‘Dancing with the Stars’ Finale recap: Who won the Mirror Ball Trophy at the end of topsy-turvy season 28? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Tonight was the night when “Dancing with the Stars” crowned its season 28 Mirror Ball champion. The show won’t be back in the spring, but fans may need that extra time just to recover from this season’s controversial surprises. So how did it all end? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

It all came down to four celebs: country singer Lauren Alaina, pop star Ally Brooke, “Bachelorette” star Hannah Brown and former “All That” comedian and actor Kel Mitchell. But getting to those finalists was a long and winding road, which included shocking early eliminations of contestants like Sailor Brinkley-Cook, a certain former White House propagandist long overstaying his welcome, and then front-runner James Van Der Beek getting the axe in the Semi-Finals. It all makes the upside-down Bobby Bones season look tame by comparison.

There were two rounds of competition before a winner was announced. In the first round the contestants repeated their favorite dance from earlier in the season: Alaina danced the foxtrot again, Brooke revisited her jive, Brown re-did the Viennese waltz and Mitchell performed another jazz routine. The second round, of course, was the long-awaited freestyle routines where the rules went out the window and the celebs could express themselves however they and their pro partners saw fit.

The night also featured musical performances from Cher, Pitbull and Ne-Yo. So what did you think of the finale? Are you sad to see it go until next fall (at the earliest), or relieved that it’s finally over? Follow along below starting at 8:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

Cordell Martin, 8:00pm — I’m rooting for Kel, but expecting a win for Hannah.

Jeffrey Kare, 8:01pm — I have a feeling Kel and Whitney are going to win, but we’ll see.


Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber (Jive)

Daniel Montgomery, 8:04pm — I feel bad for the position Ally was put in last week, being in the bottom two again and sent to the finale over James Van Der Beek. She was in jeopardy three different times this season and always saved by the judges, but she absolutely deserves to be there.

DM, 8:07pm — Great start, loved those flicks and kicks, great rhythm and energy.

JK, 8:07pm — Ally and Sasha really just kicked off the finale with a huge bang!

CM, 8:08pm — Ally isn’t playing tonight. She really has to pull out all the stops tonight to get those fans votes.

JUDGES — Len Goodman tells Ally, “You have done your chances no harm at all.” Bruno Tonioli said, “That’s how you start a show, in top gear … full throttle, going for maximum effect … You succeeded on every level.” And Carrie Ann Inaba says that dance is why Ally is here tonight in the finale.

DM, 8:10pm — I love that James is there. I hope he gets to do something nice in the finale.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

JK, 8:11pm — And already, we have a perfect score tonight.

CM, 8:13pm — Well deserved.

Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko (Foxtrot)

DM, 8:15pm — Lauren was stunned last week when they announced she was going to the finale. She looked like she was sure she was a goner. Out of the final four, she’s the one who still needs to watch her technique the most, but she’s been a delight. She’s performing her Dolly Parton “Jolene” foxtrot again, connecting to her country roots again.

CM, 8:17pm — I love Lauren’s personality, wish she was paired with a different pro LOL.

JK, 8:18pm — Well, I at least found her routine with Gleb just now to be quite lovely.

CM, 8:19pm — She really softens Gleb up,

DM, 8:19pm — I thought it looked a tiny bit slow in places, but overall lovely.

JUDGES — Bruno thinks she “brings the character to life.” He likes her “commitment to the storytelling,” and her balance has improved. But Carrie Ann didn’t think she wasn’t as open emotionally as usual. She wants Lauren to let it all out for her freestyle and not hold anything back. Len thought it was “well done.”

JK, 8:21pm — How rude of them to almost skip Len’s comments.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 27 out of 30

DM, 8:22pm — Erin accidentally called Ally by Lauren’s name. Then they almost skip Len’s comments. And the set falls apart. This season in a nutshell LOL.

JK, 8:23pm — That’s the thing with live television, anything can happen.

Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson (Jazz)

DM, 8:26pm — Kel has improved a lot this season, and he’s got a secret weapon: Witney is the only pro in the finals who has won a Mirror Ball Trophy before, and she has choreographed killer freestyles. She even got an Emmy nomination for her choreography the season she won with Alfonso Ribeiro, so she could give him a winning routine at the end of the night. He’s re-doing his “High School Musical” jazz number, which was a stylistically looser routine, so this should be nothing short of solid at the very least.

DM, 8:30pm — A+ routine, solid B+ performance. I liked it a lot.

JK, 8:30pm — Kel and Whitney really know how to bring on the energy.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann thought it was better the second time, and he makes it look easy while being spot-on with his movements. Len thought he was “terrific” and “the leader of the pack.” Bruno called it “life-affirming,” and it’s “beautiful” the way he interprets the music through his body.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

DM, 8:32pm — Okay, I think every non-Lauren dancer is just gonna get automatic 10s tonight.

JK, 8:35pm — Of course ABC would to give a plug-in to “The Bachelor,” one of their current flagship reality shows.

CM, 8:36pm — Yeah the fix is in LOL, Hannah’s going to win.

Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten (Viennese Waltz)

DM, 8:38pm — “The ‘Bachelorette’ star, who should consider Tinder,” says Tom Bergeron, introducing Hannah’s package a few minutes after teasing Hannah’s appearance in the next season of “The Bachelor.” I really like Hannah and think she might be the best technical dancer in the final four, but that made her journey on “DWTS” this season seem more manufactured. She’s probably gonna kill this Viennese waltz, though.

JK, 8:41pm — That was breathtaking!

DM, 8:41pm — Okay, credit where it’s due,, I do think that was the best dance of the first round.

CM, 8:42pm — Yes, I will give her that.

JUDGES — Len thought the footwork was “suspect” here and there, but he loved the sweep across the flow. Bruno thought she was “radiant,” but there was a little “incident.” Carrie Ann disagrees with the others, calling it her “best dance of the season.”

DM, 8:43pm — I think the judges are nitpicking her in a way they aren’t with the other dancers tonight.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (9), Bruno (9) — TOTAL: 28 out of 30

CM, 8:46pm — Interesting.

DM, 8:46pm — I feel like the judges have decided who the 10 dancers are and who the 9 dancers are and are deciding their critiques backwards from that, because I thought Hannah’s dance was certainly a 10 if Kel’s was.

CM, 8:47pm — I agree.

JK, 8:47pm — At least Carrie Ann was able to give Hannah a 10.

DM, 8:47pm — Yeah, I’m with Carrie Ann on this one.

CM, 8:48pm — They should’ve given them new routines.

CM, 8:56pm — So when is Pitbull going to become a contestant? LOL

JK, 8:56pm — Maybe next season (assuming we get one)?

DM, 8:57pm — It does seem like he comes by to perform or guest judge every other season or so. He’s such a ballroom tease LOL.


Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber

DM, 9:00pm — Before the start of the round, Tom introduced champions Emmitt Smith, Bobby Bones, and Jordan Fisher in the audience — one of those things is not like the others LOL. But I’m really looking forward to seeing what Sasha can do with Ally without any choreographic restrictions. Their Charleston last week was already super ambitious.

JK, 9:04pm — For Ally and Sasha’s last hurrah, I thought they absolutely killed it!

CM, 9:04pm — Her best performance!

DM, 9:04pm — I LOVE that they leaned into her Latin heritage with that Gloria Estefan number. There was one lift that looked super awkward, but I thought they threw everything at the wall with that one and nailed about 90% of it.

JUDGES — Bruno exlaims, “Unleash the star power! … It was a showstopper.” Carrie Ann adds, “I have never seen anything like that … You are such an explosive performer.” Len thought it was “high-energy” and “fast-paced,” and that “the music was recreated in every movement.”

DM, 9:06pm — With all those lifts, Ally kinda gives me Kelly Monaco vibes.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

DM, 9:07pm — Another perfect night for Ally: 60 out of 60 for the night.

JK, 9:07pm — Two well-deserved perfect scores for her tonight!

Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko

DM, 9:14pm — “It’s really bittersweet that it’s almost over,” says Lauren about her last dance with Gleb. She’s even making him cry with her appreciation. I didn’t even know he had tear ducts. He says he’s “a better teacher and a better human being” after partnering with Lauren, and it looks like he might be right.

CM, 9:16pm — Oh wow, Gleb is showing some emotion.

CM, 9:18pm — That was cute.

DM, 9:19pm — Whole lotta fun from Lauren. Still not the strongest technique, but a fun way to showcase her personality.

CM, 9:19pm — Ally’s was better

DM, 9:19pm — Agreed.

JK, 9:19pm — While Lauren and Gleb started off pretty good, they at least ended with a terrific finish.

JUDGES — “This was the perfect freestyle for you,” says Carrie Ann. “That was a great end to this beautiful chapter.” Len liked that she “paid homage” to her roots. Bruno called it “happy hour at Lauren’s saloon,” and he especially enjoyed the line dancing.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

DM, 9:21pm — And watch Hannah still not get a perfect score. This means Lauren actually got a 10 from Len before her, which is surprising given their trajectories this season.

Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten

DM, 9:28pm — I hope Alan brings something energetic or emotional out of Hannah. Her biggest drawback has been connecting emotionally to her dances, and if there were ever a time for Hannah unleashed it’s now.

CM, 9:32pm — Yeah this a no for me.

DM, 9:32pm — I love that Carrie Ann criticized her for giving a cheerleader performance, and they kinda put a cheerleader routine into the middle of this one. I liked some of that performance, but I still think Ally’s freestyle was the best by far out of the three.

JK, 9:33pm — I thought Hannah and Alan’s final performance was on fire (pun intended)!

JUDGES — Len was “caught unawares.” He’s used to her performing with lyrical movements, but this time she was “sharp” and “crisp” and “great.” Bruno said it went from the “dramatic to the acrobatic to the sexy … It was superb.” And Carrie Ann says Hannah is living her best life: “That was a victorious freestyle.” There was one little stumble, but the rest of the performance made up for it.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 30 out of 30

DM, 9:35pm — This means there won’t be a Mirror Ball champ without at least one perfect score this season. They’ve all gotten at least one.

CM, 9:35pm — My rankings so far: Ally, Lauren, Hannah.

Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson

DM, 9:39pm — So far I think the door is wide open for a Kel win. He has the personality and the natural rhythm for a great freestyle, and Witney is a killer choreographer. Plus, he’s giving the last performance of the night, so they’re setting him up nicely for a potential victory.

JK, 9:43pm — What a way to bring the house down on this season!

DM, 9:43pm — Not as much going on as Ally’s freestyle, but played to his strengths better than Ally’s. I’d say they had easily the better two freestyles tonight. Witney did a GREAT job of playing to Kel’s strengths.

CM, 9:43pm — I think Kel is the new winner of “DWTS.”

JUDGES — “What a ride!” says Bruno. He loved the final “exhilarting” acceleration of the routine. Carrie Ann adds, “My inner Fly Girl is so happy” with that ’90s throwback routine. Len thought it was too similar to their first dance of the night. Everyone boos. Emmitt Smith is ready to throw down.

DM, 9:45pm — Devil’s advocate: Len’s not wrong about the two routines being similar. It’s because Kel is a better hip-hop dancer than a ballroom dancer, which has been my problem with him this season.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (9), Bruno (10) — TOTAL: 29 out of 30

CM, 9:47pm — Yeah he should’ve went with a different dance for the first round.

DM, 9:47pm — I would have reversed it: the freestyle should have gotten a perfect score, but the jazz dance shouldn’t have.

CM, 9:49pm — I’m really curious as to who’s going to win.

JK, 9:50pm — Me too.

DM, 9:50pm — It’ll be interesting, though. We all thought the ’90s nostalgia winner would be James Van Der Beek, but it might be Kel. Boy would I have liked to see a Van Der Beek freestyle. He would have slayed.


DM, 9:55pm — They had better reveal the rankings and not just the winner, unlike last season when we had to figure it out after the fact.

DM, 9:56pm — OMG, Ally’s reaction to Gloria Estafan’s message — I don’t think she cares about the Mirror Ball anymore.

DM, 9:57pm — The couple in fourth place is … Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko. The couple in third place are Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber. Not too surprise in either case.

DM, 9:59pm — The winners of “DWTS” are … Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten! Also not too surprising since they were never in the bottom two, so we knew Hannah had the support from viewers. This also means Alan Bersten wins his first Mirror Ball Trophy on only his fourth season as a pro. Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson, therefore, finish second.


Mirror Ball Champion: Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten

2nd Place: Kel Mitchell and Witney Carson

3rd Place: Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber

4th Place: Lauren Alaina and Gleb Savchenko

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