May 22, 2012 8:30pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Dancing With the Stars' Names Season 14 Champion
Dancing With the Stars switched gears a bit for the 14th season finale. Instead of dismissing the third place couple early in the episode, all finalists -- Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd, William Levy and Cheryl Burke, Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas -- had the opportunity to dance one last time ... after rehearsing through most of the two-hour broadcast.
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So, unlike the viewers and those of us in the studio, that means they missed out on the obligatory marathon of performances from their felled competitors. And in a true display of humility (and respect for contracts) every one of them returned to the ballroom floor.
There were the time-fillers -- no one really needed to see an encore of the Gavin DeGraw's elimination-worthy Samba -- but there were more than a few satisfying standouts. Sherri Shepherd, filling a season's worth of gyrations into one dance, danced to "It's Raining Men" while much of the male ensemble flanked her giggly lip-syncing and Tony Dovolani and Maksim Chmerkovskiy descended from the ceiling like Tom Cruise in a musical adaptation of Mission Impossible.
Maria Menounos' return was a little bittersweet. The Extra host came back with partner Derek Hough, just a week after their surprising elimination, delivering a perfect repeat performance of their Argentine Tango. She would have fit right in during the closely matched finale.
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And what a close match it's been, eh? After a Monday that awarded almost all 10s -- only Jenkins and Ballas managed to avoid a single 9 -- all three final dances garnered a perfect 30.
That left the final standings of Jenkins in first with 90 points, followed closely by Levy and Driver, each with 89. The judges were split. Carrie Ann Inaba said it was Driver's to lose, Len Goodman continued his campaign for Jenkins, and when Bruno Tonioli finally found his words, he yelled them very affectionately in the direction of Levi.
Unfortunately for him, and Levi's adorable, sobbing son, the Cuban-American actor who was greeted to estrogen-fueled screams all season ended up being the first to go.
After one last taunting commercial break, a jubilant and hysterical Driver, the Green Bay wide receiver and all-around charmball, snatched the prize away from a very gracious Jenkins. He couldn't really say much, because he was just that thrilled.
So what will the history books say about Dancing With the Stars, season 14? Contrary to the incessant reminders from the judges, hosts and contestants, it certainly was not the best. But in the final moments, it did feel like the closest race.