CLEVELAND - The competition on "Dancing with the Stars" is heating up more than a Kirstie Alley hot flash. And it's almost as crazy.
I've got to hand it to those All-Stars, they kept me on my toes, too. It's iconic dance week, and I expected all these returning stars to redo and perfect one of their own iconic dances from the first time they were on the show.
Instead, they got to pick from the entire DWTS canon. Oh, and the stars got to choreograph these dances this time around. And it made for some pretty good TV.
Singer Drew Lachey and Anna are first up, choosing to redo the cha cha that Joey McIntyre and Ashly did to Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" on season one. It could be sharper, but it has good energy. Dare I say it, Drew even looks a little sloppy at times. Judge Len Goodman says Drew balances being clean and being entertaining perfectly. Judge Bruno Tonioli compares Drew to "Magic Mike." Judge Carrie Ann Inaba says she loves their moves. They get 24 out of 30.
Drew tweeted, "Ok everybody, u have all seen the show by now and the scores. We need a serious Team TreLachey push. Please help us out and vote. Rally!!!"
Next, actor Gilles Marini and Peta redo the tango that Erin Andrews and Maks did to "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics on season ten. It starts with Gilles on a bed before he takes off flying, a la "Mission: Impossible" wires. This dance is all attitude. It has good moves and sharp kicks. It's a good tango, but I still feel like I've seen Gilles do better with more demanding tangos from his first time. Bruno calls it "50 Shades of Gilles," but notes he still lost his footing at times. Carrie Ann says the couple was fighting each other energy-wise and got off synch. Len likes their menace. They got 25.5 (remember those half points this season).
Gilles tweeted, "I Love your support. When it's hard in my mind you lift me up like all is good ;) I so appreciate you guys . Thanks for pulling for us ;)."
TV host Melissa Rycroft and Tony decide to tackle the samba that J.R. Martinez and Karina did to Gloria Estefan's "Conga" on season thirteen. It starts with Tony kicking Melissa's head around like a hackey-sack. Their bodies are open, their movements big, and it looks like they're having fun. Near the end, their arm tricks are unbelievably complicated, but they nail them. Melissa obviously understood the demands and rose to the challenge. It's pretty great and the crowd loves it. Carrie Ann yells "Superstar!" and calls it fantastic. Len says, "That's what I'm talking about." Bruno says every move was more complicated than the last, the choreography more imaginative than ever. Score: 27.
Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina redo the foxtrot that Gilles and Cheryl did to "Fever" in season eight. It's smooth and sensual, but it's not memorable because they don't push themselves. Len says they have fluidity but need to be cleaner. Carrie Ann thinks it will be memorable. 25.5 out of 30.
Actress Kelly Monaco and Val tackle the paso doble that Laila Ali and Maks did in season four. This smoldering dance is full of intricate moves, demanding content, and fast footwork. It's unclear who's leading who, but that works for it. How Val whips Kelly around at the finish is stunning. Huge crowd reaction here. Bruno calls it a defining performance. The cameras have to cut away from Carrie Ann who mouths WTF, but not in initial form. She says Kelly smacked that paso doble's… body. An amazed Len asks, "Where did that come from?" and calls it beautiful. They get 27.
Actress Kirstie Alley and Maks are redoing the cha cha that Carson Kressley and Anna did to Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger." Maks has an unbelievable entrance, pulling up in a Mini-Cooper, looking like a Chippendale with drag queen makeup. After he struts like Jagger, he and Kirstie hit the floor for a sharp dance. It may not be the greatest cha cha, but it's fun and entertaining and even looks clean. And it ends with Kirstie kissing Maks. Kirstie choreographed this circus and clearly it unleashed Maks - the temperamental perfectionist is replaced by a big kid. Carrie Ann thanks them for the most fun all night and calls it a fantastic approach. Len says it was the whole package. Bruno calls Maks an extra from "Boogie Nights." They get 24.
Kirstie tweeted, "MAN!!! you guys are overwhelming me with your kindness!!!!! For every woman who ever wanted to dance with a rockstar... This one's for you!!"
Singer Sabrina Bryan and Louis do the paso doble that Mel B and Maks did to En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" on season five. It's sharp and doesn't have any obvious flaws, but it's not as memorable as the original. Len says it's full of risks. But Carrie Ann says they didn't bring anything new to the creative concept and need an element
of surprise. Score: 25.5.
NFL retiree Emmitt Smith and Cheryl do the paso doble Mario Lopez and Karina did on season three. It's as moody as some 1970's Western set in Mexico. There's even a live donkey as a prop. The dance is sharp, it's got fast parts and slow parts, and Emmitt's great even when not in hold with Karina. Bruno says he's back in the game. Carrie Ann says he's doing good at upping the ante. Len says Emmitt dominates the floor, but needs more finesse. They get 25.
Racecar driver Helio Castroneves and Chelsie do the quickstep that Apolo and Julianne did to "Pinstripe Suit" on season four. The dance is big and fun and covers the floor, but Helio almost trips over Chelsie's dress during a trick spin. Carrie Ann loves the joy Helio brings out. Bruno says the dance started with a dance but collapsed. Score: 25.5.
Time for the Bristol breakdown. In the taped segment, we see Bristol Palin get emotional, accusing Mark of not caring because he's not with a better dancer like Sabrina or Shawn. It often seems like the judges have it in for Bristol, so it's weird to see her upset with the one person in her corner.
She and Mark tackle the futuristic paso doble that Joanna Krupa and Derek did to "Living on Video" in season nine, except Bristol replaces the "Tron" aspects with a chessboard theme. The movements are all good, but they seem a little detached (maybe they were thrown off from that emotional taped segment). Len says it had plenty of attack, her most content yet, and her best dance. Bruno encourages them to get the aggression out, that it helped shape her best dance to date. Carrie Ann says Bristol is proving herself a competitor. Score: 22.5. Afterwards, Mark says he'll always love Bristol.
Lastly, Olympian Shawn Johnson and Derek do the memorable quickstep that Helio and Julianne did to "Hey Pachuco" on season five. Shawn jumps on a trampoline and flips out to kick off a bold dance pumping with electricity. Obviously, the producers saved the best for last. They even both do the splits – in synch. Is their timing off? It's hard to tell because they're so fast. They even jump into the orchestra pit at the end, to the seeming shock of the musicians. The crowd is loud. Bruno calls it incredible, unforgettable, one of the best in fifteen seasons. Carrie Ann says it's by far the best dance ever on DWTS, even though Derek blew rules. She's right; it's more of a freestyle than a quickstep. Len says he never enjoyed a routine more, but must drop a point like they did for Bristol because they broke a dance rule. Score: 26.5.
Who goes home Tuesday night? As the show loves remind us, anything can happen this season, but there will be a double elimination this week, so it's possible Bristol's fan base might not be able to save her. I'd expect to see Drew in the bottom two, though.
We'll find out who gets eliminated Tuesday night, with a recap show featuring new footage at 8 p.m., followed by the elimination round at 9 p.m. on ABC. Karmin and Frankie Moreno are slated to perform.
But next week offers even more surprises. Not only did this week bump DWTS from reality show to competition, but producers are taking it even further, making strategy a part of the show.
Host Tom Bergeron announced that, for the first time ever on the show, the stars will pick dance styles for each other, and they will all find out what dance they will get live on Tuesday night. Furthermore, they can pick dances that haven't even been done on the show before.
Tom also made another big announcement: eternal reality show judge Paula Abdul will guest judge next week. Talk about jumping the shark.
More information can be found at: beta.abc.go.com/shows/dancing-with-the-stars/index .