Simone Biles takes a point lead over breakout Rashad Jennings, on a night where high scores prove hard to get.
Every season Dancing with the Stars has to up the ante on the opening numbers. For this one they go out on the highway!
Apparently the premiere has caused a traffic jam, and so everyone abandons their cars to dance into the ballroom. Including the judges, and we will soon learn Len will be here every week this season. Thank heavens for small mercies.
Let’s see how that goes as the stars take to the floor:
Normani Kordei & Val Chmerkovskiy
Quickstep – “Good Time Good Life” Erin Bowman
She’s a star who grew up watching this show. With her grandmother, who’s in the ballroom to watch her, of course. They start out on the star with her behind a microphone, before he induces her to abandon her concert to dance with him. She’s a brilliant performer, of course, though the technique is merely okay. We wonder about Len being here every week when a minute into the judge’s comments he and Julianne are arguing whether the lengthy lead-in was called for. All four judges like it, though. They make some technical criticisms nonetheless. Len gives them a Six, the other three Sevens, so they total 27.
Nancy Kerrigan & Artem Chigvintsev
Viennese Waltz – “She’s Always a Woman” Billy Joel
The best thing about their intro fluff is Artem riding a Zamboni onto the ice shirtless. Nancy tries to lower expectations of how good she’ll be on the dance floor. But he makes her a routine with the kind of elegance she’s good at, if also an overabundance of rose petals. Her footwork varies between lovely one moment not really very good at all the next. It may be more nerves than anything else. The judges are nice, though, calling her flaws ones a skater would be prone to have. Meanwhile, Bruno declares, “Nothing frozen about that,” and Len calls them “a pair of great promise.” They break out straight Sevens for 28.
Chris Kattan & Witney Carson
Cha Cha Cha – “What is Love” Haddaway
Chris is not impressed to learn young Witney’s never seen anything he was in. But since they’re doing a song from his old movie A Night at the Roxbury, she comes up with a routine with his character in said club. It even allows him to entertain at the beginning with what Carrie Ann calls “goofy bad dancing.” Unfortunately, said bad dancing goes on longer than the choreography called for. Chris can’t do anything else. Three of the judges do claim to find the character entertaining, and Carrie Ann even cites a soft spot and gives him a Five. But Len refuses to play along, saying, “The best thing about that cha cha is that I don’t have to watch it again.” The other three judges all give him Fours, for 17.
Bonner Bolton & Sharna Burgess
Cha Cha Cha – “Move” Luke Bryan
Sharna calls this a “country cha cha cha,” which it very much is. There’s his inspirational story, of course. We also get some slowmo romantic style shots of the two of them. We see why when they dance: the two of them have really good chemistry. He’s also got legs and hips which make clear their ability to deliver, if he didn’t keep putting the former wrong, likely out of nerves. Julianne even assumes it’s nerves and tells him to trust himself. Len calls him “a work in progress,” and the others mostly agree. Bruno tells Sharna she’s in “for the ride of a lifetime.” He and Carrie Ann give him Sixes, but Len and Julianne only cough up Fives, for 22.
Charo & Keo Motsepe
Cha Cha Cha – “Cuban Pete” Mambo Companeros
Since Charo isn’t as famous as she used to be, she knows she has to make an impression. Lucky for her she’s good at that. She starts by introducing herself to Keo by popping out of a large gift box with costume and maracas! She’s basically having loads of fun all through the fluff and then through the dance. They go all out with a festive setting, and she’s enough of a presence on the dance floor the relative lack of cha cha cha is easy to overlook. The nicer words from the judges make her scream, and she and Bruno indicate they are going to be bad influences on each other. But they still get only a Six from Carrie Ann and Fives from the other three for 21.
Nick Viall & Peta Murgatroyd
Cha Cha Cha – “Let Me Love You” DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber
The fluff does have Nick being ambitious, but is ultimately on the dull side. He tries to make up for it by presenting Bruno with a rose as they go to commercial. After the break, he shows he is able to perform, and he and Peta have good interaction. He also does the moves of the cha cha cha pretty well. But the technique is still developing, and he doesn’t really manage to do the dance as a seamless whole. Carrie Ann and Len both use the word disjointed. The judges all agree he’s got the potential to be good, though. They break out the straight Sixes, so he totals 24.
Heather Morris & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Viennese Waltz – “Make Something Beautiful” Ben Rector
Heather tries to talk about how her dance experience does not include ballroom. Maks, however, tells a more effective truth: they’ll expect her to be perfect. They also talk about being parents, though fatherhood hasn’t seemed to change Maks that much. But the routine they do actually finds its strength in performance rather than exceptional technique. Though it requires Heather to be good enough that she can express personality within the choreography. That part she absolutely nails. It’s kind of strange when Carrie Ann says she didn’t have enough personality. Len, however, calls them a match made in heaven. No runaway scores: they get straight Sevens.
David Ross & Lindsay Arnold
Quickstep – “Go, Cubs, Go” Steve Goodman
They’ve been talking all night about how he’s their first baseball player, while he insists he probably won’t be that good. But they set the ballroom up like Wrigley Field and he starts on the baseball diamond. As the song indicates, this is more a celebration of his recent triumph along with the rest of the Cubs than anything else. The choreography even has as much of that as it does quickstep. But what content Lindsay does include, David does much better than he, at least, was obviously expecting. Julianne even predicts they go far as Len tells them they’ve reached first base. Some of the Cubs also praise David over Skype, too, before the judges break out the night’s third set of straight Sevens.
Erika Jayne & Gleb Savchenko
Salsa – “XXPEN$IVE” Erika Jayne
She makes it all about her wealth, with the opening of the fluff. She also talks about the character she’s used to portraying while singing, who is also all about the wealth. Using one of her own songs demands she play that character of course. So she becomes the type who owns a pet unicorn and is a compete diva. She knows how to make that into a good show, of course. The routine prioritizes that over salsa content. That has Carrie Ann telling her she needs to go out of her comfort zone, even as the judges praise the routine for the entertainment value. They have some technical quibbling too. That might be why their scores are the night’s second set of straight Sixes.
Rashad Jennings & Emma Slater
Cha Cha Cha – “24K Magic” Bruno Mars
Emma calls Rashad the most attractive partner she’s had so far. She emphasizes his smile at one point. It becomes clear why when he takes to the dance floor. His smile, his bounce, and his ability to project it allows him to completely own the dance. He fuels his cha cha chaing with it too, becoming easily the best show so far tonight. Three of the judges agree. Julianne even calls it the best dance of the night so far, and Bruno a revelation. They and Carrie Ann break out the Eights for the first time tonight. But Len talks about his getting ahead of the music and won’t give higher than a Seven, so the total is 31.
Mr. T & Kym Herjavec
Cha Cha Cha – “The A-Team Theme” Mike Post, Pete Carpenter, & The Daniel Caine Orchestra
He may have a tough image, and even make an entrance through the smoking remains of the studio door. But Mr. T’s shows his true heart when he talks about wanting to inspire the kids he works with, and also being nervous. He knows he’s not going to be the best at this. And indeed he isn’t, though he’s clearly trying hard as he can. Even as Kym puts him front and center in the routine, she still does most of the cha cha chaing, while he just does his thing. He’s Mr. T, he’s his iconic character, and everyone loves it. The judges praise his heart, before letting him off with straight Fives for 20.
Simone Biles & Sasha Farber
Tango – “Untouchable” Tritonal & Cash Cash feat. JHart
Even though she requested him, it’s the pro’s turn to freak out when he finds out who his partner is. But after all the fanboying and talk about how good she is, it’s time to do a dance more mature than she’s used to. At one point he even asks her if she’s ever looked into a boy’s eyes. But Simone rises to the occasion, delivering emotion enough in a striking routine much stronger technically than anyone else’s. That’s enough to qualify hers as the best of the night, and Len officially declares it so. It’s sealed when all four judges break out the Eights, and with 32, Simone Biles takes the lead.
No eliminations the first week. They’ll all be back next week, though someone will go home then. It all resumes next Monday at 8.