9:55 am EDT, May 21, 2014

‘DWTS’ season 18 finale recap: And the winner is…

By Irvin K

And the winners of Dancing with the Stars season 18 are… Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy! No one much cared about Meryl winning (not even Meryl, really); it was all about Maks’ long-awaited (but not long-overdue) victory.

In fact, the only professional who waited as long as Maks for a victory was Tony, who also finally won in his fourteenth season. The difference is that Tony just had to wait for the opportunity to have a decent partner, constantly being paired with the likes of Kate Gosselin and Wendy Williams. Maks, on the other hand, has had EVERY opportunity to win previously, and blew it. Erin got on my last nerve tonight, constantly thanking Meryl on behalf of Maks’s other partners for being deserving of him. I wanted Mel B to stomp in there and go full-on Scary Spice on Erin – who in this world is a more deserving dance partner than Mel B?!

Meryl is the perfect partner for Maks, though – she is impervious to his bad attitude, and has the dancing skill to make up for his abysmal choreography. Not that the judges didn’t help her along – Meryl has the highest average score EVER on Dancing with the Stars. She scored a 28.4 on average – higher than Kristi Yamaguchi! Meryl also tied Jennifer Grey for the most perfect thirties (six).

Meryl is only the fourth dancer to win DWTS in eighteen seasons – as I’ve said before, they usually make it to the finals and come up short. The other winners who were also dancers are Jennifer Grey in season 11 (who was facing off against Kyle Massey and Bristol Palin – puh-leeze!); Nicole Scherzinger in season 10 (who faced off against another dancer – Evan Lysacek – and Erin Andrews, both of whom were sabotaged by subpar freestyles); and Kristi Yamaguchi in season 6 (who was completely flawless, and should have been given the trophy in week 3 to save some time). Meryl is also the fourth Olympian to win, and the first in ten seasons, after Kristi Yamaguchi, Shawn Johnson (season 8), and Apolo Anton Ohno (season 4).

All the couples danced one last fusion dance after an hour and a half of musical performances and reminiscing. Amy and Derek did a really cool Argentine Tango-Cha-Cha fusion (perfect 30, 89 total). Candace and Mark did a surprisingly competent Quickstep-Samba fusion (27, 78 total). Meryl and Maks closed out the season with a good Foxtrot-Cha-Cha fusion (obviously, perfect 30, perfect 90 total). Amy and Derek became the runners up, and thankfully Candace and Mark landed in third place.

For the tear-jerker segment of the finale, Christina Perri provided a rendition of “Human” (Amy’s Personal Story Week song) that was rather painful to listen to. Candace was wiping away tears and Maks was tearing up, but it wasn’t the usual ten-hanky affair. However, I was struck by just how brilliant these partnerships have been all season. I already spoke about why Meryl was the perfect partner for Maks. Amy and Derek were perfect together, because Derek is the only one who could have choreographed dances that got a woman with no legs to second place, and Amy is proof that Derek can achieve amazing things without a ringer of a partner.

But Candace was also the perfect partner for Mark, bringing out the best in him we’ve seen in quite a few years. She was not such a good dancer that Mark could just coast, but was decent enough that with hard work they achieved results. Mark’s choreography in the latter half of the season has been outstanding; he put aside all his gimmicks and tricks and choreographed proper dances. It’s still a gross injustice that Candace made the final three over better-qualified contestants, but at least we got some good dancing out of them. This is the best form Mark’s been in since season 8 with Shawn Johnson.

Tom took a minute to bid farewell to executive producer Conrad Green, who has been with the show since its inception and is departing from it. We owe this man a great deal, since he is in charge of running this show we all love. More alarming was Len’s insinuation that he might not be back next season. I really hope that’s not true – there needs to be a voice of reason on the judge’s panel, to balance out Carrie Ann’s histrionics and fangirling, and Bruno being Bruno. Len may be cranky and occasionally too harsh when we want a perfect score, but he is still the best judge of the three.

So, to wrap up with thoughts on this season… it was bad. Probably the second worst season I’ve seen (nothing can compare to the sheer horror of season 11). Most of the guest judges proved useless at best and immensely aggravating at worst, yet we were subjected to them for all but three weeks. The judges inflated all the scores – there were thirteen perfect scores given out, a number surpassed only in season 4. And their commentary was mostly useless – “A for effort!” We had two ringers from the get-go, who did not even bother trying for the first half of the competition, and skated by anyway. It was a disappointing season with a disappointing conclusion. Here’s hoping season 19 is better – see you all in September!

What did you think of Dancing with the Stars season 18? Do you think Meryl and Maks should have won? And what celebrities do you hope to see dancing in the fall?

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