Well, that was a treat, wasn’t it? Because at first, when larger-than-life Len Goodman was projected onto the “Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars” big-screen, Big Brother like, to issue a challenge to the all-stars to redo an iconic dance and “show me something amazing,” all signs pointed to some gimmicky trick. It didn’t help when we saw Maks in a pageboy haircut and guyliner, oversize chess pieces, livestock, and living statues pass by shortly thereafter.
“No, it’s not our Halloween edition,” host Tom Bergeron assured. The all-star celebrities, who are now seasoned “DWTS” vets, were tasked with taking over creative control and putting their own choreography and vision on full display. What resulted was evening of routines both original and impassioned, and finally seemed to bring this all-star season into its own.
Yes, there were oversize chess pieces. A harness dangling from the rafters. A live donkey and a heckling mariachi band. Though perhaps it was precisely because the stars were calling all the shots and had more on the line that they seemed to be more invested in their routines. The performance factors were upped. The lines were just a little cleaner. And the dancers seemed to enjoy themselves just a little bit more. “One incredible dance after another tonight,” Tom remarked.
PHOTOS: 'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars': Meet the Season 15 cast
And as is now par for the course of this all-star season, the leaderboard has been shuffled again. Tied for first place this week were Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani and Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy. Melissa Rycroft wanted to do a redo of Season 13 champ J.R. Martinez and Karina’s samba to Gloria Estafan’s “Conga”. The threat of the double elimination was weighing heavily on Melissa’s slender shoulders, so she figured she had to appeal to her fans with some death defying tricks. Only, the tricks were a lot easier said than done. “Can we try not to kill ourselves?” sensible pro partner Tony Dovolani wondered. But Melissa said that because this was an all-star season, “You just gotta do it.” And she brought the party, and Tony brought his best footwork skills, balancing Melissa’s head and neck on his foot like Pele would handle a soccer ball. “Wow … great neck muscles,” Tom admired. The dance had Carrie Ann’s arms up as a gooooooooaaalll! “That was fantastic!” she cried. “I love all the salsa drops with the legs.” “That’s what I’m talking about,” Len applauded. “It was like a can of cola: It was fizzy, it was refreshing, and satisfying.” “Shake me, take me anywhere you want me,” Bruno teased. “One step [was] more complicated than the other … and you did it like a star!” Total: 27 out of 30 - the highest score so far this season.
Though Melissa and Tony’s sole lead was quickly tied by Kelly Monaco and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, who Carrie Ann called “the couple to watch.” Kelly had a week off from her day-job “General Hospital” duties, and she put those extra rehearsal hours to “try to take it to the next level” and re-do brother Maks and Laila Ali’s paso doble. “I think you can do better than your brother,” Kelly threw down. And I absolutely loved this routine, starting from the great sheath of red fabric that fluttered like a Christo exhibit over Val’s rippling bare chest, to the great twirly move at the fiery and dramatic end. Bruno called it a “defining performance. “Beauty, artistry, power. I’m tingling with pleasure.” It had Carrie Ann rattling off a bunch of censored expletives. “You slapped that paso doble’s booty! Amazing.” “Where did that come from?” Len wondered. “One of the secrets … your arms have to be as expressive as your face, and that’s what you’ve got.” Total: 27.