I have a slightly different take on Shawn & Derek's outlooks on the competition, and it's something that sort of falls in line with Kirstie's attitude toward being an "All-Star". For all the seriousness that Tom and ABC applied to the drama of returning champions fighting it out for bragging rights, when it comes down to it -- this really wasn't a regulation season of DWTS. It was a total stunt, and as such, I think more expectations were assumed on the stars to not only compete harder, but to create more water-cooler moments. And not just on the dance floor. As such, I think some stars realized that their job this season was more about being entertaining and memorable than it was about pleasing the judges.
Kirstie, one of the few real "stars" to have been on the show, understood this, and knew going in that she wouldn't come close to winning as long as the judges still showed up, so she and Maks became the comic relief. And Kelly, also an actual showbiz professional as opposed to an athlete, knew the value of playing up her alleged showmance with Val. And Melissa & Tony did what they do best -- played up being America's Sweethearts.
I think Derek knew this was his last season, and that it wasn't as important that he win it since it was a season with an asterisk next to it. And Shawn, while still an athlete and having that narrow-focus competitive mindset, also realized that her competitive sport days are behind her, and that she has to carve out a new career for herself. So maybe their goals were in sync, in that Derek felt freer to dance as he pleased, and Shawn was willing to be a part of some water-cooler moments, even if it meant not winning a tacky trophy that she already won anyway.
I'm not trying to take away anything from Melissa's win -- reality TV is her turf, and it meant the most to her. That's what a lot of fans responded to, because this need to win practically radiated from the screen whenever she was on it. I think Emmit saw the writing on the wall early on, and just did his best without killing himself. Apolo was saddled with a partner who wasn't a perfect fit. Drew, Joey and Helio were game, but they didn't come back in fighting form. Gilles and Sabrina were in fighting form, but they wanted the trophy a little too much and it showed. And Bristol was just there because they asked, and it took her mind off lawsuits and cancelled TV shows.
I had a good time watching this season, and I got to see some of Derek's best routines ever on his way out the door, so I'm satisfied. But I hope they don't do another All-Stars season for a long, long time.