This season on "Dancing with the Stars" we've seen producers throw lots of new angles at us longtime viewers. I get it; they want to keep it fresh. And frankly, they are probably getting a little bored themselves.
The big revelation for me was how these new dance styles really surprised and challenged the professionals. The changes this week made the show anything BUT predictable. New dance styles, and the practically perfect Paula Abdul to boot.
I'll admit, I was a little worried about Paula bringing her "Idol" antics to the "DWTS" set. But she more than fit right in at the judges table, and brought a great energy to the room.
This week marks a first for the nine remaining couples; each duo performed a new and different dance style, and that style was selected by one of their competitors. From bolero to Bollywood, disco to jitterbug ... we saw a wide variety of dance steps, and costumes, this week.
Here's a recap, from highest score to lowest (and for you non-math majors, since we have a guest judge, the highest possible score this week is 40).
Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd - 39.5 out of 40
Just looking at Gilles Marini you could say he's near perfection. And this week, his scores are there, too. And for a Bollywood dance, no less! His pro partner, Peta Murgatroyd, was noticeably freaked out at the prospect of this style.
It looked like they had a really tough week together, but pulled it off in the end. Now, who knows how you score a style that none of the judges have done, either? It looks like they went for entertainment value.
Head judge Len Goodman said he knows what he likes, and he loved this. He gave them a 9.5, but Carrie Ann Inaba, Paula Abdul, and Bruno Tonioli each gave a 10 ... the first of the season. But not so fast ...
Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough - 39.5 out of 40
Shawn scores the same near perfect score for her Mambo. After last week's stellar performance, Shawn and Derek Hough know the other couples are targeting them and they want to prove they have not yet peaked. The duo has to travel this week to Des Moines and they meet up with Shawn's gymnastic friends, the "Fab 5." Adorable.
Back in rehearsal, Shawn again shows she's not scared of anything and Derek pushes her with his creative choreography. Carrie Ann said they are on fire; Len called them brilliant.
Kelly Monaco and Valentin Chmerkovskiy - 37.5 out of 40
Pro dancer Val Chmerkovskiy said he's been a ballroom dance for two decades but has never even contemplated Contemporary dance. We saw how he got inspired by the music, and how Kelly put her complete trust in him with this emotional dance. (And "General Hospital" viewers know this was an emotional day for her on screen alter ego; "Sam" got her thought-to-be-dead baby back!) I digress.
This was a dance like nothing we've seen on DWTS, and Val and Kelly should be commended; and they were. Len loved the contrast their dance showed; Bruno said he believed every moment of the dance; Carrie Ann called her courageous; and all the judges told Kelly she should be proud of herself.
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani - 37 out of 40
The Jitterbug -- at least it's a dance we've all heard of before! It's a high energy dance, which is perfect for Melissa. And it's kind of cute how she seems a little jealous of Shawn Johnson's tumbling ability. I like seeing any of these folks have their competitive spirit ignited!
Tony Dovolani is in heaven choreographing for this woman. He pushes; she says bring it! Paula said they fit like "hand to glove," and actually move a bit like brother and sister. Bruno called her fearless and fierce, and Len complimented them on going for it rather than trying to just play it safe.
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke - 36 out of 40
Not only was the "Bolero" dance new to football great Emmitt Smith, it was also new to the show, and most importantly, new to his pro Cheryl Burke. She said she'd never danced it, much less taught it to someone else!
Cheryl called in reinforcements and they had a team of pro's help with the choreography. Emmitt was worried because he thinks he has a hard time being elegant. No need to worry, big guy! We all learned what the Bolero is, and we like it! Paula called Emmitt a sensual, sexy beast and he left her wanting more.
Sabrina Bryan and Louis Van Amstel - 35.5 out of 40
It probably felt like early Halloween for Sabrina with the over the top costumes, hair, and makeup, and set design that sent her back to the Disco era. Now, Sabrina was born in 1984, so obviously Disco is something she only knows from movies. And as she told us, from her parents! She said her mom and dad took Disco lessons back in the day.
Louis van Amstel went all out with his choreography; he said Carrie Ann Inaba lit a fire under him last with her critique. They didn't play it safe this week that's for sure. Bruno called it her most vibrant performance yet; and Len said he was having a moment? reminiscing to 1978 when he was out on the dance floor too!
Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff - 34.5 out of 40
Apolo may love and listen to Hip Hop, but this style is not in the wheelhouse of his Russian born pro partner, Karina Smirnoff. Like some of the others, they also bring in some outside Hip Hop help and it looks like they put together a fun routine. Sadly, Karina takes a big wipeout about a third of the way into the dance and she has a hard time recovering. You can tell she is sad and embarrassed and my heart went out to her.
Apolo kept things moving, and they did finish the number. Karina broke down in tears as the music ended, but the judges had her back, giving her lots of encouraging words. They also all gave kudos to Apolo for bringing his natural swagger to the dance floor.
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas - 32 out of 40
It's clear the fans love Bristol. She's landed at the bottom of the scoreboard just about every week but she has yet to be in the bottom two on Tuesday night. And given the glowing remarks from the judges this week, it's clear they have a lot of affection for her too.
Mark Ballas teaches her a "Rock and Roll" dance, which he explains is not head-banging heavy metal, but rather a trip back to the 50's. They dance to "At the Hop," and Mark seriously wants to wear a bunny costume.
Bristol reminds him of their tragic gorilla costume decision during her last time here and she talks him out of it. Again, the dance is fine, but nothing really remarkable. And better than Kirstie? What do you think?
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy - 30 out of 40
Kirstie at first seemed bummed to have been assigned the Charleston. But once she really learned what it is, and how much comedy can be a part of it, she changed her mind. She pops out of a cake! She does a cartwheel! She does some swimming movement on top of Maks.
The judges, and Kirstie herself, all talk about how she's an "entertainer." But her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy gives her a pep talk and says he wants her to feel like a real dancer, too. I like the friendship these two share! Len thanked her for always making Monday? fun day. Aww!