'DWTS' crowns a winner, but not without some judging drama

The three-hour finale featured plenty of fancy footwork and even a touch of controversy

Dancing With the Stars crowns a winner in the season 32 finale.
Dancing With the Stars crowns a winner in the season 32 finale.

SPOILER: This article contains spoilers for the season finale of Dancing With the Stars

During a season finale that was three hours long and saw the remaining five couples perform two dances each, a champion was finally crowned for season 32 of Dancing With the Stars: Xochitl Gomez.

From the young Marvel star taking home the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy to viewers having issues with one of the judges, to Alyson Hannigan paying tribute to American Pie, the long night was filled with plenty of action.

Here’s a look at some of the big moments from the finale, along with comments from the night’s runner-up, Jason Mraz, who also performed a musical number.

The winner

Xochitl Gomez and partner Val Chmerkovskiy celebrate their big win on the finale of Dancing With the Stars.
Xochitl Gomez and partner Val Chmerkovskiy celebrate their big win on the finale of Dancing With the Stars.

Gomez is perhaps best known for playing America Chavez in 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a role she’s reportedly due to reprise in future Marvel projects.

She was a front-runner most of the season, overcoming injury at one point to win a dance marathon and then turning in back-to-back perfect scores in back-to-back weeks to end the season.

Her final two perfect dances came during Tuesday’s finale, which included a redemption dance — a chance to redo a routine from earlier in the season — and also a freestyle routine. Gomez and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy danced a foxtrot to “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry, and then her freestyle to “Que Calor” by District 78.

“I have to say, representation matters, and the way you’ve represented yourself this whole way has been nothing short of so impressive,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said after Gomez’s freestyle, which was the last competitive performance of the season. “This dance was brave. It was a different, courageous side we have never seen.”

The runner-up

Second-place finisher Jason Mraz (with partner Daniella Karagach) says he intends to incorporate dance into his shows going forward.
Second-place finisher Jason Mraz (with partner Daniella Karagach) says he intends to incorporate dance into his shows going forward.

One of the dancers who was somewhat of a surprise this season was singer and Grammy-winner Jason Mraz, who was consistently in the top few high-scorers each week. And his foxtrot and freestyle dances both earned perfect scores during the finale, on his way to a runner-up finish.

Mraz revealed to Yahoo Entertainment before the finale that he quickly learned this season just how much dancing is a sport that requires plenty of athleticism, which made it harder than he anticipated. But it was an experience that he said changed him as a person forever.

“I feel transformed in a way,” Mraz said. “It ticked a lot of boxes for me: physical strength, emotional strength, the endurance to get through a three-month challenge and continue to perform with a smile on my face.”

And while Mraz acknowledged that winning the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy would have been a nice acknowledgement and validation for all the hard work, he said just making it to the finale was pretty close to winning.

“We’re all gonna leave there with a finale dance, with plenty of video content that proves we showed up there and we did it,” Mraz said. “I think memorable dances stand out more than who the winner was. And I feel like I’m leaving with some memorable dances, and that makes me proud.”

Mraz pulled double-duty Tuesday as well, performing his song “I Feel Like Dancing” along with actually dancing two dances. And if his proven dance skills and dance-centric new song weren’t enough of a hint, he said he's finally ready to incorporate dancing into his live music shows.

“I will definitely be sprinkling dance into my shows. That was always an element that was missing in my shows. And it was always an element that I was a little shy to address. Which is ironic because I’m always the audience to dance,” Mraz said with a laugh. “So I’m ready to design something in my show that will make it easier for myself and my audience to dance.”

The drama

The night was filled with mostly all positives, but passionate fans did take issue with some of Inaba’s criticisms. And while critiquing dancers like Hannigan and Ariana Madix is to be expected given Inaba’s role as a judge — despite drawing ire from fans — it was one situation in particular that got viewers extra riled up and had Inaba's name trending.

Inaba called out Bachelorette star Charity Lawson after seeing “something that looked like maybe it was a mistake” during her tango in the interest of being “fair,” and then awarded Lawson a score of nine out of ten.

But then a few minutes later, Gomez made a rather clear mistake when she missed an arm grab during her foxtrot and Inaba said nothing to her about it, then gave Gomez a score of ten. And viewers reacting on social media definitely took notice.

The other highlights

The finale night also included the return of the season’s previously eliminated couples for a big opening number, where they joined the remaining five for a dance to Candi Stanton’s “Young Hearts Run Free.”

For Hannigan’s freestyle dance, she paid homage to her 1999 hit film, American Pie. While dancing to the songs “Enchanted (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift and “Papi” by Jennifer Lopez, she was lifted up and yelled the line, “This one time, at Dancing With the Stars, I made it to the finale!"

Finale watchers also learned that Lawson almost didn’t make it to the episode, after injuring herself while practicing her freestyle routine earlier in the week. She took a hard fall onto her jaw and was even taken away by ambulance at one point, before returning and toughing it out.

And viewers were also treated to a dance from last season’s winner Charli D’Amelio and her partner Mark Ballas, who did a routine to “Give It to Me Baby” by Rick James.

Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC, and is available for streaming on Disney+.