Let’s not kid each other: Monday's “Dancing With The Stars” final performance show set the stage for a Brooke Burke victory. Lance Bass who? Warren Sapp what? The judges didn’t have any questions about who deserved to win: it was Brooke. Would the audience back them up?
But first: lots and lots of stalling! What better way to kick off a remembrance of season seven than with an appearance by Cloris Leachman wandering aimlessly through the streets, asking strangers about their voting plans? Skirting the same line between self-parody and genuine self-delusion so often flirted with by the show itself, Cloris eventually wandered off, and it was time to start the show.
Alicia Keys, without provocation of any kind, performed “I Need You” with the help of a few dancers she stole from Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” era, and then it was time to revisit some of the couples eliminated early. Jeffrey Ross reminded us that he is no dancer, Ted McGinley allowed us all to feel glad he didn’t bring about the cancellation of the entire show as he so often does, and Kim Kardashian proved that she had devoted all of three or four minutes to refreshing her own memory as to the details of the famous “Baby Got Back” dance.
And if you have forgotten Rocco DiSpirito, nothing about his return engagement would make you remember him.
Toni Braxton was unable to dance because of recent surgery, while Cloris Leachman was unable to dance because … well, because she is Cloris Leachman, but she tried anyway. Susan Lucci brought back a rather flat-footed paso doble, and Maurice Greene proved that he can still salsa and he can still wear orange.
As the midpoint of the show approached, Jeffrey returned (or perhaps re-returned) to roast the three finalists with surprising success, which might have been the first meritorious filler segment in the show’s history. (“What can be said about Lance Bass that hasn’t already been said about Clay Aiken?”) He pointed out Brooke’s rich fertility and Warren’s bald head, and that was it for the first hour.
Cody Linley returned to jitterbug once more, and that left the final three. Remember the final three? Remember when the show first named the final three? It was so long ago, seriously, that you may have had a different hairstyle.
The judges thought the information might have escaped you, so they treated everyone to lengthy reminders of what we have been told over and over again. Lance is most improved! Warren is entertaining! Brooke is the finest dancer! The show is more than half over and none of them have done anything!
Things finally got moving with Warren’s final dance, a replay of his “Funkytown” hustle that impressed the judges enough to land him a total of 27 points.
Lance and Lacey brought back their “Jim Dandy” jitterbug, except without the part where he kicked his shoe off. It was still a good routine, and it got them the 28 they needed to move ahead of Warren and Kym in the judging — still four points behind Brooke, and almost certain to fall another two points behind her when the judges served up her inevitable perfect scores.
So what did Brooke choose to do? She and Derek did their Viennese waltz. It was pretty, it was uninspiring, and it received perfect scores. Not exactly breaking news, but it sent Brooke off on a wave of Carrie Ann’s overwhelmed tears, with big leads over Lance and Warren. Samantha Harris wrapped up the segment by claiming that their waltz was incredibly emotional for everyone watching, and with 25 minutes to go, the conclusion seemed pretty obvious.
Finally, the time came to announce the third-place couple, which turned out to be Lance and Lacey, meaning their audience support didn’t turn out to be as good as Warren Sapp’s. Early guesses — — that he would take the prize according to the existing script from past seasons simply collapsed under the weight of Brooke’s high scores and Warren’s bigger-than-believed fanbase.
And then: Miley Cyrus. She sings, kind of! She dances, kind of! She has great hair, definitely! Her song will fall out of your head thirty seconds after you hear it!
The final two teams paid each other a series of easily forgotten compliments, Tom Bergeron visited with the departed contestants sitting in the front row (two hours of show surely has room for seven seconds of Kim Kardashian pitching herself), and Tom swore that this time, he really meant it: the winner was about to be revealed. (To be Brooke Burke.) (Oh, sorry – spoiler alert!)
Finally, it was time for the reveal of the winner. Warren and Kym and Brooke and Derek stood across from each other, and Brooke practiced her “look surprised” face while Warren tried to stop compulsively winking. And the winner was … Brooke Burke! A marvelous win for the overdog.
Brooke’s victory is, in a way, a triumph for real dancing on the show. She had the best technique and the best scores all season. Still, it feels a little hollow to see a winner whose personality was quite this opaque for the majority of the season. She’s undoubtedly excited, just as she should be, but it’s easy to entertain the suspicion that she missed her own celebration while working to execute the post-victory trophy lift with flawless form.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to Msnbc.com