Welcome back to another season of Dancing With the Stars, where robots frolic in harmony with humans, where sequins are the most valuable currency, and where you can never can tell if a judge’s references to a woman’s twins are directed at her toddlers or her ta-tas. Let’s dive right in and see how our 12 couples performed, since one of ’em won’t even survive into Week 2!
Ron Artest and Peta Murgatroyd: Cha Cha Cha
Sometimes I question the logic of DWTS‘ producers employing a robot as cohost, but then Brooke Burke goes and reads a preposterous line off the teleprompter with such stunning seriousness that you can’t help but guffaw. “Last week he changed his name to Meta World Peace, but tonight he’s dancing as the NBA champion you know as Ron Artest!” she chirped, without even the slightest hint of a smile. And speaking of robots, Ron moved with all the fluidity and grace of The Tin Man before Dorothy arrived with her oil can, although I can’t say that on some level — maybe the level that can’t look away from a flattened pigeon in a Manhattan crosswalk — it wasn’t compelling television. I don’t think the massive height differential between Ron and Peta helps matters — “you’ve got such length of bone!” cooed Bruno — but I did find it amusing that Ron boasted he should’ve gotten 12s from the judges. Yeah, maybe a total of 12.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 5; Len, 4; Bruno, 5. Total: 14
Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke: Viennese Waltz
It can’t be easy for Rob that as he’s striving to “step out of the shadow” of his sisters, he manages to get upstaged by big sis Khloe (for the record, the only Kardashian that makes me chortle) shouting down Bruno’s critiques from across the ballroom. Rob’s biggest problem, though, is that he moves like a regular person, not an actor or musician who’s spent a lifetime being aware of his body’s movement in front of a camera. Then again, it’s tough to have musicality when you’re dancing to a dreadful cover of an already dreadful song like “Lake Michigan.” Rob is definitely at risk of being the first celeb eliminated, but maybe Cheyl’s hot cape from the Golden Compass Collection will earn enough votes to save him.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 5. Total: 16
Kristin Cavallari and Mark Ballas: Cha Cha Cha
“I’m Kristin Cavallari, and I’m not a bitch,” announced Kristin Cavallari, making a bold assumption that more than 10 percent of the viewing audience had any previous knowledge and/or opinion of her personality. But in her defense, the reality star got off to a respectable start on the dance floor, managing to hit most of her marks even as her partner put down five steps every time she took one. (Really, Ballas, it’s uncouth to try to outdance your partner in her very first performance. Settle down!) But putting the focus back on Kristin, her final dip-pose was spectacular. Bruno, naturally, was smitten by the “bad girl with hot hips who can give hot action.” Alrighty then!
Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6; Bruno, 6. Total: 19
Chynna Phillips and Tony Dovolani: Viennese Waltz
Quick question: Am I the only one who heard Tony talking about how he’s known for “refinement, sophistication, and class” and translated it into “pedestrian and not a lot of fun”? Nevertheless, my least favorite pro brought out the best in Chynna, who was dressed like a Disney princess out for a spin in a verdant pasture, and who glided through her Viennese Waltz as if it was Week 5, not the season premiere. Tom Bergeron noted a “big, smiling Len face” when it was all said and done, and the scores — which placed Chynna and Tony in a tie atop the leaderboard — reflected that goofy grin.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 22
Nancy Grace and Tristan McManus: Cha Cha Cha
Things didn’t begin well for Nancy and Tristan, as she misunderstood her Irish partner’s use of “third” as “turd.” And really, who wants a turd reference so early in the season? That said, while Nancy was far from the most sure-footed competitor, and while she completely missed Bruno’s double-entendre — “How are the twins by the way, my darling?” — I agreed with Carrie Ann that the hard-charging TV hostess at least looked like she was having fun out there in her sparkly silver dress with an excessively fringe-y bottom. And that’s often enough to survive into Week 2.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 5; Len, 5; Bruno, 6. Total: 16
David Arquette and Kym Johnson: Viennese Waltz
For me, the most indelible image of the entire DWTS season premiere was the dramatic backlighting of Kym’s “wings” at the start of the dance, and everything that followed seemed to play into that mood of gauzy, dreamlike elegance. (Even the sight of Courteney Cox and Pee Wee Herman in the cheering section.) I agreed with Len it was nice to see a routine that didn’t have any “messing about,” and while David himself goofily admitted his own flub to the judges — “I messed up the contretemps!” — I thought his scores were egregiously low. Shouldn’t he have been atop, or close to the top, of the leaderboard, instead of a point behind Kristin and just one in front of Carson?
Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 6; Bruno, 6. Total: 18
Elisabetta Canalis and Val Chmerkovskiy: Cha Cha Cha
My bet for first ouster of Season 13 admitted “most of the people identify me for my past private life” without invoking the name of her ex (which rhymes with Forge Blue-Knee). Unfortunately, Elisabetta’s intro package and rehearsal footage didn’t really delve past reminding us she’s from Italy, and her performance had the uncomfortable vibe of a woman who’s deeply uncertain of the steps and keeps trying to catch glimpses of her partner’s moves to remind herself of the choreography. The whole mattress scene at the start didn’t add much to the dance, either, other than allowing Bruno to tell Elisabetta that she was “very good in bed” and when she was “handled by a man.” Here’s hoping she missed the ickiness in the translation, eh?
Scores: Carrie Ann, 5; Len, 5; Bruno, 5. Total: 15
Hope Solo and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Viennese Waltz
Half of the appeal of any Maks partnership lies in
the tightness of his pants the rehearsal packages, and while it’ll be tough to trump his Season 12 pairing with Kirstie, Maksimus Gluteus is already engaging in that flirtatious macho-man-who-secretly-loves-a-strong-woman banter we’ve come to know and love. I giggled when Hope took little jabs at what Maks referred to as his “ginormous” arm muscle, and how she noted that she’s already “a better dancer than he’ll ever be a goal keeper.” On the floor, the duo displayed a lovely lyricism, and while the judges asked for a little more femininity (“I’ll work on it,” joked Maks), I’d be shocked if Hope isn’t among Season 13’s final five contestants.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 21
Carson Kressley and Anna Trebunskaya: Cha Cha Cha
I was a little worried during Carson’s pre-dance package that his Queer Eye Turns Ballroom Guy quips — i.e. “Sale over there!” — were going to feel a little 2005, but I underestimated his skill as a physical comedian once he got on the ballroom floor. There was something so exaggerated about Carson’s moves, his facial expressions, even the head to toe sparkle of his otherwise drab brown suit, that I had to agree with Carrie Ann: Carson and Anna (the most comically gifted of all the pros) served up the night’s most enjoyable routine. Sure, it totally lacked in technical merit — Carson looked like a cruise-ship partygoer who’d downed one too many Mai Tais — but his comic skills alone might carry his DWTS dreams well into October. Question of the Night No. 1 from Brooke: “Do you feel at home in the over-the-top, flamboyant ballroom?” Oh, grrrrrl.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 6. Total: 17
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff: Viennese Waltz
I loved that J.R. was able to make a joke about the disfiguring injuries he suffered while serving in Iraq — his 33 subsequent surgeries are “the reason I’m this cute,” he told Karina — since it allowed us to see him as a mortal rather than a sainted hero who somehow deserves our votes before he executes a single step of choreography. Luckily for J.R., he may do just as well — if not better — if he’s judged solely on his footwork and personality, and not just his backstory. That move where he dropped Karina to the ground and swept the floor with her proved he’s capable of a high degree of difficulty, and there was hardly a break in the flow of their entire routine. Bonus points for J.R.’s cheeky answer to RoboBrooke asking him if eight years ago in Iraq, he ever imagined he’d be a DWTS contestant. “Absolutely,” chuckled J.R., reveling in the ridiculousness of the query, but Brooke was initially too focused on her cue cards to realize he was joking.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 7; Bruno, 7. Total: 22
Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: Viennese Waltz
Ricki said that she was inspired by Kirstie Alley’s Season 12 weight-loss arc, but she’ll need to add an additional, unique aspect to her DWTS journey if she wants to make it all the way to the finale. Then again, she’s paired with judges’ fave Derek, so maybe she doesn’t. To her credit, Ricki created some truly elegant pictures throughout the duration of her routine, particularly those outstretched arms during that final spin. Let’s just hope Len has realized the lameness of “I don’t wanna be picky, Ricki” and doesn’t try to turn it into a Season 13 catchphrase.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 7; Len, 6; Bruno, 7. Total: 20
Chaz Bono and Lacey Schwimmer: Cha Cha Cha
I wondered if producers would have Chaz perform last (the obvious slot for the season’s most buzzed-about contestant) or maybe try something a little more subtle and have him go second-to-last in the lineup. But nope, the show’s first-ever transgender contestant closed the show, and his intro package was refreshingly straightforward — touching on his transition from female to male, addressing his “tendency to be too serious,” and even owning the perils of joining the competition as someone in his 40s and overweight. Interestingly, Chaz’s cha cha cha has a lightness of foot and spirit that I hadn’t expected, and Lacey choreographed their piece with a flirtatiousness that refused to pander to folks who might have been uncomfortable with Chaz’s presence on the show in the first place. All in all, a much better start for Chaz than I’d expected.
Scores: Carrie Ann, 6; Len, 5; Bruno, 6. Total: 17
What did you think of the DWTS season premiere? Who do you think will go home on Tuesday? Who was the biggest surprise of Week 1? And who, if anyone, did your votes go to? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!