Proving that Donald’s victory is a bit of a surprise, here’s some commentary from the judges when asked to rate the three finalists earlier in the episode. Carrie Ann Inaba on William: “William is a phenomenon . . . I’ve never heard the audience go this crazy for anyone in 14 seasons.” Len Goodman on Katherine: “Katherine is one of the most technically advanced dancers we’ve ever had,” with Bruno Tonioli chiming in: “It’s like watching poetry.”
As for Donald? Judges: “Donald’s like a gladiator coming out to do battle. . . Great physique, great posture, great presence.” Nice words, but not quite as glowing as the other two.
Even the final performances left audiences wondering. The three couples all seemed to impress the judges with their last dances, Yahr says:
The final three had to perform one more time with a “24-hour challenge.” It ended up not mattering too much, points-wise, as they all scored perfect 30s from the judges: William and Cheryl with a salsa, Katherine and Mark with a jive, and Donald and Peta with a cha cha cha. Though we did see some final rehearsal footage, as a couple dancers (Peta and Katherine) broke down in tears at the thought of the competition ending.
Far fewer viewers tuned in to watch this season finale than in previous competitions. About 17.5 million people turned to ABC’s competition show, down from the last two seasons, Yahr says:
That’s about 2 million fewer people than watched war veteran/actor J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff take home the prize on the finale last fall. And it’s around 4 million fewer people than who watched the previous spring edition — about 21.4 million — when Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and Kym Johnson were crowned champions.
Of course, this is after a season of little-to-no controversy, save for a minor concussion or back spasm. And on the plus side, it beat the first part of the “American Idol” finale, which aired earlier in the night, and scored approximately 14.4 million viewers.
Maria Menounos’s elimination the week prior also shocked some viewers, Yahr says:
Despite nabbing the highest judges scores on Monday night’s performance show, TV host Maria Menounos was eliminated from “Dancing With the Stars.”
There was an audible gasp in the ballroom when Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvet revealed that Maria and her partner, Derek Hough, wouldn’t make it to next week’s season finale. They were against NFL player Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd in the bottom two; Donald will join classical singer Katherine Jenkins/Mark Ballas and actor William Levy/Cheryl Burke in the final competition round.
“I learned so many things – I learned how strong I was, I learned to persevere,” Maria said sadly at the end of the show.