Warning: This Dancing With the Stars recap contains spoilers.
With moments to go in a finale bursting with sweat, tears, and crab legs, the Coveted Mirrorball Trophy sat perched between two mighty stars of the televised ballroom: rugged, profoundly deaf America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco and feisty UFC fighter-turned-action movie actress Paige VanZant. Both had scored a perfect 30 in the 24-Hour Fusion Challenge, so… well, so nothing. The 24-Hour Fusion Challenge is garbage. What really counted was America’s vote from Monday’s finals. Would the elusive “fourth judge” raise Paige’s fist in the air in triumph or wiggle its fingers for Nyle in silent approval?
And the Season 22 winners are…
Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd! Yes! Applause sign forever! What a heart-swelling, pelvis-thrusting adventure this has been for the 27-year-old activist. Nyle fully deserves the highest honor on Planet Mirrorballus — not only for being an inspiration to the Deaf community and millions of others but for refusing to wear shirts or wax his chest all season.
Commitment to top modeling + claw marks = the signs of a true champion.
“No shirts! No shirts!”
Earlier in the show, after Nyle dazzled in one of my fave male ballroom looks (Just a Blazer) during the cha cha/tango fusion, judge Carrie Ann Inaba stood up so we could all get a better view of her hair and her message.
“Thank you for showing us your beautiful heart when you dance,” she tentatively signed to Nyle. Cue the waterworks!
We’ve got a weepy almost-champion on our hands, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. #sparklebarf
Worthy runners-up Paige and Mark had scored another perfect 30 and loads of Happy 30th Birthday wishes following their jive/salsa fusion, but ultimately Nyle’s shirtless gumption and shiny tears outpaced Mark’s need to tie up his 20s with a mirrorball trophy-shaped bow. As pictured above, Mark took the news pretty well on the outside. Internally, though…
Totally different story.
From the way Mark kept getting sentimental about his DWTS tenure of 18 straight seasons, I wondered if he was about to announce his retirement. Ugh, he better not! In the absence of Derek Hough, the ballroom’s resident Mad Hatter has really grown on me this season. At this point I consider his reliable strangeness and crazy hair to be necessary creature comforts of the viewing experience. I’m honestly not sure how I’d cope without them! If a Mark Ballas routine isn’t creeping me out every week, how will I know I’m watching Dancing With the Stars?!
As Ginger Zee and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy graciously accepted third place, Val complimented the humility and gratitude of his partner, a self-proclaimed “meteorologist who can dance.” (Kudos to Ginger for correcting judge Bruno Tonioli, who called her a “weather girl” following their Argentine tango/foxtrot fusion dance. See, she’s raising awareness, too. The brutal marginalization of meteorologists must be stopped.
The rest of the finale was mostly a blur of Pitbull hooks, ruffled butts, and increasingly bold “Peep my thigh gap, bitches!” stances from cohost Erin Andrews.
Good God, woman. Is that an evening gown or a leotard? PICK ONE. Rest assured I’ll be having "Will she or won’t she just jump in the pool already?” nightmares all summer. Fantastic legs, though. Solid priorities.
The filler segments leading up to Tuesday’s big reveal included spliced together passive-aggressive interview footage from former Dance Center correspondent Kenny Mayne, a jaunty Von Miller-hosted Celebrity Jeopardy!-esque battle of the blondes for the coveted “mirrorbrain trophy,” and grin-inducing dance reprises from Wanyá Morris, Antonio Brown, and Jodie Sweetin, all of whom could have infused Monday’s finals with a little more pep.
Jodie in particular was a vision of effervescence and advanced fringe.
Our Lady Pros a.k.a. Sharna and her backup dancers schooled us on what to wear while straying from typical household chores….
…while Our Men stayed tragically buttoned-up during their own showcase.
If you remembered Geraldo Rivera was on this season, you’re a better fan than I am. But who could forget Edyta Sliwinska? The ballroom’s dream queen wisely left her partner up on the lifeguard chair where he couldn’t hurt anyone with his random flailing, then scampered down to join the ultimate nonsensical beach party featuring recurring crustacean Sasha Farber.
Long live the crab costume!
It was not until midway through this dance, when sparkle-tooth truther Tony Dovoloni eased on by on a bicycle, that I realized this whole scene was exactly what I’ve always wanted and always will. These are the things that DWTS fever dreams are made of, my friends. Aren’t they lovely?
That’s a wrap on Season 22, Sparklebarf Nation. Enjoy safe travels through the glitter-infused subconscious this summer. It hurts to say goodbye…
…but the sands of mime have spoken — profoundly — via Most Valuable Gem Tom Bergeron. Host’s orders. See you in September!
Dancing With the Stars returns this fall on ABC.