Melissa Rycroft! Melissa won the super-blinged-out Mirrorball Trophy! This is, perhaps, the biggest shocker of any Dancing with the Stars finale that I’ve watched. Not because it was so unlikely that Melissa would win (see my article yesterday for all the reasons why), but because of the way the final episode was edited. EVERYTHING seemed to point to Shawn Johnson being the winner instead of the runner-up.

The two-hour event started with an encore of the best freestyle – which, naturally was Shawn and Derek’s. They performed their spectacular freestyle, and that already set off the alarm bells – this is the first time there has ever been an encore during a finale. It looked like they were a certain bet.

We were treated to an hour of returned stars performing some of the best dances from the season. Team “Gangnam Style” was as much of a hot mess as the last time, while the “Call Me Maybe” group dance excelled. Bristol Palin shook her hips one way and then the other, while Pamela Anderson performed some kind of stripper routine with lots of hairography (which is a shame, since she’s actually a decent dancer). Kirstie Alley and Helio Costroneves did their favorite dances – Cha Cha and Quickstep, respectively. Joey Fatone performed a time-travel dance with “himself” as a child, while Drew Lachey did a dance with his little daughter. Emmitt did something brightly colored and forgettable. Sabrina Bryan reprised her perfect-30 Rhumba, and Apolo Anton Ohno reprised his perfect-30 waltz, making it clear that they could have done very well in the final had they not been eliminated. Gilles reprised his Bollywood number, which was just as fun the second time around. Throughout the night, we got lots of shots of two-time champ Julianne Hough, cheering on her former partners and her brother. And then it was time for the last round of dancing.

Kelly and Val went first (always a bad sign for a couple) and did a good jive, receiving 28.5. But the real story was the lack of ending to their story. All season they have played up this showmance more than any other couple on the show. Any good story arc must reach its climax. So I expected an epic liplock to seal the deal on this couple, either at the end of their dance, or when they got their scores, or when they were announced as third place… I was certain they were saving a big epic kiss for the finale. Instead, we got their usual waffling about a “beautiful relationship” and “unconditional love…in friendship.” In other words, no payoff for the showmance. Between that, and their instant dance being handily outclassed by the others, I stopped caring about them by the time they were predictably announced as the couple in third place.

Melissa was second to dance, with an instant samba, and she also received 28.5. This samba was better than yesterday’s because it had some actual samba content. It was a very solid effort. Would it be enough?

Shawn’s pre-dance package aired, and it was beautiful. Shawn talked about how much she grew and learned thanks to this experience with Derek, then Derek actually choked up as he talked about how this season has been a dream come true for him. I have to admit, my eyes teared up during this package, just because it had been such a great journey for them, and for me as a viewer.

Then they performed an instant cha-cha and knocked it out of the park. The crowd was on its feet applauding for ages. All the former contestants were holding up ten fingers to clue in the judges…not that the judges needed it. They gave her a perfect 30, naturally, and also the kind of comments that usually mean “you’re gonna win.” It was almost tantamount to Len’s season 10 declaration to Nicole Scherzinger, “There is only one champion of DwtS, and that’s you.” They ended the show with a huge bang, and after something like that, it seemed an inevitability that they would be crowned champions.

Everyone thought they had it in the bag. Even Melissa and Tony clearly thought so – Melissa looked like she was about to cry when waiting for the final result, and both she and Tony seemed ready for disappointment. And then, out of nowhere, Tom announced that Melissa and Tony had won their first Mirrorball Trophy.

And what I talked about yesterday – how badly everyone wants Tony to win – was on full display here. Tony began ricocheting around the ballroom faster than in any Quickstep. Shawn and Derek looked happier than any runners-up I’ve ever seen, since they probably felt that Melissa and Tony deserved to have a win. In a departure from the norm Tony was lifted up on everyone’s shoulders first, and then Melissa. And even though I was very staunchly Team Shawn, having voted for them yesterday every which way, I couldn’t help the huge grin on my face at Melissa and Tony’s hard-won Mirrorball Trophy.

This All-Star season was, in my humble opinion, far and away the best the show has ever done. The only question is where does the show go from here? It’s kind of like, will any Marvel solo movies be that exciting after The Avengers? Surely they’ll need to have some kind of huge hook next season to keep people interested.

In terms of pros, there’s bound to be a shake-up. Now that Tony has won his Mirrorball, the long-time pros will be jockeying for the newly vacant position of sympathetic fan favorite. My money is on Anna Trebunskaya – she has been on ten seasons, but only made the quarterfinals twice (eventually coming in second both times). And she is one of the most popular pros, as evidenced by the fans choosing her a few seasons ago in their “Design-a-Dance.”

Meanwhile, Derek is saying he might leave the show after this. I don’t think this is him being a sore loser. Rather, it feels like he has nothing left to achieve on this show. He’s only missed the semifinals twice in ten seasons, and that was barely. He’s already won it three times (only pro to do so). More importantly, this season was a creative pinnacle for him. Thanks to Shawn’s natural talent, he was able to create many astounding dances. He may feel like he’s left it all on the dance floor this season.

What did you think of the All-Star season? Should they have another one sometime in the future? If they do, how should it be run? What former contestants should return? And what do you think of Melissa Rycroft being crowned the champion of champions on Dancing with the Stars: All Stars?

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