‘Dancing With the Stars’ Finale Recap: Golden Girl

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Warning: This recap of the Nov. 22 episode of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.

Congratulations to the Season 23 winners of the mirrorball trophy — now majestic instead of merely coveted, because after all everything seems more royal within the winter wonderland of L.A.’s premiere shopping destination The Grove. Although Queen Sharna Burgess and Indy car driver James Hinchcliffe did everything right all season not to mention matched the mirrorball perfectly while awaiting the final verdict… it was golden flute of bubbly Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy who gulped down the win.

Photos: ABC

Sharna knew. You could just tell. My sparkleheart goes out to her and her wounded knee after this roller coaster of a season, but in the end, nothing was ever gonna stop Laurie. “She’s like a laser-guided missile!” cried Bruno. “She never misses the target!”

Laurie completely deserves the title, but isn’t it crazy that any other season, James and Sharna would have had this in the bag? His talent surprised us, her magic compelled us, and their technical precision and at times ultra-romantic chemistry begged for Len’s imaginary 11 paddle even when he wasn’t there. Yet in a very different way, Laurie and Val had this sewn up from the start, wrapped tightly in a warm hug after a quick peck on the forehead.

Simply put, they were too cute to lose. She’s practically a Chmerkosibling now. No one could compete with that. At least now we know why Val wasn’t laying the “I’m gonna miss you” goop on thick during their final rehearsal: Turns out Laurie will be going on tour with Our Pros this winter. She may even replace Maks as Val’s number-one family member. (Utter sacrilege. I apologize.)

It wouldn’t be a proper DWTS finale without a “24-Hour Fusion Challenge” round in which every couple gets a perfect 40! Laurie and Val’s foxtrot-Argentine tango blend delivered the light and shade Carrie Ann claimed to have been looking for against the gymnast’s other, more “aggressive and fierce” dances.

Still fierce, I say! Yet, nuanced. Fully charged with nuance.

Before their foxtrot-Viennese waltz fusion, James gave Sharna the driving suit he’d worn for his first race back since his near-fatal accident. “Just promise me you’re not gonna bedazzle it,” he requested as his partner sat stunned, wondering where she’d possibly find room to store the equivalent of 20 of her own costumes. Silly James — it’s not like Sharna bedazzles anything herself. She choreographs her entire life to the nines, and the sparkles just appear!  

The proof is in the yellow and green hidden gems, people. That’s the power of their chemistry.

Third place went to Energizer honey Calvin Johnson Jr. and his partner Rainbow Brite, who dazzled the crowd with their jive-quickstep fusion. It was the perfect choice for the NFL star Carrie Ann had deemed “too big for the ballroom”. Once Calvin took a knee on that tiny floor for the last time, the judges rode out the secondhand high of his natural energy in rare form.

Fire it up, nutjobs: “There’s not enough rhinestones in the world, or that jacket, that shines as bright as you do,” Julianne practically sang. “It’s like Chicken Soup to the Eyes!” cried Len, a man who knows his stock. “Calvin can charm the pants off of anyone!” claimed Bruno, certainly the most reliable source on shapeshifting pants we may ever know in this lifetime.

So there you have it: three talented athletes, each of whom would have been deserving of her majesty the mirrorball. Happy sigh, and yummy soup.

The rest of the finale was dedicated to what loyal viewers have come to expect and demand from DWTS: gratuitous partial nudity and absurd, damn near otherworldly ridiculata. Out on the ice at The Grove (not kidding, this was such a slippery dance surface that a camera guy fell, hard), Erin lived the dream, begging for gifts a month too early from a troupe of shirtless-with-suspenders Santas. YES.

Not to be outdone, Artem, Sasha, Val, Gleb, and Maks sought to reclaim the ballroom in various stages of undress — trapped in the disco dimension but not getting too stressed out about it.

They’re the real pros, okay? This is their job. They thrive under pressure, under stretchy, foil-based wraps. Hell, they’d do this even if the music stopped. Do not doubt them.

I always like the zippy highlight reels during the finale, and this season’s did not disappoint — they threw all my favorite moments in there, such as Len Goodman wondering, in subtitles, “What’s Vanilla Ice got on his head?” Plus, a fabulous dress rehearsal blooper reel pulled out all the stops, namely Artem’s shirt popping open….

….and Gleb’s pants straight up falling down.

Speaking of Gleb, it looked like he still had the flu, yet for awhile there it was hard to tell under all that steaming hot Argentine tango/death water. Drink in that sweet, sweet disease, Jana Kramer. He’s still all yours, for a few more minutes until he either passes out or washes away.

“Save water — shower with a friend!” Just like that, Tom Bergeron had turned a cesspool of germs into a PSA for the environment.

If you thought Gleb would be the only one caught in a twisted fever dream combining past and present, you’ve clearly never sat through an entire Dancing With the Stars finale. I’m still reeling from the Vanilla Ice- Gov. Rick Perry collaboration that we never knew we needed — but now that it’s happened, could never live without.

“I love living in the ’90s,” Ice confirmed his worldview, “and everyone feels like a teenager here today.” But the triumphant waving of DJ Rick Perry’s musicality flag didn’t stop there. Coming back from a commercial break, we were greeted by this same madman, now in his own private jungle-gem playground, wailing on the drums Animal-style and looking to throw some sticks.

I must say this tantrum of a potential Cabinet member was rather invigorating in its sheer unlikeliness!

Hmmm, but probably best not end on that note. It’s too manic, too existential. Too real. I need more bodies and lasers, stat. So once more, with feeling, I give you Sharna and Gleb.

May the fierceness of Our Pros be with you the entire offseason — or sooner, if the tour stops in your city, you lucky duck.

Thanks for keeping up with these recaps! And if this holiday season finds you in the market for a wall calendar featuring sunset photography laced with the ballroom-tinged musings of a lunatic — why, you’re in luck, because I just wrote one.

See you next season, dance fans! Long live the queen of jewel tones!

The Fringe Fairy

The Dancing With the Stars finale airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of DWTS on Yahoo View