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Image: Chynna Phillips, Tony Dovolani
Adam Taylor  /  ABC
Chynna Phillips and pro partner Tony Dovolani delivered a poorly executed tango on Monday, thanks to the singer losing track of the choreography.
TODAY contributor
updated 10/10/2011 11:42:23 PM ET 2011-10-11T03:42:23

“Dancing With the Stars” celebrated the big screen on the small screen Monday night as the cast of ballroom wannabes danced to blockbuster movie themes. That of course called for plenty of drama, props and over-the-top costumes, not that there’s anything unusual about the latter.

The theme also brought with it the potential for big fun. Too bad over the course of the night, that turned out to be a potential rarely realized.

Sure, things started off with plenty of promise when the Dance Troupe took the floor for an impressive lightsaber-wielding paso doble, but when the first celeb hit the stage, the momentum came to a grinding halt.

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As one of the usual leaderboard leaders, Chynna Phillips should have had no problem pulling off an entertaining tango. However, her all-too-aptly themed “Mission: Impossible” routine fell apart shortly after pro partner Tony Dovolani fell from the ceiling — well, he sorted glided down Tom Cruise-style, but you get the idea.

Less than a minute into the number, it became clear that Phillips lost track of the choreography, panicked and simply couldn't get caught up again. The best part of the bad effort was when it mercifully came to an end.

“You were flush and you were hot, but you lost the plot,” Bruno Tonioli told her.

What sort of score did a disaster like that deserve? According to Tonioli and his judging cohorts, a set of 7s. In other words, the sort of score usually reserved for a fair but not fantastic dance, not a flub-filled routine like the one Phillips delivered.

While a little scoreboard sympathy might not have seemed like such a bad thing when faced with a teary-eyed Phillips, the error of the judges’ ways soon became evident.

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For instance, David Arquette’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” themed paso doble, while far from perfect, did in fact contain all of the requisite footwork and a few impressive moves. So why did two judges give him just one point more than Phillips and one give him the very same score? Because sympathy scoring skews the whole game.

The impact continued throughout the night, much to the disadvantage of hoofer hopeful Carson Kressley.

The fashion guru took the stage with a braided beard and pink Jolly Roger for his Viennese waltz with a “Pirates of the Caribbean” flair. As with most of Kressley’s earlier efforts, the dance didn’t rely so much of technique as it did pure fun.

Despite some grumping from head judge Len Goodman, the panelist himself had to admit that if he were part of the home audience, even he’d vote for Kressley. Which begs the question: Why the 6 paddle? Did Goodman really think Kressley’s imprecise but enjoyable routine was worse that Phillips’ forgotten one?

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And so the night went on, with some scores making more sense than others. Nancy Grace’s set of 7s following her stiff and less than lively paso? No problem. Hope Solo’s trio of 8s following her best dance yet? Not fair. Rob Kardashian’s matching score for a not quite super “Superman” number? Meh. And J.R. Martinez’s second-place foxtrot? Just about right.

As for Chaz Bono, who had mom Cher cheering him on from the sidelines, he put his all into a “Rocky”-riffic paso doble. But Bono’s all lacked sharp lines, fine footwork and anything resembling precision. He tied Phillips, and that wasn’t anything to complain about.

Slideshow: 'Dancing With the Stars' season 13 cast (on this page)

Thankfully, the night contained one highlight (well, other than the aforementioned lightsabers).

Ricki Lake had what seemed like an impossible task before her: dance the tango to theme from “Psycho.” For those who don’t remember the song, it’s a time-jumping, rhythm-free score of intensity. Still, Derek Hough somehow choreographed a routine to it, the set department staged it beautifully and more impressively, Lake nailed it.

It was good enough to earn the actress the first two 10s of the season.

So much for the best of the night, but what about the worst? Someone has to go home Tuesday night, but as Kristin Cavallari recently reminded “Dancing” fans, best and worst don’t necessarily matter when it comes to the ballroom boot. So, despite the fact that Phillips was clearly the weakest link, she isn’t likely to leave just yet.

Video: Chaz 'DWTS' is getting me in shape (on this page)

Right or wrong, (and Bono notwithstanding, it’s not all that wrong) Grace and Kardashian seem the safest bets for the red spotlight on elimination night.

Will Chynna's subpar performance doom her on elimination night? Share your thoughts on the Facebook page for our TV blog, The Clicker. 

Ree Hines held up her 4 paddle for the judges Monday and really hopes they work on their technique before they return to the ballroom. Join Ree and her fellow “Dancing” expert Anna Chan on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET for their weekly ballroom live chat.

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Photos: 'Dancing With the Stars' season 13 cast

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  1. The stars of season 13

    The new cast of "Dancing With the Stars" was revealed on Monday, Aug. 29. In the back row, from left: Ron Artest, David Arquette, J.R. Martinez, Rob Kardashian and Chaz Bono. In the front row, from left: Ricki Lake, Kristin Cavallari, Chynna Phillips, Nancy Grace, Hope Solo and Elisabetta Canalis. Carson Kressley is not pictured.

    All 12 couples will dance for the first time on ABC on Monday, Sept. 19. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Get the party started

    "Dancing" hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke greet the new hopefuls on Monday, Aug. 29. (Adam Taylor / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. David Arquette

    Actor David Arquette -- brother to actors Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Alexis Arquette and Richmond Arquette -- is best known for his work in the film series "Scream." He is also married to actress Courteney Cox, but the two are currently separated.

    He's paired with pro Kym Johnson, who has won the mirror ball trophy twice in the U.S. version of the show. She was also the pro champ in season 2 of Australia's version. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Ron Artest

    Ron Artest is a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and is known for being eccentric off the court. (He has filed papers to legally change his name to Metta World Peace.) On the basketball court, he is perhaps best known for the November 2004 Pacers-Pistons fight. Artest, a Pacer at the time, rushed into the stands to confront a fan who threw a drink at him, which led to the biggest player-fan fight to date.

    He is paired with new pro Peta Murgatroyd. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Chaz Bono

    GLBT activist Chaz Bono is the only child of Sonny Bono and Cher. His documentary, "Becoming Chaz," followed his gender transition, and was nominated for three Emmys.

    He's paired with pro Lacey Schwimmer. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Elisabetta Canalis

    Elisabetta Canalis is an Italian actress who has appeared in the film "Deuce Bigalow" and the TV show "Leverage," but she is best known for dating George Clooney for two years.

    She's paired with new pro Val Chmerkovskiy, who is brother to fellow pro Maksim. Val has also previously performed on "DWTS." (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Kristin Cavallari

    Kristin Cavallari found fame with MTV reality programs "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." She has also appeared on "The Middle" and "CSI: New York." Cavallari was engaged to Chicago Bears player Jay Cutler, but he ended their engagement in July.

    She's paired with pro Mark Ballas, who has won the mirror ball trophy twice. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Nancy Grace

    Former prosecutor Nancy Grace currently hosts "Nancy Grace" on HLN. She is also the author of mystery thrillers "The Eleventh Victim" and its sequel, "Death on the D-List." Grace is married and has twins.

    She is paired with new pro Tristan MacManus. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rob Kardashian

    Rob Kardashian is best known as the brother of Kim, Kourteny and Khloe Kardashian. He appears on several of the family's series of E! shows, including "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and "Khloe and Lamar." He is the second Kardashian to participate in the show. Kim competed in season seven.

    He's paired with pro Cheryl Burke, who has won the mirror ball trophy twice. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Carson Kressley

    Carson Kressley is best known as the fashion guru on the Bravo series "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." He is also a New York Times best-selling author, and currently hosts "Carson-Nation" on OWN.

    He's paired with pro Anna Trebunskaya. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Ricki Lake

    Ricki Lake played Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 film "Hairspray." She has since had a long-running daytime talk show ("Ricki Lake," 1992-2004) and hosted a season of VH1's "Charm School." Lake has also made numerous TV appearances.

    She's paired with pro Derek Hough, who is a three-time mirror ball champ. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. J.R. Martinez

    J.R. Martinez plays combat vet Brot Monroe on "All My Children." Prior to acting on the soap opera, Martinez was in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in March 2003, but less than a month after that, his vehicle hit a landmine. Martinez was trapped, and suffered severe burns. In addition to acting, Martinez is a motivational speaker.

    He's paired with pro Karina Smirnoff. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Chynna Phillips

    Chynna Phillips, the daughter of The Mamas and The Papas' Michelle and John Phillips, is perhaps best known as a member of the '90s pop trio Wilson Phillips, whose debut album sold eight million copies. She has also appeared in several films, including "Caddyshack II" and "Say Anything." She is married to actor Billy Baldwin.

    She's paired with pro Tony Dovolani. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Hope Solo

    Hope Solo is the goalkeeper for the United States women's national soccer team. She was part of the team that went to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup finals, but the U.S. ultimately lost to Japan on a penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 tie.

    She's paired with pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy. (Craig Sjodin / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
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