Credit: John Russell

A surprise to, well, no one, Melissa Lawson is our new Nashville Star. (Click here to read Whitney Pastorek’s no-holds-barred Q&A with the champ.) In the end, it came down to the mother of five vs. Gabe Garcia, the Hispanic-American former electrician who finally learned how to “turn his Texas on.” The evening’s high and low notes:

• Breakout performance: Cohost Katie Cook’s breasts. They’re the only thing that I’m 100 percent certain I’ll remember a year from now.

• Performance we’d most like to forget: Tie between the awkward “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” duet Melissa and Gabe were forced to suffer through, and the finalists’ group number with host Billy Ray Cyrus. Was the plan always to use the backup dancers (clones from Jessica Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” video) just for Gabe’s portion of “Achy Breaky Heart,” or did Melissa and third-place finisher Shawn Mayer kindly ask producers to get them the hell off the stage? I wonder…

• Reason Melissa deserved to win: Aside from her pitch-perfect performances of Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” and Sugarland’s “Something More,” the fact that she managed to belt what will be her first single, the inspirational but not-at-all-Idol-schlocky “What if It All Goes Right,” while pulling confetti from her mouth and hugging her husband and five boys. That is a pro.

• Reason we’d have been okay if Gabe had won: He finally started showing some personality, singing Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity” (about the inane perks that come with being a reality TV star). He also sounded great on Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country.”

• Reason we’re okay that Shawn didn’t win: We love her, but she didn’t do to Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder & Lead” what she’d done to Gretchen Wilson’s “Here for the Party.” We want Shawn to write songs, hang out with George Jones some more, then give Music Row another go.

So, will you go see the final four (hey, Coffey!) on tour? And will you buy Melissa Lawson’s album, which, like her single, will be produced by John Rich?

addCredit(“Nashville Star: John Russell”)

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