I knew it! The envelope, please: the new winner of Dancing With the Stars is Shawn Johnson. Her winning margin was under one percent, according to host Tom Bergeron, meaning that Gilles Marini must feel awfully damn cheated -- especially since everybody knows he can dance rings around the pint-size gymnastics champ.
As for Melissa Rycroft, who was a relatively enormous two points behind, it turns out that actual dance training is no guarantee of success in this strange, brutal contest. Not even the reality-TV notoriety she earned at such a high cost in tears and global humiliation could make America's inexplicably spurned sweetheart into America's mirrorball trophy winner. But I'm sure she'll find a way to monetize her fame and doubly tantalizing near-triumphs anyway. Don't expect her to slink off to Dallas obscurity this time without a fight.
Already, paranoid theories are surfacing about Gilles' loss of the prize that looked like it was inevitably his (and would've been, if this were a contest of skill and not personality). Lots of people said they couldn't tell who was the pro anymore, Gilles or his viciously bitchy trainer/partner, Cheryl Burke. It was startling how much Cheryl choreographed their last Monday dance to show off her own chops, relegating Gilles to the relative background. What if she got jealous, and subconsciously sabotaged him, unable to accept the prospect of his growing fame outshining hers? Obviously, nobody wanted to win more frenetically than she did, so it couldn't have been conscious. But it does seem that the failure was more hers than his -- not a failure of amateur dancer talent but of professional dancer strategy and choreography.
Or maybe it was simply that nobody could stop the juggernaut charm offensive of that little girl with the big smile and bigger talent. Or perhaps it was that breakout freestyle dance that at last crystallized all Shawn's abilities new and old, and utterly obscured the lack of confidence and beginners' stumbles that had almost knocked her out of the running time and time again. Kudos to Mark Ballas as a choreographer and inspirational coach. Now the Olympian and AAU Sullivan Award Amateur Athlete of the Year has a new amateur title to her name. It couldn't have happened to a nicer young lady. What's the secret of her success? Perhaps it is found in the "Caring Girl Poem" she posted on her website: "I am a caring girl who loves to flip." I'll bet she's flipping out right now.