It seemed like the melancholy men knew the writing was on the wall as "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" pruned its celebrity cast list down to the final three dancers.
Former "DWTS" champions Apolo Ohno and Emmitt Smith were knocked out in a double elimination that set up next week's championship with some fine-looking fillies who can shake a tail feather: Shawn Johnson, Melissa Rycroft and Kelly Monaco.
The gents said the things you say when you lose -- on camera, anyway.
"It's been a tremendous experience, a great ride," said Smith.
"It's been a blessing,'' said Ohno.
Both stars were great performers this season. Apolo worked tirelessly like the world-class athlete that he is. And Smith brought something unique to the season -- a sexy confidence that never eroded into swagger or strut.
Yet as I think back on the season, there isn't one routine from either of them that stands out as memorable. Indeed, the best of the male dancers this season was Gilles Marini, the Frenchman who bid adieu last week.
Which leaves frontrunner Shawn Johnson, who will win the mirrorball trophy next Tuesday unless there is another superstorm to delay the proceedings. Shawn has owned this season, delivering a fistful of memorable performances -- most of them punctuated with her "secret weapon," the ability to throw in a gravity-defying move as part of a seamless routine. It didn't hurt to be backed by the innovative choreography of partner Derek Hough.
Shawn's handmaidens in the queen's court will be Melissa Rycroft, the perky Texas gal who slowly commanded respect from the judges and audience as she delivered crisp, professional routines week after week. And everyone would love to see good-guy pro Tony Dovolani get his hands on the trophy.
And there's Kelly Monaco, who could easily have exited the show by week three or four, but who instead managed to build an audience that bailed her out more than once when she landed at the bottom of the judges' leaderboard. Coy Kelly has played out a backstage romance storyline with partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy just like a soap opera actress, which, indeed she is.
The three ladies will be faced with three dances next week:
- A "super-sized" freestyle, which means a production number with backup dancers to be conceived and choreographed by the team
- A reprise of their favorite routine of the season
- An "instant routine" in which the dancers will be given their music and dance style moments before having to perform it.
With so little mystery about next week's winner, one's mind can only go to the inevitable: How will ABC top this stellar season?