Dancing With The Stars: High Flying Routines & Stiff Competition Makes For Thrilling Finals

Is Melissa Rycroft on her way to her first mirrorball win? Could Shawn Johnson be adding a supersized new trophy to her awards cabinet, or will it be actress Kelly Monaco who gives the acceptance speech on Tuesday night while picking up the most coveted “Dancing with the Stars” prize of them all?

After Monday night’s high flying, emotional and stunning competition round, the “Dancing with the Stars: All Stars” title is still anyone’s game.

Going into the public vote, reality star Melissa sambaed her way into a very slight lead, with partner Tony Dovolani. The pair took home perfect scores for both of their routines – their repeat dance (a number from earlier in the season), and their contemporary-laced freestyle.

They kicked things off with a re-do of their Week 3 samba, an early season favorite, which featured fun tricks (like Melissa falling and Tony catching her on his calf) and lots of shaking.

“What a wonderful blend of moves,” judge Bruno Tonioli raved. “Your technique is great… You’ve grown so much as a performer. You really have blossomed.”

Taking a lesson from their Season 8 freestyle – a hip-hop number that fell flat – the duo opted for something that showed off Melissa’s strengths this time around – her flexibility and beautiful lines, as they tackled a contemporary routine. And it left British judge Len Goodman, speechless.

“That had passion, it was wonderful, it was truly…” he trailed off, due to finding himself at a loss for words. “It was wonderful.”

Their perfect score put them atop the leaderboard, giving them a one-point advantage over “General Hospital” actress Kelly and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, who ended the night with a 59-point total and second place.

Kelly and Val’s sexy repeat performance paso doble had a tiny slip up when the pair lost their grip early on in the number, but Bruno said they covered it up well, as they earned 29.5 for the routine (the exact score they got in round 2 as well).

“You burn like an awesome fire angel,” he said. “You can always ignite drama… but what I saw tonight was artistry in polish… You even covered a slight mishap with the hand.”

The pair’s freestyle borrowed heavily from the Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze “Dirty Dancing” finale, a number that — in various forms — has been seen on the show before, but Kelly and Val’s connection — and two movie-worthy lifts in the routine — sold it for the judges.

“We’ve all been watching you as a couple grow, I don’t know if it’s a real couple, but we watched that and it’s played into your dancing. This was such the perfect dance,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said (the pair refused to disclose if they are dating when questioned later by show co-host Brooke Burke Charvet). “You executed everything [gracefully]; you added artistry and you told us a happy ending to a beautiful love story. I thought it was wonderful.”

Surprisingly, early season frontrunners Shawn and Derek Hough finished at the bottom of the finals leaderboard – with a total score of 57 out of 60.

It was their repeat dance – a memorable quickstep from earlier in the season that was full of gymnastics, and famously ended with the two falling off the “DWTS” stairs onto mats — that cost them once again.

Because the pair broke hold while doing the routine once again, all of the judges refused to give them 10s.

“It’s a fan favorite, it’s a fantastic routine, but I‘m sad you didn’t choose to follow the rules because I think at this point, the points matter,” Carrie Ann told the duo. “I have to say I’m a little disappointed, but I hope your risk pays off for you two.”

Asked by Brooke if she thought it was worth it (they earned just 27 for the number), Shawn said she wanted to go out on her terms.

“We really dedicated this season to the audience and [to] the fans [and to] having fun and if we got one more to chance to do our favorite routine and one of the audience’s favorite routines again, that’s what we wanted to do,” she said. “It was one of our last times dancing [together], so I wanted to do it.”

With a little help from the USA Women’s Gymnastic Team’s Fierce Five, Shawn and Derek’s freestyle redeemed the pair in front of the panel.

It was full of dance moves and high flying acrobatics (including one bit where Shawn stood on Derek’s shoulders and the two fell forward, and flipped) and had the competitors that were eliminated earlier in the season, screaming in amazement from the sidelines.

“This was totally unexpected,” Len said, as the pair took that perfect 30, finally. “It was a medley of Derek and Shawn’s greatest hits. So many little different dance moves. Gold medal I tell you. That was a real gold medal performance.”

Like Donald Driver last season, it’s those types of freestyles that can help a pair win the mirrorball with the fans, but there is one more number to go.

On Tuesday, the pairs will get one more routine to perform for a final judges’ score in an “Instant Dance” round, which will determine the Season 15 “Dancing with the Stars: All Stars” winner.

VOTE: Who deserves to win the mirrorball? (Click HERE to weigh in.)

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