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And the winner of ‘The Masked Dancer’ is…

‘The Masked Dancer’ top three (Photos: Fox)

Nobody puts Gabby “The Cotton Candy” Douglas in a corner… but the Masked Dancer judges put her in the winner’s circle this Wednesday, when the Olympian gymnast was crowned the Masked Singer spinoff series’ first-ever champion.

The Masked Dancer’s grand finale kicked off with emcee Craig Robinson crooning “(I’ve Had) Time of My Life” alongside the kawaii-costumed Gabby and her fellow finalists, the Tulip and Sloth — a Catskillian musical number more bonkers than that time when quarantined choreographer Quinn Wharton recreated Dirty Dancing’s most iconic scene using a lamp as a dance partner in a viral video. (Side note: Perhaps the Lamp could be a character on the sure-to-be-greenlit-by-Fox Masked Dancer Season 2.) But it was Gabby who truly seemed to be having the time of her life, delighted to add the coveted Diamond Mask to her trophy case full of gold and silver medals.

“This experience has been so, so amazing. I thank everyone so much and I love everyone so much,” Gabby gushed. “It was my first time performing and not being judged. I had so much fun, and I’m so grateful and so honored.”

Gabby overcame great odds to win this show. For instance, while rehearsing for her debut performance this season, she fell from a terrifying height while attempting a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial stunt. (Without her cushiony Cotton Candy costume and her many years of experience rebounding from athletic tumbles, that situation could have been much more dire. “It’s my job to make it look super-light,” Gabby nonchalantly explained Wednesday to Craig.) Additionally, Gabby prevailed over the series’ only two trained professional dancers: Coming in third was the Tulip, a.k.a. Dance Moms star Mackenzie Ziegler, and the Sloth, a.k.a. Dancing With the Stars veteran Maks Chmerkovskiy.

Personally, I would have given the silver, not the bronze, to Mackenzie, who was praised throughout the season for being the show’s most “technically proficient” and versatile contestant and finished strong with her royal ballet this week. But the judges were clearly charmed by the Sloth’s slapstick antics. “I feel like you’ve invented a whole new genre of musical comedy,” resident funnyman panelist Ken Jeong told Maks. (I do have to give Maks props for choosing rising Britrock band the Struts’ cover of ‘70s glam-rockers the Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” for his jive this week, however. That was electric, and so frantically hectic.)

But it was Gabby’s rain-drenched acrobatic routine to Kesha’s “This Is Me” — complete with a backwards trust fall, a brave move after her previous unintentional fall — that was, undeniably, the go-for-the-gold moment of Wednesday night. Judge Ashley Tisdale was in tears (as was Gabby herself), and Paula Abdul, the only judge who guessed the Cotton Candy’s identity correctly, told Gabby: “This was a beautiful finale performance. It felt like it was a redemption for you — that which you did not need to prove, because we’ve loved you since day one.”

And speaking of day one, the show that started this whole celebrity-cosplaying craze, The Masked Singer, returns March 10 for its fifth freaky season. (Honestly, at this rate, I would gladly welcome other spinoffs like Masked Idol, America’s Next Top Mask, The Real Masked Housewives, The Masklorette, 90-Mask Fiancé, or RuPaul’s Masked Race.) And at the end of Wednesday’s Masked Dancer finale, we caught a “so creepy, but so magical” glimpse of some of the new Masked Singer costumes, including the Piglet, the Phoenix, the Porcupine, something called a Grandpa Monster, the Chameleon, and the Black Swan.

The aforementioned Struts have a song called “Black Swan,” and Justin Hawkins of the Darkness was the Chameleon on The Masked Singer U.K., so I’m hoping they’ll both be somehow incorporated into the upcoming Stateside season. But for all you Anglomaniacs, as well as anyone who just can’t wait three weeks for a Masked Singer fix, here’s a pro tip: The U.K. series’ YouTube channel is packed with performances from its just-completed second season, including (spoiler alert!) the Spice Girls’ Mel B as the Seahorse, A-ha crooner Morten Harket as a Norwegian Viking, Ne-Yo as runner-up the Badger, and champion Joss Stone dressed as a giant, newspaper-wrapped English Sausage with legs. You’re welcome.

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