After two hours of filler, Gaga, and blah blah blah, Shawn Johnson wins the knob of hardened glitter; have I fallen too far down the rabbit hole, or does the trophy look ... kind of impressive?

By Annie Barrett
May 20, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Kelsey McNeal/ABC
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‘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

To the surprise of no one — including a very chipper Maksim waiting in the wings — Anna Demidova is our new pro. Congrats, Anna! What a horrible non-farewell to poor Mayo, though. Tom remembered him just in time, but it was almost as sad as when Tom routinely forgets to acknowledge the Harold Wheeler Ensemble (featuring Princess Sparkle) until after the last dance of the night. I wanted to run up to the platform and whisk Mayo away so he wouldn’t have to stand there all alone. We then would have gone out to eat some fries (since they are all I ever visualize when I hear his name) and commiserate about how annoying it is when strangers ask us if we used to play basketball. ”So annoying.” ”I know, right?” ”Let’s date each other!” ”I have a better idea. Let’s crash season 9!”

David Alan Grier and Steve-O must have lost the Media Circus Lottery, because they only got to perform mini dances while Steve Wozniak, who left before they did, starred in his very own segment. Awww, you could tell Woz wanted at least one judge’s compliment on how his footwork had improved. (Had it? I was too busy slapping myself silly for not realizing at the time how much the furry pink bra of Karina’s quickstep costume resembled Hostess Sno-Balls.) The extra Wozniak screen time unfortunately resulted in an inexplicable reprise of the Woz Worm. This was a travesty in two parts: A rainbow-shaped ”dive” from a kneeling position (?!) and then a full-body-paralysis belly flop to the floor. Tom’s ”Wow” to the camera at the very end of that segment was my favorite moment of the night, with Vivica A. Fox’s desire to scoop up the essence of Gilles on a chip running a close second. I definitely haven’t mainlined enough Pepsi to pull off a video-based Hidden Gem of the Week by 8 a.m., but Tom’s ”Wow” would have been it.

Lawrence Taylor, Chuck Wicks, Lil’ Kim, and Ty Murray danced full routines as well — Julianne gave a cheeky ”Chuck is not cupping my boobs this time, people — look how far we’ve come!” glance during that crucial moment of their samba, while L.T. seemed hell-bent on proving just how far he has regressed in both ability and ambition since he was booted. Edyta, who fears for her job (unnecessarily — does she not realize she is Edyta?) every time her partner speaks, had to just stand there in disbelief as L.T. ran his mouth about the lap dances he offers at the 19th hole and why ”her husband” might be a prime candidate for the answer to Tom’s rhetorical inquiry as to whether there’s any man she can’t please. (What?!) This dreadful exchange, though brief, was possibly more painful than Samantha’s unfortunate ”ix-nay on the ong-thays” admonishment to Chuck.

Jeffrey Ross, who is really thin and famous, got up behind a snazzy Dancing With the Stars podium to make fun of Woz’s heft and the final three’s relative obscurity, among other topics. (I can’t believe he didn’t go for Denise Richards.) At this point, during finale week, it’s difficult for me to conceive of a pop culture universe that does not feature Melissa Rycroft at the center of its orbit, but looking back, I can relate to Ross’ renaming of the series as Dancing With the Vaguely Familiar. Whenever the new casts are announced, I freak because I’ve never heard of half of them. But that’s what’s so funny about the show, and has been for years. Ross’ roast served its purpose and was occasionally amusing even if it didn’t fit the overtly earnest tone of the show. But keeping Woz’s mic on so we could hear every nuance of his nervous titters was a bit of a disaster. And of course, I was a little confused that Ross named the judges Smokin’, Croakin’, and Flamin’ when it’s been established here for weeks that their official Snow White and the Seven Dwarves names are the slightly more benign Weepy, Cranky, and Dopey. You can’t just change people’s dwarf names, Mr. Ross. Show some respect.

NEXT PAGE: The ballroom alien has landed and she would like to scrub your toilet

Lady Gaga always looks like an alien, but seeing her robot-dance her way around DWTS‘ technicolor staircase made me suspect she is perhaps a special ballroom alien, beamed down to instigate needless sequin wars and torment the hair department with her army of weaves. That said, she fit in perfectly to the DWTS environment. A welcome adversary! During ”Just Dance,” I kept hoping the cameras would pull out — I too was wondering ”what’s going on on the floor?” and hoped it would involve Our Pros (there needs to be an html coding that allows me to surround ‘Our Pros’ in hearts and rosettes. I’ll work on this for next season), but, oh well. Do you think Lady Gaga and her merry band of backup dancers would like to tag-team the cleaning of my toilet with that ”disco stick”?

Hidden Gems of the Week Reader Amy picked Monday’s: ”I think the hidden gem was clearly when Cheryl was trying to grab Melissa’s hand after the Paso Doble and Melissa completely ignored her. The look on Cheryl’s face was priceless!!!!!!” And I had to throw in a bonus gem from Tuesday night: After the judges scored the final dance of the season (Gilles’ Argentine Tango), DANCMSTR was so exhausted he had to fan himself off with his paddle.

Special finale week treat! Click here for a fun photo-based retrospective: Costume designer Randall Christensen told me about his 10 favorite looks from season 8. It’s not often that a lowly fringe fairy like myself gets to interview one of her Top 5 Personal Heroes Ever, you know. (Now that I’ve had a taste…if you happen to be Lucille Bluth, Cookie Monster, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or whoever came up with Mountain Dew, watch out. I’ll be calling.)

Thanks for riding my disco shtick for 11 weeks, DANCMSTRs. I’ll miss you like Edyta misses her legwarmers on laundry day. Go forth and comment! I’ll see you for season 9…(you know what comes next)…liiiiiiiiiiiiive.

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