Dancing With the Stars Crowns Winner -- What a Close Contest! [UPDATED]

Dancing With the Stars Season 14If you haven’t yet seen the season finale of Dancing With the Stars, read no further! Go watch the dance competition’s final episode, then come back for the recap. You’ve been warned…

Talk about a touchdown.

Wisconsin’s all-time leading receiver Donald Driver and partner Peta Murgatroyd sent their Dancing With the Stars competition Green Bay packing in the two-hour finale of season 14. But Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas and William Levy and Cheryl Burke put up a strong defense filled with hard work and heart. As Len put it, “This season, without question, is the best.” (Keep in mind, he later compared the battle for the trophy to Gettysburg, Bunker Hill, and the Alamo. Even in a night filled with hyperbole, that one stood out.)

Athletes tend to do very well in the ballroom, and Driver’s victory made him the seventh one — and third football player — to nab the top spot in the show’s 14-season history. Think that’ll have any effect on the casting of the upcoming all-star season? Regardless, here’s how the final episode of the contest shook out:

What (little) difference a day makes | Almost as soon as the previous night’s show was finished, each of the remaining couples met to prepare a dance of their choice to perform in the finale. The scored “24-hour challenge dance,” along with the previous night’s scores and America’s votes, would determine the winner. William and Cheryl’s salsa featured lots of cool-looking dips and (surprise) had the hunk shaking his shiny satin-covered butt. Katherine’s energy level seemed a tad shaky during her and Mark’s jive, but the audience didn’t seem to care. And during his cha cha cha with Peta, Donald oozed as much masculinity as a man wearing hot pink pants and matching heels can. In the end, the dances didn’t matter much; because the beaming judges gave each couple a perfect 30, the combined scores essentially remained the same, with one point separating Katherine and Donald’s totals from William’s.

The gang’s all here | The other season 14 celebrities came back to strut their castoff stuff. Highlights: Sherri Shepherd’s boisterous “It’s Raining Men,” which ended with the View host happily smushing two of the male dancers’ heads into her sequined bosom. Get it, girl. Also great: Maria Menounos’ sharp and sexy tango with Derek Hough. A notable mention goes to Jack Wagner, who could’ve used a few more buttons on his shirt but who gave his outing with partner Anna Trebunskaya a certain slick flair. Gavin DeGraw’s number was at the other end of the spectrum; while the female dancers worked overtime, he swayed around the parquet like the guy who gets trapped in a circle of tipsy girls on a wedding dance floor and decides to be a good sport and wait until the song’s done to sit down. Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower’s freestyle was serviceable, but really made me wish I were watching her So You Think You Can Dance “Bleeding Love” hip hop routine. And Jaleel White talked a big game about his Shaft-themed routine but then botched the lift — at least he and partner Kym Johnson laughed about it afterwards.

Sing out, sisters | Returnee Gladys Knight gave a soulful rendition of “The Way We Were,” and Duets pro Kelly Clarkson performed a medley of her “Dark Side” and “Stronger.” I love that the professional dancers started fist-pumping when Clarkson hit the “Stronger” chorus, because that’s exactly what I do every single time I hear it.

Down to business | Finally, it was time to announce the winning couple. William and Cheryl were the first to go. However, as Len told the telenovela hunk earlier, “If salsa and rhythm were in the Olympics, you’d get a gold medal.” Soon after, Katherine and Mark took the number two spot. The Welsh wiggler played it classy, saying, “It’s been an absolute dream.” That left Donald, who hefted the Mirrorball Trophy over his head and let out a gleeful whoop, to celebrate with Peta and his family as the confetti fell.

As I see it, Donald and Peta’s chemistry was the factor that edged them ahead. But what do you think? Hit the comments and give us your thoughts!