Had Bristol won, it could have destroyed Dancing With the Stars. But the show dodged that bullet and will return for another glittery season, with all the fun intact, and most likely a new scoring system in place giving more weight to the judges and less to the robo-calling audience.
The final order was exactly right: Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough the winners and Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer the runners-up. Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas, thankfully, were the first to get the boot. Brandy and Maks, of course, should have been up there too, but this was the best outcome possible once it was determined they were out.
All in all, it was an entertaining finale, surprisingly so considering how lackluster the season had been. The producers cut out a lot of the empty-segment fluff that had slowed down previous season finales. Best of all, instead of having the eliminated stars repeat their boring dances, they choreographed all new routines, keyed to the stars’ personalities and lives, with a lot of humor in the mix. It was far more fresh and interesting than the usual fast-forward-worthy repeats.
Only Brandy and Maks did one of their earlier dances verbatim. I had been hoping that they would take Bruno up on his invitation, extended the week before, to dance their freestyle tonight. But I can’t blame them for not wanting to put in the effort to rehearse a new dance. I also wonder if a producer might have nixed the idea because it would have seemed too defiant. And it would have interfered with the narrative that the DTWS Powers That Be seemed intent on presenting — the narrative that Bristol deserved to be in the finale.
The judges over-scored Bristol both last night and tonight. They over-praised her too. Len even ranked Bristol’s first-round dance tonight higher than Kyle’s, which was absurd. It was all apparently in the service of pretending that Bristol had some dance-related reason for being in the finale, in order to deny that politics had tainted — and come close to destroying — the show.
Bristol herself said it the clearest, declaring to the camera, with shocking bluntness, that if she won, it would be a big middle finger to all the people who hated her and hated her mother.
But all’s well that ends well. The show, at the end, got itself back on track, and showed that it is still about the love of dance. It’s not about ballot-box stuffing, it’s not about advancing, by proxy, someone else’s political career — it’s about what happens when music and movement and perseverance and courage (and a heaping dose of corny humor) all come together, spawning glittery moments of beauty and charm.