Dancing With the Stars kicked off Monday with a high-energy inaugural show. Nobody was eliminated this week, so this was just a chance to size up the cast, identifying frontrunners and the "oh dear" dancers. Here's a wrap up.
The dance Kim opened the show and, before we talk about the dance, we need to take a moment to talk about her hair, which - thank God - has gone through a fabulous upgrade. She looked great, and like she was having fun, giving naughty-mom sexy face, although her movements lacked the kind of passionate intensity that make this dance a home run. In her opening segment, she mentioned not doing this dance outside of wedding receptions, and that's exactly what it looked like: your really sweet and reserved auntie got a fabulous makeover and is feeling herself.
What the judges say: Len liked it, calling it a great start to the show, while Carrie Ann praised her fierceness.
Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas: (Fox Trot to "Ain't Got Far To Go" by Jess Glynne)
The dance Paige is one of the contestants to watch - and not just because the UFC fighter has the ability to rip out your trachea with her bare hands. She's had formal dance training since she was young, but admitted in her opening that one of her biggest struggles will be learning to be softer and less aggressive. She showed an impressive sense of elegance and grace, pulling off a mean high kick and a sultry dip with ease. That said, she sort of disappeared into her dance - lost in sequins, slits and smiling. She wasn't lackluster, but not quite the ass-kicker we'd have expected either. After her performance, she revealed to Erin Andrews that she gets super-emotional and was on the verge of crying, so it was all probably just first-week nerves.
What the judges say Bruno called her a "flying beauty" and said he wasn't expecting her to be that light on her feet, although she lacks control and timing and needs more precision. Everyone agreed she demonstrated great potential.
The dance Bless his heart. He set us up for a low bar in his opening, saying his wife is a dancer, he's always been the underdog and that he's 53. Well, that strategy worked as, just as he acknowledged, he struggled to find his comfort zone. He looked stiff, and like he was going to fall for a moment. He's clearly come a long way, but no amount of partner dips could compensate for him looking like he was wobbling on stilts. The good news is that he looks dedicated enough to the thing to improve, so there's that.
What the judges say Carrie Ann, the Pollyanna of the night, gave points for attendance ("The good news is you did it."), while Bruno got right to it: calling it choppy and saying that he needed to work on pretty much everything.
The dance Well, all right, Ms. Sweetin! After a cute intro that again reminded us of her child-star roots (what's that show she was on again?), Jodie revealed in a touching moment that she struggles with getting out of her head and worrying about what people think. She's reinventing herself, she said, and this was a good start: She came out of the gate like a monster with high energy — perhaps even too much. She kept making this tiger-roar face that was slightly distracting. Still, she set a tone: She'll be one of the ones to beat.
What the judges say Carrie Ann nailed it: It was impressive.
The dance Oh boy. Geraldo, in his opening segment, reminded us that he's 72 and, as he put it, "the only Puerto Rican in America that can't dance." But even that warning couldn't prepare us for what followed: the unsettling sight of him standing almost entirely still as Edyta literally danced circles around him. It was slightly eerie, watching the anchor's youthful face and ivory veneers frozen in place while he moved, sporadically, like some sort of wooden Pinocchio doll on strings. He even snapped off beat, and that final stunt - whipping out a hankie full of glitter as Edyta did a split in front of him - felt a little sad. He asked for pity during scoring, at least indicating he was self-aware.
What the judges say: Bruno, for the win: "Maybe you'll dance next week."
The dance: Graceful, elegant and exuberant, Marla was just delightful to watch, even if she was slightly clumsy at points. She's just got a lovely, inviting energy, which gave her pretty simplistic dance more oomph than was really there. In her post-dance interview, she kept talking about happiness and joy, which shone through - especially when she did that cartwheel, which is apparently her show-stopping move.
What the judges say: Len's keywords, vigor and vitality, nailed it.
The dance Wanya admitted in his opening that he's wanted this for nine years. His moves, though, felt a bit stilted; he looked like he was struggling, except when he was doing his hip-hop-inspired moves. Play to your strengths, I guess.
What the judges say: Bruno praised his swagger (side-eye), although everyone acknowledged the sense that worlds were colliding with all the hip-hop.
The dance: Wait, who is this? Is this a meteorologist or a storm of a dancer in Capezio? She wasn't perfect, but she was pretty phenomenal, hitting moves with high energy and sharpness.
What the judges say: Carrie Ann rightfully said she lit up the place and although there was some commenting about her need to fully extend, she was a hit.
Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev: (Tango to "In the Night" by The Weeknd)
Oh, Mischa. We were rooting for you! This was utterly forgettable, as she sort of sleep-walked through the routine. You wondered where she was at times, and hoped that she could find a way going forward to hide her very visible fear.
What the judges say: Len: "That wasn't a dance; it was walking." Bruno: "She looks slightly sedated." Mischa looked like she was going to cry, making this whole thing painful to watch.
The dance: Wow! It was hard to tell he's deaf, making the reveal of his chiseled chest a nice but unnecessary distraction. He was completely in sync with his partner, light on his feet, sensual and perfectly timed, rightfully leaving the audience howling. His being completely unable to hear the music made it all the more a triumph. Pretty incredible.
What the judges say: Len: "I didn't expect that. It was terrific." Yup.
The dance: Brown is light on his feet, but although he executed the moves with technical skill, he was missing some finesse. You could see him straining - perhaps masking some first-week nerves.
What the judges say: Work on the footwork, and hide that struggle face.
The dance: Doggone it - his NFL pedigree and penchant for end-zone dances raised expectations, but he showed in his first go-round that he's a baller with a few moves, but not, you know, a ballerina in a helmet. You could see him counting in his head, his technical achievement of the moves only slightly masking a total lack of grace. Witney even outdid him when it was time for his hip-hop moves.
What the judges say: Bruno: "You have loads of charisma and presence."
What do you think of this year's crop? Next week: Latin week!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC