It was going to be an emotional night for the celebrities still competing in "Dancing With the Stars" All-Star Season 15, as two couples were eliminated and three were sent on to the finals next week. But who -- as co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet said at the show's start -- "must get the ax"?

After Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff reprised their romantic rumba as the "Judges' Encore," it seemed that the results would soon follow -- and they did, for one pair. After landing near the top of the leaderboard all season, even after her partner pushed both the limits of the dances and the judges' patience, Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough were the first to be declared safe and ready to rock the finals. But that was a given, wasn't it? Success is second nature to this more mature and sexier version of the Olympian who won it all in Season 8.

Karina Smirnoff and Apolo Anton Ohno perform during ’Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars’ on Monday, November 19, 2012.
Karina Smirnoff and Apolo Anton Ohno perform during 'Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars' on Monday, November 19, 2012. (Adam Taylor/ABC)

Although there was a lot of entertainment mixed around the results, the next couple to be eliminated and sent home would be either Apolo and Karina, or Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani. When host Tom Bergeron announced that Apolo and Karina were out, the look on Tony's face was a mixture of relief and sadness. For a couple who didn't expect to get past Week 4, their reaction that they made the finals was astonishment.

"This competition was hard from the beginning," said Apolo. "This show is amazing for far beyond the Mirror Ball trophy. It forces you to become stronger. You become more confident. It's a blessing." Chatting earlier with Brooke backstage, Apolo said that the competition is "so much bigger than the Mirror Ball trophy. It's a life-changing, life-learning experience."

With only three minutes left in the hourlong show, the final two couples were brought out on stage to find out their fate. Kelly Monaco, who promised to "spray tan until she was orange" if she was in the finals, and Val Chmerkovskiy, and Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke waited while the drumbeat played -- to be honest, all four dancers looked as if they expected to be eliminated. When Emmitt and Cheryl were cut, I thought Val was going to faint and Kelly looked like she was in shock that they made it.

"It was a great ride," said Emmitt. "Season 3 was something else, but this pushed it over the top." As he said on a taped sequence, "I met the challenge. I may not have won, but I met the challenge."

The entertainment on Tuesday's show was top-notch. New Zealand's Parris Goebel, a self-taught hip-hop dancer, developed her own style that she calls "polyswagg" and has choreographed for Jennifer Lopez. She showed her stuff on the dance floor with members of her dance group from New Zealand, the ReQuest Crew. Next up was The Wanted, a super-popular British boy band, who sang "I Found You" and "Glad You Came" while younger women in the audience screamed.

Paula Abdul paid a return visit to DWTS, this time to dance in an incredible interactive dance number with several other dancers, including DWTS pros Mark Ballas and Chelsie Hightower, plus DWTS Troupe members Sonny Fredie Pederson, Henry Byalikov, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater. Called "Paula's Dream," she sang and danced four of her personal hits in the mix of live action, animation and special effects. Stunning! Also stunning was a contemporary dance number starring Derek Hough that he choreographed with "So You Think You Can Dance" alum Allison Holker. The number included Allison, Jessica Lee Keller and SYTYCD alums Melanie Moore and Katherine McCormick, and featured a pool, lots of splashing and some slow-motion effects.

So now we are ready for the finals, and Tom clued viewers in on what next Monday night will hold. The three couples will do a "super-sized freestyle" with extra dancers and full production features; their favorite routine from the season; and a "demanding instant dance" where the finalists will receive their music and dance style only moments earlier. Tom announced last night that Monday night's show will only be one hour, but if that's true, it will be a blur of competition. My biggest questions are: How will the casting director be able to find celebrities to top this terrific season, or is this All-Star season the swan song for DWTS? Hopefully, the ratings will demand a return of the show in the spring.

Who is your choice to take home the Mirror Ball trophy? For me, my head says Shawn and Derek, but my heart beats for Melissa and Tony. Only one more week to wait.