There's a new dancing queen in the house! After last-man-standing James Maslow was eliminated during part one of Dancing With the Stars' season 18 finale on Monday, May 19, only three women were left in the race for the Mirrorball Trophy. Those three women—Meryl Davis, Amy Purdy, and Candace Cameron Bure—had one last chance to impress the judges on May 20 before a new winner was crowned. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)
The two-hour finale was jam-packed with special performances by guest stars including Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande, Christina Perri, and reigning DWTS champ Amber Riley, who sang "Do Your Thing." Also in the house were the eliminated season 18 contestants, many of whom tore up the floor with spotlighted solo and partner routines.
The main event, though, was the announcement of the big winner. Judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli praised all three finalists, but in the end, the Mirrorball went to Olympic ice dancer Meryl and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who earned his first win in 14 seasons on the show.
"It's just plastic, but it means so much," Maks said of the Mirrorball. "And to [win] it with Meryl is a dream come true. There's a reason it didn't happen before. It's because I was meant to do it with her."
The winning duo earned yet another perfect score from the judges for their final routine, a foxtrot/cha cha fusion. (They also earned perfect scores for both of their May 19 dances, bringing their total for the two nights to a perfect 90 out of 90.) Carrie Ann was so enamored of the performance that she gave it a standing ovation. Bruno, meanwhile, raved that watching them was like rediscovering "the excitement, the passion" of a first love.
Indeed, Meryl and Maks had a special bond from the very beginning of the competition. While in past seasons he had a reputation for being a bit gruff, this season he showed his softer side. Judges repeatedly noted his "special chemistry" with Meryl, and how she seemed to bring out the best not just in his dancing and choreography, but also in his personality.
During the May 19 finals, he and Meryl brought Carrie Ann to actual tears with their freestyle routine. "I think you guys should get married," she gushed when she pulled herself together enough to talk. (In fact, during a behind-the-scenes highlight reel, Maks joked that he wanted to "ravish" Meryl and have "big, ice-dancing" babies with her.)
In the runner-up spot was paralympian Amy and her partner, Derek Hough, who wowed the judges again and again with their showstopping routines—made even more amazing by the fact that Amy lost her legs when she was 19 and now uses prosthetics. Their last dance was a cha cha/Argentine tango fusion that earned a 30 out of 30 from the judges, for a final total of 89 out of 90. "Your unbreakable spirit has been a lesson in life for all of us," Bruno told her.
Third place went to Candace and DWTS pro Mark Ballas. Candace struggled throughout the season with performance anxiety—she even consulted a sports psychologist about her jitters -- but she seemed to be having fun on the finale. Her swan song was a quickstep/samba fusion that earned a 27 out of 30 from the judges (9 from each), for a total of 78 out of 90.
Other highlights from the finale: James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd's encore performance of their freestyle dance; Charlie White and Sharna Burgess' Disney night redo of their Mary Poppins number; Meryl, Amy, Candace, and Danica McKellar's Team Loca routine, which was never shown live because of Amy's back injury earlier in the season; and a highlight reel of past performances and show moments.
Tell Us: Are you happy with the outcome of Dancing With the Stars' 18th season?