Former bad boy “Dancing with the Stars” pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy unveiled a kinder, gentler side as a guest judge on Monday night’s show.
Afterward, it was clear his fellow dancers would give him a 10 if they got their hands on the famous judging paddles!
Maks’ former fiancée Karina Smirnoff had a bitter breakup with the star in 2009 — but she raved, “I think he did a great job. He had a lot of constructive criticism…he knows how much work we put in every week getting the dances ready.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I think he did a great job and we definitely enjoyed hearing his point of view because he knew what he was talking about in terms of the hard work and the frame and the technique.”
After Maks praised Karina as one of the best pros on “DWTS,” she caught everyone by surprise (including the ABC camera operator who nearly missed the shot) by rushing to the judges’ table to give him a kiss.
“He had such a sweet comment and I didn’t know what else to do,” Karina explained to xfinityTV. “I was like, oh, that was so sweet. Should I give him a kiss?
“I was definitely pleasantly surprised by that comment but you know what? Maks is always full of surprises!”
Karina referred to their old romance during her TV rehearsal package with partner Corbin Bleu and said backstage, “We did Broadway this past summer [in "Forever Tango"] so it’s not like the first time we saw each other after the big breakup. It’s all water under the bridge.”
Another former love, Maks’ ex-girlfriend Peta Murgatroyd, who was eliminated with partner Brant Daugherty earlier this season, also believed he delivered at the judges’ table.
“I think he had some really good comments about people and I think he was a great judge. He added a different flavor to the judging panel,” she commented at the “DWTS” semifinals party at Mixology nightclub in Los Angeles.
Peta told xfinityTV that she believed if Judge Len Goodman ever decided to retire, which has been rumored, Maks would want to replace him.
“I think he would because he’s very technically trained, obviously, he’s an amazing dancer, so he would bring what Len brings, exactly,” Peta noted. “He would be a very good replacement but [have] a newer, fresher approach. And he’s been there. He’s been in those shoes so I think he would have a good insight.”
Meanwhile, longtime “DWTS” pro Cheryl Burke, who has guided her celebrity Jack Osbourne to this season’s finale, told reporters, “I thought he was pretty honest and fair. I think he was Maks. He would have said the same thing if he were off-camera. It’s hard being on the other side. He’s got relationships with all of us. It’s like, he is judging his friends, basically. I’m sure if asked back, he would love to come back [as a judge].”
Cheryl laughed that the comical interplay between Maks and Judge Bruno Tonioli also worked: “I think Bruno has always had a little crush on Maks so I thought it was the perfect way for Bruno to slip a hand on his thigh once in awhile during a commercial break.”
Mark Ballas, who was eliminated earlier this season with partner Christina Milian told xfinitytv that Maks was “extremely articulate. He knew what he was talking about. I love that he called out the other judges.
“I think he was THE best guest judge we’ve had.”
And as “DWTS” viewers know, that’s high praise indeed, as guest judges have included Paula Abdul, Julianne Hough, and Cher!
But Mark downplayed the rumor that Len might retire. “I don’t think he’s going anywhere anytime soon,” the longtime pro dancer said.
“Dancing with the Stars” airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.