Credit: Adam Larkey/ABC

Image Credit: Adam Larkey/ABCThough many thought (or worried) that rumors of a voting conspiracy would prove true and viewers would vote for Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol, talent ultimately triumphed and Jennifer Grey became the season 11 winner of Dancing with the Stars. Speaking with the press after the two-hour finale with a cold compress tied to her back, Grey talked about how she and partner Derek Hough “never thought of winning” and tried instead to focus on creating memorable dances.

“We collaborated so much and I think that this guy is so talented in terms of concept and execution and attention to detail,” Grey said. “He wants to make memorable dances, which is what he told me when I met him. That’s why I was so completely thrilled and blessed to get him as a partner. He’s the real deal. He gets the big picture.”

At the start of the show, Grey told host Tom Bergeron that she ruptured a disc during Monday’s performances but – as has been the case throughout the season – she was able to continue because doctors “put me back together.” “I think it might have been one of those flips or kicks [that caused the rupture],” Grey said. “When you dance with a 25 year old, it’s a risk you take.”

But it was a risk worth taking because Grey ended up dancing with the winningest professional on the show. Tuesday’s win with Grey meant that Hough would take home his third mirror ball trophy! (Another record was broken on Tuesday: Bergeron said the show received an unprecedented number of votes from the viewing public). But Hough didn’t do much talking after the show because Grey was too busy recapping all that Stars had given her. “The absolute destination for me was the journey in the true sense of the word,” said the 50-year-old actress. “This journey was the gift. Saying yes was the gift. Getting Derek as a partner was a huge gift.”

Since it was Grey and not Palin who ended up winning, the other dancers weren’t in much of a mood to discuss the accusations of voter tampering that plagued the latter half of the show. “This show has everything under control and I think it was just people’s rumors that were sparking,” says pro Lacey Schwimmer, who together with Kyle Massey, finished the season in second place. “We got here, Bristol got here, and Jennifer got here all on fair terms. People just need to realize that.”

Executive producer Conrad Green certainly thought the best person won. “I think Jennifer was the judges favorite throughout, and she’s probably been the viewers’ favorite throughout. She is a brilliant champion,” he told EW. “I’m so proud of Bristol for getting where she did. I think she really proved her point and I’m really happy with how things turned out. I think it feels right.

“This was definitely our most surprising season,” he continued. “There were so many twists and turns. It was definitely unpredictable, and the audience got so into it. But if you look at the spirit of the final three couples, they were really thrilled for each other.”

Indeed. Schwimmer and Massey weren’t cheering about how they beat Palin, nor were they licking their wounds for trailing Grey and Hough. “We all made it to the finals, which is somethig to be celebrated, not to feel bad about or to feel angry about,” Schwimmer told reporters. “It’s such a cool thing to make it to this point of the competition.” And Massey’s response? “I’m just so hungry.”

As for Palin, who used the season finale to talk about how her win would give a “big middle finger to all the people out there who hate my mom and hate me,” the teen activist said she “decided there’s nothing I’m going to regret if I just go out there and do my best.” When asked if it was her intention to come out strong in the finale and talk about flipping America the bird, Palin only said, “my plan was to go out there and have fun and that’s what I did.”

Palin did admit the fascination over her survival on the show has boosted ratings, but she and partner Mark Ballas were in no mood to talk about her notoriety. “I don’t know why we are still talking about controversy and negativity,” he said. “Jennifer and Derek won tonight, it’s to be celebrated. Let’s live in the now, not with things that are going to give us a heart attack.”

Basking in her win, Grey said it was great to be in a movie like Dirty Dancing that brought so many people joy – only to follow that up with being part of a TV show “that means so much to people.” She can’t say what she’ll do next but she does know where’s she storing the mirror ball trophy.

“The kid’s room!” she exclaimed.

Episode Recaps

Dancing With the Stars
  • TV Show
  • 30
  • ABC