We all knew Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez would come out strong, but the big surprise in the Season 23 premiere of Dancing With the Stars had nothing to do with dancing. The festivities were interrupted when someone or ones rushed the stage after Ryan Lochte's performance and ABC had to cut away from the broadcast while security took care of business.
But as for the program itself, the second biggest surprise was that Hernandez has some major competition from an unlikely source. IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe caught Hernandez in a tie for the top score with a 31, meaning the gold medalist might not runaway with the Mirrorball Trophy when all is said and done.
However, we can probably prepare our goodbyes to former Texas governor Rick Perry, who sits at the bottom of the pack with a score of 20, the lowest of the evening. Not that anyone should be surprised.
Let's revisit all the dances below.
The dance: Derek's back, and he almost jumped out of the building to start things off when he leapfrogged over the Taxi actress with the super memory, a solid start to a routine that was punctuated by jiggling hands and other body parts. Marilu may have bitten off a bit more than she could handle in her first dance as she tried to keep up with Derek's hummingbird on crack energy, but you know what? She went for it, and there's points in that!
What the judges say: When Len uses the word "fabulous," you know you nailed it. Julianne had some minor criticisms, and Bruno felt that Derek almost killed Marilu with such an energetic number to start the season. Carrie Ann said it was a great job!
Score: 27/40 to kick off the season. A solid start. They ain't going home.
The dance: First of all, they mimed the Macarena before the "Hello, my name is James Hinchcliffe" video, so points for that. But coming off the opening Jive, the Foxtrot was a lower-energy affair. Thankfully, James was smooth as a 2mph hairpin turn, moving at just the right speed. What is it with racers and dancing? They just move their feet and hands in their daytime jobs, but here they get their whole body going impressively.
What the judges say: Len was impressed, and Julianne said she was reminded of her old partner Helio Castraneves, another race-car driver.
Score: 31/40, and definitely an early surprise.
The dance: "Megatron" had the megawatt smile working and a lot to prove after even his sister said he had no rhythm on national television. With the floor transformed into a football field, Johnson went the length of the field on his size 15 feet and... was okay! But Johnson has the personality and charm to overcome some of his physical problems. If he can get that part of his game going, LOOK OUT. Hopefully he'll do better for me than he did in his final season for my fantasy football team. Also, Lindsay in a cheerleader outfit won the night for me.
What the judges say: Everyone loved the smile and commented on the size of his kicks, but no one said he was great out there. So, basically everything I said above.
Score: 26/40, but I get the feeling Johnson's scores will only go up from there.
The dance: First, Ashley I. from Bachelor in Paradise has competition for ABC's biggest cryer. Don't slip on those tears, Maureen! Like Marilu, Maureen's emotions overshadowed the dancing, but we can't fault her since she's a super fan. As for the dance, well, Maureen needs some work. Call this opening day jitters, but she seemed focused on the set and the spectacle than on the dance itself. And yes, there was a Florence Henderson cameo in the audience! And yes yes, did you all notice the sexual tension between the 60-year-old McCormick and Artem? Hmmm...
What the judges say: "It needs refinement," said Len. A bit of an understatement. The passion is there, though, said Carrie Ann. The crowd disagreed with audible boos. C'mon crowd, didn't you see what we all saw?
The dance: True fact: I used to bump Babyface's "Tender Lover" on my walkman back in the day, so I'm rooting for him. But the man has been around music for decades, so obviously he can dance. He could be a sleeper pick.
What the judges say: They weren't as impressed, focusing on the timelessness of the music and dress.
The dance: Given Amber's figure, the duo wisely started with a sultry silhouetted dance, and even Hinchcliffe would have trouble driving those curves. But the rest of the routine was particularly reserved, especially when put against the other performances. Maybe this was all they could muster in their first week?
What the judges say: Julianne wanted to see Amber show off that beaming beauty, and Bruno wanted to see more consistency in her presence on the floor, saying she turned it on and off during the routine.
Score: 24/40, and many audience boos.
The dance: Okay, could Vanilla Ice ever actually dance? Doesn't really matter, because this hit that sweet spot between fun and corny with flashbacks to MTV we watched for million of hours when we were all listening to awful music and wearing pants four sizes too big. But let's face it, Ice is older than he was and the dancing felt like snippets from the "Ice Ice Baby" video. Nostalgia ruled this dance, but was it enough to move on?
What the judges say: Len wasn't too impressed, wondering where the Cha Cha was in the performance and dishing out a 5. Yeah, the oldest guy in the group wasn't feeling it. Julianne looked like she was going to die of happiness though, and yeah, I can picture her in 1990 with some moussed hair with altitude.
The dance: Oooooooooooh lordy. The sex-o-meter just exploded, guys. Did they dance? I don't know. At one point, Jana's face looked like there was a little more than just dancing going on. All I know is these two are so hot together they'll be horizontal by Week 3, right? We should all put our thoughts and prayers together and get this to happen. No sense in stopping the inevitable. As for the dance, it needed a little more fluidity, but the chemistry was there. I'm sure everyone wanted that dance to go another few rounds. Cigarette, please!
What the judges say: Bruno purred like he was coaching sex class and handing out an A-plus. Len wanted some more fun from the routine.
Score: 27/40, with an 8 coming from Bruno.
The dance: Fitting the One Direction theme, this routine was straight out of a Disney Channel movie, full of high energy and bubble-gum pop. But this was a case of the pro out-dancing the star, which hurt the routine and chemistry. Other note: Jenna could pass for Game of Thrones' Margaery Tyrell's sister.
What the judges say: Julianne said Austin's feet were like banana boats and said, "You know what I mean?" No, Julianne, we don't.
The dance: For some reason, there was a carnival-style corn dog stand on the stage. But it was the corny dog dancing that was the highlight here. Rick Perry can't dance, but you already knew that. Stiff, awkward and uncular, it would appear that Perry's time on the show won't be long unless he can work the polls like any good politician. But while we could all sit here and make fun of him, my favorite participants on this show are the Jon Lovitzes of the world who come out and give it a twirl. Good job, Rick! And don't worry, you'll be available next week.
What the judges say: They did that whole nice thing where they didn't flat-out tell him he was terrible. This isn't a mean show!
Score: 20/40, with 5s across the board.
The dance: Look, let's just say what we were all thinking. We all thought the height difference would cause problems from a dancing perspective, even Sasha admitted it, but uhhh... no! The routines when they were required to dance together never looked awkward. Terra's got personality, she's got moves and she has confidence. Incredibly impressive.
What the judges say: Len with the zinger said of the star who just had a baby, "You delivered twice in a month!"
The dance: The apology tour begins on an okay note, with Lochte doing his best to use dry land to his advantage. But he still looked wooden out there. Loosen those rickety limbs, Ryan! He looked like he wasn't totally sure what to expect despite the obvious coaching he's gotten from management. He has to be nervous about this, given everything that happened in Rio and the current news cycle he's associated with, and it showed. And maybe he was right, given the altercation that nearly happened when someone rushed the stage and ABC had to cut away while security handled the situation.
What the judges say: Lots of talk about second chances with Len saying people should be proud of him. Obviously someone was not.
The dance: Ummm... which one was the pro here? It's over, pack it up. As expected, Laurie killed it with a dazzling combination of personality and moves. People say gymnasts always have the advantage, and she clearly looked like the most prepared and most natural out there, but she danced, she didn't do gymnastics. Everyone else is playing for second. The thing is, you can still see that there's room for improvement, which is the scary thing.
What the judges say: Julianne wanted Laurie to work on her hips, but that's just because someone had to say something critical.
Score: 31/40, good for a tie for the lead.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7 on ABC.