After 10 weeks of fierce competition and several surprise eliminations, Meryl Davis emerged the champion of season 18 of “Dancing With the Stars” tonight, beating out actress Candace Cameron Bure and paralympian Amy Purdy for the mirror ball trophy.
Davis's pro partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, was elated when co-host Tom Bergeron announced that they had won. He jumped into the air and then hugged and spun Davis around.
The Olympian credited her partner with their big win, and he seemed, uncharacteristically, at a loss for words.
“Oh man! It’s just plastic but it means so much and when it’s lasted a decade of running after it, it means that much more, and to do it with Meryl is a dream come true,” he said, adding that there was a reason he hadn’t won until now. He said he believed he was meant to win with Davis.
Purdy finished second. Bure, who finished in third place, smiled when she learned the outcome and said she was honored to have gone so far in the competition.
On Monday, the first night of the two-part finale, each couple performed two separate dances: a routine they’d previously performed in a partner switch that judges wanted them to reprise with their own partners, plus the all-important freestyle dance.
On Tuesday, they had to perform another dance in the 24-hour fusion challenge. They had only 24 hours to create and rehearse the routine that mixed two separate dance styles.
The grand finale opened with a dance number featuring all of the dancers who competed this season, and "Big Time Rush" star James Maslow –- who was voted off last night -- was chosen by fans to give an encore of his hip-hop freestyle.
The ballroom and viewing audiences also got to see eliminated contestants perform prior routines Tuesday. Purdy took part in a group dance that she’d missed performing live during the season because of a back injury, and Olympic ice dancer Charlie White performed with his pro partner Sharna Burgess (their routine again included a slight prop malfunction).
White and Davis –- who are Olympic ice dancing partners -- also performed a routine together.
The night also featured a number of pop performances, including by rapper Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX, singer Ariana Grande and “Dancing” cast member Cody Simpson, who performed his hit song, “Surfboard.” Last season’s “Dancing” champion, “Glee” actress Amber Riley, performed her new single, “Colorblind,” and Christina Perri sang “Human.”
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: The pair’s performance fused the Argentine tango and the cha-cha. Purdy, a double-amputee who has danced on prosthetics throughout the season, continued to dazzle tonight as she has throughout the season. Head judge Len Goodman said she was “without question” a fantastic dancer, and fellow judge Bruno Tonioli said Purdy’s unbreakable spirit and determination were lessons for everyone. Carrie Ann Inaba, the third judge on the panel, said what made Purdy special was that she was always uplifting. Inaba also commended Hough for his partnership of the Paralympian. Purdy earned three 10s for a perfect score of 30 points. Her score was added to her total from last night – 59 – for a two-night total of 89 out of a possible 90 points.
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: Bure and Ballas danced the samba and quickstep. Judges again praised the “Full House” actress for pushing through the highs and lows of the competition to make it to the final. “What a ride it has been,” Tonioli said. “We had ups, we had downs, we had spills, we had thrills, but I tell you, you’ve always been adorable, charming, genuine you listened to us, worked very, very hard, you have improved. Well done!” Goodman said Bure may not always have been at the top of the leaderboard, but he said she was “tops with the fans.” Bure earned three 9s for a total of 27, and a two-night total of 78 out of 90.
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: The Olympic ice dancer’s foxtrot/cha-cha fusion earned her and her partner their accustomed rave reviews from all three judges. Inaba said the entire season 18 had been phenomenal, but added: “the best part of the season to me, honestly speaking, was you two.” Tonioli likened watching Davis and Chmerkovskiy to rediscovering “the passion and excitement of your first love.” Goodman drew a few gasps with his comment: “I’m not saying this is true, but this may be my last season and if it is, I couldn’t wish for a better dance to watch to finish up with. You are great.” Davis earned 30 points. Added to her score perfect 60 from last night, Davis finished with a two-night total of 90 out of a possible 90 points.
Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 30, 60. Total: 90 (Davis and Chmerkovskiy won the mirror ball trophy.)
Amy Purdy and Derek Hough: 30, 59. Total: 89
Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas: 27, 51. Total: 78