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November 21, 2012 at 05:50 AM EST

WOW! It’s the first-ever all-female finale on Dancing With the Stars! Congrats to Shawn Johnson, Melissa Rycroft, and Kelly Monaco for getting the terrifying chance to BLOW IT ALL during next week’s always-make-or-break freestyles — now super sized for the All-Stars season.

This means Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff and Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke are headed home, where the sun still shines but their skin shall not shimmer under the magical intergalactic spotlights. I’m surprised about Emmitt, to be honest. Assuming this fight is mostly a popularity contest as has been evident all season, I thought Kelly and Emmitt’s respective soap and football fan bases would keep them in, while the more-deserving Melissa and Apolo might get the sparkly boot. Sure, Apolo might technically have the ballroom edge over Kelly. But overall, I’m really psyched about the finalists, and Apolo seemed pretty zen about his fate anyway. He and Karina killed it on their “Man in the Mirror” rumba encore and you could tell he was treating it as his swan song. He had to have known.

He’s really become the ultimate DWTS ambassador, huh? I feel like Apolo should go around to schools and speak about how Dancing With the Stars can change your life. (He could mention his paltry Olympic experience if he has to, but why bother?) The kids would be all “Why does this show look like it was produced in the ’70s?” and “Who’s Melissa Rycroft?” — and Apolo would have all the answers. They’re too young to understand the Mirrorballus Magic, you see. Give them 30-60 years and they’ll be all set.

I’m really happy for Melissa and Tony, who would have been freaking devastated if they’d been eliminated halfway through the show. Of course, Emmitt was as easy-breezy-beautiful as ever in the face of “rejection” with one minute left in the telecast. He did deserve to go home if this is about dancing, but Tom was right that the season just lost a whole chunk o’ charisma. I loved Emmitt’s gorgeous wife mouthing “Thank you” after that compliment from Tom. I think I rewound it five times. What is wrong with me?!

With three women lashing out at each other via deadly flicks and kicks, the lift situation is going to be out of control for the super sized freestyles — and really, what could be better? It always seems a tad unfair when one or two of the finalists is a little mighty mite. This time we’ve got three — an Olympic gymnast, a former professional cheerleader, and a tiny ball of cozy autumnal knits and messy buns that Val likes to use for bicep curls whenever he travels. It really is a perfectly matched finale.

I’d say Shawn and Derek are in the best shape heading into next week. Shawn and Melissa will both earn perfect 30s on their “favorite dances,” while the judges will score Kelly down a ways, I’m predicting. Derek excels at crazy/clever freestyles (wonder if he’ll veto Shawn’s suggestion of a balance beam?), while Melissa and Tony admitted it’s their Achilles heel and they know they have to redeem themselves from season 8’s boring freestyle. Kelly and Val are the wild card. They could easily earn two 30s with a polished “favorite” and a freestyle that doesn’t rely too heavily on Val’s exposed flesh. Think back to that treacherous “Gangnam Style” group dance and the country group dance — I remember Val and Kelly’s lightning-fast sections as moments that stood out. I think she’s very capable of handling pretty much anything, so the freestyle’s really up to Val.

NEXT: The Top 7 (“seh-vehhhhhn!”) moments of the results show

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