‘DWTS’ Crowns a Winner! Who Is the New Champ?

"DWTS": Derek and Amber (Photo: ABC)


Who would win “Dancing with the Stars” season 17? That thought had been bugging me all day and if your response is “get a life,” then shame on you!

In seasons past, I always easily guessed the winner, but this time, I really had no idea who would take home the mirror ball trophy. The person who wins the freestyle dance always triumphs in the end, but with all three finalists earning perfect 30s last night and showing their specific strengths, it was a mighty hard choice.

I decided to go with my heart and hope that Jack Osbourne would be the surprise winner over Corbin Bleu and Amber Riley. Jack and his partner, Cheryl Burke, surely won a lot of votes with their emotional reaction to his buoyant classic Hollywood musical routine.

I was going out on a limb with my underdog theory, but in the absence of beloved Bill Engvall, who got cut on Monday night, I had to go with the competitor I felt had learned the most this season instead of those who had the most dance experience. The fact that Jack became a finalist while battling MS was also beyond impressive. It’s what “DWTS” is all about, people!

The show started with a cool red carpet opening number and Bill Nye (memba him?) got some laughs doing his robot hands. Valerie Harper blew viewers a kiss and it was heartening to see her looking so healthy. "DWTS" did her good! Yes, all the Season 17 stars were back.

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In funny footage from Monday night, Jack was seen saying he’d f***ed up the jive routine and Emma Slater ordering Bill to grab the rope during their Indiana Jones number.

Amber and Derek were chosen to perform the encore dance and once again, our “Glee” star knocked down the door of the saloon to boogie with a bunch of hunky hip hop cowboys.

Ylvis performed his “The Fox” song to accompany a supersized version of the team dance earlier this season and it was just as goofy and entertaining as last time.

Soon, we would start the much-anticipated exhibition dances, and Bill Nye was back in a Bionic Man satire. He re-did his “Weird Science” number by apparently jumping over Tyne Steiklein’s head – or did he? Four cartwheels later, we were in on the joke. But it sure looked real.

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Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy then did their thing and again, sorry, I felt they were slightly mismatched physically. No surprise they weren’t in the finals despite their elimination “shocker.”

Then, Christina Milian and Brant Daugherty and their partners did a number together which was full of fire. Christina and her partner Mark Ballas were robbed this season.

On to the emotional centerpiece of the season–Valerie Harper, who got her own segment so we could relive her journey as the first terminally ill “DWTS” contestant.

“I was supposed to be dead in March and here it is Thanksgiving,” the cancer patient marveled.

As Colbie Caillet sang “What a Wonderful World,” Valerie did a gentle waltz with partner Triastan MacManus and once again, we were all moved backstage by her spirit.

Snooki and Sasha Farber hit the floor and we remembered how good a dancer the former “Jersey Shore” party girl really was. Honestly, I thought this was better than Amber’s freestyle. Hmm.

The press-shy Leah Remini and her partner Tony Dovolani showed again why they’d made it so far in the completion with a fierce exhibition routine. Tony was talking to her the whole time; wish I could read lips!

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater came back with theirs corny “Cuban Pete” samba and the comedian appeared to be exactly the character he was playing—a white guy flailing around in Cuba.

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So now it was time for the three couple’s last dance, their chance to impress the judges for the final time.

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: Cha cha foxtrot fusion
The start of this dance, the foxtrot part, seemed at too slow a pace for Corbin, but he really turned it on for the cha cha and seemed to be having lots of fun. The couple embraced at the end and took their final bow. Judge Len Goodman stood up and praised his footwork but said he messed up one little part. That’s Len, always keeping it real! Bruno Tonioli saw the work the “High School Musical” star had put into it but said he went wrong in cha cha. Carrie Ann Inaba said, “I have so much respect and love for you,” even though he “lost it” in the cha cha. Funny, I didn’t see the cha cha transgressions at all.
Score: 27

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: Paso Doble Salsa Fusion
The underdog couple circled each other warily, then went into a lot of cool partnering stuff which culminated in Cheryl drumming on Jack's butt. He really seemed on fire tonight and got the crowd going. There was applause in the press room, showing many of the journalists favored Jack as much as I did. Bruno said his salsa was playful and cheeky: "You did it, my darling." Carrie Ann said he was a hair off in the salsa while Len said he'd seen Jack get better and better each week. "You climbed a mountain. Well done," Len gushed. The plot thickened as they got the same score as Corbin. Was this the set up for Amber to get the perfect 30 to end the show and win it all?
Score: 27

Amber Riley and Derek Hough: Samba Quickstep Fusion
This started with the two snapping their fingers and dancing to "Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher." Amber was perfectly on the beat and mugging for the cameras. She showed no sign of knee trouble and Carrie Ann was crying at the end. "Well done," she trilled. Len said he got joy from watching Amber while Bruno called it a sparkling high octane number. Wait for it-yes, indeed, the triple 10s flew and I guessed this one would end with Amber taking the mirror ball and "DWTS" golden boy Derek once again the pro winner.
Score: 30

First, one star would finish in the bronze position, and that person was…Jack! Oh, darn. Jack finished exactly where his sister, Kelly Osbourne, had during her season. The underdog remained one in the dreaded third place, but he had won all our hearts and I felt the disappointment amongst my fellow reporters.

That meant Corbin and Amber were the top two.

And the winner of Season 17 of "Dancing with the Stars" was…Amber Riley, creaky knees and all! She went nuts and Derek had pulled it off again!

No surprise after her final dance got the 30 (and the couple got the night's encore dance). It was a great season with some of the best routines in the history of the show. I already can't wait to return for Season 18 in the spring.

Check out xfinityTV tomorrow for my final “DWTS” interviews!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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