Wow! On only Week 3 of last season's "Dancing With the Stars," a score of 22.5 would have been great while scores of three 9's would have been unbelievable. But for All-Star Season 15, soaring scores are now the norm and even the bottom couple received relatively good marks.
Kelly Monaco and partner Val Chmerkovskiy, and Melissa Rycroft and pro Tony Dovolani tied for the top spot on the leaderboard with 27, while Bristol Palin and partner Mark Ballas were given the lowest score of 22.5. Knowing that two couples will be eliminated Tuesday night, the celebs and their partners blew the roof off the ballroom with their incredible routines, designed to make the judge delirious and the viewers vote like crazy.
For Bristol and Mark, the fireworks took place in rehearsals -- of course, caught on camera. Bristol accused her partner of wishing he was with either Sabrina Bryan or Shawn Johnson, two of his previous partners who are dancing with others, and of wanting to "go home." Tears flowed, Bristol walked out, and no one knew exactly what dance the pair were going to do, or if they were even dancing, until they were introduced on the floor, all smiles.
The celebrities were given the challenge last week by head judge Len Goodman to "show him something amazing" and that the celebs would have creative direction. I'll bet that the judges would make that challenge every week if it produced the high level of dances that it did. Each
And in order to keep everyone a bit off-balance, Tom had a couple of surprise announcements. First, Paula Abdul will be a guest judge next week -- hopefully, she will be on her best behavior. Second, the celebrities will select dances Tuesday night ... for their rivals to dance next week. Tom promised that the list of possible dances will include some styles that have never been done on the show.
Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya kicked things off with a cha cha that Len said "overall was terrific." If anything, Drew got Anna to wear a sexier costume than usual, and both looked great. Unfortunately, the routines only got better and more exciting throughout the show, making Drew's effort pale by comparison.
Props and tricks were everywhere, from Gilles Marini's "flying" out of his bed to seem like he was dreaming his sexy tango with Peta Murgatroyd, to two Troupe dancers made up like statues for Apolo Anton Ohno's sensuous foxtrot with Karina Smirnoff, to the long-hair wig, "guy-liner" and tight pants that Maks Chmerkovskiy used to channel Mick Jagger for his cha cha with Kirstie Alley that was a recreation of Carson Kressley's routine to "Moves Like Jagger." Hilarious and well-done.
Personally, I had two favorites Monday night. The first was Kelly and Val's paso doble that was re-invented from the one done by Maks and Laila Ali in Season 4. The costumes were perfect, the routine was so hot that I thought the dance floor would catch fire at any moment, and the technique was terrific. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said, "You guys are the couple to watch. You smacked that paso doble's booty!" And Len asked, "Where did that come from? Kelly, where have you been? That turned out fabulous!"
My other favorite was like the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae, the exclamation point at the end of a sentence. It was done by the final couple, Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough, recreating the quickstep that Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough made so infamous in Season 5, minus the banana-yellow suit. There were tricks on top of tricks, dancing so complicated that I had to run it back and watch it again, and an overall sense of celebration. It was also the judges' fav -- "Incredible. Best dance I've seen in 15 seasons," said Bruno Tonioli; "By far, best dance on 'Dancing With the Stars,'" added Carrie Ann; and "Your ability to interpret music into movement is incredible," said Len. But the bad news was that although all admitted it was outstanding, the pair broke a few rules of quickstep and would be penalized. They received an 8 from Len, a 9 from Carrie Ann and a 9.5 from Bruno -- without the penalties, the scores would probably have been all 9's or 10's.
It was a great night of creative, inventive dancing, and it's frustrating to think that two couples will be sent home. Once again, Kirstie, Drew and Bristol are at the bottom of the judges' leaderboard. Bristol is probably the weakest dancer on the floor, but how strong is her fan base? And if the fans of Drew and Kirstie save them with their votes, which of the better dancers will be sent home? Who are your favorites? Who do you think ought to be voted off?
Celebrities and judges' scores
Kelly and Val (paso doble) -- Carrie Ann, 9; Len, 9; Bruno, 9 = 27
Melissa and Tony (samba) -- 9; 9; 9 = 27
Shawn and Derek (quickstep) -- 9; 8; 9.5 = 26.5
Sabrina and Louis (paso doble) -- 8.5; 8.5; 8.5 = 25.5
Gilles and Peta (tango) -- 8.5; 8.5; 8.5 = 25.5
Apolo and Karina (foxtrot) -- 9; 8; 8.5 = 25.5
Helio and Chelsie (quickstep) -- 8.5; 8.5; 8.5 = 25.5
Emmitt and Cheryl (paso doble) -- 8.5; 8; 8.5 = 25
Drew and Anna (cha cha) -- 8; 8; 8 = 24
Kirstie and Maks (cha cha) -- 8; 8; 8 = 24
Bristol and Mark (paso doble) -- 7.5; 7.5; 7.5 = 22.5