'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars' recap: Kicked-up competition

Welcome to Week 2 of “Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars,” ballroom fans! Now that we’ve worked out all the Week 1 jitters and the contestants have sized up their fellow stars, the competition can really begin.

Certainly, it’s a whole new Mirrorball playing field this season. No one can be content to rest on laurels. One bad step can leave you simmering under the red lights of jeopardy. This week’s dances zipped back and forth between the quickstep and jive, and the all-stars and their pro partners were risking life and limb to gain that cutting edge. Not to say that there was love lost among these stars and pros — there were also a lot of kisses proffered during this performance show, weren't there? Maybe as a reward for bringing their A-plus game.

PHOTOS: 'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars': Meet the Season 15 cast

And we’ve got a new leader! This week, that honor went to fan favorite Sabrina Bryan and her pro partner Louis Van Amstel. Though this result, as it turned out, was hard won. Louis was not going Amstel light on the former Cheetah girl. He pushed her to do a trick that had them scampering up the ballroom steps and Sabrina dipped at the end. Only Louis accidentally dropped his partner during one trial run and she cut her arm. Some water cooler talk was spent on whether or not to keep the move, which nearly made Sabrina and Louis late for their routine. But the move was kept in, Sabrina was successfully dipped, and the crowd went wild at the end.

“Oh my god, it is Ms. Ginger Rogers at her best!” Bruno cheered. “A dazzler! A true dazzler!” Carrie Ann called the whole thing “ridiculous.” “Your top line is something that I’ve never seen before, ever,” she exclaimed. “You had grace, you had drama, you had dynamics. It was awesome!” “The hits just keep on coming,” Len cheered. “You kept all your upper body calm and under control, but your legs were working.” And she scored the season's first 9! Total: 26 out of 30.

Gilles Marini was hampered somewhat during this week’s rehearsals. The actor was sidelined by a pulled hamstring the morning of his first performance, and he also strained one of the muscles in his thigh. But if anything, Gilles is a trouper, and his hair during this jive with Peta Murgatroyd matched his lofty ambitions. He wants to perform the best jive ever. And their dance was technically good, though I found the disconnect between Gilles’ and Peta’s outfits distracting. Gilles looked like a ’70s throwback, while Peta looked punk like Pink in a bristly looking fringe bra top and pipe cleaner pants. Still, Carrie Ann called Gilles’ kicks and flicks the best of the night. “I’m seeing a little John Travolta thing happening here, and it’s quite enjoyable,” she giggled. Len called the routine fast and fabulous. “You’ve got the kicks, you’ve got the cleavage, let the good times roll!” roared Bruno. What’s more, the song was in tribute to Gilles’ father, who passed away 17 years ago today. Total: 25.5.

As a gold-medal-winning Olympian, Shawn Johnson said she burned a little bit after she didn’t end up in the top three the first week. The cartwheeling gymnast realized that she’s going to have to up her game with Derek Hough in this week’s jive. And their routine, which took a page from "Hairspray," was an "American Bandstand"-style treat. Bonus points to Shawn and Derek for gamely raising their arms in gymnastics-like salute before commercial break. And an extra gold star to Shawn for not being the slightest bit winded after that whip-fast content-laden routine (“Not breathing hard,” Tom pointed to Shawn. Pointing to Derek: “Almost dead”). Len, however, thought their jive was the dance equivalent of melba toast. “It was good enough, [but] I want to see more than enough,” the head judge winked. Bruno called shenanigans on Len’s critique, crowing that the routine was “vibrant, exhilarating, eye-popping.” He wouldn’t fault it with a microscope. Carrie Ann dubbed Shawn and Derek “the all-star sweethearts.” Total: 25.

PHOTOS: 'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars': Meet the Season 15 cast

Watch out all-stars: Apolo Anton Ohno’s got his competition pants on. After last week’s middling first week cha cha the heavy medal’ed speed skater had the fire of competition awakened in him (sound effects included) — so much so that he implored Siri for help and accidentally head-butted partner Karina Smirnoff during rehearsals. But the actual quickstep went off without a hitch. Karina looked like a vision in yellow, and Apolo took a sartorial page from Gavin DeGraw and kept his hat on the entire routine. He was also rewarded with a kiss for his efforts. Len called it a gold medal performance: “Speed with control.” Bruno said Apolo proved that “determination, focus, and hard work pays off” and said his footwork was “incredible.” Carrie Ann thought Apolo was “truly driving the dance.” Total: 24.5

Melissa Rycroft had a lot to prove with her jive this week. Remember back in Season 8, when the former Bachelorette suffered a rib injury, couldn’t dance on performance night, and the judges scored her and Tony Dovolani on their rehearsal footage? Melissa was determined to show a proper, performance-ready jive this time around. And what’s more, she and Tony danced so fast, it was like she was fit in Season 8’s jive as well. Tony was the singer, Melissa was the girl who made him want to “Shout!” “Flat out, full of energy, great technique,” said an applauding Len. “I loved it!” Bruno called Melissa “the fastest girl in town” and exclaimed “That was one of the fastest jives I’ve ever seen,” though he spotted a couple of flubs. “I’m just so happy we finally got to see your jive,” exclaimed Carrie Ann, “because you were made to jive.” Total: 23.5.

The jive is a fast dance. Indy 500 driver Helio Castroneves knows from fast. But the Season 5 champ wanted to bring Chelsie Hightower up to his speed, so he arranged to have his pro partner to take a spin around the race track. And who knew that Chelsie’s normally raspy voice could elicit such ear-piercing screams? Though their jive was very cute – a behind-the-curtain expose. It helps that Helio’s so likable and Chelsie’s a great hairographer. “This week, your body caught up to the charm that was going on in your face,” Carrie Ann approved. “You’ve got style with a smile,” Len agreed. “Lovely sharp kicks and flicks” though it was overenthusiastic at times. Bruno called it “a delicious treat of a jive… sweet in the interplay” though he agreed with Len that “sometimes you pump it a little bit too high.” Total: 23.

Retired NFL star Emmitt Smith had a lot of confidence going into Week 2. Not only did he and Cheryl Burke land at the top of the leaderboard, but he laughs in the face of danger. Intimidated by an actor or an Indy racer or a speed skater? Hahahahaha! The football legend’s been hit over 4,000 times — and that’s just in the pros! Emmitt’s a cool cat, but maybe he was just a little too cool in his quickstep. Maybe his head was too crooked. Or maybe it was the animal print overkill. Either way, their quickstep routine didn’t quite come together. Len liked the “cool cat attitude,” but thought Emmitt’s upper body frame was lacking. Bruno liked “the red-hot chemistry with Cheryl – meow!” but said Len was right, “the frame wasn’t quite right.” Carrie Ann cautioned Emmitt to “watch out for the speed skater and the race car driver.” Who’s laughing now? Total: 22.5.

Drew Lachey was steaming under the heat lamps of the bottom two last week. The Season 2 champ had never been in the bottom two, and not only did it feel like a punch in the gut, he felt like he was failing his child. So in retaliation, he wanted to kick this jive’s butt. He wants Anna Trebunskaya to really get up and slap him. But he warned Anna to take care of “my moneymaker,” motioning to his face, jokingly adding, “It’s why I’m broke.” And the jive, set to a weird stilted rendition of Fall Out Boy’s “Dance, Dance,” showed a whole new side of Dynamic Drew. Bruno liked how it was “all rough and ready” but told Drew to take care he doesn’t become flat-footed. “Welcome home, Drew,” Carrie Ann applauded. “You’ve got to get on the balls of your feet on the jive,” Len cautioned. “But bottom-two Drew … not this week!” Total: 22.5

Joey Fatone was taken aback when Drew was in the bottom two, and needed to talk it out with partner Kym Johnson. They determined that each week was going to be unpredictable. So they vowed to really focus on the technicality in their Old School Hollywood quickstep. He’s going to take “this large waistline and work it harder than anyone else.” He was Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, she was a flapper, and their dance was set to a jarringly odd rat pack version of Radiohead’s “Creep” (“I don’t belong here”). Lou Diamond Phillips really liked it, but the judges weren’t as sold on the routine. Carrie Ann said everything about the performance was fantastic, “but you did have a few mistakes … you went out of sync twice.” Len’s notes were: “Poor posture, bad footwork, lost body contact, frame wasn’t constant,” he prattled. “But I really enjoyed it.” He also explained his secret: “If you can’t dance, come out and entertain us.” Ouch. Bruno said Joey can dance – “yes, technically it could have been better, but there were some mistakes.” Joey took a devil-may-care attitude: “I suck, I suck. What are you going to do?” Still, the judges’ bark wasn’t as bad as their bite. Total: 22.5. “That 7.5 paddle really is earning its keep, isn’t it?” asked Tom.  

The top line was a problem with Kelly Monaco and the quickstep. Val thought there was “too much bouncing happening … up here.” Kelly decided she needed Val to understand how hard it was to tamp down the bounce, so she brought her own pink topline so he can rehearse “with a big rack.” And then she popped his balloons. Their quickstep was a bit more refined than rehearsals, with Kelly as a pretty pink princess and Val as a dashing Prince Charming. It had the judges split on whether in hold or out of hold was better. Bruno called it “pretty in pink and extremely elegant,” though he told Kelly to “watch in hold.” Carrie Ann, however, thought Kelly should “watch your lines when your’e out of hold.” Len was the tiebreaker, and thought her spins were terrific, but “when your’e in hold, that’s when you get the hunchy scrunchy stuff going on.” Total: 22.

What does 50 Shades of Maksim Chemerkovskiy look like? Like a bunch of blue latex gloves tied together around Kirstie Alley’s thighs so she won’t treat her jive like a hoedown. “A little creepy, a little effective,” the punchy actress describes. But what does Kirstie, whom she says is three lifetimes of Shawn Johnson, have that the other all-stars don’t? “Maturity,” said Maks. “Lllllots of maturity.” And she brought it to the lamppost and to her jive in black fringe and a chic bob wig, the femme fatale to Maks’ Breton fisherman. “Mamacita, you were working that pole!” Carrie Ann exclaimed. “Age is just a number, and you just proved that to us.” CA said she’d love to see Kirstie match Maks’ movement style, however. Len called it “flirty, dirty Kirstie…a great improvement on last week.” “Experience counts,” Bruno said sagely, “and you showed it. You played it beautifully.” Also expressed beautifully were Kirstie’s comments in the sky box: “The only thing you can ever be in life is yourself, because that’s the only thing that someone else can’t be.” Total: 21.

Bristol Palin is trying to give Mark Ballas and the audience a glimpse into her own world. She wanted to dance their quickstep to “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson. “This song is, like, me,” Bristol proclaimed. “I always have a baby on my hip. I like fishing and hunting and shooting.” And she really brought out the big guns this week…literally. Like, a shotgun and a semiautomatic. And while that triggered the fighting spirit in the reality TV star, this Vegas honky tonk routine with Daisy Duke and cowboy boots just didn’t quite fit the quickstep bill. “It was like watching the quickstep goes Gangnam style in the wild wild west!” Bruno observed. “But you were not in hold enough.” Carrie Ann continued to call Bristol “a vibrant performer” but cautioned “once you stay in hold, you’ve got to stay in hold in the end.” Len said he “liked the hoedown, but the technique was a bit lowdown.” Her 6-6-6 mark of the devil score got boos from the (non-gun-toting) crowd. If only this was a shooting contest. Bristol doesn’t seem to miss. Total: 18.

Which means Bristol has a huge target on her back come Tuesday night. What do you think? Think Bristol has a shot at being saved by the voting public? (It is an election year, after all.) What do you make of the competition this season? What aboriginal weapon of destruction would you want to be compared to?

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