A longtime superfan wins season 14; Gladys Knight brings the ballroom to tears. It's the laughter we'll remember!
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Superbowl? Try SuperBALL! NFL star Donald Driver and his partner, practically nude rubber band Peta Murgatroyd, are Dancing With the Stars‘ season 14 champions! The rootin’ tootin’ fig newton (according to Len Goodman) (?!) peaked at the last minute in Monday’s finals and somehow pulled off a win.

Neither of them could believe the announcement, and Quickie had to stop, drop, and roll away to collect himself. I loved seeing Peta and Donald’s wife Betina, spokeswoman for sparkly cheeseheads and now officially the Michelle Obama of the ballroom, embrace in a perfectly timed hug-shimmy while screaming together in delight. Just get that overwhelmed baby girl out of the frame and we’ve got ourselves a ballroom moment!

I think it’s safe to say that the mascot of season 14 — and possibly 2012 overall — is a wedge of cheese wearing a cowboy hat. Sorry, Wenlock and Mandeville. You should have played chicken with the train!

Donald and Peta got a lil’ coveted MBT foreshadowing action during the season’s final Lencore.

The end to season 14 was deliciously satisfying — not only because my favorite “mirrorballs on giant golf tees” were back in action for the FINALE (or “NALE” as we consistently saw in the chopped-off version) — but because the final two couples really, really wanted to win. The tension that had mounted in Tom’s final pregnant pause was almost too much to handle, which was so thrilling to me. These people have worked long and hard — they should be swept up in the mythology of the miracle ball. It’s no joke! I mean, of course it’s a joke — the long-running, overarching joke of the series — but you know what I mean. The more desperate the contestants are to win, the more rewarding this twice-yearly fever dream is for us.

The best part? Donald Driver is a total Dancing With the Stars superfan. He’s one of us! Donald’s win was like an injection of liquid sparkle into my bloodstream — hopefully enough to last through the summer. Hmm. I didn’t mean to make this about drugs but there you go. This guy is never going to leave the ballroom and I love it.

NEXT: Gladys Knight makes everyone cry But the final payoff would have been nothing — nothing! — without a woman, nay, an empress of soul to carry us into that final segment with an achingly gorgeous cover of “The Way We Were.” Donald, William Levy, and Katherine Jenkins all had their backs turned to the season-in-review montage — “scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind” — and it’s just as well because everyone who was watching it was weeping big-time. Maria was crying! Melissa was crying! I was a mess! Baby Levy was half-awake!

The final three’s faces TRANSFORMED INTO MIRRORBALLS one by one. Just beautiful.

By the end of the song — and it’s pretty mind-blowing that the person perched atop a deadly smoke machine cloud, setting the story of the DWTS season to music was Gladys freaking Knight — I believe only Cheryl’s eyes were dry, and I didn’t even get a great look. Mark’s chin quivered, possibly due to the fire down below.

Speaking of which, in the midst of so much musical wonderment and general loveliness, let’s not forget the single greatest element of the season 14 finale: Tom Bergeron‘s needlessly vicious vendetta against Mark Ballas’ bright orange jacket. Absurd! All of it! We’ll miss Tom most of all.

Kelly Clarkson! The original American Idol (and my favorite ever by far) looked super hot in a slinky “muted mirrorball” silver dress. She can get away with sub-par sparkle because she’s a total rock star. Kelly is always refreshing on a live show — no melodrama or affectation, just huge vocals and a whole lotta soul. Tristan/Anna and Tony/Kym helped set a sultry black tone for Kelly’s new single “Dark Side,” then suddenly she shifted keys into “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” and the entire ballroom came alive. Tony and Kym were hidden gems, fist-pumping with the plebes in the liiiiiiiiiiiiiive audience. The judges even got into it thanks to the cult-like Troupe. Think you’ve had the last laugh? No! You’re going to do the same basic dance move as us!

I’ll be recapping Thursday’s series premiere of Duets. Obligatory plug.

Overall, the finale was 100 percent good vibes and great visuals — the same reasons we tune in every week, but amplified with gaggles of hot bods instead of mere pairs, and holiday streamers in full force instead of mere applause. Just when I thought “William Levy is never going to escape the confines of that pink shirt,” the six finalists had changed outfits and he was in a yellow shirt that puffed out to create the illusion of boobs when he made even the slightest movement. An odd choice, but a stimulating one nonetheless.

NEXT: Eye candy Whereas at the top of the show, the six remaining sparkaliens had been perfectly coordinated with Brooke and Tom in fuchsia and black eveningwear, pretty soon they were a dazzling gem heap of strawberry, lemon, and orange Starburst candies awaiting their fate (to be devoured by a hungry DANCMSTR). So Brooke, suddenly a Mixed Berries and Creme chew in this analogy, had to horn in awkwardly on the original flavor pack as they attempted to rehearse their final dances. Perhaps the analogy is falling apart.

Of course, the top three couples all earned perfect 30s for their final-round routines. Katherine’s costume, complete with orange-toed white t-strap heels, might have been the winner here if Donald had not ended up REMOVING HIS SHIRT within the first few seconds of their cha cha. This move might have seemed cheap and tawdry and ultimately sad had he not eventually become the winner. But who cares? He did win! We all won, really. It was difficult to look away from that magnificent tattooed torso of his — something I never expected to say considering his partner is Peta. They were both “Beggin'” for it.

I’d spent the whole season assuming (never do that; you know what happens) that William Levy — that long, tall mojito cubano — would win based simply on uber-hotness and being a nice guy. You could tell that both Katherine and Donald were shocked when William ended up in third place. Katherine Jenkins may have been the most technically proficient dancer throughout the season, but what Donald did in the final week was so exciting that either of them would have been a worthy winner. Katherine could not have been sweeter as she thanked Mark, the show, and Ameriker for welcoming her so openly and congratulated “Done-ald” on his mirrorball miracle.

I loved the celebrity endorsements of the final three — namely Donald’s kids Christian and Christina (the Mini Drivers), zesty fried pork bite Christopher Levy and Emmitt Smith for William (“Don’t let that Packer take you down”), and Benedict Cumberbatch and Donny Osmond for Katherine. “If you win [the mirrorball], believe me, it’s worth it,” Donny promised her. That’s true — Donny Osmond would be nowhere today without Dancing With the Stars. Long live the “Miracle Ball”!

NEXT: It’s raining pros. Hallelujah! A-men. Yikes, this is getting long and the hour is late. The whole cast returned for the finale, partly because they were under contract but mostly because they just had to DANCE or, in Sherri Shepherd‘s case, feast. What a meal for her! It was raining choice cuts of ballroom beef all over the View cohost as she got flanked by Val, Maks, Tony, Henry, Sasha, and Kiki, and I do hope that sounds as dirty as possible. (Kiki! That’s his name!) Melissa Gilbert returned to reprise her role as mincemeat in a fresh-baked sandwich from the Chmerkovksiy Buns Co. This time both brothers went in for the kill on her ass instead of the other way around. Bum deal.

Gavin DeGraw has lost that loving feeling, and by that I mean his Dancing With the Stars-sanctioned spray tan. His current skin tone more closely matched the clean parts of his white shirt instead of its dirty I-just-rowed-up-to-this-island splotches. “WITCH! WITCH!” bellowed the all-knowing Oz-like voice at Planet Mirrorballus’ fiery core. Not to worry; it was just Gavin. He and Jaleel White attempted to pull off the inverse of Sherri’s routine — a Shaft flanked by four women — with some difficulty. Jaleel seemed furious that he’d messed up. Can you dig it?

“No judges’ scores tonight!” Brooke cheerfully pointed out.

Did anyone think the semi-transparent strip of nude fabric covering the deepest, darkest, most secretive area of Brooke’s cleavage might have drawn more attention to her chest than if she’d just let the freak flags fly? I’ll be pondering this for at least an hour, if not until September.

Agh! Must we really part ways until September?

The standouts of the returning cast were Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower, who delivered on the hip-hop/contemporary freestyle that could have been. This was fabulous! Chelsie is even more endearing than usual when she’s wearing high-top sneakers. That’s quite a… feat. This looked like a straight-up So You Think You Can Dance routine, which is a huge compliment to Roshon.

Maria Menounos and Derek re-danced their velvet-curtained Argentine tango — still beautiful, but less of a comeback moment as we’d just seen it last week. Finally, Martina Navratilova decided to forego the horrific tennis-net “shirt” of her memorable elimination costume and go with simple black fringe for her respectable exhibition with Tony, and Jack Wagner attempted to start a fire by vigorously feeling up his own chest and abs while pelvic-thrusting (for oxygen?). Hey, at least he understands the spirit of the show! I would not turn an open-shirted former soap star and Russian firecracker swathed in a giant curlicue Christmas ribbon away from a party. All they want to do is dance, dance after all.

Anyone else need a drink?

William Levy and the smoldering staff at Our Watering Hole, the Mirrorbar, encourage you to take a load off from your stifling work day and appraise EW.com’s Hidden Gems of the season 14 finals!

Are you as thrilled with the season 14 outcome as I am? Discuss!

And thanks, DANCMSTRs, for tuning into my crazy ballroom-based narrative week after week. Can you believe I’ve been recapping this alternate universe since season 2? Imagine all the other, more productive things I could have done with my life by now. Go ahead, because I refuse to do it!

‘Til season 15, y’all — it’s been surreal.


Fringe Fairy


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