The ballroom is littered with sparkles and drama

By Maggie Fremont
September 13, 2016 at 01:38 PM EDT
ABC
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Raise your hand if in the few months since the coronation of Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd as the most recent DWTS victors, you’ve been unconsciously doing samba rolls down supermarket aisles, very consciously yelling at strangers to sharpen their kicks and flicks, and/or demanding your seamstress add more sequins to all of your power suits. Good. You are not alone here, friend.

We’ve all been itching for a little more cha cha in our lives, and tonight, our dreams are finally coming true. Speaking of dream fulfillment: MAKS AND CHERYL ARE BACK, PEOPLE. Okay, the Hough-meister is also joining us on the ballroom floor again, but he wasn’t gone very long so does it even count? Gleb and Allison are back, too. Remember those guys? The whole gang is here, prepared to make us dance, make us cry, and make us wonder why the blazer-no-shirt look has still not caught on with the general public. In short: We’re going to feel things, and we’re going to do it together.

Enough chit-chat, let’s dance.

Marilu Henner and Derek Hough

Jive, “Can’t Stop Dancing” by Becky G

America’s Dad Tom Bergeron puts it perfectly (doesn’t he always?): The great Hough drought is over. Not only is Julianne back as the fourth judge on the panel, but Derek has returned. The guy couldn’t stay away, and we’re all the better for it. Derek will be filling the Ballas-shaped hole in my heart this season. Most excited about this news, though, is his partner Marilu Henner. She’s president of the Derek Hough Fan Club. Who knew? As all the judges point out, dancing first and dancing the jive is a tall order, but that doesn’t bother Marilu too much. She’s stiff in her upper body, but overall it’s a fun, sparkly routine to kick off the evening.

Judges’ Score: 27/40

James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess

Foxtrot, “Live Life” by Zayde Wølf

James had me at “When does the sprinkler come in?” He’s the class clown of IndyCar racing, but he’s very competitive, so it’s a match made in heaven for Queen Sharna Burgess. What’s better: Sharna as a mechanic or Sharna in teal with sparkly red lipstick? That’s a trick question; they’re both the best. And James isn’t too shabby, either. Most people had low expectations for this race-car driver, but his elegance and confidence on the floor is a pleasant surprise. Julianne reminds us of another driver who shocked everyone to win mirror ball glory: Helio Castraneves. Although, Mel B. and Maks should’ve won that season, DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED.

Judges’ Score: 31/40

Calvin Johnson Jr. and Lindsay Arnold

Cha Cha, “That’s What I Like” by Flo Rida feat. Fitz Lunchmoney

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Megatron hasn’t even started dancing and he already has haters — including his sister. You’d never know it by looking at the guy, though, because all he does is smile. Seriously, he gives Antonio Brown a run for his money. It’s infectious, and guess what? Calvin can kinda sorta dance. So there, haters! Bruno and Carrie Ann are impressed by his cha cha with Lindsay (a great pairing, by the way) and see a lot of potential in the wide receiver. His biggest obstacle: Dancing with size 15 feet. But also, maybe, making Bruno forget the nickname ChaChaTron.

Judges’ Score: 26/40

Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev

Viennese Waltz, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Mary J. Blige

Is everyone shipping Artem and Maureen, or is that just me? Our little Marcia, Marcia, Marcia is overcome with emotion as she tackles her insecurities in the dance studio, and Artem admits to feeling extremely protective of his partner this season. THESE TWO. Their Viennese waltz is quite nice, albeit a little awkward at times. Our judges are all fans of Maureen, but ask her to work on the details for next week: smoother footwork, elongated lines, fluidity — you know the drill. No one really cares, because we’re all still wiping away tears from watching Maureen McCormick and Florence Henderson hug.

Judges’ Score: 22/40

NEXT: And now, more crying

Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Allison Holker

Foxtrot, “Deed I Do” by Ray Charles

Apparently, we’re in the teary-eyed section of the evening, as Babyface dedicates his stint on DWTS to his recently deceased mother. He wanted to do something outside his comfort zone, something that would make his mom proud. Stop being so lovely, would ya? What makes this special moment even better is how wonderful Allison and Babyface look together. Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds was born to wear a velvet blazer and dance to Big Band. As the judges point out, it gets a little hectic at times, but the guy is elegant and there’s lots of potential for this pairing. Just cool it on the heartfelt packages, okay?

Judges’ Score: 26/40

Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Foxtrot, “Here” by Alessia Cara

Sure, this show is supposed to be about the celebrity, but, um: Maks is back and that’s all that matters. Okay, some other things matter, I guess. Amber is known for her confidence, but has a tough time embracing her princess character for her foxtrot and even more issues embracing the rhinestones. As Erin Andrews puts it, “Welcome to our world, Amber.” She’ll come to love it in time. They all do. Maks and Amber dance a foxtrot that at times feels disjointed, but reveals an inner gracefulness. Carrie Ann wants Amber to trust herself and Maks a little more. But, really, have you heard? MAKS IS BACK.

Judges’ Score: 24/40

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Vanilla Ice and Witney Carson

Cha Cha, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice

It’s a smart move to get Ice’s big song out of the way, otherwise we’d all just be twiddling our thumbs waiting for Rob and Witney to remind us we should “stop, collaborate, and listen.” But let’s get real, if we don’t get a quickstep to ‘Ninja Rap’ at some point this season, what are we even doing here? That’s right, people: I’m a big ol’ Icehead (Icicle? Vote in the comments section!) and I’m not afraid to show it. Rob is actually terrified to have this as his first song of the competition, since it could be extra humiliating if things go sour. But guess what: They don’t! Sure, there’s very little cha cha content, but Rob Van Winkle can move.

Judges’ Score: 25/40

Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko

Viennese Waltz, “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande

Admittedly, I still hold a personal grudge against Jana Kramer for leading Smash Williams astray on Friday Night Lights, but I’ll try my best to be impartial. So, Jana is hot. Gleb is hot. They’re hot together. Everyone knows it, and Gleb and Jana use it to their advantage. After their steamy Viennese waltz, Len and Julianne agree they very much prefer a traditional Viennese waltz, and this wasn’t that. Fortunately for Jana and Gleb, Bruno and Carrie Ann are all about that sexy, dark dance. Unfortunately for me, I realized that I, too, am an old fuddy-duddy — Team Len all the way.

Judges’ Score: 27/40

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Jake T. Austin and Jenna Johnson

Jive, “Kiss You” by One Direction

Jake here, formerly of Wizards of Waverly Place (and The Fosters!), wants to use his time on DWTS to prove he’s more mature than when people last saw him. Maybe dancing a teen-heartthrob-themed jive isn’t the best way to get his point across, but you know what Jake does have going for him? Jenna is his partner. That’s right, you guys: Our collective #JennaForPro movement was a success, and the queen of good face has arrived to do what she does best. The jive isn’t great, and there are some missed hand passes and clunky footwork, but hopefully it was just Jake working out his nerves. Now that we have Jenna, it would be a shame to see her go.

Judges’ Score: 22/40

NEXT: The dance floor has some unwelcome visitors

Rick Perry and Emma Slater

Cha Cha, “God Blessed Texas” by Little Texas

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has arrived in the ballroom with no dance background, but a determination to spread veterans awareness and learn a thing or two before dancing with his daughter on her wedding day. While it’s clear Emma has her work cut out for her, it’s obvious Rick is fully committed to the show, which is always nice to see. He subscribes to Julianne’s life motto: “When in doubt, go full out.” His cha cha doesn’t have much in the way of musicality, but the guy sure loves Texas and makes his daughter proud. So at least he has that going for him.

Judges’ Score: 20/40

Terra Jolé and Sasha Farber

Jive, “Stuff Like That There” by Betty Hutton

Terra is the first little person to be on DWTS in any of its iterations. Terra is excited to represent, but she doesn’t want to be seen as a good dancer for a little person, she wants to be seen as a good dancer, period. She and Sasha know they have a challenge on their hands, but damned if they aren’t a great team right from the start. The judges go gaga over Terra and Sasha’s jive, and commend her for her energy and sharpness. This recapper commends Terra for her running man. More of that, please!

Judges’ Score: 25/40

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Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke

Foxtrot, “Call Me Irresponsible” by Michael Bublé

Oof, you guys. I was really hoping to get through recapping Ryan Lochte’s first routine and only have to write about the dancing. That’s what we’re here for, after all. But, no: After Ryan and Cheryl perform a lovely little foxtrot, two protesters rush the stage as Carrie Ann gives her feedback. (Find more details on the incident here.) It’s a shame, because Ryan genuinely seems like he’s on the show looking for a fresh start and wanting to move on from his Olympics scandal. It’s also a shame because, as the judges note, he has potential and a top-notch partner. Let the man dance, people! Here’s hoping DWTS voters follow Cheryl’s advice and give the guy a chance.

Judges’ Score: 24/40

Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Cha Cha, “American Girl” by Bonnie McKee

If anyone is going to have the ability to lift the damper on the dance floor after that chaotic moment, it’s Laurie Hernandez. Laurie and Val, clearly the frontrunners since their pairing was announced, live up to every expectation. How cute are these two? As Carrie Ann hilariously points out, she’s never seen Val so happy. The guy is ecstatic, but also feels great responsibility being paired with such a national treasure. There’s no need to worry, though: They put forth a crisp, energetic routine. Laurie looks like she was born to do this. Sure, we could give them the trophy right now, but won’t it be fun to watch them cha cha their way to the finals?

Judges’ Score: 31/40

That’s another DWTS season opener in the books, friends. Laurie and Val and James and Sharna are tied at the top of the leaderboard, but it seems many of the pairings are evenly matched at the moment, no? It’ll be fun to watch as people separate from the pack. Until next time, let’s talk favorite couples and where you stand on the Ryan Lochte of it all. Remember kids, we’re here for the dancing.

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