This was definitely one of the most closely contested finales in Dancing With The Stars history. Gilles Marini, Shawn Johnson and Melissa Rycroft all have proven to be excellent dancers, but tonight their creativity and prominence were tested. The three remaining finalists had to compete in the Paso Doble face-off and the highly anticipated freestyle round.

Before the stars headed into their group Paso, each judge stopped by the help improve their individual solo. Len Goodman visited Gilles, urging him to find a balance to make his Paso less hectic. Bruno Tonioli encouraged Shawn to be more powerful and Carrie Ann Inaba wanted Melissa to show off her aggressive side.

Getting poll results. Please wait...

Up first was Shawn and partner Mark Ballas. Len called Shawn's excerpt of the Paso Doble full of energy and exciting. Bruno said she looked strong. He also said something about her being like a serial killer, but again, we'll just chalk that up to Bruno being, well, Bruno. Carrie Ann thought that every one of Shawn's movements was perfect, but she thought she lacked a little bit of the emotion the Paso deserves. Unfortunately for Shawn, she received the lowest of the Paso face-off scores; 28 out of 30.

Melissa and Tony Dovolani carried out the middle portion of the routine. Carrie Ann, who's been Melissa's biggest critic as of late, told her she nailed the routine and her soulful attachment was fully intact. Bruno thought she looked and dance beautifully, bringing all the necessary Paso drama. Len commented on a slight mistake, but told her it was more convincing than her first attempt at the Paso. She received 29 out of 30 for the first round of the night.

Gilles and Cheryl Burke anchored the Paso, and topped the initial leader board. Carrie Ann told Gilles she expected perfection, and got it. Bruno was pleased at how self assured and strong Gilles looked and performed. Len loved the full on intensity of their routine and was happy that his visit paid off. Gilles received a perfect 30 out of 30 for the Paso face-off.

While the initial round was important, it was do or die in the freestyle round. Up first again were Shawn and Mark. Shawn had another visitor besides Bruno this week, Olympic champion and previous Dancing With The Stars winner Apolo Anton Ohno. He pointed out that all Olympic finalists have gone on to win the coveted mirror ball trophy. The pressure was on for Shawn to shine, and she definitely did with her fun freestyle. Bruno commented that she was definitely going for gold. He said her routine had explosive speed and great synchronicity. Carrie Ann, always a fan of Shawn's precision, commented on her technique and energy. Len simply loved it. Shawn was the only one to receive a perfect score during the second round of competition, making her grand total for the evening 58 out of 60.

Melissa and Tony were determined to come up with a routine full of tricks, but it kind of backfired. Carrie Ann said she loved Melissa's new attitude towards dancing, but thought the choreography looked disjointed. Len said he liked the versatility that she showed, but that the hip-hop and tricks weren't his cup of tea. He preferred Melissa used her ballet training rather than her cheerleading background. Bruno's expectations were higher than Melissa's performance as well. Despite the negative critique, Melissa and Tony received 27 out of 30 for their freestyle, giving them 56 out of 60 overall.

Gilles, worried he wouldn't have what it takes to freestyle, let Cheryl take the lead. Unfortunately, the judges noticed. Their Flashdance inspired performance left Carrie Ann feeling odd. She thought the routine focused too much on the girl, not Gilles. Bruno agreed, saying he expected more dancing out of Gilles. But Len thought the routine showcased Gilles as a great dancer. With a ten from Len, Gilles moved above Melissa and into a tie with Shawn for first place and a 58 out of 60 overall.

Based on the freestyle routine alone, Shawn's got my vote. Who do you think will win the mirror ball trophy?

Story by Beth Wickman

Starpulse contributing writer