Dancing Recap: Top Three's Tight Finale Fight

Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

It’s a race to the finish line! The final three — in sparkly sequenced tops, flowy skirts, bejeweled masks and ripped shirts — made a fashionable dash to the end with the season’s final set of dances. Two teams earned perfect scores, one team smooched the entire judges’ table and all three got the crowd on its feet with a paso doble face-off and freestyle round full of kicks, lifts and a whole lot of tricks.

The group started the night with a punk rock-meets-Latin mood while dancing the paso doble to Pink’s “So What.” Though together at the beginning and end of the routine, each team broke off in between for their individual performances.

Shawn Johnson‘s quick turns and spot-on technique earned her a mixed batch of reviews. “Last time I said your paso doble wasn’t really exciting for me,” Len Goodman told her, “but this was full of excitement.” And while Bruno Tonioli commended her for “always” putting on a strong effort (he also said she was “like a serial killer”), Carrie Ann Inaba said her facial and body expressions just weren’t there. “There wasn’t as much as an emotional commitment…compared to like Gilles, but it was beautiful,” she said.

She may have had one slight mistake but Melissa Rycroft showcased just how much her confidence “has grown leaps and bounds,” according to Tonioli, who added that she’s “never looked more beautiful.” As for improvement, “I’ve been calling you out on the soul attachment,” Inaba told the Bachelor star, but “it was there, you nailed it!”

Gilles Marini, with a passionate and sharp dance, received a perfect score and an abundance of praise from both the audience and the judges. “I said it was hectic last time but this wasn’t hectic…it had intensity,” said Goodman. Described as a “leading man, self-assured, strong, fabulous” by Tonioli, the Frenchman once again brought is A-game. “I always expect perfection from you in a Latin dance,” said Inaba, “and once again there it was.”

The teams got creative for their final dance: the fun, rule-free, high-energy freestyle. Careful not to add too many gymnastics, Johnson went for the gold (with some added pressure from former Dancing champ Apolo Anton Ohno, who reminded her that the all Olympians — himself and Kristi Yamaguchi — who reached the finale went on to take the mirror-ball trophy). Tonioli raved her “funny” performance was “explosive…bursting with creativity, the speed, the synchronicity…you sold it. Marvelous!” Goodman simply “loved it” and Inaba couldn’t get enough of the youthfulness and precision. After getting her second 30 of the season, the ecstatic gymnast ran up to the judges and gave them each a hug and kiss on the cheek.

The freestyle, however, didn’t turn out to be Melissa Rycroft’s best effort. “I love the new attitude you’ve got out here,” said Inaba, “but I have to say something about the choreography felt a bit disjointed.” And even though she may have showed her versatility on the dancefloor, a disappointed Goodman told her it wasn’t his “cup of tea” and that he expected more from her “cheerleader, hip-hop stuff.” Added Tonioli, “It wasn’t as perfect as we would’ve liked to have seen for a final dance.”

Once again suffering some shoulder pain, Gilles dreaded the lifts for his Flashdance-inspired freestyle but pulled it off without a hitch. The only problem, two judges wanted a bit more out of him. “I would’ve loved to have seen so much more from you,” Inaba told the SATC actor. Tonioli agreed he wanted more dancing and “expected a bit more,” but Goodman’s thoughts on the “slick” and “crazy” routine? “I think this freestyle proves to me, and I hope to everyone else, you are a real dancer.” –Eunice Oh

Here’s how the remaining three contestants stacked up after Monday’s final performance: Shawn & Mark: 28 out of 30 for their paso doble. 30 out of 30 for their freestyle. 58 out of 60 total Melissa & Tony: 29 out of 30 for their paso doble. 27 out of 30 for their freestyle. 56 out of 60 total Gilles & Cheryl: 30 out of 30 for their paso doble. 28 out of 30 for their freestyle. 58 out of 60 total

Tell us: Are you surprised Shawn stepped up her game and is tied with Gilles for first? What did you think of each of the couples’ freestyle dance?

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Craig Sjodin/ABC

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