The finale was everything Monday night wasn't: Supercharged and electrifying, the dancers returned to dazzling form. And the fatigue, illness and injuries were forgotten.
Well, almost forgotten. Pro dancer Mark Ballas, who wowed the crowd again doing his show-stopping cha-cha-cha with the much-missed Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan, was whisked off to the hospital immediately after their performance. He had been in some distress for two days with a sore shoulder. "Something kind of funky was happening," says Bryan, who was anxious to join Ballas at the hospital after the show. "But he's a true competitor. And even though we weren't competing tonight, he wanted to have our last performance. He was not going to let anyone know."
But Jane Seymour knew. "He shouldn't have been dancing," she said after the show. "He's hurt himself." Mark Cuban knew, too. "His father told me that he's got a torn muscle in his shoulder, and it's really, really painful," says Cuban. "It happens to basketball players all the time and it takes a while to heal."
The worry now is that Ballas — and, by extension, Bryan — may have to be scratched from the Dancing with the Stars national tour, which begins in mid-December.
Meanwhile, there was an air of real celebration as the stars, pros, guests and press jockeyed for position on a dance floor covered with the treacherous, slippery, shiny gold confetti that had rained down on racing champ Helio Castroneves and his pro partner, Julianne Hough. "I was sitting here watching Helio and Julianne dance and thinking, 'Man, they're really good,'" says last season's champ, Apolo Anton Ohno. Ohno's partner, of course, was also Julianne Hough. "My girl," he says proudly, "won again."
And they did it by upsetting the team that was in first place according to the judges' scores, Spice Girl Melanie Brown and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Chmerkovskiy, always the professional, tried to put a good face on it. "I'm taking away something much more valuable than a trophy," says Chmerkovskiy. "I'm taking away Mel's friendship."
"But he's devastated," says judge Bruno Tonioli. "Yes, he was," agrees judge Carrie Ann Inaba. "But I don't think there were any losers here tonight," adds Tonioli. "Melanie hasn't lost anything. Because you saw a side of her that was so unexpected. Nobody knew that a Spice Girl was such a nice girl, such a professional, such a good dancer, and had such good humor. And Maks? She changed him! Talk about girl power? That is girl power!"
"What so interesting about Melanie is that people had preconceived notions about who she was," says Inaba. "And she broke them down by being humble, by focusing on the competition and not getting too wrapped up in herself. She was beautiful out there."
For her part, Brown seemed as surprised to have made the top two as Castroneves was about winning. "I can't believe we made it to the end," says Brown. "To the very, bitter end." And why is that? "Because I'm British, I'm a woman and I'm a mixed race," she says candidly. "Women don't vote for other women, generally, so I didn't expect to stay in it all this way."
Neither did Castroneves, who had to dig deep on Monday night to come back and do the freestyle after the judges slammed his jive. "I was really upset that I messed it up," says Castroneves. "So I sat down in one of the changing rooms and I said, 'I can do this.' And Julianne kept saying, 'You can do this.' So it was a double thought in my head."
"All the pros on this show deserve so much credit," says Jonathan Roberts, the pro who partnered with Marie Osmond and came in third. "You're not just a dance teacher. You're a psychologist, you're a coach. You go along on this journey with this person." Roberts, who had a root canal last Monday, is happy that he's free now to get the tooth properly capped. "It's been a crazy 10 weeks."
As for Osmond, she's booked with the Dancing national tour and a new show in Las Vegas with her brother, Donny. It doesn't sound like she'll be slowing down a bit. But Donny says she may be in for a rough Christmas. "I think the reaction to losing our dad has been delayed," says Donny. "I think the best thing for us was to stay busy. At least it was for me, and I'm sure Marie feels that way, too. But I think Christmas is going to be very hard."
For Cuban, the rough part has been watching Dancing from home. "At first, when I got home, it was almost a relief, because I got to see my kids. But then the twinges started coming, like, I should be dancing. I want to learn the next dance. I want to practice. My wife and I would sit there, and I'd say, 'I could do that! Why did I screw up that one move?'"
And how's his hip replacement coming along? "My doctor said he was afraid to look at my X-rays when I went back," says Cuban. "And the dancing did create some calcification, but it'll work its way out. Tonight was the first time I didn't take all my drugs and when I did that little spin over there, I thought, 'Ooooooh. I'm gonna die.' But my bone could've popped out and I would've kept going."
Dancing clearly makes people a little crazy. So after all the turmoil of this crazy, wonderful season, did the right person win? "Helio had that little something special, that X-factor that we can never really explain," says Inaba. "But when you're in the room, you feel it. There's electricity that exists that didn't exist before the dance started. I think that's what always wins it."
And then there's the enjoyment of the flat-out sex appeal that happens when stars like Cameron Mathison finally take their shirts off. Host Tom Bergeron came over to chat after Mathison — and then Tonioli, who threatened to drop his trousers — started behaving badly during the show. "Isn't live TV fun?" he asked.
Yes, Tom, it is.
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