “My favorite part of the dress rehearsal is hearing you sing again,” said Tom.

And not to take anything away from Donald Driver, but my hands-down favorite part of the results show was hearing Gladys sing. Not a dry eye was in the house after she had her way with the ballroom. The Empress of Soul pretty much brought the house down with her emotion-packed rendition of “The Way We Were,” accompanied by slide-show footage of the three finalists. Many a tear was wiped away — in the studio audience, on the stage and at home — during this pitch-perfect tribute, both to the finalists and to the season itself. It was a lovely reminder that even seemingly low-wattage seasons can have the most heart. “That’s how a legend takes it home,” said Tom.

And that’s how you end a season. What do you think, ballroom fans? Happy with how Season 14 turned out? Did the right contestant win? Who do you want competing in next season’s all-stars? Who else wants to go to Vegas to see the “DWTS” live show with Tristan?

— Allyssa Lee


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Photo of Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC

Photo of Brooke Burke-Charvet, Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd. Credit: Kelsey McNeal /ABC

Photo of Cheryl Burke and William Levy. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC

Photo of Gladys Knight. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC