Dancing With the Stars: The winner is ... (spoiler alert)
Rob Kardashian did as much as anybody could have done. Everyone seemed to agree that as the competition's most improved dancer he embodied what Dancing With the Stars is all about. He even beat J.R. Martinez in total judges' point, albeit by only one.
But these types of competitions are about personalities as much as skills. The narrative of the spoiled rich kid, overshadowed by his famous family, who overcomes his shyness and shows real character in his drive to the top wasn't bad as far as narratives go. But how could it possibly beat the Iraq War vet who came back from a devastating landmine injury and whose sunny personality and great dancing made everyone forget about his physical scars?
It couldn't. J.R. won the Season 13 mirror-ball trophy. Rob came second. Ricki Lake came third.
That last bit would have been inconceivable mere weeks ago, but it just goes to show you, once again, that people love success stories. We all watched Rob transform from an awkward, shy young man to a determined, funny competitor.
Ricki had a story too: single mom coming off a bad divorce, self-conscious about her weight and physically transformed, dropping pounds from the rigour of the daily rehearsals.
I think maybe she just peaked too soon.
In any event, there were no sad faces on Tuesday's finale. The whole show had a relaxed, almost loopy feel that made it fun to watch.
As far as the last bits of the competition went, Ricki, J.R. and Rob all danced favourite routines from the season, then got awarded first, second and third-place marks from the judges. Ricki and Derek Hough were tops, with 30 points for their Psycho tango; J.R. and Karina Smirnoff took 28 points for their "newsboy" jive; Rob and Cheryl Burke got 26 points for their "Fly Me to the Moon" foxtrot.
That left Ricki and Derek atop the leader board with 84 points (upon adding the scores from Monday night's dances), compared to 83 for Rob and Cheryl, and 82 for J.R. and Karina. But when viewers' votes were added in, Ricki and Derek were in third place.
A cheerful Ricki told hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke, "I've loved basically every minute of this. I felt like I had the best partner, the best teacher, the best motivator. For someone who's a middle-aged mom, I hope I made my children proud, my fiance, my family."
She made Derek proud. He called Ricki "an absolute winner. She just knocked it out of the ball park the entire season."
And then they went out with a flourish, with Derek sweeping Ricki to the floor and spinning her around. In fact, she spun so many times that if the other contestants had gathered around they could have played Spin the Bottle.
Next up, J.R. and Rob had to face off in an instant samba, danced to Ricky Martin's "Shake Your Bon-Bon." I thought Rob's had a titch more fluidity, but J.R.'s had a little more variety in the steps.
The judges weren't playing favourites. Carrie Ann Inaba said they were both winners and Len Goodman gave them both a standing ovation. And they both got perfect scores, which left Rob and Cheryl with a total of 113 points for four dances to J.R. and Karina's 112.
So it really was down to the voters, which was why the outcome was no surprise.
"My friend, you have been an inspiration since the first time you stepped on this floor," Tom told newly minted winner J.R. once he'd managed to break up his bear hug with Karina.
"First and foremost I want to thank everybody who voted for us for 10 weeks. Thank you, America, for believing in us," said J.R. And to Karina, "I'm so glad I was able to be a part of your first mirror-ball trophy."
On the other side of the stage, Rob and Cheryl were beaming. "I am definitely not sad. I won in my book," said Rob. "And in my book," added Cheryl.
She said earlier that this had been her favourite of 12 seasons "because I feel like Rob has really grown as a person, not just a dancer." She also said, "We're gonna stay friends forever." Awww.
Now that we know the particulars, here are other things that struck me about Tuesday's show:
1. I had to chuckle at Rob's concern for his predecessors in the backstage footage. When Cheryl told him she was most proud of him of all her partners, Rob replied, "You shouldn't say that. They're watching this probably."
2. I'm with Tom. I'm glad Ricki and Derek did their Psycho tango, too, for their favourite routine. It was one of the best dances of the season.
3. I'm with Carrie Ann. I missed the lift in J.R. and Karina's "newsboy" jive, which they removed because it was illegal and cost them points the first time they danced it.
4. Did I really hear Len tell Rob "you've got the best footwork of virtually any guy on this show, ever"? Hines Ward who?
5. Rob's "I love to dance" exclamation of a couple of weeks ago really caught on with everyone on the show. Asked by Brooke after the finalists had performed their favourite routines if he ever pictured himself in the finale, Rob said, "No way. I exceeded all my expectations. I even caught a newspaper from J.R." and he added, egged on by Brooke, "and I love to dance." Later, after they got their scores, Rob, J.R., Ricki, Cheryl, Karina and Derek all screamed, "We love to dance!"
6. Why was Bruno holding his head after the behind-the-scenes clips of the judges? Did he have a headache or was he mourning the hotness of his former self, as seen in his old photo?
7. Elisabetta Canalis and Metta World Peace, a.k.a. Ron Artest, were just as forgettable as I thought they'd be on the finale. And Kristin Cavallari's jive didn't impress me much. But I have to give props to Chynna Phillips for facing down her bete noir, the Mission: Impossible tango that she blanked on the week she got ousted, and performing it again. Not only did she not miss any steps, it turned out to be a good routine.
8. Who was Bruno blowing kisses to as Metta, Peta Murgatroyd, Elisabetta and Val Chmerkovskiy all gathered onstage after their brief dances?
9. Carson Kressley took the prize for most entertaining return of a former contestant in a routine that he helped stage to Madonna's "Vogue" with former partner Anna Trebunskaya, Val and several members of the troupe. This may be the closest DWTS ever gets to same-sex dancing as a swooning Carson was partnered by first Val and then the male troupe member. "I finally get to dance with a Chmerkovskiy. Check that off the bucket list," quipped Carson, who has made no secret of his crush on Val's brother Maks. Val was a good sport, dipping Carson again after the music had stopped as the crowd cheered. Asked later by Tom if he was disappointed about not dancing with the other brother, Carson answered, "Oh well, there's still the after-party. Why settle for just one?" which was my laugh-out-loud line of the night.
10. Returning contestant David Arquette tried to take the prize, literally, after the very fun quickstep that he and Kym Johnson did with members of the troupe. "Put that back! You can't just walk off with it. What are you doing?" yelled Tom after David scooped up the mirror-ball trophy. Am I the only one who thinks it was a strange coincidence it just happened to be sitting off to the side of the judges' table where David could easily grab it?
11. You could definitely tell who the favourite returnees were judging by how much attention was lavished on them. Chaz Bono got to do a rousing routine with Lacey Schwimmer and her dad Buddy to the song "Big and Chunky," then he got to chat with Tom and Brooke. Tom commended Chaz for coming to the show every week after he got voted off to cheer on the other contestants. "It's turned into a family," Chaz said.
12. You might have noticed that Maks and Hope Solo, who didn't have nice things to say about the judges her last time on the show, did NOT get invited to speak after their routine, a reprisal of their quickstep. But we did see a clip of Maks's "This is my show" comment during the recaps of past weeks.
13. The wardrobe instructions for the various male pro dancers must have read, "Shirt buttons optional." Not that I'm complaining. Okay, I'll complain a little. There wasn't enough Tristan MacManus in the show.
14. Speaking of Tristan, his old partner Nancy Grace was as abrasive as ever. What was supposed to be a joke with Tom, with Nancy pretending she was incorporating dancing into her TV crime show, sounded more like a rant, with Nancy telling Tom he'd ruined the surprise in a way that sounded more like bona fide scolding.
And that's it, another season of Dancing With the Stars come to an end. Thanks to everyone who read my recaps every week. Feel free to share your thoughts on how it turned out.
(The photo of J.R. and Karina is by Adam Taylor for ABC.)