D j Vu?: When it got down to the final two contestants, Melissa Rycroft stood nervously waiting for her name to be called. Seated just a few feet away from the Dancing stage was Bachelor host Chris Harrison. The most dramatic rose ceremony ever? “Totally!” Rycroft said, laughing at the coincidence of being in a situation similar to when she was on The Bachelor last season. “This time it had a happy ending,” Rycroft’s partner Tony Dovolani said. Rycroft certainly thought her number might be up when she suffered a painful rib injury several weeks ago, forcing her to sit out one night of the competition. “Tony and I sit back and remember where we were a few weeks ago and to see where we are now, it’s something that couldn’t have been scripted,” Rycroft said. “Shawn and Gilles — to be compared to them and in the same league as them is really cool.”
All Bets Are On: After learning they would advance to next week’s finale, Shawn Johnson and partner Mark Ballas simultaneously hugged each other and jumped up and down. Gilles Marini put the squeeze on partner Cheryl Burke. Marini and Johnson embraced and then ran over to their families, who were sitting next to each other in the audience. “I went over to my mom and dad during the commercial and they were so happy,” Johnson told PEOPLE. How does this compare, if at all, to her Olympic experience? “Pretty close … I’m ecstatic!” she beamed. “Last week was like the Olympic trials and tonight was like qualifying.” Little did Johnson know she was the subject of a wager between her partner Mark Ballas and Bachelor host Chris Harrison. “Mark and I had a bet that Melissa Rycroft would go further than Shawn Johnson,” Harrison explained. “So when Shawn was saved Mark walked over to me and was giving me the money sign and I said, ‘Not yet! Not yet!’” Three Musketeers: When Marini, Johnson and Rycroft take the floor next Monday night, it will arguably be the most evenly-matched finale in Dancing’s history. Just don’t look for any backstage drama. “Ooh, the fight against Melissa and Gilles and Tony … no,” Marini said, shaking his head. “Shawn, Melissa and I won (already). We’re there and now it’s going to be so much fun.” The one person absent from Tuesday night’s post-show backstage celebrations was Marini’s partner, two-time DWTS champ Cheryl Burke. “Cheryl is not here because she already went to work,” Marini said. Is the pro feeling the pressure to win a third championship? “She’s not ‘Oh my God, I’m going to win three times,’” Marini assured. “She is there to make me look amazing. She is working as we speak. No one else does that. That will give us the edge next week.” As Marini spoke, Tony Dovolani came up and gave him a big hug, followed by a bear hug from Mark Ballas. Maksim Chmerkovskiy then snuck up behind Marini and goosed him on his behind. “Maks just pinched my butt and I kind of like it!” Marini joked.
Freestyle Trash Talking: Dancing fans know that the finale night freestyle routine can make or break a couple’s chances of winning. The contestants know this, too. Despite Rycroft’s still-tender rib injury, Dovolani promised: “We’re going to get everybody dancing on their feet. Lifts, kicks … we’re going to throw everything in.” “He’s going to try to break my ribs again. I can almost guarantee it,” Rycroft quipped, noting that she’ll do whatever it takes. “It’s kind of the mentality of what do you have to lose at this point? It’s not every day everyone gets a chance to be in the finals of Dancing with the Stars.” As for his own freestyle plans, Marini, who revealed he’s in talks to guest star on Brothers and Sisters next fall, declined to get specific. “We’re going to have a lot of fun. I promise you it is going to be one of the most memorable dances of all season. I’m going to do my best. America will choose.” –Monica Rizzo
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