In a season so improbable, the impossible had happened on “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars“—it was an all-ladies’ finale. As longtime fans of the show know, men have usually had the advantage and have won the last three seasons. So I approached Monday’s performance night with a lot of joy knowing a girl would triumph on “All-Stars.” And could it be the woman who started it all, season 1 champ Kelly Monaco? Or would former gymnast Shawn Johnson leap and flip her way to another mirror ball trophy, as she did during season 8? It was my personal hope, however, that Shawn’s season 8 second runner up, Melissa Rycroft, would win the prize—and give her dance pro, Tony Dovolani, the nice guy who’s never finished first, the chance to finally hoist the trophy.
But the “DWTS” rule that has held true for all these seasons would again tonight, I was sure, s/he who winneth the freestyle, winnith the season.
Tonight, our favorites would perform an encore of a previous dance and then the climactic freestyle which would decide it all.
Here was what happened on the tenth week of competition:
Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble
This couple made it to the finals without ever getting a ten score, they noted in rehearsal. Kelly and Val chose the Paso as their re-do because that’s when they made a huge breakthrough during the season. The dance began with shirtless Val putting on his matador jackets. Again, this chemistry-filled couple had a lot of sharp arm movements and passion, and skilled twirls. Kelly had a small bobble on one of the traveling moves, though, I thought. Still, the press room erupted in applause. Judge Len Goodman gave a shout-out to the “DWTS” band and then told the couple it was their best dance. Bruno Tonioli said Kelly was driven by desire and had added artistry and polish—however, he noticed the problem with her hand (so that was what I saw!). Carrie Ann saw the little slipup, but said “I’m so proud of you.” They got two 10s, at last. But I thought they should have been perfect for the ten and there was that mistake….would that kill Kelly’s mirror ball chances?
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Samba
Melissa and Tony both overcame injuries this season to make it to the finale. They were the only couple in the finals that had never won, and Tony helpfully reminded us of this in a savvy vote-getting move. Again, the two started the dance on their samba platform and it looked a little sloppy to me in the beginning but once they jumped off the glass cube, Melissa looked great and managed to keep smiling through all her ultra-difficult leg moves and intense samba shaking. She looked like she weighed about 90 pounds. They ended on a high note, pulling off their last tricky move. To Bruno, it was irresistible, a wonderful blend of moves. According to Carrie Ann, her abs looked “ridiculous” and Len said she captured the party rhythm of the samba. They got a perfect score, which caused Tony to go into delirium.
Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Quickstep
The ex-gymnast and “DWTS” Golden Boy were going to re-do their quickstep which Shawn called their statement dance. It was a risk, though, because they’d been marked down previously on this routine. As that routine began, Shawn did her little leap of the trampoline and she looked so professional doing all the athletic swing moves that really got the crowd going. She did the splits and the couple leaped off the stairs into the orchestra pit again to end the number. I thought this was just as good as last time and deserved a perfect score. But Carrie Ann said she was sad they had chosen this dance because it broke the rules. Len elaborated that they broke hold and did lifts, which wasn’t allowed. And Bruno? He said they were bound by the rules (uh oh—lesser scores coming?) but it took nothing away from their achievement. Sure enough, they lost three points.
Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Freestyle
Val decided they needed to do aerial stunts to break out of the pack. Val played a violin for Kelly during practice for no apparent reason, and Kelly declared they’d be dancing to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, which symbolized her friendship with Val. Kelly began the dance by spinning in the air on silk ropes while Val played the violin; okay, now I got it, it was part of the dance. Dressed in pink, surprising as Kelly said earlier in the season she hated that color, the soap beauty nonetheless was completely radiant and romantic. “DWTS” production pulled out a whole choir to sing the song behind them and ended with Val picking up Kelly in the air in the same move that made Jennifer Grey famous (memba her? She was a past “DWTS” winner). Len said it lacked a bit of originality for him, though he added inexplicably that it was still great. To Bruno, it was like a circus act blended with the romantic movie theme. Carrie Ann said she executed everything gracefully and pushing the envelope, said she didn’t know if they were a real life couple or not but that had added to their success all season. I thought it worked well but lacked the tricks I was expecting. The aerial moment to start the freestyle was nice, but would never beat Shawn’s bag of tricks. Brooke Burke-Charvet demanded to know if it was showmance or romance but the pair wouldn’t bite.
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Freestyle
Tony and Melissa talked about how their bomb of a hip hop routine had hurt their chances in season 8. This time, Tony was determined to get the ultimate finale freestyle out of Melissa. But the former Bachelor beauty was nervous about the gymnast, and rightly so. The number started with Tony holding Melissa up in the air in the “DWTS” fog machine and lifting her around to take full advantage of her amazing leg extensions. Finally on her feet, Melissa then climbed around on platforms and it reminded me of a So You Think You Can Dance contemporary routine. Aerialists twirling in cubes behind them didn’t detract from the mood; nice window dressing there. I liked its artistry but there was a subdued reaction in the press room because the dance was slow and dreamy instead of overtly crowd-pleasing perhaps. Bruno said it showcased her beautiful lines and musicality and proved Melissa was “a gem.” Carrie Ann said it was a freestyle jackpot while Len said it had wonder passion and even seemed to get a little choked up. Melissa and Tony certainly did, and they got their second perfect score of the night!
Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Freestyle
Okay, so this would be more than background window dressing—Shawn was bringing in the Fearless Five gymnasts from the Olympics to be in her routine. Was this fair? They showed the gals rehearsing with Shawn and Derek. As the freestyle began, Derek lifted Shawn off the ballroom floor with her leg extended and then her name SHAWN was spelled out in letters behind them. This was a circus-themed routine with the other gymnasts sitting in suspended rings behind the couple, which I found a tad distracting and I didn’t enjoy the calloipe music either. Derek even did a cartwheel and the reporters backstage applauded wildly. I was lukewarm, feeling that she’d done a better job during season 8. Still, Carrie Ann leaped to her feet, calling her Super Shawn. Len said it was a medley of Derek and Shawn’s greatest hits. According to Bruno, it was explosive and brilliant. Shawn said it meant the world to her to finally compete with her gymnast sisters. She got the perfect score we expected!
The “All-Stars” winner will be revealed on Tuesday night’s two-hour season finale.