Dancing With the Stars Recap: Gilles Channels Lil' Kim's Derriere, Kicks Melissa's

This show has got to be more fixed than a neutered pooch. Dancing With the Stars is down to the final four, and when it came to last week's comeback queen Melissa Rycroft, the judges were all as stone-faced as Death playing chess in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Then, for everybody else, they got as jolly as a 2006 banker handing out liar's home loans to anyone with a pulse. Perfect 30s got doled out like sweetheart contracts by crooked politicos. Not that they're taking bribes -- they're just boosting ratings. Or maybe they're just sincerely biased, like Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann. Either way -- ooh, do these three deserve a judgment day of their own.But it's all about orchestrating ratings-goosing drama among the contestants DWTS bills as The Olympian, The Sexy Hunk, The Battling Cowboy, and The Girl Next Door. Melissa Rycroft hasn't gotten this shafted since The Bachelor. Her quickstep was beautiful in ways the judges couldn't or wouldn't see -- as lovely as her dress, a classy, glamorous outfit with diamond panels that whooshed fetchingly when she whirled. Definitely she won Best Costume of the night: In a universe of the dumb and slutty, she looked smart in two senses of the word. Effortlessly she flowed in Tony's capable arms, the picture of ease.And the finale was a phenomenal flourish. Only Len got its musicality, and gave it a 10. Carrie Ann and Bruno exaggerated its slight flaw, a lesser energy than the urgent Week 3 foxtrot that broke them through the pack and the searing samba that earned them a 30. "It was the first time I didn't have to think of the steps," said Melissa, explaining how the 30 samba came to be. She was just as in the moment this time -- but Bruno stomped her for lacking zing, and Carrie Ann for not connecting with her soul (and if Carrie Ann is an expert on souls, so was George Bush when he gazed into Putin's eyes and saw sheer goodness).

Melissa got a 28 -- dangerously low this close to the end -- and a lousier 27 for her cha cha cha to "Save the Last Dance for Me" (an apt song for one of DWTS's last survivors). Host Tom, who's on a wardrobe-malfunction-joke kick, at least had encouraging words for Melissa's low-cut top: "Everything stayed on!"Wicked Witch of the West Cheryl Burke and Gilles Marini did their Bickersons routine (and I wonder if she's really this nasty, or if that's scripted too?). "He'd better get it tonight!" she threatened. When her head accidentally hit the floor in rehearsal, she quipped, "As you know, I'm hard-headed." "She can be a little on the crabby side as a teacher," noted host Tom. "She's not crabby!" objected Gilles. Of course he would say that -- Cheryl's got ways of getting even.But she didn't have to whip out her dominatrix whip, because Gilles earned a perfect 30 on his waltz (Carrie Ann: "irresistibly romantic"; Len: "I'm giving you a sitting standing ovation"), and another 30 for his salsa. "I wish I had an 11 paddle," crowed Len. Not to be outdone in the overstatement department, Bruno raved, "Lil' Kim is alive and well and she's hiding in your pants." Cheryl is to be commended on one achievement: The dumb, slutty Carol Channing-ish feather-boa hem of her waltz dress was outdone by the dumber, sluttier, purple baby-doll nightie-like garment she wore for the salsa.

OK, I admit it: She's not a bad choreographer, and Gilles is getting almost as good at dancing as he is at making women's and certain gay men's knees go all wobbly. I just don't think either dance was as good as Melissa's previous quickstep.I'm less outraged by the perfect 30 Shawn Johnson's Argentine tango won -- the first ever for the show's youngest contestant ever. "I don't know when to jump," she'd complained when she was trying to learn the lifts in rehearsal. In performance, she nailed them without fail. "Precision is your middle name, sister," said Carrie Ann. Bruno called her "Catherine Zeta-Shawn," his worst-ever pun, because he thought her tango resembled the "He Had it Coming" number in Chicago. It didn't, but neither did the rather forbidding hard-chick persona Shawn achieved resemble her usual giggly, spontaneous self. Which she immediately reverted to when she heard her score, pogoing backstage and emitting cute dolphin sounds of glee. Superfluous Samantha, who more and more resembles a PBS pledge drive nag demanding your calls, was inspired to say, "Let's all jump up and down." "I wouldn't jump too hard in that dress, Samantha," cracked Tom.Shawn's jive got a 26, which is also fair. It started with a Lindy hop bang (which Bruno downgraded her for), and did lose a bit of steam, as Carrie Ann kvetched. Still, the lighthearted dance style was as up Shawn's alley as her polka-dotted outfit. She's like a very young champagne: All bubbles, no complexity.

Chelsie Hightower won Worst Dressed, in my opinion, for the turquoise horror she wore. Ty Murray's waltz wasn't the horror one might expect, but it was nothing like the unprecedented breakout it would have to have been to keep him in the game. Len thought it "fabulous," but he's too kind. Bruno was too unkind, but entertaining: "He nearly dropped her! It was like chasing flies!" More entertaining still was the squabble-fest that erupted between him and Len, trying to shout each other down like Fox News contestants. "You can see them in Branson [Missouri, the famous cheesy resort town for yokels) in The Odd Couple next week," said Tom -- a good quick quip, if it wasn't all scripted. Carrie Ann joined in the argument (maybe jealous of the spotlight), so Tom jested, "The post-show dinner reservations are three tables for one. "Ty got a 25 for the waltz, and a 23 for the samba. Maybe it was fair for Bruno to say Ty looked like he was "dancing on a tightrope and about to fall off" in the samba segment, but I found it more fun than his constipated waltz, another nifty, chipper bit of Chelsie choreography to the wonderful tune "Concrete and Clay." Everybody mostly made nice to Ty, because everyone in the room knew he's getting offed tomorrow.The non-dance segments were way better than usual. The contestants reviewed their season's high points, maybe in scripted dialogue, but insightful and interesting. We got to see their parents, best friends, and hometowns. Who knew Melissa's Dallas mama was so sun-damaged, or that Ty's mummy-like momma makes her look fresh-faced as Keira Knightley? Or that Gilles' large-mustachioed late father was a dead ringer for the brother bicyclists' bike-racing papa in the ubiquitous Stella Artois ad you see at art-house movie theaters? Or that Shawn had the flu when she won the Olympics?I fret that justice will be flouted and Melissa will not get her due. If Gilles wins, I won't be too bitter, but a Shawn victory would be just too much ageism to bear. And if Ty wins, I'm moving to Canada.