Kelsey McNeal/ABC
May 20, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT

‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: The finale

Finally! It took eight seasons, but as of last night, when placed next to the latest and tiniest winner, the much-mocked Dancing With the Stars trophy appears…kind of big! Or at the very least, not so pathetic! This is huge. Eighteen inches to be exact. Congratulations to season 8 champions and new overlords of Planet Mirrorballus: Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas. Are you looking at the picture? Mark has total Gilles-gelled hair, but it’s really him. Derek couldn’t wait to wedge his noggin under Mark’s thighs to repay him the favor from last season’s finale, when Mark hoisted Derek up for his victory with Brooke Burke. According to now-official show rules, you’re not truly the winners unless the confetti hits you first.

As in past seasons, the finalists’ ”last dances” were merely decent uses of time instead of game-changers: Shawn, Gilles, and Melissa each received a perfect 30 for their routines, so the popular vote had pre-determined the winner before the two-hour monstrosity had even begun. Tom called the margin between Gilles and Shawn the closest in the series’ history. Sadly for commenter Jenn67, Tom did not employ the suggestion of giving the trophy to Melissa and then immediately taking it back, à la highly functioning chimpanzee Jason Mesnick on The Bachelor. Am I the only one who can see Samantha actually doing this, not as a joke but as an honest-to-god accident? That scenario strikes me as less of a stretch than her starring as Roxie Hart in Chicago. But it’s not like they’d hire her if she wasn’t good. What if she’s great? I’d love it if she were great. I plan on swinging by this summer to make sure ”Broadway musical” isn’t some elaborate cover-up for a reality show called Stage Acting With the Verbally Challenged.

Zheeeeeeeeeeeel, who was my pick to win, could not have been more gracious toward Shawn and happy for her. After thanking his also-perfect-looking wife, he was sure to remind us of how much he loved and practically worshipped Cheryl for giving him a shot at success in this terrifying country named Hollywood. His gushing confessionals throughout the night were so melodramatic, but ultimately sincere. The guy is grateful. And he can cry on cue, especially if the cues involve the Argentine tango and scripted anecdotes about 1960s Paris from the thin, cigarette-scented lips of an old British man. It’s Hollywood; this happens all the time. Who knows, maybe Gilles will get more work because he got ”robbed” on Dancing With the Stars than if he had won.

DANCMSTR called season 8 the ”best season ever,” and in terms of likeability and camaraderie at least, I think he’s right. With the exception of Mark, who seemed trapped in an intense freakout zone, the final three pairs were absolutely giddy all night. I worried that the sheer force of their love for each other might make the Red Room explode. (But what a way to go.) The final three’s trash-talking filler segment — a once per season delight just like DANCMSTR’s vanity plate — nearly killed me with its reference to the timeless sports film Bring It On. ”It’s already been brought-en,” said former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Melissa. Her line about how ”Gilles can make women scream by pointing at them” was great, too, although she failed to make a peep when he pointed at her for what seemed like forever after Melissa was announced as second runner-up. Also disappointing: this trash-talking installment did not take place in a scary, dilapidated warehouse/dungeon like it has in past seasons. There are some elements of a series that should never be ”stepped up.” This is one of them. I’d like to be frightened visually and aurally by this segment in season 9. Just lock them in a basement and see if they can dance their way out. Hello, they’re finalists.

NEXT PAGE: The Woz Worm Reprise: A travesty in two parts

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