Kelly Monaco. Brooke Burke. Kristi Yamaguchi. Helio Castronevers. Drew Lachey. Emmit Smith. Apolo Anton Ohno.
Tonight, the artists formerly known as an Olympic gymnast, a scorned reality TV star, and that guy who showered outside Samantha's house in the "Sex and the City" movie, now known as finalists on the second most popular reality television series in the U.S., will fight to join the forgettable ranks of those seven people, as the eighth winner of "Dancing With The Stars."
Tom tells us that if you add up all the scores from the season, Gilles has a 17 point lead over Melissa and Shawn (the gymnast) . But tonight, Tom affirms, we start at zero. And this is how it goes down... Because "The Bachelorette" is premiering at 9, the episode will be condensed into an hour, with one "faceoff" performance, and one freestyle performance.
The Pasodoble Faceoff!
All three couples start off on stage together, but it's not a group dance - each couple will dance separately in a mini-performance, immediately after the other.
Pink's "So What?" (sung by someone else, of course) introduces itself as a bizarre choice for pasodoble as Gilles & Cheryl and Melissa & Tony prance to the sidelines. This leaves Shawn & Mark to set a pretty high bar. All season, I found these two a bit too cute, a bit too restrained.. But last week, and here, they give us incredible energy, taking on stage personas that Shawn especially just didn't seem capable of before. The Pink impersonator belts on as Melissa & Tony follow, and I'm immediately not into it. Melissa fumbles through her performance, and though there are certainly some impressive moves here or there, it feels disjointed. Finally, we get Gilles & Cheryl, who give us the intense, sensual performance they've seem to be able to do in their sleep at this point. It's pretty much perfect.
Shawn & Mark: 28 (a 10 from Bruno - Carrie Ann says its not emotionally involved enough, which I totally don't understand)
Melissa & Tony: 29! (two unreasonable 10s from Carrie Ann and Bruno)
Gilles & Cheryl: 30! (and we have a leader)
The Freestyle Round!
Shawn & Mark
In Shawn & Mark's very last rehearsal video, Shawn's fellow Olympic medalist Apolo Anton Ohno comes to give her some inspiration. Apolo let's us know: There's no Olympian who has made the finals who hasn't won the show. Pressure's on, Shawn. Do you want to be just an Olympic gold medalist? Or an Olympic gold medalist that won a game show where D-list celebrities dance against each other? Her and Mark decide the best way to approach this is by coming out completely disguised beneath "Dark Knight"-style black hoodies and clown masks. It's slightly off-putting, but after a few cartwheels, they strip down to sparkly green and black outfits and just go to town. Any flip, jump and twirl possible happens over the next two minutes. Unlike the pasodoble, their stage personas seem pretty much their innocent, energetic selves, and it really, really works. It's remarkably showy (they each do a backflip), and creative, though sometimes it feel a bit like a gymnastics routine crossed with a dance routine. But I guess it is freestyle, so they can do whatever they want. And the judges certainly don't mind. They out and out LOVE it (and so dies Tia Carrere, getting a rare close up on a nationally broadcast television show).
Score: 30! (Bruno even screams out 11 when he announces his score... total including the "Face Off" is 58)
Melissa & Tony
Melissa wants to win really badly, and reminds us that even though he scores have lagged slightly behind her two components, the audience vote matters just as much and that's what's she's going for. What they are also going for (and the two might be related... if all else fails: bring on the sex appeal), is to both look horribly trashy: A crystal-covered, cleavage-revealing bra for Melissa, and a sheer, pec-revealing shirt for Tony. They come on stage in said outfits, and begin their freelance routine to... whoa... C+C Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now." It's a strange early 90s retro approach, and it immediately feels like a two-person, over-elaborate cheerleading routine. It's not entirely unimpressive. Melissa, former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader that she is, knows how to do a mean cartwheel, and can flip herself around Tony's shoulders like none other. But overall it certainly lacks the imagination we saw from Shawn & Mark and I can only imagine it will lack the professionalism Gilles & Cheryl almost certainly will bring.
Score: 27 (for a total of 56)
Gilles & Cheryl
Gilles - who we all knows deserves this - is cracking under the pressure. And so is his shoulder. In sweat pants that are quite revealing, Gilles insists that despite the shoulder, despite his stress, he's going to win. Him and Cheryl's approach? To also go sexy and retro... This time "Flashdance" style. With Gilles in tight jeans and a torn, chest-exposing t-shirt, and Cheryl in a tiny, hot pink skirt, they take on "Flashdance"'s "What a Feeling." It's very slick, very confident, and very sexy: At one point Gilles dry humps Cheryl while twirling her around. It's again clear what we've always known: Gilles isn't a cheerleader. Gilles isn't a gymnast. He is a dancer. And... I guess, an actor who has pretty much had one notable role. But the bar is so ridiculously high for them... And I'll admit it's not anything more special than what we've already seen. But I also don't think it's fair for the judges (as they end up doing), to penalize Gilles for setting his own bar so high.
Score: 28 (58, total.. that makes a tie)
So, tomorrow we get one more dance, that will only count for judges' scores, and not the audience vote. And then, after what I can only imagine will be hours of montages, we will have a winner... At this point, it seems like a Gilles vs. Shawn showdown, but we can't discount Melissa's home vote appeal.
Who are you rooting for? Share your thoughts below.