J.R. Martinez, left, and his partner Karina Smirnoff perform on the celebrity dance competition series, (Adam Taylor/AP)

The season had its ups and downs, as J.R. was an early viewer favorite (more so than third-place finisher and frontrunner Ricki Lake, though she had more points from the judges) but stumbled later in the season with injuries.

Still, he won it all. “Thank you, America, for believing in us!” J.R. said before triumphantly hoisting the trophy into the air for the world to see, and thanked his partner, Karina Smirnoff, who earned her first championship on the show.

Second place finisher, reality star Rob Kardashian, made quite the surprise sprint to the end of the competition. He had languished with mediocre rankings in the beginning and picked up speed in the last several weeks — and he looked as surprised as anyone to be standing as one of the final two couples.

“I’m definitely not sad,” Rob confirmed a few minutes after J.R.’s victory was announced. “I won in my book.”

Other highlights from the finale, such as the reaction when Ricki Lake was eliminated, and the former contestants making their grand return, including Carson Kressley:

Ricki Lake…in third place?! The shock in the crowd (and on Rob’s face) is obvious when season-long frontrunner Ricki Lake is booted out before the first hour of the show is over, landing in third place. Still, she remains cheery during her exit interview – perhaps because either way, she still got tons of publicity before her new syndicated talk show launches next year. “I’ve loved basically every minute of this,” Ricki tells co-hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvet. “I’ve done something I really didn’t think I could do. For someone who’s a middle age mom, I hope I made my children proud.”

Carson Kressley: All of Carson’s dances this season were a complete trainwreck, and in the best way possible. He returns to perform again, and this one is no exception. He’s surrounded by backup dancers, and then couples up with some of the male troupe members during segments of the dance – the closest the show has come to featuring a same-sex couple on the dance floor. Could thisadd even more speculation to whether “DWTS” will soon include a same-sex dance couple, as viewers wondered at the beginning of this season? Later, Carson expresses disappointment that he only got to dance with one Chmerkovskiy brother (Val), but then again, he jokes, Maks will be at the wrap party.

Ultra flashback: A look back on the whole season – ah, NBA star Metta World Peace and George Clooney ex-girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis, how we forgot you existed. Everyone gets a chance to perform in the spotlight again, and Metta proves with his clumsy moves why was eliminated first. Other former contestants are sprinkled in with routines, such as reality star Kristin Cavallari, talk show host Nancy Grace, actor David Arquette and singer Chynna Phillips (who redeems herself from messing up the steps many weeks ago, which ultimately led to her ouster from the competition).

Chaz Bono returns: …for a dance with Lacey Schwimmer and her dad, who joins him in wearing a sparkly turquoise shirt.

Token celebrity singer performance: Country trio Lady Antebellum makes the world debut of a song that just happened to have the word “Dancing” in the title. Coincidence? Almost certainly yes, but you can never be too cynical when it comes to “DWTS.”

Best season ever? Not so much: From Ron Artest/Metta World Peace all the way up to Hope Solo, the bottom nine contestants are featured in a number to kick off the show, with a song that repeats “This is the best one yet” over and over. It may be subliminal messages from producers to apply that description to this season – but we watched this season, and we will not be fooled.

Best reference to Nancy Grace wardrobe malfunction: Carson Kressley previews his dance: “I’m gonna let it all hang out – not as much as Nancy Grace, but still.”

Insta-dance: Rob/Cheryl landed their second perfect score of the season...but it wans’t quite as exciting when the judges handed J.R. and Karina a 30 for their last performance, as well.

The Top 3 battled each other one last time: In case you missed it, the final three chose their favorite performance from the season to perform again, and Ricki and Derek wisely go with the “Psycho”-themed tango that starts with a terrifying shadow chase at the beginning. Len loves the dance even more the second time, and Bruno decides it’s “unforgettable.”

Rob and Cheryl select the fox trot to the Frank Sinatra song that reminds Rob of his father, and the camera zooms in twice on Mama Kardashian’s mascara-streaked face. The sentimental choice pays off, and the judges are pleased – Len says Rob has the best footwork of any male performer on the show so far.

J.R. and Karina go upbeat with the jive and matching suspenders, and plaster huge smiles on their faces despite missing a couple steps. Carrie Ann points out the mistakes while Len randomly gives a shout out to the band and talks about J.R.’s sparkling personality, and Bruno goes with “fun.” Notice that’s not the same as “good.” In the end: The judges award Rob/Cheryl third place (26 points); J.R./Karina second place (28 points); and Ricki and Derek first place (30 points), which winds up separating them all by one point overall.

And now, we all know how that turned out.


Final three perform, and a Kardashian takes the lead

Hope Solo says goodbye on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

‘Dancing With the Stars’ semi-finals: The final four perform

Nancy Grace gets voted off ‘Dancing With Stars’


‘Dancing with the Stars’