DWTS Season 20 Premiere Recap: Who Stood Out? Who's At Risk?

DWTS Season 20 Premiere

At the top of Dancing With the Stars‘ 20th season premiere, we were promised the start of a new dance era.

The only problem? It looks a lot like the same dance era we’ve been watching for the past 10 years.

In fact, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of Dancing‘s newest season unfolded exactly as you might have expected: Bruno Tonioli climbed on the judges’ table in an effort to show us how seriously he takes all of this; Derek Hough once again set the bar impossibly high with a firecracker partner in Nastia Liukin; and, perhaps least surprising of all, Julianne Hough gave us our now-weekly reminder that, yes, her cleavage is doing very well, thank you for asking.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few genuine surprises. Rather than letting Derek and Nastia sweep the competition, Rumer Willis and partner Val Chmerkovskiy proved formidable opponents for the duo. And, throughout the two-hour premiere, more than one contestant brought utterly genuine emotion to the dance floor. (But it wasn’t Redfoo. The night wasn’t that surprising.)

With that said, let’s get right into the awards for the night:

Rumer Willis and pro Val Chmerkovskiy (Foxtrot) — Knowing that the pair was performing last in a 120-minute broadcast, it seemed fairly obvious that Willis and Chmerkovskiy would provide one of the evening’s best and most memorable routines. But theirs was quite clearly the best of the show, largely due to Willis’ dedication in rehearsal and her disarming grace on the dance floor. (But if ABC could ask the house band to never, ever perform Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” again, that’d be swell.)

Nastia Liukin and pro Derek Hough (Foxtrot) — While Tony Dovolani settles for an eighth-place finish at best this season (sorry, Chrissy Snow!), Hough has landed a partnership with another Olympic gymnast, who was just as nimble and elegant as one would expect. Plus, who doesn’t love a good kick line? But the duo’s flubbed lift near the end of their routine puts them just shy of the evening’s top honor.

Willow Shields and Mark Ballas (Cha-Cha) — It’s a little unsettling to think that Shields had never danced with a boy before signing up for Stars, considering Ballas is exactly twice her age. Still, Shields brought energy and attitude to her cha-cha and, better yet, she remained memorable despite nabbing the dreaded first performance slot.

Robert Herjavec and pro Kym Johnson (Cha-Cha) — Sure, it’s nice to see Herjavec in a setting that doesn’t involve leather armchairs, business pitches and Mark Cuban. But the sight of Herjavec’s goofy grin — which was plastered on for the entirety of his technically lacking routine — might be even more off-putting than anything seen on Shark Tank.

Riker Lynch and pro Allison Holker (Jive) — Lynch infused his inaugural performance with energy, enthusiasm and quite a bit of genuine skill. I mean, I think he did. I could only see half of the fancy footwork in his jive with Holker, no thanks to the poorly placed mosh pit that prevented us from seeing some of the dance’s most exciting moves.

Charlotte McKinney and pro Keo Motsepe (Jive) — Following a routine that found McKinney at least a half-step behind her partner at all times, judge Carrie Ann Inaba would only tell the model that she had “a little to learn” as far as footwork is concerned. And while it’s nice that McKinney can poke fun at her own sexualization in Carl’s Jr.’s recent commercials, I wish the judges had spent as much time critiquing her technique (or lack thereof) as they did discussing her duct-taped breasts.

Patti LaBelle and pro Artem Chigvintsev (Foxtrot) — No, the R&B music legend didn’t necessarily match her partner’s technical proficiency in their ballroom number. Yes, Julianne Hough was laying it on too thick when she called LaBelle a “gorgeous, graceful goddess” on the dance floor. But LaBelle seemed so eager to keep pace with Chigvintsev — “I’m not going to get dizzy anymore!” she promised, after her first rehearsal resulted in nausea — that it’s hard not to trot out the old “A for effort” adage. Seeing LaBelle break down in tears at the sight of the studio audience’s standing ovation was the cherry on top of a warm and fuzzy sundae.

Noah Galloway and pro Sharna Burgess (Cha-Cha) — It would be foolish to say that Galloway — a double amputee — could ever match the technical skill of his partner or other celebrities competing in Season 20, given the loss of Galloway’s left knee. And yet, his commitment to overcoming those obstacles — combined with the undeniable chemistry between him and Burgess — left me reaching for the Kleenex long before the routine was over.

Chris Soules and pro Witney Carson (Jive) — I’m not sure back-to-back wins are in the cards for defending champ Carson, given Soules’ tense upper body movement throughout his jive. But when ABC has the opportunity to show Bachelor host Chris Harrison and Soules’ new fiancee, Whitney Bischoff, in the audience — with a perfect view of Whitney’s left hand, thank you very much — not much else matters.

Redfoo and pro Emma Slater (Cha-Cha) — Party rock was not in the house as much as one would expect tonight. Despite Redfoo’s up-for-anything attitude, his routine with Slater was surprisingly dull and left much to be desired.

Michael Sam and pro Peta Murgatroyd (Cha-Cha) — Sam will certainly need to adjust to a new style of footwork if he wants to compete with frontrunners Liukin/Hough and Willis/Chmerkovskiy. But technicality aside — hey, if the judges can say it, so can I — Sam was surprisingly light on his feet in a complex first-week routine.

Suzanne Somers and pro Tony Dovolani (Cha-Cha) — No one is denying that the ThighMaster has worked wonders on Somers’ 68-year-old gams. But the actress will have to impress in a number of other ways if she wants to close in on the mirror ball trophy — and her sloppy footwork in the cha-cha will be a big setback on her way to the finish line.

SHOULD BE AT RISK: Suzanne Somers, Charlotte McKinney, Robert Herjavec (Robert going home)
WILL BE AT RISK: Suzanne Somers, Redfoo, Robert Herjavec (Suzanne going home)

JUDGES LEADERBOARD (Carrie Ann, Len, Julianne, Bruno)

Rumer Willis and pro Val Chmerkovskiy: 8, 8, 8, 8 — 32

Riker Lynch and pro Allison Holker: 8, 7, 8, 8 — 31

Nastia Liukin and pro Derek Hough: 7, 7, 8, 8 — 30

Robert Herjavec and pro Kym Johnson: 7, 7, 7, 7 — 28

Chris Soules and pro Witney Carson: 7, 6, 6, 7 — 26

Michael Sam and pro Peta Murgatroyd: 6, 6, 7, 7 — 26

Noah Galloway and pro Sharna Burgess: 7, 6, 6, 7 — 26

Willow Shields and pro Mark Ballas: 6, 6, 6, 7 — 25

Patti LaBelle and pro Artem Chigvintsev: 7, 6, 6, 6 — 25

Suzanne Somers and pro Tony Dovolani: 6, 6, 6, 7 — 25

Charlotte McKinney and pro Keo Motsepe: 6, 5, 5, 6 — 22

Redfoo and pro Emma Slater: 6, 5, 5, 6 — 22

OK, your turn. Who were your favorites on DWTS’ Season 20 premiere? Who deserves to stay — and who deserves to go? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Meg says:

    Ugh. Allison isn’t even a ballroom dancer. I wonder how many weeks it will take for them to give her a ballroom style number.

    • Meghan says:

      They have the foxtrot next week. Therefore week 2 is their first ballroom routine. And just because her first dances aren’t ballroom doesn’t mean she isn’t a good dancer or choreographer. She’s been nominated for Emmy Awards for her choreography. Plus other pros have been more latin or hiphop dancers and won this show, so whats your problem with Allison? She and Riker were the top score most of the show and I think they did really well and will continue to improve.

    • With the addition of Jazz and Contemporary in the recent seasons it makes sense that they would bring in a dancer who is stronger in those routines than ballroom. I can remember several times throughout these past 20 seasons where a ballroom dancer has never done a specific type of ballroom dance. I think the routines show how good of a teacher the pros are and how creative they can be. But I have noticed that the DWTS fanbase either loves Allison or hates her.

      • To jump off the love/hate of Allison. I think a lot of it also has to do with her partners. She hasn’t really been given that “It” partner. Remember when Emma Slater first joined DWTS? Bill Engvall was the perfect partner for us to just fall in love with her! The past 2 seasons they’ve kind of typecast Allison into these younger partners that 18-30 year olds would be more familiar with (probably closer to the 18 range this season).

  2. Angela says:

    We’re pretty much in agreement, it seems. Michael, Rumer, Nastia, and Willow were definitely the strongest of the night. I’ll be interested to see more from each of them as the weeks go on-right now they’re the ones I’m expecting to see fighting it out towards the very end of the season. And Patti and Noah were sweet and touching, respectively. Everyone else was “eh” or just not that great/need lots of work.
    I was a bit amused by all the constant harping on about Suzanne’s age. It’s like people can’t seem to fathom the idea of a person in their late 60s actually still being active and youthful or something. I dunno, it just struck me really weird.
    And while I too did like that Charlotte had a good sense of humor about her controversial commercial, I found it kind of funny that after her comment about wanting to show America that she’s more than just a pair of boobs, in the beginning section of her dance, she leaned in towards the camera in a way that didn’t exactly hide her cleavage much. But I’m not really bugged one way or another about that part of it all-considering the guys whip their shirts off constantly during their dances, too, it’d be a wee bit hypocritical to criticize women for showing some cleavage.
    Anyway, not a bad start. Look forward to seeing how things unfold this season.

  3. Tran says:

    I always stood out for Nastia Liukin. :-)

  4. rikarogg says:

    Rumer was a breath of fresh air! Charlotte (who has ZERO musicality) and Suzanne were both not so great. IMO if Redfoo really buckled down, I think he could be decent, due to musicality. Robert had no musicality, but was fun to watch him just go all out. Last thought, even though it’s super fun to watch gymnasts on the show with their awesome tricks, it is highly unfair to the other contestants. They do dance as part of their floor routines and are very strong and graceful.

  5. Rachel Scott says:

    Riker was good, but he reminded me of Derek a little bit (I know they’re related). I liked Patti Labelle and I hope she last a while. I like Derek, but I’m pretty much over the bias toward him. I also love Keo and Tony, but I don’t think that they will stay long given who they are partnered with. I though Michael Sam did well but I agree that his smile looked fake and tense. Rumer and Val had to be my absolute most favorite dance of the night. I have high hopes for them to make it to the end. I also liked Mark and Willow. I think she was slightly underscored because she went first.

    On another note, did Allison’s comment about Whitney (If Whitney can do it on her second year, I know I can do it) or something like that, seem slightly offensive toward Whitney, or was that just me reading into things too much?

  6. Linnette Mills says:

    I could not disagree more with this hyper-crappy and sour
    reviewer. Did it HURT you to watch this show? Robert
    was so much fun to watch and he did a really good job.
    WHAT is your problem? Did he not finance a product you
    pitched on his show? Lighten up and pay attention to
    the show instead of thinking of snarky little comments to make.

    • Kim (@AD76) says:

      I didn’t think Robert was that bad either. He wasn’t the best, but he wasn’t the worst, not by a long shot. I thought that honor went to Patti LaBelle, who everyone praised. I don’t get that one at all. Just because you’re a music legend it doesn’t mean you can do a decent Foxtrot!

    • Diane M. says:

      Hey Linnette, I agree w/you all the way! Rebecca Iannucci does have a lot to learn about being gracious! Robert has a great smile and it was not over done!! Besides, as a 50 year old man, he did very well and he’s Canadian, so I support him!! BTW, he’s just going through the breaking up of his marriage of 26 years!!! When you’ve got his humble spirit, his money, a private plane and Ferrari, you can talk crap about him then, okay?!

    • Raj Shah says:

      Finally thank you someone said it! Robert actually did really well. He was not the worst of the night and neither was suzanne. This review was probably worst of all reviews if anything.

    • RUCookie says:

      Robert was easily one of my favorites last night. He was fun, obviously enjoyed himself and did WAYYYY better than I expected. He might stick around for a few weeks… and it is great to have Kym back – she is always a good choreographer.

    • JM says:

      I completely agree. Robert’s joy was infectious, and I loved watching him.

  7. Charissa says:

    I was pleasantly surprised with Chris Soules and Robert Herjavec…they’ve got rhythm! Rumer and Val were my fav couple of the night…exactly what DWTS is all about!! Noah and Sharna’s routine had me reaching for the kleenex…can’t wait to see more of them.

  8. Kim (@AD76) says:

    I disagree with the assessment regarding Patti LaBelle. She should be the first to go home! I didn’t think Robert was that bad and was totally underwhelmed with Suzanne Somers. That Carl Jr chick or Patti should go first IMO. Most of my votes went to Noah.

  9. James says:

    I just really want Charlotte to be paired up with someone like Derek for the switch-up because that would turn out great. Keo’s just not a good teacher and it would be a shame for her to get eliminated first because of him

    • Rachel Scott says:

      How can you determine if Keo is a good teacher. We’ve only seen one week from this season and the last. This season seems to be shaping up like his first because again, he was given a partner with zero likable traits.

  10. Richard Duffy says:

    I thought Robert was a delight to watch. His smile and energy were awesome.

  11. Fernando says:

    suzanne somers really has no business trying to pretend that time has not taken a toll on her, At least patty labelle gave a graceful age appropriate dance. Charlotte will probably need to realize this a ballroom dance competition not not a pin up poster layout

  12. Petra says:

    I didn’t think Robert Herjavec did that poorly and as a matter of fact I liked him. I also think the most underscored was Willow and Mark. I thought Chris did better than I expected and Patti is the sentimental favorite I believe. Not surprisingly (at least to me) are top scores for Nastia (dancing with the always over promoted Derek) and Ryker (with Allison who received an unnecessary snide remark from Julianne). At any rate, my guess is Charlotte is going home. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. I do hope it’s not Mark and Willow as they were the bottom of the totem pole. And I’d like to see Robert stick around too.

    One of the best things about last year was that it was exciting to see a new pro coming on strong and watching Alfonso was fun. I’d love to see a different pro take one of his or her dancers to the top, other than the usual suspect.

    I fell asleep just before the end so I didn’t see Val and Rumor dance.

    • Maria Quinn says:

      Mark & Willow were not at the bottom of the totem pole, score wise (as I thought you implied). Charlotte & Keo & Emma & Redfoo were tied for lowest score.

      Considering that, unless those teams get higher scores next week & Suzanne & Tony get a REALLY DISMAL score, I don’t see how the writer can justify picking Suzanne & Tony for elimination next week. Logically, it should be either Emma/Redfoo or Keo/Charlotte, at least based on this week’s scores. IMHO.

  13. Agree completely about Rumer and Val, but for some reason I was underwhelmed by Nastia and Derek’s routine. Before it started I had my fingers crossed that Rumer would be good, because I’d love to see Val get a win.

    Also, tWitch sighting! Always a treat!

  14. Jan says:

    Thought the opening show was very entertaining. My question is: why does Derek always get the best dancers? Is it in his contract? I would be more impressed if they gave him the “stars” Tony usually gets. This show is very one-sided and they should call it “The Dancing with Derek Hough Show”. I love Derek and he is an amazing dancer. Have seen him on tour. Just don’t like the favoritism shown.

    • RUCookie says:

      You are not alone in the groan inducing pairing of Derek and the latest olympic gold medalist… it is ridiculous.

    • Katelyn says:

      Tony always gets “women of a certain age”, but I don’t think Derek gets the best dancers – Amy has 2 prosthetic legs, Rikki and Amber were not the typical skinny contestant, Jennifer Gray was at least 50….People seem to forget that.

      • Alice says:

        People tend to forget that Derek has lost many more times than he has won.

      • Lana says:

        Katelyn you are so right, Derek is just so good that he can do wonders with anyone he gets and everyone wants to only remember the so called ringers. Its called selective memory.

  15. Iakovos says:

    I think the busty model is going home. and that is a shame for the pro as he had a loser in Lolo last fall. And he is good! Burger girl just seemed out of place. Dancing was poorest of night and Charlotte’s demeanor was not fun to watch.

    Robert did OK. Everyone likes to root for the middle-aged white man. And it is great to have Kym back.

    I was not impressed by the young teen with Mark Ballas, but she will return. People love Mark!

    Rumer and Nastia were the best of the evening. This is a woman’s season to win, I bet.

  16. Hank de Klerk says:

    A very interesting night with pro and cons. Best was Rumer & Val.

  17. Alice says:

    I think the bottom three in scoring this week will be the first three leaving.

  18. JM says:

    Derek, you really couldn’t stay away??? It would have nice to give the other dancers a chance to win awards for their choreography. Personally, I loved Peta and Michael’s dance the best and think Peta is one of the best choreographers on the show.

    • JJones says:

      Choreographers pick the best three dances from their body of work.and submit them to the academy. They are not just chosen “out of the blue.” By the way, in 2014, one Emmy nomination to DWTS (Derek) and I think five or six for So You Think You Can Dance choreographers who only work with professionals.Be grateful somebody from DWTS made it at all!

  19. jax41712 says:

    I think they are giving undeserved scores to Nastia and Derek because his sister is on the panel and he made an unexpected return. Give the other people a chance and stop being unfair because one pair consists of previous winner and sibling of another judge.