'Dancing with the Stars' Season Premiere Recap: Welcome to Busey's World

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Annie Barrett
·Writer
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Greetings, royals, and welcome back to season 21 of Dancing With the Stars. His highness Len Goodman may be gone, but the magic is still there, casting glitter on all that passes. How else would such strange life forms thrive on Planet Mirrorballus?

Judge Julianne tried her best to nail Len’s mannerisms from her new center-stage throne…

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…but host Tom Bergeron, sporting a jaunty pocket square in Len’s honor, ultimately wore it better. Good luck to all participants in the next round of the Goodman Games.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhh-ber!

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: 24/30 I love how Sharna’s former and possibly current crush tried to play up his insecurity about his dancing as if anyone was buying it. No one can hide behind the Backstreet Boys. You are a Backstreet Boy! Man up! And Nick did, with relative ease, during their blue-bedazzled cha cha. His quick glance to the camera after his pants popped open was the perfect overall depiction of a man’s first time on Dancing With the Stars.

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“Feel the final!” yelped Bruno after chiming in with some BSB moves of his own.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: 24/30 They had to get that “Crocodile Rock” jive in at some point. It was Week 1 already. Time was running out. CRIKEY! In a bubbly tribute to her late father Steve Irwin, the Australian TV presenter posed in a zookeeper’s outfit for just a few seconds before revealing the green-fringed shimmy-shaker underneath. It’s her true character, okay? Get used to it. Bindi has an infectious charm, and she’s the perfect height for Sasha Farber once Derek gets injured. Expect them all to make it to the finals.

Tamar Braxton and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 23/30 My feelings about this partnership are best summed up by this moment from the incredible opening number:

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In other words: YES. Shared flair! It’s the best. They’re both outspoken, but Tamar’s special strain of crazy seems buoyant enough to handle Val’s intensity. Maybe they’ll clash in the near future (and I’ll probably love that too), but this week’s quickstep was a seamless surprise.

Carlos PenaVega and Witney Carson: 23/30 Shouldn’t it be illegal to do the jump-over-your-partner’s-head move — not to mention the jive — in Week 1? Well, no matter. The natural performer should prepare to fire up even more! Bruno would like to see the Big Time Rush star “blow the gasket on that engine.” I’m not sure I want to imagine what this special effect might do to Carlos’ hair, or how the shift might affect Mark Ballas and his man-bun, who must remain competitive.

Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas: 22/30 This lady is from Spy Kids, and it’s a big deal that she and Carlos are married. They combined their last names and everything. (Never mind that neither of them is actually a big deal. That’s not the point.)

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“Guess what? We’re married!” #couples

Alexa impressed me with her ability to wear trashy lingerie like it was a real outfit and the ease with which she snapped down and back in rapid succession during a particularly throttling section of the jive. Here’s a closer look at the braids complicating Mark’s man-bun for show night, because we might never see something so profound again.

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Just kidding, we will.

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: 22/30 Alek Skarlatos knows you have no idea who he is. You’re about to fall in love with him anyway; no Vine account required. He thwarted terrorists from a train a few weeks ago, so the next logical stop was Dancing With the Stars. And why not? He’s got a sharp memory, an eagerness to learn, a natural flair for the foxtrot, and fantastic eyebrows. I’m definitely rooting for this regular person to go far.

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May he never have to tango with the dark side of social media.

Andy Grammer and Allison Holker: 21/30 Andy was originally paired with Peta Murgatroyd, who had to back out of this season a few weeks ago to address ankle injuries. (I still see her in my dreams, and all the promos.) The “Honey, I’m Good” singer didn’t seem too happy with 7s on Week 1. He could stand to ease up on himself overall — the judges wanted more smoothness in his foxtrot. But there’s potential in there. He’s handsome, determined, and he misses the heck out of his late mom: “It’s nice to feel so close to her, have her be a part of my day.” As always, thank you to DWTS for reminding me twice a year that I have feelings.  

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: 21/30 He’s a “Vine star.” Don’t worry about it. Emma, though, must pay close attention, and understanding today’s teens — especially sensations — can be difficult. “When they talk about the latest trends, I don’t know if it’s an object? A person? A CRAZE?” I totally love her, so it’s too bad her partner is an alien. Their cha cha did show promise. Time will tell if Hayes can open his eyes to the screen-less realm of mystery we olds call “life”.

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Cheers to this reprise of Hayes’ “T-Rex” dance move, season 21’s poor man version of the treasured Patti Labelle shuffle.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: 15/30 This mad genius is already a winner in my book for sparklebarfing the line “I dance in a cosmos of riddles” on Week 1. Their actual performance was more of a showcase for returning pro Anna’s feathery electric blue jumpsuit than a proper cha cha — but if you Busey it around in your head a moment, are those really two different concepts? Get ready for some staggering ups, some blazing downs, and millions of moments in between where we won’t be able tell the difference. For example:

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He’s happy here! Thrilled beyond belief at his partner’s perspective that dancing is another language. And I must say, I agree.

Paula Deen and Louis Van Amstel: 15/30 Does the triumphant return of Our Pro Louis Van Intensité lessen the blow of watching Paula Deen on TV again? According to premiere night: only somewhat. The filter-free chef’s quickstep was a jerky, butterless mess. I think I’d rather see those two dogs of hers dance next time instead. (Less belching.) Hunker down for at least another week of sparkly tongs and cheesy biscuits.

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Under such conditions, is it really any wonder that Paula Deen soiled herself?

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff: 15/30 I’ve decided I want to read or write a romance novel called Karina and the Jockey. This is reality, though, and their opening salsa fell short. “My face is about Karina’s chest,” said the Triple Crown winner, pretty much summing it up.

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Props to Victor’s helmet and the horses in sunglasses for trying their best.

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe: 13/30 The Queen of Funk a.k.a. “Every Woman” (you wish) forgot many of her cha cha steps. I thought she more than made up for it with convincing hairography and a winning smile. The 4s seemed too low. But you know what’s more important than any score? How fun it is to say “Chaka Khan.”

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Let’s also never underestimate the power of boob jewels.

Kim Zolciak and Tony Dovolani: 12/30 I swear I looked really hard for her in their salsa, but the reality TV mom was completely drowned out by those gladiator sandals, her stupendously shirtless partner and the ever-aggressive DWTS smoke machine. Better luck next week, Kim. Energy is your friend.  

Hidden Gem of the Week: Tom invokes feedback

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“From Len, the 10!” a voice echoes, faintly.

’Til next Tuesday, DANCMSTRs! Who’s your favorite non-married couple so far?

XOXO,

Fringe Fairy

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.