In short, the cream rose to the top.
That doesn't always happen in "Dancing With the Stars"; sometimes it curdles on the way up, giving us overachieving finalists who leave us cold, bored or distracted.
But not this time. This past season was a good one for the most improbable of reasons: The show assembled a cast with sizzle and style. There wasn't much brute star power here, but then there never is; we had to be content with quality, and there was that.
So that leaves us with tonight's (8, ABC/7) finalists: Donald Driver, Katherine Jenkins and William Levy. Who will win? To the handicap:
Donald Driver: My favorite all season, and favorite going into the final (the winner is announced tomorrow), I respectfully decline to change my prediction (he wins) despite all evidence to the contrary. His final two dances of the season -- a samba and waltz -- captured his core vital strengths: an effortless fluid movement that looks like light on air.
His feet are marvels, and his poise -- upright without rigidity -- is consistent. He came to win, and with a terrific partner, Peta Murgatroyd, has carried his game right to the very end. For some reason, the judges have been tough on the Packers' No. 80; he's the only one of the finalists who only came close once to scoring a perfect 30. Why? Best to ask them, but he's been one of "DWTS' " best over 14 seasons.
William Levy: That aforementioned "evidence"? Here he is. Everything seems to point to a big win tomorrow night, or everyone points to one. The judges adore him, though I happen to think the sum of the parts of this team could carry the day. Both Levy and Cheryl Burke complement one another physically; they have a certain muscularity and roundness that has somehow enhanced some of their more dazzling numbers, like their cha-cha in the "trio challenge" in week 8, or the Argentine tango or samba in weeks 5 and 6, respectively. In fact, "dazzling" isn't really the right word -- steady, competent, sure. Those are.
Katherine Jenkins: Finally, Kate. I had her gone by week three. Another pretty face and pretty voice. Big deal. We've seen 'em come. We've seen 'em go. But what did I know? Probably the most unexpected final-three contestant since Kelly Osbourne (Season 9), and good enough to win a few past seasons, she has elegance and athleticism -- although the latter almost got her in trouble with a taxing version of salsa, when she hurt her back on the last step. Will she win? She has a total of 328 points over 12 dances -- more than anyone; scored the first perfect 10 (week 3); and never once had a weak outing. She's been a surprise so far. Maybe she has one last surprise left.