On the final Monday night of competition for the all-star season of Dancing with the Stars, the all-female top three – Melissa Rycroft, Shawn Johnson and Kelly Monaco – took big risks during two final routines with their partners.
Each couple performed their favorite dance of the season and "super-sized freestyle," which allowed the pros – Tony Dovolani, Derek Hough and Val Chmerkovskiy – to incorporate the music and choreography of their choice with sets, additional performers and costumes to create routines to wow the judges and the voters at home.
Here's how it all played our inside the ballroom on Monday night:
Melissa and Tony dominated with two perfect 30s for a total of 60. Kelly and Val were close behind with 59 points. And Shawn and Derek remained very much in it with 57.
Kelly and Val, who have not scored a 10 this season, chose the paso doble as their favorite dance. "I want to make it so technically perfect, so passionate that the judges have no choice but to give us a 10," she said before doing a routine that judge Len Goodman called their "best dance to date." But it wasn't perfect: Carrie Ann Inaba spotted a "little slip-up," an unintentional release, and knocked off half a point, leaving them just shy of 30 with 29.5.
Melissa and Tony performed their favorite dance, a samba. Bruno Tonioli called her a "deliciously irresistible Brazilian bombshell," and said, "You've grown so much as a performer. You really have blossomed." Added Len: "You captured the party flavor of the samba, great technique, great rhythm, fabulous." They earned a perfect 30.
Shawn and Derek decided to revisit their quickstep and performed their original choreography even though some of the moves were against the rules. "The standing ovation means everything to us," Shawn said, explaining their determination to entertain rather than just earn points. Though the judges said the routine was "fantastic," they also called them out for their controversial decision. "You're not allowed to break hold, which you did, you're not allowed to do lifts, which you did," Len said. "You leave me nowhere to go." Added Carrie Ann: "Points do matter ... I'm a little disappointed but I hope your risk pays off." They scored 27 our of 30.
Kelly started her super-size freestyle by performing aerial work hanging from the ballroom rafters as Val played the violin. According to Bruno the routine, which they danced to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," combined Cirque du Soleil with Dirty Dancing. "This was the perfect dance," Carrie Ann said of their 29.5-point performance. "You executed everything great, you added artistry and you told us a happy ending to a beautiful love story."
Melissa and Tony did something never done before in the finale – a contemporary routine. "We're taking a huge risk," she said of their lift-heavy dance. Carrie Ann agreed: "With great risk comes great rewards," she said, "Freestyle jackpot!" The routine left Len speechless but when he held up his 10-point paddle, he said, "I wish I had an 11." They earned another perfect 30.
Shawn and Derek performed the final dance of the night with the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team – a.k.a. The Fierce Five. "It was a medley of Derek and Shawn's greatest hits," was Len's assessment. Carrie Ann called it "sensational." Bruno said it was "the crowning glory on a fantastic night," and they got a perfect 30.
But will it be enough to make up for their unconventional quickstep? On Tuesday the couples will perform one more time for points when they pick their music and dance live on the air. And then an all-star winner will be crowned.