SPOILER ALERT: This recap of the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars contains spoilers.
It’s that time again, Dancing fans! Nick Viall’s Bachelor season is done, which means ABC’s Monday night cycle has segued back to the granddaddy of all celebrity dance-offs. And rose lovers don’t even have to miss the Bachelor star, because he’s part of the package! At least for now.
This season on Dancing With the Stars, 12 celebs, ranging in varying degrees on the fame meter, compete to take the title from reigning DWTS queen Laurie Hernandez — including one of her Rio teammates. A couple of dozen seasons and 400 episodes in, and this stuff still never gets old. As a bonus, we got through the premiere without any protesters storming the stage.
So what went down on the first leg of the journey to the mirrorball crown?
Simone Biles and Sasha Farber: 32/40
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a frontrunner! Five-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles’ tango was untouchable. So, clearly, those lucky shoes bequeathed to her by last season’s champ are working. Simone and Sasha danced the last dance of the night, and judge Len Goodman deemed it the best one of the evening. Biles’s secret weapon? “I had to channel my inner Laurie,” she said.
Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater: 31/40
“Best dance of the night!” Julianne Hough prematurely declared after NFL star Rashad Jennings’ solid-gold performance with Emma Slater. (She’d be proved wrong moments later.) Len went on a slight soapbox about how the football pro danced in front of the music, and he drove his point home come paddle time. We’ll go with Julianne on this one: These two have the magic to make it all the way, even if they have to wrestle the trophy from a teen gymnast’s clutches 10 weeks from now.
Nancy Kerrigan and Artem Chigvintsev: 28/40
The judges were gushing over the super-smiley Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan after her Viennese waltz with super-serious Artem, with Len’s cold heart thawing out enough to deem the duo “a pairing with great promise.” Bruno Tonioli got all warm and fuzzy and said the dance made him feel like he was enveloped in a luxurious cashmere shawl. A round of 7s from all — and please excuse us while we go dig out our favorite shawl.
Heather Morris and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 28/40
It ain’t easy being an ex-Beyoncé back-up dancer. Especially when you’re partnered with a guy who once vowed to sit this season out to stay home in Jersey on diaper duty. No matter, Maks is back and he’s making the best of being stuck with … aww, who are we kidding? This is a match made in mirrorball heaven! Who wouldn’t be tempted to come out of sequester for this? After a beautified Viennese waltz, Len gave Heather Morris props for being “a very accomplished dancer,” while Julianne defended her against critics who are calling her a ringer because of her extensive dance background. Y’all know ballroom is different, right?
David Ross and Lindsay Arnold: 28/40
Let’s be real: A mirrorball trophy pales in comparison to two World Series rings, but you have to give this former MLB catcher props for stepping out of his comfort zone and for being the very first pro baseball player ever to join DWTS. David Ross’s “Go Cubs Go” quickstep wasn’t a home run for Len (is anything?), but it was first-base worthy and scored a very respectable round of 7s from a team of surprised judges.
Normani Kordei and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 27/40
If it’s quirky and jerky (and, as Bruno would say, “crispy and crackling”), it’s gotta be a quickstep. Len was in grumpy mode, complaining that the Fifth Harmony singer’s dance with little bro Chmerkovskiy wasn’t “quick” enough for him because of its “10-minute” intro. Over in the skybox, Val admitted he was bummed that the score would lower his average. As if anyone but Normani’s grandma is keeping track.
Nick Viall and Peta Murgatroyd: 24/40
If this first dance is any indication, ABC’s pimp-fest of this guy may continue for a while longer. While the judges noted Nick’s “pancake feet” and “vulture’s claws,” his cha-cha with new mama Peta Murgatroyd landed him in the middle of the pack, so he probably won’t be sent packing next week in the most dramatic DWTS elimination ever.
Erika Girardi and Gleb Savchenko: 24/40
She’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle and cash, whateva the hell that means. Confusing taglines aside, this kid’s got it. The wealthy RHOBH star tooted her own horn with a salsa to her song “XXPEN$IVE.” Jackpot! And this lady of luxury deserves bonus points for landing on her own two feet. (Remember, the last time a RHOBH star was partnered with Gleb, she may or may not have fainted.) The dance was too raunchy for Len, but Carrie Ann Inaba said she likes how this 45-year-old RHOBH star exudes confidence.
Bonner Bolton and Sharna Burgess: 22/40
Move over, James Hinchcliffe. Pro bull rider Bonner Bolton has this season’s best backstory, and it could take him far toward the finals. His good looks and diligent Crest White Strips usage have nothing to do with this. Nothing. Of course, although this real-life Rhinestone Cowboy has survived being bucked off the back of a bull, he may have met his match with a snarling Len. Sorry, Bonner, pretty-boy good looks don’t earn you a 7, and barely a 6. Still, a smitten Carrie Ann noted this couple’s “oozing chemistry” (yes, Bonner actually said Sharna’s drilling him hard), and Dancing voters are suckers for hotness.
Charo and Keo Motsepe: 21/40
Her age is a mystery, but Charo still reigns supreme as the Spicy Queen. Her “Cuban Pete” salsa with Keo was punctuated with screams and squeals (all her), even if her score was nothing to get too excited about. As a side note, only on this show can a judge get away with saying, “I think I saw your cuchi-cuchi, by the way.”
Mr. T and Kym Herjavec: 20/40
We’re so happy to see Mrs. Millionaire back in the ballroom where she belongs. Welcome back, Kym! And Mr. T hasn’t aged since the ‘80s, even though he says, “Imma learn, Imma try, Imma old guy.” Of course, while the A-Team star tried to bring his A-game, Carrie Ann pointed out the multitude of mistakes with his cha-cha. Len got his critique across in a Sesame Street sort of way. “‘T’ doesn’t stand for technique,” he said. But it does stand for “tenacity and trying your best.”
Chris Kattan and Witney Carson: 17/40
Witney Carson has no idea who her partner is. To make matters worse, we’re not sure if Chris Kattan was channeling Rickie Vasquez at the World Happiness Dance or the Roxbury Guys sketch he made famous on SNL. Or maybe it was a combo. This guy deserves a bit of pass, considering he broke his neck once, but the whole thing was a no-go with these judges. Carrie Ann made a comment about Kattan’s “goofy bad dancing” (assuring him it was in a good way), but Len was brutal: “The best thing about that cha-cha is I don’t ever have to watch it again,” he said.
‘Dancing With the Stars’ airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of ‘DWTS’ for free on Yahoo View.