The "Dancing with the Stars" season 11 finale results show aired November 23 on ABC and finally provided an answer to the big, bad burning reality TV question du jour: Does Bristol Palin have the pull to win it all, or can Jennifer Grey's stellar scores seal her spot atop the season 11 leaderboard?
But there was much other ado before the big reveal. The action-packed two-hour season closer featured two additional rounds of dancing by finalists Jennifer Grey, Kyle Massey and Bristol Palin, including a ranked Favorite Dance round and an instant Cha Cha Cha challenge. Burlesque star Christina Aguilera took to the stage with performances of her own, and a parade of expelled "DWTS" season 11 celebs returned to the ballroom for one final taste of glittering glory.
The "Dancing with the Stars" season 11 finale results show opened with a bang as a troop of eliminated contestants (sans absent singer Michael Bolton and ailing reality star Audrina Patridge) and their pro partners, clad in striking red and black duds, took to the DWTS ballroom floor for one last group number. The three finalist couples joined them for the last few beats of the routine. It marked a high-energy start to an exciting evening of dancing action.
Co-hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke kept the results program going when they introduced a pre-recorded review of Monday night's performance show, which included snippets from each dance as well as bits of commentary from the contestants' confessional. Uber-underdog Bristol Palin scored the quote of the segment when she declared that winning "Dancing with the Stars" would be "like a big middle finger to all the people out there who hate my mom and hate me". Love her or hate her, that's some spunk.
With the opening of her new film "Burlesque" just hours away, special guest Christina Aguilera and her posse took to the stage with a theatrical rendition of 'Show Me How You Burlesque'. The 'Genie in a Bottle' gal looked rough with just-got-up-from-a-nap hair, but the gold-smattered, rumpshake fest itself was passable. It'll be interesting to see how the movie fares with the general public.
The real finale results show action got underway as Tom introduced the evening's 'Favorite Dance' round and explained the judging protocol. In lieu of the usual judge-gives-scores-judge- thinks-dance-deserves deal, Tom explained that each dance would be compared against the others and receive a rank from each judge. The 10 paddle was reserved for first place, the 9 for second, and the 8 for third. Oh boy. Before Kyle, Bristol or Jennifer even set foot on the floor, I could predict the scores: Three 10s for Jen, three 9s for Kyle and three 8s for the controversial Bristol. What a lovely, sneaky way it would be for the judges to toss extra points toward Jennifer and Kyle and take them away from Bristol. Or not.
Up first to dance their round one offering were the affable Disney actor Kyle Massey and partner Lacey Schwimmer, who opted to do a redux of their Tango. The lovable Kyle looked great on the ballroom floor once again, with improved footwork and great carriage. But seriously, he needs to get rid of the 'I smell stinky cheese' expression.
Head judge Len Goodman praised Kyle for his "great attitude" and energy, and called him "such an exciting dancer to watch". Bruno Tonioli dubbed him "a stage animal" and a "great professional". Carrie Ann Inaba enjoyed the "strength and fluidity" of the routine, and called the Kyle-and-Lacey Schmurgles duo "a breath of fresh air".
Teen activist Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas kept round one going in rapid-fire fashion with their favorite dance of the season: A rock and roll Tango. I liked this one the first time, and I liked it the second time. And I really liked Bristol's rebellious refusal to stick to the rules by breaking hold once again.
Bruno declared "this is the dance that showed us Bristol the Fighter". Carrie Ann called it her favorite dance of Bristol's and praised her "command". Len called Bristol and Kyle "two sides of the same coin", noting "he's got the wow, but you've got the how" and it comes down to preference. Interestingly, Crankypants didn't go on to express his own preference.
Actress Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough brought round one to a close with a reprisal of their week one Viennese Waltz. She may be 50, but girlie can dance with grace, elegance and poise like no other season 11 contestant.
The judges' comments were short, sweet and shockingly cliche-less. Carrie Ann appreciated how Jennifer "allowed the dance to happen". Len called her "the complete package", while Bruno dubbed it "a blissfully beautiful waltz".
With the round one dancing done, the judges revealed their rankings. Kyle and Lacey received 9, 8, 9 for a total of 26 and Bristol and Mark garnered 8, 9, 8 for a total of 25, leaving Jennifer and Derek with triple 10s and yet another well-deserved perfect 30. Why Jennifer looked surprised by the numbers is beyond me; I guess she wasn't paying attention. Brooke then revealed the music for the upcoming challenge, Pink's 'Raise Your Glass', and sent the six dancers off to perfect their routines.
While the finalists prepared for the cha cha challenge, the finale results show pluffed forward with the start of the parade of eliminated contestants, beginning with week one cast-off actor David 'The Hoff' Hasselhoff. His cheeseball pre-taped beach skit led into a live smorgasboard of Baywatch-flavored song and dance, complete with three lifeguard babes. It was pretty awesome in that special 80s way; it's a shame he got the boot so early on because The Hoff's antics are well-worth their weight in sequins.
The parade continued with a manly, grunt-a-riffic, chest-bumping 'Eye of the Tiger' showdown between pro athletes Rick Fox and Kurt Warner and their partners Cheryl Burke and Anna Trebunskaya. Funny ladies Margaret Cho and Florence Henderson returned for their encores next, strutting their stuff to the tune of 'Copacabana' with partners Louis van Amstel and Corky Ballas.
"Jersey Shore" star Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino was next to grace the ballroom with his return, taking to the catwalk with a 'Too Sexy' striptease alongside partner Karina Smirnoff and two other hottie ladies. He's such a challenged dancer that it's hard not to giggle a little at his efforts, but hey, at least we finally got to see those abs.
Semifinal round eliminee R&B singer Brandy and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, whose week 9 departure shocked many a viewer and spurred outrage among certain viewing factions, fastened the caboose onto the parade train with their 'I'll Be There For You" Quickstep. It was more than obvious that Brandy was still bummed over being booted in favor of Bristol, but I just can't feel sorry for her: She sunk her own ship early on in the season thanks to her combative attitude.
With a mere thirty minutes remaining and the potentially decisive cha cha cha challenge still to come, Christina Aguilera returned to the stage to perform her mega hit 'Beautiful'. And 'beautiful' it was: She looked cool and collected in her dressed-down skinny jeans, heels, t-shirt and jacket, and her voice resonated with a smooth soulfulness and some serious power.
After a commercial break, the "Dancing with the Stars" season 11 finale kicked into high-gear with the introduction of the much-anticipated cha cha cha challenge. Kyle and Lacey were first to rise to the challenge. Team Schmurgles looked good out there, though Kyle did a lot of standing around, and looked a litle more tentative than I might have expected given his typically go-for-it-no-matter-what approach. Jennifer and Derek took the torch next, and I was once again struck by a single thought: I cannot believe that gal is 50! She shakes it with the best of "Dancing with the Stars" champs and should've-been champs of the past. A shaking and swirling but slightly too serious Bristol and Mark brought season 11's dances to a formidable close.
Len said he was "amazed" by how well they'd all done. Bruno called Jennifer a "marvel" and said that Bristol had "saved the best for last". Carrie Ann praised Kyle for inspiring "joy", Bristol for inspiring "hope", and Jennifer for inspiring perseverance. And then it was time for one last set of scores before the big reveal. Kyle and Lacey were rewarded with two 9s and a 10, as were Jennifer and Derek. Bristol and Mark scored one point less with triple 9s.
The first puzzle piece of the final "Dancing with the Stars" season 11 vote fell into place as Tom and Brooke revealed the identity of the third place couple: Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas. I'm a little surprised, but think it's fair: Now hopefully the conspiracy nonsense will go away once and for all.
But more importantly, then there were two: Kyle the Entertainer versus Jennifer the Steady and Strong. After the requisite dramatic music and heart-pounding drumbeats, Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough claimed the Mirrorball Trophy and the title of "Dancing with the Stars" season 11 champions. Second place finishers Kyle and Lacey graciously congratulated Jen and Derek shortly before the new champs hoisted the glittering ball of joy over their heads and the curtain closed on yet another great edition of my favorite reality show.
Look for "Dancing with the Stars" season 12 to premiere next Spring on ABC and get geared up for another set of wow (and ow) worthy contestants to take to the ballroom floor. Of course, you could always just skip it and check in with me. You know I'll be watching.
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