Did you know that this was the most competitive season of Dancing with the Stars ever? If you somehow missed that completely made-up fact, the hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvat will remind you of it again and again. As they should, because as we enter the finale of the show’s 14th season there is no clear winner. The finalists — Katherine Jenkins, William Levy, and Donald Driver — are all squooshed together at the top of the leaderboard like a peanut butter sandwich at the bottom of a book bag. So which of these celebrities-you-never-heard-of-before-this-show will take home the coveted and hard to misplace Mirrorball Trophy? Let’s find out:
The Big Opener: The first act is a season 14 reunion where all the * cough * celebrities *cough * are back to dance with their partners. There’s Sherri Shepherd and Melissa Gilbert; Martina Navratilova and Roshon Fegan. Even Jaleel White, who I had completely forgotten existed in the three weeks he’s been off my TV, returns.
Play It Again, Sam: Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd get a do-over of last night’s country fried hip-hop routine that won accolades and a perfect score from the judges. During the re-do the judges (even Len) are up and dancing to the song as Donald throws Peta around the dance floor like a drunken floor mop, which is good, because the routine is sloppier than yesterday. But they have fun, the judges aren’t critiquing shoulder placement, and no one ends up in a neck brace.
Best Crossover: Oh look, Chris Harrison and Emily Maynard from The Bachelorette are sitting in the front row of the Dancing with the Stars ballroom. They must really like dancing, right? I mean, why else would they be there?
Biggest Disappointment: This season would have been very different if The View’s Sherri Shepherd had lasted longer than the first few rounds. She is actually fun to watch and has an engaging personality. She dances a cha-cha to “It’s Raining Men” with Tony Dovolani, Val Chmerkovskiy, and approximately 45 other men who descend from the ceiling and has the judges and the audience laughing the whole time. It makes you realize how boring the weepy Katherine Jenkins is. I’m starting to think dry toast has more personality.
She’ll Always Have Tennis: Like a jar of pickles, Martina Navritilova has not improved with time. That said, her return performance with Tony Dovolani is only marginally worse than her final dance on the show.
That ’70s Show: Jack Wagner, however, has clearly been practicing his moves in the mirrored ceiling of his bedroom because he has dramatically improved. Once you get over your distaste at seeing the waxed chest of a guy who is collecting social security, you can really appreciate his rumba.
The Flashbacks: Singer Gavin DeGraw and his hat return to the ballroom. During their hiatus they got some hypnotherapy and a medical marijuana card (what? it’s California) and have finally managed to loosen up, which is what the judges wanted him to do for the entire season. Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus are greeted with riotous applause and the nodding approval of The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison. Tristan announces that he is being shipped off along with Carson Kressley and Kym Johnson for a tour of duty on the Dancing with the Stars Vegas show. If you watch closely you can see his hand gestures are spelling out “Please Send Help.” Jaleel White and Kym Johnson do the paso dobles to the Shaft theme song because it has always been Stefan Urquelle’s dream. Melissa Gilbert gets to relive her fondest memory: Dancing in a Chmerkovskiy sandwich. The routine ends with both Val and Maks grabbing her assets and undoubtedly making their mother extremely proud. Finally, Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower audition for Step Up 5: Electric Boogaloo by showing off their hip-hop dance moves.
Reality Star on a Reality Show: American-Idol-winner-turned-superstar Kelly Clarkson was on Dancing with the Stars to do her cross-promotional duty for her new reality show Duets. She performed a mashup of her hit “Stronger” and new single “Darkside,” without a hint of ennui about her life choices.
Most Welcome Return: For his final dance of the season, William Levy busts out the white pants. You know, the ones that show off his best assets. Len tells him that, “If salsa and rhythm were in the Olympics you would get a gold medal.” At least that’s what I think he says — it’s impossible to hear because the audience goes insane shouting White Pants! White Pants! over and over again while Len prattles on. Carrie Ann calls it true star quality, I call it good genes. Also, jeans. The judges give them a perfect 30 which causes William’s son to jump and down like an adorable green jacket-wearing bean.
The Snoozefest: Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas are doing their jive to “Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath.” While William and Cheryl’s dance was sex-soaked and fun, Katherine’s routine is like watching a perfectly poised Presbyterian teen dance from the ’50s. Technically spot on, but a total yawnfest. Like reading an aeronautical engineering textbook for fun. Obviously she earns a perfect 30.
Nevermind: Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t agree with anything I just said in that last paragraph, so I am wrong. He comes on and wishes Katherine the best of luck. I can’t let him think I disagree or he’ll never let me cuddle him like an otter. Sorry Benedict!
Go Gang Green: Len tells Donald that they’ve had a lot of football players on the show, but Donald may be the best they’ve had. Bruno thinks he had the strategy of a champion, improving week after week and peaking at the right time. They get a perfect score as well. Donald’s teammates and children all show up to encourage him to bring home the Mirrorball Trophy, or else. Emmitt Smith, football legend and the season 3 winner, tells Cheryl to make sure no stinkin’ cheesehead Packer takes his trophy.
Now That’s Talent: Because she was dancing (and getting rudely eliminated!) during Motown Week, the producers only now get around to asking Gladys Knight to sing. She wows the crowd with her soulful rendition of “The Way We Were,” which the producers pair with a tasteful stroll down memory lane. Of course, Katherine Jenkins bursts into tears. So much for the famous British stiff upper lip. Can someone hand her tissues and a Xanax?
The Bronze Medal: Tom Bergeron slowly announces that William and Cheryl are going home in third place. Then the unthinkable happens: this announcement finally pushes William’s little boy over the edge and he breaks into tears. Noooooo take it back, Tom! Take it back!
And The Winner Is: Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd! Yep, the Super Bowl champ is going to have to clear out some space in his man cave for his latest trophy. While Donald seems more excited than when he won the Super Bowl, Peta is absolutely over the moon since she has only been on the show for two seasons and was eliminated in the first round last year. Now she has a Mirrorball Trophy to call her own. All the celebratory hooting, hollering and confetti-ing has caused Donald’s baby to start crying hysterically and Roshon Fegan clearly mouths “It’s okay baby,” which makes me almost feel bad for all the things I said about him. Almost.
Congratulations to Donald and Peta and to Katherine Jenkins for holding it together during her silver medal acceptance speech.