‘DWTS All-Stars’: Can the Veterans Keep Pace With a Tougher Points System?

'DWTS: All-Stars' Apolo and Karina (Photo: ABC)

So at last it was time to see the best celebrity dancers of all time strut their stuff on “DWTS: All-Stars,” also known as season 15. Would Gilles Marini get the first place that so narrowly eluded him during season 8? Would Helio Castroneves be just as charming with a new partner, Chelsie Hightower, after winning with (now-movie star) Julianne Hough in season 5? Would Bristol Palin get as many votes as she did last time? Would Maksim Chmerkovskiy rant at the judges, as he has during every season? Would people even remember Kelly Monaco from season 1?

I was ready for all those questions and more to be answered as the parade of celebrities began on Monday night. Derek Hough picked up his partner Shawn Johnson on the stairs but the rest just tried not to trip. Maks gave us a happy wave with Kirstie Alley by his side—what wonders dating Peta Murgatroyd will do!

Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson: Cha cha

Season 4 star Joey finished 2nd before with Kym and they were together again. He clutched Kym’s butt in excitement when they re-teamed in practice. They were doing cha cha as their first season 15 dance and right away, the “DWTS” fog machine was back as Joey leaped onto the floor. He looked much slimmer than last time and had really kept the weight off. Joey had a lot of fun attitude in the dance, pointing at the audience and strutting like he had never stopped practicing since season 4. Judge Len Goodman said the scoring was going to be tougher this season in honor of All-Stars, and there would be half points as well. The press room was aggravated—you mean we have to learn to add? Len said his posture was funny but it was a great start. Bruno Tonioli praised the Michael Jackson routine but said something was wrong with Joey’s legs and held one of his own up to illustrate the problem. Judge Carrie Ann just said great way to start the All-Star season, short and sweet. Joey told hostess Brooke Burke-Charvet backstage that he felt like a jelly fish. I thought Joey looked smooth. Then Carrie Ann huffed that Tom Bergeron had cut her comments off prematurely. Well, I wondered. But is that any way to talk to the new Emmy winner? Anyway, Joey got an okay score but there was lots of room for more.
Score: 20.5

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Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Foxtrot

Shawn, who won season 8 with Mark Ballas, said she felt like she was cheating on her previous partner. Derek said she should think of Mark as her ex-husband. Then he said implied she was sweet and innocent, which didn’t quite match with the divorce talk, but whatever. Shawn looked a lot more mature and ladylike this time around and she smiled a lot at Derek during their foxtrot. She seemed really happy to be gliding and leaping in quite a skilled dance. The gymnast who had to give up her Olympic dream this summer wore a bright yellow dress and flower in her hair and looked very pretty. Chaz Bono was shown clapping in the audience at the end; he liked it! Bruno said the dance was fully loaded and Shawn put some sex appeal into it. Carrie Ann got a chance to speak—she said Shawn delivered the perfect package, great hold and footwork. Len said what she did she did well but it didn’t feel to him like a foxtrot the whole time and he was disappointed. Shawn told Brooke the knee she injured was fine to dance on. Good. We don’t want to see the ambulance this season. Len shafted Shawn with a 6.5 but the others made up for his low score.
Score: 22

Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel: Cha cha

Sabrina was voted back as viewer’s choice and everyone remembered how in season 5, she went home too early, finishing 7th. The Cheetah Girl had one of the most shocking elims ever on the show. Anyway, her old partner Mark wasn’t available but Louis looked thrilled to have Sabrina. She and Louis started the cha cha with Sabrina twisting a lot in place with the ABC cameraman giving us a close up of her feet. She also flipped her hair around and seemed to bobble a bit in one of the turns. The dance was quite fast and frenetic and no mistake that it was a cha cha. The press room denizens applauded for the first time but I was underwhelmed. There was no time to take a breath during the dance; perhaps it was too quick. Carrie Ann told her she was on fire, there was nothing like a woman scorned. But the judge did say she over-danced it. That was how I felt. Len, however, called it clean and precise. Then he said she lacked finesse, seeming to contradict himself. Bruno said she went for it so much it wasn’t clean but he was happy to have her back in the ballroom. Sabrina got redemption with a strong score.
Score: 22.5

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Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower: Foxtrot

Helio is shown getting makeup put on and Chelsie walked in to meet him for the first time He said they gave him another blonde! They showed Helio’s cute daughter backstage dancing around and Chelsie said in rehearsal, “Helio is the perfect student. He’ll give everything he has and he’s fun.” “Whatever happens, I’m going to have a blast,” the race car driver himself confirmed. Helio got an overhead shot from the ABC cameraman for his foxtrot as he was giving Chelsie a slow spin around the floor. Then he did a little leaping hopping stuff and really seemed into the whole thing and pumped his fist when it was done. The reporters sure liked it, applauding away like it was a car race. Tom said he got a standing ovation before he’d even done anything. Len said he should be proud of it but there were one or two incidents within “but it was good.” Bruno praised his bright and engaging presence but said he messed it up a little, pointing at his feet. Helio’s baby mama was in the audience with his daughter and they looked a bit crestfallen. Carrie Ann said he needed more body contact. Brooke asked about his attitude. “It’s kind of intimidating to be honest,” he said. “All the winners are here.” His score was not far different from the others.
Score: 21.5

Pamela Anderson and Tristan MacManus: Cha cha

Tristan said Pam was every man’s dream as she looked him over sexily. “I’m trying to contain myself,” she said. In rehearsal, Pam wondered why she was there because she’s not exactly all-star material and Bristol has a whole tea party with her. Funny! Pam had no idea how it would go. She looked like Peta as the dance began and yes, she was sexy but some of her splits were uncertain. I wondered if she’d pop back up or fall to the floor! She was giving Tristan a lot of racy looks and Tristan slapped her, or at least pretended to on the floor, and they would up on their knees in some kind of relationship turmoil at the end. And there was Sarah Palin and her family and what looked like Bristol’s son Tripp trying to figure it out in the audience. Was Sarah trying to explain that odd, explicit dance to her grandson? My mind reeled. Bruno said there wasn’t enough there to praise her although it was entertaining. Carrie Ann said Pam was living the drama but her body didn’t do the work. Len said the training wheels came off, it was waaay shakey. Yeah, they were right, but not quite a train wreck, either. Backstage, Pam looked disappointed and Tristan put on a brave face. The Baywatch babe said she felt like crying. It was a disaster of a score considering all the talent on the show this season. The first one to be eliminated? We would see Tuesday.
Score: 17

Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Foxtrot

Melissa said she wanted the trophy bad this time. The TV hostess and former Bachelor star was 3rd in season 8. Tony said she’s the best partner he ever had so they are really stoked to be together again. As their routine started, Tony was throwing some money in the air to “Hey, Big Spender” to start the dance and they did some cute side by side moves and Melissa’s body looked so toned. She kicked like a Broadway baby with those long legs. They spent most of the dance out of hold, however, which bothered me. This was a partner dance! Wonder if the judges would notice? Meanwhile, the media room exploded in cheers. Carrie Ann said they couldn’t go wrong with Bob Fosse and their lines were excellent but they needed body contact. See? She agreed with me. Len said it was too theatrical for him while Bruno gushed about the sassy sexiness. But Bruno, too, wanted them to touch more on the floor.
Score: 21

Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff: Cha cha

The Olympic speed skater and sexy Ukranian pro sounded like a great team on paper. But in practice, Apolo was rusty and Karina was telling him what to do in an aggravated way. Would they flop? Both were lit up in flurescents as the dance began and their outfits were really colorful, too. The dance wasn’t as skilled as I expected—it seemed like a mish mash. The athlete looked a tad too slow on the floor but he lifted Karina up in celebration at the end. Len said it needed more hip action, “it was a bronze medal, not a gold medal,” he sniffed. But Bruno said part of the dance was exquisite. Carrie Ann said he had gotten much sexier since she judged him last time and seemed to like all aspects of the dance (Carrie’s single again after splitting up from her boyfriend. Have you heard?) Brooke did a bland interview with Apolo and Karina backstage and the scores were pretty good, if not Olympian level.
Score: 22

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Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd: Foxtrot

Will Gilles out-hunk Apolo? Gilles and Peta had already been tagged as the two to beat this season, so the reporters stopped gabbing and really paid attention. The couple looked really enthusiastic in rehearsal and Peta vowed he wouldn’t finish second THIS season. The dance started in sepia tones, like an old Hollywood movie, and then switched back to color. Peta looked like Marilyn Monroe leaving her makeup mirror to dance with the handsome stranger played by Gilles. And they proceeded to do a very smooth dance. Gilles made full use of his height and yes, he and Peta were sexy, but not in an in-your-face way (see Anderson, Pam). A joy to watch and easy, nothing forced. Bruno rose out of his judge’s seat and said there was style and panache to their foxtrot. Carrie Ann said she had missed Gilles and it was poetic and gorgeous and he looked like Jon Hamm. Len smiled that Gilles had a lot of sophistication which you always want in foxtrot. Unanimous love from the judges! Highest score yet for Monday night.
Score: 24

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: Cha cha

Bristol said Mark would be her security blanket (as he was in season 11). It looked like Bristol had, er, made some cosmetic changes since then? “Shake that ass,” Mark told her in rehearsal as the reporters chuckled backstage. Did her mom Sarah know what Mark was telling her? So Bristol looked stiff in her traveling move toward the camera during the cha cha and Mark did some fancy moves around her at one point. I was looking at the dance pro more than Bristol, never a good sign. She did indeed shake her booty and Mark ended the dance with Bristol in a low dip as Tripp covered his ears in the audience and Sarah and Todd Palin smiled. Carrie Ann said she was the most improved since her old season. But she needed more “pop.” Len said Bristol was far more confident and praised her great legs. Bruno? He said “Bristol, is that really you? Refreshed, revived, and refurbished?” The cynical reporters laughed about that comment! Scores not as high as the comments would indicate, sadly for Bristol.
Score: 19.5

Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya: Foxtrot

The season 2 champ knew he had to catch up with the newer choreography. Anna told Drew his arms bugged her; she was very blunt but he took it pretty well. Drew said “I still got it,” and as he launched into the foxtrot, he looked a little nervous. Was Anna too big and bold for him? I wondered if visually they were a bit awkward as a couple. Len said his top was too hard and stiff and he needed to relax in the dance. “Dynamic Drew,” Bruno said in opposition. He thought it was great for first time out on All-Stars. Carrie Ann said his posture was fabulous but sometimes it got a little rigid. She wanted to see firm, but not rigid, and host Tom said, “okaaaay.” Did I mention Carrie Ann recently broke up with her boyfriend? And she was frisky tonight!
Score: 21.5

Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Cha cha

The soap star was the very first winner of the show when it was just a summer trifle. Val (AKA Maks’ brother) had a lot to catch up on because she had never done the cha cha. Her previous season, after all, was only six weeks long. The couple laughed about her big chest; they seemed to be getting along. Kelly looked sultry in a glittery gold dress and I was watching her, not Val, so all was good. Wow, her posture and body looked great and she also acted the dance like a soap star, making eye contact wwith Val. Their traveling moves were fluid and Val was in tune with her the entire way. Bruno went nuts, saying Kelly was better than ever. And Carrie Ann said they had insane chemistry, which I had also noticed. Now for the tough judge—Len said Kelly looked a bit anxious at times but he, too, loved the dance. This was a shocker. Kelly was back and strong!
Score: 21.5

Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Foxtrot

You would remember Kirstie was on season 12 and finished second with Maks. They giggled when they saw each other again. She told him he could call her fat. The outspoken duo were fun in practice, with Maks telling Kirstie her boob was always on him. She said she was a better dancer than last time. We would see! There were drapes set up all over the floor for this romantic dance. Maks whirled her gracefully around and dragged her along the floor, cleaning it with her purple dress. Did Kirstie look a little winded and terrified during the foxtrot, though? The studio audience seemed to like it, giving her tons of cheers. Carrie Ann felt she was beautiful and sensual but she didn’t go full speed. According to Len, she needed to lift up her rib cage and use more refinement. Bruno loved the drama although he thought Len made some strong criticisms. Meanwhile, Kirstie gave Tom a big steamy kiss in honor of his Emmy! But after that funny moment, Kirstie was so exhausted she could barely speak to Brooke backstage. She’s the oldest one in All-Stars, so I will give her a pass on this one.
Score: 19

Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: Cha cha

The season 3 champ and football star was reunited with his pro, so this should be easy, right? The NFL legend was told by Cheryl not to try to fix what wasn’t broke in rehearsal. I was looking forward to this one. They were dancing to “Chain of Fools” and Emmitt showed his twinkle toes form again. He expertly put Cheryl under his legs and seemed as flexible as ever. What soul and fun! I loved it. It looked as good as his season finale last time. Len gushed about Emmitt’s flair; Bruno said he was a natural performer and Carrie Ann claimed he was born to dance. The couple looked very happy though Emmitt was sweating profusely. Emmitt told Brooke the competition was stiff and he knew something about competition. Cheryl called him her big brother.
Score: 24.5

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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