‘DWTS: All-Stars’ Recap: Two Tied for the Lead, Paula Abdul Enters the Picture

'DWTS: All-Stars' Kelly and Val (Photo: ABC)

This week, “Dancing with the Stars” was trotting out what looked like a sure-fire concept—the remaining 11 celebrities and their partners would recreate iconic dances from past seasons of the show. Plus, the stars themselves would act as the creative directors for the routines instead of the pros.

But rabid “DWTS” watchers would know that the show walked in these shoes before! During season 11, the stars redid old dances, with very mixed results. Truth was, we loved the original dances because they suited those particular stars at the time and it was hard to see anyone else doing them. (Though I will admit having a fondness for Rick Fox’s take on Helio Castroneves’ famous swing number–memba that?)

I was digressing. Anyway, I was willing to give the old dances a new chance. Speaking of dance icons, Paula Abdul announced on the show that she was going to once again be sitting behind the judge’s table! So here was what went down on Monday night….

“DWTS: All-Stars” Cast Reacts to News That Paula Abdul Will Be Guest Judge

During the parade of stars down the stairs, Maks Chmerkovskiy looked crazy as a rocker with a shaggy wig. He was unrecognizable this week and a wag in the press room said he didn’t dig the new look. Don’t worry; it’s only temporary!

Watch Bristol’s Breakdown Below:

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Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya: Cha cha
The couple was dancing some Joey McIntyre cha cha number from Season 1. Wow, that was going way far back. I didn’t think that was a good move as many “DWTS” fans didn’t even watch season one but jumped on the train later. Anyway, they were stoked they’d done so well last week in their comeback. Hope they’d add some more advanced choreography to the season one dance. Drew unfurled Anna’s skirt and did a cartwheel which the ABC cameraman kind of missed–boo. Their side-by-side moves were cool and Anna opened Drew’s hoodie to reveal…a halfway decent chest for an, er, shorter guy. Hey, I was being honest! Overall, I thought this was very good. Both Drew and Anna seemed in a great mood throughout the dance, showing the chemistry I had previous knocked them for not having. Judge Len Goodman liked the concept and the content. Bruno Tonioli compared him to Magic Mike for the stripping and Carrie Ann Inaba loved the beat boy moves. They got their highest score of the competition so far this season!
Score: 24

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Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd: Tango
Gilles decided to do Maks and Erin Andrews’ tango from season 10. He was concerned about it being original and wasn’t cottoning to old dance week unless he made it his own. As the dance began, Gilles appeared to be flying (on wires, of course) in a kind of Cirque Du Soleil style. The actor had an intense look on his face as he directed Peta very deliberately around the floor. I was looking at both parts of the couple, always a good sign. Sweet Dreams Are made of This? Yes! Gilles ended by lying on the famous Erin Andrews’ bed (well, that was actually another Erin routine, but whatever). I loved it; it looked like a soap opera through dance with one sexy and angry couple. “Erotic and powerful,” Bruno said, though he thought he lost his footing. Carrie Ann praised Gilles’ sense of romantic drama but thought they were out of sync. (But Joey Fatone was eliminated last week—no more ‘N Sync. Ha!). Len said their hold could have been tighter but they got very into it. I hadn’t seen the flaws. Gilles was disappointed with his performance backstage. He got a much better score than he expected, luckily.
Score: 25.5

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Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: Samba
This couple chose, from season 13, J.R. Martinez’s dance. They were scared of this week’s double elimination and were planning some big tricks in this dance re-boot. She was falling constantly in rehearsal, but brought it on herself as she was creative director, after all. So the samba started with Melissa’s head in a weird angle on the floor with Tony’s foot underneath it and the reporters gasped wow! Tony stirred Melissa’s upper torso around like he was beating eggs and they did a bunch of great side by side butt shaking moves. As usual, Melissa did an amazing leg lift to show her extension and it ended with another complicated move of Tony kicking her head around . What was that? Whatever is was, it was really skillful and should get big scores, I thought. Carrie Ann said it was fantastic; she was very excited. Len said it was fizzy, refreshing, and satisfying while Bruno deemed it a samba sensation. He thought the choreography ruled and Tony (who still hasn’t won a mirror ball after all these years) raised his arms in triumph. Brooke Burke-Charvet had never seen Tony so happy. The reporters clapped when they saw the scores.
Score: 27

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Apolo Anton Ohno And Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot
Apolo and Karina were taking on Gilles and Cheryl Burke’s foxtrot from season eight to the song “Fever.” In practice, Apolo said they would add a statue which would be Karina coming to life. The dance indeed featured Karina standing on a pedestal like a Greek column. Apolo led her off it and they started to bump and grind together. This dance was spellbinding with the “DWTS” fog machine pulled into service. I had no criticisms. I hardly knew how to give this one a critique because it was just so polished and hypnotic. I wanted to just watch it, not write about it. Smooth! The song was great, always has been, and by the time Apolo put Karina back on that pedestal, the press room erupted in applause. Many thought this was the best dance of the season so far. I certainly did. But Len burst my bubble when he said he wanted them more in hold. Bruno said the muse of dance came back to life and it was classic; but he didn’t like his hands! What?! Carrie Ann said it would be viewed as an unforgettable dance of its own. She thought Apolo’s arms were, in fact, beautiful. You go, girl! Carrie Ann was so right—were the male judges seeing what we did? She pulled out the 9 paddle but poor Apolo wound up with less than Melissa. Sorry, but those of us backstage felt Apolo and Karina had told a story that would be remembered.
Score: 25.5

Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy: Paso Doble
The soap star had some time off from “General Hospital” and decided to do his brother Maks’ long ago paso doble with Laila Ali. Would the brother also rise?! Kelly was determined to call out Maks on his paso. We would see! A red tarp came over the two dancers to begin their paso and Val was showing off his chest in a matador costume. Their spins looked polished and they really worked the intensity of the dance. Kelly appeared to get dizzy, however, during one of the long spinning moves; there was a bobble. They ended it with Kelly lying on the ground at Val’s feet, natch. Bruno called it Kelly’s defining performance: wonderful, he said. Carrie Ann was speechless and finally said it was Val, not Maks. “You smacked that paso doble’s booty,” she added. Len pointed out what focus they had and loved the musicality. But none of the judges seemed to notice she went dizzy at one point, although they had focused on ALL of Apolo’s alleged transgressions. Hmm. Still, this was undeniably a great dance, too.
Score: 27

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Then there was a bombshell announcement: Paula Abdul was going to be guest judge next week! So now that she was no longer on “X Factor” (tee hee) she would judge “DWTS” next Monday. That would be, um, interesting. Would she cry and tell the dancers, “you moved me”? This just looked like a one-shot guest spot, though, not to worry.

Kirstie Alley and Maks Chmerkovskiy: Cha cha
Kirstie chose Carson Kressley’s cha cha to Moves Like Jagger because it was fun and entertaining. ABC showed the actress in a wardrobe consultation in which she complained about her big boobs. And she wanted Maks in ultra tight pants! Maks drove onto the floor in a mini Cooper and joined Kirstie. Maks looked great in his getup, if a bit weird, but Kirstie seemed stiff and uncomfortable this week. Still she strutted gamely while seeming to have lost her breath completely. Maks planted a big kiss on Kirstie and she fell to the floor because it was so sexy. It was all a bit too corny for me. Carrie Ann, however, said it was the most fun she’d had all night and it was their best dance of the season. Len also thought it was great fun and even said Kirstie had pulled off some good footwork. Bruno thought Maks looked like an extra from Boogie Nights. Wonder what Paula Abdul would be like as a judge next week—would she be able to keep up with all these fast quips or would she slow the show down?!
Score: 24

Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel: Paso doble
Maks and Mel B’s Paso Doble would be redone by Sabrina and Louis. Boy, Maks’ dances sure were getting a lot of action tonight! Sabrina seemed to be taking control in rehearsal as creative director. She said she didn’t want to depend on gimmicks to sell the dance. So Sabrina looked really fierce in her cape costume, which was purple instead of the original black. They both vamped it up so well although I did think Maks in the original was more dramatic than Louis. And there did appear to be a slight bobble on Sabrina’s part on one of the moves. I thought the Cheetah Girl had been brave to take on Mel’s dance, one of the very best in “DWTS” history, and she also brought her own youthful energy to the idea. She was adjusting her costume at the end to avoid a wardrobe malfunction. Len said it was full of risks and great technique while Bruno saw a touch of Scary Spice. According to Carrie Ann, they didn’t bring anything new to the show’s concept this week. Aargh. Reporters sighed backstage because we liked it much more than Carrie Ann.
Score: 25.5

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Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke: Paso Doble
Mario Lopez and Karina’s dance from season three would be channeled by the football star and Cheryl. He didn’t seem to take creative control at first, but later got the hang of it. Emmitt wanted to run and slide through Cheryl’s legs on the floor! We would see if they could pull off that scary maneuver! The iconic dance started with mariachis performing as Emmitt and Cheryl did the usual paso moves. The gridiron star did some clapping, getting the audience involved, and leaped to his knees with a flourish at one point. Then he took a flying slide through Cheryl’s legs, as promised! Touchdown! It looked thrilling and the reporters erupted in cheers. Bruno leapt to his feet: “you were so tough.” But he criticized Emmitt’s shoulders just a little. Carrie Ann praised him as the human torpedo while Len said he scared the life out of him. Overall, Len liked it but wanted to see more finesse.
Score: 25

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Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower: Quickstep
The bottom two dwellers from last week had to make a comeback. Helio was surprised about it. They would re-do Apolo and Julianne Hough’s quickstep from season four. “Who’s the boss here?” Helio asked Chelsie during rehearsal. And look who stopped by! Apolo himself, who gave Helio some advice to update the dance. Helio was wearing a pinstripe suit this time instead of his famous yellow suit but the flair of the dance seemed to be similar and suited him, if you understand me. The Zoot Suit Riot song was great but there was a major mistake when Helio appeared to get caught in Chelsie’s poofy dress while twirling her around. “I stumbled on the dress. Oh, man!” Helio groaned. Carrie Ann said he’s the quickstep king and it was a joyous performance despite the bobble. Len said he deserved to be back next week. Bruno said, what a shame! Yes, it was a shame and dangerous with a double elimination looming. Had the race car driver crashed?
Score: 25.5

Another announcement from Tom Bergeron—tomorrow night on results show, the dance couples would be picking styles for their fellow competitors.

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: Paso doble
This couple was really upset after last week’s low-scoring disaster. Bristol seemed pissed at Mark, especially when he said she had low energy. The politician’s daughter accused him of wanting Shawn Johnson or Sabrina as a partner instead of her (because, of course, he had danced with those, er, better dancers as well). Bristol started crying, telling Mark she thought he wasn’t engaged in their partnership and he just wanted to go home. The veteran dance pro tried to comfort her, but Bristol walked out of the practice studio. Was this for real? The cynical scribes backstage wondered. Anyway, how would this affect their dance for the week? They were doing a chessboard dance and never reminded us whose dance this had been (unless I missed it). Oh, yeah, this was Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough’s futuristic dance redone on a chess board. Bristol looked very queen like in her white getup and I have to say, she went through the paces very well. Very well? Well, I’d say not bad for Bristol. In fact, I was surprised to have to admit that this dance was fun to watch and Bristol didn’t embarrass herself. Not up to the level of the other competitors, but still, an achievement. Len said having a flare up with a partner was no biggie. He thought it was her best dance. Bruno called her the ice queen and thought she looked better than ever. And Carrie Ann? She thought Bristol was proving herself a worthy competitor although her expressions weren’t good enough. Bristol claimed backstage that was the first fight they’d ever had after two seasons. Her partner said they had gotten past it.
Score: 22.5

Interview: Bristol and Mark Tell XfinityTV About Their Big Rehearsal Confrontation

Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough: Quickstep
The cute blonde twosome would end the show tonight. They chose Helio’s famous yellow suit quickstep except they’d bring in a trampoline to suit Shawn’s gymnastics background. Yay! This was my favorite routine of all time on “DWTS”. I was looking forward to Shawn redoing it on her terms. It started with Shawn vaulting off the trampoline before going into hold with Derek This one was terrific as I was watching Shawn’s bouncing feet and she did the splits in the middle of the quickstep, which was way cool. All the tricks were there and they ended it by falling into the “DWTS” music pit (well, into the trampolines that were there, of course!). This was a worthy successor to Helio’s original. Bruno thought so, too, saying “this was a classic.” In fact, he seemed to say it was the best performance ever on the show—was I hearing him right? Carrie Ann seconded that sentiment (wow, I don’t know if it was the greatest. That was pretty strong). Len raised a cautionary note—he said they had broken quickstep rules and he’d have to mark them down slightly. Say what? I didn’t think there should be any rules in All-Stars! Never mind—Bruno pulled out the 9.5 paddle so it was all good.
Score: 26.5

“DWTS: All-Stars” will eliminate TWO couples on Tuesday’s results show, beginning at 9/8c on ABC.

Was This the Best Dance in 15 Seasons of “Dancing with the Stars”?

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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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