She was pegged as the contender to beat from the start, and at the end, Jennifer Grey emerged as the champion of the Mirror Ball universe and the winner of Season 11’s “Dancing With the Stars” competition.
Johnny Castle was right: Nobody puts Baby in the corner.
Sure, in retrospect, it all made sense that Jennifer won. She was by far the most talented dancer going into these finals. But the producers and this roller coaster of a season had me thinking that it could be anyone’s game. Jennifer definitely held the lion’s share of judges’ points, but her steps were hobbled by injuries, which produced doubts about whether she could finish what she started. (She even suffered a ruptured disc during Monday night’s performances.) Disney star Kyle Massey was the ultimate crowd pleaser and Season 11’s Mr. Congeniality, the guy with the best attitude of the bunch. Teen activist and underdog extraordinaire Bristol Palin obviously had an avalanche of votes going her way (and said she wanted to win at this point, because “this would be a big middle finger to all the people out there who hate my mom and hate me”). And though both Kyle (a shoo-in for ABC’s next reality TV series, “Bootyshaking With the Stars”) and Bristol served up some stiff competition, in the end it was Jennifer’s night.
Photo credit: Adam Larkey / ABC
(Another advantage may have been the actress’ final outfit, a metallic gold
number, which matched the shininess of the mirror ball trophy better than her competitors’ did. Kyle was a little matte with his black leather vest and dark shirt, while Bristol went fire-engine red in her fringe. Visually, didn’t it just make sense that the shiniest contestant would get to hold the shiniest trophy in victory over her head?)
Let’s not forget to congratulate pro partner Derek Hough for his unprecedented three wins -– the most of any of the “DWTS” pro dancers. And how sweet was it that his best friend/greatest competitor/fellow finalist Mark Ballas hoisted him up on his shoulders during that raging confetti shower at the end?
But this epic two-hour, two-dance finale extravaganza did not start off with frills and fringe. At the beginning, it was almost as if “DWTS” had taken a somber, NBC Olympics-style turn, with Tom Bergeron doing his best Bob Costas impression and narrating the segment outlining the finalists’ journeys to this finale, uttering with utmost sincerity things like “These three, better than anyone else, knew what to do” and “In the end, the champion will know that what they did was indeed enough.”
Luckily, the somber tones were ditched like last week’s gold lame and the tempo picked up during the opening number, starting with our pros descending down the grand ballroom staircase in slinky burlesque numbers, only then to be joined by their Season 11 stars. Hoff! Cho! Situation! Flo! Fox! Kurt! Brandy! And in case we had trouble distinguishing the stars from the pros, the pros wore black and the stars were decked out in red. Though there were a couple of black holes in this program, as dogged Michael Bolton was performing at Royal Albert Hall in London and Audrina Patridge was out with an illness.
Christina Aguilera fit right in with the “DTWS” family with her itty-bitty gold fringe dress and her dance-friendly number, “Show Me How to Burlesque,” from the movie “Burlesque.” Liked how they upped the production value by having the bevy of scantily clad dancers come out from behind the mirrored bar. All in all, a big wallop of fringe-filled fun that just made me excited to see the movie. Not to mention those pipes! Xtina pared it down for her second number, a rendition of her hit “Beautiful” in which she was nearly enveloped in a blanket of smoke, then accompanied by a plainclothes backup crew who performed a combination of sign language and dance.
In the first round of finalist dances, each couple performed their favorite dance from the season. Kyle and Lacey Schwimmer and Bristol and Mark both reprised their tangos from Rock Week, while Jennifer and Derek redid their Viennese waltz from Week 1. The judges awarded them either an 8, 9 or 10 score. Not surprisingly, Jennifer and Derek’s sweetly lilting “These Arms of Mine” waltz was the unanimous winner and earned them another perfect 30 points. Kyle, deemed “a stage animal” by Bruno, was given second place with 26 points (though I was again distracted by Lacey’s striated dress and feathery Adam Lambert-esque shoulder pads). Bristol and Mark received 25 points for their tongues-out purple military-outfitted tango. As Len said, Kyle’s got the wow, but Bristol’s got the how, but Jennifer was the complete package.
The season’s contestants were given one last spotlight. Hoff showed good humor in appearing in a segment that had him reliving his “DWTS” Week 1 elimination pain. Naturally, he tried to ease the sting by taking a frolic on a Malibu beach, which resulted in a slo-mo run with a red lifeguard float, all the way to the soundstage. And then, oh my, he started singing! Are we in Germany? Because the crowd is going wild! David Hasselhoff may have been the first contestant voted off, but make no mistake: The Hoff is awesome. This man can sing, twirl and do a semblance of a ballroom dance with partner Kym Johnson and two other bedazzled Baywatchy babes, which, as Tom said, were added “at no extra charge.”
Rick Fox and Kurt Warner had a dance-off. The NBA champ and the Superbowl MVP talked some trash, donned their team colors, bumped chests and stomped with Cheryl Burke and Anna Trebunskaya to see who had the eye of the tiger and dominated the dance floor. And while Kurt lasted a week longer than Rick in the actual competition, I’m going to give this one to Fox: The Laker purple and yellow gave him the home team advantage.
Margaret Cho came back out in her rainbow fringe dress flanked by a bunch of he-men to redo her Copacabana routine with Louis Van Amstel, while Florence Henderson donned the brightest yellow in the history of the world to dance it out with Corky Ballas, all to a flutter of confetti at the end. Although apparently no one told Carrie Ann that the routine was over: The camera caught the judge dabbing on lip gloss while the other judges were applauding.
There was an alarming glimpse into the future that showed rampant moneymaker and an orange-juiced Situation being voted governor of New Jersey. He of the Jersey Shore and the raging tan came back out to the dance floor and mostly stood around topless while partner Karina Smirnoff and two other pros danced suggestively around him. Brandy also returned in good form and good spirits to perform her infectiously giddy quickstep to the “Friends” theme with rabble-rouser Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
And that wraps up yet another “DWTS” cycle. What did you think, ballroom fans? Did the right person win this season? Has the universe righted itself? Does the outcome justify all the surprises that occurred throughout the season? How did Audrina eating an onion measure up as a shock during the segment on surprises? Did Jamie Lee Curtis make a bracelet from all of her other accumulated studio audience bracelets? Last but not least, does this mean Joel Grey should make a bid for the presidency?
— Allyssa Lee
at, Kyle and Lacey threw caution to the wind and went to the left, to the left, to the right, to the right for their freestyle routine. And the crowd pleaser really did put his whole heart and soul (and both lungs) into the performance, as evidenced by Lacey having to peel him off the dance floor at routine’s end and his complete and utter breathlessness in the celebraquarium. And I love myself some Kyle and think he’s a consummate performer. But was it just me or was his routine just a tad bit … expected? I wish he and Lacey had incorporated some of their hard-earned ballroom moves to the hip-hop to bring it all full circle. “The Tootsie Roll — one of my favorites!” Len joked. “I’m not a great lover of the boogaloo dancing, but this was great fun, great entertainment.” Carrie Ann gently corrected the head judge’s description. “It’s called old-school hip-hop,” she said, “and this old fly girl loved it.” She also deigned Kyle “the Fresh Prince of ‘Dancing With the Stars!’” Word. Kyle and Lacey got a 27 for their redemption fox trot and a 29 for their slide baby slide freestyle for a total of 56.
Photo: Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas. Credit: Adam Larkey AP/ABC.
The tea party is over. Actress Jennifer Grey and her professional dance partner, Derek Hough, were crowned winners of “Dancing With the Stars’ ” 11th season Tuesday evening, ending a weeks-long tempest over the surprising success of the often-ungraceful Bristol Palin.
The “Dirty Dancing” star, who routinely topped the judges’ leaderboard, was considered the favorite for claiming the ballroom dance competition’s Mirror Ball Trophy — something judge Len Goodman predicted as Grey earned a perfect score after Monday night’s dance final.
“You’ve been consistent, persistent . . . like a juggernaut heading for that Mirror Ball Trophy!” Goodman said.
In the days leading to Tuesday’s results, the reality show’s outcome took on some of the cultural fervor of the 2010 midterm elections, in large part because the competition became embroiled in controversy. Palin, daughter of former Alaska Gov. and “tea party” darling Sarah Palin, advanced week after week, defeating competitors who had received higher judges’ scores — prompting allegations of vote fraud.
After Monday night’s performance show, which drew an audience of more than 24 million viewers, Bristol Palin ranked third behind Disney star Kyle Massey and Grey. A flood of voting after the Monday show temporarily shut down the network’s online and telephone systems. (The network, which never releases voting results, issued a statement explaining the problem was quickly resolved and “affected each finalist equally.”)
Unlike “American Idol,” where judges hand out scores to contestants, “Dancing with the Stars” combines judge’s marks with public voting. Results from both are then averaged to determine who is eliminated. Viewers are limited to a maximum of five votes per phone line and e-mail address, according to the show’s rules.
But after Palin reached the finals, despite consistently low scores, accusations ricocheted across the Web that tea party activists had exploited a hole in the network’s voting system. ABC officials steadfastly refuted this claim, explaining security measures were in place to maintain the integrity of the voting process.
The prize did not come without a price, though — Grey revealed Tuesday night that she injured herself during the previous night’s show.
“I really wanted to leave it all on the floor last night,” Grey said of her performance. “Unfortunately, I left a litle piece of my spine on the floor. I ruptured my disc.”
Grey nonetheless vowed to complete her final two dances Tuesday. She executed the first of her performances, a Viennese waltz, to a standing ovation from the studio audience and another perfect score from the three judges.
“You are the complete package,” said judge Len Goodman.
Massey performed a tango with professional partner Lacy Schwimmer, landing in second place after the first dance of the night.
“After months and months of training,” Massey said. “It’s all come down to this.”
For her dance, Palin urged her partner to throw caution to the wind in their tango, saying, with a smile, “We’ve got nothing to lose.” They finished in a familiar spot: the bottom of the judges’ rankings — albeit with praise for Palin’s “consistently surprising” performances.
“You’ve found your footing in this competition,” said judge Bruno Tonioli. “And you’ve found your place in the finale with this.”
— Dawn C. Chmielewski
Photo: Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Credit: Bob D’Amico / ABC
Jimmy Kimmel called Brandy the latest victim of “Hurricane Bristol” and suggested “an organized Tea Party voting bloc” was behind Brandy’s elimination when the ousted singer and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Perhaps the most violent reaction came from a 67-year-old Wisconsin man, who had a standoff with authorities and was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment when he reportedly shot his television after Bristol Palin’s performance, citing that “he didn’t think she was a good dancer.”
And of course, there was no shortage of theories posted by commenters themselves. Here’s a sampling of the Bristol buzz on the Internet Wednesday morning:
“BRISTOL, REALLY? Please people, vote next week and get real!” exclaimed oc_loladee.
“The ONLY reason Bristol is still there is due to viewers votes. SHE CANNOT DANCE and DEFINITELY doesn’t deserve to be in the finals. This season’s voting results had nothing to do with talent or skill because if it did Bristol should have been voted off the 1st week! It’s a popularity contest that has gone HORRIBLY wrong at other peoples expense,” said SB.
“Apparently many Americans prefer mediocrity. Thanks Tea Party!” wrote in Tiki.
Still, others chalk it up to the nature of the game.
“It is no shock that Brisotl is in the Finals… look at Kelly O (famous daughter, not the best dancer… made the finals)… the show is Not Just About Dancing! If it was, Kyle would be gone too (with his poor posture, and scattered footwork at times). It is part dancing, part a journey, part entertainment, and part voting simply for whom you want to win. I vote for Bristol because I like her performances… she’s not being political at all,” explained Keith.
“Haters. The girl embodies what the show is about. Non dancers learning to dance. I can’t stand her mother, but I am completely taken with Bristol, she is real. And that is where her votes are coming from. They are coming from the people that realize that that is what they would look like up there,” wrote in Stefanie.
And there are those who believe that Brandy was ousted by her own hand. “brandy’s obsession to win was a bit of a turn off. THe other contestants seemed like they were there to have fun. I picked against brandy for that reason alone,” said Carlos.
— Allyssa Lee