The male pros kick off the first of season 9's 3-night premiere, and Annie Barrett sizes up the ''stars'' first spins on the dance floor
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Aaron
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC
JENNA JOHNSON, ADAM RIPPON

It’s season 9 (yes, really) of Dancing With the Stars, and the boys are back in town! I’ll get to last night’s competing men in a moment; first we need to focus on the eight swashbuckling stallions who have returned to Crazytown, U.S.A. Our beautiful male pros were back and ready to make loving eye contact with the camera in a rousing opening number. Maks even did a seductive eyebrow check for our viewing pleasure. They were both still there, as were all 500 billion hairs in Derek’s mop when he checked on its existence after the dance’s final flourish. Such fun! Excuse me, though: Who is this tall blonde lady who got to be the melted cheese in a Tony/Maks flatbread sandwich? I had no idea the season 9 premiere would feature the winner of a contest based on my ultimate fantasy. Just kidding. It was Tony’s wife.

Is everyone ready to run down the first performances of the season 9 men? I feel like we should all submit photos of ourselves in mid-air, while attempting to execute fabulously contorted leaps, as a sign of solidarity before we proceed in this season’s DWTS recap journey together. Oh, well. Too much work. Here we go…

Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff: 22/30; 1st in waltz relay (32 total points) Karina is clearly on a mission to rock the infamous fringed pants on prime time television once per night this week — Sunday night’s Emmys exhibition, last night’s cha cha cha…I won’t be surprised if tonight’s female pros opening number doubles as a dramatic one-act play during which seven stepsisters beg Karina, violently, with their twirls, to finally take the pants off. But this is supposed to be about Aaron. He’s good! So good, he can already spin around twice without losing his balance. It’s almost like he’s danced before or something. Aaron flares his nostrils a lot in what seems like an effort to suggest ”severe exertion.” DANCMSTR called some of his cha cha movements stiff, but he may have been referring to Aaron’s ridiculously spiked hair. Similarly, all of the judges said Aaron had potential, but they may have been referring to the chances of Karina’s white feather boa one day blossoming into a real shirt.

Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson: 20/30; 1st in salsa relay (30) The Won-dah from Down Un-dah has a real gem in her showbiz legend partner — the entire crowd was on its feet for their foxtrot before Donny had even cheekily tossed away his hat! Dancing-wise, he wasn’t terrific, and the judges were quick to remind Donny that it was his theatricality, not his technique, that had women and possibly Tom DeLay swinging from the rafters for a better angle from which to view his ballroom-ready facial expressions. It could be fun, or it could get old, to watch Donny struggle with the intimacy factor involved in 95 percent of rehearsal time in a given season. Kym just wanted him to pretend there was a boob on her back. ”Normally that works with men,” she explained. Not if they’re afraid of being banned from Utah! Donny’s mission for season 9: ”I’d like to prove that Marie isn’t the only dancer in the family.” The part about ”Marie” being a ”dancer” confuses me.

NEXT: Macho macho man Chuck Liddell

Mark Dacascos and Lacey Schwimmer: 21/30; 2nd in waltz relay (29) I loved this quote from Lacey: ”He’s super flexible and can do the middle splits, so that makes my job a lot easier.” It just seems like that could apply to so many things. Namely: the cha cha cha! Some Chinese characters that likely translated to ”Kung Fu Man Boobs” (or perhaps ”Octopus!”) were emblazoned onto the dance floor at the start of the pair’s solo routine. Carrie Ann obviously loved the Asian gimmicks, because you gotta represent, and she reminded Mark to ”watch the woo-chu” of his arms, which, she further explained, were a little ”wanky.” I worry that I’m spelling ”woo-chu” incorrectly, but am pretty confident it is neither a dance move nor a real term. I do know that Carrie Ann waved her hands around and sounds came out of her mouth. Her critique of Mark after the waltz relay, though, was spot-on: He has the potential to be fantastic, but needs to breathe first. ”Slow it down.” The secret ingredient is the slow food movement.

Louie Vito and Chelsie Hightower: 19/30; 2nd in salsa relay (27) Within just a few minutes of Louie’s time on live TV, Bruno had called him a hobbit and DANCMSTR had questioned whether Louie could hear the music from underneath his shaggy hair. First of all, Len, we’re talking about a foxtrot set to the Harold Wheeler Ensemble’s rendition of No Doubt’s ”It’s My Life,” so it’s quite possible the kid just didn’t want to hear the song. Also: It’s his hair! Don’t you forget. Louie’s hair and his height are actually what I find most endearing about him. Also adorable: his enormous and perpetual grin. He’s trying really hard to give this thing his best shot. Louie has never seen an episode before, but now he’s walking around L.A. in two-inch heels and refusing to accept personal failure with regard to technique. It’s the Olympian-on-DWTS way.

Chuck Liddell and Anna Tre-BUN-skaya: 16/30; 3rd in salsa relay (22) In non-hobbit-like contestant news, UFC star Chuck is the most macho man Anna’s ever seen, which could be why she really ramped up her backstage pantomiming efforts last night. Tone it down, lady with the pretty choker! Aside from Chuck’s seriously mesmerizing buzzed mohawk, he and Anna did little to distinguish themselves from the other couple who danced a foxtrot in a gray striped suit and long blue gown (Ashley and Edyta), but Chuck showed much more pizazz during his and Anna’s quick-paced leg of the salsa relay. He definitely had Ashley beat there, even though Chuck made the mistake of saying during the rehearsal package that he’d be trying to shake his hips. You’re not supposed to say that! Oh, and speaking of things that should not be uttered: Samantha, please do not call Anna ”this beautiful thing on your arm.” Keep that one in the arsenal for Ashley Hamilton’s tattoos, and when the time comes, deliver it ironically. Yeah, right.

NEXT: Lady Legwarmer’s in the bottom three

Tom DeLay and Cheryl Burke: 16/30; 4th in waltz relay (20) Meet Tom DeLay, who makes everything groovy. He’s ”arguably the highest-ranking Star we’ve ever had” and the only one who insists on tucking all of his fairly form-fitting practice tees into sweatpants. I’ll borrow a Carrie Ann word here and just say that everything about DeLay’s screentime was ”surreal.” The brown vest with brown sequined trim over a different-brown shirt and different-brown pants. Bruno’s obligatory ”You’re crazier than Sarah Palin” joke. DeLay’s wink at Bruno and the way he turned around to shake his butt for DANCSMTR as if this is something DANCMSTR would want. Have I mentioned that Tom DeLay danced a cha cha cha to ”Wild Thing”? Actually, the most awkward part wasn’t even all DeLay; it was when DeLay was fighting Samantha Harris to finish a sentence as she waved the microphone back and forth in the red room. Someone of DeLay’s former public prominence should know about one of our nation’s most universal truths: You’re not allowed to actually complete a word when Sam needs to throw it to commercials. Amateur. ”I feel like a complete goose,” DeLay said at one point during rehearsal. I had to rewind it twice to make sure he hadn’t said ”douche.”

Ashley Hamilton and Lady Legwarmer: 15/30; 4th in salsa relay (19) Ashley, a male, is the son of George Hamilton, who was looking extra-tasty-crispy in the audience last night. Ashley is an actor/comedian, so it makes sense that he’s throwing a microphone away from himself in his weird little graphical intro. (Don’t worry, Ashley; DeLay’s overtly pathetic ”leap” was much, much weirder.) I very much enjoyed the part of this pair’s rehearsal footage during which Edyta and Ashley rubbed his brain surgery scar together; it got me really revved up for their ultra-stiff foxtrot set to a horrendous rendition of Mika’s ”Grace Kelly.” I fully expect that my favorite female pro, she of the toasty calves, will be asked to ”walk out the door” with her partner on Wednesday night. Say something nice, Annie. Okay: Ashley and Edyta’s final foxtrot pose, in which he was stationary, looked very elegant.

Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova: 13/30; 3rd in waltz relay (19) Based on the crowd’s reaction, Michael and Anna certainly weren’t the losers last night. Plus, how could anyone who starts the season outfitted in a vest featuring sequined red lapels be considered a DWTS loser? Impossible. All three judges criticized Anna’s lack of content for the pair’s cha cha cha, so hopefully she can shape up quickly if they’re given another shot. I like this pair and want them to stick around, if only so that we can see how Aaron Carter’s massive crush on the NFL Hall of Famer will play out. (Did you see Aaron’s high-octane attack of affection backstage after Irvin’s cha cha? Hilarious.) In order to stay on my good side, though, Michael and Anna both need to stop mouthing the words to songs.

Well, DANCMSTRs, thanks for returning to my mad, mad, mad, mad Dancing corner of the EW.com world, and let me know what you thought of Monday’s premiere in the comments section. Who’s your favorite so far? What will turn out to be the secret ingredient of season 9? Let’s all practice our contorted leaps for at least 30 seconds before watching the women tonight….

Episode Recaps

JENNA JOHNSON, ADAM RIPPON
Dancing With the Stars
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