A War Reminder in ‘Dancing’ Win

It was an unlucky 13th season for “Dancing with the Stars” – low ratings, low-wattage cast, little to no buzz.

But throughout the season, a bright spot was the high scoring dances for a guy who was burned and disfigured as a soldier in Iraq, became a motivational speaker and then an actor on a soap opera.

J.R. Martinez may have not been the best known participant in “Dancing with the Stars” when he started, but he gained enough fans – and top scores – to emerge as winner Tuesday night.

Rob Kadashian, brother of the tabloid queen Kim, who had surged in judges’ scores in recent weeks, came in second. Former talk show host Ricki Lake, who had led in scores most of the season, finished third.

All that’s won in the show is a cheesy mirror-ball trophy but Martinez whooped like he won the Super Bowl.

“Thank you America for believing in us,” he said upon winning. He also praised his dance partner Karina Smirnoff and said he was glad he was part of her first championship after dancing in the show for 10 seasons. The closest she had come was season three, finishing second with Mario Lopez and losing to Emmitt Smith, whose partner was Cheryl Burke. Smirnoff found herself in the final two with Burke again, as she was partnered with the runner-up Kardashian.

In the end, it was close, with both Martinez and Kardashian earning perfect 30s for their final sambas; for the four dances in the final round, Martinez had a combined score of 112; Kardashinan had 113.

Martinez had been a consistent performer through the season, having ended up top on the leaderboard four times; Kardashian never did.

Maybe the biggest surprise was that Lake ended up third. She had been a first place finisher in judges’ scores six times, including last week and led the averages for all dancers all seasons. Her first dance Tuesday was the only one to get a perfect 30. Her scores Monday were uncharacteristically down a bit, and ultimately the home viewers must have let her down in voting.

As a winner, Martinez’ resilience and optimism outshone his ravaged face, which was a constant reminder for a wide audience twice weekly of the very real effects of war – something that was being advocated so blithely and abstractly on CNN as part of the latest debate.

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